Arado Ar 232"Millipede"

Arado Ar 232 Millipede

The Arado Ar 232, nicknamed the "Millipede" by its German pilots, was a cargo aircraft used by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. Only around 20 examples were ever built, despite the fact it was a well-designed and capable transport aircraft.

The Arado Ar 232 was one of the first purpose designed cargo transport aircraft ever built. From the ground up every aspect of the aircraft was conceived to make the loading, unloading and transport of cargo as easy and logical as possible.

It had a broad, box-shaped fuselage, a large rear loading ramp, a stable high-wing design, a high tail boom which was well clear of the rear doors, and a curiously designed undercarriage designed to allow the aircraft to operate from rough fields and makeshift runways.

Arado Ar 232 Millipede

The aircraft was first proposed in 1939, with an order for three prototypes placed in 1940. Unlike other cargo aircraft of the time - which generally used side-mounted doors - the Ar 232 had hydraulically operated rear clamshell doors. This made loading and unloading the aircraft quicker, while also allowing for bulkier items to be easily carried.

The unusual landing gear of the Arado Ar 232 featured a conventional retractable tricycle undercarriage which was supplemented by a row of smaller wheels (hence the nickname) along the underside of the fuselage. During normal operations the tricycle undercarriage was used for takeoff and landings. However during loading the aircraft could be lowered onto the smaller wheels for easier access. The row of eleven wheels also meant that the Ar 232 could easily cross small ditches and potholes when taxing - ideal for makeshift runways and rough fields.

In addition to its rough field capability, the Arado Ar 232 was also designed for short takeoff and landings. Full-length flaps at the rear of the wing increased low-speed lift, while rockets could also be used to assist during takeoff. Parachutes, or even reverse directed rockets, could be used to shorten the landing distance.

The aircraft was manned by a crew of four. A pilot, navigator, radio operator and a loadmaster. All the crew, with the exception of the pilot, were also required to man the aircraft's three defensive machine gun posts. The navigator operated a 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine gun in the nose, the radio operator a 20 mm MG 151 cannon in a rotating turret on the roof, and the loadmaster a 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine gun firing rearward from the extreme rear of the cargo bay above the cargo doors.

The first two prototypes were fitted with just two engines, but the third and fourth prototypes, and all production aircraft were fitted with four engines.

The aircraft was vastly superior to the Junkers Ju 52/3m transport aircraft it was intended to replace. It could carry nearly double the load over longer distances. It could operate from shorter and rougher airstrips and it was faster. Yet despite all that only a small number were ever produced as the Luftwaffe were more preoccupied with producing better combat aircraft and never gave the project much support.

In the end the aircraft did act operationally, although most of the aircraft produced never saw front-line roles and were instead used to ferry parts between different aircraft factories.

Plans were drawn up for larger, more advanced versions of the design, however these never got further than the drawing board.

Interestingly, two of the later models were captured by British forces towards the end of the war. Renowned test pilot Eric "Winkle" Brown, who flew the aircraft, remarked favorably on the design and they were later used by the Royal Air Force for flights between Germany and the UK after the war.

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Arado Ar 232 Millipede
Arado Ar 232 Millipede
Arado Ar 232 Millipede
Arado Ar 232 Millipede

Arado Ar 232 Millipede
Arado Ar 232 Millipede
Arado Ar 232 Millipede

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