Nazi Germany (1942)
Jet Fighter Concept – None Built
The Fw 190 Strahljäger (Jet Fighter) was a conceptual turbojet fighter and the Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau firm’s first attempt to design a jet-powered fighter. First mentioned in a report dated November 5, 1942, the Fw 190 Strahljager would have seen the BMW 801 radial engine replaced by a Focke-Wulf T.1 turbojet engine capable of producing 1,300 lb / 600 kg of thrust at most. Short-lived and canceled mere months after its conceptualization, the Fw 190 Strahljäger is quite mysterious in many aspects, such as how the engine would have performed while mounted. Unfortunately, due to the unique nature of the design, the Fw 190 Strahljäger has been the victim of falsification and malicious misinformation. One of the most popular claims on this aircraft was that it was built. This is almost assuredly false, as no primary sources support this claim. A photo does exist which purports to show a Fw 190 with the jet engine, but this photo is definitely a fake as there are too many discrepancies and questionable content, such as the plastic model looking landing gear. Nonetheless, the Fw 190 Strahljäger is quite an interesting design from 1942 that shows Focke-Wulf’s attempts to remedy the powerplant issues of their Fw 190.
When first fielded in August of 1941, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger (Shrike) made a positive impression with Luftwaffe pilots. Seemingly equal or superior to most contemporary Allied fighters, the Fw 190 gained a fearsome reputation among the Allied pilots, who at first did not even realize the Fw 190 was a new aircraft model. Despite the success of the Fw 190, there were several problems with the aircraft’s design. For one, the air-cooled 14-cylinder BMW 801 radial engine which powered the aircraft was prone to overheating due to inadequate cooling systems and, as a result, would produce fumes which would seep into the cockpit and suffocate the pilot. This issue was somewhat addressed in subsequent production variants, but the problem was never snuffed out. In an attempt to address this issue, the Bremen-based Focke-Wulf firm began to look into the possibility of changing the powerplant. However, it was not until late 1942 that the firm launched several design ventures for a new design. In the spring of 1942, the Focke-Wulf firm received a considerable amount of funds from production orders for the Fw 190 by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM / Ministry of Aviation). The goal of the design venture was to provide a successor to the Fw 190 by replacing the BMW 801 with more promising engines being developed at the time.
One of the designs which resulted from this venture was the Fw 190 Strahljäger (jet fighter), a curious design that first appeared in documents on November 5, 1942. This design explored the feasibility of replacing the BMW 801 with a Focke-Wulf designed turbojet engine. Even before 1942, the Focke-Wulf firm looked into the possibility of replacing the BWM 801 with a turbojet. Dr. Otto Pabst, a Focke-Wulf engineer, told British officials after the war that he attempted to design a jet engine which would be used for the Fw 200 Condor bomber before the Second World War started. The report which entails his interview states: “Dr. Pabst had also worked on a gas turbine engine to be constructed by Focke-Wulf, which consisted of a double entry radial compressor and a single stage axial flow turbine with a single annular burner chamber which was expected to produce 600 kg (1,300 lb) thrust at 11 km (7 mi) or 2 kg (4 lb) thrust at sea level.“ The 4 lb / 2kg thrust at sea level is likely an error by the document author, and the more realistic thrust would be 440 lb / 200 kg. The engine in question was the Focke-Wulf T.1, and this same engine was envisioned to power the Fw 190 Strahljäger.
Much of the Fw 190 Strahljäger’s developmental history is unknown due to poor documentation and the project’s short lifespan. It would appear that the Fw 190 Strahljäger was designed with the intent of making the turbojet nose easily adaptable to standard Fw 190 airframes. Surprisingly, estimated performance graphs on the Fw 190 Strahljäger exist and demonstrate improvement over the standard Fw 190 A variant. Despite this, however, the Fw 190 Strahljäger’s top speed was lower than the Heinkel firm’s He 280 jet fighter and the Messerschmitt firm’s Me 262 fighter. As such, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium decided that the project was not worth pursuing and priority was given to the other firm’s jet fighter programmes. As such, the Fw 190 Strahljäger project would come to an end either in very late 1942 or early 1943, after only two or three months of development time. The original intent to replace the BMW 801 with a turbojet failed, and the Fw 190 program would evolve to utilize improved and reliable conventional reciprocating engines and propellers.
Fact or Fiction? – Author’s Analysis
With the mysterious and unique nature of the Fw 190 Strahljäger design, several online publications from recent times have made several claims about the project, with the most important being that a Fw 190 was actually converted to test the turbojet. This claim is certainly false, as primary documentation and credible historians show that the project did not even make it past the drawing stage. Although the Focke-Wulf firm could have easily taken a factory fresh Fw 190 off of the production lines to test this, just because they could does not mean they did.
There does exist a photo which claims to be evidence that a Fw 190 Strahljäger was built, but there are several discrepancies which suggest that it is fake. For one, the landing gear seems rather plastic, and the shadows are questionable. The shadow of the main wing suggests it is evening or morning and the sun is off to the left, while the shadow from the tailplane is projected as if the sun is behind the plane. Furthermore, it appears that two Werfer-Granate 21 rocket launchers are hung beneath the wing. If a hypothetical aircraft was converted to test the engine, it would make no sense for it to retain the launchers especially when it takes little time to remove them. Lastly, it seems that the nose exhaust is at the wrong angle relative to the fuselage. In conclusion, this appears to be a photo of a model which has been bleached to give the black and white effect. FotoForensics (used to detect photoshopped images) does not appear to suggest that the photo was modified, but this could possibly be due to the image not being the original one.
Other than that, a curious nomenclature which has surfaced in recent times suggests the turbojet-powered Fw 190 would be called the Fw 190 TL (TurboLader Strahltriebwerk – Turbocharger Jet Engine). However, this claim is questionable as official documents only state the name was “Fw 190 Strahljäger”. This can possibly be chalked up to misinformation.
The Fw 190 Strahljäger was a 1942 project to mate a Focke-Wulf designed turbojet engine with a standard Fw 190 A airframe. According to credible secondary sources and an interview with former Focke-Wulf engineer Otto Pabst, the engine which would power the Fw 190 Strahljäger “consisted of a double entry radial compressor and a single stage axial flow turbine with a single annular burner chamber which was expected to produce 600 kg (1,322 lb) thrust at 11 km (6.8 mi) or 2 kg (4 lb) thrust at sea level”. As mentioned earlier, the 4 lb / 2 kg thrust was likely an error and the actual engine would produce 440 lb / 200 kg of thrust at sea level. The engine was the Focke-Wulf T.1 turbojet. The exhaust of the turbojet would be passed through a ring-shaped outlet between the engine and the fuselage. The exhaust passed through the side and bottom, but not the cockpit on the top. The engine would be accompanied by 370 gal / 1,400 l fuel, which the engine uses at 309 gal / 1,170 l per hour. This would give the Fw 190 Strahljäger a total flight time of 1.2 hours or 72 minutes.
The Fw 190 Strahljäger’s armaments consisted of two 7.92x57mm Rheinmetall-Borsig MG 17 machine guns mounted on the engine cowl and two 20x82mm Mauser MG 151/20 cannons, one in each wing. It is unknown whether or not the aircraft would have been able to carry ordinance.
Official graphs of the Fw 190 Strahljäger’s estimated performance exist. Some fundamental specifications are listed in the Specifications Table below.
Nazi Germany – The Fw 190 Strahljäger was intended to replace the Fw 190’s troublesome BMW 801 engine, but the design did not go into production due to several factors.
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Strahljäger*
* – Information taken from “Das Focke-Wulf Strahltriebwerk wird an die vorhandene Zelle Fw 190 angebout” published in 1942 by the Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau AG and “Luftwaffe: Secret Jets of the Third Reich” published in 2015 by Dan Sharp
34 ft 5.78 in / 10.51 m
197 ft² / 18.3 m²
1x single stage axial flow turbine Focke-Wulf T.1 turbojet
4 lb / 2 kg at Sea Level*
1,300 lb / 600 kg at 7 mi / 11 km
* – Likely an error in the document, the more realistic thrust would be 440 lb / 200 kg
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 (1940)
Prototype Wooden Glider – 2 Built
The Ju 322 “Mammut” was a prototype wooden glider developed by Junkers in 1940 in anticipation of the Invasion of Britain. The design was riddled with flaws and eventually scrapped in 1941 after two prototype models were made. Instead, the RLM decided to use the Me 321 as their main heavy glider. No part of the Ju 322 is known to have survived to the present day.
History of the Mammut
Operation Sealion (Invasion of Britain) was to commence in the fall of 1940, and the Germans lacked a means of transporting supplies and troops effectively. In that same year, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium, the German Ministry of Aviation or RLM, issued a demand to Messerschmitt and Junkers to design and develop a glider capable of carrying a very heavy payload. The conditions were that the glider was to be able to carry some of the heaviest equipment in service with the Wehrmacht. Messerschmitt developed the Me 321 as a result, and Junkers with the Ju 322.
The Ju 322 “Mammut” (Mammoth) was designed as a fully wooden heavy transport glider which was originally designed to carry at least 44,000lbs (19,900kg). This weight was around enough for a Panzer III/IV, FlaK 88, or a StuG III/IV or a full load of 100 troops and all necessary support equipment. The Ju 322 was designed so that cargo was to be loaded into the plane from the nose, which could be folded. The cockpit had a single position, and was located on the outside of the cargo hold on the left wing. The glider would be on a carriage which would be dropped right after take off or while airborne. The designers noted that the carriage was extremely heavy, and could not be dropped from a high altitude without it breaking. They also noted that if the carriage were to be dropped from a lower altitude, there was the risk of it bouncing back up and hitting the glider. Many different kinds of gears were experimented on, using from as little as 8 wheels to 32 wheels. As for landing, the glider was fitted with four sprung landing skids. The production variants were suppose to be fitted with three turrets armed with MG 15s. Two turrets would be located on either side of the nose, near the front of the wings and the other turret would be located near the back of the cargo compartment. The Ju 322V1 and V2 were not armed.
After two prototype models were produced, stationary tests began. It was found that the Ju 322V1 had troubles with the materials it was built with. An observation made by engineers were that the wooden structure of the glider were weakened by rot. It was agreed that this was to be blamed on poor manufacturing techniques.
When a Panzer III was loaded onto the plane, the floor broke and the Panzer III fell straight through it. This incident was partly to be blamed on the ramp design and poor wood quality. Due to this flaw, the original design was not able to be met and the maximum cargo weight was reduced twice. The first reduction was to 35,280lbs (16,000kg), the second reduction was to 24,255lbs (11,000kg). The reduced weight of cargo and reinforced floor solved the problem of loading tanks and equipment on, but at the expense of payload. As a result of this along with other changes, the designers had to reduce the plane’s maximum cargo weight to 24,255lbs (11,000kg).
A common misconception is that there was a competition between Messerschmitt and Junkers to develop the best glider and dominate the glider market. However, it was not a competition at all and each company were given specific guidelines. Messerschmitt was allowed to use steel while Junkers was only allowed to use wood. This was because the RLM was anticipating a shortage of steel, in which case the RLM could fall back on the Junkers design. It is also worth noting that the Ju 322V1 used eight tons of steel to strengthen the airframe, despite the RLM’s orders.
As the Ju 322 was in prototype stage, only two models were ordered and constructed. The only two models are known as Ju 322V1 and Ju 322V2. V1 was the only model to see testing, while V2 stood by in case V1 was destroyed. During testing of the V1, construction began on 98 airframes, although none were completed.
The Ju 322V1 made its first and only flight in April of 1941 at Merseburg Airfield. According to the reports, the Ju 90* towplane failed to lift the glider off the ground on full throttle. In a subsequent attempt, the glider was able to get off the ground. However shortly after takeoff, the tow plane pilot noticed two immediate flaws. First, the glider could not maneuver or change direction and it had no pilot during the test. Second, the glider had extremely poor vertical stability such that its wings would sway in small arcs which swung the tow plane dangerously. Because of this, the glider was immediately cut from the tow plane after take off. The glider ended up landing in a field not far from the airfield. It took over two weeks for the glider to be transported back to the airfield by towing. This was the Mammut’s only test flight, and it was deemed a failure.
* – It is interesting to note that the Ju 90 which towed the Ju 332 on it’s maiden flight was one of the two Ju 90s meant to be sent to South Africa before the war, and were therefore fitted with Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp engines which had 900hp each.
Financially exhausted and convinced that the Ju 322 will not be successful, Junkers finally terminated the projected in May 1941. As a result, the two Ju 332s were cut up and used as firewood, along with all the uncompleted airframes and spare parts still in factories.
The Messerschmitt (Me) Bf 109 is one of the most notable fighters of the Axis countries and a clear symbol of its air power during World War II. Its performance gave Germany the upper hand in the early stages of the war while also taking part in every front until the very end of the conflict in Europe. The Bf 109 was the main fighter of the Luftwaffe, later complemented by the Focke Wulf Fw 190. The Spanish Civil War was the Bf 109 saw its first combat action. It flew also with other nations such as Finland, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Hungary. After the war, it was in service with the Israelis, serving also in the Yugoslavian, Romanian and Czechoslovakian Air Forces. The versatility of the fighter was one of the main factors that allowed it to serve until 1965, with numerous variants.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is single seat, single engine fighter tasked also with the roles of air superiority, interception, escort and attacking capable of all-weather operations in day or night. It was a light all-metal monocoque design with the rudder being covered with cloth. The wing was a low cantilever design fitted with flaps, while the canopy was enclosed, featuring retractable landing gear and a tailwheel, armed with machine guns and cannons. As a result, the Bf 109 was an advanced design at the time it was introduced. Its development began back in 1934, following a 1933 Reichsluftfarhtministerium study which considered that a single-seat fighter was needed to replace the Arado Ar 64 and Heinkel He 51 biplanes that were the German first-line fighters. Furthermore, it was required for the fighter to develop speeds of up to 400 km/h (250 mph) at 6000m (19,690 ft) for 20 minutes, having an range of 90 minutes. The power plant was intended to be the Junkers Jumo 210 engine of 700 hp, while the armament was intended to be comprised of a mixture of a 20 mm gun and two 7.92 mm guns, or be armed by either the cannon or the two machine guns only. In addition, as Willy Messerschmitt was not authorized by the Reichsluftfarhtministerium to build small passenger planes for Romania, the request of building a fighter came also as a sort of compensation.
Bayerische FlugWerke began its work as it was awarded with the development contract in 1934, with the prototype flying for the first time in 1935, receiving the designation of Bf 109 by the aviation ministry and powered with a Rolls-Royce Kestrel IV engine, as new German-made engines were not yet available. Willy Messerschmitt was the designer behind the Messerschmitt Bf 109, hence the name of the aircraft, and the ‘Bf’ denomination. The development of the new fighter began, initially powered with the Rolls Royce Kestrel engine. The following two prototypes were powered with the Jumo 210A 600hp engines, and the last one was fitted with guns. Reportedly, 10 more prototypes followed in order to test the model. The result was a cantilever low-wing single engine fighter capable of speeds of up to 470 Km/h (Bf 109B) with its Junkers Jumo 210Ga engine. Further models received inverted Daimler Benz V-12 engines or racing engines. These engines yielded speeds of 380 mph (611 kmh) and 464 mph (755 kmh) respectively. Remaining the last a speed record for piston-engine aircraft until 1969. The fighter was very advanced, matching to any fighter in service at the time in combat. The earlier versions were armed with an array of two 7.92 mm machine guns in the forward cowl above the engine in the Bf 109B, while later C models were armed with two additional 7.92 mm machine guns in the wings and a 20 mm gun in the nose.
Presented to the public during the 1936 Berlin Olympics for propaganda purposes, it saw action for the first time during the Spanish Civil War with the German Condor Legion, where it quickly gained air superiority over its Soviet-made rivals Polikarkov I-15 and I-16 fighters with Werner Mölders, a future WWII ace, scoring 14 victories. This conflict also served to test the new fighter in combat and to detect the shortcomings and needed improvements, as well as to test the Luftwaffe’s tactics and doctrines that would be implemented in WWII. When the conflict came to an end, 40 fighters were gifted to Spain following the withdrawal of the Condor Legion.
The Bf 109 was considered sufficient for the operational needs of Germany until 1941, the year when it would have fulfilled its objectives. However, as the conflict progressed, the high command realized that the Bf 109 needed further upgrades. As a result, the versions Bf 109E, Bf 109F, Bf 109G, and the lesser known Bf 109K were created. Even so, the model’s many shortcomings persisted, putting it at a disadvantage to its rivals.
The Bf 109 had many advantages such as its good range and the powerful engine along with its reasonable size, agility, high speed, climb rate, dive speed, turn rate, maneuverability, and low cost. But there were other problems that prevailed during its service. The struts of the landing gear were rather fragile and narrow, retracting outwards and not beneath the fuselage. Second, Blitzkrieg hindered the fighter’s success as it had to accommodate for the tactic at the expense of autonomy, which would play an important role in the Battle of Britain. This problem was solved after the battle with the addition of extra drop tanks. Third, it tended to swing sideways during landing and takeoff. Fourth, it had a poor lateral control at high speed. Fifth, during combat when executing very close turning, the wings grooves tended to open, preventing stalling but often acting against the ailerons. And sixth, the length and ground angle of the landing gear ‘legs’ was so that it restricted forward visibility while on ground, forcing pilots to taxi in such a way that the undercarriage was put into heavy stress. This posed a problem for rookie pilots. The narrow wheel track also made the fighter unstable while on ground. The solution for this problem was to transfer the load up through the legs while taking off and landing maneuvers.
Approximately 34,000 Bf 109s were built in Germany from 1936 to 1945, in addition to the 239 made by Hispano Aviacion, 75 built in Romania by IAR and 603 made by Avia, with production lasting until 1958. Some 20 Bf 109s remain now as museum displays.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is a very interesting fighter with equally interesting design characteristics. Being lightweight was the main concept of its design, development, and construction. It was also a single engine, single seat fighter with a low cantilever wing, whose sleek monocoque fuselage was entirely made out of light-weight metal. Easy access to the powerplant, weaponry at the fuselage, and other systems was considered also as important during design process, and especially when operating from forward airfields. As a result, the engine cowling was made up of large and easily removable panels, with specific panels allowing access to devices such as the fuel tank, the cooling system, and electrical equipment. The devices containing and holding the engine made it easy to remove or replace it as a unit. The power plant tended to differ from version to version: the early versions were powered by a Junkers Jumo 210g inverted V-12 700 hp, with following versions being powered by a Daimler Benz DB 600A with 986 hp and other – more powerful – Daimler Benz engines (for further information, please see the variants). As the engine was inverted, it was reportedly hard to knock out from below. And it also featured an electrical regulator.
The wing was also full of remarkable details. One of them was the main I-beam spar, placed rather aft than usually placed, with the idea of opening space for the retracted wheel, and creating a D-shaped torsion box. This box had more torsional rigidity and also removed the need for a second spar. In addition, the thickness of the wing was slightly varied, with a cord ratio of 14.2% at the root, and a cord ratio of 11.35% at the tip. The wing was also high-loading. Another feature was the introduction of advanced high-lift devices, with automatic leading edge slats and large camber-changing flaps on the trailing edge. These slats increased the lift of the wing, improving horizontal manoeuvrability. Ailerons that drooped slightly when the flaps were lowered were also fitted in the wings, increasing the effective flap area, especially on the F series. The result was an increase on the wings’ lift. As the armament was placed in the fuselage in the earlier versions, the wing was kept very thin and light.
Another remarkable feature, which was standard in the F, G and K versions, were the introduction of two coolant radiators with a cut-off system so to reduce vulnerability of the cooling system after receiving a hit. For instance, if one radiator leaked as a consequence of an impact, the other still made it possible to fly. Even a 5-minute flight was possible with both radiators inoperable.
The canopy of the Bf 109 was a closed bird-cage design, opening sideways and having armour protection plates in the back. These armored plates also protected the main fuel tanks as it was partially placed under the cockpit floor and behind the rear cockpit bulkhead, having an L-shape. Some variants of the G version even featured pressurized cockpits.
In regards to the armament, it tended to vary from version to version in weaponry, caliber, and location. The early versions normally featured an array of two machine guns mounted in the cowling with a 20mm cannon firing through a blast tube between the cylinders. This display was to be changed after the Luftwaffe got a word about the RAF’s plans to equip its new fighters with a battery of 8 guns. This made the additional guns to be installed at the wings, either 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns or a 20mm MG FF or MG FF/M cannon in between the wheel well and slats. The C version featured the additional two 7.92mm machineguns, where a continuous belt was installed to avoid redesigning the wing and ammunition boxes and access hatches. The gun barrel was placed in a tube between the spar and leading edge.
When cannons were installed on the wings, being longer and heavier, they were placed at a farther area in an outer bay, forcing the spar to be cut with holes so to allow feeding the weapon. A small hatch was incorporated to allow access to the gun, which was able to be removed through a removable leading edge panel. The F version and the following versions had the gun changed from the wings to the nose cone, firing through the propeller shaft. Additional 20mm MG 151/20 cannons were installed in pods under the wings, which were easy to install but also forced a reduction of speed by 8 km/h (5 mph). The last version (Bf 109K) was armed with a MK 108 30mm cannon in each wing.
The additional armament, while increasing the Messerschmitt Bf 109’s firepower, also reduced its performance. Handling qualities and dogfighting capabilities were severely affected, with the tendency to swing like a pendulum while flying.
The Reich’s Warrior of the Skies
When the war started in 1939 with the invasion of Poland, around 320 Bf 109s took part in the invasion under two units (I/JG 21 and I/ZG 2). During that operation, the Bf 109s gained air superiority by destroying the Polish air and ground forces, providing escort to ground attack planes and dive bombers, such as the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka. When the invasion of Norway took place, they faced considerable resistance from the outdated Gloster Gladiators of the Norwegian Air Force, which were reinforced by British fighters from HMS Glorious and two more aircraft carriers. During the Battle of France and the invasion of the Netherlands and Belgium, the Messerschmitt Bf 109s encountered weak adversaries. In France, an ill prepared Armee de l’air was unable to face the force of the Luftwaffe while the German fighters gained air supremacy rather quickly and controlled the French skies. Battle of Dunkirk however began to highlight the limitations of the Bf 109, especially in regards to autonomy, as many were coming from bases within Germany and facing strong opposition from the Royal Air Force.
The Battle of Britain was the first battle where the Bf 109 began to show its limitations, especially that of autonomy, having little time to provide effective escort and air supremacy over the British skies. It also found a fitting rival in the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane, which were able to face the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and even were able to overpower it. The radar installations the RAF also played a role in defeating the Bf 109. Moreover, the attrition suffered during the Battle of France took its toll on the Bf 109 that took part in the campaign. As a result, the Luftwaffe – and namely the Bf 109 – was unable to achieve air supremacy and control the skies of Britain, let alone to defeat the RAF, despite the numerical superiority the Luftwaffe had over the RAF (3000 vs. 700 airplanes).
Russia would be a scenario where the fighter would have some redemption, at least in the first stages. As the Soviet Air Force had inferior assets, quality, organization, and training, the Bf 109 achieved an impressive rate of aerial victories (approximately 9200 in total), creating many aces. In addition, the pilots on-board the Bf 109 had already accumulated experience from the previous campaigns – Spain, Poland, Norway, France and England to name a few – while the Bf 109 was comparatively superior to its Soviet-made rivals. However, the superiority in numbers of the Soviet Air Force began to pay its toll on the fighters. It was during this campaign when the fighter was gradually replaced by the more advanced and robust Focke Wulf FW 190 by Summer 1942.
They also took part in the bombing of Malta, with the mission of countering the Spitfires and Fulmar fighters the British managed to sneak onto the island. Although they managed to reduce the losses on the bombers by increasing the attrition of the adversary’s fighters and ground services, the campaign had a considerable cost for the Bf 109 with 400 lost in action. At the same time, the Bf 109 was seeing action in North Africa, achieving air supremacy in the beginning, but facing adverse conditions later on, such as fuel shortages and a superior number of adversaries, alongside attrition imposed by the Luftwaffe’s own organization and training systems.
The Bf 109 also performed as one of the main air defence assets when the Allies began to wage air and bombing campaigns over Germany, targeting mainly the bombers and being benefited by dispersed ammunition and fuel storages all around Germany. The German air industry did not update its models in time or was simply unable to produce fighters enough to tackle the Allies’ air power. As a result, by 1944 the Bf 109 and other fighters were simply unable to counter the Allies’ air campaign. The Bf 109’s career with the Luftwaffe came to an end in 1945, when Germany was defeated.
During and after WWII, the Bf 109 was used by other nations, achieving considerable feats while piloting this aircraft and remaining in service for a long period of time. Finland used the Bf 109 during the Continuation War, claiming a victory ratio of 25:1 and operating with them until 1954. Switzerland received a batch of Bf 109s during the war, using them until 1955. The Bf 109 was donated by Germany and built under license by Spanish air company Hispano Aviacion during and after the war, remaining in service until 1965. Many took part in the film Battle of England. Israel also used Czech-made Bf 109s that fought during the Independence War, scoring 8 victories.
Bf 109V1 – Powered with a Rolls Royce Kestrel and with a two-blade Härzel propeller, awarding the fighter contest. Unarmed.
Bf 109V2 – Powered with a Junkers Jumo 210A of 610 hp, armed with two 7.92 machine guns over the engine cowling.
Bf 109V3 – Similar to the Bf 109V2, becoming the Bf 109B-0
Bf 109A –The A was powered by a Junkers Jumo 210D 661 hp engine, armed with two 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns in the engine cowling, with a third added experimentally in the propeller shaft. Many saw action in the Spanish Civil War with the Condor Legion.
Bf 109B – This constitutes the first series version, delivered on February 1937, featuring a shortened nose cone. Powered by a Junkers Jumo 210D inverted V-12 cylinder of 635 hp, liquid refrigerated and capable of reaching a speed of 467 km/h with two propellers. It was fitted with a variable-pitch propeller. Its armament consisted of two 7.92mm Rheinmetal-Borsig MG 17 machine guns above the engine. They saw action in the Spanish Civil War.
Bf 109C – The second series version. Powered by a Junkers Jumo 210G 690 hp engine, reaching similar speeds as well. The armament consisted of two 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns with two installed over the engine and two at the wings (thanks to the reinforced wing), having the 20mm MG FF cannon added for the first time on the C-2 at the propeller shaft. They also saw action in the Spanish Civil War.
Bf 109D – The third series had a Daimler Benz DB 600Aa of 986 hp, being the first series in having this engine as a powerplant, yielding a speed of 516 km/h. however, D-0 and D-1 were powered by a Junkers Jumo 210D engine. It was the standard fighter prior the war. The armament was the same as the C series. Initially transferred to night fighter units, it was assigned to training tasks.
Bf 109E – The fourth series of the Bf 109, of which more than 4000 units built were built. The E-1 was powered by a Daimler Benz DB 601A-1 of 1075 hp with three propellers, which required movement of the main radiators beneath the wingroots. The E-3 was powered with a Daimler Benz DB 601A of 1100 hp. The E4 had a Daimler Benz DB 601Aa inverted V-12 of 1175 hp, receiving a Daimler Benz BD601N engine later for high especially altitudes. As a result, this series could reach speeds of 560 -570 km/h. The Bf 109E-5 and E-6 were powered by a Daimler Benz 601N of 1200 hp. The E-7 received Daimler Benz DB 601A, DB 601Aa and DB 601N engines. The E-8 had had a Daimler Benz DB 601E of 1350 hp. The armament consisted of four 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns and 4 X 50kg bombs or one 250kg normally on the earlier E variants (E-1 to E-4), the E-2 having the 20mm engine-mounted cannon. The E-4, however lacked the engine gun, armed instead with the two 7.92mm machine guns in the engine cowling and two 20mm guns at the wings. The following Bf 109Es (E-5 to E-9) were normally used as fighter bombers, carrying a 250 kg bomb. The E-5 and E-6 were reconnaissance fighters lacking the 20mm guns and having the cameras behind the cockpit. The E-7 was armed with two 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns on the engine cowling and two 20mm MG FF guns on the wings. The E-8 was armed with 4 X 7.92mm machineguns, while the E-9 had only the two 7.92mm machineguns in the engine cowling, being a reconnaissance fighter. Noteworthy to point out, the E-4 had four important sub-variants: E-4/B with a 250 kg (550 lb) bomb, as it was a fighter bomber; E-4 trop, fitted for tropical service; the E-4/N with the Daimler Benz 601N engine; and the E-4/BN, with the 250 kg (550 lb) bomb and the same engine as of the E-4/N. The E-7 also had as remarkable sub-variants: E-7/Trop, fitted for service in the tropics; E-7/U2, fitted for ground attack and with more armour; and the E-7/Z, with nitrous oxide injection system.
Bf 109F – The F series were powered by the Daimler Benz DB 601N of 1159 hp (F-1 and F-2), and a DB601E of 1300 hp (F-3 and F-4), with the F-3 reaching speeds of 620 km/h. The F-1 was armed with two 7.92 mm MG 17 machineguns and a slow firing 20mm gun firing through the nose and propeller cone. The F-2 as armed with rapid firing two 15mm MG 151s and a 20mm MG FF at the nose. The F-3 was powered with a Daimler Benz DB 601E of 1350 hp, with a rapid firing 20mm gun of and enhanced armour. The F-4 was armed with two 13mm MG 151, a 20mm MG FF, and 15mm MG 151s each on pods under the wing, featuring enhanced armour. The F-5 was lacking the 20mm gun, as it was a reconnaissance fighter. The F-6 had the same mission while having no weapons whatsoever, but reportedly never came to service. The F series normally featured a drop air fuel tank. It was the most advanced in terms of manoeuvrability and aerodynamics.
The F-4 had two important sub-variants: F-4/R1, armed with two 20mm MG 151 cannons in underwing gondolas; F-4/Z with a GM-1 boost. There was also a F-4 trop, fitted for service in the tropics.
Bf 109G – The most important version with 23,500 fighters built by the end of the war. It was powered by a Daimler Benz DB 605A-1 of 1475 hp, a Daimler Benz DB 605D of 1800 hp with a MW50 injection. It could reach speeds of 469 km/h to 690 km/h. The armament consisted of two 7.92mm MG 17 or two 13mm MG 131 over the engine cowling and a 15mm MG 151 on the G-1 series. The G-2 was powered by the same engine and a similar armament, except that it was armed with the 20mm MG FF cannon. The G-3 and G-4 had the same powerplant anda different radio, the G-3 also having a pressurized cockpit. The G-5 (pressurized fighter) and G-6 were armed with a 20 or 30mm MK 108 at the nose cone, two 15mm MG 151 in the wings. They had a rudder made out of wood. The G-8 was a reconnaissance fighter, the G-10 powered with a Daimler Benz DB 605D of 1850 hp, the G-12 a training version with double controls, two-seat with a tandem cockpit, and the G-15 and G-16, which were enhanced versions of the G-6 and the G-14 respectively. The G-14 was a version armed a 20 mm MG 151 cannon, and two 13 mm MG 131 machineguns, capable of receiving two extra underwing 20mm MG 151 cannons or rocket launcher tubes. Of the G series, many were armed with two 210mm rocket launchpads under the wings or bombs.
The G-1 had the G-1/R2 and G-1/U2 sub-variants, a reconnaissance fighter and a high altitude fighter, respectively.
The G-2 had the G-2/R1 (A long-range fighter-bomber with a 500 kg [1100 lb] bomb), the G-2/R2 (reconnaissance fighter), and the G-2 trop (for the tropics). The G-4 also had the G-2/R2 (reconnaissance), G-2/R3 (long range reconnaissance fighter), G4 trop (tropicalized), G-4/U3 (reconnaissance) and G-4y (command fighter).
The G-5 had the G-5/U2 (high altitude fighter with a GM-1 boost), G-5/U2/R2 (high altitude reconnaissance fighter with the GM-1 boost), G-5/AS (high altitude fighter with a Daimler Benz DB 605AS engine, and G-5y (command fighter) sub-variants. The G-6 had, in turn, the G-6/R2 (reconnaissance fighter), G-6/R-3 high-altitude reconnaissance fighter with GM-1 boost), G-6 trop (tropicalized), G-6/U2 (with a GM-1 boost), G-6/U3 (reconnaissance fighter), G-6/U4 (light fighter with a 30mm cannon at the propeller shaft), G-6y (command fighter), G-6/AS (high-altitude fighter with Daimler Benz DB 605AS engine), G-6/ASy (high-altitude command fighter), G-6N (night fighter with two underwing 20mm MG 151 cannons), and G-6/4U N (night fighter with a 30mm cannon at the propeller shaft) sub-variants.
The G-10 and G-14 each has also their own sub-variants. The G-10 had the G-10/R2 (reconnaissance), G-10/R6 (bad-weather fighter with a PKS 12 autopilot) and G-10/U4 (with a 30 mm cannon in the engine) sub-variants. The G-14 had the G-14/AS (High altitude with a Daimler Benz DB 605ASM engine), G-14/ASy (high-altitude command fighter), G-14y (command fighter), and G-14/U4 (with a 30mm engine-mounted cannon).
Bf 109H –This version was powered with a Daimler Benz DB 601E and DB 605A, reaching speeds of 620 km/h. Discarded after operational problems.
Bf 109K – Powered with a Daimler Benz DB 605 ACM/DCM of 1550 hp stabilized at 2000 hp with a MW 50 injection. The armament consisted of two 15mm MG 151 on the engine cowling, and a 30 mm MK 108 or 103 cannon. Many were armed with two 210mm rocket launchpads under the wings or bombs. Other proposed versions never came to service.
Bf 109T – Attempted version for use in aircraft carrier, made out from modified existing versions and equipped with a tail-hook and catapult-devices, increased ailerons, slats and flaps. The armament consisted of two 7.92 machine guns mounted above the engine and two 20mm guns in the wings. Never operated in the carrier, and were reassigned to training missions.
Bf 109X – Experimental aircraft.
The Bf 109 was also built in other countries, such as Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and Czechoslovakia, having different powerplants and armament.
S-199 – Built by Avia for the Czech and Israeli air forces and powered by a Junkers Jumo 21 1F of 1350 hp and armed with two 13mm MG 131 machine guns on the engine cowling and two 20mm MG 151 machineguns under the wings.
The Spanish Series
HA-1109 and HA-1112 Buchon – The Spanish made versions of the Bf 109. The HA-1109 (also denominated HS-1109-J1L) was powered by a Hispano-Suiza 12Z-89 V-12 of 1300 hp engine, armed with two 12,7mm machineguns at the wings or 20mm Hispano 404 guns. The HA-1109-K1 had a De Havilland Hydromatic propeller, armed with two 20mm cannons and underwing rockets, followed by the HA-1109-K1L. The HA-1112-K1L seemingly featured a three-bladed propeller, powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin engine.
HA-1112-M1L Buchon – Powered with a Rolls Royce Merlin 500-45 of 1400 hp engine.
Germany – The main builder and user of the Bf 109, being its standard fighter up to 1942, when the Focke Wulf began to steadily replace it as main fighter of the Luftwaffe, mainly in the Russian Front. It served in basically all of the German campaigns during the war, as well as in the defence of Germany against the Allied incursions and the Spanish Civil War. Many famous German aces, such as Werner Mölders, Adolf Galland, and others fought with the Bf 109, scoring most of their victories. Its most excruciating test was at the Battle of Britain, where its limitations became evident, thus being unable to fully control the skies over Britain. On the Russian Front, it scored the largest amount of air and land kills against their Soviet counterparts.
Finland – The Scandinavian nation operated 159 Bf 109s after it ordered initially 162 fighters: 48 G – 2s, 11 G-6s and 3 G-8s). Three were destroyed en-route. They were used during the Continuation War, achieving notable feats. The Bf 109s were intended to replace the Fokker D.XXI, Brewster Buffalo and Morane MS-406 fighter Finland had inthose days. Remained in service until 1954.
Switzerland – The Swiss Air Force operated 10 D-1s, 83 E-3a variants, 2 F-4s and 14 G-6s, using them to safeguard its neutrality and to fight off many German and Allied airplanes that violated the Swiss air space.
Spain – Spain operated D-1s, E-3s, 15 F-4s and possibly B versions of the Bf – 109. A Spanish volunteer detachment – Escuadrilla Azul – operated in Russia in assistance to Germany and operating under German units and command, using E-4, E-7, E-7/B, F-2, F-4, G-4 and G-6 variants. The Hispano Aviacion HA-1112 is the Spanish-built version of the Messerschmitt Bf 109. In service after the war until the mid-Sixties, many Spanish Bf 109s were featured in some WWII movies, such as The Battle of England.
Israel – The recently formed Israel Air Force operated the Avia-built version of the Messerschmitt Bf 109, as it bought some fighters from Czech Republic. Operated during the Independence War, it scored 8 kills.
Italy – By 1943, a considerable amount of Bf 109s were operated by the Regia Aeronautica, while the established Italian Social Republic after the fall of the fascist government operated 300 G-6s, G-10s, G-14s, 2 G-12s, and three K-4s.
Bulgaria – Being an ally of Germany, it received 19 E-3s and 145 fighters of the G-2, G-6 and G-10 versions were operated by the Bulgarian Air Force.
Romania – The Royal Romanian Air Force operated with 50 E-3s and E-4s, 19 E-7s, 2 F-2s, and 5 F-4s. In addition, it operated with around 235 G-2s, G-4s, G-6s, G-8s and 75 locally built IAR 109-6as. The Bf 109 were used after the war until 1953.
Hungary – Being an ally of Germany, the Royal Hungarian Air Force co-operated with the Luftwaffe using around 500 Bf 109Gs.
Croatia – The Independent State of Croatia operated with 50 Bf 109s of the E-4, F-2, G-2, G-6, G-10 and K versions. Initially operating on the Eastern Front, they were re-deployed to defend their national territory against allied fighters.
Czechoslovakia – Operated license-built Avia S-99/S-199. 603 were built and after the war, the Junkers Jumo 211F engine was used as powerplant. Reportedly, the Czechoslovakian made versions had a tendency to suffer accidents while landing.
Slovak Republic – Two air forces within the nation operated with the Bf 109: The Slovak Air Force, loyal to the Axis, operated 16 E-3s, 14 E-7s, and 30 G-6s. The Slovak Insurgent Air Force, loyal to the Allies, operated 3 G-6s.
Yugoslavia – The Royal Serbian Air Force operated 73 E-3s, and the post-war Yugoslav Air Force operated many Bf 109s that belonged to the Independent State of Croatia and Bulgaria.
Japan – 5 E-7 were purchased in 1941, used mainly for trials and tests.
United States – Some captured Bf 109 served with the US.
United Kingdom – Some captured Bf 109s operated with the RAF.
Soviet Union – Bf 109s that were captured operated with the Soviet Air Force.
Specifications (Bf 109 G-6)
9,92 m / 32 ft 6 in
8,95 m / 29 ft 7 in
2,60 m / 8 ft 2 in
16,05 m² / 173,3 ft²
3 m/ 9 ft 10 in
1 Daimler Benz DB 605A-1 liquid-cooled inverted V-12 of 1,455 hp
Maximum Take-Off Weight
3400 Kg / 7,495 lb
2247 kg / 5,893 lb
3148 kg / 6,940 lb
17 m/s ; 3,345 ft/min
640 km/h / 398 mph
850 Km / 528 miles; 1000 Km / 621 miles with a droptank
Maximum Service Ceiling
12000 m /39,370 ft
2 X 13mm (0.51 caliber) MG 131 machine guns
1 X 20mm MG 151/20 cannon at the nose cone of the engine
1 X 30mm MK 108 cannon at the nose cone of the engine
2 X 20mm MG 151/20 cannons at pod installed on the wings (optional)
2 X 210mm Wfr. Gr. 21 rockets
1 X 250 kg (550 lb) or 4 X 50 (110 lb). 1 X 300 litre (79 gallons) fuel drop tank