Captain America and the Horten Brothers

A Horten H IX V3 look-alike appears alongside Chris Evans in “Captain America”

The evil Red Skull escapes in a flying wing.

Oh, those Horten brothers. Looks like they’re at it again. The aircraft in Captain America: The First Avenger looks suspiciously like a Horten flying wing; did Reimar and Walter team up with the evil Johann Schmidt (aka Red Skull), the head of Nazi Germany’s HYDRA research department?

First glimpse of Red Skull's flying wing. Screen shot from "Captain America."

Here’s what we know: The diabolical Schmidt expects to deploy the flying wing against the United States. That’s what he thinks, anyway. But he hasn’t planned on Captain America (aka Steve Rogers), who hustles aboard (through the wheel well), takes control of the aircraft, and crashes it into an expanse of polar ice.

How closely does the fictional flying wing resemble the Horten H IX V3? You decide. National Air and Space Museum curator Russ Lee has just written a book about Reimar Horten, titled Only the Wing: Reimar Horten’s Epic Quest to Stabilize and Control the All-Wing Aircraft, and he is also the curator in charge of the Horten H IX V3, which is under restoration at the Museum.

Center section of the Horten H IX V3 at the National Air and Space Museum's restoration facility. Photograph courtesy NASM.

The Museum’s database indicates that General Patton’s Third Army found the H IX prototypes at Friedrichsroda, Germany, in April 1945. The V3 was half finished (of the four airframes found, the V3 was closest to completion); Army personnel shipped it to the United States, and the incomplete center section arrived at the Museum in the late 1940s.

Reimar Horten claimed that the Horten IX had a kind of stealth capability that made it difficult to detect with radar. During the restoration process, Lee notes, “Smithsonian conservators will search for evidence of special radar absorbing compounds in the plywood skin that cover the leading edges of the center section and outer wings.” We’ll post any discoveries here.

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