The He 162 had its
genesis in a demand by the Jägerstab (Fighter Staff) for a Volksjäger
(People's Fighter) that was simple, inexpensive and suitable for
production by semi-skilled and unskilled labour out of non-strategic
materials such as wood. It was to be powered by a single BMW 003
turbojet, weigh no more than 2000 kg (4410 lbs) fully loaded, carry an
armament of one or two 30mm cannon, fly faster than 750 kph (466 mph),
possess an endurance of 30 minutes at sea level and be able to take off
in a distance less than 500 meters (1640 feet). This requirement was
distributed to all the major aircraft companies on 8 Sep 1944 with
responses due by 20 September so that mass production could commence 1
January! The Volksjäger concept was pushed by Party Leader Otto Saur,
director of the Jägerstab and a protégé of Albert Speer, head of the
Ministry of Armaments, over the vociferous objections of Adolf Galland,
General der Jagdflieger (General of Day Fighters). Galland believed
that all of Germany's remaining aircraft production facilities should
be concentrated on proven aircraft such as the Me 262. He also didn't
believe that pilots could be trained quickly enough to fly the aircraft
in the numbers envisioned. Designers such as Kurt Tank and Willy
Messerschmitt also objected to the project on the more technical
grounds of a totally unrealistic specification and an absurdly short
amount of time for design and preparations for production. Despite this
opposition the submission date was actually advanced by 6 days to 14
A Heinkel He 162A-2 of 1./JG 1 based at Leck airfield - Germany 1945
Proposals were received
from Blohm und Voss, Arado, Focke-Wulf, and Heinkel when the first
evaluations were made on 15 September, Messerschmitt having refused to
submit a proposal. Focke-Wulf's proposal was deemed unrealistic,
Arado's was completely rejected and Heinkel's was deemed unsuitable;
while Blohm und Voss's was judged the best submitted. The Heinkel
proposal unacceptable on 5 counts: a sea-level endurance of only 20
minutes; the unusual location of the engine on top of the fuselage
would undoubtedly result in maintenance problems; it failed to meet the
stipulated take-off requirement; it would take too long to dismantle
for rail transport; and it was designed to carry 20mm cannon rather
than the 30mm specified. Heinkel's representative protested that their
proposal was being evaluated by standards other than those applied to
the other proposals to the detriment of Heinkel's proposal. Another
meeting was scheduled for 19 September to make a decision after all the
proposals were re-evaluated.
By this time new
proposals had been received from Junkers, Focke-Wulf, Siebel and
Fiesler, but the result was much the same. Blohm und Voss's Projekt 211
was judged the best with Heinkel's as second-best.
It may well have been
second-best, but it possessed one major advantage over the Blohm und
Voss proposal; it was much further along in the design process. Heinkel
had been working on a simple and unsophisticated jet fighter, the Spatz
(Sparrow), since the early part of the summer and had even test-flown
the BMW 003 in July to obtain necessary performance data. The effort to
convert the Spatz into the Volksjäger was not inconsiderable, but it
was far easier and faster than working from a clean sheet of paper as
the others had to do.
On 23 September Heinkel
showed a mock-up of their Volksjäger to officials while the decision
was made to proceed with the Volksjäger concept in a meeting at
Göring's headquarters that same day. It was decided that pilots would
be recruited from the ranks of the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth). The
boys would be taught to fly on the Volksjäger if they didn't already
know how to fly and would finish their training by flying operational
missions! Party Leader Saur favored Heinkel's Projekt 1073 over the
Blohm und Voss Projekt 211 and ordered construction of the first
prototype the next day on his own authority.
Heinkel had nearly
carried the day, but it wasn't until two aerodynamicists were consulted
that the partisans of the P.211 were finally defeated. They ventured
the opinion that there might be a problem with the airflow of the
engine inlet and this was enough that the Heinkel proposal was ordered
into production at an initial rate of a thousand aircraft per month.
The aircraft was originally designated the He 500, but this was quickly
changed to the He 162, a number previously used by Messerschmitt's
contender for the Schnellbomber (fast bomber) competition that had been
won by the Ju 88. The project was code-named 'Salamander', this being
often confused for the name of the aircraft itself.
The final drawings were
complete by 29 October, one day ahead of schedule and the first
prototypes were in an advanced stage of construction. The He 162 was
unique in the history of aviation as the only aircraft in which
development, pre-production prototypes and main production lines were
started almost simultaneously and proceeded in parallel.
arrangements were quite complex and are an excellent example of the
effort Germany had to make to minimize the vulnerability of her
aviation industry. Little was it realized that this decentralization
plan would play right into the hands of the Allies as the 8th Air Force
executed its plan to destroy all German means of transport from
railcars to river barges.
Final assembly was to
be at 3 plants, Heinkel-Nord at Rostock-Marienhe, Junkers at Bernburg
and Mittelwerke at Nordhausen; the first two being expected to assemble
a thousand machines a month and the latter, two thousand. All wooden
components were to be produced by two groups of wood-working and
furniture-manufacturing firms specially organized the Erfurt and
Stuttgart areas. Metal fuselages were to be built by Heinkel factories
at Barth in Pomerania, Pütnitz in Mecklenburg, Stassfurt in Saxony and
at Berlin-Oranienburg as well as the Junkers factories in Schönbeck,
Ascherleben, Leopoldshall, Halberstadt and Bernburg. In addition
fuselages were to be built in former salt mines at Eglen and Tarthun.
The Heinkel factory at Wien-Schwechat was to handle construction of the
prototypes and later to begin production in a converted chalk mine
outside Vienna at Hinterbühl. Another salt mine near Urseurg housed the
machinery from the Berlin-Spandau and Basdorf-Zülsdorf engine factories
for the production of the BMW 003 engines. The production schedule
called for the first thousand aircraft to be ready by the end of April
1945 and output to reach two thousand per month the following month.
The He 162A was one of the most distinctive aircraft ever designed with
its engine mounted above the fuselage and downward-drooping wing tips.
The Heinkel design team had placed the engine in this unusual position
to minimize any difficulties with the inlet and exhaust ducting, the
aerodynamics of which were poorly understood.
In line with the
semi-expendable nature of the Volksjäger, the He 162 was a rather spare
design, but it did include a simple ejection seat as pilots were
considered rather more valuable than the aircraft itself. It was
essential as the chances of bailing out in the usual manner were
considered less than optimal with the jet intake mounted right behind
and above the cockpit.
The first prototype,
the He 162 V1, made its initial flight on 6 December, 90 days from the
receipt of the requirement! A record unparalleled for a modern combat
aircraft. The flight was mostly uneventful except that a wooden
landing-gear door was torn away during the high-speed portion of the
flight. Four days later, the second flight ended in tragedy as the
starboard wing leading edge separated from the aircraft which caused it
to crash in front of large crowd of VIPs. The pilot did not survive. An
investigation determined that the bonding agent for the wood was
defective. It was a new adhesive that had to be used as the factory
producing the usual bonding agent had been bombed out. The Ta 154
Moskito was cancelled because of this type of problem, but the He 162
program had too much political weight behind it to suffer a similar
The second prototype
flew on 22 December and others rapidly followed. It was initially to be
armed with 2x 30mm MK 108 cannon, but the airframe proved to be too
lightly built for such a heavy armament. Flight test revealed problems
with lateral instability, snaking at high speeds and severe instability
during left-hand high G turns. It also proved to need much more runway
for take-off and landing than allowed by the specification. The tail
surfaces were enlarged and the wing tips extended and drooped on the V3
and V4 prototypes in a successful effort to resolve most of these
problems. Had time permitted the wing would have undoubtedly been fully
redesigned rather than the expedient wing tip drooping.
Very few He 162A-1
aircraft were built with the 30mm cannon before production switched to
the A-2 model armed with 2x 20mm MG 151 cannon. The A-2 also
incorporated a number of aerodynamic changes to increase stability, but
these were not fully successful as it remained very unforgiving of
abrupt movements of the controls. The 162 had a very high rate of roll,
but much care had to be taken as full rudder induced a lot of shudder
and buffeting. Only three-quarters rudder could be used if a smooth
turn was desired, such as when trying to shoot at an enemy! Experienced
piston-engine pilot had to unlearn their habit of throwing themselves
around the sky if they wished to master the 162 as it demanded smooth,
flowing motions from its pilot. In brief the He 162 was a handful for
experienced pilots and would have been a death-trap for the average
Hitlerjugend pilot fresh from glider training.
The Luftwaffe formed
Erprobungskommando (Evaluation Unit) 162 under Heinz Bär, the 8th
leading ace of all time with 220 kills, in January '45 to evaluate the
He 162 at the Rechlin test centre. By April Erprobungskommando 162 had
joined Adolf Galland's band of disgruntled fighter pilots, JV 44, with
its Me 262s at their base near München, but had little opportunity for
combat as the 162 wasn't yet considered ready for action.
On 8 February I/JG 1
was ordered to turn over its Fw 190s to II/JG 1 and proceed to Parchim
to begin conversion to the He 162, but their first aircraft didn't
arrive until the end of the month. Later joined by the Geschwaderstab
they stayed there until bombed out by the British on 8 April. They
moved to a number of different airfields in North Germany to avoid
being overrun by the advancing Allies ending the war at Leck in
Schleswig-Holstein. II/JG 1 left their Fw 190s behind on 8 April as
they transferred to Rostock to begin the conversion to the He 162, but
joined the first Gruppe at Leck on 2 May to escape the Soviet advance.
The conversion of III/JG 1 was planned to begin in mid-April, but it
was disbanded on 24 April and its personnel were distributed to other
units. On 3 May JG 1 was reorganized into two Gruppen, I (Einsatz
[Combat]) and II (Sammel [Replacement]). They totalled some 50 pilots
and aircraft in 6 staffeln.
I/JG 1 was declared
combat-ready on 23 April, after it had already claimed one British
fighter on 19 April. Feldwebel Günther Kirchner was credited with
shooting down a fighter when the captured pilot admitted he'd been shot
down by a jet. Unfortunately Kirchner himself was shot down shortly
thereafter by another British fighter. At least two other claims were
made by He 162 pilots before the end of the war, although only one
Tempest V can be confirmed from British records since a number of
British aircraft were lost to unknown causes at times and places that
match these other claims. At least one and possibly three He 162s were
lost to enemy action.
The BMW engine proved
to be far less sensitive to throttle movements than those of the Me
262, though still prone to flameouts. This allowed the He 162 to be
flown up to the limits of the pilot's confidence in the aircraft,
unlike the Me 262 whose engines restricted much in the way of
The He 162's primary
drawback was its very short endurance of 30 minutes at sea-level. This
forced the pilot to pay close attention to his fuel gauge and allowed
little leeway for bad weather or enemy aircraft over the pilot's home
airfield. In fact several of the operational losses can be attributed
simply to running out of fuel.
Other problems were the
lack of visibility above and to the rear and the inability of the tail
to handle the maximum stress that the rudder could generate. The former
would only really have been a problem if the 162 was at a low enough
speed that it could be bounced by piston-engined fighters since the
area obscured by the engine is the most vulnerable of any aircraft. The
weakness of the tail instilled a lack of confidence in its pilots that
the 162 could withstand extreme manoeuvres and they, therefore, were
reluctant to do so lest it break-up in mid-air.
Despite all these
caveats, the He 162 would have been a effective fighter in the hands of
a trained pilot if the war had continued, easily superior to the best
fighters fielded by the Allies, possibly even including the P-80A.
He 162A-2 Salamander)
Heinkel Design Team.
Ernst Heinkel AG. First batch Vienna-Schwechat. Production totally
dispersed with underground assembly at Nordhausen (Mittelwerke),
Bernberg (Junkers) and Rostock (Heinkel).
1,764 hp (800 kw) thrust BMW 003A-1 or E-2 Orkan single shaft turbojet
Maximum speed 522 mph (840 km/h) at 19,685 ft (6000 m); service ceiling
39,500 ft (12040 m). Endurance 57 minutes at 35,990 (10970m). Climb
rate 3,780 ft/min (19.2m /sec) at sea level - 1,950 ft/min (9.9m /sec)
at 19,690 ft (6000 m) - 315 ft/min (1.6m /sec) at 36,090 ft (11000 m).
Range: 410 miles
(660 km) at 35,990 ft (10970 m).
4,520 lbs (2050 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 5,941 lbs (2695
23 ft 7 1/2 in (7.20 m); length 29 ft 8 1/4 in (9.05 m); height 8 ft 7
1/2 in (2.55 m); wing area 120.56 sq ft (11.20 sq m).
(Early) Two 30 mm Rheinmetall MK 108 cannon with 50 rounds per gun.
(Late) Two 20 mm Mauser MG 151/20 cannons with 120 rounds per gun.
162A-0 (pre-production), He 162A-1, He 162A-2.
Avionics: FuG 24
R/T (radio) FuG 25a IFF.
flight 6 December 1944; first delivery January 1945.