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Hybrid Aircraft

Hybrid aircraft - made up of components of more than one machine - came into being for a number of reasons. In wartime particularly, large sections of damaged aircraft may be replaced wholesale with equivalent parts from similar machines. Those are not what we're talking about here. These pages are about joining components to produce a notably different aircraft.

Sometimes the fuselages of two identical aircraft - as far as we can discover, all WW2 types - would be joined together by a common wing (and sometimes, tailplane) to form a twin-fuselage variant. This was done generally to increase lifting ability or endurance. Examples include the German He.111Z and Bf.109Z (Z = Zwilling, or 'twin'), and the North American Twin Mustang.

On other occasions, aircraft retained their usual configuration, but were fitted with engines other than the standard ones. This is not terribly earth-shattering, but in some cases an aircraft would suddenly fly with an 'enemy' power plant. This might occur if an example of an enemy aircraft was captured, and evaluated with a friendly engine - such as the Daimler-Benz Spitfire.

Sometimes, the airframes were obtained by a 'third party' airforce, who happened to be short of the standard engines but had a supply on hand of other engines - again leading to 'enemy' power plants being fitted, as with the Zmaj Hurricane, or the Spanish Bf.109s with Merlin engines.

Finally, in a few cases, attempts were made to combine existing types, or at least design concepts, for reasons of economy, enhancement, or to create a special purpose aircraft. The B-17 / B-24 hybrid, the Delanne Lysander, and (yet again) the Bf.109 all suffered such surgery.

The 'hybrid' category is a broad, loose one - but its products are intriguing.


WESTLAND P.12 DELANNE MOD. LYSANDER - In 1941, Britain produced the Delanne Modification to the Lysander army cooperation aircraft. It was possibly the ugliest aircraft capable of flight, with a heavy bomber tail end on a single-engined army utility front half, and was intended to serve as a turret-equipped patrol nightfighter.


HEINKEL HE.111Z - In 1940, Germany produced two large and heavy cargo gliders, but lacked an aircraft to tow them safely. In 1941, they produced an answer in the form of the Heinkel He.111Z ('Zwilling'), two conventional bombers joined together, big enough to tow their largest gliders.


SUPERMARINE / DAIMLER BENZ SPITFIRE - In 1942 a near-intact Spitfire fell into German hands. They set about testing it with the Daimler-Benz DB 605 power plant used in its traditional opponents, the Messerschmitt Bf.109 and Bf.110, and produced an excellent, albeit one-off, fighter.


HAWKER / ZMAJ / DAIMLER BENZ HURRICANE - Yugoslavia in WW2 attempted to extend the versatility of its available equipment by testing a Hawker Hurricane with a Daimler Benz engine. Another one-off example of mixing components from opposing war planes.


MESSERSCHMITT Bf.109 MUTATIONS - It seems that if anything could be grafted to a Bf.109, it was - a pair of Me.262 jet engines, another Bf.109, or a power plant similar to that of its traditional foe, the Spitfire. The results were the twin-jet Bf.109TL, the twin-fuselage Bf.109Z, and the Spanish Hispano HA-1109 series.


NORTH AMERICAN F.82 / P.82 TWIN MUSTANG - The United States created, in late WW.2, a stopgap ultra-long-range escort fighter by joining a pair of fuselages from the excellent P-51 Mustang. Later the design was tested in the ground attack and radar night-fighter roles.


BOEING/CONSOLIDATED B17/24 - Both the B.17 Fortress and B-24 Liberator were excellent aircraft in their own right, but combining parts of the two to produce a bomber with the bomb load and range of the B-24 and the crew space and streamlining of the B-17 just didn't work. A 1944 experiment which was not pursued.


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