Last-Gasp Jet Fighter Heinkel He 162
Heinkel He-162 "Salamander"While easy to disregard as just another of the last-minute jet projects undertaken by the Germans as the Allies closed in, the Heinkel He-162 "Salamander" was no jury-rigged disaster like some of the other Utopian German projects. It was quite capable and a brilliant feat of engineering.
The Germans had the inspiration, the technology, the materials and, most importantly, the desperate need to crank out a capable jet fighter; the capable ME-262 just couldn't do it alone. What the Germans lacked was pilots, time and fuel.
Envisaged as a "People's Fighter" which could be flown by just about anyone, the Salamander instead was a high-performance, cutting-edge piece of hardware that stood a good chance of turning the tide of the air war if the Heer had been able to hold the Luftwaffe's airfields and oil supplies.
|The He 162 basically was a jet engine with a plane attached. It was all about the engine in the 1940s, the aerodynamics were completely understood.|
|The cockpit of the Salamander|
|Another view of the Salamander cockpit.|
|Heinkel HE162 jet in British markings.|
|BMW.003 E-1 Jet engine of the Heinkel He 162 Volksjager (People's Fighter) aircraft.|
On the bright side for the Germans, it was the start of a relatively stable period on all fronts as the Allies digested their vast territorial gains of the summer. The enabled the Germans to assemble a small army reserve with new heavy tanks and Volksturm units, insufficient to do more than temporarily stave off defeat.
|Fancy fighters were useless without highly capable men to fly them. Pilots, not planes, were the biggest bottleneck for the Germans during the closing months of the war aside from fuel.|
An Emergency Fighter Program was set up. Heinkel already had designs in the works - all aircraft designers have contingency designs ready to be worked up in short order should someone want to pay for them - and won the contract. The great advantages of the design were that it only required one jet engine, as opposed to the Me-262's two, and that it was made primarily of wood. This design thus was crafted to accommodate the real economic situation of Germany in the fall of 1944.
Heinkel cranked out the prototype in the incredibly short time of six weeks, reflecting the extreme desperation being felt by higher-ups who probably shot anyone who delayed development.
|A surviving He 162.|
|A captured He-162. From conception in September 1944 to operations in early 1945 - an incredible industrial achievement using slave labor and all exigencies of a police state.|
|Both the planes and the pilots were in great need by 1945.|
|A Luftwaffe Heinkel He 162A-1 Volksjager.|
|A Salamander and an antiaircraft gun on display at Freeman Army Air Base in Indiana.|
|A captured He 162 in British markings.|
|Line up of Heinkel He 162 Volksjager (People's Fighter) aircraft at Leck during the surrender, WWII. There were 120 He 162s at the time of Germany's surrender during WWI.|
|Apparently a post-war test of the He 162.|
|The Hinterbrühl underground production line for the He 162A. Of course, as with other production lines in the Third Reich, this would have been manned by slave labor. Untold thousands of people perished in these factories.|
|Another angle on the 120 He 162s at Leck when Germany surrendered.|
With sufficient fuel and time for pilot training, the Salamander could have made a difference. However, the Reich's time had run out. Several examples survive.
|Luftwaffe Jets Me 163 / He 162 / Me 262.|