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Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe
by Jim "Twitch" Tittle

Article Type: Military History
Article Date: February 2nd, 2001

The Natter

German missilery in WWII is well acknowledged with in-service examples such as the A-4 (V-2) as the first ICBM concept and the FZG 76 (V-1) as the first cruise missile. The "V" stood for "Vergeltungwaffe," meaning vengeance weapon.

The A-4 had a range of 190 miles and was no threat outside of Europe. Hitler certainly was attracted to the idea of attacking the United States and went so far as to allow development of conventional bombers with the range to do so.

Not So Conventional Bombers
The Blohm & Voss Bv 250 was a six-engined bomber with wingspan of about 200 feet able to carry 44,100 lb. of bombs 4,350 miles or 8,800 lbs. 6,210 miles. The only prototype of its forerunner, the Bv 238V1 flying-boat, was destroyed by Ben Drew's P-51 in the spring of 1944 as it rested on Lake Schaal. The first BV 250 prototype had not been finished at war's end.

Looking for all the world like a B-29 with a scaled-up Bf-110 tail unit, the Me 234 could manage 339 mph from its four 1,700 H.P. BMW 801D 14 cylinder radials with GM 1 nitrous boost. It would be able to haul a 4,410 lb. bomb load long distances with ease.

During the July 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler and the purge of sympathetic generals it was stated on German radio that this plane would carry Hitler to Japan if the generals had gained the upper hand. It certainly could have with its 9,320 mile range.

The Ju 390

The Junkers Ju 390 was another aircraft that could and DID reach New York! Conceived in early 1942, the Ju 390 V1 first flew in August 1943. Its 165-foot wing mounted six BMW 801E 14 cylinder radials of 1,970 H.P. each. Nose and Tail turrets had twin 13mm MG. The two dorsal turrets each mounted a pair of 20mms and a remote-controlled ventral barbette housed two more. Finally, there were two more 20mms each in an aft lateral mount. Range was 5,750 miles with a 4,255 lb. load.

In February 1944 the 390 V2, with enough fuel for thirty-two hours, left France, penetrated to within twelve miles of the New York coastline, and returned safely.

As with many projects at this stage in the war, these mammoth bombers were never seen through to production.

Somewhat recognizable but most unconventional, was the Mistel (Mistletoe) project. It mounted an FW 190 or Bf 109 on stilts above a Ju 88 laden with 8,380 lbs. of explosives, sufficient to breach sixty feet of reinforced concrete in test at Peenemunde in the spring of 1944. You certainly would not want to be caught kissing under this mistletoe when the pilot above released his big brother into a shallow glide to the target.

This weapon was deployed with limited success commencing on June 1944. About 250 were easily built from standard hardware in existence at the time so there was no diversion of production from the norm in the true sense.

The Stuka replacement in the form of the Henschel HS 132 jet was well advanced at the end of the war. It had a top speed of 485 mph without, and 435 mph with its 500 lb bomb.

The rather well-known Horton Go 229 flew in early 1945. This bomber was to carry 4,400 lbs of ordnance internally at 600 mph to an altitude of 52,000 feet with four MK 108 30mms for defense. Northrup engineers later studied the "flying wing" design during the B-2 designing.

Manned Missiles
The V-1's stability problems were addressed in a unique way. A cockpit was installed and pilot Hanna Reitsch observed in-flight idiosyncrasies. Her first hand report literally set the V-1s on a straighter course.

Hanna's Bomb

The FZG 76 Reichenberg was a simple evolution from the flight observation model. It had a 770 lb. thrust Agrus pulsejet whereas the V-1 robot had 530 lbs. of thrust. It had a span of 18' 9" a length of 26" 3" and a level flight speed of 540 mph. Its parent He 111 or FW 200 would carry the craft near the target and once the pilot set the controls for final glide he would bail out. 1,000 lbs. of explosives resided in the warhead. Survival odds were considered low and, at the time, a surprisingly rational Hitler condemned the suicidal idea. The well-known Japanese equivalent was the 600 mph OKA-11, used on kamikaze missions. 175 Reichenbergs were built.

Dr. Eric Bachem envisioned a budget, mini-bomber interceptor in mid-1944 reaching production as the BA 349A "Natter" (Viper) in the winter. The tiny ship had a span of 13' and was 20' long. Its Walters HWK 109-509A rocket provided 3,750 lbs. of thrust to launch it from a vertical ramp at an astounding 37,400 fpm climb rate. Its 4.36 minutes of fuel could boost the 4,925 lb interceptor to a level speed to 620 mph at 16,400 feet.

Armament was 24 R4M rockets, the same the Me 262 used against bomber formations. Alternately, two MK-108 30mm cannons could be carried, but the expenditure of theses expensive weapons was deemed too costly. The Natters mission was to launch and be guided by radio control near the bomber stream where the pilot in an armored cockpit would then zero in and launch the Natters venom after the nose cap was released. The reusable rocket motors would be dropped by parachute as the pilot ejected himself from the spent craft that was constructed by unskilled labor using low-grade steel and wood.

The fist piloted test ended in tragedy in March 1945 when Luftwaffe Lt. Siebert was killed. The launch G force broke his neck. Thirty-six were completed by VE Day but the ten deployed never launched due to over run by rapidly advancing Allied ground forces. Russian and American forces sent examples home and one pilotless Ba 349 was launched from Muroc Army base in 1946.

The only remaining example is housed at the National Air Museum in Maryland.

Pioneer Missiles
There were guided missiles developed for air-to-surface and surface-to-air beside the air-to-air R4Ms. The Henschel Hs 293 was a rocket powered standoff weapon launched from 12,000 feet altitude and guided in to the target. The 2,870 lb. device with a 725 lb. warhead could approach at 375 mph from a maximum of ten miles distance. A III/KG 100's Do 217 launched its Hs 293 on August 27, 1943 in the Bay of Biscay and destroyed corvette H.M.S. Egret. This was the first remote-control air-to-surface missile attack recorded in history. The Hs 293D was later tested with television guidance pioneering our much-evolved weapons of today.

The SD 1400 X

The SD 1400 X was another forerunner of the smart bomb. It was powerless weighing in at 3,000 lbs with a 595 lb warhead. It had five-foot stub wings midway in its ten-foot length and tail control surfaces for accurate radio guidance. Launched from 21,000 feet the aimer used a joystick visually sighting flares in the tail to make corrections to target.

After surrendering to the Allies in September 1943, the Italian battleship "Roma" was blown in two and her sister ship "Italia" was extensively damaged by SD 1400 Xs from III/KG 100's planes.

II and III Gruppen of KG 100 continued to operate in the Mediterranean during the Salerno and Anzio landings scoring successes but suffering great losses.

The Ruhrstahl X-4 air-to-air weapon was really sci-fi in April of 1944 when it was first tested. This was a wire-guided weapon, as are today's descendants, which was un-jammable. The SD 1400 Xs and Hs 293s were effectively diverted from targets by Allied jamming later in the Mediterranean. The X-4 received its course corrections through it 3.5-mile cables as they un-spooled. Sighting and steering was accomplished with a PKS-12 gun sight. The BMW 109-448 rocket propelled the six foot long, 132 lb missiles at 520 mph to targets and the large 44 lb. warhead was detonated with a Kranich acoustic proximity fuse tuned to the frequency of the B-17's engines where it would explode at about twenty feet distant.

The BMW plant was destroyed in bombings and no X-4s were used by the Me 262 for which it was intended. The X-7 was an anti-tank weapon in embryonic stage at the war's end. These inventions are the direct predecessors of modern TOW missiles.


Today's surface-to-air missiles owe their beginnings to genius German technology of WWII. Even before massive Allied bombing raids were crumbling Germany, several projects were commenced. The weapons systems would be cheap compared to interceptor aircraft and no pilots' lives would be risked. Ground radar guidance or telescopic human visual guidance would have directed them to targets. Safer, solid fuel powered them.

The Henschel Hs 117 "Schmetterling" (Butterfly) mounted a 90 lb. warhead in a 970 lb. vehicle that was 14.1' long with a 6.6' wing and capable of 470 mph with a twenty-mile range. Twenty-five test firings were made.

Wernher von Braun designed the Peenemunda "Wasserfall" (Waterfall) based on the A-4. It was a large 25.6' long 8,400-pound vehicle with a 200 lb. warhead. Its rocket could move it at 1,700 mph with a 16.5-mile range. Thirty-five were tested.

The stubby and rotund Holzbrau-Kissing "Enzain" employed five rockets to thrust the 11.5' length and 13.1' winged SAM aloft. It 3' diameter was as large as the bigger Wasserfall. But at 4,350 lbs. it mounted a big punch in its 550 lb. warhead that could arrive at 600 mph from sixteen miles distant. Thirty-eight trial firings were made.

The Rheintochter

Probably the best overall missile was the Rheinmetall-Borsig "Rhientochter" (Daughter of the Rhein). It was a two-stage bird with an overall length of 20.7' mounting a 9' wing. Weighing in at 3,860 lbs., the Rheintochter could travel twenty-five miles at 810 mph to deliver its 220 lb. warhead in the 13.1' main body. Eighty-two launches were made in test.

And the first underwater missile launch was from the U-511 in 1942 firing a Do missile of 8.4-inch caliber from forty feet below the surface of the Baltic.

In late 1944 it was theorized that a U-boat could carry A-4s in containers underwater to the shores of the U.S. where the containers would then act as launch tubes to assault America. Work on the project was cancelled with the end of hostilities.

The last missile project of note was that of the 85 ton A9/A10. Supposedly six 56,000 lb thrust A-4 engines would lift off the huge beast to an altitude of 80,000 feet where the booster rockets of the A-9 would depart via parachute. Then the main engine would fire it the A-10 to 150 miles high at 6,000 mph. It would cross the Atlantic using wings, developed on the A-7 model, to glide the remainder of its 3,000-mile range to New York.

Though it was only a design dream, Stalin used it to threaten Truman with its use in 1946. It would be a decade before the USSR would test fire an ICBM.

For a variety of reasons, too detailed to be addressed here, German SAM programs never made it to operational status. There was just too much to do in too short a time.

The U-2's Father

A little-known chapter in high altitude reconnaissance aircraft began with the 1940 concept from Deutches Forschungsinstitut fur Segelflug of the DFS 228.

The DFS 228

The 34.7' long, 57.6' wing spanned craft was intended to be towed like the sail plane it was, to 33,000 feet where the 3,630 lb. thrust Walter rocket motor was lit. Using the boost, it would climb to between 75-83,000 feet and use the motor to maintain altitude for about forty-five minutes. It would then commence a long glide during which infrared recon photos were to be taken. By the time 39,400 feet was reached, it would have traveled 465 miles. A further 185 miles would be covered back to the ground. Of course the use of thermals would increase these ranges. A speed of 565 mph at sea level was envisioned.

The pilot compartment was temperature controlled with an electrical unit and pressurized. It could be jettisoned if need be. At a pre-determined altitude the pilot seat would disconnect and the parachute would open.

Though gliding trials were accomplished in 1944, no powered flight had been undertaken at the time of Germany's collapse. Ten were under construction at that time. A DFS 346 was in the design stage. It would have been capable of 1,250 mph (Mach 1.9) at 66,000 feet with an unknown ceiling. This would have put it between the U-2 and the SR-71 in performance!

Minute to midnight designs for advanced jet fighters were those of the Messerschmitt P.1101 and the Kurt Tank design, the Ta 183. Both had swept wings and would have been in the 600 mph range. North American Aviation engineers took direct advice from German-born aeronautical engineers on the project for the swept wings on the F-86. The 35-degree sweep was good for an additional 70 mph top speed.

While these are but some of the scientific developments undertaken by the Germans in World War II that stand out as forerunners of designs produced by the Allies in post-war times. They were truly the secret weapons of the Luftwaffe.

Aeronautical Staff of Aero Publishers, Inc.
Aero Publishers, Fallbrook, CA

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