Academic journal article Aerospace Power Journal

Operation LUSTY

Academic journal article Aerospace Power Journal

Operation LUSTY

Article excerpt

The US Army Air Forces' Exploitation of the Luftwaffe's Secret Aeronautical Technology, 1944-45

Editorial Abstract: The bewildering pace of development in aerospace-power technology immediately following World War II was no accident. The author's account of the highly successful efforts of Army Air Corps leaders to exploit German technology at the end of the war is a story that still has lessons for us today.

IN NEW WORLD Vistas, the US Air Force's science and technology (S&T) study of 1995, Dr. Gene McCall wrote about the relationship of technology to the Air Force after almost 50 years as an independent service: "It was clear in 1945 that the technology gains of the first half of the twentieth century should be consolidated to create a superior, technology- and capability-based Air Force which could respond to threats not yet imagined. The world which emerged from the destruction of World War II could not have been predicted in 1945, but the emphasis on technology and capability rather than on assumptions about future geopolitical scenarios served us well as we entered the Cold War. "1

Technology is fundamental to the culture of the US Air Force. For the most part, this technology culture appeared at the same time as the air service itself, due to the nature of heavier-than-air flight. For nearly a century, technological progress has occurred in starts and fits as well as leaps and bounds, exploding geometrically as it accompanied the visionary efforts of key individuals and programs. In conducting analyses of technological efficiencies in anticipation of tomorrow's complex threat environment, one would do well to consider the past successes of some of these key players in technological development. In particular, a seminal turning point occurred on the heels of World War II as part of a plan to exploit German scientific advancements. The plan was called Operation LUSTY (for Luftwaffe secret technology).

Technological change during World War II proceeded at a frightening pace. Developments in aircraft design, propulsion, weapons, and electronics contributed vitally to the outcome of events in the global conflict. At the heart of these developments were scientists, largely civilians, who worked to produce military equipment that would turn the tide of the war. Among them was the youthful Hungarian aerodynamicist Dr. Theodore von Karman. Since his arrival in the United States from Europe, having obtained Guggenheim funding and hoping to avoid rising nationalism and Nazism, he had become acquainted with several Army air officers, among them a young major named Henry "Hap" Arnold, who would later command the US Army Air Forces (AAF) throughout World War II.

Since their first meeting at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the early 1930s, Arnold had witnessed the professor's skilled use of mathematical equations to solve complex aerodynamic problems. After inheriting command of the Army Air Corps in 1938 and driven by a near-obsessive belief in the efficacy of scientific approaches to Air Corps problems, Arnold called civilian scientists to a meeting at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, D.C., in 1939. Among the visitors was a team from Caltech, including Karman. At that meeting, Arnold doled out scientific projects, such as finding a solution to high-altitude windshield icing and developing aircraft radios and jet-assisted takeoff (although the term jet was a misnomer). Karman assigned the difficult rocket project to his most senior students at Caltech, the "suicide club." From that small project grew what is today the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California. More importantly, Arnold's trust in Karman grew as the Caltech program continued to tackle the most difficult projects without hesitation. Arnold did not tolerate a "no-can-do" attitude.

By war's end, General Arnold had decided that the AAF was in a position to capitalize on World War II's many technological developments. …

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