Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works by Jay Miller

By Jay Miller

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Lippsich designed the delta wings with leading edge slots which gave it great stability: it was resistant to stalling or spinning. The glider design did pose problems, however, since slight winds could cause the plane to lift into the air unexpectedly when landing and it could fly along in ‘ground effect’ with the pilot finding it difficult to set the plane down where he wished. That apart, the delta design was supremely successful. At launch, the plane would take off at 200mph (320km/h) and climb gently to an operating speed of 420mph (670km/h) at which point it could climb at some 70 degrees to an altitude of 39,000ft (12,000m) in just 3 minutes.

One of these was test-fired, unmanned, from the Muroc Army Air Base in 1946. It was the first manned surface-to-air interceptor. Only three of the Natters have survived. There is a Ba-349A at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, now painted in the markings of one of the unmanned test aircraft. A second Natter is in the collections of the National Air & Space Museum in Washington DC. There is also a Ba-349A on show at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California; this one, however, is only a wooden copy.

The ramifications of the Treaty of Versailles were not limited to problems in Europe. The United States government refused to ratify the treaty and Kaiser Wilhelm – whom everyone assumed would be put on trial – was exiled to the Netherlands. The British Prime Minister Lloyd George was determined that the Kaiser should hang, but the American President, Woodrow Wilson, refused and argued that there were Allies they would also wish to see executed for their conduct during the war. Attempts to extradite the Kaiser and take him to court failed and, surprising as it seems, the Kaiser survived to see World War II, eventually dying in 1941.

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