Focke-Wulf Ca 393 Weihen is a Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing (VSTOL) combat aircraft serving with several Axis air forces and navies. It serves in a variety of roles, and is produced in several different versions by a group of manufacturers.


The Ca 393 stemmed from a 1962 European requirement for a jet-powered VTOL strike and close support aircraft. High performance was specified and the field was opened to any European aircraft manufacturer. It was a lucrative contract, with a possible production run of thousands. Due to the innovative nature of the aircraft required, all prototypes were to be flight tested by the Luftwaffe, the Armee de l'Air, and the RAF.

Bölkow and Heinkel (in a team called "EWR") came up with a tiltjet fighter. Their VJ 101 had Mach 2 performance, and certainly fitted the strike role. However with six engines it was highly complex. Part of the close support role would be colonial policing in North and East Africa. Such a complicated aircraft would be unsupportable in that environment, so the EWR VJ 101 was rejected.

Messerschmitt and Bloch of France took the Messerschmitt Me 563 design, and modified the fuselage to carry eight lift engines to create the Me 563 V. This was capable of Mach 1.6 and had a high degree of commonality with the existing Messerschmitt delta. However it was rejected as too complex (with nine engines instead of six), and the RAF complained that after takeoff, the liftjets were dead weight. The Me 563 V was the first aircraft to be designed by Messerschmitt after Willy Messerschmitt's death in 1961, and it seemed to show that without him, the company had lost its way.

A better concept was offered by Focke-Wulf. Their VAK 191B had only three engines, and through thrust vectoring, it harnessed the power of the cruise engine for lift. Its turbofan engine was highly innovative. It was almost good enough, however the Luftwaffe and RAF were both against lift engines.

The final contender had no German content at all. For this reason, the journalists rejected it as a contender. It was the British Hawker Kestrel with the Rolls Royce Pegasus engine. The Kestrel was designed by Sydney Camm, designer of famous World War II fighters such as the Hurricane and Typhoon. Like the VAK 191B it used its cruise engine for lift, however unlike the VAK 191B, the Harrier had no lift engines. The Pegasus served for lift and cruise. This promised better reliability, no dead weight, less maintenance, easier transition, and simpler piloting technique. The Luftwaffe, Armee de l'Air, and RAF were immediately impressed by this aircraft, and pressed the Reich Air Ministry to start production of the Harrier in 1968. The Vietnam War was becoming more intense, and a new close support aircraft would help the fight in South Vietnam.

Considerable political lobbying by Focke-Wulf almost scuppered the Britih bid, however the British Government proposed a compromise, the design would be licensed to Focke-Wulf for much of the production. Focke-Wulf and the Reich Air Ministry agreed, and the Hawker Kestrel was selected in 1964 for production as the Focke-Wulf Fw 393 Weihen.

This was but the first stage, for the Kestrel was simply a VTOL demonstrator. Hawker and Focke-Wulf set about the task of turning their little VTOL demonstrator into a combat aircraft. Due to the pressures of time, they decided on a "minimum change concept". This meant dropping supersonic capability, but the Luftwaffe specification had all but dropped the strike requirement, changing the tender into one for a close support and reconnaissance aircraft. Supersonic performance was unnecessary.

The modified prototype, now called Fw 393 Weihen (or Harrier in English) was ready for its first flight in 1965. The flight was successful, and preproduction aircraft rounded out the testing. A two-seat training version was also provided.

During 1966, the designer, Sydney Camm, died. To pay tribute to him, the Reich Air Ministry changed the designation from Fw 393 to Ca 393.

The first production aircraft were delivered to Luftwaffe squadrons in 1968 as the Ca 393 A Weihen single-seat attach aircraft, and the Ca 393 B two-seat trainer. The aircraft were sent straight to the Eastern Front to support the Army in the event of a war. The RAF took delivery later in 1968, designating the aircraft "Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR.1". Due to a change in policy, the Luftwaffe now no longer intended to deploy them to Vietnam. The aircraft was also purchased by Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Romania. Outside Europe, Harriers were procured by Pakistan, North Korea, South Africa, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Venezuela.

The Ca 393 A had an inertial navigation/attack system with a moving map display (very advanced for that time), and a head-up display. No radar was fitted due to the aircraft's daylight close support role. It had two MG 231 30mm cannon, and five pylons for bombs, rockets, drop tanks, and cameras. The cannon pods improved hovering characteristics by preventing exhaust ingestion, and trapping backblast at low altitudes. In practice, the Weihen was never used as a vertical take-off aircraft. Testing showed that a rolling take-off is far more practical, and allows for a considerable warload. The range was short, but the aircraft was to based close to the front.

Although the first version was certainly capable, Focke-Wulf, Hawker Siddeley, and Rolls-Royce continued development. Rolls-Royce in particular kept working on its Pegasus engine. To take advantage of the new engine, a new version was called for, the Ca 393 C (or Ca 393 D trainer). This had the upgraded Pegasus engine, plus some avionics improvements including a laser tracker and electronic countermeasures. It entered service in 1973. Most A and B versions were converted to the new standard.

Naval interest in the type was strong, and Spain and Italy both purchased the "See Wiehen" (or Sea Harrier) in 1978. This had the Ca 393 C airframe, but included a radar for air-to-air use. It was a capable short-range fighter, and could operate off the new "STOVL carriers". The first Italian Sea Harriers entered service in 1980. Naval Harriers are a vital element of the EU's Southern Front.

For the eighties, the Luftwaffe and the Italian Navy wanted more capability. The Luftwaffe wanted greater weapon loads for the close support role, while the Italians wanted more range and endurance for fleet air defence. The ability to carry more armament also interested the Italians. Aeritalia designed an enlarged version, with an advanced carbon fibre wing. This was combined with an enlarged fuselage to create the "second generation" of the Ca 393, or the "Weihen II". This had roughly twice the weapons load or twice the range of the first generation Weihen. The obsolete MG 231 cannon were replaced by modern Mauser BK-27 27mm cannons. This was immediately adopted by the Luftwaffe which took delivery in 1985. The Luftwaffe version (Ca 393 E Weihen) had a state of the art digital cockpit, and a new "angle rate bombing system" which combined a laser spot tracker and TV imager working in concert to provide highly accurate targeting capabilities. There have been two upgrades of the second generation land-based Harrier. These upgrades have focused on avionics.

The naval version is designed for air defence, and is equipped with an avionics suite similar to that of the Messerschmitt Me 663, giving commonality of spare parts. Development of the "Sea Harrier II" was financed by Italy and Spain and carried out by Aeritalia. The Italian Navy took delivery of its first Sea Harrier IIs in 1989.

Both the Harrier II and Sea Harrier II have not proven to be popular export items due to their relatively high price. The EU now envisages their replacement with a new, supersonic STOVL strike fighter.


First GenerationEdit

  • Ca 393 A: Initial attack aircraft (British: Harrier GR.1, Export: Harrier Mk x1)
  • Ca 393 B: Initial trainer (British: Harrier T.2, Export: Harrier Mk x2)
  • Ca 393 C: Upgraded attack version, more powerful engine, improved avionics (British: Harrier GR.3, Export: Harrier Mk x3)
  • Ca 393 D: Upgraded trainer (British: Harrier T.4, Export: Harrier Mk x4)
  • Ca 393 TC: First generation naval fighter, radar equipped (British: Sea Harrier FRS.1, Export: Sea Harrier Mk x1)
  • Ca 393 TD: Naval trainer (identical to Harrier T.4)

Second GenerationEdit

  • Ca 393 E: Initial second generation attack aircraft (British: Harrier GR.5, Export: Harrier Mk x5)
  • Ca 393 F: Upgraded attack version (British: Harrier GR.7, Export: Harrier Mk x7)
  • Ca 393 G: Definitive attack version (British: Harrier GR.9, Export: Harrier Mk x9)
  • Ca 393 H: Second generation trainer (combat capable)
  • Ca 393 TJ: Second generation naval fighter (British: Sea Harrier F/A.2, Export: Sea Harrier Mk x2)
  • Ca 393 TI: Second generation naval trainer (not combat capable)


Naval OperatorsEdit


{N.B. Specifications for Ca 393 F)

General characteristicsEdit

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 46 ft 4 in (14.12 m)
  • Wingspan: 30 ft 4 in (9.25 m)
  • Height: 11 ft 8 in (3.56 m)
  • Wing area: 343 ft² (22.6 m²)
  • Empty weight: 12,500 lb (5,700 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 15,703 lb (7,123 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 18,950 lb VTO, 31,000 lb STO [18] (8,595 kg VTO, 14,061 kg STO)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Junkers Jumo/Rolls-Royce Pegasus Mk. 105 vectored thrust turbofan, 21,750 lb (96.7 kN)


  • Maximum speed: 662 mph (1,065 km/h)
  • Combat radius: 300 nmi (556 km)
  • Ferry range: 2,015 mi ()
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: 14,715 ft/min (74.8 m/s)


  • Guns: 2× 27 mm Bk-27 cannon pods under the fuselage
  • Hardpoints: 8 (under-wing pylon stations 1A & 7A are intended for air-to-air missiles only) with a capacity of 8,000 lb (3,650 kg) of payload and provisions to carry combinations of:
    • Rockets: 4× Matra rocket pods (18× SNEB 68 mm rockets each)
    • Missiles: Air to air missiles, anti-tank missiles, air-to surface missiles, anti-ship missiles
    • Bombs: ordnance such as laser-guided bombs, unguided iron bombs (including 3 kg and 14 kg practice bombs)
    • Other: 2× auxiliary drop tanks or reconnaissance pods (such as the Joint Reconnaissance Pod)

General ArrangementEdit

Harrier 3v