June 24, 2009
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE:NOC) expertise in advanced aircraft development is featured in a new television documentary examining the mystery surrounding a top-secret German airplane that could have affected the course of World War II.
The film, entitled "Hitler's Stealth Fighter," premieres Sunday, June 28, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel.
"Northrop Grumman has always been known for technical innovation and ingenuity," said Paul K. Meyer, vice president and general manager of Advanced Programs and Technology for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "Now we have an opportunity to showcase our employees' skills in an intriguing television documentary for a national viewing audience."
In the early 1940s, an innovative design by two German brothers caught the attention of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich, which began a
secret construction project. The Horten 229 (named for its designers, Walter and Reimar Horten) was a jet-powered fighter aircraft with a smooth contour in the shape of a flying wing. That shape is now known to be more difficult for radar to detect than traditional configurations.
The Horten 229 was briefly flight tested but could not be deployed before the end of the war. Since then, aviation historians
have wondered how effective the futuristic design would have been against Allied early-warning radar, widely credited as a major factor in blunting Nazi air power.
The National Geographic Channel documentary follows Northrop Grumman experts as they design a full-scale model of the 55-foot flying wing and build it to the exact specifications of the original. They measure its radar "signature" at the company's test range in the Mojave Desert, where TV cameras have never been allowed before. They then analyze the results with state-of-the-art computing and simulation tools.
Their findings are revealed in the final scenes of the film.
Northrop Grumman designed and produced the U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bomber, one of the most survivable aircraft in the world. The
B-2's smooth, flying wing shape contributes to its radar-evading stealth characteristics.
"Northrop Grumman has been a pioneer in low-observable aircraft technology for decades," said Meyer. "We were the first to move from
facet design concepts to smooth surface features, which were initially proven on our Tacit Blue demonstration aircraft and further proven on the B-2."
The Horten 229 also resembles some of the flying-wing designs of Jack Northrop, the aviation pioneer and founder of what is now
Northrop Grumman Corporation. The documentary traces the B-2, the earlier flying wings and other innovations introduced by the company.
Northrop Grumman has donated the full-scale Horten 229 model to the San Diego Air & Space Museum, California's official air and space
museum and education center. The museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and it was the first aero-themed museum to be
accredited by the American Association of Museums.
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