Lampyradie: Cancelled German Stealth Fighter Project

Lampyridae(firefly), or Medium Range Fighter Aircraft (MRMF) was a top secret stealth aircraft research programme conducted in Germany during the 1980s.

The programme was run from 1981 to 1987 by what was then Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm (MBB), under a contract from the German Air Force.

Tests and studies started in secrecy in the early 1980s at MBB, now part of EADS. The designs were very promising, that MBB was convinced it was poised to receive an order from Air force to develop Lampyridae into the world's first air to air stealth interceptor.

The work led to the eventual development of a three-quarter scale piloted wind tunnel model of a multi-faceted stealth fighter.

Former project leader Dr.Gerhard Lobert claims that the design "very probably" had a better radar characteristics than the US Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, despite the Nighthawk having more than twice the number of radar scattering facets.

The Lampyridae being a smaller aircraft than F-117, definetly had a smaller radar cross-section comparatively. The German multi-faceted stealth design was unique, simple and effective, reiterating German ingenuity.

In 1987, a year before the Reagan administration revealed the existence of the F-117A, a fact-finding group of US Air Force officers was taken to a closed-off section of MBB's plant at Ottobrunn in Bavaria and shown a three-quarter wind tunnel model of Lampyridae.

According to high level Luftwaffe sources, the Americans were startled by what they saw: a stealth aircraft, whose core design principle mirrored the technique employed on the then top secret F-117.

Shortly after the visit of the USAF delegation to Ottobrunn, under a directive that has never been adequately explained, the German government cancelled the project, even though all tests showed that the design was highly effective.

When the project existence was acknowledged in 1995, a number of German engineers who had worked on the programme made allegations that the cancellation order had been taken as a result of direct US pressure on German government. The implication being to keep the break-through science of stealth in US hands.

In Germany, stealth activity continued after the cancellation of the Lampyridae. In the mid-1990s, DaimlerChrysler Aerospace(DASA), MBB's successor company, commenced work on a new stealth programme called the Technology Demonstrator for Enhancement and Future Systems(TDEFS). The TDEFS was a proposed European stealth technology demostrator that had both manned and unmanned variants.

Like the Lampyridae, TDEFS was ready for development, but the programme collapsed due to lack of money and interest from Europe's other main combat aircraft companies, which were engaged in their own stealth activities.

The programme is another example of superb German design capabilities in stealth after the batwinged shaped Horten HO 229, Hitler's stealth fighters.

Source: Eurofighter World Magazine