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VFW Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke GmbH
United Aircraft Technical Works Limited Liability Company

The West German government issued a directive in September 1954 that individual firms should combine into operative groups. By 1956 Group III comprised the firms of Ernst Heinkel A.G. and Messerschmitt A.G., whose first official commitment for the Luftwaffe was expected to be the construction of the French Fouga CM. 170R Magister jet trainer, for which Prof. Messerschmitt obtained the licence.

The Heinkel factory at Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen was all that was left of his former empire that stretched from Rostock, the headquarters on the Baltic, to Vienna and the Tyrol. It was bought in 1941, at the instance of the German air ministry, from the Hirth Motorenwerke for the purpose of developing Heinkel turbojets like the He S.ll and S.30. These never reached the operational stage during the war, though six of the former were built afterwards for experimental use by the U.S. Navy. The factory was quite unsuitable for airframe production, and Heinkel only got it back in 1950. Since then the production consisted of Mopet light motor cycles (to ride which in Germany no licence is required), plus engines, some two-stroke, with two, three or four cylinders, for delivery vans and cars. A further works at Karlsruhe was acquired in 1954 for the production of the Heinkel Tourist scooter, and a third works was added, at Speyer.

In 1964 Focke Wulf, Enst Heinkel Flugzeugbau and Weser-Flugzeugbau merged into VFW Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke GmbH [United Aircraft Technical Works Limited Liability Company]. By the mid-1960s Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke was the largest of the German airframe companies, in terms of both capital and employees, though not in terms of turnover. Literally translated, the name means "United Aeronautical Engineering Works," and the present company first appeared in 1963 from the merger of "Weser" Flugzeugbau and Focke-Wulf, taking over Ernst Heinkel Flugzeugbau in 1965. VFW thus united the descendants of three well-known members of the old German aircraft industry, though their names have disappeared.

VFW capital, DM45.5 million (4.136 million), was divided approximately as follows: just under 30 percent, Krupp concern; rather over 26 percent each, United Aircraft Corporation (a shareholder in the old "Weserflug") and Hanseatische Industrie-Beteiligungen (the name taken by Focke-Wulf after relinquishing its aeronautical interests); approximately 9 percent, Frau Lisa Heinkel; approximately 6 per cent, the "Weser" shipbuilding concern; and approximately 3 percent, Ernst Heinkel Motorenbau, Karlsruhe.

In 1967 the company employed roughly 10,500 people at six different plants, all of them, with the exception of the former Heinkel works at Speyer, in the Bremen-Bremerhaven area. Head offices and main development department were at the former Focke-Wulf factory in Bremen, which also produced sub-assemblies for the Transall and repairs and overhauls the following types: Sea Hawk, Gannet and Albatross and Piaggio P. 149. The company's airfield was at Lemwerder, outside Bremen, where final assembly and flight test of Transalls tooke place, and types such as the Noratlas, Starfighter and F-84 were overhauled and repaired. Among other advanced test and production equipment, Lemwerder boasted Europe's largest electronic beam welding machine and a special plant for the explosive bonding of titanium for the propellant tanks of the Europa third Stage. Of the other factories, Speyer was making parts for the Iroquois, and Einswarden overhauls helicopters, particularly the WFS64 flying crane.

Other activities covered light-metal and plastic auxiliary fuel tanks, precision equipment for the aerospace, motor car and machine tool industries and a vast range of non-aeronautical work-caravans, car bodies of glass-reinforced plastic, lightweight steel containers, aluminium window frames, parts for bridges, ships and special structures and much else, in all of which the experience gained from aircraft work was utilised.

In the VTOL field, VFW was working on two distinct projects. One was the German-Italian multi-purpose VAK 191B with one RB.193 vectored-thrust propulsion engine and two RB.162 lift engines (the latter developed in co-operation with MAN under a Federal Ministry of Defence contract). Six prototypes were to be built, three by VFW, three by Fiat, with assembly starting in 1968. The other VTOL project, described in 1967 as being in an "advanced development stage," was the VC-400 VTOL transport with four turboprops mounted on swivelling wings in tandem. The design on which the company placed its greatest hopes for future business, however, was the 40-seat VFW 614 feeder liner with two Bristol-Siddeley Snecma M45H turbofan engines, on which some 250 VFW engineers were working. By 1967 a prototype was expected to fly during the first half of 1970. The company considered commercial prospects to be good and reported that a sales tour of the United States and Australia suggested an immediate market for about 60 aircraft. It was planned to share the actual production work with Fokker and Siebel (Bolkow Group).

ERNO Raumfahrttechnik GmbH is the full name of the company formed in March 1967 out of the former Entwicklungsring Nord working group, with a capital of DM10 million (approximately 900,000), subscribed on a 60/40 basis by VFW and HFB to handle their space interests. The biggest German unit devoted exclusively to space activities, ERNO was cooperating with Bolkow in development and construction of the third stage of the Europa launcher family and had done extensive work on advanced propulsion, in particular on highenergy upper stages, on recoverable launchers and on scientific satellites. In addition, an attitude control system for space vehicles is being developed for American companies, and ERNO is also a member, along with France's Matra, Sweden's Saab and Britain's Hawker Siddeley Dynamics, of the MESH consortium selected to develop ESRO's TD.l and TD.2 satellites.

In the year 1968, the German parliament passed a resolution to procure the CH-53 helicopter from Sikorsky and in 1969 VFW-Fokker started the planning for series production in Germany. In the same year, VFW merged with the Dutch company and became the 'Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke-Fokker GmbH - VFW-Fokker.' This alliance only lasted 10 years.

From 1969 on Speyer prospered. The number of employees at Speyer rose from 1,344 to almost 1,800 and licensed production under license was carried out with Sikorsky (USA), MBB, Dornier, and the engine manufacturer MTU. The VFW 614 is the first jet passenger plane developed and mass-produced in the Federal Republic of Germany. The program start took place in the middle of the sixties, the first flight was in 1971. With the development of this airplane in Bremen and the series production at the Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke at Lemwerder the foundation-stone was layed for the participation of Germany in the Airbus program.

From 1975, after the Sikorsky production for the CH-53G helicopter had come to an end, the company was lacking in successive substantial contracts. A struggle to survive that included a search for new contracts followed. One was found in 1978 with a contract for the manufacture of aircraft galleys. Parallel to that, 'Analytical Quality Inspections' were carried out on helicopters for the US Air Force, and external fuel tanks were manufactured for the Alpha Jet as well as the Tornado.

In 1980 it was necessary to separate from the Fokker Company and the name was changed back to 'Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke GmbH'.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:55:41 ZULU