Osprey's Jet Prototypes of WWII


Tony Buttler


Osprey Publishing


$22.00 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 80 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softbound
ISBN: 978-1-4728-3598-7

A major development of WWII was the jet engine. In most cases this meant one of two types of turbojet engine; the centrifugal and the axial flow engine, both of which are still in use today. However, not all jets fit into these two categories as there was a ducted fan jet that turned out to be a dead end.

Not surprisingly, the Germans were the first to fly a turbo jet, the first to develop a jet fighter and though outside the scope of this book, the first to use them in combat. As many of you know, engine development in Germany, the UK, and Italy proceeded fairly independently of each other. The British and German designs were the ones that were eventually developed while the Italian engine never went past two prototype aircraft. It turns out that the British went with the simpler centrifugal design while the Germans concentrated their effors on the more complex, but more powerful axial flow engine. It was the Italians who tested and rejected the ducted fan.

The book concentrates on four aircraft. The German entries are the first jet aircraft, the He-178 and the first jet fighter, the He-280. The former was a very small experimental aircraft that was designed only to prove the viability of the design. it used a combination engine that had a axial flow impeller and centrifugal flow compressor to provide the needed power. The later He-280 used axial flow engines and was a private venture that was ultimately rejected by the Luftwaffe, but the various prototypes went on to be excellent test aircraft for various systems. As a note, the He-280 was fitted with a compressed air ejection seat and was actually used by one of the test pilots to save his life when a prototype went out of control.

The British developed the E28/39 to test Whittle's centrifugal flow engine. There were two prototypes build and they were used extensively as test aircraft for a number of years. More and more powerful and reliable engines were fit and this allowed the exploration of the engine's operating envelope. It was a true test aircraft in all meanings of the term. The Gloster was only retired when more powerful Meteor aircraft became available to take the testing to a new level.

Finally, we have the Italian version, the Caproni-Campini CC.2. This was basically a ducted fan with an afterburner. It used a standard aero engine to drive the various compressors that gave it thrust. Fuel was then sprayed into the exhaust and ignited to provide even more thrust. However, that thrust was fairly small even with the afterburning. The aircraft's claims to fame were that it was the first two seat jet and the first to fly cross country. Other than that it was rife with development delays and its mediocre performance proved that the propulsion system was not the way to go.

In all, this is a great read. The author has been writing about prototypes and 'what if' aircraft for a very long time so has researched these subjects considerably. Add to it some great period photos of planes and personalities along with some equally good art work and you have a book that I can easily recommend to you.

July 2019

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