Designed as a stopgap to combat the ever-growing numbers of Royal Air Force bombers and de Havilland Mosquitos, the Focke-Wulf Ta 154 was a project plagued with problems, from the glue used for its wooden construction to the unreliable landing gear. After the construction of dozens of prototypes and variants the project was eventually canceled due to inadequate performance and the lack of skilled workers available able to handle the plane’s specialized wooden construction process.
Until the large RAF (Royal Air Force) bomber offensive on Cologne (Köln), Essen, and Bremen in mid-1942, the Luftwaffe had focused on developing offensive aircraft. Shortly after these raids, Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal) Erhard Milch, the Minister of Air Armaments, held a development conference to spark ideas for possible uses of the Jumo 211 engine. Afterward, Milch made it clear that using “homogenous wood” was a viable option for producing light airplane airframes. The term ‘homogeneous’ refers to the fact that the construction material was all of the same type of plywood. Coincidentally, Milch was also very interested in the creation of a new light, high-speed night bomber.
In September of 1942, Focke-Wulf presented the concept of developing a plane equivalent to the De Havilland Mosquito to the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM, the Nazi Ministry of Aviation). It was detailed as being a high-speed, dual-engined, and unarmed bomber. Focke-Wulf’s proposal would be constructed of 50% wood, 39% steel, and 11% fabric (it is not specified whether this was by weight or volume). The RLM immediately gave Focke-Wulf a high-priority contract. The design continued to be refined as a high-speed bomber until 16 October 1942, when Generalfeldmarschall Milch decided to voice the importance of the aircraft’s secondary role as a night fighter. At the time, Germany was in dire need of twin-engine fighters with a large operational range in order to combat the growing waves of Allied bombers, which carried out their missions day and night. In order to satisfy Milch’s requirements, the aircraft was now to be equipped with a FuG 212 search radar and a fixed armament of two MK 103 and two MG 151 cannons.
With the Ta 154 being constructed mostly of plywood and having promising performance estimates, the Technische Amt (Technical Research Office) was highly interested. They believed they had finally found a second generation night fighter that could adapt to the material shortages facing the Reich at that point and capable of replacing the aging Bf 110. Consequently, Erhard Milch focused his attention even more on the Ta 154’s night fighter capabilities and decided to stop pursuing high-speed bomber research. On 13 November 1942, the Technical Research Office continued their support for the project, then known as the “Ta 211” or the “Focke-Wulf Night Fighter,” and urged Focke-Wulf to continue developing the aircraft. Shortly after, the aircraft received the designation “Ta 154,” which it would keep for the duration of its existence.
On 8 January 1943, just days after Focke-Wulf was told to construct ten prototypes of the Ta 154, the “Ta 154 Startup Conference” took place. At the conference, it was made clear that while the project was promising, there were not enough skilled woodworkers to produce the aircraft. In addition, it was correctly theorized that the Jumo 211 wouldn’t produce enough horsepower at altitude to match the enemy’s aircraft development. The Technische Amt requested an armament of four MK 103 cannons, but in March of the same year, an analysis of the plane revealed that the nearly eight foot long cannons would not be able to fit. It was decided in June 1943 that production of the Ta 154 would be separated into three areas, Silesia, Thuringia, and the Warthe District, with the Warthe District being responsible for the most variants.
After only 9 months in the making, the first prototype took flight in early July 1943, flown by Hans Sander. It is often publicized that Kurt Tank, designer of the plane, piloted the Ta 154 on its maiden flight, but this is incorrect, as he was too important to risk in such a potentially dangerous test. Sander later described the plane as being easier to control than the Heinkel 219, which he had flown prior. However, performance was not up to par with the estimates Focke-Wulf started with. Problems continued when it was speculated that installing the FuG 212 radar, flame dampers, and drop tanks requested by the Technische Amt would slow the Ta 154 down to an estimated 360 mph (580 km/h) at altitude. Not only would it slow the aircraft significantly, but it would also lower the service ceiling from 34,100 ft (10,400 m) to 30,800 ft (9,400 m). Due to this, Focke-Wulf demanded the delivery of the more powerful Jumo 213 engines the aircraft desperately needed. Focke-Wulf was promptly declined and were told the engines would be ready in mid-1944.
On 29 October 1943, a very successful Luftwaffe pilot by the name of Thierfelder test flew the Ta 154. Although he praised the Ta 154, RLM’s head of planning, Oberst Diesing, criticized the plane just months later, stating that any ordinary pilot would not have the same positive experience. The Oberst’s critiques didn’t stop there, however, as he alleged that pieces of the aircraft fuselage fell off when firing the guns and airframe vibrations would discourage pilots from flying the aircraft.
During another conference on 17 March 1944, a date for the start of production could not be set due to the lack of trained workers experienced with handling the plane’s bonding materials and insufficient bonding resin. In addition, the delivery of the Jumo 213 engines was set back further, and it was decided to complete the first production model in the coming months. On 12 April 1944, flight captain Hans Sander, who test flew both the Fw 187 and Ta 154, presented a prototype to Hermann Göring. Göring already had a massive interest in the development of the Ta 154, and the demonstration only fortified his overinflated view of the plane. Soon afterward, the prototype construction program called for prototypes V1 through V9 to be fitted with new metal control surfaces. Unfortunately, the V3 had recently crashed, and the V4 was being repaired after it had crashed.
In mid-1944, trials at Langenhagen uncovered more problems, including the weakness of the landing gear and its hydraulics. Focke-Wulf released a report soon after detailing the total number of crashes so far. V1, V3, V4, V5, V8, and V9 had all crashed from 1943 to May 1944. The crash of the V8 had been caused by an engine fire, resulting in both the pilot and radio operator dying in the crash. Had the cockpit been made of metal, the crew would have survived. This motivated all those working on the Ta 154 to produce a metal fuselage or continue working on the C model, which possessed a metal nose and cockpit.
On May 29, 1944, RAF bombers bombed the factory in the Posen province, as well as destroying the glue manufacturing facility owned by the Goldschmitt Company (Tegofilm). There was also an attempt by Allied fighters to strafe the Langenhagen airfield where the Ta 154 was being tested. This was planned by the Allies to stop the planned production of the Ta 154, as it was believed that it could prove a worthy opponent to their air superiority. In the end this, along with shifting priorities, contributed to the termination of the Ta 154 program.
More problems continued to arise in late-1944, as the mounts for the MK 108 cannons could not handle the recoil of the large caliber gun. Consequently, any Ta 154’s that did see combat were only fitted with the remaining two MG 151/20 cannons and did not have a metal fuselage. Those aircraft were deployed in Northern Germany. Furthermore, finding a suitable source for resin was proving ever more difficult. More prototypes had been planned under the names V1a, V11, V14a, and V24, with the last two being planned for static testing of the C variant. During another meeting on May 24th between Kurt Tank, Milch, Galland, Heinkel, Vogt, Frydag, Saur, and Göring, Tank finally admitted that the project was stalled because of the lack of the necessary resin. Moreover, Göring was becoming disappointed in the engine’s performance affecting the entire aircraft and feared that upgrading to the Jumo 213 would still leave much to be desired. Göring continued to voice his concerns with the wooden underside of the aircraft which made belly landings impossible. Tank’s Ta 154 was now on the chopping block. On 6th July, 1944, GFM Milch notified Focke-Wulf that the Ta 154 and Ta 254 programs would be terminated immediately.
All the remaining aircraft were left to sit at airfields. This resulted in most being destroyed in air raids and strafing attacks by Allied planes. Of the few remaining Ta 154’s used by separate night-fighter groups, many were destroyed to prevent capture by Allied troops. Of the 50-100 complete aircraft and many incomplete airframes, the Allies found a single Ta 154 A-1 intact, formerly used by NJG 3 (Nachtjagdgeschwader 3 / Night Hunter Squadron 3) at Lechfeld. The Ta 154 was placed behind a stack of jet engines waiting to be scrapped. It is likely that any captured Ta 154’s were scrapped, as none survive today. There is, however, a replica of the forward sections of the V3 at the Luftfahrttechnisches Museum in Rechlin, placed there in 2006. Many replicas exist at the museum, including the Me 262 HG I, He 162, and Ju 388.
There were many different variants of the Ta 154 built or proposed despite its relatively short lifespan. The first prototype was completed in July 1943, with prototype numbers ranging from V1 to V23. V1 through V10 were the first batch of prototypes ordered by the RLM. V11 through V14 were static airframes meant for destructive tests, with the former three resembling A models, and V14 resembling the C variant. V15 was a prototype of the A-2 variant. The use of V16 through V21 is not clear, but V20 is thought to have been the prototype for the C-1 variant, which was never produced. V22 was particularly special because of its lengthened fuselage, and there exists a photo of its wreckage. V23 is less known, but both the V22 and V23 were test beds for the Jumo 213 A. There is close to no information detailing prototypes past V10. Only brief explanations of their purpose is available.
The A-0 model was the pre-production version, of which a total of about twenty-two were constructed. They were equipped with FuG 220 radar, but had their flame dampers removed. The A-1 was the first production variant, very similar to the A-0, of which six were built. The A-2 variant was almost identical to the A-1 in all aspects, and four were built. The A-4 variant featured the addition of upturned wing tips to aid in lateral stability. Only two A-4s are known to have been built.
After the first A model Moskitos were tested, the B model was drawn up. It was based on the A-4, but incorporated a bubble canopy and a metal nose section to protect the pilot in case of belly landings. In early December 1943, however, Technische Amt decided to abandon the Ta 154 B model, and instead focus on the production of the C model, which also had a bulbous canopy, but now had an extended fuselage. It was during this time that the D variant was also realized, but was soon renamed the Ta 254. It would be equipped with Jumo 213 engines, MW 50 injection, and larger wings. No B, C, or Ta 254 models were built.
The process to build the Ta 154 was not expensive in regards to the amount or costs of the necessary materials, but was pricey in terms of the manpower required for its careful assembly. The fuselage of the Ta 154 alone took four hundred hours to complete. All kinds of jigs and presses were constructed to aid in the process of molding the wood to the correct shape. The key to making so many Ta 154s was having as many workers as possible, but the curing process for the glue resin that was used took up to a full day to cure, which meant lots of time was spent waiting rather than working. Unfortunately for Focke-Wulf, the amount of workers that were experienced in working with these materials were few and far between. This meant the quality of the planes came down to the craftsmanship of each individual worker. Compared to the quality of the RAF Mosquito, the Ta 154 was inferior. The German wood workers were not used to the pressures of wartime production that the British were accustomed to.
The Ta 154 was trialed in some unorthodox ways. To test the strength of the components, a mockup missing both engines and a large portion of its wings was built specifically to be dragged underwater by a towing unit. This was done in 1943 at Lake Alatsee in Füssen, Bavaria. The towing unit was an “FGZ”, a trio of pontoon boats with a large crane in the center of the three. The mockup was dragged underwater at speeds up to 8.45 m/s (16 knots, 30 km/h) to simulate the pressure of flying. There were a total of six of these tests, and on the sixth test, the damage to the mockup became extensive. The nose cone became deformed, each end of the cut-off wing sections were mangled, and the canopy was broken.
The Ta 154, although originally intended to be a high-speed bomber, was fully realized as a night fighter. The purpose of a night fighter is to counter aircraft, specifically bombers in this case, at night or in low visibility conditions. Such an aircraft was highly valued by the Luftwaffe in their efforts to counter the nightly RAF bombing raids targeting German industrialized zones.
Very limited information is available on the actions of the Moskitos assigned to 3.NJGr 10 and NJG 3, however, on March 22, 1945, four Ta 154s were spotted at Stade Airfield. They were observed next to Ju 88 and He 219 night fighters, as well as one undergoing armament tests at a range on the base. Three of the four Ta 154s were covered in light-colored paint, while the last was in a spotted camouflage. To back up the evidence that several were in operational service, a document from Junkers on March 16, 1945, details several Ta 154s being assigned to III./NJG 3. The document proceeds to tell of the experience of the Ta 154s against De Havilland Mosquitos, a fight during which the British plane usually came out on top. Another document from the British, ATI 2nd TAF Report A 685, was made on May 10, 1945. This report detailed the discovery of a crashed Ta 154 in operation as a night fighter on May 6, 1945. The camouflage pattern was a light blue on the majority of the aircraft, with gray spots decorating the top half of the plane. The crew of the aircraft was nowhere to be found, and the aircraft was looted by locals. In addition, the horizontal stabilizer was completely metal, and an angled wing tip device was fitted to improve stability. This points to one of two A-4s produced.
The Ta 154 “Moskito” was a twin-engined heavy fighter with shoulder-mounted wings, fuselage-mounted horizontal stabilizers, a tricycle landing gear arrangement, while being composed almost entirely out of wood. Perhaps the least noticeable characteristic of the Ta 154 that gave it major problems was its wings. They had no dihedral, which resulted in instability in turns. This problem was fixed in the A-4 variant that took advantage of upturned wingtips. The problem that affected the Ta 154 the most was failure of the front landing gear assembly. Because of the tricycle landing gear arrangement, the front gear had to be long enough to allow clearance for the propellers on the ground. The length of the front landing gear and the lack of thick supports meant failures happened often. The crew of the Ta 154 almost exclusively consisted of a single pilot and a radio operator. The Ta 154 was equipped with a multitude of different radio and radar instruments. This includes the FuG 212 or FuG 220 search radar, FuG 17 VHF Transceiver, PeilG VI direction-finding set, FuBL 2F, FuG 101 altimeter, FuG 25 IFF set, and FuG 28a transponder.
The Ta 154 was often equipped with flame dampers, which are fitted to the exhaust of the engines. The purpose of flame dampers is to dampen engine noise and decrease the visibility of flames exiting the exhaust. The Ta 154, with the exception of very few variants, was equipped with two Jumo 211 F/N/R engines. The variants that did not have those specific engines were provided with Jumo 213 A/E engines that marginally improved the Ta 154’s performance. The A-1 and A-2 variants were equipped with MW 50 injection, which was a combination of water and methanol that both increased boost pressure substantially and allowed the engine to suck in more air. This injection could result in up to hundreds more horsepower than the engine would normally run, but could only be used in short bursts. GM 1, a nitrous-oxide injection system, was also proposed for the A-2 variant. Concerning armament, the Ta 154 was armed with two 20 mm MG 151/20 and two 30 mm MK 108 cannons, although field modifications were made to individual planes. Some modifications included replacing the original armament with two or four MG 151/20’s, or, in rare cases, four MK 108 cannons. The typical ammo count for an armed Ta 154 was 300 rounds total for the MG 151s, and 200 round total for the MK 108 cannons. A bomb load of a single 500kg bomb was proposed for the A-2 variant, but it is unknown whether or not this was attempted. More than one Ta 154 is alleged to have been converted to A-2/U4s, which were equipped with Schräge Musik. Schräge Musik was the German name for upward firing guns that allowed an aircraft to fire on enemies without facing directly at them. This allowed night fighters like the Bf 110 and Do 217 J to catch enemy bombers unaware with gunfire from below them.
At the end of the Ta 154 program, a radical idea to rig up an Fw 190 on a superstructure above spare Ta 154s was realized. The interior of the Moskito would be filled with explosives, as well as replacing unneeded fuel tanks with more explosives. The Ta 154 fly unmanned, and the pilot of the Fw 190 would maneuver both planes on a course into an enemy bomber formation, where the pilot would detach from the Moskito fully laden with explosives. Once the Moskito reached the middle of the formation, it would be remotely detonated by the pilot of the Fw 190. Just like many variants of the Ta 154, this was also never completed.
Ta 154 V1 – First prototype, designated TE+FE, not fitted with armament or flame dampers and equipped with Jumo 211F engines powering three-bladed VS 11 propellers, later retrofitted with Jumo 211N engines. Its first flight took place on July 1, 1943, and it crashed during testing on 31 July 1943 due to landing gear legs collapsing upon landing.
Ta 154 V2 – Second prototype, designated TE+FF, fitted with flame dampers and FuG 212 C-1 radar but unarmed. Later retrofitted with Jumo 211N engines. Destroyed in an air raid on August 5, 1944.
Ta 154 V3 – Third prototype, designated TE+FG, identical to V2 except for a larger vertical stabilizer. Crashed on 28 February 1944 due to the nose wheel buckling and destroying the nose section. Later damaged beyond repair in an air raid in mid-1944.
Ta 154 V4 – Fourth prototype, designated TE+FH, first flight took place on 19 January 1944. Later retrofitted with a raised canopy and an MG 81 in the dorsal position behind the pilot. Crashed on 18 February 1944 due to landing gear experiencing an uncommanded retraction upon landing.
Ta 154 V5 – Fifth prototype, designated TE+FI, crashed on 7 April 1944 due to landing gear failure on landing.
Ta 154 V6 – Sixth prototype, designated TE+FJ. Possibly captured by Soviet troops at Rechlin.
Ta 154 V7 – Seventh prototype, designated TE+FK, painted in RLM 75/76 camouflage pattern, fate unknown.
Ta 154 V8 – Eighth prototype, designated TE+FL, first Ta 154 equipped with Jumo 213 engines and VS 111 propellers. Crashed on 6 May 1944 due to an engine fire, both crew members, Otto and Rettig, were killed on impact.
Ta 154 V9 – Ninth prototype, designated TE+FM, crashed on 18 April 1944 due to the right wingtip striking the ground, killing H. Meyer on the ground.
Ta 154 V10 – Tenth prototype, designated TE+FN, equipped with Jumo 213A engines, fate unknown.
Ta 154 A-0 – Pre-production variant fitted with FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN-2 radar and flame dampers removed.
Ta 154 A-1 – Production variant, fitted with Jumo 211F, N or R engines
Ta 154 A-1/R1 – equipped with GM 1 and an MG 81 in a new dorsal position.
Ta 154 A-2 – Fitted with two MG 151/20s and two MK 108 cannons, proposed to equip GM 1 NOS injection and one 500 kg bomb.
Ta 154 A-2/U4 – Night fighter variant, same armament as A-2, with the addition of two diagonally placed MK 108 cannons in the rear fuselage. (Schräge Musik)
Ta 154 A-4 – Fitted with two MG 151/20 (200 rpg) and two MK 108 (110 rpg) cannons and FuG 218 radar. The most interesting part of the A-4 was the addition of upturned wingtips.
Ta 154 B-1 – Proposed two-seat night fighter variant with a raised canopy, metal nose section, drop tanks, and Jumo 211N engines. Research discontinued in favor of the C variant with Jumo 213 engines.
Ta 154 C – Proposed variants to be fitted with Jumo 213A engines and incorporating a metal nose section as well as a raised canopy.
5 cm B.K. armed Ta 154 C – A concept of a Ta 154 C variant armed with a 5 cm B.K. 5 cannon conceived in early 1944. None were produced.
Ta 254 A – Proposed variant family with Jumo 213E engines, MW 50, four broad-blade VS 9 airscrew assembly and longer wings, enlarging the wing area to 452 ft2 (42 m2)
Ta 254 B-1 – Proposed two-person night fighter variant with metal nose section, powered by two DB 603L engines driving VDM propellers.
Ta 254 B-2 – Proposed three-person day fighter variant with metal nose section, powered by two Jumo 213F or G engines equipped with three-bladed VDM propellers.
Ta 254 B-3 – Proposed one-person all-weather fighter, powered by two DB 603L engines and to be fitted with MW 50 field modification.
Ta 154 Mistel – A proposed variant of an unmanned Ta 154 A-4/U3 filled with explosives with an Fw 190A attached above via a detachable superstructure. The 190 pilot would fly the two planes into an enemy bomber formation, detach the superstructure, and detonate the Ta 154’s explosives.
Nazi Germany – A-1 variants were used by the 3rd Staffel of the Nachtjagdgruppe 10 (3.NJGr 10) and Nachtjagdgeschwader 3 (NJG 3). It is not known whether they were lost in combat or achieved any air victories.
The combined American, British and Soviet Air Forces began to take over the skies above Europe in the later part of the war. Germans were desperate to find a way to fight the combined Allied bomber raids that were slowly destroying German industry which was necessary for continuation of the war. A cheap and easy to build jet fighter was believed to be the solution to the Allied bombing raids. From these aspirations the Volksjäger, “The People’s Fighter,” project was born.
Emergence of the Volksjäger Concept
The men responsible for the creation of the Volksjäger idea and concept were civil engineers Hauptdienstleiter Dipl-Ing Karlo Otto Saur, who was also a member of the Nazi party, and Generaloberst Alfred Keller.
Otto Saur was quick to realize that by 1944 the Luftwaffe was a shadow of its former glory. This was most obvious for the fighter force, which was engaged in a desperate struggle with a more numerous and better equipped enemy. Otto Saur’s conclusion was that a cheap and easy to build jet fighter could tip the balance of power in Germany’s favor again. He was quick to present his idea to Hermann Göring, Reichsluftfahrtminister, the Reich’s Minister of Aviation, who immediately supported it.
Generaloberst Alfred Keller, who was in charge of the flying, training and sports association (Nationalsozialistisches Fliegerkorps – NSFK) also supported the Volksjäger idea. The NSFK organization was also involved in offering several courses, The Flying Hitler Youth (Flieger Hitlerjugend) on how to build model aircraft and glider flying training for schoolboys. In support of Otto Saur’s proposal, Alfred Keller came with his own proposal to use these young boys, with ages between 15 to 17, as pilots for the mass produced Volksjäger. In Keller’s opinion, all that was needed was some short training with gliders which would be supplemented with more training on the Volksjäger.
Many in the Luftwaffe command opposed this project and the idea of using young boys as fighter pilots against the numerous and well-equipped and trained Allied air forces. The greatest advocate against this project was Generalleutnant Adolf Galland, being supported by Willy Messerschmitt, chief designer of the famous Messerschmitt company, and Kurt Tank, the most well-known designer at Focke-Wulf. The most important reason behind this opposition was the fact that, towards the end of the war, Germany was lacking fuel, materials, pilots, production capacity and many other elements. They argued that all available resources should be directed to the development and production of the already existing Me 262 jet fighter.
In the years prior to the collapse of the Luftwaffe, such a concept would most likely never have gained any support from Luftwaffe officials. However, by 1944, the Germans were in a desperate need for a wonder weapon to turn the tides. As Hermann Göring was no longer in Hitler’s good graces, he was desperate to find a way to appease Hitler. The best way to do this was to somehow find a miraculous solution to salvage the Luftwaffe, stop the incessant Allied bombardment of Germany, and provide much-needed support to the beleaguered Wehrmacht. Through these psychological lens, Otto Saur’s and Alfred Keller’s proposals looked like an ideal solution. Despite the great opposition, Hermann Göring kept insisting that the Volksjäger development should begin as soon as possible. The Volksjäger would later be supported by Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer (the Minister of Armaments and War Production).
In the search for a new low-altitude fighter, Oberst Siegfried Knemeyer was named responsible for the Volksjäger’s initial requirements. He was in charge of the Technical Equipment Office for flight development of the Ministry of Aviation (Reichsluftfahrtministerium, RLM). Siegfried Knemeyer was an experienced military pilot and engineer who participated in the test flights of many different experimental aircraft designs. From 1943 onward, he was part of Hermann Göring’s cabinet from where he actively supported the development of the new Me 262.
While the Me 262 jet fighter was superior to piston powered Allied planes, it was far from perfect. The most significant problem with the Me 262 was the poor performance at low altitude, where it was an easy prey for Allied fighters. This is also where Allied fighters and close support aircraft were very active and often attacked German airfields, supply trains and ground troops. The already existing Me 109 and Fw 190 were becoming outdated and insufficient by late 1944 standards. In order to effectively counter enemy planes at low altitude, a new design was needed according to Siegfried Knemeyer, who noted (Source: Robert F. He 162 Volksäger Units):
“… It became absolutely essential to develop a high-speed, single-seater fighter that had asufficiently good performance which would enable it to take off when enemy aircraft were actually sighted. In addition, due to the bombing of our large airfields with long runways, these new fighters had to be able to take off in a very short distance and thus enable small landing grounds to be used. The mass production of such an aircraft had to be on such a scale as would enable the enemy to be engaged at any point and during the entire duration of their flight …… By limiting the endurance and the armament requirement for this new aircraft, the existing jet fighter (the Me 262) would have fulfilled the requirements. However, this aircraft had to be ruled out since it was not possible to produce the numbers that would have been required for combating these low-flying attacks and, in particular, because the provision of two power units per airframe was quite beyond the capacity of industry… “. Based on this, Siegfried Knemeyer gave a list of specifications which the new low-altitude fighter had to conform with:
This plane should be able to take off from runways less than 1970 ft (600 m) long.
It should be powered by a single jet engine, in order to lower the costs.
As the Jumo 004 engine could not be produced in sufficient numbers, another engine was needed. The new BMW 003 was recommended.
Maximum speed at sea level should be at least 465 mph (750 km/h).
The production process had to be as simple as possible without disturbing the production of the Me 262 and Ar 234.
The main building material should be wood. A larger number of furniture manufacturers and carpenters should be included in the production as they had the skill and experience in working with wood that would be needed.
Based on these requirements, the RLM placed an initial order for the new Volksjäger low-altitude jet fighter in July 1944. The first mockup needed to be ready by 1st October, 1944, and a fully operational prototype should have been ready by early December the same year. The main production was planned to begin in early 1945.
The Race for the Volksjäger
For some time, the Volksjäger seemed like it would remain only a paper proposal, as little progress was made until September 1944. On 7th September, a high priority teleprint message arrived at the Heinkel company. This message was sent by Dipl-ing Karl Frydag, Heinkel’s General Director at the Ministry, but also the leader of the Main Committee for Aircraft Construction and an acquaintance of Otto Saur. The high priority message was addressed to Prof. Ernst Heinkel and his main engineer team. This illicit message contained information including not-yet-published RLM tender requirements for the new Volksjäger jet fighter.
As the official tender request was to be issued by RLM in only a few days, Ernst Heinkel and his team moved quickly to use the small time advantage they had over other possible competitors. The first thing Ernst Heinkel did was to give instructions to reuse the P 1073 paper project that was intended for an RLM request from July. P 1073 was, according to the original plans, to be powered by two HeS 011 or Jumo 004C turbojet engines. One engine was to be mounted on top of the fuselage behind the cockpit and the second one below, right under the cockpit. The maximum speed using the HeS 011 engines was estimated to be around 630 mph (1010 km/h) at 19700 ft (6000 m). P 1073’s wing was swept back at 35° with a “V” shaped rear tailplane. The armament would include two 1.18 in (30 mm) MK 108 and two MG 151/20 0.78in (20 mm) cannons.
Later, due to the new specifications for the Volksjäger, P 1073 was modified to be powered by a single BMW 003 engine. Other changes, such as increasing the dimensions, a new straight wing design and adding new rear twin tail fins. The name was changed to P 1073-15. Further modifications were conducted at the Rostock-Marienehe plant. These included a high unswept wing design, the engine mounted above the fuselage, an armament of only two MG 151/20 0.78 in (20 mm) cannons, a tricycle undercarriage and a weight around 2.5 t. The maximum speed at ground level was 500 mph (810 km/h). It was possible to increase the offensive armament with bombs and 1.18 in/30 mm cannons. The name was again changed to P 1073-18.
By 9th (or 8th, depending on the source) September 1944, other German aircraft manufacturers received the RLM requirements for the new Volksjäger project. According to these, the Volksjäger fighter had to be able to take off in less than 1640 ft (500 m). It had to be powered by one BMW 003 jet engine and the total weight must not must not exceed 4410 lbs (2000 kg). The maximum speed at sea level had to be at least 460 mph (750 km/h). The flight endurance at full thrust had to be at least 30 min. The main armament had to consist of either two MK 108 (with 80 to 100 rounds per gun) or two MG 151/20 (with 200-250 rounds per gun) cannons.
The main construction material would be wood with a smaller amount of steel used. Protection for the pilot, fuel tanks and the main gun ammunition was to be provided. However, since great attention was dedicated to the short take off distance, the manufacturers were allowed to reduce the armor and ammunition load if needed. First proposals from all interested aircraft manufacturers were to be ready in only a few days, as a draconically unrealistic deadline was set for the 14th (or 20th depending on the source) September.
Besides Heinkel, which was “unofficially” familiar with the details of this tender a few days before its publication, others aircraft manufacturers participated and submitted their own proposal. The competitors included Arado (E 580), Blohm und Voss (P 211.02), Junkers (marked either as EF 123 or EF 124) and Focke-Wulf. Focke-Wulf actually presented two different proposals (Volksflitzer and Volksflugzeug). Others, like Fieseler and Siebel, lacked the manpower and production capacity to successfully participate in this tender. Messerschmitt did not participate in this competition as Willy Messerschmitt was against the Volksjäger concept from the beginning. He was a great opponent of this project, arguing that increasing the production rate of the Me 262 should have a greater priority and that the Volksjäger was a waste of time and materials which Germany was sorely lacking.
By the end of the competition period, all proposals were submitted to the RLM. After two days, a conference was held in Berlin with the representatives of all five companies, together with officials from the Luftwaffe and RLM. The Arado, Focke-Wulf and Junkers projects were immediately rejected. Even Heinkel’s original proposal came close to being rejected, as it would be complicated to build. It was judged that the best proposal was the Blohm und Voss P 221-02 project, as it was (at least on paper) easier to build and used a smaller quantity of duralumin. At this point, Heinkel representatives were trying to win the competition by arguing that, due to the cancelation of the He 177 and the He 219 programmes, they would have enough production capacity to manufacture the Volksjäger in great numbers. They also proposed to make the entire design far simpler for mass production.
In the following days, there were many difficult and exhausting discussions around the Heinkel and Blohm und Voss projects. There was a sharp debate between Heinkel Dipl-Ing. Francke and the RLM Generaldirektor Frydag which supported the Blohm und Voss project. These discussions caused some delays in making the final decision for the implementation of the Volksjäger project. At the same time, at the Heinkel factory at Schwechat near Vienna (EHAG – Ernst Heinkel AG), work began on calculations and drawings in preparation for the production of the first models of the Volksjäger, marked as the He 500.
The final discussion regarding the competition was held at Hitler residence in Rastenberg, in East Prussia. Hermann Göring enthusiastically and actively supported the He 500 without even considering the Blohm und Voss P 221-02 project. He also gained the support of Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer. Thus, in the end, the Heinkel project was chosen. This decision was also based on the experience that Heinkel had accumulated with the construction and development of jet technology (with the He 178 and He 280) but also due to the significant lobby that this company had.
Although Heinkel’s design won, there were requests for some alterations. For easier production and construction, the design of the tail, fuselage and the landing gear had to be simplified. As was originally planned, the first mockup was ready by 1st October 1944 and the first prototype was to be built by 10th December of the same year. The main production was to begin in January 1945 with 1000 planes per month, which would be increased to 2000 per month. These dates and numbers were, taking Germany’s economic and military situation into consideration, unrealistic and understandably never achieved.
According to Ernst Heinkel, the final designation for the new Volksjäger was meant to be He 500. However, the RLM officials, in the hope of somehow hiding its original purpose from Allied intelligence, gave it the designation “8-162”. In some sources, it is also called “Salamander”. This was actually a code name given for wooden component production companies. The He 162 is also sometimes called “Spatz” (Sparrow), but this name is, according to some sources, related to the He 162S training glider prototype.
Construction of the First Prototypes
The work on the final design was given to the engineers Siegfried Günter and Karl Schwärzler. A large design staff of some 370 men was at their disposal. The design work was carried out at the Heinkel workshop (at Schwechat Air Base) near Vienna. By 15th October, the first sketches and production tools were ready.
The Heinkel factory (in Vienna) was responsible for beginning the serial production of the He 162. In the hope of speeding up production, other factories were included along with many smaller companies. Each of these were to be responsible for producing certain parts and components of the He 162. When all necessary parts for the construction of the first prototype were built, they were to be transported to Vienna for the final assembly. Due to a lack of transport capability and insufficient quality of wooden parts (especially the wings), there were some delays.
Despite the fact that wood was easier to work with, there were huge issues with the quality of the delivered parts. Some of the problems encountered were that the production procedures were often not carried out according to regulations, the glue used was of poor quality, sometimes parts would not fit together. There were situations in which large numbers of wooden parts were returned to the suppliers simply because they could not be used. There were also problems with the first prototype’s engine as it was damaged during the transport and had to be repaired. All the necessary parts arrived by 24th November and the assembly of the first He 162 prototype could begin.
The He 162 V1 prototype (serial number Wk-Nr 200001) was ready for testing by 1st December, 1944. The first series of prototypes had the “V” (Versuchmuster) designation. Later, starting from V3 and V4, the designation was changed to “M” (Muster – model). If it is taken into account that, from the first drawing to the first operational prototype, no more than two months had passed, this was an impressive feat. The V1 prototype was to be tested at Heidfeld but, due to some stability problems with the undercarriage, only limited ground test trials were held.
These problems were addressed by 6th December, when the He 162 made its first test flight piloted by Heinkel’s main test pilot, Flugkapitän Dipl-ing Gotthold Peter. The flight lasted around 20 minutes at speeds of 186 mph (300 km/h). During this flight, probably due to the poor quality of production, one of the three landing gear doors simply broke free and the pilot was forced to land. Beside that, the whole flight was considered successful, there were no other problems and the engine performed excellently.
At the same time, three more prototypes (V2, M3 and M4) were under construction to be used for future tests. The second prototype was transported to Heidfeld (arrived 7th December). During the production of the first series of prototypes, a problem with the wing construction was noted. The main issue was the use of poor quality glue, but at that time this problem was largely ignored.
On 10th December, another flight was performed for the Luftwaffe military officials at Schwechat. Like in the previous flights, the pilot was Gotthold Peter. In the hope of impressing the gathered crowd, the pilot made a low pass (at 330 ft/100 m) at 456 mph (735 km/h). This flight was going well until the moment when a part of the wing and ailerons were torn off, which caused the pilot to lose control and crash to the ground. Despite having an onboard ejection seat, Peter failed to activate it (possibly due to high G-forces) and was killed in this accident.
The whole flight was captured on a film camera by one of the Luftwaffe officers. The film and the wreck were thoroughly examined by Heinkel engineers who immediately noticed a few things; the wing parts were joined by using low quality glue, the poor aerodynamics of the wing design and the instability of the prototype lateral axis led to the tear off of the wing parts. As a result of this accident, the wing design was strengthened and the maximum flight speed was restricted to only 310 mph (500 km/h). Also, the size of the horizontal stabilizer was increased, the main fuel tanks were reduced in size and the wings’ connection to the main fuselage was reinforced. This accident did not have any negative impact on the continued development on this project which proceeded without interruption.
After this accident, other pilots were reluctant to fly on the He 162. Due to this, Ernst Heinkel was forced to offer a sum of 80,000 Reichsmarks for any pilots who were willing to test fly the He 162. A pilot who agreed to fly was Dipl.-Ing. Carl Francke, who was the technical director of EHAG. He made the first test flight with V2 (serial number Wk-Nr 200002) on 22nd December, 1944. Later that day, a second pilot, Fliegerstabsingineur Paul Bader, made more test flights. Flight trials with the second prototype were carried out without much problems. The V2 prototype was used for testing different wing designs and different weapon installations (two 1.18 in/30 mm Mk 108 cannons). After this, V2 would be used mostly for ground examinations, conversions, equipment testing and for attempts to simplify the overall design in order to ease production.
The third prototype was ready by 20th December, when it was tested by Paul Bader at Heidfeld. While the flight went on without many problems, the pilot noted the poor front ground visibility and vibrations during takeoff and landing. In order to improve the He 162’s wing design, the experienced Dr Alexander Lippisch (who worked on the Me 163) was contacted and included in the project. His proposal for improving the He 162’s stability was to fit small “Ohren” (ears) to the wingtips. As these were later implemented on all produced He 162, they were generally known as the ‘Lippisch ears’.
The M3 and M4 prototypes were the first fighters to be equipped with these wingtips. These two models had strengthened and redesigned wing construction with thicker plywood covering, also to shift the centre of gravity, extra weight was added to the plane’s nose. These modifications improved the He 162’s overall performance and stability significantly. The M3 improved prototype was tested in late February 1945 when it managed to reach an incredible speed of 546 mph (880 km/h). The M4 prototype was ready by the end of 1944 but, due to some engine problems, the first flight was only possible at the beginning of 1945. The first flight tests were carried by Dipl-Ing Schuck on 16th January, 1945. As the M3 and M4 wing design and shape proved satisfactory, they were chosen to be used for the upcoming production of the first He 162A combat operational variant.
The M5 prototype was built but it was never used operationally nor did it ever fly. The M6 prototype, which was intended to be used as base for the He 162A-1 production model, made its first test flight on 23rd January, 1945. The M7 (the base for the He 162A-2) was used for vibration tests and trialing the braking parachute. The M8 was the first to be equipped with two MG 151/20 cannons (120 rounds of ammunition per gun). The M9 and M10 were intended as two seat trainer aircraft versions but none were built. The M11 and M12 were powered by the much stronger Jumo 004D Orkan turbojet engine. These were to be used as base for the He 162A-8. The M13 moniker was never assigned to any prototype due to the belief that this number was unlucky. The prototype models M14 to M17 were never built. The M18 and M19 were powered by the new BMW 003E-1 jet engine which was intended to be used for the He 162A-2 production model. The M20 was used for testing different and simpler undercarriage designs. The M21 and M22 were used for main weapon testing. The M23 and M24 were used for installation of new wing root filters and for handling flight tests.
These prototypes were extensively tested and examined in detail from 22nd January to 12th February. In this period, over 200 test flights were carried out. Not all test flights were successful and without accidents. On 24th February, M20 was damaged during landing due to undercarriage malfunction. The next day, while testing the M3, there was a malfunction that led the pilot losing control of the aircraft. He managed to get out but his parachute did not fully extend, leading to his demise. At the beginning of May, one more prototype was lost in an accident. In total, there were more than 30 prototypes built. It is interesting that, even before the testing of the prototypes was completed, preparations for production of the He 162 were already underway.
He 162 A-1 and A-2
Despite the original plans requiring the start of the production in early 1945, this was never achieved. Due to the chaos in Germany at that time, there were many delays with the arrival of the necessary parts. There were shortages of nose wheels, rudders, interior equipment, weapons parts, poor quality glue and many others. For example, at Rostock, there were more than 139 partly built fuselages which could not be completed due to a lack of parts. There was also a problem with the large number of wings and tails built that were defectuous and unusable. A generalized lack of fuel, transport vehicles and electricity, Allied bombing raids and the use of slave labour also negatively influenced the overall production. Around ten pre-series He 162A-0 (with different prototype numbers) were built and stationed at Schwechat to be used for more testing needed in order to eliminate more problems.
The production of the first series of operational aircraft was delayed and began only at the end of March 1945. The first production series were marked He 162 A-1 and A-2. There are few visual differences between these two models. The only major difference was the armament. The A-1 was equipped with two 1.18 in (30 mm) cannons and the A-2 with two 0.78 in (20 mm) cannons. As the production of 1.18 in (30 mm) cannons was halted due to Allied bombing and the Soviets capturing the production factories, the few remaining cannons were to be allocated to the Me 262. The production of the A-1 was stopped and the exact number of manufactured aircraft is unknown. Due the lack of 1.18 in (30 mm) cannons, the He 162 manufacturers were forced to use the lighter and weaker 0.78 in (20 mm) caliber weapons.
A number of serially produced A-2 aircraft were not used for troop trials, but were instead sent to test centres for future modifications and testing. A small number would eventually reach the German troops in April. While the production of the A-2 would go on until the war’s end, the total number of produced aircraft is unknown.
The He 162 Design
The He 162 was designed as a high-wing jet fighter with a simple fuselage with clean lines, tricycle retracting landing gear and built using mixed construction. The simple fuselage was built by using a cheap and light metal alloy (duralumin – a combination of aluminium and copper) with a plywood nose and (one-piece) wooden wings.
The fuselage was a semi-monocoque design covered with duralumin. The front part of the fuselage was egg-shaped and had good aerodynamic properties. The nose was made of plywood and was fixed to the fuselage by using bolts. The middle top part of the fuselage was flat and the engine was connected to it. The wood was also used for the undercarriage doors.
The wings were made out of wood and connected to the central fuselage by using four bolts. In order to ease production, the wings were built in one piece. The flaps and ailerons were built using a wood frame which was covered with plywood. The flaps were controlled by using a hydraulic system while the rods were controlled with wire. To help with the stability at the end of the wing, two wingtips (one on each side) were added. These were angled at 55° downwards and made of duralumin. The two-part rear tail was made of metal and was connected to the end cone of the fuselage. The tail rudders were controlled using wires and rods.
The He 162 used a tricycle landing gear design, with one wheel at the front and two more located in the centre of the fuselage. The landing gear was hydraulically lowered and raised. The dimensions of the front nose wheel were 500×145 mm and no brake system was provided for it. Interesting to note is that the front nose wheel, when retracting, partly reached into the lower part of the front cockpit. A small window was provided for the pilot so that he could see if it was fully operational. The two central landing wheels were larger, 600×200 mm. Both the front and the rear landing wheels retracted to the rear. To help with landings, hydro-pneumatic dampers were provided.
The plexi-glass cockpit was made of two parts, the front windshield and the rear hinging canopy which were screwed into the inner bar frame. In order to make the whole construction simple as possible the cockpit was not pressurized. For better ventilation on the left side a small round ventilation window was installed. The pilot cockpit was more or less a standard German design but much simpler. It provided the pilot with good all-around view of the surroundings, but there were some complaints by some pilots for poor front ground view.
The control panel was made of wood, on which the necessary instruments were placed. Only a few were provided for the pilot and these included the speed indicator, panel lights, turn and bank indicator, rate of climb, FK 38 magnetic compass, temperature indicator, AFN-2 display, oil and fuel pressure gauge, fuel level gauge, chronometer, ammunition counters and engine tachometer. The fighter controls were placed as standard in front of the pilot. On the pilot’s left-side, the fuel valve, flap controls, landing gear control, throttle lever and trimming control were located. On the opposite side was placed the radio system (FuG 25A). The pilot seat was of a simple design but equipped with Heinkel’s ejection system with a parachute. The He 162 was one of the first German aircraft to be equipped with an ejection seat as standard equipment. The cockpit was separated from the rest of the plane by a sloped metal plate. This plate was installed in order to provide the pilot some protection in case of emergency (like fuel tank fire etc.). Behind this plate were the oxygen supply tanks with a 3 l capacity.
The engine chosen for the He 162 A-2 was the BMW 003E-1/2 turbojet (in some sources the A version was used). The engine was fixed in a nacelle placed above the central fuselage. The engine consisted of a seven-stage axial compressor, injection nozzle, annular combustion chamber and one single-stage axial turbine equipped with sheet metal heat-resistant blades which were air-cooled. The exhaust nozzle was controlled by an adjustable needle which could be mechanically moved into four positions: Position A for idle, S for start, F for flying at altitudes lower than 26.200 ft (8.000 m) and M for flying at altitudes above 26.200 ft (8.000 m). The BMW 003E-1/2 turbojet could achieve maximum thrust of 1.800 lbs (800 kg).
When flying at a speed of 500 mph (800 km/h) at 36.100 ft (11.000 m), the maximum thrust would fall down to only 740 lbs/340 kg. To start the engine, a small Riedel piston engine (9.86 hp) was used. This engine could be started either by using an electric starter motor or manually with a ring-pull. The He 162 engine was 11 ft (3.6 m) long with a diameter of 2.3 ft (69 cm) and a weight of 1.375 lbs (624 kg). The estimated life cycle of the engine was only 50 hours. As the engine was positioned above the fuselage, in order to avoid any damage caused by exhaust gasses, a steel plate was placed under the jet nozzle. The position of the engine also means it was easier to mount and repair. It was also easier to replace it with a new one.
The fuel tank was positioned in the middle of the fuselage. In order to save weight and to ease the production, a rubber fuel tank was used. The main fuel tank had a capacity of 695 l and there were also two smaller 175 l tanks located in the wings. For takeoff, up to two smaller auxiliary Ri 502 rocket engines could be installed. They would be located in the lower rear part of the fuselage.
The He 162’s original weapon system consisted of two MK 108 cannons, but the most built version was equipped with weaker MG 151/20 cannons. The two cannons were placed in the lower front part of the fuselage. The main gun’s ammunition was stored behind the pilot, with 120 rounds for each gun. In order for the ground support crews to have access to the gun and ammunition, wooden door panels were provided. For the gunsight, the Revi 16G or 16B models were used. There was also a gyroscopic EZ 42 gunsight tested on one He 162, but this was never adopted for service.
Other Versions and Prototypes
Despite the improvements done to the main production versions, there were still room for enhancements and modifications of the He 162. Most efforts were devoted to the installation of stronger engines and various aerodynamic improvements in order to achieve the highest speed possible. There were also plans to make the He 162 much cheaper and easier to produce. Different armament loads were also tested or proposed. Most of these proposals remained on paper only, but some received limited testing.
The first in line of the intended improved He 162 was the A-3 version. This was meant to be armed with 1.18 in (30 mm) MK 103 or MK 108 cannons (depending on the source) located in a redesigned front nose, but it is unclear if any were ever built. Later, an identically armed version (A-6) with a redesigned and longer fuselage (30 ft/9.2 m) was proposed but, like the previous version, none were probably built.
In order to increase the He 162’s maximum speed, it was intended to install the Jumo 004D “Orkan” (2.866 lbs/1.050 kg of thrust) engine to replace the standard jet engine used. The new engines were to be transported to Schwechat and tested there on fully operational prototypes. The whole process was too slow, and only as late as March 1945 were the few prototypes almost finished, but due to the war’s end, none were ever fully completed or tested. This modification is known under the name He 162 A-8. The A-9 (in some sources marked as He 162E) was to be powered by one BMW 003R engine, supported by a second BMW 718 rocket engine for extra power. The engines were tested but they were never installed on any He 162. While Heinkel conceived up to 14 different proposals for the “A” version, beyond those mentioned above, almost nothing is known about the others.
Note that the following designations (B, C and D) were never found in any EHAG official documentation and are not known to have been used by the Germans. This article will use them for the sake of simplicity only. (Source: Miroslav B. and Bily B.)
Despite the fact that the He 162 was designed to be simple and easy to build, the engine was still relatively difficult to produce in great numbers. In hope to increase the number of engines being built, the Germans began testing the less demanding technology of pulse jet engines (used on the V-1 flying bomb). The first proposed pulse jet engine to be mounted on the He 162 (generally known as He 162B) was the Argus As 004 (with 1,102 lbs/500 kg of thrust). This was followed by a second proposal to mount two Argus As 014 (each with 739 lbs/335 kg of thrust) pulse jet engines. The single engine version is named, in some modern sources, as B-2 and the two engine version as B-1. None were ever built and tested, possibly because the pulse jet was considered inferior to jet engines.
There were many experiments with different wing designs and shapes in order to improve the flying performance and ease production. Two similar designs were based on all-metal swept wings. The first (today called the He 162C) had a back swept wing design with the second half of the wings bent down at a sharp angle. The second (often nowadays referred to as the He 162D) had an unusual forward swept wing design. Both of these models were to be powered by one Heinkel-Hirth 011A turbojet engine (2,866 lbs/1,300 kg of thrust). Both models also had different rear tail designs. The maximum estimated top speed with this engine was up to 620 mph (1000 km/h). There were also other proposed wing designs but, beside these two, none seem to have been tested. Only a few incomplete prototypes were built and they were captured by the advancing Allied forces by the end of the war.
In autumn of 1944, it was suggested to use the He 162 for the German “Mistel 5” weapon projects. This configuration would consisted on one unmanned Arado E 337a glide bomb that would be guided by an He 162 connected on top of it. As the Arado E 337a was never built, this project remain on paper only.
At the end of January, there was a proposal to modify a few He 162 to be used as “Behelfs-Aufklarer”, in essence improvised reconnaissance planes, but this was never implemented.
TheVolksjäger Training Versions
As the Volksjäger project got a green light for its implementation and orders of planned production in the thousands, a solution on how to train such large numbers of new pilots was needed. One proposal was to begin training with gliders (including a glider version of the He 162) and, after a short period of time, the pilot (usually from the Hitler Youth) would learn to fly on the training versions of the He 162. The glider version was named He 162 S “Spatz” (Sparrow). According to other sources (M.Balous and M.Bily), the “S” stands for Segelflugzeug (glider).
These gliders had to be designed and built to emulate the He 162’s takeoff and landing properties as much as possible. In order to stay in the air, the gliders were to be connected to a 1 km long cable which was attached to a 150 hp motorized winch. The gliders were to have two seats, one for the future pilot and one for the instructor. One prototype was flight tested in late March 1945 by Ing Hasse. Even the famous German woman test pilot Hanna Reitsch made at least one flight in it. The He 162 S was very similar to the original He 162, with some modifications like larger wings and fixed landing gears. The choice for using gliders as replacement for training planes was based on the general lack of fuel. Around ten of these gliders were ordered and, if testing showed good results, some 200 were meant to be built. But, due to the bad economical situation in Germany at the time, only a few were ever built at Schönhage (Hannover).
The second training aircraft was a fully powered two seat trainer version. There is no official military marking or name for this version, but today it is often known as the He 162 Doppelsitzer (two seater). This version was to be powered by a BMW 003E-1 or E-2 engine. It was to have a second seat for the instructor placed behind the main cockpit. In order to make more room in the unmodified He 162 fuselage, the gun, ammunition and oxygen tanks had to be removed. The production of this version was planned to begin by the end of 1944 and was to be built by DLH (Deutsche Lufthansa) at Oranienburg. Only one incomplete prototype may have ever been constructed.
To help the training of new pilots at the Luftwaffe test center (Rechlin), a simulator model was built. It had the exact same cockpit like an operational He 162 with all instruments. Its primary purpose was to be used for combat and fire simulator training.
Main Armament Proposal
As already stated, the 0.78 in (20 mm) cannons were, by 1944/45 war standards, simply inadequate and the lack of stronger 1.18 in (30 mm) cannons forced the Germans to search for different (somewhat unconventional) weapons for the He 162.
To increase the offensive armament, the 2.2 in (55 mm) R4M air-to-air rocket was proposed to be installed under the He 162’s wings. Another proposal was to arm the He 162 with the SG 118 Rohrblocktrommel weapon system which consisted of three 1.18 in (30 mm) barrels (connected in a circle), each armed with 7 rounds. The last proposal was to use the 3.14 in (8 cm) Panzerblitz missiles. There were planned to use the EZ 42 gyroscopic gun sight on the He 162, but the single prototype was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid. If any of these proposals were ever been implemented or allocated a version name is unknown but very unlikely.
It was hoped by the Luftwaffe military officials that the He 162 would be built in great numbers. They counted on the fact that, by using cheap materials (mostly wood) and by employing many smaller subcontractors (woodworkers and furniture manufactures), the overall costs and time necessary for the production would be reduced.
Several factories were responsible for the production of the He 162 at Heinkel-Nord in Rostock-Marienehe, Heinkel-Sud, Hinterbühl (underground factory), Vienna-Schwechat (prototype production) and Mittelwerke (Nordhausen). In order to increase the production, Heinkel and Junkers made an agreement to use the vast Junkers production capacities. Junkers would be responsible for the production of the majority of the new He 162 planes at Bernburg. Also, a large number of smaller subcontractors were to be included, like EHAG Walldwerk or Pütnitz. The main engine suppliers were Spandau and Zühlsdorf. The armament was to be provided by Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabrik at Posnan. The wooden elements would be made at Erfurt, Orla and Stuttgart-Esslingen (these were also building components for the Me 163 and Ta 154). Some 750 man-hours were needed for the He 162, together with 300 man-hours for the engine production. Due to slow production, Hitler gave an order on 27th March, 1945 for the SS to take over the whole Volksjäger project. However, this had only limited (if any) effect on the speed of production.
As it was only built during the last month of the war, when confusion and chaos were ever-present in almost all spheres of political or military life in Nazi Germany, exact information about how many aircraft of this type were built is impossible to find. Depending on the sources, the total production was in the range of 116 to more than 200. According to different Authors: C. Chan (240), D. Mondey (116), F. Crosby (200), A. Ludeke (270), D. Nešić (120). According to the German General Staff Department 6 (Generalstab Abteilung 6), the total number of He 162 built was 116 aircraft. After the war, around many airfields, some 100 He 162 in different conditions were found. Additional 800 aircraft were found in different stages of factory assembly, which also complicates determining the exact number of produced He 162.
On 7th April, 1945 Hitler gave orders to stop any further development and production of the He 162 in favor of the Me 262 and Arado 234. It is hard to say for sure, but as the He 162 was produced until the end of the war, this order seems to never have been fully implemented.
The delivery of He 162 fighters to Luftwaffe front units was limited due to many reasons, including slow production, lack of fuel and spare parts and the Allied advance, but eventually, a few units equipped with this aircraft would be formed.
The first operational unit to be equipped with the new He 162 was Erprobungskommando 162 located at Rechlin-Roggenthin. In April, due to the rapid Allied advance, the unit had to reposition near Munich. This was actually a test unit and, for this purpose, a number of the most experienced German pilots (some of them having experience in flying jet aircraft) were allocated to this unit. Once these pilots had gained enough experience flying the He 162, they were to be used as base for forming the first operational unit, 1./JG 80. Immediately after the start of production, a large training process at the NSFK gliding school began. As there was only one He 162 S glider aircraft available, other simpler gliders (like the DFS SG 38 Schulgleiter) had to be used as a temporary solution. The training process did not go the way the Luftwaffe Officials hoped it would go. It was too slow and, when the first group of new pilots was tested on the Arado Ar 96B (trainer version), the results were disappointing. At this point, the plan to use Hitlerjugend members as He 162 pilots was discarded, which was somewhat expected. The experiment with the young and inexperienced pilots proves that only the most experienced pilots could successfully fly the He 162. Beside pilot training, at the same time, the training of ground support staff was carried out at Fliegertechische-Schule 6 in Neumarkt and Wiedenberg.
In order to form the first operational combat unit with the He 162, an already-experienced unit would be needed. For this purpose, Jagdgeschwader 1 “Oseau” (JG 1) was chosen. It was commanded by Oberst Herbert Ihlefeld and it was equipped mostly with Fw 190 aircraft. On 8th February, 1945, the first orders were given by General der Jagdflieger (General of Fighters) Oberst Gordon Gollob to the 2nd and 3rd Staffels (first Gruppe JG 1) commanders to prepare their pilots to be moved to the Parchim Airbase near Rostock. Once there, the first flight training with the new He 162 was to be carried out. In late February, a group of 10 pilots (from 2nd Staffel) was moved to Vienna for more training. For pilot training, two prototype aircraft were used, as the production of operational “A” variant was slow. Despite being experienced pilots, there were some accidents caused either by pilot errors or due to some mechanical faults. The He 162 M8 was lost due to engine failure on 12th March, but the pilot survived. Only two days later, one pilot was killed when he made a mistake during landing. As there were no other He 162 aircraft available, this group was forced to return to Parchim Airfield. In late March 1945, around 10 pilots of the I./JG 1 (first Gruppe) were moved to the Marienehe factory (near Rostock). They were supplied with a number of He 162 that where previously used by the mechanics and test pilots of this factory. Once the handover was completed, the group with the He 162 returned to its original base of operation.
The RLM’s next plan was to begin re-equipping II./JG 1 with the He 162 as soon as possible. The unit was moved to Rostock at the end of March 1945, where the training should have begun. Other units were expected to be formed (I and II./JG 400, III./JG 1, JG 27 and JG 77), but nothing came of this. In May 1945, a Volksstume Jagdeschwader (in essence, an improvised militia unit) was to be formed at the Sagan-Küpper airfield by using mostly volunteer pilots. However, Allied occupation of this airfield prevented the implementation of this proposal. The only unit beside JG 1 to be supplied (in limited numbers) with He 162 was I.EJG 2 (Ergänzungsjagdgeschwader, auxiliary fighter training unit), but these were probably never used operationally.
By the end of March, JG 1 was supplied with around 58 operational He 162A-2 aircraft with some 25 more on the way. At the same time, I./JG1 was moved to Ludwigslust, where it was supposed to be supplied with new He 162 aircraft. Due to the rapid Allied advance, the unit was moved in April to the Schleswig-Holstein region (Leck airfield), near the Danish border. This unit had orders to defend Berlin from Allied bombers coming from over the North Sea. The I./JG1 was to be ready for operational service by 20th April. The first combat loss happened on 19th April, when one He 162 was shot down after a take-off by an American P-47 Thunderbolt. By the end of April, II./JG 1 was moved quickly to the Leck airfield to join the first Gruppe.
The first operational combat mission of I./JG1 was to attack an RAF front airfield on 20th April. While on their way, the He 162’s were intercepted by a group of Hawker Tempests (3 Sqn. RAF). In this engagement, only one He 162 was shot down and the pilot managed to survive without any injuries. At the same time, one P-51 Mustang scout pilot (12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron) reported to have shot down one He 162, but this was never officially confirmed.
The He 162’s first allegedly air victory (and possibly the only one) was achieved by Lt. Rudolf Schmitt from I./JG 1, when he shot down a British fighter. However, this fighter was later claimed to have been shot down by German ground AA fire. While Lt. Rudolf Schmitt may not have made the first air victory, he did successfully manage to use the ejection seat in a combat zone. Due to the Allied advance, on 5th May, 1945, JG 1 received orders to stop any further action and to destroy all operational aircraft. For some reason, the order was later recalled. The Leck airfield would be captured by British forces on the 8th, which ended the He 162’s short operational combat story.
Precise information on the He 162’s combat or deployment is hard to find mostly due the chaotic state in Germany at that time. According to some authors, like Francus G., none were ever used in combat.
Japan’s military attache, in early 1945, was interested in acquiring the license production of the He 162. After a short negotiation, the Germans gave permission for license production. But there was a problem of how to transport or send the necessary documents and sketches from Germany to distant Japan. The only solution was to use radio by converting the sketches into numerical code. Unsurprisingly, this did not work well and only limited information was send before the end of the war in Europe. Due to this reason, Japan never received the complete He 162 sketches.
In Allied Hands
As the British forces captured Leck airfield, they acquired a number of fully operational He 162s. Some 11 planes were selected by the British Technical Intelligence Team to be transported to the UK. Once there, all were sent to the Farnborough airfield, which was the headquarters of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE). The He 162 aircraft were thoroughly examined and divided into groups either for part analysis or for flight testing. On 9th November, 1945, while flying an He 162 (AM61) at the Exhibition of German Aircraft at Farnborough, the pilot Robert A.M. lost his life in an accident.
One of the tested He 162 (marked AM 59 by the British) would be donated to the Canadian Museum in Ottawa together with another one received later that year. Later, two were given to British museums, one to the Imperial War Museum and the second to the RAF Hendon Museum. One would be given to France, possibly either AM 63 or AM 66.
The British also supplied the American with some He 162 captured at the Leck airfield. The Americans also managed to capture some abandoned He 162s across Germany. Some would be tested at the Wright and Freeman Field research centre. One He 162 was even kept in good flight condition up to 1946. This aircraft is today privately owned by the Planes of Fame Museum in California.
The French received or captured (it is not known precisely) five He 162, of which two were airworthy. These two were tested, but one was damaged during landing and the second was lost in May 1948 with the loss of the pilot’s life. One He 162 is preserved and can be seen at the Paris Aviation Museum.
During their advance through Germany, the Soviets managed to capture about seven planes, two of which were airworthy. These would be tested and and analyzed in great details. As the Soviets lacked any advanced jet technology at that time, adopting German captured technology looked like a logical step. Most interesting for the Soviets were the Jumo 004 and the BMW 003 jet engines that would be, in later years, copied and produced in some numbers. There were also some consideration from the Soviet military to copy and produce some of the German jet aircraft, including the He 162. One He 162, with the fuselage marking 02, was tested by the Soviet Flight Research Institute (near Moscow). The second, marked 01, was tested at the Central Aero-hydrodynamics Institute. He 162 02 would be flight tested on several flights in 1946. The results of these tests were disappointing for the Soviets and a decision was made not to further consider them for service, and they did not have any influence on the later Soviet aviation development.
The idea for the He 162 was born out of a mix of desperation, chaos and hope for some miraculous wonder weapons that could turn the air war’s tide to the German side again. It was designed to be cheap and built in great numbers. The impressive fact is that it was designed and built in only a few months, but, on the other hand, it was built in too small numbers, the engines used were often of poor quality and there was a lack of trained pilots, which, along with other problems, meant that the He 162 did not have any major impact on the war itself or on post war jet aircraft development. In the end, it was not the ‘Wunderwaffe’ that the designers hoped for, but it was still impressive, at least because of the speed with which it was designed and built.
As only a small number of He 162 were built, there were very few operational versions. Beside the prototype series, only the “A” version was built in some numbers.
He 162 V– Prototype series
He 162 A-0– Around 10 pre-production aircraft built used for testing
Main production version
He 162A-1 – Version equipped with two MK 108 cannons, a few were possibly built
He 162A-2 – The main production variant armed with two MG 151/20 cannons
He 162S – Two seat glider trainer version, a few built
He 162 Doppelsitzer – Two seat powered trainer version, only one incomplete aircraft built
Experimental prototypes based on “A” versions
He 162A-3 – Proposed version armed with two MK 103 or 108 cannons
He 162A-6 – Proposed version with redesigned and longer fuselage armed with two MK 108 cannons
He 162A-8 – Version equipped with the Jumo 004D jet engine, only a few incomplete prototypes built
He 162A-9 – The A-9 was to be powered by one BMW 003R engine and supported by a second BMW 718 rocket engine. None built
He 162A Mistel 5 – Paper project, a combination of an He 162 and one Arado E 337 glide bomb.
He 162 “Behelfs-Aufklarer” – Proposed version to be built in limited numbers as reconnaissance planes. It was never implemented and remained a proposal only.
Note that the B, C and D designations were not official and are used in this article only for the sake of simplicity.
He 162B – Proposed version equipped with a pulsejet engine (similar to the V-1 flying bomb engine)
He 162B-1 – two engine version
He 162B-2 – single engine version
He 162C – Version with back swept wing, powered by Heinkel-Hirth 011A turbojet engine
He 162D – Version with forward swept wing designs powered by the same Heinkel-Hirth 011A turbojet engine
Nazi Germany – A few hundred built, but only small numbers were allocated to front units and saw limited combat action.
United Kingdom – Captured a number of operational He 162, 11 would be transported and tested in the UK.
United States – Received a small number of He 162 from the British but also captured some in Germany.
France – Received or captured at least five He 162 aircraft.
USSR – Captured seven completed He 162 which were tested after the war.
Japan – Military officials tried to acquire the license for production of the He 162 but the war’s end prevented this.
Specifications (Heinkel He 162 A-2)
23 ft 7 in / 7.2 m
29 ft 8 in / 9.05 m
8 ft 6 in / 2.6 m
38 ft² / 11.6 m²
One BMW 003E-1 with 1,760 lbs/800 kg of thrust
3,666 lbs / 1,663 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight
5,324 lbs / 2,466 kg
Maximum Speed at 6 km
560 mph / 840 km/h
385 mi / 620 km
Maximum Service Ceiling
39,370 ft / 12,000 m
Two 20 mm fixed forward firing cannons in the lower sides of the fuselage
Nazi Germany (1945)
Rocket Interceptor Trainer – 1 Built
The Messerschmitt Me 163S (Schulflugzeug / Training Aircraft) Habicht (Hawk) was an unarmed two-seat training glider based off of the famous Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet. Originally designed for the purpose of training novice pilots for landing, the Habicht ultimately never saw active service with the Germans and only a single example was produced through the conversion of a serial Me 163B-1. With the sole example captured by the Russians after the war, the Habicht underwent extensive testing by the Soviet Air Force which helped them understand the flying characteristics of the Komet and prepared Soviet pilots for flying the powered Komets. The Habicht undoubtedly played a part in helping Soviet engineers understand the Komet and thus played a part in the future development of Soviet rocket aircraft.
The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet was one of Nazi Germany’s most famous aircraft produced during the Second World War. Although bearing the title of the world’s first mass-produced rocket-powered interceptor, the Komet did have its fair share of flaws, such as the volatile and sometimes dangerous Walter HWK 109-509 rocket engine, which prevented it from becoming an effective weapon against the Allies.
As the Komet was designed to have a limited amount of fuel to engage Allied bombers, pilots were expected to glide the Komet back to friendly airfields once they disengaged from combat. With gliding landings as a potential problem for the less experienced pilots, one of the ideas proposed by Messerschmitt designers in 1944 was to introduce a dedicated trainer variant of the Komet which would have a student pilot accompanied by an instructor pilot. Designated as the Messerschmitt Me 163S (Schulflugzeug / Training Aircraft) Habicht, the trainer glider differed from the production model with the addition of an instructor’s cockpit behind the forward cockpit. This addition was accompanied by the removal of the Walter HWK 109-509 rocket engine and the Habicht would have to be towed by another aircraft in order to get airborne. Another interesting addition to the Habicht was a second liquid tank behind the instructor’s cockpit for counterbalancing. All the liquid tanks would be filled with water for weight simulation and ballast. A total of twelve examples were planned for production, but only one was produced due to wartime production constraints.
The sole example of the Habicht was built by converting an earlier Me 163B-1 production model. Due to the scarcity of information regarding the Me 163S, it is unknown exactly when the Habicht was produced and what sort of testing it may have undergone during German possession. However, it is known that the Soviet Union was able to capture the only example during the final stages of the World War II’s Eastern Front. The sole Habicht was sent to the Soviet Union along with three Me 163B Komets during the Summer of 1945 for thorough inspection and testing. In historian Yefim Gordon’s book “Soviet Rocket Fighters – Red Star Volume 30”, he claims that in addition to the three Komets, seven Habicht trainer models were also captured. This, however, remains quite dubious as there is no evidence that more than one Habicht existed, and all current photographic material, research materials, and books all suggest that only a single example was produced.
As the Soviets were particularly interested in rocket propulsion aircraft, the State Defence Committee issued a resolution which called for the thorough examination of the Walter 109-509 jet engine and the Me 163 Komet along with captured German documents on rocket propulsion. The three Me 163B Komets, of which only one was airworthy, and the Me 163S Habicht were sent to the Flight Research Institute (LII), the Valeriy P. Chkalov Soviet Air Force State Research Institute (GK NII VSS), and the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI). The Habicht and Komets saw extensive testing in Soviet hands, undergoing several structural, static and wind tunnel tests. During the initial flight testing period, the Komet only flew as a glider as Soviet pilots and engineers were unsure of whether or not the Walter rocket engine was ready for use since bench tests were not completed. Securing the T-Stoff and C-Stoff propellants for the rocket engine was also a problem. In order to understand the handling characteristics of the Komet, the Habicht was flown numerous times at different altitudes, as was the unpowered Komet. A Tupolev Tu-2 bomber was responsible for towing the Habicht to these altitudes. Under Soviet ownership, the Habicht was given the nickname of “Карась” (Karas / Crucian Carp) due to the glider’s distinct silhouette. The test pilot responsible for flying the Habicht was Mark Lazarevich Gallaj. In general, the Habicht was considered relatively easy to handle by the Soviet test pilots. It is unknown how many test flights the Habicht underwent, but the aircraft certainly aided Soviet pilots in understanding the handling characteristics of the Komet. The Habicht’s service came to an end once the Soviet state trials of the Komet concluded. The sole example was scrapped sometime in 1946, along with seemingly all the other Komets.
If the Me 163S was able to be mass produced and flown with the Luftwaffe, the aircraft would have been a valuable tool to train German pilots. Landing the Komet was a problem for some pilots and in some cases resulted in fatalities but, with the use of the Habicht, the number of accidents would have certainly decreased.
The Messerschmitt Me 163S Habicht was a semi-monocoque aluminum based two-seat training glider developed off the standard tailless Messerschmitt Me 163B-1 Komet. The sole example was converted from a production Komet, which meant dramatic modifications had to be made to the aircraft. The Walther HWK 109-509 rocket engine was removed and in its place was a cockpit for an instructor. The fuel tanks in the airframe were all filled with water to simulate fuel weight while another water tank was added behind the instructor’s cockpit for ballast purposes. There was no armament fitted to the glider. There was a small transparent section between the student pilot’s cockpit and the instructor pilot’s cockpit, presumably for the purpose of communication. As there are no known German documents on the Habicht and Russian documents are scarce, not much is known on the other differences the Habicht may have had. Detailed specifications of the Habicht are unknown, but theoretically it should have been identical to the standard Me 163B-1 Komet except for possibly weight, air drag and center of gravity.
Nazi Germany – The intended operator and producer of the Me 163S Habicht.
Soviet Union – The main operator of the Me 163S Habicht. A single Habicht was captured and tested by the Soviets after the war. The Habicht was scrapped in 1946.
*Editor’s note: As noted above, the exact specifications of the Me 163S Habicht are unknown. However they are presumed to be similar to that of the Me 163B-1 Komet.
Nazi Germany (1942)
Experimental Aircraft – 1 Prototype Built
The Akaflieg Berlin B9 was a German experimental twin engine aircraft designed with the pilot placed in the prone position. It was designed to withstand extremely high g-forces. One prototype was built and tested by a glider production workshop in 1943 but it would not be adopted for mass production. The author would like to especially thank Carsten Karge from the Archiv Akaflieg Berlin for providing information on this generally unknown aircraft.
Why prone position?
During sharp up and down turns while flying an aircraft, strong g-forces appear that act on the pilot, potentially leading to loss of consciousness. Under normal flying conditions, the g-forces that appear are relatively harmless. The first effect of the g-force which the pilot notices is the difficulty of moving his body normally, as normal movements feel much heavier. Another effect of strong g-forces, which is much more dangerous, is the loss of oxygen flow to the brain. In some cases, the flow of oxygen and blood to the human brain can be greatly diminished, which can lead to the pilot losing consciousness momentarily. This effect lasts a short time, but it is enough for the pilot to lose control of the plane with a potentially fatal outcome.
While today, devices such as advanced anti-g suits help the pilot withstand strong g-forces, during the World War Two, other solutions had to be found. The Germans had noticed that, especially during sharp dive bombing actions, the pilots often lost consciousness. One way to tackle this was to put the pilot into a prone position, which in essence means to fly the plane while lying on the belly. In this position, the pilot has both his heart and his brain at the same level, which means that blood is no longer stopped from travelling to the brain during high-g maneuvers. Thus, this flying position allows the pilot to endure much greater g-forces than he would normally be able to if he would be in an ordinary sitting position. Other advantages of the prone position are the reduced aircraft size, smaller fuselage, less drag due to the smaller cockpit, and it would be easier for the pilot to operate the plane when conducting bomb sighting and ground attack, among other advantages.
During the war, the Germans would test several such aircraft designs, sush as the Henschel Hs 132 or B9, mostly for the ground attack role. Beside a few prototypes built, none were ever used operationally.
In order to test the idea of an aircraft with the pilot in the prone-position, the Aero-Technical Group (Flugtechnische Fachgruppe/FFG) of Stuttgart designed and later built the FS 17 all-wood test glider. It was especially designed to withstand forces up to 14 G. It made its first test flight on 21st March, 1938. In the spring of 1939, FFG Stuttgart made the first design drawings and calculations for a prone-piloted aircraft. This aircraft was to be powered by two Hirth HM 50 engines with an estimated speed of 250 mph (400 km/h).
FFG Stuttgart never completed this project as it was forced, for unknown but likely politicaly reasons, to hand over the project to Akaflieg (Akademische Fliegergruppe/Academic Aviator Group) Berlin. It is possible the order came from the German Experimental Department for Aerospace (Deutsche Versuchanstalt für Luftfahrt e.V. Berlin-Aldershof) DVL or even from the Ministry of Aviation (RLM – Reichsluftfahrtministerium), but precise information is lacking. Akaflieg Berlin, founded in 1920, was one of the oldest gliding clubs in Germany and it still exists today.
The RLM designation for this aircraft was “8-341” but Akaflieg used the simpler B9 designation. The technical characteristics that the new plane was supposed to have were a good field-of-view for the pilot in the prone position, a high degree of safety for the pilot, a high speed during diving, good general flying characteristics and being able to withstand forces of up to 25 G, or 22 G depending on the sources.
Akaflieg Berlin had a small number of engineers and workers and an adequately equipped workshop to complete the task given. For this purpose, a design team was formed with Theodor Goedicke, Leo Schmidt and Martin G. Winter, which was responsible for the creation of this new aircraft design. The first prototype was to be ready by August 1942 but this was never achieved, and the prototype was only completed in early 1943. It made its first test flight on the 10th April, 1943 at the Schönefeld airfield, near Berlin.
The B9 was a single-seat, low wing, mixed construction aircraft with the pilot in prone position. It consisted of a metal airframe, made of steel ribs, covered with wood and canvas. The main fuselage’s cross-section was trapezoidal shaped. As the B9 was specifically designed to withstand forces of up to 25 G, it had to have a strong fuselage.
The wings were made of wood covered with duralumin sheets. In order for the wooden wings to withstand the strong torsional forces which occur during high acceleration maneuvers, the spaces between the spars were heavily reinforced. The middle part of the wings viewed from above have a square shape and then narrow towards the wing tips. The wings were held in place by four bolts on each side. The rear tail design was a simple one, with standard rudder and elevators.
The B9 had a standard retractable landing gear copied from the Me-108, which consisted of two larger wheels and one smaller non-retractable wheel at the back. The landing gear was lowered and raised manually. The front wheels retracted into the engine nacelles, but they were not fully enclosed.
The B9 had a large 4.9 ft (1.5 m) long glazed cockpit with good all-around view. But, as the pilot was in a prone position, the above and the rear views were limited by the human body’s inability to turn the head in these directions. The glazed cockpit was made of two parts, the front windshield and the rear larger canopy that opened to the right side. The cockpit interior had to be especially designed for a pilot lying in the prone position. The usual flight controls were almost useless in this situation and, thus, certain changes were necessary. It was important to divide the controls on both sides of the cockpit, in order to avoid the pilot crossing hands, which could lead to complications in flight. On the right side were the controls for ailerons and elevation. The pilot would use his right hand to gain access to the harness and the canopy release mechanism. For controlling the rudders and brakes, the pilot would use his feet. Using his left hand, he would operate the remaining instruments, the throttles, flaps, ignition switches, emergency pump, fire warning, undercarriage control and others. Additional engine and flight instruments were located behind the pilot. These included, among others, the distance indicator, climb indicator, compass, oil and fuel pressure gauges and airspeed indicator. For the pilot to be able to see them, a small mirror was provided. There were also inclined and horizontal line markers on the inner windshield to help the pilot with orientation. For flying at high altitude, an oxygen supply system with a mask was provided to the pilot.
The aircraft was powered by two Hirt HM 500 air-cooled engines, with 105 hp each. The maximum speed was around 140 mph (225 km/h) but, according to some sources, it was as high as 155 mph (250 km/h). The four fuel tanks, with a total capacity of 25 gallons (95 l), were located between the spars on both engine sides. The B9’s effective operational range was 250 mi (400 km). Originally, the B9 was meant to be equipped with two variable-pitch propellers, but it was instead fitted with ordinary wooden fixed pitch propellers made by the Schäfer company.
As the B9 could be used as a ground attack aircraft, a bomb rack was meant to be installed, but it is not clear if this was ever implemented.
The operational prototype was ready by the summer of 1943. The first test flights were carried out by Ing. L. Schmidt and Dipl.-lng. E. G. Friedrichs. On one flight, L. Schmidt had an accident, the details of which are not known, but the plane probably suffered only minor damage.
The B9 was meant to make a series of test flights in order to ascertain if the prone position design had any merit and to test the general flying and overall structural performance. If these proved to be successful, the B9 would serve as base for future development and be put into active service. The B9 aircraft received the ”D-ECAY” marking, which was painted on both sides of the fuselage.
The tests were carried out from July to October 1943, during which time around thirty pilots had the opportunity to fly it. The test flights were conducted without any major problems and only one accident was recorded. This accident was caused not by any mechanical problems, but by a pilot mistake during takeoff. The B9 was damaged, but it was repaired and put back into service in only a few weeks.
The pilots did not have many objections to flying in the new prone position. They described it as comfortable and that it was relatively easy to adapt to the new commands. There were some issues, like fatigue and tiredness of the neck and shoulder muscles because of the constant moving of the upper arms. There were also some complaints about the chin supporter, which was deemed as unpleasant during flight but it was essential during high g-force maneuvers. During these test flights, the control panel and the controls did receive some changes in design. The large and fully glazed cockpit provided the pilot with good front and below fields of view, while the rear and upward view was somewhat problematic due to the prone position.
These tests showed that this type of aircraft was well suited for bomber, ground attack, high speed reconnaissance and possibly even in a high-speed fighter role. But it was also noticed that, due to the somewhat restricted view, the use of low speed prone pilot aircraft without air support was not recommended. Despite being designed to withstand forces of up to 25 G, the maximum achieved was only 8.5 G. One of the reasons for this was the use of low rotational speed propellers.
For 1944 and 1945 unfortunately, there is no information about the B9’s operational use. The B9 was found abandoned at the Johannisthal airfield near Berlin after the war. In what condition it was by the time of capture is not known. What is unusual is that the B9 was captured by the Americans and not the Soviets (according to author Hans J.W.). What the Americans did with the plane is unknown to this day, but it was most likely scrapped.
Only one B9 plane prototype was ever built. By 1943 and 44, a large amount of resources were invested in the production of fighters for the defense of the Reich and there were neither the time nor the resources needed to develop and test such an aircraft.
Nazi Germany (1938)
Armored Ground Attack Aircraft – 1 Replica Built
The Hütter 136 was an interesting concept for a ground attack aircraft that employed numerous experimentations in its design. The cockpit was fully armored, the landing gear was replaced by a skid, and the entire propeller would be jettisoned off during landings. The aircraft came in two forms: the Stubo I, a short design with the ability to carry an external 500 kg bomb, and the Stubo II, a lengthened version that could carry two internal 500 kg bombs. The program never progressed as far as production and work stopped on the project shortly after the Henschel Hs 129 was ordered for production.
During the years leading up to the Second World War, Nazi Germany found itself needing a competent air force to rival those it would soon face. Restrictions set by the Treaty of Versailles severely hindered the German military both in size and equipment in order to ensure that German power would not threaten the continent again, as it did during the First World War. History notes that the Germans broke this treaty, at first covertly and then overtly, with the Allies showing no response or protestation to the blatant violations. Germany began amassing a massive military force in preparation for war. New programs and requirements were laid down in preparation for the inevitable war. These projects included many newly tested concepts, such as dive-bombing. The Junkers Ju-87 Stuka proved the effectiveness of dive bombing in the Spanish-Civil War, with a famous example being the Bombing of Guernica, but a newer attacker was eventually needed to complement it. An order in 1938 was put out by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Aviation Ministry, “RLM”) to develop a new armored ground-attacker. One of the companies that would participate in this requirement would be Hütter.
The designs of Ulrich and Wolfgang Hütter are relatively unheard of when it comes to aircraft. They began their aviation career designing glider aircraft in the 1930s, such as the popular Hü 17, some of which were used post-war. The Hütter brothers built a career in designing aircraft for the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) between 1938 and 1944 under the codename of Ostmark. The two began working on the project mentioned before for an RLM request for a new ground-attacker in 1938. The requirement laid down very specific guidelines to be followed. The new aircraft needed to have good flight performance and an armored airframe for extra protection, as well as enough speed to evade fighters. In preparation for the new designs, the RLM notified designated factories that would begin to produce these airframes upon adoption into service. The Hütter brother’s response would be the Hü 136. Other competitors included the Henschel Hs 129 and the Focke-Wulf Fw 189V-1b, an armored ground attack version of their reconnaissance plane. Not all projects for a new attacker were armored at this time. Other new designs included the Junkers Ju 187 and Henschel Hs P 87.
The Hütter Hü 136 was nicknamed the Stubo, a shortened version of the name Sturzbomber (Dive Bomber). The aircraft itself would be a single-engine design. Two versions of this aircraft existed. The first, Stubo I, was meant to fill the need for a heavily armored attacker and would be used in ground-attack and dive-bombing tactics. The second was the Stubo II, a two-seater which was essentially a longer version of the Stubo I and carried twice the bomb load internally. The flight performance of the Stubo II was estimated to be the same as that of the Stubo I although, given the design characteristics, that estimation is highly doubtful. The two designs did not meet the requirements for bomb load and range. To make the aircraft more efficient, the brothers took an interesting design change. Taking a note from their glider designs, they removed the conventional landing gear and replaced it with an extendable landing skid, which made the aircraft lighter and freed more space for fuel. This, however, posed serious designs problems. The Hü 136 now had to take off using a detachable landing gear dolly, similar to how the Messerschmitt Me 163B rocket plane would take off a couple years later. Due to this, the propeller would not have enough clearing and would hit the ground during landings. To fix this, the two brothers made the propeller detachable. During landings, the aircraft would eject the propeller, which would gently parachute to the ground above an airfield for recovery and reuse. To assist in landings, a new surface brake was also added to the aircraft.
The far more conventional Henschel Hs 129 would be designated the winner of the competition. Subsequently, no construction was ever started on either the Stubo I or II. The Stubo proved to be an interesting but flawed concept. The limited visibility from the armored cockpit would negatively affect the aircraft in all operations. Dogfighting, bombing and even flying in general would be affected by the cockpit’s design. The change in landing gear design may have extended the range and lowered weight, but pilots now had to learn how to land using a skid. The fact the entire propellor evacuated the aircraft was a huge issue in itself. Once ejected, the landing could not be aborted, and if the landing attempt failed, there was no chance to loop around and try again.
This, however, would not be the last project designed by the Hütter brothers for the Luftwaffe. Wolfgang would begin working on a long-range reconnaissance version of the Heinkel He 219 called the Hütter Hü 211. Another project is the rather unknown Hütter Fernzerstörer (Far Destroyer), a long-range turboprop attacker meant to be used on the Eastern Front. With the war ending, no further Hütter aircraft were designed. One would think the story of the Stubo ends with its cancellation, but the story continued rather surprisingly recently. The Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, VA, acquired a full-scale replica of the Stubo I in 2017 and it is currently on display in their German Experimentals section, along with full-scale replicas of other “Luft 46” designs.
The Stubo I was a single-engine armored ground attacker. In the front, it mounted a detachable propeller and a Daimler-Benz DB 601 inline engine. In the fuselage, a large gap was present between the engine and cockpit. This was most likely the fuel tank where the fuel tank was placed. Beneath the aircraft, a single 1010 Ibs bomb (500 kg) was mounted on an external hardpoint. This hardpoint most likely would be in the way of the landing skid, implying the payload had to be dropped before making an attempt at landing. For takeoff, a dolly would have to be mounted beneath the aircraft. This would be jettisoned shortly after the Stubo would be airborne. For landing, the aircraft would use an extendable skid. The wings of the aircraft had slight dihedral, which meant the wings were angled upward from the body. The Stubo I had an armored steel cockpit that was completely enclosed. For visibility, a small sight in the front and two side portholes were given. Had the aircraft been produced, peripheral vision would have been nonexistent and dogfighting would have been near impossible if it needed to defend itself. Normal operations, such as navigation and landing would have also been hindered, while combat operations such as target acquisition and attack run planning would have been exceedingly difficult. A tailfin was mounted directly behind the cockpit and not in a conventional tail design. Sources also mention the Stubo I would have mounted machine-guns, but the plans do not show exactly where or of what type these would have been.
The Stubo II was virtually identical to the Stubo I, aside from its extended fuselage. This lengthened design would allow the Stubo II to carry two 1010 Ibs (500 kg) bombs in a bomb bay, compared to the single bomb carried on a hardpoint by the Stubo I. Among smaller differences, the Stubo II’s wings had no dihedral compared to the angled dihedral of the Stubo I. With the lengthened fuselage, the landing skid was also extended to accommodate the longer airframe. It most likely also carried over the machine guns used on the Stubo I. The Stubo II uses nearly identical sized wings to the Stubo I, which gives the Stubo II a rather odd design, having the body lengthened but the wing size remaining the same. This would have definitely affected performance and possibly would have made the aircraft more unstable in maneuvering with the extra weight.
Stubo I – Armored ground-attacker that would carry a single external 500 kg bomb. Sources also mention machine guns, but documents don’t show where exactly they would have been located.
Stubo II – A lengthened version of the Stubo I, the Stubo II had an internal bomb load of two 500 kg bombs.
Nazi Germany – If the Hütter 136 would have entered production, Nazi Germany would have been the main operator of the craft.
Hütter 136 “Stubo I” Specifications
21 ft 4 in / 6.5 m
23 ft 7 in / 7.2 m
5 ft 3 in / 1.6 m
1x 1,200 hp (894 kW) DB 601 Inline Engine
8,160 lbs / 3,700 kg
348 mph / 560 km/h
1,240 mi / 2,000 km
Maximum Service Ceiling
31,170 ft / 9,500 m
1x 1010 lbs (500 kg) bomb
At least 2 machine guns of unknown type (Most likely MG 15 or MG 17)
Nazi Germany (1937)
Twin Engined Fighter – 9 Built
The Fw 187 Falke was a twin engine fighter that was built by Focke-Wulf in 1936, at a time when the newly-formed Luftwaffe did not consider such an airplane type necessary. Despite receiving significant negative feedback, several prototypes were built and three pre-production versions were also constructed. The three pre-production types saw limited service defending the Focke-Wulf factory in Bremen against Allied bombing in 1940. Aside from that, they saw no other combat.
The twin-engined fighter was a concept few countries pursued in the early days of flight. The type only started serious development in the years directly preceding the outbreak of the Second World War, with planes such as the American Lockheed P-38 Lightning entering service. Most officials across the globe agreed that two-engine fighter aircraft would be rendered unnecessary by cheaper and lighter single-engine designs. In the early 1930s, Germany had no plans to develop such an aircraft either.
However, an aeronautical engineer by the name of Kurt Tank showed an interest. Kurt Tank was the main aircraft designer of the Focke-Wulf company, who developed most of the company’s most famous aircraft. During WWII, he would go on to create the iconic Fw 190 and would later have an aircraft designation named after him, with the Ta 152 and Ta 154. He began work on the new twin-engine project, despite there being no current requirement for such an aircraft. Tank had his first chance to reveal his design at a weapons exhibition held at a Henschel plant in 1936. Tank showed off his innovative design, claiming the twin-engine layout would offer a great speed of 348 mph (560 km/h) if the aircraft mounted the newly developed Daimler Benz DB 600 engines. One of the attendants of the event was Adolf Hitler himself, who found the design particularly interesting.
But to the Technischen Amt (Technical Research Office), the design was unnecessary, as it was believed single-engine designs could perform just as well as the twin-engined concept. Another pre-war doctrine was that the current bombers would be fast enough to outrun the fighters of the enemy, and escort fighters wouldn’t be needed. Tank, not happy with this response, took his design to Oberst (Colonel) Wolfram von Richthofen, the head of the Development section of the Technischen Amt. Tank persuaded him that technological advances would eventually allow the construction of more powerful fighters that would be able to catch up with the bombers which would thus require an escort fighter. Convinced by his claim, Richthofen agreed that it would be better to have a countermeasure now rather than later. Richthofen’s term as chief was short, but in this time he authorized three prototypes of Tank’s twin-engine design. The design was officially given the name of Fw 187.
Work began on the Fw 187 soon after, but, to Tank’s dismay, the requests for the DB 600 engine were turned down. Instead, he had to work with Junkers Jumo 210 engines, as DB 600s were only allocated to projects which were viewed as being highly important. The design work was handed over to Oberingenieur (Chief Engineer) Rudi Blaser, who was the one of the most experienced members onboard Focke-Wulf. Blaser had previously headed the design of the failed Fw 159 monoplane fighter, but he was ready to continue work and move on from his failure. Blaser wanted to achieve only one thing with this design: maximum speed.
The first prototype Fw 187 was completed in early 1937. The Fw 187 V1 (designated D-AANA) was first flown by test pilot Hans Sander. In the initial flights, the aircraft reached speeds of up to 326 mph (524 km/h). The Luftwaffe was surprised to learn that despite weighing twice as much as the Bf 109, the Fw 187 was still able to go 50 mph (80 km/h) faster. They accused the team of having faulty instruments. Blaser was determined to prove them wrong and had a Pitot tube (a device that measures air speed using the total air pressure) installed on the nose of the V1, which would accurately tell the performance. Sander once again flew and confirmed the aircraft indeed had attained such a speed. Further flight trials showed the aircraft had superb maneuverability, climbing and diving. These great characteristics led Kurt Tank to name the aircraft his “Falke” or Falcon. This name became official as well, and wasn’t just a nickname the creator gave to his creation.
In the summer of 1937, the airframe had an impressive wing loading of 30.72 Ibs/sq ft (147.7 kg/m2), something no other fighter could equal at that point. Further tests by Sander put the airframe to the extremes to try the limitations of the aircraft in diving. The rudder, during dives, was predicted to begin fluttering after 620 mph (1000 km/h), but Blaser was more cautious, and thought it would start at a lower speed. To counteract this, a balance weight was attached to the rudder. Blaser assured Sander that the aircraft would perform better in dives as long as he didn’t exceed 460 mph (740 km/h). With the new weight attached, Sander took off to begin trials. Hitting 455 mph (730 km/h), Sander noticed the tail had begun violently shaking. With the tail not responding, Sander had started to bail when he reported a loud noise came from the rear. Sander’s control over the aircraft had returned and all vibrations had ceased. Upon landing, it was found that the weight itself had been the culprit of the vibrations and the sound Sander heard was the weight breaking off the rudder.
Several modifications were made to the V1 during testing. The frontal landing gear was switched out for a dual wheeled design at some point, but was found it offered no benefit over the single wheel and thus was reverted. The propellers were also changed from Junkers-Hamilton to VDM built ones. Weapons were eventually added as well, but these were just two 7.92mm MG 17s. The 2nd prototype arrived in the summer of 1937. Visually, the V2 was identical to the V1, but had a smaller tailwheel, modified control surfaces, and Jumo 210G engines with enhanced fixed radiators.
However, in 1936, there was a change of leadership in the Technischen Amt. The supportive Richthofen was replaced by Ernst Udet. Udet was a fighter pilot, and his experience reflected upon his decisions. He made sure no more biplane designs were being built and all designs were now of monoplane construction. He had a major focus on fighters, and believed them to be the future. The modern fighter had to be efficient, with speed and maneuverability being the utmost importance. And, from this viewpoint, he saw twin engine fighters as not being as capable as single engine fighters. With this mindset, the Luftwaffe now saw no real reason to continue developing the Fw 187 as a single seat interceptor, but it could be developed as a Zerstörer (“Destroyer” heavy fighter), the same role the Bf 110 occupied. This required a crew of more than one and much heavier armament. Tank was reluctant, and felt his design was still as capable as single engine designs were, but he knew continuing to go against the Technischen Amt would result in his aircraft being terminated, so he regretfully obliged.
The V3 was in the middle of construction and changes had to be made as a result of this. The V1 and V2 had already been produced, and any drastic changes would further affect development, so no attempt to convert the two initial planes into two-seaters ever occured. To accommodate a radioman, the cockpit had to be lengthened. This worried Blaser, who was concerned these changes would affect the size and overall performance of the aircraft. Thus, he tried making the changes that affected the aircraft’s performance as little as possible. The fuselage was increased lengthwise, the tailfin was shortened, and increased cockpit volume demanded the fuel tank be moved farther back. Engine nacelles were also shortened to allow installation of landing flaps for when the aircraft carried larger ordnance. The 7.92mms were now complemented with two 20mm MG FF cannons, although V3 never mounted any actual weapons, only mock-ups.
The Fw 187 had good luck up until this point, but this good fortune ran out shortly after the V3 was produced. A few weeks after it was finished in early 1938, the V3 was doing a test flight when one of its engines caught on fire. The aircraft was able to safely land and the fire was extinguished, but the airframe had taken some damage and needed repairs. Tragedy struck once again not too long after, on May 14th. The V1 was lost and its pilot, Bauer, was killed during a landing accident. These two events happening so close together made the already negatively viewed Falke seem not only an unnecessary weapon, but now an unreliable one as well. Two more prototypes were built late in 1938, the V4 (D-OSNP) and V5 (D-OTGN). These two were mostly identical to the V3, but had several slight modifications, such as a modified windshield. Judging by photos, one obvious trait V4 and V5 had over V3 is the lack of the radio mast mounted on the cockpit of the V3. V4 and V5 were sent to the Echlin Erprobungsstelle, a major aircraft development and testing airfield for the RLM (Reichsluftfahrtministerium, German Ministry of Aviation). The trials at this site yielded favorable evaluations of the aircraft and three pre-production examples were ordered.
While all of this was going on, Tank was finally able to acquire two DB 600A engines for his Falke. The plane that mounted these engines would be the V6. Before the V6 was built, Tank had shown interest in surface evaporation cooling, a drag reducing novelty which had been researched and developed by Heinkel and was soon to be worked on by Messerschmitt. With the V6 now under construction, Tank drew plans to apply the feature into the prototype to give it peak performance. V6 (CI+NY) first flew in early 1939 and showed how well the new engines and surface cooling made the aircraft perform. On takeoff, the V6 had 1,000 HP from each engine, a 43% boost over the previously used Jumo 210s. During one test flight, the V6 was flying 395 mph (635 km/h) in level flight.
The three pre-production examples previously mentioned were designated Fw 197A-0. These were were fully armed. The A-0s added armored glass to the windshield and carried two more MG 17s. The A-0 planes also returned to using the Jumo 210 engines. Due to the additional weight, the performance of the A-0s was a bit lower than the prototypes. However, the RLM continued to argue against the Falke, claiming that, because it had no defensive armament, the Fw wouldn’t be as effective as the Bf 110 in the same role (despite it being able to outperform the 110 performance-wise). The final decision related to the Falke was an idea to turn it into a night-fighter in 1943. Nothing ever came out of this proposal.
The Factory Defender
Although the Bf 110 seemingly took the Falke’s place, its story continued. As the Royal Air Force (RAF) began its attacks over mainland Germany in 1940, aircraft firms scrambled to defend their valuable factories. Several firms formed a “Industrie Schutzstaffel”, which was an aerial defence program which would have aircraft company’s factories and testing sites be defended by aircraft piloted by test pilots and to be managed by on-site personnel. Focke-Wulf was one such firm and, luckily for them, three fully operational Fw187A-0s were ready and waiting to be used in combat. These examples were sent to the Focke-Wulf factory at Bremen and were sent on numerous missions to defend the plant from Allied bombing. Allegedly, Dipl.-Ing (Engineer’s degree) Melhorn claimed several kills while flying one of these aircraft. After the stint in Bremen, the three were put back into armament and equipment testing. In the winter of 1940 to early 1941, the three were sent to a Jagdstaffel unit in Norway, where they were evaluated by pilots. One of the three was sent to Værløse, Denmark in the summer of 1942 and temporarily assigned to Luftschiess-Schule. It is likely the remaining 3 and prototypes were either scrapped or destroyed by Allied bombing, as no examples are known to have survived the war. Some sources claim the aircraft Melhorn flew was the V6 converted into a single seater and armed for combat, but no proof supports this.
The Fw 187 was no secret weapon. After the fighting in France died down, the Propaganda Ministry began producing film and photos of the Fw 187 in 1940-1941 to persuade the Allies into thinking the Falke was fully operational and replacing the Bf 110 as the Luftwaffe’s all new Zerstörer. In reality, the latter was taking over the role of the former. The campaign sort of worked, as the Fw 187 was now a part of the rogue’s gallery that the Allies expected to fight. Identification cards, models and even movies were made to train pilots in the event they should encounter the two engine terror in combat. One such film denotes that the Fw 187 is “a rare bird” and that they should comically “make it extinct”. This shows that the Allies didn’t completely fall for the propaganda that claimed it was being produced in mass quantity.
The Fw 187 had a twin engine design. The airframe was of all light metal construction. To reduce drag, the airframe was actually narrower at its widest point than other fighters of the time. The wings were of metal construction and divided into three sections. The connected segments carried the fuel and the outer segments had the flaps installed. The first and second prototypes had a single seat cockpit. The cockpit was covered by a canopy that slid aft. The cockpit itself wasn’t built for comfort, as it was built for an average sized pilot. The cramped cockpit lacked the necessary space to mount certain instruments and had these mounted outside on the engine cowlings. V1 had tail sitting landing gear, with all three wheels being able to retract into the hull. V2 was similar to V1, but had modified control surfaces. Beginning after the first two, all examples of the Fw 187 had an extended greenhouse cockpit to accommodate the radioman. The cockpit now opened up in two sections, one to the front and one to the rear. The fuselage was lengthened to some degree as well. The extended cockpit required the fuel tank to be moved down the fuselage. The engine nacelles were shortened to allow landing flaps to be added. V3 also had a radio mast mounted on the rear part of the cockpit. V4 and V5 had this removed.
For engines, the majority of the Falke’s used the Jumo 210 engine. V1 mounted the 210Da, V2-V5 using the 210G, V6 using the powerful DB 600A engines and the A-0 reverting back to 210Gs. The aircraft performance stayed the same overall, with the V6 having peak performance speedwise.
For armament, V1 mounted two MG 17 machine guns. V3 had accommodations for two more MG FF cannons but only mockups were added. When the A-0s were rolled out, an additional two MG 17s were added to fill the Zerstorer role. The extra two had their ammunition mounted in front of the radioman’s seat.
Fw 187 V1 – First prototype. Mounted two Junkers Jumo 210Da engines. Originally mounted Junkers-Hamilton propellers but was changed to VDM airscrews. Originally had two wheeled forward landing gear which was switched to single during development. Fitted with two MG 17 machine guns.
Fw 187 V2 – Second prototype, had different rudders and a semi-retractable tail-wheel. Had fuel-injection Jumo 210G engines.
Fw 187 V3 – Third prototype. Two seat version, the cockpit was lengthened to accommodate the radioman. The engine nacelles were shortened some degree to allow new landing flaps.V-3 also mounted two MG 17 machine guns and two MG FF cannons.
Fw 187 V4/Fw 187 V5 – Fourth and fifth prototypes. Nearly identical to V-3, aside from several small modifications, such as having different windscreens.
Fw 187 V-6 – Sixth prototype. High speed version that mounted Daimler Benz DB 600A engines.
Fw 187A-0 – Pre-production version. Three were constructed. Armed with two MG FF cannons and four MG 17 machine guns. Frontal armored windshields were added. These three were tested and sent to various locations for trial and defensive purposes.
Nazi Germany – The sole operator was Nazi Germany, which reportedly used the Falke during the air defense of Bremen in 1940.
Nazi Germany (1939)
Experimental Jet Plane – 2 Built
On the 27th of August 1939, test pilot Erich Warsitz made the first test flight above the Rostock-Marienehe factory airfield with the new Heinkel He 178. With this flight, the He 178 went in to history as the world’s first fully operational jet-powered aircraft.
In March 1936 Dr Hans Pabs von Ohain, a pioneer of the gas-turbine engine, and Max Hahn were hired by aircraft designer and manufacturer Ernst Heinkel, founder of Heinkel Flugzeugwerke. Their objective at Heinkel was to design and build a working turbojet engine. The concept of a jet turbine engine was not something new at the time, but no one had applied it efficiently or used its potential for the development of the future of aviation.
Other German firms also showed interest in the radical and revolutionary idea of new jet engine technology, especially Junkers Flugzeugwerke. Junkers engineers would eventually develop the first operational combat jet fighter in the world, the Me-262. Heinkel hoped to achieve building the first operational and functional jet engine before all other firms, as quickly as possible.
In September of 1937, the first prototype of the new turbo-jet engine, named HeS 1 was demonstrated. It could achieve a thrust of 551 lbf (250 kgf). The next version, the HeS 2, was deemed a complete failure, with only some 198 lbf (90 kgf) of thrust and subsequent work on this design was abandoned.
The next developmental model, the HeS 3 was ready and tested in 1938. The HeS 3 reached 970 lbf (440 kgf) of thrust, weighing 793 lbs (360 kg) and had a diameter of 3 ft 11 in (1.2 m). Heinkel used one modified He 118 plane and equipped it with this test jet engine slung under its fuselage. This was however not the first operational jet aircraft, as the testbed took off and landed under its own piston engine’s power. This flight is generally considered to be a success.
A new upgraded HeS 3b, upgraded from the earlier 3a version, with some 1,100 lbf (500 kgf) of thrust, was ready to be tested in 1939 in a specially designed aircraft, the He 178 which had been completed earlier that year.
The He 178 was a shoulder wing aircraft, made mostly of wood with a semi-monocoque metal fuselage. The He 178 was equipped with retractable landing gear. The pilot’s cabin was located well forward of the wing’s leading edge. The jet engine drew in air from the front nose inlet, with the jet exhaust emerging from a long narrow pipe at the rear of the aircraft, in the tail. Later a new HeS 6 engine was installed, with 1,300 lbf (590 kgf) of thrust.
The characteristics of the He 178 were as such: maximum speed with the HeS 3b was 580 km/h (360mph). The theoretical estimated maximum speed was much higher, up to 700 km/h (435 mph), but the question of whether it could have been successfully achieved lingers. Service ceiling was 7000m and the effective range was some 200 km.
On its first test flight the engine ingested a bird which caused some minor internal engine damage, but the pilot managed to safely land the plane. Despite this incident this first test flight was considered a success. After several more test flights were accomplished, the first He 178 (V1) was placed in the air museum in Berlin, where it would eventually be destroyed in a 1943 bombing raid. Soon after, the assembly and production of the second plane was ready with some modifications, most importantly larger wings. The second prototype (V2) never flew, and it is not known if it was ever completely built. It’s fate is unknown.
Luftwaffe officials showed little interest in jet aircraft with fuselage mounted engines, due to the increased complications involved in their design and maintenance. Fuselage mounted engines required more rigorous technical inspections, presented production complications, and were overall seen as less efficient designs. Officials instead preferred fighter aircraft with wing mounted turbojet engines, such as the later Me 262 and He 280. In the end the He 178 project as a fighter aircraft was abandoned.
The first airframe was designated V1, with the second unfinished airframe with larger wings designated the V2.
He 178 V1 – Experimental jet-aircraft
He 178 V2 – Second prototype jet-aircraft
Heinkel He 178 Specifications
23 ft 7 in / 7.2 m
24 ft 6 in / 7.48 m
6 ft 10 in / 2.1 m
86.04 ft² / 7.9 m²
One HeS 3b centrifugal-flow turbojet
3,572 lb / 1,620 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight
4,405 lb / 1,998 kg
360 mph / 580 kmh
Estimated (theoretical) maximum possible speed up to 435 mph / 700 km/h
Nazi Germany (1940)
Prototype Passenger/Transport Plane – 2 Built
Born out of Deutsche Lufthansa’ vision of an advanced airliner to replace the aging Ju 52 after the war, the BV 144 is arguably one of the rather unique looking passenger airliner planes of the 20th century. Although designed by Blohm & Voss in 1940, the first flying prototype wouldn’t take to the air until 1944, when the development of the BV 144 was no longer relevant to its original purpose and the Germans were in full retreat.
With rapid advances in Western Europe throughout 1940, Nazi Germany was confident that the war would be over soon. With such conditions in mind, it was very reasonable for Deutsche Lufthansa to start drafting up plans for their commercial airliner services after the war. Looking for a new aircraft to replace their aging Junkers Ju 52 transport, Deutsche Lufthansa turned to Blohm & Voss in 1940 in hopes of an advanced airliner. The design was finalized in early 1941, and was ready to be constructed. With France recently defeated, the Germans decided to take advantage of the French industry and ordered two prototypes to be constructed at the Louis-Breguet Aircraft Company factory in Anglet, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine province of France.
Although construction started in 1941, the first prototype would not be completed until sometime between July and August of 1944. By this point, the war situation for Germany had became alarmingly worse and the BV 144 was no longer seen as important. Another factor which may have been the cause of the slow construction was the deliberate low effort put into construction by the French workers, as they didn’t wish to help Germany progress. Finally, in August of 1944, the first prototype of the BV 144 would take to the sky. Unfortunately for the Germans however, the Allied forces were moving rapidly through France after Operation Overlord. This meant the Germans were forced to abandon the BV 144 prototype due to their retreat.
After the Liberation of France, the Louis-Breguet Aircraft Company factory fell back into French hands, as well as the completed BV 144 prototype and the second unfinished prototype. Both were transported to Toulouse via road and received French registration numbers. Intrigued by the relatively advanced design, the French would continue testing the BV 144 post war. The second unfinished prototype was also completed by the French post war, but it is unknown whether or not this prototype flew before the termination of the BV 144 project once and for all. Both prototypes were scrapped.
The BV 144 was an all metal monoplane with a distinguishing high wing design and a tricycle landing gear configuration. It would have been powered by two BMW 801 MA 18-cylinder engines generating 1600 horsepower. The wings were located at the shoulder position of the fuselage, giving the engines a large ground clearance. Combined with the relatively short tricycle landing gear, the design would be advantageous to passengers as the fuselage would be close to the ground, allowing much easier boarding and disembarking.
The cockpit consisted of a pilot and a co-pilot in a stepped cabin, as well as a compartment for a radio operator. Following this compartment, there would have been a cargo storage, a passenger compartment, a toilet and another cargo storage. At the cost of some cargo and a less spacious passenger compartment, the passenger count could have been raised to 23 from the original 18.
Foreseeing problems with takeoff and landing, Blohm & Voss designed the plane with variable incidence wings, which meant there were electric-mechanical systems fitted into the BV 144 that allowed the wing to rotate 9 degrees around its tubular main spar within the plane. Such a system was previously tested in 1940 on the Blohm & Voss Ha 140V-3 hydroplane with success. This interesting system would have allowed the pilot to change the sweep angle of the wings during low speed landing and takeoffs without having to shift altitudes. It would also allow the pilot to have a slightly better view during landing. Along with that, long slotted flaps were also provided to aid in landing.
Another interesting feature of the BV 144 was the aforementioned tubular main spar, which was patented by Richard Vogt, the chief designer for Blohm & Voss. Although quite light in terms of weight, the spar would have been able to provide excellent load carrying characteristics. On top of this, as a surprising feature, the spar could also have been used to carry extra fuel. The last notable feature of the BV 144 was the defrosting system located at both wingtips and the tail section. The system would have allowed the tips and tail to stay warm using heated air provided through an oil burner.
Nazi Germany – The BV 144 was intended to be used by the Deutsche Lufthansa, and possibly even the Luftwaffe as an advanced airliner meant for short-medium distance routes.
France – The French took over both prototypes of the BV 144 once the Germans retreated out of France and continue development of the plane postwar for a while before ultimately scrapping the project in the end.
The Messerschmitt Me 209 (also known as the Bf 109R) was a racing plane designed by Willy Messerschmitt in 1938. The Me 209 would later establish a new world record which would not be beaten until 30 years later. Although commonly associated and confused with the Me 209 fighter plane designed in 1943, it holds no association at all other than the name. To this day, only the fuselage of Me 209V1 has survived and is now on display in a museum in Krakow.
Conceived in late 1937 by Willy Messerschmitt, the primary and sole focus of the Me 209 was speed. On August 1, 1938, the first test flight of the Me 209V1, piloted by Hermann Wooster, had lasted only 7 minutes due to engine and coolant problems.
Even though established practice dictated that if an aircraft had more than a dozen problems, it was to be abandoned, however Nazi officials were unwilling to give up on this promising aircraft due to the potential impact the aircraft could generate. Eventually, on April 26, 1939, piloted by Fritz Wendell, the Me 209 set the speed record it would hold for 30 years, though the He 100, the previous record holder, was suspected to have been able to break this record had it flown at a higher altitude but was prohibited from doing so by Nazi officials.
The designation Bf 109R was used for propaganda uses in order to cause confusion with the Luftwaffe’s primary fighter, the Bf 109, to maintain an image of invincibility which persisted until the Battle of Britain.
The Me 209 had a unique design, featuring a cockpit placed far back at the rear and a cross shaped tail section. A difference between the Me 109 and 209 was that it had a broad-track, inward-retracting undercarriage mounted in the wing section, instead of the fuselage. There was no tail wheel, instead using a spring loaded metal skid, which retracted into the lower part of the tail.
Because of the success of the racer, the Nazis attempted to arm it. The main factor that had inhibited adding weaponry was the fact that wings were almost entirely taken up the engine’s liquid cooling system, which was massive. The engine consumed 2 gallons (9 liters) of coolant water a minute. Holding 50 gallons (450 liters) of coolant, it had a flight time of approximately 35 minutes.
On August 1st of 1938, the Me 209V1 flew for the first time. Piloted by Hermann Wurster, the test flight lasted only 7 minutes. Unfortunately, Wurster found the plane very unsatisfactory. In a Messerschmitt AG document found post-war by the Allies, it was found that Wurster made several complaints about the Me 209.
The engine ran unevenly
The high temperature reached by the coolant fluid resulted in unsatisfactory cooling
Cockpit ventilation was inadequate, and engine gasses entered the cockpit, which necessitated the constant use of an oxygen mask
The landing gear could not be extended at speeds greater than 155 mph (250 km/h)
The main wheels tended to drop out of their wheel wells during high speed maneuvers
Fuel filler caps loosened at high speed
Undercarriage hydraulic oil escaped from its reservoir and sprayed on the windscreen
The takeoff run was excessive, and the takeoff characteristics dangerous
Visibility from the cockpit was limited
Marked instability noted during climbing maneuvers
The rudder was inadequate to control the plane’s yaw movement
When banking at full throttle, the plane rolled itself over
Stick forces were excessive and tiring
At speeds around 100 to 105 mph (160 to 170 km/h) the controls softened up
Landing characteristics were extremely dangerous
On touchdown, the plane swerved violently
It was impossible to employ the brakes during the landing run, as immediately when they were applied, the aircraft swerved from the runway
The only remaining Me 209V1’s fuselage, formerly part of Hermann Göring’s personal collection, currently lies in the Polish Aviation Museum in Kraków, Poland. Germany has offered to purchase the Me 209 but has been unable to do so.
Me 209V1: The first version of the Me 209, which used the Daimler-Benz DB 601A and had steam cooling.
Me 209V1 (mod. 1939): This was the variant that set the speed record of 755.138 km/h (~469.22 mph). It was fitted with the DB 601ARJ engine, a modification of the DB 601A, which brought the total horsepower up to 2,300, from 1,800. It suffered greatly from overheating when operating at full power.
Me 209V2: It crashed during a test flight and was completely destroyed, and was subsequently abandoned.
Me 209V3: Originally intended to break the speed record, it was made too late. Instead, it became a test bed for improvements.
Me 209V4: One built. It was to be armed with two 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns in the cowling and 20 mm MG FF/M cannon firing through the propeller hub. It also would have had lengthened wings and vertical stabilizer, strengthened undercarriage, a stock DB 601N engine, and did not feature a surface evaporation cooling system. Tests showed that the modifications made the plane inferior to the Bf 109E series, and was therefore abandoned.
Nazi Germany (1942)
Light Transport and Trainer – 1,216 Built
The Siebel Si 204 was a twin engined light transport and trainer aircraft built by Siebel for the Luftwaffe in World War II.
The story of the “Siebel” factory starts in the 1934, with the founding of “Hans Klemm – Flugzeugwerke Halle“ that was a branch of “Leichtflugzeugbau Klemmin Böblingen”. In December 1937 the name changed to “Siebel Flugzeugwerke“ when it was taken over by Friedrich Siebel.
Initially Siebel had a license to produce the Focke-Wulf Fw 44 “Stieglitz” and later during the war Heinkel He 46, Dornier Do 17 and the Junkers Ju-88. In addition to the production of licensed aircraft, in 1937, “Siebel” produced its own aircraft under the name Fh 104. It had its first test flight that same year, and some 46 planes where build during the period of 1938-42. The Fh 104 made a number of notewortly flights:
In March of 1939 flying a 39975 km tour of Africa,
Winning the “Littorio rally in Italy”,
And flying a 6200 km across 12 countries in 1938 (Europa Rundflug).
By the end of 1930, “Siebel” company was commissioned by the Luftwaffe to design a new type of all-metal twin-light light transport aircraft with a capacity of eight persons with two crew members. In 1940 the first prototype of the twin engine and larger and also heavier Si 204 appeared with originally a conventional stepped cockpit and a powerplant of two 360 hp (268 kW) Argus As 410 engines . The prototype made its first flight during the period of May to September 1940. Second prototype made it first test flight in early 1941. The third prototype was re-designed as a trainer aircraft for blind flying. Because of this, its first test flight was only possible at the end of 1941 or the beginning of 1942. The other 12 planes produced by “Siebel” were used for general flight evaluation. After this small production run Siebel stopped building this aircraft, and future planes would be built in France and Czechoslovakia.
Model A was build in relatively small number by the French “SNCAC” (Société Nationale de Constructions Aéronautiques du Nord) factory. It was designed as a transport and communication aircraft.
The next model D appeared in 1942, with a new glazed nose and cockpit with no separate flat windscreen for the pilot. Almost all German bomber aircraft during the war shared this design. The D model also had more powerful 600 hp As 411 engines. The D model was used for radio navigation and for training. This model was mostly used during the war.
The production of the D-3 version start in October 1944 by the “Aero” company. The D-3 had wooden wings and a tail-plane made of wood because due to material shortages. In France, production of this aircraft was stopped in August 1944 as a result of the Liberation.
“BMM” produced the aircraft until October 1944 and then changed to producing spare parts for the Si 204. The “Aero” was scheduled to cease production of the D-1 in March 1945 after building 486 aircraft and then switch to D-3 only. The E version was built in limited numbers and can be considered as an experimental series.
After the war, production of Si 204 continued in Czechoslovakia and France. Czechoslovakia produced some 179 Si 204D, developed into military trainer variants Aero C-3A, passenger variant C-103 and military transport variant D-44. France produced 240 transport NC.701 Martinets and a number of passenger NC.702 Martinets.
During the war the Luftwaffe put the plane to use for transport, communication while also seeing use as an advanced trainer and blind flying trainer.
It was generally regarded as a good plane, but with some drawbacks like the lack of any armament, which prevented many exercises for the combat training program and possible use as a combat aircraft, although for this role it is not designed.
Designers in Halle had developed few different military projects, like installing bomb racks, machine gun turrets and other necessary equipment, but none of these plans were ever realized. This problem was attempted to be solved with some modified Si 204D airplanes with three 13mm MG 131 machine guns, intended to be used as a night combat aircraft but this model was not used in combat and was built in limited numbers.
Despite these unsuccessful attempts, Germans tried to make a new bomber variant, in order to be used in anti guerrilla fighting with a built to this specification. Three Si-204E were sent to the military tests in Belarus. They were treated as special anti-guerrilla aircraft. The scope of the actions of the Belarusian partisans forced the Germans to throw against them not only regular troops, but armored vehicles and aircraft. The extent to which they were used in this role remains unknown.
Si 204 is reported to has the “honor”, of being the last German aircraft shot down on the Western Front. On May 8, 1945 an Si 204 was shot down by an American P-38 Lightning, three miles southeast of Rodach, Bavaria.
Because Siebel produced the Junkers Ju-88 under licence and the need for as many military aircraft as possible, Germans decided to increase the volume of production for this aircraft. This was done by moving the production to French “SNCAC” and Czechoslovakian “Aero”, and “ČKD-BMM” factories. The “SNCAC” produced some 168 aircraft and the “Aero” and “ČKD-BMM” produced 1033 aircraft, Siebel produced only the first 15 prototype Aircraft, before the production was stop in favor of Ju-88. In total some 1,216 aircraft of this type where build, during the war.
Si 204 – Prototype version with 15 plane build by Siebel (Number V1 to V15),
Si 204A – Model A was a transport and a communication aircraft, with crew of two and eight passengers.
A-0 – Passenger plane version,
A-1 – French built version.
Si 204B and C – Were paper projects
Si 204D – Model with a new glazed nose and cockpit and with two 600 hp As 411 engines. Model D was used for radio navigation and for flying training.
D-0 – Blind flying trainer,
D-1 – Czechoslovakian production version,
D-3 – This model had wooden wings and tailplanes, in order to save on metal.
204E – Experimental night fighter plane. This model had on its nose two 13mm MG 131 machine guns plus one more machine gun (same caliber) in a glazed cupola on the upper hull of the plane. This model was not used in combat and was build in limited number using rebuild Si 204D planes.
E-3 – Proposed version to be armed with bombs, and to be used in anty guerrilla fighting, possibly only few were build.
Flying carrier – Paper project that was originally intended to carry one DM-1 (Doctor Alexander Lippisch plane) on the back of a Siebel Si 204. Little is known about this project
Aero C-3 – Used for flying and crew training,
Aero C-103 – Used for Civilian transport,
Aero D-44 – Military transport version.
SNCAC NC.701 Martinet – Military transport version with SNECMA 12S-00 air-cooled V-12 engines,
SNCAC NC.702 Martinet – Improved Passenger transport version.
Germany – Most produced planes where used by the Luftwaffe as advanced schools training, transport, blind flying trainer (usage in this role was at best was sporadic) and communication. There were plans for arming this plane for night fighter and anti-partisan operatons, but it all left on paper only with few model build and not a single one was used in combat.
Czechoslovakia – Used German build planes and the new Aero C-3 version after the war.
France – Used some captured German planes and also the NC. 701 version which was build by France after the war.
Hungary – Operated some C-3 Aero version after the war.
Poland – Used six NC.701 version.
Soviet Union –They were captured in some numbers at the end of the war. At first, the captured Si-204 was mostly used by the military. The headquarters of many regiments and divisions stationed in Germany used the Siebel for official flights, but only for short period.
Sweden – Operated five NC.701 (1962-1970) for mapping photography.
Switzerland – Operated some Si.204 D planes.
Specifications (Si 204D)
70 ft / 21.33 m
39 ft 3 in / 12 m
14 ft / 4.25 m
495 ft² / 46 m²
2x Two Argus As 411 12 cylinder inverted piston engines (447kW/600 hp)