Alternative History Vehicles in A Kill in the Morning
One of the best things about writing alternative history novels is putting my characters in the cockpit of my favourite alternative history vehicles. I think there’s something fascinating about being able to bring forgotten tanks and aircraft back to life and say “what if?”.
Some of the alternative history vehicles in A Kill in the Morning, like the Rotodyne gyroplane and Panther II tank, came close to production. Others, the Focke-Wolf Ta-183 and A9/A10 rocket for example, were still on the drawing board when the Red Army arrived in Berlin. Some, like the Avro Vanquish and the Griffon infantry fighting vehicle, are credible designs but more speculative.
To discover more about these alternative aircraft, tanks and spacecraft, their appearances in A Kill in the Morning and what happened to them in the real world, read on.
Alternative History Vehicles: Aircraft
In A Kill in the Morning, unmarked black Rotodynes like the one in the picture operate clandestinely in Germany supporting resistance to Nazi rule.
Seconds away from the airfield, the Rotodynes flare left and right.
They float over the perimeter wire, door gunners blasting the defenders with autocannon shells. The first Rotodyne over the wire takes automatic-weapons fire from several directions. Hit hard, it pitches forward and beaches itself almost outside the entrance to Giant.
The Israeli commandos leap out of the stricken aircraft, already firing.
The Rotodyne is an innovative aircraft: a compound gyroplane. Its unusual design makes it capable of taking off and landing like a helicopter whilst being as fast as a conventional aircraft once airborne.
In reality, Fairey successfully designed, built and tested a prototype Rotodyne. Sadly, the British government’s withdrawal of funding forced Fairey to cancel further development.
In A Kill in the Morning, Guy Gibson leads a squadron of Avro Vanquishes in a desperate attack on a German secret weapon.
Throttle up. They’re rolling. Slow acceleration. Full power, and on with the reheat. The familiar kick in the backside as it hits.
Gentle pressure on the yoke. Smooth as alabaster, they’re airborne. Up with the undercarriage. Pulling the yoke back, and back.
The Vanquishes climb towards heaven, like arrowheads fired at God.
The Avro Vanquish is a supersonic bomber developed from the earlier Avro Vulcan. It utilises upgraded Bristol Siddeley Olympus engines fitted with an afterburner to give almost double the power of the original Vulcan engines. The Vanquish flies at Mach Two (one thousand three hundred miles per hour) with a combat ceiling of fifty-eight thousand feet. Its primary operational payloads are the Blue Danube nuclear weapon and the Grand Slam earthquake bomb.
In reality, Avro had a project for a supersonic Vulcan, known as the Avro 732. However, the Mach-three-capable Avro 730 project superseded the supersonic Vulcan. Later, the Avro 730 was itself cancelled in favour of ballistic missiles.
In A Kill in the Morning, the assassin and Molly Ravenhill fly from Britain to Israel in an Avro Valentine.
We turn the last corner and the panoramic windows give us a perfect view of a BOAC Avro Valentine. It’s magnificent in its white, blue and gold livery, an ivory dart with razor-sharp wings. The night sky shimmers in the heat from the aircraft’s four huge turbojet engines.
The Valentine is a civilian version of the Vanquish. It uses the same platform but with a larger fuselage to accommodate passengers.
In reality, Avro had a project for a civilian Vulcan, called the Avro Atlantic. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough interest from the airlines to justify the project. Eventually, Avro’s research fed in to the world’s only supersonic passenger jet, the Concorde. The picture above is an artist’s impression of the Atlantic from a proposal document sent to the airlines.
In A Kill in the Morning, the protagonists arrive at Heydrich’s lair to discover:
The red, white and black Nazi flag flies from every flagpole, is draped from every balcony, envelops every façade. A squadron of Junkers Ju-230 flying wings passes overhead, heading north in perfect formation.
It was common practice for German aircraft manufacturers to denote successor aircraft by prefixing the designation. For example, Junkers followed up the Ju-88 medium bomber, of Battle of Britain fame, with bombers designated Ju-188, Ju-288 and Ju-388.
This foible was something I took advantage of when imagining the technology of A Kill in the Morning. The EF.130 was Junkers’ design for a jet-powered, flying-wing bomber with four turbojets above the wings. I imagined that the Ju-230 would be the Ju-130’s successor and similar in design.
Curiously, the German jet bomber on the cover of A Kill in the Morning looks a lot more like a different project: the Messerschmitt P.1108/2.
In reality, both the Junkers EF.130 and the Messerschmitt P.1108/2 never left the drawing board.
Focke-Wolf Ta-183 ‘Huckebein’
In a dramatic scene in A Kill in the Morning Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Ta-183 Huckebeins attempt to intercept a British Canberra bomber that’s penetrating German airspace on a secret mission.
Luftwaffe controllers assess the heading of the British aircraft – it’s on track for the Army Research Centre at Peenemünde, home of the German rocket programme. They scramble two pairs of Focke-Wulf Huckebeins, the only Luftwaffe interceptors fast enough to catch the intruder.
The Huckebein is a second-generation jet fighter that replaced the Messerschmitt Me-262 in Luftwaffe service. Aerospace engineer Kurt Tank designed the Huckebein to be transonic (i.e. around Mach One) and so utilised a swept wing design. Although obsolete compared to supersonic fighters like the Mig-19, the Ta-183 remains in service with Luftwaffe reserve squadrons.
In reality, the Ta-183 reached an advanced stage of wind-tunnel testing. Development stopped at the end of the war. Post-war, Kurt Tank worked on Argentine and Indian aerospace projects before returning to Germany in the 1970s.
Alternative History Vehicles: Tanks
My thanks go to Fraser McGinlay, who built the model alternative history vehicles featured below. Although A Kill in the Morning doesn’t specifically mention any tanks, the novel’s alternate history inspired Fraser’s models. The thought and skill Fraser had put into the models impressed me.
You can see more of Fraser’s work here.
The Jagdtiger II is a specialised tank destroyer for warfare on the open Russian steppe. It’s 150mm gun is capable of destroying even the heaviest Soviet tanks at long distance.
In reality, the Jagdtiger’s planned successor was known in development as the ‘Jagdpanzer auf E-100’. It’s certainly possible that it would have been named Jagdtiger II if it had made it to production. No designs survive, but Fraser’s model is reasonable speculation based on the layout of tank destroyers like the Jagdpanther.
The Panther II is an improved Panther, with heavier armour and a more effective Schmalturm (narrow turret). For ease of manufacture, it shares many components with the heavier King Tiger.
In reality, M.A.N., the builders of the Panther, successfully prototyped the Panther II. However, it never reached full-scale production. The only surviving Panther II prototype is in the American Armour Museum at Fort Knox.
In 1946, the Wehrmacht replaced their existing half-tracks with an armoured personnel carrier based on the Czech 38(t) tank chassis. The ‘Katzchen’ (Kitten) was fully-tracked for greater mobility, but open-topped, thinly-armoured and armed only with a machine gun.
Field experience proved that the Katzchens were too vulnerable and lacked adequate armament. To replace them, the Wehrmacht issued a new, heavier carrier based on Panther running gear, called the ‘Griffon’.
In reality, the unfinished prototypes of the Katzchen were captured at the end of World War II. The Griffon is Fraser’s suggestion of what a Panther-based infantry fighting vehicle might have looked like.
Alternative History Vehicles: Spacecraft
A9/A 10 ‘Atlantik’ Ballistic Missile
German engineers led by Werner Von Braun have been designing the ‘Aggregate series’ rockets since the nineteen-thirties. The A4 ‘Thor’ is well known as the first ballistic missile, used against Leningrad in 1943, shortly before the German-Soviet peace treaty. The A9 ‘Atlas’ is an improved, piloted A4 with wings – a rocket-powered aircraft/missile hybrid.
With the additional A10 booster, the A9 becomes the A9/A10 ‘Atlantik’. The Atlantik missile is capable of attacking targets as far away as the Eastern USA or India from European bases.
A9/A 10/A11 ‘Germania’ Ballistic Missile
Placing the A9/A10 on top of the even more powerful A11 stage gives a rocket capable of reaching earth orbit. Hitler himself is rumoured to have decided on the name: ‘Germania’. In 1950, the Germania rocket propelled the first man into Earth orbit.
After that achievement, the next goal was to build the huge A12 stage. The A9/A10/A11/A12 ‘Europa’ can place a ten-tonne payload into orbit, enabling Germany to build its space station. Soon, astronauts will set off from the space station to explore the Moon. There are even plans for an expedition to Mars.
In A Kill in the Morning the protagonist reads the newspaper lying on his desk:
The headline says something distasteful about the achievements of the German astronauts building the Rudolf Hess memorial space station. Hess – who wants to remember him? I toasted his death with champagne after those Ukrainian partisans whacked him. Churchill, England’s forgotten man, now there’s a man who deserves a memorial – not that he’ll get one.
In reality, the loss of the war ended the German rocket programme. In the aftermath, the USSR and USA captured the German technology, and the scientists and engineers who had developed it. Eventually the technology pioneered by the German rocket programme resulted in the NASA moon landings.
A Kill in the Morning
If you want to see those alternative history vehicles in action then you should read A Kill in the Morning. You can read the opening, which features the Fairey Rotodyne, for free by clicking here or on the cover:
What do you think?
If you’ve got ideas for other alternative history vehicles that would fit in the world of A Kill in the Morning then please email me. If you like these ones then please feel free to share them using the buttons below.