The Arado Ar 80 was one of four aircraft designed to satisfy a Luftwaffe aircraft specification for a new front line fighter. The “Armed Aircraft IV” specifications called for a low-wing all-metal monoplane with retractable undercarriage. In February 1934 development contracts were issued to Arado, Heinkel and Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Messerschmitt’s company at the time).
Arado were quickest off the mark. Test models of their design, the Ar 80, were ready by July 1934. The first models for the Bf 109 and He 112 appeared in October. Focke-Wulf entered the contest late, in September 1934. Their entry, the Fw 159, was a high-wing monoplane that was quickly eliminated from the contest.
While the Bf 109 used stressed skin construction in the fuselage, Arado built the Ar 80 around a series of formers, connected by sheet aluminium panels. This system meant that the Ar 80 was simple but time-consuming to construct, and was also heavier that its rivals. The test aircraft were powered by the Jumo 210 C engine. Five test models of the Ar 80 were completed before the design was abandoning, including a two-seater model.The aircraft suffered from problems with the design of the retractable undercarriage. The test versions delivered to Travemünde for the comparative flight trials in early 1936 had to be equipped with a fixed undercarriage. Although this was streamlined, it further reduced the performance of the Ar 80. In the comparative tests it became clear that although the Ar 80 was a pleasure to fly, it was too slow to compete with the Bf 109 or He 112. It also suffered some damage in dive tests, when some of the aluminium panels in the fuselage came loose from their formers, and dropped off. It was clear to Arado that they would not be able to catch up with either of their main rivals, and so work on the Ar 80 was abandoned. The competition to provide the Luftwaffe’s new front line fighter would be between the Bf 109 and the He 112.