Category Last Days of the Luftwaffe

The Final Account

At the latest by the summer of 1944 the realists at OKL must have admitted, at least to themselves, that – failing a miracle – the defence of the Reich was entering its final stage. Only by significantly increasing the percentage of enemy bombers shot down was there a possibility of retrieving the situation.

The quality of the Reich (non-flak) air defence was governed by three factors: pilots, aircraft and fuel. A shortage of pilots meant a reduction in the number of machines aloft, but a shortage of fuel meant closing the book no matter how fanatical the pilots or advanced the aircraft. There were other lesser factors, but they all added up to the same thing. Everyone involved in air defence, from

Подпись: The pilots of Gefechtsverband Hogeback flew their last Me 262 missions from Bohemia.

Goring to the youngest Flieger, had to doubt victory. After several years of a war of attrition, the Allies were no longer faced by the invincible Luftwaffe of 1940. With the exception of the Fw 190 D-9, D-ll to D-13 and above ah the Та 152 H-l, most of the piston-engined aircraft were no longer the worry they had once been for Allied escort fighters and bombers. The Luftwaffe work­horses, the Bf 109 G-6, G-14 and K-4 were still good, but not superior.

The enormous, ever-present Allied air armadas dominated the skies over the Reich. From the end of 1944 they roamed where they wanted, reducing refinery after refinery, aircraft factory after aircraft factory, town after town to ash and rubble. They cut transport routes and thus the supplies of new material to the front, slowly but surely bringing air defences to a stop. Once the Reich railway network was ruined, the beginning of the end was reached. From 1944 there was only one slight hope, and this was the construction of the greatest number of jet fighters possible. By means of Me 262 A-la fighters, relatively cosdy to produce, Allied mastery of the air might perhaps begin to fall away by the summer of 1944. Yet the small production runs of these aircraft resulted initially in relatively few operational units, such as JG 7, receiving the new fighter. Sorties by groups of 30 or more machines therefore remained the exception to the very end. Sections of OKL pinned their hopes on the He 162 Volksjager to turn the tide at the last minute. Using thousands of these small jet fighters, taking off with rocket assists from virtually anywhere, the Luftwaffe could have wounded Allied air supremacy fatally within months. That was the plan, but plans change and He 162 production was overshadowed by the Me 262. Thousands of machines planned by the Riistungsstab were cancelled.

Of greater concern was the supply of fuel for impending operations. The shortage caused a fall in fighter operations from month to month. Attacks on Allied operations towards the war’s end, for example by night fighters, were only possible using veterans and aces, for inexperienced pilots could never have found their way through the defence. The day fighters received the last of the fuel. Since the refineries were wrecked and no more benzine was forthcoming, resort was had to the last reserves. Finally a mix of various grades of benzine was supplied for the most urgent flights. Some J-2 fuel was available for most jet flights, although the modest quantities allowed no operations on a large scale.

New personnel arriving at the fighter units did not have the lengthy training period of former days behind them, and from 1944 they were cannon fodder. The leadership was keener than hitherto on a fanatical commitment to destroying that ‘special target’. Youths, completely without combat experience and ignorant of tactics, were to spring into the breach. They would man new aircraft such as the Natter or Volksjager for what amounted to little more than kamikaze missions. With rocket-driven ‘midget fighters’ and ‘local installation protectors’, OKL would make a final attempt to guard core areas of armaments

production, above all the fuel industry. But for that, most aircraft were not in the least suitable.

The suicide pilot ushered in a new phase of total war. Veteran, highly decorated men and also raw beginners were to ram their opponents if all else failed during the attack. Operation Elbe was the prime example. German losses were so high that it could not be termed a success despite the toll in enemy aircraft, and the bulk of successes were achieved by veteran pilots in piston – engined fighters and the jet escort.

Even the more senior operational pilots who flew in the last days rarely landed undamaged once enemy fighters had learned to patrol the home airfields waiting to pick off the soft target presented by a landing Me 262. The consequences of too short a period of initial training, or jet-conversion training, often made themselves felt. Most had to make do with a few minutes’ conversion flying in the Me 262 or He 162 for lack of aviation fuel. Learning to handle the new turbines outweighed the basic techniques, which had to be assimilated during operations.

Realists within the General Staff and OKL felt at the beginning of 1945 that the prospects for victory had receded into the far distance, and the main job now
was to bring as many civilians as possible to central Germany from the east and so protect them against the Red Army. Fighting on was the means to that end. That it would not be easy to slow down the advance of enemy ground forces was clear to all. Because of its lack of bombers, the Luftwaffe could promise no miracles. In the spring of 1945 only a few pilots could be sent even on such important missions as destroying major bridges since the necessary aircraft simply did not exist.

Ground successes were achieved mainly by Fw 190 F-8s in the Jabo role and Me 262 Blitzbombers in the face of too little fuel and too few airworthy machines. Sufficient pilots were available, but against massed Soviet tank armies with thousands of T-34s and Stalins, mere Staffeln of aircraft were not enough even when armed with the recendy introduced Panzerblitz or Panzerschreck rockets. Although during the closing phase of the war countless Soviet tanks were destroyed, it hardly changed the overall picture. Now a new dimension became unmistakable, but the ‘total mission would do little more than win the pilot a posthumous decoration or promotion. Operations such as Freiheit, the sacrificial attack on the Oder bridges, or Bienenstock, the small Panzerfaust-armed training machines, were hopeless from the outset, as were the Mistel attacks. Because of tactical problems, particularly the lack of air superiority in the battle area, not to mention the immense groups of Soviet flak batteries, these special aircraft did not obtain the successes predicted of them, and neither did the Hs 293 and other ‘wonder’ weapons.

Despite all setbacks and doubts there persisted through the last six months of World War II an underswell of hope for, or rather a vague belief in, Endsieg – ‘Final Victory’. It received new impetus once the Waffen-SS began to involve itself increasingly in air armaments. Thanks to its vast army of slaves, the SS was a power to be reckoned with. After it had begun to complete the underground factories, it moved in step by step to take over the rocket projects, while SS – Obergruppenfuhrer Jiittner proposed to enlarge the trawl to cover general aircraft production as well. The main aim of the SS, the last trump, was to get the remote – guided ground-to-air flak rocket operational. The necessary technology was not advanced sufficiendy, however, and at the end of 1944 industry was still not in a position to develop and mass-produce reliable systems, while Allied air raids brought the manufacture of synthetic fuels to a standstill. By March 1945 it was clear that the necessary fuels for flak rockets could not be made available in sufficient quantity, and this applied also to high-value materials needed especially for engines and electronic control equipment.

What remained was basically a belief in a miracle, for the desperate situation in which the German Reich now found itself could not be saved by Plenipotentiary Kammler. All his efforts were in vain, especially his pressure to have built the supersonic flying-wing fighter designed by the Horten brothers
towards the end, and for which capacity was lacking. Allied forces broke through to the heart of Germany too rapidly, and industry had no further chance to realise its ambitious plans. At the end, its futuristic prototypes littered the boundaries of airfields, half complete and draped in camouflage netting, awaiting discovery by the victors. For them these would be interesting finds, although the files with the mathematical data were of much higher value.

Подпись: Messerschmitt began manufacturing the Me 262 A-la at Gusen.
After traditional machines failed the Germans, mainly for lack of fuel, there was nothing left except the weapons of mass destruction. The miracle explosive never appeared, and neither did the chemical and nerve gases which Hitler refused to countenance. Thus the Luftwaffe leaders were reduced to planning for the eventuality that for some inexplicable reason the Allied advance might grind to a halt until the autumn of 1945, allowing some of the new weapons below ground to become ready, particularly new jet fighters and synthetic fuel. This would have allowed the war to proceed for a while. The Allies did not oblige, however, and seized all the plans for themselves.

From the Fw 190 AS to D-15

Besides the various versions of Bf 109 G-6, G-10, G-14 and K-4, and the late Fw 190 variants A-8 to A-10, the Fw 190 D-9 fighter and Та 152 were seen to be the most significant piston aircraft for Reich defence. After the Fw 190 A-8 run was finally completed in January 1945 at Fieseler Kassel, Ago at Ochsersleben and in the Norddeutsche Werke at Wismar, the A-9, which had been in production since September 1944, grew in importance. By February it had taken over from the A-8 series in the Focke-Wulf works at Cottbus and Aslau and at Dornier Wismar. The better armoured machine had an engine which differed little from its forerunner. Because Fw 190 ‘Dora’ fitted with a Jumo 213 was tactically superior, production of the Fw 190 A-9 with a BMW 801 engine gave way to it in February 1945. All succeeding Fw fighters were to be converted as soon as possible to the more powerful Jumo 213 E-l and F-l.

From the Fw 190 AS to D-15

As many of the larger aerodromes were destroyed, operational units resorted to makeshift bases. This photo shows an Fw 190 D-9.

From mid-1944 the Fw 190 D-9 had been an outstandingly reliable fighter which was now replacing the Fw 190 A-8 and A-9 in the fighter units on a large scale. The planned series production of the A-10 and D-10 was cancelled in favour of improved versions of the D-9.

Подпись: The Fw 190 D-12 and D-13 were amongst the last high-performance piston-engined fighters, equipped with Jumo 213 F-series motors and correspondingly fast.

Fw 190 D-9 to D-13 variants fitted with the Jumo 213 A to F engines were amongst the best German fighter aircraft at the war s end. Shortly beforehand the first D-ll appeared, an outstandingly efficient fighter with Jumo 213 E-l/F-1 engine and turbocharger. The first prototypes were manufactured at the end of September 1944 at Adelheide (Delmenhorst), and by April 1945 20 machines, some fitted with the new EZ 42 gunsight, had been completed.

In the previous October Roluf Lucht had demanded an immediate production run of engines with two-stage chargers for all modern piston-engined fighters. As the first major production run, the Fw 190 D-12 was to be equipped from the outset with the Jumo 213 F-l and MW 50 high pressure installation. This involved a slight modification of the Jumo 213 E-l engine. The aircraft were to have an MK 108 and only two MG 151s in the wing roots. In the spring of 1945 series production of this version fell by the wayside with the preference for the D-13 and the loss of the MK 108 manufacturing plant at Posen to the Soviets.

Five prototypes of the Fw 190 D-13 with Jumo 213 F were built. Series production was scheduled for March 1945 but was abandoned due to the war

From the Fw 190 AS to D-15

This Fw 190 D-12/R5 attached to a training unit for future Staffel-leaders was abandoned near Bad Worishofen.

From the Fw 190 AS to D-15

These Fw 190 D-9s and D-lls of the‘Parrot Staffer took over the immediate protection of Galland’s Jagdverband 44.

situation. The difference from the D-12 was its MG 151 cannon. A number of D-13 variants had two MK 108s as additional weapons in the wings. In March 1945 three machines were ready for the front and presumably at the beginning of April a few others became available with variations in the fixed weaponry.

Focke-Wulf built probably only two, possibly three Fw 190 D-14 prototypes up to April 1945. The last variant evaluated by the Chief-TLR in January 1945 was the D-15. As with the D-14, this machine would have had a DB 603 E or LA engine instead of the Jumo 213 A, E or F. By the wars end the only captured D-15 prototype (Works Number 500645) was fitted with only a DB 603 G engine but had a larger tailplane as did the Та 152.

Amongst the last operations flown with the Fw 190 D was the protection of the jet units transferring to southern Germany, mainly the remnants of JG 7, KG 51 and KG(J) 54 together with the legendary fighter unit JV 44, which withdrew to Innsbruck via Munich and Salzburg. Some Та 152 pilots landed on airfields in Schleswig-Holstein, where their machines were captured by British forces.

Production Gears Up

The manufacture of fuselages, wings and tailplanes began simultaneously. At the beginning of November 1944 the first frames for the He 162 V-l forward fuselage were on the belt at Languste. The first wing hurriedly completed at Franken was faulty. The tail and components were to be rushed out and delivered from Lower Austria. On 7 December assembly of He 162 V-2 started. Delays in the supplies of tailplanes and wings held back the construction of further prototypes.

On 6 December 1944 Engineer Gotthold Peter, leading test pilot at Heinkel – Siid, flew the He 162 V-l (M-l) for the first time. The second test, an exhibition flight for General Commissioner Kessler and Chief-TLR Oberst Diesing, ended in disaster. Due to defective bonding the starboard wing leading edge was

Подпись: At least twenty pilots of JG 1 lost their lives in tests and while under instruction.
ripped away. The aircraft immediately started rolling, the starboard aileron and wingtip then broke off at 735 km/hr (455 mph) damaging the tailplane and causing the machine to spin out of control and crash just beyond the perimeter of the airfield at Fischamend. The pilot was killed. An immediate enquiry was ordered. An air safety commission investigated and made its recommendations within a few days. He 162 V-3 was subjected immediately to vibration testing to ensure the integrity of the structure. Consideration was given to replacing the wood surfaces with metal.

The next completed prototype was gone over with a fine-tooth comb. As a result, in mid-December the He 162 was grounded for nine defects. Between 16 and 20 December a commission was set up by the Chief-TLR to examine the structural integrity and flight safety of the design. On 22 December director Karl Franke gave the He 162 V-2 a clean bill of health for its maiden flight, and staff engineer Paul Bader flew the aircraft at 500 km/hr (310 mph). He found the rudder and ailerons too weak and criticised the engine, but was otherwise satisfied. By 15 January, pilots Schuck and Kennitz had been trained to fly the Volksjager and made further flights. He 162 M-3 was listed for electronics testing and flew at Heinkel-Siid on 16 January. By the 22nd of the month the machine had completed 13 flights totaling 80 minutes duration. The design was revised to strengthen the wings and tailplane by the end of December, He 162 M-4 being the first of the improved machines. After the Heidfeld controllers examined the fuselage on 28 December, they discovered fifty different defects,

and the maiden flight was therefore delayed until 16 January. Ten flights totalling almost three hours were made in the month. A minor crash occurred on one landing. On 22 January He 162 M-6 and the first pre-series machine, He 162 A-01, were scheduled for pilot training. Next day Pawolka, Bader, Franke, Schuck and Wedemeyer flew the sixth prototype. It was noted that suspension was unnecessary for the nose-wheel and this was eliminated in the series production.

On 4 February He 162 M-6 crashed, killing Oberleutnant Wedemeyer. He 162 M-7 was fitted with a braking parachute as a safety measure for high­speed flights. He 162 M-3, M-4 and the first A-0 were tested in flight for stability in the vertical axis, the Dutch roll moment and the effect of various tailplane combinations.

By 30 January M-2 to M-7 and the first three pre-series aircraft were clear for testing. When this was suspended at the beginning of February because of persistent ground mist, the time was used to repair the damaged nose-wheel of M-6 and exchange the A-02 tail flaps. M-7 was ‘shaken after the braking parachute was fitted and given the all-clear for testing. By 5 March the prototypes had made 63 starts totaling 10 hours 57 minutes: 15 pilots had flown the He 162, some of them only В-2 licence holders and thus relatively inexperienced with high-performance machines.

Shordy afterwards engineer Full achieved a speed of 800 km/hr (Mach 0.65) at 8,000 metres (500 mph at 26,000 ft). Following heavy vibrations the turbine stopped and Full was slightly injured while making a forced landing in snowy terrain. In order to improve stability, the fuselage was lengthened and the dihedral of the wing tip curves lessened. It was decided that an enlarged rudder and modified tailplane were needed. Once the main weaknesses of the aircraft had been identified, from 15 February all existing models underwent modification. The first, He 162 M-3, was flown by Full in mid-February at 880 km/hr (550 mph), the prototype proving fully stable. At the end of February the wing angle was raised by 2 degrees and the fiiselage/wing joint adjusted. In his last flight, Full used the ejector seat to bale out from He 162 M-3 after the turbine caught fire. At 200 metres (650 ft) he was too low for his parachute to deploy in time.

Tests continued and by 25 February Heinkel-Siid had made 166 flights totaling 40.5 hours. The fuel situation was deteriorating almost daily and this, combined with the frequent air raid warnings, held back the tempo of Volksjager development considerably. After He 162 M-25, one of the machines with lengthened fuselage, received 60 per cent damage during a flight on 2 March, works pilot Denzin also lightly damaged another machine. By 11 March the number of He 162 flights had risen to 211 (51 hours 13 minutes). Next day Feldwebel Wanke’s He 162 M-8 hit the runway too early, overturned and caught fire. The pilot survived, injured and badly burned. On 14 March the He 162 of

Unteroffizier Daus of Auffangsstaffel Heidfeld 2./JG 1 collided with barrels near the runway and was killed. He was one of at least 18 He 162 pilots to lose his life in accidents with the aircraft.

The last Heinkel-Siid weekly report is dated 26 March 1945. By then there had been 259 Volksjager flights at Heidfeld alone, totalling 65 hours. Continual modifications in the preceding months had kept most machines grounded. Once the improvements were completed, the last involving the fuel installation, the He 162 was declared operational at the beginning of April 1945.

Подпись: After improvements to the design, production of the final operational versions of the He 162 A-2 began in March 1945.
By now Soviet units were approaching Vienna. To pull back west of the city, or better still into southern Germany or the Harz seemed advisable. On 30 March director Franke went to Saur’s office to plead for a transfer to Bad Gandersheim. This was granted and on 1 April a special train set off for the Harz. After being held three whole days at Eger, the train was re-routed to Jenbach in the Tyrol, arriving there on the night of 5 April. A few hours before, Modling and the underground facility at Languste had been occupied by the Soviets: one day later Schwechat district and the Heidfeld airfield also fell into their hands. The works management had begun to remove some of the instructional documents and installations for the He 162 A-2 to Heinkel Jenbach while the staff went to Lent near Salzburg. The design office was eventually relocated from Jenbach/Tyrol to Landsberg/Lech, arriving there on 14 April,

thirteen days before American forces did so, and thus brought the Volksjager development to its end.

Air-to-Air Rockets for Aerial Combat

From the beginning of 1944 remote-controlled and spin-stabilised rockets grew in importance in aerial warfare. They were initially simply aimed by eye (Werfergranate WGr 21), but later a whole series of guided and spin-stabilised missiles was developed. Except for the R4M none was ever even partially ready

for a series run by the war’s end because of problems in obtaining materials and Allied domination of the skies over the shrinking Reich.

The Last Hope – Heimatschiitzer – The Protectors of the Homeland

As further development of midget fighters, special aircraft and manned rockets had not provided the hoped-for results, at the end of 1944 the Chief-TLR turned to more reliable machines. A significandy improved Me 163 had greater range and a retractable undercarriage to make it easier to handle, but, as its potential was seen as limited, the Me 262 Heimatschiitzer also received fresh impetus.

Ju248 – Further Development of the Me 263

The Ju 248 was the Me 263 renamed, the work having been passed to Junkers because the Me 262 had exhausted Messerschmitt’s capacity. In view of the tactical successes of the Me 163, OKL had decided on an improved version with

The Last Hope - Heimatschiitzer - The Protectors of the Homeland

The Ju 248 was a major improvement of the former Me 163. Designated originally as Me 263, it was produced in ones and twos and tested in central Germany at the beginning of 1945.

The Last Hope - Heimatschiitzer - The Protectors of the Homeland
longer endurance and a retractable undercarriage. The new machine, equipped with a more powerful rocket motor, was based on experience with the Me 163 В and was developed by Junkers as the Ju 248 from the late summer of 1944. The line was set up at Dessau Slid Waggonfabrik at the end of the year. The first wings were to be manufactured by 10 January 1945 at Puklitz/Zeitz, while the firms of Kronprinz and VDM were responsible for the undercarriage. Many of the other parts were duplicates from the Me 163 B. However, the fuselage would not take the Walter engine and had to be extended by 0.5 metres, thus ruining the timetable.

On 13 January OKL pressed hard for the series run even though work on the first experimental machines had come to a halt, and therefore on 29 January OKL considered abandoning the whole project: JG 400 would receive the He 162 in the short term. The decision was reversed at the beginning of February when the first prototype, Ju 248 V-l, was ready and Flugkapitan Pancherz flew it on 8 February under tow by a Bf 110 (pilot Karl Went). After a second test flight, Pancherz flew six more times on 11 and 13 February and by 19 February the aircraft had been in the air on 13 occasions.

On 7 March the Junkers engineers admitted that the Ju 248 was not so well ahead as might appear, for example the Walter motor ordered for Ju 248 V-2 had not arrived. The daily air raids on the Junkers Werke had destroyed many documents including material being prepared for the Japanese. By mid-March 1945 the undercarriage, part of the electrical system and some instruments were still awaited. In view of the fact that rocket fuels could not be produced in sufficient amounts, on 20 March OKL decided that the Me 263 would have to be cancelled, leaving the field theoretically to the He 162. Three days later Junkers Dessau advised the Chief-TLR that the Walter motor had finally been mounted in the first prototype, but important elements were still missing so that the first rocket-powered ascent was now postponed to the end of the month, and ultimately no test was possible because the front line arrived at Dessau. Most of the documents were destroyed at Ragun School to thwart their seizure by US forces. At least one of the two Me 263s had been blown up shortly before. Dessau was occupied on 24 April 1945.

Pitre Error?

In 1943 there was a crisis in rocket development. Numerous projects were in their early stages, and the design teams encountered the widest variety of problems. At that time the following missiles were under production: Enzian and Rheintochter (subsonic, later supersonic), Schmetterling (subsonic) and Wasserfall (supersonic). The rockets had different engines and needed different fuels. Although the RLM and Speer’s Armament Office could not agree on a uniform rocket fuel, it was agreed that there should be a general increase in the production of special fuels despite the lack of industrial capacity. Getting development going was the important thing.

Feuerlilie F25 and F55

In 1940, the LFA Hermann Goringhtg^n design work on a long-range, remote- controlled rocket, the F 25 Feuerlilie. At first 25 were tested by DFS and the Reichspost Research Office. The first F 25 arrived at the Leba test site on the Baltic in mid-July 1943. By mid-summer 1944 at least four had been fired. On 25 January 1943 the Ardelt company of Breslau (Wroclaw) received an official contract to build five improved experimental type F 55 rockets at RM.20,000

each. Unexpected technical difficulties resulted in the first start of F 55 A-l being delayed until 12 May 1944 when it rose 7.5 kilometres in 69 seconds. From 22 November 1944 the RLM Technical Office continued to reduce the number required as other rockets gained in favour.