|Partially completed Heinkel He-162 fighter jets sit on the assembly line in the underground factory at either Tarthun, Germany, or Hinterbrühl, Austria. This factory was capable of producing 40-50 He 162s per month. This is early April 1945. Huge underground galleries like this, carved out of former salt mines, were discovered by the 1st U.S. Army during their advance on Magdeburg. (AP Photo) Many thanks to worldwartwo.filminspector.com for the article|
Heinkel He-162 “Salamander”
While easy to disregard as just another of the last-minute jet projects undertaken by the Nazis as the Allies closed in, the Heinkel He-162 “Salamander” was no jury-rigged disaster like some of the other Utopian German projects. It was quite capable and a brilliant feat of engineering.
The Germans had the inspiration, the technology, the materials and, most importantly, the desperate need to crank out a capable jet fighter; the capable ME-262 just couldn’t do it alone. What the Germans lacked was pilots, time and fuel.
Envisaged as a “People’s Fighter” which could be flown by just about anyone, the Salamander instead was a high-performance, cutting-edge piece of hardware that stood a good chance of turning the tide of the air war if the Heer had been able to hold the Luftwaffe’s airfields and oil supplies.
|The He 162 basically was a jet engine with a plane attached. It was all about the engine in the 1940s, the aerodynamics were completely understood.|
The need for better fighter defense had been clear to the Germans since at least August 1943, when Luftwaffe Chief of Staff Generaloberst Hans Jeschonnek committed suicide due to massive Allied air raids. The western Allies were flattening German cities one by one, and the Luftwaffe was unable to prevent it – though it did impose a punishing cost on the attackers. Piston-jet fighters were capable, but insufficient against the 1000-bomber raids that began in July 1943. The Me-262 fighter was progressing nicely, but Hitler was interfering in its progress, diverting its development to make it capable of bombing. In addition, the Me-262’s jet engines were troublesome and in short supply. Some diversification of effort was warranted.
|Cockpit of the Salamander|
What was needed was a less complicated project that could be slapped together without any rigamarole and put in the hands of Hitler Youth who would destroy the enemy bombers as they had destroyed the British tankers at Caen.
|Another view of the cockpit|
Air defense was becoming critical because the Allies were destroying the life’s blood of any modern army, the Reich’s oil supplies.