The Red Skull’s Flying Wing


Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to look into some of the technologies that were featured in the latest Captain America film. Set in an alternate 1940s where a secretive branch of the Nazi regime, led by the Red Skull, managed to tap into a divine source of power, Captain America: The First Avenger has submarines, mammoth tanks and flying wings. This post will focus on the latter.

The Red Skull's flying wing
The Red Skull's flying wing

The flying wing bomber steered by the Red Skull near the end of the movie references three prototypical or theoretical bomber planes, two German, one American.

The exotic airplane designs of the German brothers Reimar and Walter Horten are well down to dieselpunk fans. Their Ho 229 flying wing is probably the best known of its kind. Three of those were built and tested.

The Horten H.XVIII would have been a bigger airplane, fitted with six jet engines and suitable for transatlantic missions. It was submitted for the German air force’s Amerika Bomber project but never constructed.

The aim of the Amerika Bomber project was for Nazi-German to obtain a long range strategic bomber that could strike the continental United States. The Luftwaffe hoped that direct air strikes against America would force the nation out of the war. Wikipedia has a decent article about this attempt.

A Northrop YB-49 prototype, 1947 or 1948
A Northrop YB-49 prototype, 1947 or 1948

The third real world precursor to the Red Skull’s experiment in advanced aviation was American.

Daniel Simon, who was a vehicle designer for Captain America, specifically cited Northrop’s YB-35 prototype as a template for the film’s flying wing in an interview with MTV. Northrop was convinced that the flying wing design had the future, just as the Horten brothers in Nazi-Germany were developing similar, remarkable types of airplanes.

The YB-49 was a bigger version of the YV-35 and jet powered. Three prototypes were built but the plane was passed over as a strategic bomber in favor of the more conventional Convair B-36 Peacemaker.

The Red Skull’s flying wing in Captain America is far bigger than any of the aforementioned, real airplanes were or were supposed to be. Without giving away too much of the plot, it’s safe to say things don’t end well for the craft but we got a spectacular look at it on the silver screen!

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