How Willy Messerschmitt tried to copy Anatoly Brunov's plane


Full Member
Dec 21, 2023

What will be written here may seem fantastic to some. Well, it cannot be that a German designer, whose work was looked at by all the world’s design bureaus, and some openly copied, suddenly, while working on his aircraft, looked at the car of a former enemy, and even tried to take something from it.

I agree, it’s a little strange, but that’s how it is. But in order to understand how all this happened, a short excursion into history.

After defeat in World War II, Germany was prohibited from building combat aircraft until 1955. There was nothing to catch, because, for example, Kurt Tank (“Focke-Wulf”) pretended to design houses, and in 1947 he fled to Argentina, and then to India, where he built combat aircraft. Only in 1969 did Tank return to Germany, where he worked as a consultant at Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blom.

But Willy Messerschmitt was not so lucky. He was grounded for a decent amount of time for using slave labor from prisoners of war.


True, Willie served only two years, after which he decided that he needed a warm climate and moved to Spain.

There, in 1948, having settled in the company Hispano Aviación, Messerschmitt began creating a light jet fighter. The project was listed as NA-300, but was not completed. The Spanish government decided to stop work due to financial problems in 1950.

The fighter project, along with the design team, was sold to Egypt. In those years, Egypt was a more significant state in terms of territory than it is now, and could afford it. A group of German designers led by Messerschmitt moved to Egypt, where they continued work on the NA-300, which was now also called NA-300, but not from Hispano Aviacion, but from Helwan Aircraft.

In order for the plane to fly, the Austrian engineer Ferdinand Brander was invited, who designed a turbojet engine for the NA-300.

In general, everything worked out: Egypt wanted a small and cheap one, and most importantly, its own fighter, and the German-Austrian brigade could provide it. No one had any doubts about this, because how could it have turned out differently for the creator of the first production combat jet?

In the end, the Germans, in addition to the first combat jet fighter, also noted a jet bomber, a catapult for the pilot, a radar on the aircraft and many other innovations. And some inventions from the 40s are still used by the whole world.

Egypt in those years was a very interesting country. Big and not poor. And politically very active, so much so that the new Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, together with Josip Broz (Tito) from Yugoslavia and Jawaharlal Nehru from India, founded the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961.

This is for developing countries that would not like to join one of the two military-political blocs (NATO or Warsaw Warsaw) at that time.

But even countries that have not joined military blocs need armies. And the armies have weapons, and modern ones at that.

This is how Willy Messerschmitt and Ferdinand Brandner from Junkers ended up in Egypt. It was better than building microcars and sewing machines in Germany. Moreover, they could impose a deadline due to “newly discovered circumstances.”

Brandner, by the way, spent from 1945 to 1953 in the Soviet “sharaga” in Kuibyshev, atoning for his guilt by creating the NK-12 turboprop engine for the Tu-95. The engine was created, and Brandner was sent back, but, apparently, there was nowhere to do what he loved, and he also went to Egypt. In general, comrade had a fruitful time.

Brandner (pictured with a dog) in Kuibyshev with a group of German engineers

Messerschmitt also did not waste time, setting up a licensed assembly of his Messerschmitt Bf.109G-2 in Spain, although not on his own engines, but on the French Hispano-Suiza 12Z-17 and the British Rolls-Royce Merlin 500/45. But it’s okay, we flew on these ones too.

For his aircraft, Messerschmitt developed a prototype of the N-100 Triana training aircraft with a piston engine. And although the N-100 did not go into production, it served as the basis for the first Spanish jet aircraft, the N-200 Saeta, which took to the skies in 1955.


And now the Saeta/Strela has already flown (on French Turbomeca Marbore II engines) and gone into production. 122 aircraft were produced.

So they slowly reached the NA-300, which Messerschmitt began creating in 1951. The fighter was planned to be supersonic, with a speed of about 1,5M. In addition, the aircraft was promised to be ultra-light (estimated empty weight 2200 kg) and hence super-maneuverable.

According to its design, the NA-300 was a “tailless” aircraft with a triangular wing.

It’s familiar, many will say, that our Willie “torn” the Mirage. Alas, the French began work on the Mirage a year later, in 1952. So the NA-300 was much earlier, and the general question is who copied whom.

In general, the work went neither shaky nor slow. However, so does financing. Normally, the Spanish military department began to give money only in 1957, then Messerschmitt built a flying mock-glider NA-300 and began blowing in a wind tunnel and towed flights.


The same glider with the marking NA.R-300 on the fin.

At first, the glider did not show anything decent, and the stability was clearly insufficient. In 1960, the Spanish Ministry of Defense stopped funding the project.

The continuation of work on the NA-300 turned out to be unexpected: the Egyptian entrepreneur Hassan Sayed came to Messerschmitt. The fact is that after the Suez crisis of 1956, Great Britain and France imposed a sales embargo on Egypt weapons. Sayed, having registered a number of front companies in Switzerland (such as a certain MESO), successfully circumvented all the prohibitions. He also offered the Spaniards compensation for the NA-300, to which they naturally agreed.

So Messerschmitt ended up in the city of Helwan, where an aircraft factory and (importantly) a plant for the production of French Turbomeca Marbore II engines, well known to the German designer, were built.

To begin with, Messerschmitt presented (not free of charge, of course) the Egyptians with his combat training Na-200. Under license, 90 aircraft were assembled, called the NA-200B “Al Qahir” (“Winner”).

A rare photo of Egyptian Messerschmitts, you can distinguish them from Spanish ones by the tricolor on the tail.

Well, not to stop there, Messerschmitt offered the Egyptians all rights to the NA-300. Everything was simple here, the Spaniards did not lay claim to the plane, and there was no need to change the name: Hispano Aviación became Helwan Aircraft.

The Egyptians agreed to buy the plane wholeheartedly, subject to successful testing. But there was a problem: the engines. The existing French models did not have enough power, and it was not possible to secretly buy and bring in a large batch of more powerful ones under embargo conditions.

And here Messerschmitt advised the Egyptians to involve his friend Brandner, who frankly had nothing better to do.

In general, the Germans in Egypt assembled a very decent company: in addition to Messerschmitt and Brandner, the design department of that same aircraft plant in Helwan was headed by Eugen Neher from Daimler-Benz, the flight test service was created and headed by Friedrich Schaeffer and Karl Bauer from Heinkel, and in general More than 300 people moved from Germany and Austria to Egypt.

And they all started working on the HA-300 and the E-300 engine for it.

This is where the most interesting thing actually began. While the Germans were fiddling with the NA-300, given that the situation in the Suez Canal area was so-so, plus Israel did not want to kill itself, Egypt bought, fortunately the Soviet Union sold, as many as 60 of the newest MiG-21F-13 fighters and missiles for them air-to-air class K-13.

The Germans in general were already accustomed to respect Soviet technology; very little time had passed since the end of the Second World War. And therefore this whole gang got acquainted with the MiG-21F with great pleasure.

To say that the Germans were stunned is to say nothing. And the MiG-21 made such an impression on them that the appearance of the NA-300 began to change. From the appearance of “Mirage” to “Mig”. “Tailless” turned into an aircraft with a delta wing and a swept-back all-moving rear horizontal tail.

Externally, the new NA-300 resembled a greatly reduced hybrid of the Mirage and MiG-21, but had purely Messerschmitt features: a quick-assembled monocoque made of short sections, a landing gear retractable like the Bf.109 and a canopy that folds to the side.

In general, the aircraft turned out to be very compact, smaller in size than Soviet and French aircraft, with a wingspan of 5,84 m (Mirage III - 8,22 m, MiG-21 - 7,15 m). The E-300 engine was a match for the aircraft: it weighed only 830 kg. It was noted that the E-300 was very similar to the Soviet AM-9 from the MiG-19, but it’s clear where the legs come from. From Kuibyshev. The thrust of the E-300 in operating mode was 3 kgf, and in afterburner 300 kgf, which at that time was quite decent, especially considering the weight and size characteristics of the aircraft. While the Germans were bringing the E-4 to condition, the prototypes flew on the British Bristol-Siddeley Orpheus Mk/800-S-300 with a thrust of 703/10 kgf.

By the way, the E-300 engine suddenly became interested in India, where at that time Kurt Tank was working on the first Indian fighter-bomber HAL HF-24 Marut within the walls of an aircraft plant in Bangalore.

The plane was planned to be heavier, twin-engine, and with two Bristol-Siddeley Orpheus Mk.703 engines it did not want to fly faster than sound. The maximum that was possible to squeeze out of the British engines was 1112 km/h; it was just a little short of 1M, so Tank decided that Brandner engines would come in handy.


E-300 engine on a test bench in Helwan

In general, the Indians, practical in this regard, set the goal of trading their aircraft with Egypt, since the heavy twin-engine HF-24 could be a good addition to the light NA-300. So Indian rupees joined the flow of Egyptian pounds, which were spent on the development of the E-300. Plus, Kurt Tank and his men visited Helwan several times, and Ferdinand Brandler visited Bangalore in return.

The aircraft’s equipment was supposed to be mixed, according to the principle “we’ll install whatever happens.” This applied to both instruments and weapons.


Please note that instruments with markings in Latin and Cyrillic alphabets get along quite well in the cockpit

The prototypes were not equipped with weapons, but it was assumed that the NA-300 would have two 20 mm Hispano cannons or two 23 mm Soviet NR-23 cannons. The missile armament consisted of 2-4 K-13 missiles, the same as on the MiG-21.

The first experimental model, designated according to the German classification as HA-300V-1, was ready by the summer of 1963. However, a very peculiar problem arose: Egypt did not have its own test pilots! At all! The same Kurt Tank helped correct the situation by sponsoring the most experienced Indian test pilot Kapil Bhagarava. Yes, of course, not a European tester, but what to do? For some reason, the Europeans were not eager to fly around a German plane made in Egypt, and even Messerschmitt himself failed to hire Europeans, which was more than strange.

Kapil Bhagarava in the cockpit of the NA-300, in a museum in Germany, on the 100th anniversary of W. Messerschmitt

Bhagarava got involved in work on the aircraft, the importance of which was undeniable for Egypt, and the test pilot even met with the country's President Nasser, telling him about the aircraft and how things were going in general and what prospects the NA-300 had.

In general, to say that Bhagarava was dissatisfied with the plane is to say nothing. He called the NA-300 a “death trap aircraft” and demanded that a fairly large list of shortcomings identified at the beginning of the tests be eliminated.

The work that Bhagarava did is respectable, but here it is worth understanding that the pilot was indeed very experienced, having flown on French, British and Soviet-made aircraft, that is, he had something to compare with.

The list of problems voiced by the Indian tester consisted of 19 points, but among them were very important:
- constant leaks in fuel tanks;
- lack of fuel sensors, as such. This doesn’t look like the Germans at all, but it’s a fact: there was one flow meter on board, showing the amount of fuel entering the engine. That is, the pilot learned that the fuel had run out after stopping the engine;
- the fuel system made it possible to fly in an inverted position for an unlimited amount of time, and the lubrication system - for 10 seconds;
- the fuel tank was very small and ensured the flight within two minutes.

Messerschmitt agreed with all the claims of the Indian pilot and the flight tests were canceled, starting modifications to the aircraft, which delayed the first flight until the beginning of 1964.

But on March 7, 1964, the NA-300 took off, and not just took off, but “The first flight was as routine as the first flight of a fighter of a revolutionary design can be routine. Despite its short duration of 12,5 minutes, there were no problems. The excitement came after the flight, when we drank champagne...”

This is how a direct participant, Kapil Bhagarava, described this event. It’s worth a lot, it’s not in vain that the Indian tyrannized the Germans, not in vain. When the first flight is normal and boring, without special effects, this indicates a job well done.

NA-300 in real flight

Then there were flights on the HA-300V-2, which had the same Bristol-Siddeley Orpheus Mk/703-S-10 engine, but the aerodynamic ridges disappeared from the wings.

And despite the fact that the engine was a weak British one, that is, non-standard, Captain Bhargava reached a supersonic speed of 1200 km/h (1,13M). And this was very promising, since with the E-300 the aircraft could clearly approach the coveted speed of 2M.

What about the standard Brandner engine? And it has been quietly undergoing testing since mid-1963, and Brandner and his comrades built it in two versions at once: military, with an afterburner, and a non-afterburning civilian one. The afterburning E-300C-1 was intended for hypothetical transport and passenger aircraft.

The E-300 was tested in a very unique way: the same twin-engine HAL HF-24 Marut was delivered from India and an experimental E-300 was installed instead of the right Bristol-Siddeley Orpheus engine. And such an improvised laboratory not only flew normally, more than a hundred flights were carried out!

The afterburner E-300S-1 was tested in approximately the same way, only instead of the HF-24, the role of the laboratory was played by the Soviet An-12, in which one AI-20 was replaced by the E-300.

Both engines successfully passed tests and the E-300 was declared suitable for installation on a fighter.

NA-300V-2 against the background of the An-12 flying laboratory for testing the afterburning version of the E-300 engine

But then the difficulties began. Egyptian MiG-21Fs showed how Soviet fighters could fly, so much so that Messerschmitt asked for help Tank, who has already completed work with the HF-24. And after some time, the third prototype HA-300V-3 was born, which was even more different from the previous ones.

NA-300V-3 with E-300 engine

A lot of work was done, changes affected the fuselage, new supersonic air intakes were developed, and the landing gear system was completely redesigned. Taxiing tests began, which also went quite successfully, the date of the first flight was set for mid-July 1969, but...

In June 1969, for no particular reason, the NA-300 program was curtailed and terminated. This looks very strange, considering that the plane was almost ready for its first real flight in the supersonic version. Egypt spent about 135 million Egyptian pounds on the program to build its aircraft, today this is equivalent to 2 billion modern dollars, and at the 1969 exchange rate - 81 million dollars, which is also a huge amount.

Why did it happen? I support the opinion of those who say that what is sticking out of this case is not just ears, but the arms and legs of Soviet intelligence. How this happened, we don’t know and are unlikely to find out, but it is a fact that our shady specialists very skillfully removed a competitor, subsequently flooding Egypt with Soviet weapons. It’s difficult to say who was bought, how and for what, but all work on the Egyptian aircraft was stopped.

Plus, Israel also indirectly helped here by starting a systematic shooting of former German specialists. It is not surprising that German speech soon ceased to be heard in that region.

Amazingly, all three built samples of the NA-300 have survived to this day.

The first was restored for the centenary of Messerschmitt and was exhibited in the aviation branch of the Deutsches Museum in Oberschleissheim near Munich, and in 2015 the plane was moved to the Messerschmitt museum in Manching.

The second HA-300 is in the Egyptian Air Force Museum in Cairo.

The third, which has a Brandner E-300 engine, spent its entire life at the Helwan aircraft factory and is now on display there, in the factory museum.

And now a logical question arises: was the game worth the candle?

The fact that the German-Austrian team clearly relaxed and worked at a completely different pace than in their homeland in the forties is clear and understandable. Nine years to fine-tune the aircraft (and in total it turned out to be almost 20 years, including work in Spain) is still a bit much. Much was spoiled by the appearance of the MiG-21F in Egypt and the demonstrated uncertainty in its project by Messerschmitt, which was expressed in the turn of the NA-300 towards the MiG-21.

And here the question arose: could the NA-300 surpass the MiG-21? This was the most important question, to which the answer was clearly negative. However, now it’s worth looking at the summary table of the performance characteristics of the aircraft participating in the events.


And here we can definitely answer the question of how promising the NA-300 was. Unfortunately, at the time of its introduction, this aircraft was really outdated. Yes, it was a very interesting close-combat fighter, very small, possibly maneuverable, with good vertical maneuver data.

The Mirage miserably lost the vertical to German and Soviet aircraft. So much so that it’s not even worth talking about for a long time, because what’s the point in the fact that the Mirage could climb to a higher altitude than other aircraft if it simply had no chance of getting there in battle?

But in the dispute between the NA-300 and the MiG-21F, the advantage clearly goes to the Soviet aircraft, which, although larger, is “higher, further and faster.”

In addition, since we are talking about the future, the question immediately arises: where, if necessary, would Mr. Messerschmitt install the radar in this small building? "Mirage" had a radar initially. The MiG-21 received the Sapphire-1 radar as a modification of the MiG-21S in 1965. That is, a year after the first flight of the NA-300.

The whole problem with the German plane was that Willy Messerschmitt, at the end of his career, built a very good plane. By the standards of second generation aircraft. And if the NA-300 had appeared in Spain when they first began to create it, it would have been a very, very good aircraft. Meeting all the requirements of the time.

And in 1965, if the NA-300 had gone into production, it would have been quite suitable as a close-combat fighter, especially since Egypt needed such machines. But one can only imagine what mincemeat the Israeli Air Force would make of this Mirage aircraft, having an advantage in situational awareness.

And if you compare the level of training of Egyptian and Israeli pilots...

Apparently, that’s why it didn’t take long to persuade the Egyptian military to buy the more promising and powerful Soviet MiG-21F, because in addition to aircraft, Egyptian pilots automatically received a Soviet training school and Soviet instructors. And the Germans clearly could not offer this.

Well, in general, you can look at history and conclude that small countries rarely build good airplanes. Many areas of science and industry must be too developed. Yes, Sweden and Brazil can openly boast about their aircraft, which cannot be said about Iran, India, Taiwan and everyone else. An airplane, especially a combat one, is very difficult.

Therefore, everything is, of course, good, but there are Russia, the USA, Europe and China. The rest can simply buy planes from them and not bother themselves. And these will be frankly good planes for the wallet.

The Egyptian experience of Willy Messerschmitt showed that an individual very good designer, even with a team, is not always able to keep up with progress. And in this he will always lose to the designer, who will have the scientific and technical resources of the whole country behind him. Messerschmitt was a very good designer, which is why he was able to appreciate the superiority of the machine created by the team of Anatoly Brunov within the walls of the Mikoyan OBK. And he even tried to borrow something for his fighter, which in general is not as shameful as it seems.

And here there is one more point: Brunov worked for the good idea of defending his country. And not only yours. Messerschmitt worked exclusively for money, here you can say and assume anything, but what does Willie care about Egyptian problems? A strong professional, he simply did his job.

To be honest, the NA-300 at the time of 1965 was so outdated that even if it would be of interest, it would only be to the most backward states that are not able to purchase decent equipment. I think Messerschmitt also understood this, so he abandoned the NA-300 as is, without continuing. At that time, it was already possible to build slowly in Germany, but he did not. Apparently, he himself realized that the time had come for another technique.

Well, the fact that in the end the Messerschmitt lost to the MiG – there is something sacred about it.


Full Member
Dec 21, 2023

HA-300 Third prototype


Helwan Ha-300 full-scale mockup


Deutsches Museum at the Flugwerftin Oberschleissheim

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