The German government was funding glider clubs at the time because production of military aircraft was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. The flying wing layout removes any "unneeded" surfaces and, in theory at least, leads to the lowest possible drag. The H0-229 evolved from the Ho-IX and is just one a whole series of Fiddlersgreen flying wings.
The first Horten wing (a glider as were many of their designs), flew in 1934 and their devotion to the design carried them on even after the war. What is truly amazing about their story is that often their work was done in secret, even from the Luftwaffe, who did not want a new design interfering with other types.The final design they were working on during the closing days of the war was Ho 229 that would be able to carry two atomic bombs to the U.S. and return. The Ho-IX V3 was an unarmed, twin-jet, single aircraft. Further production of the fighter bomber was assigned to the Gothaer Waggon Fabrik (GWF). Well-known for its Go 241 cargo glider, Gotha was considered the company best suited to manufacture Horten aircraft. The aircraft's turbojet engines were installed splayed 15 degrees left and right of the aircraft centerline and 4 degrees nose down. The new installation was tested in a center section mock-up. Construction of the Ho-IX V3 was nearly complete when the Gotha Works at Friederichsroda was overrun by troops of the American 3rd Army's VII Corps on April 14, 1945. The aircraft was assigned the number T2-490 by the Americans. The aircraft's official RLM designation is uncertain, as it was referred to as the Ho 229 as well as the Go 229. Also found in the destroyed and abandoned works were several other prototypes in various stages of construction, including a two-seat version.
The V3 was sent to the United States by ship, along with other captured aircraft, and finally ended up in the H. H. "Hap" Arnold collection of the Air Force Technical Museum. The all-wing aircraft was to have been brought to flying status at Park Ridge, Illinois, but budget cuts in the late forties and early fifties brought these plans to an end. The V3 was handed over to the present-day National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington D.C. In spite of the fact that only two prototypes were actually completed and flown, the Horten brothers' all-wing, jet powered fighter, initially known as the H IX, was high on the list of fighters officially sanctioned for continued development, production and even operational deployment to a specific Luftwaffe unit. None of this would likely have resulted, had it not been for a number of fortuitous events which ultimately positioned the brothers within the higher circles of the Luftwaffe. The H IX development began early in 1943, when the Horten brothers first met Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring and Oberstleutnant i.G.(Lt. Col.) Diesing at the Reichsjagerhof (Reich hunting lodge) on September 28, 1943. Having shown Reichsmarschall Goring some photographs, 30-year old Hauptmann (Captain) Walter Horten outlined the evolution of the new fighter by his team, which included Messrs. Kaupa and Peschke. He indicated the new fast fighter would also be able to carry a 2,200 lb. bomb at a top speed of approximately 590 mph. As planned, the un-powered Horten Ho 229 V1 was towed into the air at Gottingen by an He 45 on March 1,1944, with Lt. Heinz Scheidhauer at the controls. Later, a larger twin engine He 111 took over the task of towing from the small He 45. Meanwhile, work progressed on the first powered prototype, the Ho 229 V2, until it was realized that the promised BMW 003 would not be ready. Accordingly, the decision was made to modify the design to allow for the installation of two larger Jumo 004 turbojets. When the first Jumo 004B units were delivered, the Horten brothers were astonished to learn that their diameter turned out to be nearly 8 inches greater than anticipated.
The design had to be modified once again. The wingspan was increased from 52.98 ft. to 69.9 ft. in order to improve the aerodynamic qualities of the flying wing. On June 26, 1944, Luftwaffenkommando IX began construction of the redesigned and improved Ho 229 V3, as well as additional test aircraft began at a small Fliegerhorst (air base) near the city of Gottingen. The technicians worked long hours,often putting in more than ninety hours per week, in an effort to finalize the installation of the turbojets. Meanwhile, on July 7, 1944, the Deutsche Versuchsanstalt fur Luftfahrt (DVL) at Berlin-Adlershof had finished flight testing the Ho 229 V1. Flight testing was not entirely satisfactory due to the aircraft's excessive yaw (side-to-side movement), but overall, control surfaces were considered to be sufficient. Two months later, the list of equipment for the full-scale mockup was compiled by Oberleutnant Bruning (Dept. E 2, Rechlin), Brune (Horten), Huhnerjager (Gotha), and some other experts. The production Ho 229 was supposed to have been equipped with FuG 25a, FuG 16ZY, and FuG 125 avionics. It was also planned to fit two or four forward firing fixed weapons as well as reconnaissance equipment comprising an Rb 50/30 or Rb 75/30 aerial camera. The first unofficial flight, with Lieutenant (2nd Lt.) Erwin Ziller at the controls, took place on December 18, 1944. As one of the Horten brothers later recalled, this was the first flight of one of their designs under jet power.
Toward the end of World War II, a mysterious, futuristic-looking aircraft was discovered by American troops in a top-secret German facility. The prototype jet, which resembled a massive bat wing, and other advanced German aircraft were brought to the United States in the military project “Operation Seahorse.”
In the early 1960s, the prototype jet was transferred to a Smithsonian facility in Maryland that is off-limits to the public. It remains there today.
“There have been no documents released on it, and the public has no access to it,” said Michael Jorgensen, a documentary filmmaker who secured National Geographic Channel backing to assemble a team of Northrop Grumman aeronautical engineers to study the craft and build a full-size replica from original plans. The completed model, which has a 55-foot wingspan, was quietly trucked to San Diego to join the San Diego Air & Space Museum's permanent collection.
The big mystery: Was this a stealth aircraft created more than three decades before modern stealth technology debuted? Could the wedge-shaped jet — almost completely formed of wood — actually evade radar detection? If so, military analysts wonder if the outcome of the war might have been different had the Germans had time to deploy the technology. The prototype craft was successfully tested by the Germans in late 1944.
The reconstruction process was filmed over three months last fall by Jorgensen's Flying Wing Films production company. Film crews followed the model to Northrop Grumman's restricted test site in the Mojave Desert in January, where the craft was mounted five stories high on a rotating pole. Radar was aimed at it from every direction and aerial attacks were simulated.
“It was a chance to be involved in solving a mystery that has baffled aviation historians for a long time,” said Jim Hart, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman, which created the B-2 stealth bomber.