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Picture of Heinkel He 162 WW2 Fighter

The Heinkel He-162 Volksjaeger (People's Fighter) is better known now as the Salamander, it was designed in response to a German Air Ministry (Reichs Luftsfahrt Ministerium) requirement of the 10th of September 1944 for a lightweight jet fighter powered by the BMW-003 turbojet engine , the design had to be able to be produced cheaply and in vast quantities in an attempt to reverse the course of the war which was clearly going against Germany. In the face of metal shortages and reduced manufacturing capacity, the result of allied air raids, wood had to replace metal wherever possible in a successful design.

Heinkel He 162 Fighter Plane

 

The Heinkel He-162 Salamander was conceived, designed, developed and flown as the He-500 by a team lead by Siegfried Guenther and Karl Schwaerzler in just twelve weeks, test pilot Gotthold Peter flew the prototype from the Schwechat airfield near Vienna on the 6th of December 1944, the flight lasted 20 minutes and went well until the glue failed on one of the undercarriage doors and it fell off. On the 10th of December Gotthold Peter displayed the Heinkel He-162 Volksjaeger to Nazi Party officials but unfortunately wing failure occurred due again to glue problems and the He-162 crashed resulting in the death of it's pilot.

Heinkel He-162 was in fact quite a good design but lack of development time and material shortages were it's Achilles heel, like the British de Havilland Mosquito, metal shortages resulted in the return of the predominantly wooden airframe, unfortunately the aircraft suffered from poor adhesives and rushed construction resulting in a high level of catastrophic airframe failures.

Heinkel He 162A-2 (aka the Salamander or Volksjaeger) Armament:

  • Twin 20mm MG 151 machine guns
 
Heinkel He 162A-2 (aka the Salamander or Volksjaeger) Specifications:
  • Crew: Pilot only
  • Length 9.05 m (29 ft 8 in)
  • Wingspan 7.2 m (23 ft 7 in)
  • Height 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in)
  • Maximum takeoff weight 2,800 kg (6,180 lb)
  • Engine: Single 800 kg (1,764 lb) thrust BMW 003E-1 or E-2 turbojet
    (2,028 lb emergency power available on demand for a maximum of 30 seconds)
  • Maximum speed 900 km/h (562 mph) 587 mph for 30 seconds with emergency power
  • Maximum range 975 km (606 miles)
  • Service ceiling 12,000 m (39,370 ft)
  • Rate of climb 1405 m/min (4615 ft/min)
 
 
 

Production Heinkel He162 Salamander fighters began to see combat with JG-1 in mid-April but buy the end of the month thirteen He-162s and ten of their pilots had been lost, mainly the result of accidents rather than hostilities. With the cease-fire of the 5th May 1945, the remaining Heinkel He-162's were all grounded and eventually turned over to the allies who also lost several test pilots due to airframe failure while evaluating the Heinkel He-162 Volksjaeger (People's Fighter).

It had been hoped that thousands of Heinkel He 162 Salamander fighters would be produced every month and be piloted by young pilots with only basic glider flying training, although aircraft losses would be high, pilots could eject and land on German soil to fly again intercepting the massive 1,000 strong Allied bomber streams with equal numbers of fighters, unfortunately the position of the engine resulted in the centre of gravity being too far back, in consequence the aircraft lacked longitudinal stability, for a novice pilot it was almost impossible to fly. The construction methods used as a result of shortages in the Heinkel He-162 Salamander resulted in a weak air frame, He 162 pilots were instructed to "make no sudden or erratic movements of the control column and make no tight manoeuvres", this resulted in experienced fighter pilots being the only pilots who could fly the unstable He-162 Volksjaeger and when entering a combat situation flying instincts tended to be automatic resulting in rapid and tight manoeuvres, this in turn often resulted in airframe failure and the demise of the pilot.

It is of note that the Heinkel He-162 Salamander was fitted with a basic ejection seat with a Sutton type harness which could be fired from the aircraft by an explosive charge after the pilot had jettisoned the blown acrylic canopy.

 

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