The rocket propelled fleas (2of3)

master source: Wikipedia

* 1935- Wernher von Braun met Ernst Heinkel, who was interested in trying some of these new rocket propulsion ideas on planes. An He 112 (piston engined) was equipped with a von Braun's conception rocket (liquid oxygen / alcohol) and undertook trials.

The He 112 R

* June 1937, Neuhardenberg (70 km east of Berlin) - Taking off with his standard engine and reaching the trial altitude, the He 112 R prototype, flown by Erich Warsitz, proved the rearward push rocket effectiveness, in spite of some fire bugs !!!.

Erich Warsitz

He 112 R in flight.

Von Braun's rocket was soon replaced with a Walter one (hydrogen peroxide / calcium permanganate, obtaining the pushing by hot vapor and not by ignition), less dangerous for the pilot and his environment !!.

These successfull trials ended with year 1937, all activity leaving Neuhardenberg for Peenemünde which was under construction.

* 1939- Following He 112 R's trials, Heinkel developped a project for a new plane: the He 176.

"The He 176 was built to utilise one of the new Walter engines. It was a tiny, simple aircraft, built almost entirely out of wood, but did possess an advanced, totally-enclosed cockpit, with a frameless single-piece clear nose, through which the pilot's rudder pedal mounts were visible, and a flush upper cockpit glazing which was removable for entering the aircraft, making the cockpit fit completely within the forward, bullet-like contours of the fuselage.

The landing gear was a combination of conventional and tricycle gear designs, with the main gear's struts intended to retract rearwards into the fuselage, with a fixed, aerodynamically faired nose wheel and strut, and a retractable tail wheel.

A unique feature of the He 176 was its jettisonable nose escape system. Compressed air was used to separate the nose from the aircraft. A drogue chute was used to reduce the opening force required. After the drogue was deployed, the flush-fitting cockpit canopy was released and a conventional pilot/parachute bailout occurred. The 1st flight occured the 20ieth of June 1939.

He 176 taking off

Heinkel demonstrated the aircraft to the RLM, but official lack of interest led to the abandonment of the company's rocket propulsion programme. Testing of the He 176 ended with only one aircraft being built. It was put on display at the Berlin Air Museum and was destroyed by an Allied bombing raid in 1943.

A project of further development for the He 176 with full enclosed transparent canopy that never left the mock-up state.

General characteristics:

Crew: One
Length: 5.2 m (17 ft 1 in)
Wingspan: 5.0 m (16 ft 5 in)
Height: 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in)
Wing area: 5.4 m² (58 ft²)
Empty weight: 900 kg (1,980 lb)
Loaded weight: 1,620 kg (3,570 lb)
Maximum speed: 345 km/h [750 km/h theoretical] (215 mph [470 mph theoretical])
Range: 95 km [theoretical] (60 mi)
Service ceiling: 9,000 m [theoretical] (29,500 ft)
Rate of climb: 60.6 m/s (199 ft/s)
Endurance 50 s"

* March 1938- "The DFS 194 was based on Alexander Lippisch Delta series of tail-less designs. As originally conceived, it would have been a tail-less aircraft similar to his DFS 40, powered by a conventional piston engine driving a pusher propeller. The airframe was completed in this configuration in March 1938.

For info: The Lippisch DFS 40

The original Lippisch's DFS 194 

Lippisch's designs had attracted the attention of the RLM who believed that tail-less aircraft were the best basis for a rocket-powered fighter on January 2, 1939, Lippisch and his team were transferred to the Messerschmitt company to begin work on such an aircraft, under what was known as Project X.

Model of the rocket powered DFS 194

The DFS-194 was modified to accept a Walter R I-203 rocket engine and by October, the aircraft was undergoing engine tests at Peenemünde.

These were followed by glide tests in early 1940 leading to the first powered flight in August with Heini Dittmar at the controls. The flight went well, the DFS 194 reaching 343 mph (550 km/h), bettering the speed of the earlier (20 July 1939) Walter rocket powered Heinkel He 176.

Heini Dittmar prior to a DFS 194 test flight

The aircraft proved to have excellent flying characteristics and proved safe to fly at nearly twice the anticipated speed. These results paved the way for the next stage of the project, which now received priority status from the RLM. The following year the Messerschmitt Me 163, a considerably refined design along the same basic lines, flew.

General characteristics:

Crew: one, pilot
Length: 6.4 m (20 ft 11 in)
Wingspan: 10.4 m (34 ft 1 in)
Height: 2.13 m (7 ft)
Wing area: 18 m² (193 ft²)
Loaded weight: 2,100 kg (4,620 lb)
Powerplant: 1× Walter R I-203 rocket, 3.9 kN (882 lbf) 3.9 kN
Maximum speed: 550 km/h (343 mph)
Rate of climb: 1,615 m/min (5,297 ft/min)"


Taking off: dropping two wheels roller

Landing: retractable belly skid

The jettisonable roller.

* 1941: The Messerschmitt Me 163

----> complete documentary "Wings of the Luftwaffe" on the Me163, featuring between others Alex Lippisch and Rudy Opitz testimonies:

----> link showing shortly R Opitz (secont test pilot) flying a Komet:

Direct heir of the DFS 194, production of a prototype series started in early 1941, known as the Me 163.

The Me 163A V4 was shipped to Peenemünde to receive the HWK RII-203 engine on May 1941. By 2 October 1941, the Me 163A V4, bearing the radio call sign letters, or Stammkennzeichen, "KE+SW", set a new world speed record of 1,004.5 km/h (624.2
mph), piloted by Heini Dittmar, with no apparent damage to the aircraft during the attempt.

During flight testing, the superior gliding capability of the Komet proved detrimental to safe landing. As the now unpowered aircraft completed its final descent, it could rise back into the air with the slightest updraft. Since the approach was unpowered, there was no opportunity to make another landing pass. For production models, a set of landing flaps allowed somewhat more controlled landings. This issue remained a problem throughout the program.

The initial test deployment of the Me 163A, to acquaint prospective pilots with the world's first rocket-powered fighter,occurred with Erprobungskommando 16, led by Luftwaffe Major Wolfgang Späte and first established in late 1942, receiving their eight A-model service test aircraft by July 1943.

Me 163 V6

Their initial base was as the Erprobungsstelle test facility located at the Peenemünde-West field, then departed permanently following an RAF bombing raid on the area on August 17, 1943. The next day the unit moved out, southwards to the base at Anklam, near the Baltic coast. Their stay was brief, as a few weeks later they were placed in northwest Germany, based at the military airfield at Bad Zwischenahn (at 53°12′16.48″N 7°59′37.20″E) from August 1943 to August 1944.

All JG 400 Me 163 B models whom 7 photographs are exposed herunder are 1/72 EasyModel "Winged Ace" series (ready to show Trumpeter items).

Me 163 B of 2/JG 400

EK 16 received their first B-series armed Komets in January 1944, and was ready for action by May while at Bad Zwischenahn, first seeing combat flights on the 13th of the month.

As EK 16 commenced small scale combat operations with the Me 163B in May 1944, the Me 163B's unsurpassed velocity was something that the Allied fighter pilots were at a loss as what to do about it. The Komets attacked singly or in pairs,
often faster than the opposing fighters could dive in an attempt to intercept them.

Me 163 B drawing

Me 163 B of 14/JG 400

A typical Me 163 tactic was to zoom through the bomber formations at 9,000 m (30,000 ft), rise up to an altitude of 10,700–12,000 m (35,100–39,000 ft), then dive through the formation again. This approach afforded the pilot two brief chances to fire a few rounds from his cannons before gliding back to his airfield. The pilots reported that it was possible to make four passes on a bomber, but only if it was flying alone.

Me 163 B of 2/JG 400

As the cockpit was unpressurized, the operational ceiling was limited by what the pilot could endure for several minutes while breathing oxygen from a mask, without losing consciousness.

Pilots underwent altitude-chamber training to harden them against the rigors of operating in the thin air of the stratosphere without a pressure suit. Special low fiber diets were prepared for pilots, as gas in the gastrointestinal tract would expand rapidly during ascent.

Following the initial combat trials with the Me 163B with EK 16, during the winter and spring of 1944 Major Wolfgang Späte formed the first dedicated Me 163 fighter wing, (Jagdgeschwader 400 (JG 400) ), in Brandis near Leipzig.

The well known emblem of the 2/JG400 'As a flea, but... oho !"

This, less illustrated, of the 14/JG400

JG 400's purpose was to provide additional protection for the Leuna synthetic gasoline works which were raided frequently during almost all of 1944. A further group was stationed at Stargard near Stettin to protect the large synthetic fuel plant at Pölitz (today Police, Poland).

Further defensive units of rocket fighters were planned for Berlin, the Ruhr and the German Bight.

The first actions involving the Me 163 occurred on July 28, 1944, from I./JG 400's base at Brandis, when two USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress were attacked without confirmed kills. Combat operations continued from May 1944 to spring 1945. During
this time, there were nine confirmed kills with 14 Me 163s lost. Feldwebel Siegfried Schubert was the most successful pilot, with three bombers to his credit.

At the end of 1944, 91 aircraft had been delivered to JG 400 but a continuous lack of fuel had kept most of them grounded. It was clear that the original plan for a huge network of Me 163 bases was never going to be realized.

Up to that point, JG 400 had lost only six aircraft due to the enemy actions. Nine were lost to other causes, remarkably few for such a revolutionary and technically advanced aircraft. In the last days of the Third Reich the Me 163 was given up in favor of the more successful and threatening Me 262.

In May 1945, Me 163 operations were stopped, the JG 400 disbanded, and many of its pilots sent to fly Me 262s.

In any operational sense, the Komet was a failure. Although it shot down 16 aircraft, mainly expensive four-engined bombers, that did not warrant the effort put into the project. With the projected Me 263, things could have turned out differently, but due to fuel shortages late in the war, few Komets went into combat, and it took an experienced pilot with excellent shooting skills to achieve "kills" with the Me 163.

The Me 163 was a helpless target when coming back gliding from mission.

Here is a short movie showing Me 163A prototypes and some Me 163B

and there, some combat films extracts showing 8th AF fighters encountering Me 163s and Me 262s:

and now, only for the fun, big RC models demo of a Me 109 and 2 Me 163s

The Komet also spawned later weapons like the Bachem Ba 349 Natter and Convair XF-92. Ultimately, the point defense role that the Me 163 played would be taken over by the surface-to-air missile (SAM), Messerschmitt's own example being the Enzian.

Enzian's launching system based on a 8.8cm FLAK gun chassis

For information: the Messerschmitt ENZIAN E-4 Surface-to-Air-Missile (SAM)

The airframe designer, Alexander Martin Lippisch went on to design delta winged supersonic aircraft for the Convair Corporation" (Wikipedia).

Me 163 B1's General characteristics:



  • Guns: 2 × 30 mm (1.18 in) Rheinmetall Borsig MK 108 cannons (60 rpg)

Source: WIKIPEDIA and Web searchs

Other relative linked posts - Parts 1 and 3:

- To be followed -

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Certainly had a lot of info that was new to me :). Very good work.

I saw the Me-163 Komet when I traveled to Munich. I took a few pictures of this baby:

Superb photographs, Ahmed!! It certainly completes this post! Many thanks for sharing them !

Completed the 2nd post.

The new drawings of the Komet are great. Very detailed.

Completed the 2nd post "Rocket Fleas" with Enzian SAM photos


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