The Rafwaffe: No.1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight, Royal Air Force

The Rafwaffe: No.1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight, Royal Air Force

No.1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight of the Royal Air Force was formed on 21st November 1941 to test and evaluate captured enemy aircraft of the German Luftwaffe. The idea was to gain intelligence on the capabilities and characteristics of these aircraft. As a result, the Flight gained the nickname ‘the Rafwaffe’, although it also evaluated an Italian aircraft of the Regia Aeronautica Italiana.

Upon formation, the Flight was staffed using test pilots from No.41 Group, who set to work evaluating a Heinkel He111 that had been shot down – and subsequently crash landed – by a Spitfire over North Berwick in early 1940. The Flight also, around this time, came into the possession of a Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3 that had been captured by the French near Wœrth in late 1939, and a Junkers 88A-5 that had landed due to navigational error at RAF Chivenor only five days after the Flight was formed. Captured aircraft were repainted with RAF markings and given new serial numbers.

As the war progressed further aircraft came into the hands of the Flight, including a total of seven Messerschmitt 109s, four Focke-Wulf 190s, and five Junkers 88s. The Flight also had the aforementioned Heinkel He111, a Messerschmitt 110, a Messerschmitt 410, a Henschel 129, and an Italian Fiat CR42 Falco. During the war, the Flight was based at RAF Duxford and later at RAF Collyweston.

The Flight officially disbanded on 17th January 1945, although it would be briefly reformed the same day at RAF Tangmere as Enemy Aircraft Flight of the Central Fighter Establishment until it, too, was disbanded in December the same year. Later, the Flight would be reformed in a Photographic Reconnaissance role at RAF Khormaksar in 1956 during the troubles in Aden. However, this role had no relation to the Flight’s wartime work other than bearing the same number.

Some of the aircraft tested suffered various accidents while in RAF hands, including numerous crash landings. As such a number were later written-off and used for spare parts to help others return to flight. However, a few survived the war and are now on display at the RAF Museum in Hendon. These include:

DG200 – A Messerschmitt 109E-4/B which was piloted by Wolfgang Teumer of JG 51 who was shot down by a Spitfire of No.66 Squadron (flown by the Canadian Ace George Christie) in November 1940.

RN288 – A Messerschmitt 109G-2/Trop which was flown by 8/JG 27 and captured at an airfield in Tobruk where it had been abandoned in November 1942.

PJ876 – A Junkers 88R-1 of 10/NJG 3 which was flown to RAF Dyce in Scotland when its crew defected in May 1943.

BT473 – A FIAT CR42 Falco which suffered engine failure and was forced to land on the beach at Orford Ness in November 1940.

The following images were taken during the Second World War of two of the captured German aircraft subsequently operated by No.1426 Flight. Each appears with their RAF markings but neither survive today.

NN644 – A Messerschmitt 109F-4/B piloted by Oswald Fischer of 10/JG 26 who was shot down near Beachy Head by anti-aircraft fire while attacking a Royal Navy vessel in May 1942. NN644 was later scrapped.
NN644 – A Messerschmitt 109F-4/B piloted by Oswald Fischer of 10/JG 26 who was shot down near Beachy Head by anti-aircraft fire while attacking a Royal Navy vessel in May 1942. NN644 was later scrapped.
AX772 – A Messerschmitt 110C-4 which, while on a reconnaissance flight, was forced down by RAF fighters in July 1940. AX722 was scrapped in 1947.
AX772 – A Messerschmitt 110C-4 which, while on a reconnaissance flight, was forced down by RAF fighters in July 1940. AX722 was scrapped in 1947.
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