Category Last Days of the Luftwaffe

Jet Fighters


he end of the era of the piston-engined fighter coincided with the end of the Second World War. In the second half of 1944 the Luftwaffe turned its hopes increasingly to the twin-turbine Me 262 A-la jet fighter. Even though only relatively few Geschwader enjoyed its use, that does nothing to alter the fact that in 1945 this machine was the fastest jet fighter in the world to be operational in large numbers.

Me 262 A-la

The introduction of the Me 262 jet was hindered initially by reverses. The BMW turbines failed to live up to their promise. Even the change-over to Jumo 004 T-ls and T-2s brought no quick breakthrough. General der Jagd-

Jet Fighters

Подпись: 47

The Luftwaffe believed that the Me 262 A-la would revolutionise air warfare. Production in fits and starts prevented the deployment of the jet fighter in the numbers desired by OKL.

flieger Adolf Galland declared the machine ready for operations after his trial flight in the V-4 prototype, but the euphoria was soon dispelled when the new technology with all its attendant problems delayed completion and delivery of the first pre-series run into the spring of 1944. During testing new defects came to light almost daily, causing ever more postponements. New delays followed the Blitzbomber idea which had been accepted without protest by Goring, and on 25 May 1944 the aircraft was transferred to the jurisdiction of the General der Kampfflieger for future use mainly as a fighter-bomber.

Nevertheless the development of the single-seat fighter was continued. In December 1943 a test commando had been established at Lechfeld and from May 1944 the pilots of III./ZG 26 underwent conversion training for jets. Although one of the most influential advocates of the Me 262, Hauptmann Thierfelder, was shot down in his machine, the first victories were achieved during the operational testing period. On 26 September 1944 Kommando Nowotny was founded. Major Walter Nowotny and his pilots proved from 8 August 1944 how efficient the Me 262 A-la was in aerial combat: Nowotny himself, a highly decorated commander, lost his life when shot down on 8 November 1944. Before being incorporated into JG 7, the Kommando obtained at least 17 victories.

Despite great efforts, the number of Me 262s available remained small. This was because of the advanced technology and the air raids on the assembly lines at Augsburg. The relocation of these to forests, or the construction of underground assembly facilities were both necessary, but meant fewer aircraft being produced than originally planned. Even at the end of the war the relocation of plants for Me 262 A-la assembly was incomplete. Delays in the delivery of new aircraft to individual units in the spring of 1945 prevented a smooth change­over to the Me 262, and OKL succeeded in equipping only a few fighter Gruppen, especially those ofJG 7 and KG(J) 54, with reasonable numbers.

Jabos and Blitzbombers


ffensive operations were naturally to the forefront in Luftwaffe tactical thinking. In view of the enemy superiority piston-engined aircraft such as the Ju 87 and Fw 190 were ever less suitable to relieve pressure on German troops and to strike hard at the enemy. Knowing this Hider had decided that he needed aircraft able to combat a numerically superior enemy in the case of invasion. The solution appeared to him to be the Blitzbomber. These would be machines such as the Ar 234 or Me 262 which, by virtue of their great speed, would be able to operate even over regions where the enemy had aerial superiority. Because these machines were not available until the summer of 1944, and far too few Blitzbombers were on hand, their pilots’ tactical successes were modest.

Fighter Bombers

The need to engage Soviet tank groups assumed particular importance from mid-1944 once the Red Army had begun to undermine the foundations of the Eastern Front, and not only Army Group Centre was staring at disaster. An even greater material superiority was making its presence felt on the Western Front.

Despite the comparatively high achievements of the single-seater Fw 190, in the final phase of the war attacks at dusk or in the early morning were more numerous than in broad daylight and were confined mainly to areas with poor AA defences or few enemy fighters. The Fw 190 was still a very dangerous opponent in skilled hands. Its fixed weapons were normally two MG 131s built into the fuselage, and two MG 151/20s in the wing roots. Pilots would sometimes unship some of the guns to save weight.

Fw 190s would often attack the more rewarding targets in a restricted area in a ‘rolling attack’. As in anti-tank operations some of the attacking machines would tie down the enemy defences by dropping anti-personnel bombs from disposable containers. This could be either an ETC 501, 502 or 503 bomb container below the fuselage and four ETC 50s or ETC 71s below the wings. These made it possible to use all standard types of bomb. Used with small HE or hollow-charge bombs they could be extremely destructive against enemy

vehicles, whether stationary or mobile. The potential was obviously greater the larger the formation. Occasionally all machines of a Gruppe would be involved, but when few aircraft were operational a number would fly nuisance raids and perform reconnaissance or weather-reporting duty on subsequent flights.

At the beginning of 1945, SG 4 succeeded in assembling over 100 Fw 190 F-8s to hold back the Allied advance using low-level techniques. Many were lost during the flight to the target while air raids on airfields in western Germany also caused losses. Most Fw 190 fighter-bombers were grouped in three Geschwader, SG 1, SG 4 and SG 10. SG 1 had up to 115 machines; at the beginning of the year SG 10 had over 70. Major Jabo operations were carried out as a massed unit, in formation for the outward and return flights but with individual attacks.

On 10 January 1945, only SG 4, consisting of the Geschwaderstab and I. to III. Gruppen flying Fw 190s, and the night-attack Gruppen NSGr 1,2 and 20 were attached to Luftflotte Reich. Far more low-level units were distributed along the Eastern Front. With Luftflotte 6 were III./SG 3 and NSGr 3. These were equipped with only obsolete auxiliary aircraft such as the slow Ar 60 and Go 145. SG 2 and 10, and IV./SG 9 were operational at Luftflotte 4. IV./SG 9 had more than ten machines mostly Fw 190s and Ju 87s. I. and II. Gruppen had 66 Fw 190s between them. Ju 87 Ds were still being flown by III./SG 2, while SG 10 had all Fw 190 As and Fs. On 10 January 1945 another 65 of these aircraft became available.

Luftflotte 6 provided the defensive force in the central section of the Eastern Front with three Jabo Geschwader equipped with Fw 190s. SG 1 and SG 2 had two Gruppen each, SG 77 had three relatively strong Gruppen and included the specially equipped night unit NSGr 4 with 60 Ju 87s and Si 204 Ds.

Подпись: Allied superiority in tanks and armoured vehicles called for the greatest possible use of fighter-bombers such as the Fw 190 F-8.

By the end of January 1945 Russian armies in East Prussia had occupied virtually the whole area between Konigsberg (Kaliningrad) and Lotzen (Gyzycko) and were heading north for the Frisches Haff. Graudenz (Grudziadz) and Thorn (Toruri) were encircled and Elbing (Elblag) came under threat after strong units crossed the Narev. Further attack wedges were moving simultaneously for the territories along the Warthe and in Upper Silesia. On 1 February numerous Jabo Gruppen were operating against the Soviets in the Luftflotte 6 region. SG 1 Geschwaderstab had three Fw 190 F-8s and another 104 in I. and III. Gruppen, although only half the machines were operational. SG 2 had only two Gruppen: II./SG 2 flew the Fw 190 F-8 with anti-tank rockets, III./SG 2 the Ju 87 D-5. In SG 3,4 and 77, Fw 190 F-8s were used on operations, each having a Staffel of 12 aircraft equipped with Panzerblitz or Panzerschreck rockets.

Jabos and Blitzbombers

Night fighter-bomber units carried out their operations in all weathers. The poor conditions on airfields often led to crashes as with this Ju 87 D.

Besides the operational Geschwader there were up to six Jabo formations consisting mostly of fighter and night-fighter units. The largest were two units of JG 300 and JG 301. The first was composed of I., II. and IV./JG 300 and 3./JGr 10, which had 109 Bf 109s and 46 Fw 190s; fighter-bomber unit JG 301 was three Gruppen plus II./ZG 76. Gefechtsverband (Battle Unit) Major Enders had been drawn up from Stab, Training SG 104 and II./SG 151, while Gefechtsverband Oberstleutnant Robert Kowaleski had crews from KG 76 plus the test commando of the Air Navigation School, Straussberg. This unit had only eight Ju 188s and five He Ills, but the crews were veterans.

At the end of January, the Soviets had assembled strong forces and surrounded Posen. The final battle against hopeless odds was fought out in the city centre between 19 and 23 February. From 13 February fighting raged at Glogau/Oder, but with air support the Germans held out until 2 April. At the beginning of February the Red Army had crossed the Oder between Kiistrin (Kostrzyn) and Frankfurt at several points and established bridgeheads on the western bank. Another strongpoint was north of Fiirstenburg. The Russians had gained ground east of Stettin (Szczecin) although the German strongpoint at Altdamm held initially. At Lauban (Lubari), German Panzers won a victory at the beginning of March after wiping out large sections of 7th Guards Armoured Corps assisted by Jabos. Between 6 and 12 March, Russian divisions broke through towards Danzig and Stolpmiinde (Ustka), being held temporarily only with the greatest effort just short of their objective.

Despite all restrictions, between 1 and 31 March 1945 1. Fliegerdivision alone flew 2,190 sorties over the Eastern Front. 172 Russian tanks and more than 250 lorries were claimed destroyed, another 70 tanks damaged. Luftwaffe Staffeln shot down 110 enemy aircraft and damaged 21 others. At 4. Fliegerdivision SG 1 flew 619 missions, SG 3 66 and SG 77 123 in March 1945. Pilots of SGI dropped 295 tonnes of bombs and 36 tonnes of disposable containers of bombs, and though few tanks and lorries were destroyed at least 26 direct hits on bridge targets were claimed.

Amongst the most important units on defensive operations in April were SG 1 with over 89 Ju 87s and Fw 190s in all. 91 Fw 190 A-8s and F-8s were operational at SG 2. Stab and II./SG 3 had about 40 Fw 190 F-8s: SG 77 had 99 operational machines in its three Gruppen. An obstacle to large numbers of operations was the shortage of fuel, as so often, and a fair number of these aircraft were to be found parked on the airfield fringes at any given time.

Подпись: This photograph of an Fw 190 F-8 fitted with a disposable AB 250 container was taken in Hungary in January 1945.

In a successful attack by SG 1 on 11 April, 17 Fw 190 pilots dropped the usual SC 500s, plus five SC 500s with an experimental explosive filling and 16 SD 70s on railway and bridge targets near Rathstock. On 16 April two Fw 190 F-8s were lost to Russian AA fire, but the remaining pilots destroyed a number of vehicles. During these weeks Luftflotte 6 had around 250Jabos, mostly Fw 190

Подпись: Experiments with the 1,400-kg ВТ 1400 bomb-torpedo were in hand at the port of Gotenhafen (Gdynia) on the Baltic shortly before the war s end.

F-8s, and relatively few Ju 87 Ds. This force was able to call on well over 100 Bf 109s of JG 4,JG 52 and JG 77 for protection.

Meanwhile the war had moved closer to the heart of Germany as merged German divisions, Volkssturm and reserve units could do little to stop the Allied advance. On the Autobahn at Radeberg, German pilots destroyed three tanks and blocked traffic for some time. Over Cottbus-Finsterwalde-Lubben, 62 Jabos flew numerous attacks against enemy artillery and bombed an airfield occupied by the Russians.

On 24 April VIII Fliegerkorps had four Gruppen of SG 2 and SG 77 while 3. Luftwaffen-Division had additionally three Gruppen from SG 4 and SG 9 and an anti-tank Staffel. Fw 190 pilots scored noteworthy successes. Even from positions of great numerical inferiority they were able to strike hard against the Russians in ground attacks in support of Army Group Schorner.

In the last few nights of April 1945, crews of SG 1, who had been at Gatow/Mecklenburg until 26 April, sortied to relieve the pressure on Berlin. They flew as a rule twenty operations daily over the burning city. The strength of the enemy had become overwhelming: on the night of 1 May some of the 39 Fw 190 F-8s attached to III./KG 200 dropped containers of supplies to the defenders.

Despite the precarious situation, on 3 May the Luftwaffe could still call on a number of Jabo units although operations were now greatly limited by lack of fuel and bombs. Luftflotte 4, responsible for the air support of Axmy Group

Jabos and Blitzbombers

One of the most useful German fighter-bombers at the war’s end was the Fw 190 D-9. This machine was armed in the main with anti-personnel bombs.

South and the Commander-in-Chief South-East, had I./SG 10 at Budweis and II./SG 10 at Weis, where the remnants of SG 9 were stationed on anti-tank duty.

I. /SG 2 pilots at Graz-Thalerhof engaged enemy forces advancing from the Alps: two more Jabo units served Seventeenth Army, these being Jabo unit Weiss with 3./NSGr 4 and II./SG 77 for night and daylight attacks respectively. Gefechts- verband Rudel, most of which was at Niemes-Sud, was composed of II./SG 2 and 10. Anti-tank Staffel. Its commander, Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel, had been awarded the Gold Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross on 29 December 1944.

II. /JG 6 flew fighter escort for his machines.

Luftwaffenkommando West (from 1 May 1945 Luftwaffen-Division North Alps) was made up of remnants of disbanded night-fighter units and sections from JG 27, 53 and 300, and was used increasingly at the end for low-level attacks. Although hostile operations against the Western Powers were terminated on 6 May, there was no let-up in the fight against the Russians. Strikes against their supply lines in the rear and against forward units were flown almost to the very end. When the general fuel situation at the excellent Prague aerodromes deteriorated drastically, the last aircraft there were destroyed by their pilots, although a few managed to fly out and surrender to the Americans.

Despite the successful change-over at many anti-tank Staffeln from the Ju 87 G-2 to the faster Fw 190 F-8, and the introduction of efficient rockets

such as the Panzerblitz, the collapse of the infrastructure and the lack of fuel and ammunition meant there was no possibility of holding the Western Allies at the Rhine and the Red Army at the Oder.

Jabos and BlitzbombersAt times it seemed possible that Jabo jets might be the way to improve matters, but the number of available Ar 234s and Me 262s was insufficient. It is, however, worth examining the role played by these aircraft.

The Blitzbomber

The immense numerical superiority of the enemy appeared to have only one solution, which was to equip all fighter-bomber squadrons with jets. The only bomber Geschwader to be equipped and operational with the Me 262 Blitzbomber was KG 51 Edelweiss. Pilots of the single-seater ‘fast bomber’ used mainly explosive anti-personnel Red ^ anti. aircraft batteries clustered bombs or AB 250 or AB 500 containers against around ground targets caused increasingly pin-pointed targets and troop concentrations serious problems for Ju 87 crews,

behind the Western Front. On 20 July 1944

Einsatzkommando Edelweiss began attacking Allied troop formations in Normandy. In Operation Bodenplatte on 1 January 1945 during the Ardennes Offensive the unit bombed the airfields at Eindhoven and s’Hertogenbosch successfully, and maintained an offensive presence to the end of the campaign, covering the German divisions as they retreated. From mid-January they attacked targets west of the Rhine.

On 7 January the Geschwaderstab at Rheine (Major Wolfgang Schenk) had 4 Blitzbombers while I./KG 51 had 30, with 9 more on the way. II. Gruppestab had 3, but the inventory of the entire Gruppe was only 10, and 10 pilots.

III. Gruppe had been disbanded in September 1944 while IV./KG 51 had been re-designated IV.(Erg)/KG 51. This was a pilot supply Gruppe which had been at Erding since January and was disbanded in April. Only I. and II./KG 51 carried out operations. A few days after 7 January the total of Me 262s available was 58. Despite a heavy air raid at Rheine airfield, Me 262 attacks continued against targets in the Rhineland and western Ruhr. In attacks on ground targets around Kleve, 55 Me 262s of Stab and I./KG 51 took part. These massed operations failed to hold back the endless British columns. By the end of the month the attacks were ebbing for lack of fuel.


Подпись: These machines of StG 102. a training unit, show the numerous finishes and variants of the Ju 87 D which were usually to be found with such units.
On 22 February, 34 Me 262s of KG 51 set out for Kleve protected by over 100 piston-engined fighters. Several KG 51 pilots were lost on this operation while a number of aircraft dropped out with turbine defects. The expected operational life of 40 hours for these engines was optimistic. Poor maintenance and inexperienced ground staff contributed to avoidable losses amongst the Edelweiss pilots.

After the bridge at Remagen fell almost intact into US hands on 7 March, early next morning the Reichsmarschall called KG 51 operations room to request volunteers to sacrifice their lives by diving bomb-carrying Me 262s into the bridge. Two pilots stepped forward but were dissuaded by their squadron commanders at the last moment. Between 13 March and 20 April, I./KG 51 used the Autobahn between Leipheim and Neu-Ulm as its operational base. Since the delivery unit of the Kuno assembly works (a factory hidden in woods near Burgau), and a similar plant near Leipheim aerodrome were nearby, this offered some limited opportunity for engine overhauls. At least two operations were flown from Giebelstadt against armour heading for Mainz, one of these against the important railway bridge at Bad Munster am Stein on 18 March 1945. These few operations fell well short of doing anything to change the situation or stop the Allied advance.

On 30 March Kammler ordered all available Blitzbombers, transferred to IX. Fliegerkorps. General der Flieger Josef Kammhuber intervened and diverted two-thirds to JG 7 and the other third to KG (J) 54 on the orders of the Luftwaffe General Staff once the Reichsmarschall had refused to hand Kammler unlimited power over IX Fliegerkorps. On 31 March jet bombers at KG 51 totalled 79, of which a number had come direct from the Leipheim production line near the Autobahn. A little later Kammler’s decision to disband the Jabo unit was overturned when Hitler ordered the resumption of ground attacks by Blitzbombers. KG 51 then received more of the aircraft, but from mid – March ever fewer were operational for lack of parts and above all fuel. The number of low-level attacks dropped, and most Allied columns arrived at their destinations unmolested.

On 18 April seven Me 262s of KG 51 attacked enemy lorries near Nuremberg, and in a skirmish with eight P-5 Is shot down one without loss. Two days later the Geschwader evacuated south as Allied troops menaced its airfields. On 20 April I./KG 51 relocated from Leipheim to Memmingen. Next day, together with JG 53 fighter pilots, a massive low-level raid was flown against long convoys near Gottingen. On 23 April two pilots attacked the bridge over the Danube at Dillingen which had been turned into a hub for the Allied advance. At this time I./KG 51 had only 12 Blitzbombers for its 43 pilots. On 25 April the last nine

Jabos and Blitzbombers

Jabos and Blitzbombers

Fighter-bomber operations entered a new dimension with the introduction of the Me 262 A-l/Bo Blitzbomber.

airworthy Me 262s moved to Munich-Riem, and on the 26th KG 51, after taking over nine Me 262s of the stock of 44 at JV 44, fell back on Holzkirchen where it was intended to disband the Geschwader, no further missions being considered possible.


Besides the R4M, the Me 262 A-la was suitable for carrying the RZ 65 7.3-cm calibre air-to-air Fohn solid-fuel rocket successfully tested aboard the Fw 190 A. The first Me 262 trials with the weapon were held at Tarnewitz in the early spring of 1945 under Flight-Staff Engineer Heinz Pfister. After delays for bad weather, on 25 April he flew an Me 262 from the test centre to JV 44 at Munich- Riem but finding the airfield cratered and two P-5 Is approaching he abandoned the project and headed for Neubiberg. Fohn rockets were now overtaken by events as American troops occupied Munich.


The wire-guided Ruhrstahl X-4 designed by Dr Max Kramer was a highly valuable weapon scheduled to replace most spin-stabilised rockets at the earliest opportunity. On 30 October 1944 Reich Minister Speer ordered its immediate development. Relatively expensive-looking even from the planning stage, 5,000 Type 8-344 A-l were to be mass-produced monthly at the Ruhrstahl AG works Brackwede near Bielefeld. Fritz Hahn reported that eventually 950 were produced at Bielefeld and the Stargard factory in Pomerania. BMW Berlin – Spandau aimed to turn out 1,500 liquid-propellant motors by April 1945, but few came off the lines complete. On 6 February Kammler ordered X-4 development work concluded as soon as possible to enable the manufacturer to press ahead with the Dogge automatic aiming device. In February 1945 it was still

hoped to arm all operational jet aircraft, including Ar 234 B-2s, C-3s and the Me 262 A-la with the X-4. Numerous tests were made using a converted Ju 88 G. At the beginning of 1945 Messerschmitt works pilot Gerd Lindner made at least one flight aboard an Me 262 A-la (Works No. 111994) carrying

two X-4s below the wings, but they were never fired in combat. The intention for operations was to have two or four X-4s suspended below the wings from an ETC 70/C1. After an air raid destroyed the assembly plant for the BMW 109-548 motor, and the necessary components could not be supplied in the desired quantities, the Riistungsstab accepted that series production in adequate numbers would not be possible. A large number of prototypes survived, and in March 1945 Kammler ordered 300 X-4s. Nothing came of this despite continuing tests at Karlshagen, mainly for the lack of experienced technical staff. Once it was evident that series production was out of the question, the Riistungsstab went for the RM4 instead.


The Riistungsstab conference of 5 November 1944 decided that the X-4 should be followed by the air-to-air Hs 298, two or three being carried below the wings of an Me 262 and fired from simple retaining rails. The Hs 298 had been under development at Henschel since 1943. An order was placed for 100 units of the prototype Hs 298 V-l series, to be followed by the V-2 series. The first completely successful launch occurred on 22 December 1944 from a Ju 88 G-l night fighter, and OKL then ordered Henschel to manufacture a pre-series run of 2,000. Although flight and remote-control trials proved promising in early 1945, a disadvantage of the weapons was thought to be its expense. Production


The Hs 298 was a technically very complicated heavy rocket whose development was abandoned in 1945.

of the first 135 continued into the spring of 1945, however. The rocket had some notable innovations in that it was the first to be built in modular form. It was the first guided missile to be fired from a rail, a method only used previously for spin-stabilised rockets. It had no need for batteries, power being supplied by an on-board generator.

The Hs 298 V-2 series had a 45-kg (100-lb) warhead and a range of 5,500 metres (6,000 yd). Speed calculated in 1945 was around 250 m/sec (820 ft/sec). By mid-April 1945 more than 100 of the first 135 prototypes were ready but were destroyed together with the remainder to prevent their capture by Russian forces as the latter neared the Wansdorf factory outside Berlin. Accordingly, with the exception of the R4M, all efforts of the SS to introduce accurate air-to-air rockets over the Reich came to nothing.


The suicide aircraft Reichenberg originated from a suggestion by Flugkapitan Hanna Reitsch to Hitler at the Berghof on 28 February 1944. She merely stated that the targeting characteristics of the V-l flying bomb were not good and requested permission to fly a V-l to see if the defects could not be improved. At first Hitler demurred, pointing to the more efficient jet aircraft which would soon be available to the Luftwaffe in large numbers. Suddenly, Hitler seemed to turn the matter over in his mind and surprisingly gave her his approval for a small experimental batch.

A senior aeronautical engineer at KdE, Heinz Kensche, was given the task of working on the complex problems. He decided that the development should proceed in five stages:

Re 1 single-seater, landing skid, trainer without engine.

Re 2 two-seater, landing skid, trainer without engine.

Re 3 two-seater, landing skid, trainer, with As 014 ramjet Re 4 single-seater, operational machine, with As 014 ramjet Re 5 single-seater, trainer, short fuselage, with As 014 ramjet

The plan was to give operational versions a thin-shelled SC 800 aerial mine for land objectives and a torpedo warhead for shipping targets. The development lasted from the summer of 1944 to at least March 1945, but no missions were flown with a piloted V-l. A small development team was assembled under the cover name ‘Segelflug GmbH Reichenberg. This had the cooperation of the SS and consisted of three engineers and 15 experienced supervisors and technical staff. Henschel made available a small hangar for the secret construction. Series production was scheduled at Gollnow (Goleniow) near the large Altendamm aerodrome at Stettin. The machines would be made from large sub-assemblies made at Gottartowitz/Upper Silesia (Gotarowice) and Konigsberg, with new cabin and nose components being added. The team started work at once, converting an existing V-l flying bomb to see if it could be flown manually. It had to be simple and based substantially on the standard Fi 103 to spare all unnecessary costs. Above the spartan cockpit was an Argus-Schmidt As 014 ramjet. As a rule the machine would be brought close to the target by a parent aircraft but on release could fly up to 300 kilometres under ramjet power. Once the design was completed, the drawings were forwarded to the manufacturer.

In August 1944 Henschel received a technical proposal for the development and construction of 250 prototypes with ramjet. The Commissioner for the

Reichenberg, Engineer Oberst Platz, also ordered 21 two-seater trainers. Large components supplied to Henschel were to be modified and completed with its in-house parts. The final assembly would be at Gollnow in December 1944, although presumably not on the airfield there, since this lay well to the east, and in the end Dannenberg was chosen instead.

Re 1 was to be the only version with a detachable skid. This enabled quick drainage of the fuel. Re 1 V-l was completed by the beginning of September 1944 and transported to Larz near Rechlin. The glider was carried to 4,000 metres by a Rechlin test centre He 111 and released. Pilot on this first flight was engineer Willy Fiedler, who had played a major role in the development. A second pilot, engineer Rudolf Ziegler, injured his spine when making a hard landing on uneven ground near Rechlin and had to retire from the roster. He was replaced by senior engineer Herbert Pangratz who was also seriously injured when forced to make an emergency landing after the cockpit canopy came free.

At the beginning of October 1944 the first Re 2 versions arrived at Larz. Senior engineer Heinz Kensche and Unteroffizier Schenk made the maiden

flight in the two seater Re 2 V-l. At midday on 12 October the machine was released from an He 111 H at altitude and returned safely. The next two flights from Larz took place on 13 and 19 October when Schenk partnered pilot Kachel. On further flights from Rechlin, Augstein, Meisner and Pfannenstein occupied the narrow cockpit. During the flight trials in which Hanna Reitsch was involved she crashed two Reichenbergs. It was almost impossible to escape from the aircraft, especially at high speed in gliding flight, the chances of doing so successfully being rated at 100-1.

The first and possibly only Re 3, a two-seater with As 014 ramjet propulsion, flew three times on 4 and 5 November 1944 with Heinz Kensche at the controls. The first two flights were relatively problem-free and lasted about eight minutes. On the third flight, on 5 November, the port wing began to disengage in flight forcing Kensche to bale out at 450 km/hr (280 mph). Only with the greatest difficulty did he manage to free himself from the cockpit and get past the engine. He landed in the Miiritz and swam to the bank. The cause of the defect was
heavy vibrations emitted by the ramjet which affected the fuselage. The aircraft was a write-off.

Подпись: Several Fi 103 Reichenbergs were captured more or less intact during the final Allied advances. On 28 November Kensche and Leutnant Walter Starbati flew an Re 2 twice at Larz. Starbati had previously been detached to the Zeppelin Luftschiffbau as a test pilot, and at Rechlin he appears to have received the order to test the Reichenberg personally. On 16 January 1945 Starbati flew the series-produced Re 3 (Works No. 10). After reaching speeds between 620 and 650 km/hr at 2,600 metres altitude (385—

404 mph at 8,500 ft) he detected slight reverberations in the hull although otherwise the flight attitude was no different from the Re 2. On landing, the ramjet nozzle was found to be damaged which probably accounted for the shuddering in flight. Another long circuit in an Re 3 followed on 17 February, the aircraft picking up speed at 2,000 metres. In the 17- minute flight Leutnant Starbati reached a speed of540 km/hr, repeated in a 16-minute flight the following day.

On 4,22 and 25 February Starbati also flew the Re 4 V-10, the planned operational version of the piloted V-l. After a brief period in the air the fuel system began to leak, making Starbati dizzy. He broke off the flight and ground staff found that he had lost 335 litres of the original 600 litres of fuel since he took off

At this stage the Reichenberg was useless for operations because of instability in flight and needed constant corrections to maintain course but the flight trials at Larz continued.

At the beginning of 1945 the Rechlin-Larz test centre began to consider suitable variants for pin-point attacks by suicide pilots and in the training versions. Leutnant Starbati played a major role. However, he met his fate in a short wingspan Re 3 on 5 March 1945. After reaching a speed between 400 and 500 km/hr at 2,800 metres, as he turned to port both wings detached one after the other. Under ramjet propulsion the fuselage entered a steep dive. Starbati could not open the cockpit hood and died when the machine hit the Nebelsee near Sewekow. After Unteroffizier Schenk also lost his life in a Reichenberg, the Chief-TLR noted in the War Diary on 15 March that, at the suggestion of the Rechlin test centre, OKL and the Kommodore of KG 200 had decided to terminate the project after the most recent fatal accident. Most

Reichenberg aircraft were then put into store at the Neu-Tramm Luftwaffe arsenal since there was no further use for them. On 23 April Major Fritz Hahn surrendered all 700 V-ls and the last 54 secret suicide machines to US forces which had occupied the Muna.


Подпись: Wind-tunnel model of the W 1 Wasserfall flak rocket under test at the Aerodynamic Test Institute.
Towards the end of the war the Peenemiinde EV Wasserfall design was considered to have the best chance of winning back for Germany air supremacy over the Reich. It was a remote-controlled, single stage, liquid-fuel supersonic rocket designed to engage enemy aircraft at the highest altitudes. Its wings and fins had a cruciform arrangement and it was fired vertically. Simultaneous with work on the single-stage variant W 1 – also known as С 1 – at the beginning of 1942 work was started on the two-stage C 3 version. On 15 June and 12 July 1942 OKL placed orders with Rheinmetall to handle the C 3 development. As the results promised early military use, on 12 March 1943 series production was


Firing of the Wasserfall prototype at the north tip of Usedom island.

scheduled for mid-1944. From June 1944, 250 would be turned out monthly, from September 1944 1,000, from December 2,500, and from March 1945 7,500 monthly, according to the RLM and Armaments Ministry figures. Only two experimental rockets, W 1/1 and W 1/2 would be built of the С 1 version, the C-2 version would generate all further test rockets and the first operational series-produced rockets. Apart from difficult technical problems which remained to be resolved, there was little capacity to produce the C 2, too little by way of raw materials, and above all too litde space. It was therefore impossible to predict the date when the Luftwaffe would have its effective defence against Allied bombers. To find a useful solution, in July 1943 it was decided to equip the first 1,000 rockets with control-stick steering and then 5,000 with radio control.

Testing of Wasserfall proceeded only slowly. In November 1943 it was announced that the first two experimental rockets would be fired from Peenemunde in March, five others in June and another 20 by the end of September 1944.100 were to have been produced by the beginning of 1945. In January 1944 it was expected that the shortage of graphite from the third quarter of the year 1945 would result in rocket production being severely cut back. This would be accompanied by procurement problems, serious transport and delivery hold-ups and not least bureaucracy.

On 8 January 1944 Wasserfall W 1/1 exploded on the ground during a test. In February 1944 there were further problems with the fuel regulator and combustion chamber valves. Despite all difficulties W 1/2 was fired successfully

on 29 February 1944. In order to skirt the materials bottleneck, on 17 April 1944 the number of experimental rockets required was reduced. After 80 for testing and 20 for ground and materials investigation, 400 C 2s were to be produced as soon as possible for operational testing. In June 1944 the first two Wasserfall of the second series (W 2) were fired from Test Stand IX on Usedom Island, Peenemiinde.

Operational use against Allied aircraft was still a distant prospect. Other C 2 starts, some disastrous, were made in September from Test Stands P II, P II South and P IV, but on 9 October 1944 Wasserfall C 2 was declared ‘risk – free’since the majority of 110 test starts had proceeded without problems. By 12 November there had been 14 more firings to test missile stability, flight control and the rocket motors.

Development of the flight control system was considered complete by the beginning of 1945. In February the motor was certified reliable and production was listed for the end of February, or the latest at the beginning of March, in the bombproof tunnels at Kohnstein/Nordhausen. By 18 February, 28 Wasserfall rockets had been fired, all fitted with remote control except for the basic prototype. Five of these were blown up at take-off or shortly after. Despite this, the Emergency Programme of 13 March 1945 scheduled the further development of 20 new A 10 variants monthly from April 1945, far too few to bring about any change in the air war over the Reich.

Operations Over the Reich

Once the Luftwaffe staff had evaluated the experience of several test commandos, they decided to introduce the Me 262 and equip whole Geschwader with the aircraft. JG 7 was selected to receive the Me 262 A-la first. Eleven machines had arrived by the end of November 1944 following Kommando Nowotny being disbanded, and most completed aircraft were delivered there. Using previously – gained expertise it was relatively easy to get a Staffel of III./JG 7 operational, but the supply of new aircraft fell short of the numbers wanted by the Geschwader – by 10 January 1945 it had only 19 Me 262s.

During that period the first jets had been delivered to 1. and 3. Staffel of I./JG 7 at Kaltenkirchen. The commander of the incomplete Gruppe was Knight’s Cross holder Oberst Johannes Steinhoff. On 14 January the former

Operations Over the Reich
commander of I./JG 7, Major Theodor Weissenberger, took over from Steinhoff. In January 1945,1. Gruppe took charge of 15 and III. Gruppe of 11 Me 262s, from which it was calculated that JG 7 would not be at hill strength for at least two to three months.

On 8 February OKL redesignated IV./JG 54 as II./JG 7, and shortly afterwards I. Gruppe had 12 new jets while III. Gruppe was close to full strength. A few days later II./JG 7 began re-equipping with the new fighter. Whilst this re-formation of the Gruppen was under way, the possibility of combat had been rather thrust into the background. The immediate necessity was for pilots to undertake more training flights to gain experience with jet aircraft. Even so, some of the more experienced fliers obtained victories against Allied machines, amongst them Hauptmann Georg ‘Schorsch’ Eder, Oberleutnant Gunther Wegmann and Leutnant Rudolf‘Rudi’ Rademacher.

In the first major sortie on 21 February, 15 Me 262s of the Stabsstaffel and III. Gruppe engaged P-51 Mustangs of479th Fighter Group over Potsdam, but none of the various piston-aircraft aces obtained a shooting opportunity. Only gradually did the successes come. Almost daily in addition to the usual technical problems there were serious faults and pilot errors which caused fatalities amongst JG 7 airmen.

Подпись: This Me 262 A-la ofJG 7 flown by Oberfahnrich Mutke landed in Switzerland in April 1945.
In February 1945 JG 7 received a total of 42 Me 262s to replace losses and increase its complement. These were distributed 25 to I./JG 7,10 to II./JG 7 and 7 to III./JG 7. The Geschwader was thus still in the expansion phase at the beginning of March. Although the number of daily flights rose, Allied aircrews were not confronted by large jet formations. However, the new machine was soon carving its reputation amongst B-17 and В-24 bomber crews over Germany. The four 30 mm MK 108 cannon would bring down a heavy bomber with only a few hits, while a single hit from an R4M rocket would do the same. Rockets were carried below the wings in wooden racks. The first Staffel to be equipped with the R4M was 11./JG 7.

The first clash occurred on 18 March. The target was bombers heading for central Germany. In tussles with the escort fighters, the Geschwader lost several of its best pilots including Oak Leaves holder Oberleutnant Hans-Peter Waldmann and Oberleutnant Gunter Wegmann, the latter parachuting to safety although seriously wounded.

In the heavy air raids over Swabia and Bavaria on 22 March 1945,28 Me 262s were lost, a setback in the current war situation which could not be made good
quickly. In subsequent attacks by ‘fast fighters’, as they were termed in War Diary entries, against Eighth Air Force units, five jets were lost on 26 March. Four days later in an engagement over northern Germany, 36 Me 262 fighters from

III. /JG 7, some armed with the R4M rocket, scored successes. Instilled with confidence, on 31 March pilots of I. and III./JG 7 claimed to have destroyed 21 heavy bombers including 12 RAF Lancasters taking part in a daylight raid. In an action against all three divisions of Eighth Air Force on 1 April 1945, 32 Me 262s were involved. For the loss of only four of their own the German aircraft shot down 15 enemy aircraft. Successes were also reported by Me 262 pilots against a 300-strong bomber force heading by day for Hamburg.

Between 1 and 4 April, I./JG 7 was transferred from Kaltenkirchen to central Germany to give better cover over the remaining Reich territory. Although other Gruppen in the process of formation had litde flying training, their pilots hoped for the chance to fly operations soon. During April 1945 the expansion of

IV. Подпись: Me 262s marked with a white ‘S’were used exclusively in the training role and were unsuitable for combat.
/JG 7 had started, but proceeded only slowly and trickled to a halt by the end of the month. Nevertheless the victories obtained by operational pilots did increase. Between 2 and 6 April alone, JG 7 shot down at least 60 enemy aircraft, although at a high price: 146 pilots were either killed, wounded or landed by parachute sustaining injury. These men came principally from I. and III./JG 7.

Major Heinrich Ehrler of the Stabsstaffel rammed a B-17 after having gunned down two or three others. He claimed 201 victories in all and received the Oak Leaves, but fell in action over the Reich on 6 April 1945.

On 7 April 1945 there occurred the despairing Sonderkommando Elbe operation in the Magdeburg area when American bomber formations were attacked by 183 Rammjciger over the Steinhuder Meer; 77 pilots were lost in the ramming action, and only 50 aircraft returned. JG 7 flew escort and support,

I. /JG 7 shooting down several P-5 Is and B-24s over northern Germany. In all 28 victories were claimed by Me 262 pilots. On 10 April 25 jets scored five victories over the shrinking Reich. Near Magdeburg Oberleutnant Walter Schuck of III./JG 7 shot down three B-17s and rammed a fourth, landing safely by parachute. In this action the Geschwader lost seven pilots dead and two seriously wounded. Other aircraft were disabled but outflew their pursuers and landed safely. Over Saxony on 14 April Oberleutnant Fritz Stehle and Leutnant Rademacher had successes, the latter claiming three B-17s. Hits sustained during combat with the American bomber fleets decreased day by day the number of Me 262s operational. Since there were few replacements, in mid-April the

Geschwader was converted into a mixed fighting unit. On 19 April over Prague and environs it shot down at least six B-17s. Allied fighter groups including the 357th, 364th and 404th were on the scene very quickly and inflicted damage. On 25 April III./JG 7 alone claimed three B-17s as ‘definites’and another four as ‘probables’. Next day IV./JG 7 became IV.(Erg)/JG 7, absorbing important elements of the former EJG 2. Only in this way was the unit able to maintain a viable level of operational machines.

On 28 April most of the surviving Me 262 A-las of JG 7 grouped up with other jet units in the Prague area. Bohemia had meanwhile become one of the last regions outside the Reich still held by the Wehrmacht. The remnants of numerous Luftwaffe units had been driven there by the Allied advance. Amongst the pilots present was Oberleutnant Friedrich Schenk, originally with JG 300, who scored his eighth victory with an Me 262 on 1 May 1945 with III./JG 7. Despite the closeness to the cessation of hostilities, on 3 May JV 44 was redesignated IV./JG 7 and sent via Munich to Salzburg where its career ended in a meadow near Innsbruck.

In the Prague area pilots of the Hogeback battle unit had become embroiled in the ground fighting, using their Me 262 A-las and A-2s in an attempt to put down the Czech resistance movement and the people’s insurgency in Prague itself. These pilots also distinguished themselves on occasion in the air in repeated combats with Russian fighter-bombers such as the 11-2 Shturmovik, when their four MK 108s proved well able to deal with these armour-clads.

The KG( J)s, those bomber units selected for conversion to the fighter role, had also been equipped with the Me 262 A-la. The pilots had formerly flown bomber operations with Ju 88s or He Ills and been reassigned to fighters for shortage of fuel and lack of replacement aircraft. After conversion training with Fw 190 A-8 or Bf 109 G-10 fighters, instruction followed on Me 262s. The first of these KG(J) units was the former KG 54 which had attacked targets in England in early 1944 and then suffered heavy losses in the summer over Normandy. A new chapter in the Geschwader’s history began in early September 1944 when Me 262 A-lAs came in dribs and drabs from the production line. At the beginning of December 1944,1./KG 54 had ten Me 262s plus a few Fw 190 A-8s, F-8s and S-8s for pilot conversion training. Deliveries then began to pick up and numbers at I. Gruppe rose while III./KG 54 also received its first jet aircraft. The Geschwader Kommodore, Oberstleutnant Riedesel Freiherr zu Eisenbach, had his command office with the Geschwaderstab at Giebelstadt aerodrome where I. Gruppe under Major Otfried Sehrt and II. Gruppe were stationed. III./KG 54 was at Neuburg/Danube.

On 9 February 1945 16 Me 262 A-las of I. KG(J) 54 led by the Kommodore took off to intercept inbound Eighth AF bombers. Visibility was very poor with cloud at 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). Interception point was north-east of Frankfurt/

Main. Due to the cloud, the unit began to disperse and within minutes the defensive fire of the heavy bombers and attacks by P-5 ID Mustangs of 55th Fighter Group had claimed seven Me 262s. The Kommodore, I. Gruppe’s technical officer and adjutant failed to return: the Kommandeur of I./KG(J) 54 was seriously wounded. Three pilots baled out at the last moment. Unaccustomed fighter action thus resulted in a tragic end for the former bomber pilots.

Подпись: The successes of KG(J) 54 and similar bomber units with the Me 262 were modest in comparison to those of JG 7.
Conversion training and preparation for the coming battles in early 1945 continued at III./KG(J) 54 (Kommandeur Hauptmann Eduard Brogsitter). On 10 February 1945 the Gruppe could boast over thirty Me 262s as the result of new deliveries. Ground staff reported 90 per cent of these fit for operations. On 16 February 1945 Fifteenth Air Force operating from northern Italy attacked III. Gruppe s airfield at Neuburg/Danube. Several Me 262s were written off, and 16 suffered shrapnel damage. There were only light injuries amongst personnel. New machines were awaited, but by the beginning of March damage to the airfield had still not been repaired.

On 5 March 1945 I./KG(J) 54 concluded its Me 262 A-l training and was declared fully operational, the only Gruppe of the Geschwader to be so. On 18 March OKL ordered I. Gruppe and elements of the incompletely equipped

II. /KG(J) 54 to Zerbst in central Germany. On 19 March 125 Eighth Air Force bombers appeared over Neuburg but their aim this time was not so good, and

III. /KG(J) 54 survived until the attack by 366 B-24s on 21 March. Three days later another 271 Liberators arrived to finish the job. What was left of the infrastructure was transferred to Ganacker aerodrome between Straubing and Landau, the pilots being distributed between I./KG(J) 54, IIIVKG(J) 6 at Prague-Rusin and EKG(J) of IX Fliegerkorps at Pilsen (Plzen). Following another air raid on Neuburg the last airworthy Me 262s were flown to Ending near Munich.

I./KG(J) 54 flew its first operation from Zerbst over central Germany on 28 March 1945.Twenty-five Me 262s from III./JG 7 and KG(J) 54 attacked a 750- strong bomber stream despatched by Eighth Air Force. Ten bombers were shot down, most by JG 7 pilots. On 7 April 1945 I./KG(J) 54 pilots formed part of the fighter escort for the ram-fighters, taking off from airfields at Alt-Lonnewitz, Brandis and Zerbst.

On 9 April the Allies shot down or seriously damaged 17 of 21 Me 262s sent up by KG(J) 54. These losses could not be made good. The supply of new Me 262 jets had dried up, the last Me 262 A-l from the production line having been absorbed by KG(J) 54 on 20 February. Despite numerous losses in the first half of April, an average of 15 missions was being flown daily. During one of these on 10 April in bitter fighting with American aircraft, seven P-5 Is pursued Leutnant Jurgen Rossows Me 262 A-l of III./KG(J) 54: when he reduced speed for landing at Stendal they pounced. The aircraft was destroyed and Rossow seriously wounded. Other attacks on the jets ensued.

On 18 April III. Gruppe at Erding was attacked on the ground: on 1 May – without aircraft – the unit moved to Rinsting/Chiemsee. Four days later American tanks rolled in and took the greater part of the personnel prisoner. A few Me 262s of KG(J) 54 had reached Prague meanwhile and joined up with the Hogeback battle unit. On 8 May the last two airworthy Me 262s broke up while landing on pasture near Innsbruck. The unit, without aircraft, pulled back to Hallstadter See short of its intended destination, the airfield at Zeltweg.

Elements of III./EJG 2 flew fighter missions briefly from Lechfeld. From the autumn of 1944 the squadron served as a training unit for jet pilots under Major Werner Andres. On 17 January the unit had 14 Me 262 A-ls, 3 A-2s and 1 B-l plus 19 Bf 109s and Fw 190s, 20 Bf 110s and 4 He 219s. Between 5 February and 18 April the Gruppe received 27 Me 262 A-las. At the end of March the Kommandeur of III./EJG 2, Horst Geyer, was replaced by Oberstleutnant Heinz Bar, recently returned from the Eastern Front. Up to 19 April he obtained at least 18 victories with the Me 262, his last being on 28 April. Shortly before the war’s end it was proposed to incorporate III./EJG 2 into JG 7, while the ground staff were earmarked for I.(F)/100, a reconnaissance unit stationed within the Alpine Redoubt’.

Led by Generalmajor Adolf Galland, Jagdstaffel Galland was converted into JV 44, officially commissioned on 24 February. It received its first batch of 13 Me 262 A-Is and an Me 262 B-l with dual controls at the beginning of April. On 1 April 1945, JV 44 moved from Brandenburg to Munich-Riem, and a few days later had its first encounter over Bavaria. At that time, OKL was considering operating the unit from northern Italy, and had requested Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring to search out suitable airfields. The choice fell on Gallarate Malpensa and Lonate Possolo south-west of Lake Como, but the plan was dropped in the face of major problems of maintenance and transport from the replacement – engine shops.

On 18 April the first six Me 262 A-Is at Munich-Riem were at readiness for a defensive action over Bavaria: Oberst Steinhoff crashed on take-off and sustained severe burns. Next day JV 44 pilots used R4M rockets against enemy aircraft for the first time. After a lull of a few days, on 24 April the highly decorated fighter ace Oberst Giinther Liitzow failed to return from a mission near Donauworth. On 26 April the unit shot down five В-26 Marauders and a P-47; one Me 262 pilot had to bale out. Adolf Galland himself claimed a medium bomber, but while attacking a second B-26 was lightly wounded and finished the war recovering at Bad Wiessee/Tegernsee in a fighter-pilot convalescent home with one leg in plaster. Heinz Bar took over command and led JV 44 to the end. Meanwhile the tally of operational machines at JV 44 had risen to 40 Me 262s making it one of the strongest Me 262 units of the Luftwaffe in the final phase. IX. Fliegerkorps( J) accordingly ordered JV 44 to Prague. The instruction was then rescinded due to bad weather, and even the order to get the unit at least to Horsching/Linz was not executed.

On 1 May 1945 Major Wilhelm Herget’s Fi 156 landed unexpectedly at Schleissheim aerodrome north of Munich. It was in American hands, and he brought Generalmajor Galland s offer to surrender JV 44 to Brigadier General Menoher, Chief of Staff, US XV Corps. The American general accepted willingly. Herget returned with the unit adjutant – protected by American fighters – to Salzburg. It had been agreed that the 26 Me 262s would be divided into two groups and flown to Darmstadt and Giebelstadt respectively. As alternatives Major Herget nominated Leipheim and Schwabisch Hall, these being airfields held by the Americans. The plan to hand over the unit was delayed by bad weather and the limited fuel reserves at JV 44. On 2 May contact was severed abruptly after Major Herget’s Fi 156 was shot down in error and the Major hospitalised by the Americans, and thus the plan failed. On 3 May JV 44

Подпись: During the final phase of operations numerous Me 262 A-las were grounded for lack of spare parts and J-2 fuel.
(Salzburg) was renamed IV./JG 7 and ordered to Innsbruck provided the airfield could take the aircraft. From there they were to fly to Klagenfurt and Horsching/ Linz. Nothing came of this, for on the morning of 4 May the SS blew up all 25 serviceable Me 262s of JV 44; one which had suffered light damage after a heavy landing at Salzburg was later captured by the Americans.

Prague – The Last Station

Meanwhile it was not only the situation on the ground that was becoming more confused. On 27 April, Luftflotte 6 surprised JV 44 by ordering it to return all its Me 262s to KG 51 Edelweiss, after which KG 51 was to proceed forthwith to Prague-Rusin to strengthen IX Fliegerkorps. During the flight as many enemy positions as possible along the River Regen were to be attacked. After bad

Prague - The Last Station

Bombing-up an Me 262 A-l/bo. with two SC 250s.

weather held up the transfer, on 28 April Luftflotte 6 ordered JV 44 to fly escort for I./KG 51. Because a direct flight was ruled out, and a reserve supply of J-2 fuel existed at Horsching/Linz, a detour was arranged to Lower Austria to refuel. Once they reached Prague units of KG 51 under Hauptmann Abrahamczik were to assist in the defence of Berlin, and in particular carry out low-level attacks on the supply lines to the rear of the Soviet 3rd and 4th Guards Tank Armies.

On 30 April, seven Me 262s of I./KG 51 arrived at Horsching. Most of II./KG 51 had been overrun by US XX Corps near Straubing on 29 April and captured. On 1 May I./KG 51 headed for Prague where it was redesignated KG 51 Prague. Next morning Me 262 Blitzbomber units attacked Russian troops in the Berlin area for the first time. Targets at Bautzen, Hoyerswerda and Kamenz were also bombed. Several Me 262s were damaged by barrages of anti­aircraft fire. On 2 May, Luftflotte 6 ordered IX Fliegerkorps (J), to which KG 51 Prague was attached, to operate exclusively to the east, all attacks on the Western Allies requiring prior approval from above. However, on 5 April an uprising broke out in Prague leading to heavy fighting between the insurgents and units of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS.

After the uprising began, KG 51 pilots attached to the newly formed Jabo unit Hogeback flew dangerous low-level missions, while some II./KG 51 pilots even joined in the house-to-house street fighting in Prague’s Jenco district. On the orders of the German city commandant, the jets were to drop containers of incendiaries. Amongst the most important targets was the area near Prague-

Stred central railway station. During a lull in the fighting on the night of 6 May, the insurgents erected more than 1,500 barricades in the streets. That same afternoon a Jabo unit destroyed Prague radio station, which had fallen into insurgent hands, with SD 250 and SD 500 bombs. Some of these fell in Wenceslaus Square.

Ground staff attempted to fight through to Pilsen with part of General Vlasov’s anti-communist Russian force. While General Vlasov was negotiating

Prague - The Last Station

The series-produced Me 262 A-2a Blitzbomber had a reduced armament of two MK 108s and was operated mainly by KG 51.

Подпись: To obtain better accuracy, two experimental Me 262s were converted to accommodate a prone bomb aimer in the nose.

to change sides, his troops surrounded Prague-Rusin airfield. On 7 May, Me 262 pilots then bombed the Vlasov units around their own airfield while German troops in Prague launched a massive counter-attack against the insurgents. II./KG 51 had arrived meanwhile at Eger (Saaz) and was serviced by JG 7 ground crews. Six Me 262s were bombed-up and flew to Prague where two were lost. The machine of Unteroffizier Pohling was shot down by insurgents over Prague old city, Leutnant Heinz Strothmann also lost his life when his badly damaged machine crashed during the return flight.

On 7 May, after Germany’s overall capitulation had been announced, the last four pilots taxied their machines to the runway at Saaz having been informed by Hauptmann Abrahamczik that on the orders of Luftflotte 6 all aircraft were to be delivered to the Western Allies to prevent the modern Me 262 jet bombers falling into Red Army hands. At 1430, Leutnant Wilhelm Batel flew his Me 262 A-2a from Saaz to Liineburg and landed in a field two miles from his family estate at Pomeissel. It was a wheels-up landing but he emerged unharmed. 2./KG 51 Staffelkapitan Hauptmann Abrahamczik and Oberleutnant Haeffner landed at Munich-Riem and surrendered their aircraft to US forces. The fourth pilot, Oberfahnrich Frohlich, touched down at Fassberg where RAF fliers invited him to join their victory celebrations. Two days later they captured him ‘officially’ and he went into a PoW camp.

From the summer of 1944 Edelweiss squadron received a total of 342 Me 262 A-l fighters, Me 262 A-la Jabos and Me 262 A-2a. This represented a third of

all delivered Me 262 production. Of these aircraft at least 88 were lost in action and another 146 to technical defects. The remainder were given to JG 7, KG(J) 54 and JV 44. Kommando Stamp at Oranienburg received five, three went to the air reconnaissance wing and one machine to KdE. Thus only four remained on 8 May.

In the estimation of OKL, the Me 262 A-l and A-2 Blitzbombers were litde suited to low-level attack against small ground targets because they had no proper bombsight. It was also very difficult at such high speeds to hit battlefield targets like lone tanks, locomotives and bridges, although it was rare for AA fire to hit a jet for the same reason.

Searchingfor Superior Ideas

At the end of 1944 it was clear that many promising projects were not yet ready for service. By the harshest work measures, including the construction of ever
more satellite camps and annexes of existing concentration camps, Himmler attempted to bring about a crucial change at the eleventh hour. Intensive efforts were made to produce fighter-bombers in which great hopes had been placed. The later Horten Go-229 A-l design was less a fighter-bomber than a promising cross between a fighter and a Jabo armed with two ETC 503s. The SS believed that this Kampfjager (‘battle fighter’) was in itself a powerful fighter by its speed and manoeuvrability, but the design was problematical for many. The ‘flying­wing’ (.Nurfliigel) was elegant but not easy to fly. The use of jet turbines and rejection of the traditional tailplane did not help the attitude of the Go-229 in flight, and the indifferent BMW and Jumo turbines of early 1945 would have kept the aircraft out of operations.

Подпись: The Horten Но IX V-2 was driven by two Jumo 004 В jet turbines and tested in February 1945 at Oranienburg near Berlin.
At the beginning of the war, Hans Multopp, who was working on the development of the Та 183 at Focke-Wulf, opposed the idea of flying-wing fast bombers because they were not capable of carrying heavy bomb-loads. A further objection to flying-wing fighters was that if one or both turbines failed the aircraft would immediately become uncontrollable. As well as the designs and constructions of the brothers Reimar and Walter Horten at Gotha, Arado, BMW

(Messerschmitt) and Focke-Wulf in particular produced numerous studies for all-weather fighters of this kind. None had any possibility of being realised towards the end because resources were exhausted.

Horten Но IX (Go-229)

The Kampjjager concept fitted the flying-wing designs of the Horten brothers. Their Но IX (Gotha Go 229) was a highly efficient machine intended to complement the Me 262 as the front-line fighter pairing from the beginning of 1945.

Подпись: The last flight of Leutnant Erwin Ziller with the Но IX V-2 on 18 February 1945 ended in tragedy when the machine crashed and he was killed.
During the 1930s the Horten brothers had experimented successfully with the construction of flying-wing type aircraft. The Go 229 was not a pure fighter but a ‘heavy fighter’. Development of the machine under the works specification Но IX proceeded initially at Luftwaffenkommando IX at Gottingen. The first prototype V-l received an RLM number and was reclassified as Ho 229 V-l. The second prototype Но IX V-2 had two Jumo 004B turbines. Test pilot Leutnant Erwin Ziller probably made a few flights with this machine before the ‘official’maiden flight on 2 February 1945. Shortly before landing on 18 February

a turbine failed and in the attempted emergency touchdown the aircraft hit the ground too fast and somersaulted, killing Ziller.

At the beginning of 1945 work began on prototypes V-3 to V-5 at Friedrichsroda near Gotha. As Horten did not have sufficient assembly capacity, the Chief-TLR ordered 20 machines, now designated Go 229 A-l, built at Gotha Waggonfabrik and at Klemm, Boblingen. Because of the shortage of reconnaissance jets, some of these 20 were to be produced as ‘attack reconnaissance’ aircraft (Gewaltaufklarer). The original armament of four MK 108s was reduced to two and two Rb 50/18 cameras installed for overlapping-frame photography. All later aircraft were to have four MK 103 fixed guns to free MK 108 production for the Me 262. When the US 9th Armored Division advanced on Gotha, it captured the almost complete Go 229 V-3 and the early-stage fuselages of the V-4 and V-5 similar to V-2, and V-6. V-3 was dismantled and shipped to the USA for testing.

Go 229 V-6 was the precursor of the series type A-l having a thicker profile with partially armoured cockpit and various weapon combinations. The common assumption that it was a two-seater is incorrect. Go 229 A-l was to be the Gotha series-built aircraft resembling the Но IX outwardly, but modified in nearly all

details by Gotha. On 4 April 1945 the Chief-TLR decided that apart from prototypes V-3 to V-5, prototypes V-6 to V-15 were to be built at Gotha before the series run started. Despite the war situation, it was still intended to turn out a series of 100 Go 229 A-Is, but based on the Gotha project P-60, from which the Chief-TLR expected a better performance, The P-60 was planned as a heavy fighter with two recumbent crew. The design continued into April 1945 because the Go 229 formed part of the Emergency Programme.

Leonidas Staff el, KG 200

The Leonidas Staffel or Kommando Lange, named after the Staffelkapitan of l./KG 200, Oberleutnant Karl-Heinz Lange, was comprised exclusively of volunteers so committed to the cause as to wish to offer their lives unconditionally. In view of the fact that in the long run the Allies could deploy not only more soldiers but more importantly far more fighting machines than the Wehrmacht, Lange had realised that the most effective and accurate weapons possible were required. This meant a manned glider bomb with rudimentary wings descending at a steep angle of 1 in 2 or 1 in 3. The pilot would be seated in a pressure cabin wearing oxygen apparatus. Watching through a small window of armoured glass, he would steer his machine for the objective. The piloted bomb would be brought near to the target by a bomber aircraft flying beyond the range of enemy anti-aircraft batteries.

On 31 July 1943 Oberleutnant Lange had discussed the project with Professor Georgii, leader of Goring s research division, and on 3 September 1943 he had a conversation with Oberst Oskar Dinort, who was fundamentally opposed to suicide operations and had been asked to form the Aerial Target Division. On 27 September 1943 Oberst Dietrich Peltz was reported to have spoken out positively on the ‘total mission and sent a memorandum to that effect to Luftwaffe Command. Three months later Lange was detached to Transport – kolonne ХЗ-Ost but continued to work on his idea. By 25 January 1944 when his proposal had become known to Goring and Generaloberst Lorzer, he had the names of 26 volunteers. At the beginning of February 1944 Lange had a chance to discuss his plan with Hanna Reitsch, and with her help he tried to win Hitler over to the idea of suicide operations.

Generalfeldmarschall Milch and most staff at OKL remained opposed and operations with the manned bomb were prohibited. The KG 200 Kommodore was also against it. However, on 3 February 1944 OKL ordered the formation of a suicide Staffel, for which 120 men had already volunteered. The unit had no motorised aircraft although several Grunau ‘Baby’gliders were available and training went ahead with the Stummelhabicht. On 10 March 1944 Oberst Heinrich Heigl, Kommodore of KG 200, argued that the pilot of a manned, disposable aircraft must be offered at least some small prospect of getting clear before impact.

In mid-February 1944 the volunteers were assessed to select those most suitable for the first operation, and on the 24th Gotha Waggonfabrik received the

contract to build the machines, but the preparations were wiped out by an air raid. Instead of major warships a new target had now begun to interest OKL. Suicide pilots could attack Soviet-held dams and power plants using gliders. Lange informed Heigl of his opposition to the idea on the grounds of the small quantity of explosives which a glider could transport.

The Kommodore had been in favour of using the Fw 190 F-8 with SD 1000s or PC 1400s, and Lange supported him, submitting a memorandum in May 1944 requesting that the children of dead suicide pilots should automatically receive a place at the Adolf Hitler School or one of the National Institutes (Napolas), and also have the opportunity to take part in the Bayreuth Festival or attend the Furtwangler concerts, to mention just a few of the benefits.

After the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944 the military situation in Western Europe had deteriorated rapidly for Germany. When KG 200 was asked six days later if the suicide squad was ready with its Fw 190s, the answer was no because the volunteers had not been trained on motorised aircraft. On 15 June Fw 190 flight training was begun with JG 103 at Stolp and Parow. Fifteen to twenty circuits were to suffice! On 21 June the training was declared concluded

and the pilots returned to Dedelsdorf. Since attacks on the invasion fleet had to be made at dusk or at night, or on a blind approach through cloud, this was too much to ask of poorly trained suicide pilots, and they were now called for bombing training. When the men arrived at Rechlin on 26 June 1944 to practice releasing bombs in a 70-degree dive, they were told that they would have to share one Fw 190 F-8 between them, although a second was expected shortly. Bombing large warships was difficult and, despite the help of Travemiinde test centre only eight to ten bombs came near the target cross.

For the attacks against the south coast of England required by the Luftwaffe planners, 11 Fw 190 F-8s were available on 26 June but the standard of the pilots was poor. At the end of July 1944, however, Hanna Reitsch used Himmler’s office in an attempt to get Hitler to start the ball rolling, but the Fiihrer not only forbade the attacks but the entire piloted-bomb concept. Oberst Heigl was blamed for not having prepared the Fw 190 operation properly.

Подпись: These KG 200 pilots had the task of demolishing great bridges with SD 1000 bombs. In the end the few operations they flew hardly mattered.
Apparently, according to Robert Eck, five named members of the suicide Staffel at Rechlin-Larz were to be shown how to fly the manned V-l, and it had even been possible to arrange for five cubic metres of fuel per pupil for the

ramjet. Unfortunately the engines were still not reliable in the late summer of 1944 and the idea had to be postponed.

As the sworn declaration of commitment related to a ‘total mission with the manned bomb as proposed by Oberleutnant Lange, this left the ‘suicidees’ at liberty to refuse any other kind of dangerous mission. Later some of the Leonidas Staffel joined the KG 200 commandos. On 10 January 1945 Oberleutnant Lange was identified as a disruptive influence and transferred to a pilot training school at Braunschweig. The suicide pilots were absorbed into IV./KG 200.

Oberst Siegfried Knemeyer and Oberstleutnant Werner Baumbach both spoke out openly against suicide missions at the beginning of 1945, provoking a controversy with Generalmajor Walter Storp, General der Kampfflieger (Bombers), and the commander of II. Jagdkorps, Generalmajor Dietrich Peltz, who had been put up to it by Goring, and in January the two generals combined to use their influence to help gain acceptance for the kamikaze idea. Through Minister Speer, whom he knew well, Baumbach succeeded in getting Hitler to speak out against the ‘total mission. Leonidas Staffel at KG 200 was disbanded and the men referred to the Luftwaffe Personnel Bureau for new assignments. This brought to an end the efforts inspired by Lange to develop kamikaze tactics. At the end of March the volunteers comprised the SO (Selbstaufopferer-‘smci&z) Groups A and В at 1. Fliegerdivision under Generalmajor Robert Fuchs.

Fohn, Taifun and Other Developments

Shortly before the war ended the development of costly flak rockets such as Wasserfall had come to nothing. The last remaining hope was simple projectiles under construction which could be turned out in large numbers in various versions. These included the Fohn and Taifun. The latter was an unguided, arrow – shaped stabilised flak-rocket shell of 10-cm diameter. Easy to produce, it was propelled by either a solid-fuel or liquid-fuel motor and was stabilised by four tail fins. 1.98 metres (variant F) or 2.10 metres (variant P) in length (6 ft 6 in or 6 ft 11 in), the projectile could hit at 10,000 metres (33,000 ft) altitude. Salvoes of up to 48 rounds could be fired at a time from a multiple launcher on an 8.8-cm Flak 36 or 37 mounting. Taifun was an independent development of the Elektro – mechanische Werke (EW).

Development began at the beginning of 1944. On 14 September 1944 80 were ordered from EW and another 420 from Benteler Werke at Bielefeld. In October 1944, in order to speed up the development, the Taifun work-group was established. Problems with materials went hand in hand with a shortage of experienced specialists and technicians. The shortage of expert workers led in December 1944 to a postponement of the desperately needed ballistic testing for a month. The powerplant also caused concerns in the initial phase.

By January 1945 flight testing had shown that the projectile tender to wander about its axis if the start velocity was too slow, and as a remedy longer rails were introduced on the starting launch trailer. Structural changes also stopped Taifun rockets exploding on tests. On 13 January the first examples were fired with live warheads. Although these exploded satisfactorily when the clockwork stopped, the liquid-fuel rockets were widely dispersed. For simplicity of construction solid – fuel rockets seemed preferable, and the first test with a rocket of this kind was not long delayed, the first being fired at Torgelow and – according to visual observations – followed a good flight path. By the end of January, 11 Taifun F had been fired with good results, although in another test 6 of 20 exploded in mid-air without a reason being found. Constant problems hampered progress in the subsequent weeks, and by the end of March 1945 neither had the Taifun P made its test debut at the front nor had series production of the F version begun, even though both F and P were listed on the Fiihrer Emergency Programme.

Подпись: Towards the war’s end the Eberspacher company of Esslingen near Stuttgart manufactured this 48-chamber Fohn rocket launcher to combat low-flying aircraft. Therefore all-last minute efforts to series – produce the Taifun were in vain. By the war’s end only 100 rockets had been completed.

The only flak rocket ever used against enemy bombers was the primitive Fohn, which existed in numerous variations and had been subjected to some practical tests. A spin-stabilised Fohn projectile was tested experimentally in the armaments factory at Brno in October 1943. The intention was that salvoes of between 18 and 48 rockets would be used to bring down low-flying enemy aircraft. One month later the new Flak Emergency Programme foresaw the production of 1,000 Fohn by the end of April 1945, while construction of a multiple launcher, Fla-R-Werfer 44, for use against low-flying aircraft was also begun; 25 of these were scheduled for delivery by late October 1944.

The first projectiles built in November 1944 were used for evaluation purposes by Rheinmetall at the Unterliiss range. It was found that a five-man crew was sufficient. The first salvo of 5.5-cm rockets was fired at Wischau on 26 November 1944. The later series was of 7.3-cm calibre. In operational testing up to the end of 1944, 15,000 had been fire at enemy aircraft, but only one was shot down. In December 1944, 5,000 were fired in 70 salvoes at enemy machines at ranges between one kilometre and 1,500 metres, two hits being reported.

The principal drawback of the Fohn launcher was its short range of only 1,250 metres. At the beginning of 1945 the first of three experimental batteries from Flugabwehrschule (Flak-school) 2 were brought from Rerik on the Baltic to the Western Front. Flak-Lehr und Versuchsabteilung (Flak Instruction and Testing Unit) 900 commanded by Major Ehm was later composed of three batteries: I./900 railway flak on flat wagons, II./900 partially motorised, III./900 fixed localities and operational testing. On 28 February 1945,59 mobile 7.3-cm flak rocket launchers were available for training and operations, together with 24 permanent units mainly for training.

Подпись:At the beginning of February 1945, III./900, consisting of three companies with a total of 120 men under the command of Oberleutnant Karl-Heinz Peters, arrived in the Remagen area on detachment to the local Flakfuhrer for tactical purposes. Over the next few weeks the rocket battery engaged a number of enemy aircraft, particularly single-engined fighter bombers, without success. The unit had 21,000 projectiles and plentiful reserves but only a single 3-tonne lorry. III./900 at Remagen was split into two halves, one stationed on the west bank, the other on the east bank of the Rhine.

On 7 March, Allied units advanced into the area in strength to capture the bridge over the Rhine. That morning the battery crews on the west bank crossed to the east after having destroyed their rockets and the sight mechanism on the launcher. The batteries were abandoned because there were no towing vehicles available. Following this incident, a flying court-martial was set up by Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring on 10 March. Oberleutnant Peters was sentenced to death and executed by firing squad in a wood near Rimbach on the 13th. Generalmajor Adolf Erhard, Commander 7. Flakdivision, committed suicide in protest against the sentence on the 14th. Whether there were any engagements involving the use of the launcher on the east bank is unknown.

Another interesting weapon was the HASAG Fliegerfaust in which the Riistungsstab had set great hopes in the spring of 1945. The Fliegerfaust was a simply produced but powerful weapon which enabled the individual infantryman on the battlefield to defend himself against low-flying aircraft. It was made up of nine 2-cm barrels and could be used against aerial targets at a range of 500

Fohn, Taifun and Other Developments

Fliegerfaust A and В were designed for the protection of ground troops on the battlefield. Trials were begun under operational conditions but not completed.

metres. The first version appeared on 15 December 1944. Almost ready by the end of the year, 10,000 weapons and 4 million rounds were expected in January. A problem preventing the early introduction of the Fliegerfaust was vibration after firing. On 21 January 1945 the first hundred of the pre-series were ready. Problems with ammunition included difficulties in manufacturing machinery to produce porcelain nozzles for the rounds. On 4 February the weapon was designated ‘FF I and IT. According to Oberleutnant Jorg Muller when in US Third Army captivity, in mid-March there was a short test period at Saar – briicken. The large number of FF required could not be met.

The claim attributed to Hermann Goring ‘The technology must obey me!’ showed how litde the Luftwaffe leadership understood the development of new weapons. They designed numerous, basically futuristic, flak rockets and other very good ideas, but the general situation ensured that these were only available at best as examples.