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The “Rafwaffe” was a British RAF unit setup to test & fly captured German planes

Brad Smithfield

 

Ju 88. source

Ju 88. source

In Britain, this task of flying enemy aircraft fell to No. 1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight RAF,  nicknamed the ‘Rafwaffe’. It was s a Royal Air Force flight formed during WWII to evaluate captured enemy aircraft and demonstrate their characteristics to other Allied units. Several aircraft on charge with the RAE Farnborough section were also used by this unit. The RAE facilities at Farnborough were utilized for the flight testing of German and Italian aircraft during the war.

Many crash-landed airframes were brought to Farnborough for examination, testing and cannibalisation of spare parts to keep other airframes in serviceable condition. The main flight testing work was carried out by the Aerodynamics Flight of the Experimental Flying Department and the Wireless & Electrical Flight, the latter responsible for evaluation and examination of radar-equipped aircraft later in the war.

Captured German aircraft of No. 1426 (Enemy Aircraft Circus) Flight at Collyweston, Northamptonshire, undergoing maintenance; Focke Wulf Fw 190A-3, PN999, undergoes an engine service while airmen re-paint the wings of Junkers JU 88S-1, TS472. source

Captured German aircraft of No. 1426 (Enemy Aircraft Circus) Flight at Collyweston, Northamptonshire, undergoing maintenance; Focke Wulf Fw 190A-3, PN999, undergoes an engine service while airmen re-paint the wings of Junkers JU 88S-1, TS472. source

The unit was established 21 November 1941 at RAF Duxford, made up of a small group of pilots who had previously been maintenance test pilots with No. 41 Group RAF. Attached at first to 12 Group, its mission was to demonstrate captured types to Allied personnel and expose them to “the appearance, performance, and even the sound” of hostile types. Initially, it operated a Heinkel He 111H shot down in Scotland in February 1940, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 captured during the Battle of France (turned over from the Air Fighting Development Unit), and a Junkers Ju 88A-5

Junkers Ju88. source

Junkers Ju88. source

The Ju 88 was a more recent British acquisition after the pilot landed at night at RAF Chivenor in the belief it was an airfield in France-–the crew had made a navigational error after being deceived by a Meacon. A General Aircraft Monospar was also assigned to the unit for general communication tasks and collecting spare parts.

Messerschmitt Bf110. source

Messerschmitt Bf110. source

 

Messerschmitt Bf109. source

Messerschmitt Bf109. source

The aircraft in the unit changed throughout the war as further later marques came into the RAF’s hands in various ways, including capture by Allied troops, forced or mistaken landings by German pilots, and defections. The flight co-operated with the RAF Film Unit, for which the usual British markings were removed and original German restored. Aircraft were then passed to the AFDU at RAF Duxford, where they were extensively tested before passing them on to the flight. Several aircraft were lost to crashes, or damaged and then cannibalized for spare parts. Others were shipped to America for further evaluation. In March 1943, the unit moved to RAF Collyweston. 

Focke-Wulf Fw190. source

Focke-Wulf Fw190. source

Beginning in early 1944, the flight made a round of U.S. Army Air Force bases in Britain. After D-Day, the perceived need for the flight declined.

The flight ceased operations at Collyweston on 17 January 1945. Reforming at RAF Tangmere on the same date, with unit codes EA, as the “Enemy Aircraft Flight” of the Central Fighter Establishment, which finally disbanded 31 December 1945.

Messerschmitt Bf110. source

Messerschmitt Bf110. source

No. 1426 (Photographic Reconnaissance) Flight

Following disbandment of No. 7 Squadron RAF in December 1955, four crews and their aircraft were detached and sent to the Aden “troubles” to carry out patrols, as No. 1426 (Photographic Reconnaissance) Flight at RAF Khormaksar, Aden on 1 January 1956, and disbanded at Khormaksar on 31 December 1956, being the last time the Avro Lincoln flew operationally as a bomber.

Four of the aircraft operated by the flight still survive, Bf 109 E-3 DG200, Bf 109 G2 RN228 (known as ‘Black 6’), Fiat CR42 BT474 and Ju 88R-1 PJ876. All are currently displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum London.