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German Aviation Industry in the Cold War

Germany was not allowed to engage in aeronautical R&D after World War II until 1955. With the East gone, there were practically no aviation firms between the extreme north and the extreme south, and none at all in that otherwise highly industrial province, North Rhine-Westphalia. Arado no longer existed; Junkers was little more than a "paper" firm in Bonn under the trusteeship of Kurt Adenauer, the Chancellor's nephew; the former Heinkel empire was a mere remnant; while the equipment of still other firms which transferred their main production centers eastwards to escape Anglo-American bombing was, ironically enough, beyond recall.

While what was left of the industry in West Germany kept going in a small way bv the manufacture of non-aviation products, Dornier and Messerschmitt opened offices in Madrid and, in conjunction with Spanish firms, began developing new aircraft which have since been flown; Fritz Siebel (since killed in an accident) built a small aircraft called the Siebel-Macchi in Italy; and Professors Kurt Tank and Heinrich Focke obtained contracts respectively with the Argentine and Brazilian governments. Moreover, soon after international talks began to make West Germany a member of E.D.C. or (when that failed) of NATO and the W.E.U., there were Germans who began to argue that a German aviation industry, however integrated with the industries of other countries, was a necessary contribution to European defence.

With the ending of the ban in sight, several companies, many family-owned, returned to aircraft manufacturing. Dornier, Heinkel, Messerschmitt, Focke-Wulf, Daimler-Benz and (surprisingly) Junkers formed themselves over three years ago into a "working group" called Aero-Union, centred at Munich and with Prof. Claudius Dornier as president. About the same time a much larger body, including even the accessory manufacturers and called "Association for the Promotion of Aviation" - promptly changed on sovereignty day to "Association of the German Aviation Industry" - was formed.

The West German government issued a directive in September 1954 that individual firms should combine into operative groups in order to exploit most economically the available material and personnel resources for the modest program of aircraft construction deemed necessary for the new embryo Luftwaffe. That such a re-grouping was necessary, given not only that most of the available factories were up to 60 per cent destroyed and up to 100 per cent dismantled, but that a large section of the former industry was now situated on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

Group I ("North") consisted of the following firms: 1, Hamburger Flugzeugbau (Blohm und Voss); 2, Finanz uad Verwaltungsgesellschaft "Weser," Bremen-a post-war name for the former "Weser" Flugzeugbau; 3, Henschel und Sohn, Kassel; 4, Siebel Werke, Munich. Group II was a northern group, consisting simply of Focke-Wulf G.m.b.H. By 1956 Group III comprised the firms of Ernst Heinkel A.G. and Messerschmitt A.G.

On 05 May 1955, West Germany regained her sovereignty and a ten-year ban on aviation came to an end. During those ten years no powered aircraft or aero engine was allowed to be constructed on German soil, attempts by foreign countries to get components built in Germany under licence were vetoed by the Allied Security Board, and the only German pilots - glider pilots - flew, it was said, with their compasses in their pockets, because a compass was deemed to be an integral part of a powered aircraft! The old aviation firms either disappeared completely or beat their swords into ploughshares.

By 1969, mergers had reduced the number of German airframe and engine companies from 20 to 4: (1) 3 airframe companies - Messerschmitt-Boelkow-Blohm(MBB), Dornier, and the German-Dutch Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke (VFW)-Fokker and (2) a singIe aeroengine company - Motoren und Turbinen Union (MTU). VFW broke with Fokker in 1979 and merged with MBB in the late 1980s.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:53:54 ZULU