Focke Wulf Fw 860
|Role||VTOL Ground Attack Fighter|
|National origin||West Germany|
|Designer||Partnership between West Germany's Focke-Wulf and France's SNECMA|
The Focke-Wulf Fw 860 was a concept for an aircraft designed in the 1950s in a partnership between West Germany's Focke-Wulf and France's SNECMA, during the Cold War as part of a series of VTOL aircraft experiments conducted by West Germany, including the Bolköw P 110.1, Heinkel He 231 and Messerschmitt Me X1-21. VTOL aircraft were developed because it was then seen as advantageous to construct an aircraft that had no dependence upon large, vulnerable airfields. Nazi Germany had taken particular interest in VTOL nearing the end of the Second World War as an answer to defending vulnerable targets, such as factories, without the need of wasting time and resources on constructing a large aerodrome. Such aircraft projects included the Focke-Wulf Triebflügel and the Bachem Ba 349 Natter interceptors.
Design And Development
Nazi Germany had previously experimented with VTOL aircraft during the final phase of the Second World War when the allies were putting German aerodromes out of action at an increasing rate. The Luftwaffe recognised the advantages of VTOL. If there aircraft were capable of taking off and landing vertically then there would be no need of dedicated airfields. Aircraft could be placed within small clearings, where-ever needed, right across the country and in particular, factories. The Allies had taken to Strategic Bombing and were targetting sites of importance including factories and airfields. The damage to factories had seriously inhibited the production of engines, tanks, aeroplanes and vital equipment for the German war effort. It was perhaps only logical that they continued to experiment with VTOL designs after the war.
After the Second World War, there was very little work relating to the design and manufacture of aircraft as the Allied Control Commission had officially disbanded the Third Reich in August 1946. West Germany then joined NATO on May 14, 1955 because it was believed by the Western Allies that they would be necessary in opposing the military threat of the Soviet Union. By January 9, 1956, a new German Air Force was established, named "Luftwaffe".
Germany had lost many of its engineers to other countries as they had gone searching for work in the aviation industry and, additionally, the United States and Soviet Union had stolen rocket scientists for use on development of their jet-powered aircraft and later in the Space Race.
To produce new aircraft designs, Focke-Wulf partnered temporarily with SNECMA, who had already been experimenting with VTOL aircraft designs in the SNECMA Coléoptère. Some of the German engineers lost to find work in other countries coincidentally had been working on this project  so there was already some familiarity with the SNECMA company.
VTOL aircraft were very difficult to land and pilots had always complained about the poor visibility when lying with your face pointing upwards; your back parallel with the ground. To get around this issue, the designers incorporated a "nutcracker" nose. This nose broke from the main fuselage, tilted at 90, as so to place the pilot in a natural control position. Upon landing, the entire fuselage would then rotate downwards into a typical landed jet-powered fighter aircraft shape, which it would then remain in (for taxi purposes) until the next take-off.
The Fw 860 was to have two turbojet engines, placed beneath the empenage of the aircraft, which was fairly typical for jet fighters of the time. Having two engines was seen as much more reliable as jets were still seen as quite new.
The aircraft was never built, probably for being too complicated a design. VTOL designs like the British Harrier Jump Jet seemed to be far more efficient as the use of downard jet exhausts  made for much less moving parts than in the complicated nutcracker design of the Fw 860.
Due to this design never leaving the concept stage, sources vary regarding the specifications of the project. The specifications given should not be interpreted as accurate. The large variation in information between sources is perhaps due to the convertible nature of the aircraft; e.g. its height changes depending upon whether it is in flight or landed and taxiing.
- Crew: one
- Length: 10.8–7.4 m (35 ft 5 in–24 ft 3 in)
- Wingspan: 6.4–15.8 m (21 ft 0 in–51 ft 10 in)
- Height: 17.4 m (57 ft 1 in)
- Empty weight: 7,400–11,791 kg (16,314–25,995 lb)
- Missiles: 2 Air To Ground Missiles
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- Markman and Holder 2000, pp. 74–77.
- Jenkins 1998, p. 25.
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