Too little, Way too late- desperate projects of the Luftwaffe
Text by 1JMA co-founder Friis. Natter Picture by Friis, the rest found on the Web.
On replacement fighters, Volksjäegers, and disposable rocket fighters.
I always found it somehow fascinating that a an air force like the German Luftwaffe who manufactured groundbreaking planes as the Me 262 fighter, the Me 163 Comet short range rocket powered interceptor and Arado 234 Blitz recon and bomber jet ended up using recourses working on and even manufacturing quite low grade desperate fighter projects to combat the ever growing menace of the allied bomber fleets. This is especially interesting when you know that there was much political delay in getting to use the excellent Me 262 as a fighter! Although a plane that demanded a long runway and an experienced pilot, it was a plane that was, when used, was a seriuous treat in the air for any opponent.
But that is a totally different story. This, on the other hand, will be my taking on the story of 3 projects that seemed far out, but actually all got finished to at least prototype versions. I'm no expert in this field, so If you find any major mistakes here, please take them to the forum, or contact me by E-mail.
The unpowered fighter
The first idea towards a cheap fighter that I'll describe was the Blohm
and Voss Bv 40.
Dr. Richard Vogt from B&V came forward with the idea of a Ersatsjäger (substitute/replacement fighter) that simply would be a armed glider. It would be towed by a conventional fighter, and would then glide towards the bombers. Suicidal as it might seem, without engine , the glider could be made quite small, and thereby be less of a target. But the idea behind the replacement fighter was not to make a weapon system better than a Fw 190. It was to make a cheaper one, and one who would take less pilot training time.
Several firms came with designs, at least one with at least some rocket power for trust, but Blohm and Voss won in autumm 43, and were ordered to make 19 prototypes.
The design was simple. Small, ugly, heavy armoured front, beside the armour, heavy use of plywood. It was armed with 2 mk 108 30 mm guns, one beneath the root of each wing, each carrying 35 rounds. It was proposed that it should also carry a rather optimistc anti aircraft bomb on a cable, (The Gerät schlinge) but this idea was dumped as it would mean removing one of the 30 mm guns. And since a glider only can make one attack sweep, maximum firepower in that contact is the main issue. R4M rockets and 250 kg air burst bombs against the bomber formations were also suggested, but the gun arnament stayed.
The first prototypes flew in May1944 behind a Me 110. The second flew in June. Flight testing continued with the prototypes trough summer 44, and by august 44 the flight testing of the Bv 40 was finished. But by thist time the program was abandoned. Now jets and rockets were seen as the best solution towards the bomber menace.
How efficient a weapon system the Bv 40 would be is a good question. I find it hard to see glider towing Me 109’s getting into good positions above the bomber pack without attracting a lot of attention. But it would be a cheap system! Still, as a pilot, knowing I could go up in a Me 262, a Glider would seem like quite a downgrade!
Loaded weight: 950 kg
Non powered attack gliders were not the answer. And the Me 262 did not come fast enough.
So, enter the idea of the “peoples fighter”
On 1. of august all departments concerning aircraft production were transferred to Albert Speers ministry for armament and ammunition. The technical department with it’s leader Karl Otto Saur was now under control by the Speer ministry. Saur is thought to be the architect behind the idea if the Volksjäger, a lightweight, simple fast jet powered fighter that would require few raw materials and be easy to produce, but still be more efficient than the Me 109 and Fw 190s currently in use. It was to be lighter than 2000 kg, have an endurance of at least 30 minutes and be armed with 2 30 mm cannons. On the 8.of September 1944 the project requirements were issued and Arado, Blom und Voss, Focke Wulf, Junkers and Heinkel went to work.
From here things moved incredible fast. When one consider that early prototypes of the Me 262 were ready by early 1941, and saw action in 44, work on the Volkajäeger was, to say the least, swift.
In conferences held in the 15 and 19 of September, the proposed designs was debated, and the P 211 design by Blohm & Woss were thought to be the superiour, while Heinkels P 1073 were seen as a runner up. In the 23 of September, a mock up of the Heinkel were shown, and Heinkel were rewarded with the contract, despise the fact that many thought the Blohm & Woss design to be the better plane. But Goering loved Heinkels concept, so it went ahead. Heinkels P 1073 project were to be put into immediate production!
At the same time Goering came up with the rather wild idea of supplying thousands of rudimentary trained Hitler Jugend pilots for the new Volksjäger project. This might sound totally insane, but many Hitler Jugends had at least had some flight training on gliders and light planes during their training. Still, there is quite a way from flying gliders to engaging bomber fleets in a light jet fighter!
These kind of ideas, of using young boys to stop Bomber fleets were quite common in the 3 Reich at this time, it was around this time that Volksturm and Volksgrenadeer units were being planned as last ditch army units, so a kind of Volksturm in the sky fitted with the nazi idea of this time of filling the ranks by any means possible, and believing that courage and ideological motivation could replace training and equipment.
More level headed people like Adolf Galland was quite opposed to this kind of ideas, both at the technical solution and on the allocation of materials that could be used for Me 262's, but the project went on anyway.
At Heinkel they worked day and night, designers sleeping at the drawing boards. So, at the 29. of Oktober , the detailed blueprints of the future Volksjäger was ready. At Heinkel the plane was known at the Spatz, and received the He 162 title (although Heinkel designers wished for it to be called the He 500) later, more unofficial, the He 162 was called the Salamander.
The He 162 was a unorthodox design with the engine mounted above the fuselage, a design that bears some similarities to the Fi 103 (V1) flying bomb, and a design that was later seen on the experimental Hs 132 turbo jet fighter bomber. The engine used was the 109 003 A1, that was redesiginated 109-003 E1.
There was a simple ejector seat, a FuG 25A & FuG 25 radio and Revi B (later G) gunsights.
The program was incredible rushed. The development, pre production and mass production all started and ran almost at the same time. Heinkels Viella- Schwechaet plant was ordered to make 20 pre production models (v1 to v10) and then begin mass production at a nearby underground Salt mine.
The first prototype took of on the 6. December , and did okay (reached
840 km/t) , although there was an issue with defective bonding at the
undercarriage door, something that made the design team nervous, as defective
glue bonding had been an issue for Focle Wulfs Ta 154.
This did not stop development, and the V2 prototype took of 12 days later.
These thest flights showed issues with lateral instability and snaking at high speed. The V3 and V4 had it’s center of gravity, wingtips and tail modified to compensate for this.
Flights with the V6 model showed that the plane simply was too light to use the low velocity Mk 108 gun properly, so later models got a pair of 20 mm Mk 151 gun instead. The A3 model reversed to the 2 30 mm Mk 108 cannons again. (according to William Green, see sources) but none of those were build.
Work started big time on the He 162, using many subcontractors. The bombing campaign against German factories made work like this a logistical nightmare, and many small firms worked on the different wooden parts. Production of the jet engine were to be moved underground, but many of the first engines came from the BMW plant in Zühlsdorf. Still, as the production got top priority, it worked quite well.
For continuing experimenting, production aircrafts were taken straight from the assembly lines, types (V11 & V12) were tested with different engines (the Junkers Jumo 109-004 B1 turbojet) , and V16 and 17 were prototypes for a longer plane to be used as a 2 seated glider trainer
From V 25 to 27 that was flown on the 17 February, the fuselage was made longer to increase stability. Modifications to the wings were made on the V22 . These modifications were introduced on the production 162 A-2 aircrafts.
Now the He 162 flew, but it was not a novice plane, it was quite a handful.
It was not quite clear on how to use the He 162 to stop the allied bombers, but the idea seemed to be to send up huge swarms of 162’s to engage the escort fighters, leave the heavier armed me 262’s (by this time using, to great effect, R4M rockets in combination with it’s 4 30 mm cannons) to deal with the bombers.
The First unit to get He 162’s was Erptobungskommando 162, commanded by Heinz Bar, a 200 + kill ace. They worked with the 162’s from January 1945 (both ground crews and pilots)
In February I/JG 1 was transferred from the Eastern front to start converting to He 162’s. They were to have the “honour” of starting using the plane operationally. (The unit participated in the famous new years day ground attack on the western front) II/JG 1 was to start getting He 162’s from the 8 of april 45.
The groups spend a great time moving around, in the end of April Erptobungskommando 162 had moved to Salzburg-Maxgmal to join up with Gallands elite Me 262 unit. Later, after Galland was wounded, the unit moved to Saltzburg, and the planes were destroyed on may 3. I/Jg was, in the confustion and chaos moved to Leck, where, amongst other survivors, Arado 234jet bombers from I/Kg 76 crowded the landing sites. Later, remains of II/JG 1 ends up here as well.
To confuse matters even more, Hitler had moved responsibility for the jet program to the SS
On the 4 of May ,at Leck, the surviving He 162’s were formed into one large gruppe, Einsats gruppe 1/Jg 1,( with 50 He 162’s) with red arrows painted at the nose. During the closing days of the war more fragmented units were absorbed into this unit, but now it was all but over.
But the 162’s were not considered ready for combat, so the pilots were given order to avoid fighting allied planes. There are a few allied reports of meeting the small jets, a P 51 met a H 162 in April 45, and it was reported that the small jet was quite nimble, and able to climb as the P 51 but to have a better speed and acceleration.
The He 162 units surrendered without seeing any major fighting. There are quite loose reports of a single allied plane being shot down by a He 162, (One source claim that Leutenant Rudolf Schmitt from 1/JG 1 downed a Typhoon on the 4 of may with a He 162) but all in all the huge Volksjäger project ended without having any impact on the air war. The He 162 was a vicious little fighter, but it’s hard to see how huge groups of little trained Hitler Jugend boys were to have any reasonable chance in a plane like this. And it’s easy to see why expert fighter pilots like Galland much rather would had the resources that was poured into the Volksjäger used for the Me 262 instead.
Somewhere between 116 and 275 He 162’s were completed (different sources state differently) but about 800 were close to being completed when the war ended.
It was planned that by summer 45, 4000 he 162 pr. month were to be constructed.
It was also considered to use the He 162 as the top part of a Mistrel combination (Mistrel 5)
Empty weight: 1663 kg
Loaded weight: 2490kg
Maximum 30 sek Burst speed: at 6000 m, 905 km/h
But the Volksjäger was not the only desperate last ditch weapon to actually be finished before the war ended. A even more radical approach was the semi disposable rocket fighter, the Bachem Ba 349 Natter
The Natter was chosen as a semi dispensable fighter. Everything except the engine was to be the cheapest, most simple construction available. The idea was to be able to make a cheap rocket fighter in 1000 man hours.
The engine was a Walter 109-509 A2 (the type used the the Me 163 comet), and gave 1700 kg of trust for 70 seconds. For launching, 4 Schmidding solid fuel rockets were fitted to the side, giving 1200 kg of trust each for 10 seconds.
The idea was for the fighter to be launched vertically, like a missile by it’s rocket boosters. It was to rise to above the bomber formation. The pilot should then take the plane into a shallow dive and aim the fighter at the bombers, fire the rockets the fighter carried and then bale out. (the front and the rear of the plane falling to the ground separately by separate parachutes for possible re-use.
By October 44 15 machines were ready for non powered flight tests, and by 22 December 44 unmanned launching tests started. In February 45 the first test with a pilot was tried, the launch went well, but then the cockpit cover blew off and the plane crashed, killing the pilot.
10 Ba 349 A’s were set up at Kirchheim, but they never got to see any action, as advance of American ground troops forced the ground crews to destroy the planes.
The armament was to be 24 Föhn 73 mm unguided rockets (Green says 24 55 mm R4M rockets)
Loaded weight: 2232 kg
William Green. Warplanes of the second world war, Fighters, volume 1
J.R. Smith & Anthony Kay German aircraft of the second world war. (brilliant source!)
Flying review International June 1967 & July 1967
Bill Gunston: Fighting aircraft of World war II
Roger Ford: Germany’s secret weapons in world war 2.
Adolf Galland: The first and the Last, Germany's fighter force in the second world war.
If you're interested in even more advanced and "far out" Luftwaffe designs, the place to go is the Luftwaffe 46 site! Impressive work and art.