The Heinkel He 162 Salamander was an emergency fighter developed for the Luftwaffe during the final months of World War 2.
Popularly called "Volksjéger" (People's Fighter). this incredible aircraft left behind so many conflicting impressions it is hard to believe the whole programme was started and finished in little moire than six months. To appreciate the almost impossible nature of the programme, Germany was being pounded to rubble by fleets of Allied bombers that darkened the sky, and the aircraft industry and the Luftwaffe's fuel supplies were inexorably running down. Experienced aircrew had nearly all been killed, materials were in critically short supply and time had to be measured not in months but in days, so on 8 September 1944 the RLM issued a specification calling for a 75Okm/h jet fighter, to be regarded as a piece of consumer goods and to be ready by 1 January 1945. Huge numbers of workers were organised to build it even before it was designed, and Hitler Youth were hastily trained in primary gliders before being strapped into the new jet. Heinkel, which had built the world's first turbojet aircraft (He 178. flown 27 August 1939) and the first iet fighter (He 280 twin—jet, flown on its Jet engines 2 April 1941) won a hasty competition with a tiny wooden machine with its engine perched on top and blasting between twin fins Drawings were ready on 30 October 1944. The prototype flew in 37 days and plans were made for production to rise rapidly to 4,000 per month. Despite extreme difficulties, 300 of various sub—types had been completed by VE—day, With 800 more on the assembly lines. I/JG1 was operational at Leek, though without fuel. Despite many bad characteristics the 162 was a fighter of a futuristic kind, created in quantity far quicker than modern aircraft are even drawn on paper.
A number of He 162s were tested by the allies.
The fuselage was a light metal monocoque, with moulded plywood nose, and the one-piece wing was of wood. with metal tips, held to the upper longerons by four bolts Likewise the metal tailplane carried Wooden ﬁns, and the entire rear fuselage could be adjusted in incidence from +3’ to -2“. One concession to complexity was that the BMW 003 did drive an alternator and hydraulic pump, because it was calculated that with such an aircraft the pilot would be unable to pump the flaps and landing gear by a manual hydraulic system The simple rnain gears folded neatly into bays in the fuselage and were extended against the airstream by strong springs. Nearly all the fuel was contained in a single flexible cell under the engine, though in some aircraft there was a sealed centre section serving as a pioneer integral tank. Another pioneer feature was the form of the blown acrylic transparencies that formed the windshield and canopy, the former lacking any strong panel offering protection against birds or bullets. Yet another was the election seat. Heinkel reasoned that the pilot would have no chance of escape without a seat that could be catapulted out by an explosive cartridge On its first public showing the pilot, Flugkapitari Peter. had no chance even to use his seat because the wing came apart through defective wood bonding (the same trouble had afflicted the Ta 154 because the Goldschrnitt Tego—Film plant had been bombed and a hastily contrived alternative adhesive had to be used) Amazingly, however. a vast production organization was created in woods. caves and salt mines, which was to pour forth a flood of Volksjagers to be flown by Hitler Youth members previously experienced on nothing but a few ﬂights in primary gliders. It reflects the world of fantasy that eventually surrounded the Nazi leaders that such a scheme could seriously have been expected to work.
- ↑ This He 162 "White 4" of fighter unit JG1 was captured by British troops at Leck in Northern Germany. 3 He 162 were subsequently brought to Kassel. Originally, it was planned to take these jets to the US for evaluation.