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The National Air & Space Museum’s He-162 Salamander

The He-162: A Plane of Many Questions

The National Air & Space Museum’s collection includes a Heinkel He-162 Volksjaeger. This aircraft is made up of two He-162 airframes. Its tail section is of serial number 120222 and the rest of it is serial number 120230.

The concept behind the He-162 was to develop an aircraft made mostly with non-strategic materials, it has wooden wings, that could be assembled by workers with little skill. Pilots with little training would fly these aircraft against the Allied bombers. As such the He-162 represents the desperation and insanity of the Third Reich in the autumn of 1944.

Unlike other jet aircraft developed during World War II the He-162 went quickly from design, to first flight, to deployment. The basic project requirement was drawn up on September 8, 1944. Detailed drawings for the project were completed on October 29. The first prototype of the He-162 made its first flight on December 6. The test pilot,Flugkapitaen Peter, reported the aircraft had some longitudinal instability but it had satisfactory handling characteristics. During the flight an undercarriage door broke away from the aircraft. On December 10, Flugkapitaen Peter died when defective bonding caused his He-162 to break apart. Despite this set back two months later the pilots of I/JG1 were ordered to begin conversion training on the He-162.[i] Defective bondings and engine flameouts caused many He-162 crashes. Some of these defects may have been the results of sabotage by the slave laborers who constructed these aircraft.

The HE-162 in Combat

March 24, 1945 - Test pilot Harald Bauer was ordered to take off in an He-162 so it wouldn’t be destroyed in an imminent bombing attack on the airfield. He took off but was soon shot down by P-51s. He didn’t know the P-51s were there until they opened fire on him. Bauer was wounded but he managed to make a crash landing behind American lines where he was captured and taken to a fieldhospital.

April 19, 1945 - An RAF Tempest was shot down and its pilot was captured. The RAF pilot’s description of the victorious aircraft matched the He-162. An RAF Tempest, flown by Flying Officer Geoff Walkington of Nunber 222 Squadron, shot down an He-162, killing its pilot, Fahnenjunker[ii] Gunther Kirchner.

April 21, 1945 - He-162s flew ground attack sorties.

April 26, 1945 - Oberleutnant Karl-Emil Demuth and an enlisted pilot named Siegfried claimed they saw Unteroffizier[iii] Rechenbach shoot down an enemy fighter. Unteroffizier Rechenbach was in turn shot down and killed by a Spitfire.

May 4, 1945 - Leutnant Rudolf Schmitt claimed he shot down an RAF Tempest. Flight Officer M. Austin, the luckless Tempest pilot, bailed out safely. The Germans awarded the kill to an anti-aircraft crew.

The Smithonian’s aircraft, the 120230 part of it, is believed to have been the aircraft of Oberst[iv] Herbert Ihlefeld. Oberst Ihlefeld began flying combat missions with the Kondor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. He scored 9 kills in Spain. He shot down at least 123 aircraft in World War II.[v] Oberst Ihlefeld did not score any kills flying the He-162 but he apparently did fly combat missions in the He-162.

[i] The Warplanes of the Third Reich, by William Green,© 1970.

[ii] A rank about equivalent to a USAF Technical Sergeant.

[iii] A rank about equivalent to a U.S. Army Corporal.

[iv] Colonel.

[v] Air Aces, Christopher Shores © 1983 Bison Books Corp. This source credits Oberst Ihlefeld with 123 World War II kills, p. 52 and 130 Word War II kills p. 127.

He-162, Me-262, and Me-163 Comparison

Source: Luftwaffe Fighter Aces, by Mike Spick (c) 1996

 He-162A-2Me-262Me-163

Loaded Weight

5,490 lbs

14,101 lbs

9,042 lbs

Wing Loading

46 lbs/sq.'

60 lbs/sq.'

43 - 21 lbs/sq.'

Maximum Speed

522mph

540mph

596mph

Rate of Climb

4,230 '/min

3,937 '/min

11,810 '/min

Range

620 miles

526 miles

50 miles

Service Ceiling

36,000'

37,565'

54,000'

Armament

2x20mm cannons

4x30mm cannons

2x30mm cannons

He-162 & Adversary Comparison

Source: Luftwaffe Fighter Aces, by Mike Spick (c) 1996

 He-162Spitfire XIVTempest VP-51D

Wing Loading

46 lb/sq.'

35 lb/sq.'

38 lb/sq.'

43 lb/sq.'

Maximum Speed

522mph

448 mph

435 mph

437 mph

Service Ceiling

36,000'

44,500'

36,000'

40,000'

Rate of Climb

4,230'/min

4,580'/min

4,700'/min

3,475'/min

Range

620 miles

460 miles

740 miles

2,080 miles

Armament

2x20mm Cannons

2x20mm Cannons & 2x0.5" MGs

4x20mm Cannons

6x0.5" MGs

He-162A-2 & Gloster Meteor FMk.III Comparison

* At maximum thrust for 30 seconds - 553 mph
** At maximum thrust for 30 seconds - 562 mph
SOURCES: He-162A-2 - Warplanes of the Third Reich, by William Green (c) 1970. Gloster Meteor FMk. III - History of War (www.historyofwar.org)

 He-162A-2Gloster Meteor FMk. III

Max Speed Sea Level

491mph*

486mph

Max Speed

521mph (19,690')**

493 mph (30,000')

Initial Rate of Climb

3,780 '/min

3,980 '/min

Service Ceiling

39,400 '

46,000 '

Range

606 miles

504 miles

Possibilities

In his book, The First and The Last, Generalleutnant Adolf Galland called the He-162 a step backward compared to the Me-262. The brochure performance gives the He-162 some advantages over the Me-262. Its top speed was 20 miles per hour slower than the Me-262 the He-162 had a dash capability that could make it fly faster than the Me-262 for up to 30 seconds. The Salamander was more maneuverable but the bonding problems made taking advantage of this maneuverability risky. It had a significantly better rate of climb than the Me-262. He-162s had a range almost 100 miles greater than the Me-262s. The two 20 millimeter cannons were adequate against fighters but not against heavy bombers. It took an average of 20-25 hits from 20 millimeter cannons to bring down a heavy bomber. The Germans had been developing an air-air rocket system for the He-162.

In the autumn of 1944 there was no aircraft Germany could develop and deploy in sufficient numbers to seriously challenge Allied air superiority. As part of a hypothetical air force in sufficient numbers and with competent pilots it would have been a formidable adversary to a piston engine air force. How many He-162 it would take to combat a 1,200 heavy bomber force with 700 escorting fighters? How would it be as part of a high-low mix with the He-162’s dealing with the opposing fighters while the more heavily armed Me-262s attack the bombers? These are questions for game simulators.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Robert Sacchi

Comments

Robert Sacchi (author) on May 30, 2020:

Yes, the airline industry is talking in terms of years before things get back to normal.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 30, 2020:

The beautiful thing about articles like this one is that many more people will be armchair traveling long into the future because of the effects of the pandemic. We can all learn from one another via the web.

Robert Sacchi (author) on November 16, 2019:

Last I seen this one was in storage and not displayed. There are two on display in England, one in France, one in Germany, and one in Canada. The Smithsonian is backed up with its retoration and this one probably won't be restored in the foreseeable future.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 16, 2019:

Nice to see those pictures too. And looking forward to see it in reality.

Robert Sacchi (author) on November 16, 2019:

Thank you for reading and commenting. You are right, an aircraft's history often says a lot about the places and times where the aircraft was developed and used.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 16, 2019:

Wow. I love to read about airplanes specifically of something that connects with the history of a country.

Robert Sacchi (author) on June 05, 2018:

I see where you would want that feeling. Does you wife object because she doesn't want to waste money on expensive toys or because she doesn't want you breaking your neck and bones.

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on June 05, 2018:

Every time I hear about someone's passion for planes and flying in general I get a fire in my belly to own an ultralight. I have been pestering the wife for years but she isn't budging. She says I can't have an ultralight or a motorcycle. But if I had to choose, I'd pick the ultralight. Probably comes from my obsession with world war 1 flying aces I suspect.

Susie Lehto from Minnesota on October 25, 2016:

Thankfully, Hitler was betrayed.

Robert Sacchi (author) on October 24, 2016:

You're welcome. Considering what the NAZIs were doing they definitely generated tremendous hatred among those they enslaved. There was also a case of a Ju 290, nicknamed by the Americans "Alles Kaput". After the war a mixed German and American crew flew it back to the states. When the plane was being scrapped they found a bomb had been planted inside the aircraft, apparently while it was being built.

Susie Lehto from Minnesota on October 24, 2016:

Thank you for the history lesson on the He-162. Its terrible to think the some of the slave labor would have sabotaged the planes, that would take some tremendous hatred to do. You go into such great detail, I am impressed.

Robert Sacchi (author) on June 03, 2016:

The Holocaust Museum in DC also mentions other post Holocaust atrocities.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 03, 2016:

I am sure that the Holocaust Museum in DC is a good one also. There is a small theater as one exits the exhibit area in Houston where survivors of the Holocaust...ones living here in Houston...speak of what they experienced. Of course most of them were children at the time. That is truly gut wrenching hearing them speak of what they experienced!

Robert Sacchi (author) on May 11, 2016:

Yes, the scale of the horrors are difficult to imagine. I've been to the Holocaust Museum in DC.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 11, 2016:

Thank heavens the war ended when it did. We recently visited the Holocaust Museum here in Houston. Such horrors took place!

Robert Sacchi (author) on May 10, 2016:

Actually the Germans were able to accomplish a lot production wise with unskilled workers. Fortunately the U.S. and Russia had enormous industry, and other, capacities. It wasn't so much what the Germans thought they could do but what they had little choice but to try.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 10, 2016:

Amazing that they thought they could assemble an airplane by people with little skill in doing so. That was good for the Allies!

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