The Arado Ar 96 was the Luftwaffe's standard advanced trainer, and was a two-seat low-wing all-metal monoplane that first flew in 1938. It was designed to fill the gap between the biplanes used for basic training and the advanced monoplane fighters just entering service, in particular the Bf 109.
The Ar 96 was designed by Watler Blume and was a clean low-wing monoplane off all-metal construction, using many light alloys. The instructor and pupil sat in tandem seats under a long glazed canopy. On the V1 prototype the wheels retracted outwards, but this meant that the gap between the wheels was quite small, and so on all production aircraft the wheels retracted inwards. The V1 was powered by an Argus As 10C inline engine and had the typical Arado tail, with the horizontal surfaces at the very rear and a tall fin and rudder just in front of them.
The V1 prototype underwent some trials at Rechlin during 1937, although it made its maiden flight in 1937. V3 and V4 were also at Rechlin in 1938, while V6 remained there until September 1940. A small batch of A-0 aircraft was produced during 1939, but these were felt to be under-powered. The main production version as the B-series, which used the more powerful Argus As 410A-1 inverted inline engine, and had a longer fuselage which allowed more fuel to be stored.
A total of 11,546 aircraft were produced, although very few were built by Arado. Junkers' Ago subsidiary did most of the work until 1941, before being replaced by the Czech firm Avia. The Letov factory in Prague also began production of the Ar 97 in 1944.
The Arado Ar 96B was used by the A/B pilot training schools, and also by thirteen fighter training wings, the fighter replacement units and the officer cadet schools. 110 were used by the Royal Hungarian Air Force and four in Slovakia. The most dramatic moment in the aircraft's service career came on 28 April 1945 when Hanna Reitsch used an Ar 96 to fly Ritter von Greim, the new Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe out of the ruins of Berlin.
An improved Ar 296 was planned but abandoned, while the Ar 396, which used fewer strategic materials, didn't arrive in time to serve with the Luftwaffe.
The A-1 resembled the prototypes. A small batch was produced in 1939, using the Argus As 10C inline engine, but it was considered to be underpowered and production moved onto the B-series.
The vast majority of production aircraft were part of the B-series. These aircraft were powered by a 465hp Argus As 410 engine and had a longer fuselage to allow them to carry more fuel. The B-1 and B-2 were the main production versions.
The B-1 was an unarmed pilot trainer
The B-2 carried a single 7.92mm MG 17 machine gun mounted in the starboard upper engine cowling.
As the B-2 but produced in much smaller numbers
The Ar 96B-5 was a pilot gunnery trainer that carried the FuG 16ZY VHF radio
The B-6 was used to test under-wing bomb racks
The B-7 was the production version of the B-6 and was a ground-attack and dive-bomber trainer.
The C-0 was the pre-production version of a bomber trainer with a small window in the belly for the bomb aimer. It was powered by a 480hp Argus engine. Only a small pre-production batch was built.
Engine: Argus As 410A-1 inverted inline engine
Wing span: 36ft 1in
Length: 29ft 10 1/4in
Height: 8ft 6 3/4in
Empty Weight: 2,854lb
Maximum take-off Weight: 3,748lb
Max Speed: 205mph at sea level
Cruising Speed: 183mph
Service Ceiling: 23,295ft
Range: 615 miles
Armament: One 7.92mm MG 17