The Arado Ar 232 Could Take Off in 720 Feet

The Arado Ar 232, often referred to as the “Tatzelwurm” or “millipede,” is a significant yet often overlooked transport aircraft. It was designed and built by Arado Flugzeugwerke and set new standards for military transport aviation.



The Arado Ar 232’s journey began in 1940, driven by the Luftwaffe’s urgent need for a more advanced transport aircraft to replace the ageing Junkers Ju 52. The German Air Ministry recognized the limitations of their existing fleet and issued a directive to develop a new aircraft that could excel in versatility, cargo capacity, and performance on unprepared airstrips.

Read More: The BV 142 Was Built by Shipbuilders

Arado Flugzeugwerke, under the leadership of Walter Blume, accepted this ambitious challenge.

Walter Blume, a seasoned aircraft designer, gathered a team of talented engineers to embark on this project. They aimed to create an aircraft capable of carrying substantial cargo loads while operating from the rudimentary airfields that typified many of the combat zones.

The Ar 232A-0 only had a pair of engines.
The Ar 232A-0 only had a pair of engines. It was a pre-production aircraft used for testing.

The team prioritised innovative solutions to overcome the challenges posed by rugged terrains and varying operational conditions.

Early in the design process, Blume and his team focused on the landing gear system. They envisioned an aircraft that could land and take off from virtually any surface. This vision led to the development of the unique retractable tricycle landing gear system, complemented by an array of small auxiliary wheels along the fuselage.

These additional wheels, often referred to as “millipede” wheels, distributed the aircraft’s weight more evenly, enabling it to manoeuvre on rough and uneven ground without sustaining damage.

The design team focused on efficient cargo handling by creating a spacious cargo bay with a rear-loading ramp. This hallmark feature of the Ar 232 simplified loading and unloading, allowing it to transport vehicles, heavy equipment, and supplies with ease.

The rear-loading ramp also facilitated the rapid deployment of troops and equipment in combat situations, enhancing the aircraft’s tactical utility.


In 1941, Arado rolled out the first prototype, designated the Ar 232 V1. This prototype incorporated many of the innovative features envisioned by Blume and his team. The initial test flights demonstrated the aircraft’s potential, showcasing its ability to operate from short, unprepared airstrips while carrying significant cargo loads.

The nickname 'Millipede' is  thanks to the unusual undercarriage arrangement.
The nickname ‘Millipede’ is thanks to the unusual undercarriage arrangement.

Encouraged by these results, Arado proceeded with the development of additional prototypes to refine the design further.

The subsequent prototypes, including the Ar 232 V2 and V3, incorporated improvements based on the lessons learned from the initial flights. These refinements included enhancements to the landing gear system, adjustments to the cargo bay configuration, and optimizations in aerodynamics and engine performance.

The design team remained committed to maximizing the aircraft’s capabilities, pushing the boundaries of what a transport aircraft could achieve.

By 1942, the Arado Ar 232 had reached a stage where it could enter limited production. The Luftwaffe, recognising the aircraft’s potential, integrated it into their transport units. The aircraft’s ability to perform in diverse operational environments quickly became evident.

Its unique landing gear system and robust construction allowed it to deliver supplies and troops to frontlines where conventional aircraft could not operate effectively.


The Ar 232 boasted an impressive payload capacity, which allowed it to transport a wide range of cargo, including troops, vehicles, and heavy equipment. The aircraft could carry up to 7,000 kilograms (approximately 15,400 pounds) of cargo, making it one of the most capable transport aircraft of its time.

Read More: Junkers Ju 390 New York Blitz Bomber

This significant payload capacity stemmed from its robust airframe and the efficient utilization of space within the fuselage. The high-wing design not only facilitated easy loading and unloading but also maximized internal cargo volume. The rear loading ramp, a novel feature for the period, further enhanced its cargo handling efficiency, allowing vehicles to drive directly into the aircraft.

Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL)

The Ar 232 excelled in its STOL capabilities, a crucial feature for operating in the diverse and often primitive airfields encountered during World War II. The aircraft’s high-lift wing design, coupled with large, effective flaps, provided the necessary lift to achieve short takeoff runs.

In many instances, the Ar 232 could take off within 220 meters (about 720 feet) and land in a similar distance, even when fully loaded. This performance allowed it to utilize improvised airstrips near the front lines, where traditional transport aircraft could not operate.

Thanks to the design and powerful engines, the Ar 232 had an astonishingly short take off.
Thanks to the design and powerful engines, the 232 had an astonishingly short take-off.


The initial Ar 232A models featured two Bramo 323 radial engines, each producing 1,000 horsepower. These engines provided sufficient power for most transport missions, ensuring reliable performance under various conditions.

However, recognising the need for enhanced power and redundancy, Arado developed the Ar 232B variant, which utilized four engines, typically BMW-Bramo 323R-2 Fafnir radial engines. This quad-engine configuration, producing a combined 4,000 horsepower, significantly improved the aircraft’s overall performance, particularly its climb rate and service ceiling.

The additional power also increased the aircraft’s reliability, a critical factor during long-range missions over hostile territory.

Banner Ad MiG 21

Eastern Front Deployments

On the Eastern Front, the Ar 232 played a crucial role in supporting German operations. The aircraft’s ability to operate from unprepared and rough airstrips proved invaluable in the harsh and often unforgiving terrain of the Soviet Union.

Read More: The A-3 Sky Warrior was Versatile and Long-Lived

German forces relied on the Ar 232 to deliver essential supplies, including ammunition, food, and medical equipment, directly to the front lines. The aircraft’s STOL capabilities allowed it to land in areas close to the battlefield, providing timely and critical logistical support that conventional transport aircraft could not offer.

Additionally, the Ar 232 facilitated the rapid evacuation of wounded soldiers, transporting them to field hospitals or more secure locations for medical treatment.

There were around 20 built and there were many variants for specialised purposes.
There were around 20 built and there were many variants for specialised purposes.

Special Operations

The Ar 232 also found use in paratrooper operations, where its spacious cargo hold and rear loading ramp made it ideal for carrying paratroopers and their gear. German airborne units utilized the aircraft in several missions, including the deployment of paratroopers behind enemy lines for sabotage and reconnaissance operations.

The Ar 232’s ability to take off and land from improvised airfields enabled it to support these missions by providing a quick and efficient means of inserting and extracting special forces.

The Luftwaffe also adapted the Ar 232 for a range of specialized missions. In addition to its primary role as a transport aircraft, the Ar 232 undertook missions such as evacuating personnel from encircled positions and delivering critical reinforcements to besieged units.

Its robust design and reliable performance made it a preferred choice for high-risk missions where failure was not an option. On several occasions, the Ar 232 conducted covert operations, transporting agents and supplies to support resistance movements in occupied territories.

Its ability to land on short, makeshift runways ensured that these operations could be carried out discreetly and effectively.

The Millipede was a do it all aircraft and vital to the Axis' war effort.
The Millipede was a do it all aircraft and vital to the Axis’ war effort.

Western Front and Mediterranean Operations

While the majority of the Ar 232’s operational history centred on the Eastern Front, the aircraft also saw action in the Western Front and the Mediterranean. In these theatres, the Ar 232 continued to serve as a vital transport asset, ferrying supplies, equipment, and personnel to various front-line positions.

The aircraft’s versatility allowed it to adapt to the different operational environments encountered in these regions, from the deserts of North Africa to the rugged terrain of Italy.

The Ar 232 Wasn’t Perfect

Despite its advanced capabilities, the Ar 232 faced several limitations and challenges during its operational history. The aircraft’s limited production numbers meant that it could not be deployed as widely as other transport aircraft.

Allied bombing raids on German industrial facilities disrupted production lines, preventing the manufacture of additional units. The increasing demand for fighter and bomber aircraft also diverted resources away from transport aircraft production, further limiting the number of Ar 232s available to the Luftwaffe.

Operationally, the Ar 232 encountered challenges related to maintenance and spare parts availability. The unique “millipede” undercarriage, while innovative, required specialized maintenance that was not always readily available in forward areas. Additionally, the multi-engine configuration, particularly in the Ar 232B variant, increased the complexity of maintenance and logistics.

Unfortunately there are no surviving examples of Ar 232.
Unfortunately, there are no surviving examples of Ar 232s.

Post-War Legacy

After World War II, the Ar 232’s legacy continued to influence the design of post-war transport aircraft. Allied forces captured several Ar 232 units, studying their advanced features and incorporating lessons learned into their own aircraft development programs.

The Ar 232’s STOL capabilities, versatile undercarriage system, and efficient cargo handling features served as inspiration for subsequent generations of military transport aircraft.

Read More: Fieseler F 3 Flying Wing From 1932

Engineers and designers from various countries recognised the value of the innovations introduced by the Ar 232, leading to advancements in aircraft design that would benefit military and civilian aviation for decades to come.