German Air Force

  • Scope and Contents: 1 million vertical and oblique aerial reconnaissance images of locations mostly in Eastern Europe and Russia during the Second World War (1939-1945).
  • Conditions Governing Access: Catalogued imagery is available on the NCAP website. Uncatalogued imagery is closed and no searches for imagery of specific geographical locations are currently possible.


At the end of the Second World War, the British and Americans discovered a mass of German aerial reconnaissance photographs, maps, target dossiers and photomosaics hidden in several locations. Project TURBAN was the code-name for the handling of all the material found. Much material came from Hitler's mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, Germany, and was code-named DICK TRACY, while other large collections were found in Vienna (code-named ORWELL), Oslo (code-named MONTHLY) and Berlin (code-named TENANT), among others. In June 1945, the material was packaged in crates and flown back to the Allied Central Interpretation Unit at RAF Medmenham, and a joint UK-US sorting and exploitation project began.


As the project developed, all the imagery became known as 'GX'. GX was such a large quantity of material that preliminary sorting work continued until 1949. This body of imagery provided the western Allies with intelligence on large parts of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union on a scale unachievable until the advent of reconnaissance satellites in the 1960's. Until then, much British and American target data consisted of predicted radar imagery of targets which were derived from GX images. As a joint asset, the imagery was duplicated and shared between the UK and USA, and American holdings now reside at the US National Archives and Records Administration (both NARA- and NCAP-held German Air Force imagery is available on the NCAP website).


RAF airman examining a captured German Rb 50/30 camera in its fuselage mounting.


Following the end of the Cold War, GX aerial photography and photomosaics held in the UK were declassified by the UK Ministry of Defence and released to Keele University, in its capacity as a Place of Deposit under the Public Records Acts. In 2008 it was transferred to RCAHMS under a joint initiative with The National Archives and Keele University.


The material consists of copies of German Air Force aerial reconnaissance photographs and large-format photomosaics and target graphics, created from the aerial reconnaissance photographs. The bulk of the collection remains uncatalogued; as imagery is catalogued and digitised it is released on the NCAP website.


View digitised German Air Force images.


View German Air Force (GX) images from NARA

View German Air Force (TUGX) images from NARA