Focke Achgelis FA330

Focke Achgelis FA330
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    War in the Air

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This aircraft was actually an unpowered autogyro kite, intended for use as an observation platform for German U-Boats. Light and simple but effective, it could be dismantled for stowage in two watertight compartments aft of the conning tower, and after assembly, towed by the U-Boat at an airspeed of some 40kph/25mph, at the end of a 150m long wire, thus giving it forward speed for its three-bladed rotor to windmill/auto rotate and therefore generate lift. From a height of some 120m, giving a visual range of some 25 nautical miles (46km) its pilot could then telephone any sightings to the U-Boat, though with the disadvantage that it left the U-Boat exposed on the surface, and any crash-dive would result in the loss of autogyro and possibly the pilot as the towing cable was released by the pilot, who then parachuted down-in normal situations it took 20 minutes to recover, dismantle and stow the Fa 330.

Designed by Heinrich Focke, testing of the type began in mid-1942, and operational deployment began in early 1943, with some 200 built.

As Allied air cover was considered too much of a threat in most theatres of operations, only a few U-Boats operating in the southern Atlantic and Indian Ocean used the Fa330 operationally, leading to just one recorded incident of the Fa330 being used to spot, intercept and sink a Greek steamer on 6 August 1943.

A number of Fa 330s were test flown post-war in the UK, France, and the USA, and due partly to its small size and ease of storage, several survive in museum collections.