Towards the end of World War II, Nazi scientists and engineers were working on a number of destructive and innovative devices.
The Germans were losing the war and desperate to come up with weapons that would drive the allies back and give them victory. Germany’s best scientists and engineers were frantically working on new projects.
Some of these were quite futuristic for the time, here are ten of them.
1. The Landkreuzer P 1500 Monster
The Landkreuzer was an artillery piece that would have been 42 meters (138 feet) long and would have weighed 1500 tons. Its armor would have been 250 millimeters thick and propelled by four submarine diesel engines. It would have needed a crew of over one hundred.
Its principal armament was to be an 800 mm Schwerer Gustav K (E) railway gun. This would have been mounted on a fixed turret so that the Landkreuzer would have been a self-propelled gun rather than a tank.
Such a gun would have been able to launch shells without having to directly engage the enemy. Two 150 mm SFH 18/1 L/30 Howitzers and a number of 15mm MG 151/15 autocannons would have added to its power.
No prototypes of the Landkreuzer were made.
2. The Junkers Ju 322 Mammut
The Junkers Ju 322 Mammut (Mammoth) was a heavy transport military glider, resembling a giant flying wing, proposed for use by the Luftwaffe in World War II. Only two prototypes were ever built.
The Mammut was a huge glider made entirely of wood, which was a cheap material at a time when quality resources were scarce. It was designed as a transport in 1940.
Two prototypes were constructed. It could carry 20,000 kilograms, the weight of a Half-Track, PzKpfwIV medium tank or Flak 88 an anti-aircraft gun with all its crew, ammunition, and fuel.
The cockpit was somewhat to the port side, above the cargo bay. The aircraft had stabilizing fins and a rudder. It was armed with three MG15 machine guns.
3. The Sun Gun
The Heliobeam or Sun Gun was truly the stuff of science fiction. This super-weapon would operate from a space station orbiting the earth at a distance of 8,200 kilometers (5,100 miles).
A metallic sodium reflector 9 square kilometers (3.5 square miles) wide would focus the sun’s energy and project onto the Earth. It was calculated that such a weapon would be able to boil the ocean or incinerate a city.
Plans for a space station were developed by physicist Hermann Oberth in 1929. Germans scientists claimed after the war that the Heliobeam would have been completed within ten years.
4. The Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant
The Germans wanted a large assault glider for Operation Sea Lion. Sea Lion was the invasion of Great Britain which never happened. A light glider, the DFS 230, had proven successful in transporting troops to the Battle of Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium.
A heavier glider would be able to carry troops, vehicles, and equipment for the British invasion. When Sea Lion was canceled plans for a glider continued on account of the forthcoming invasion of Russia.
The manufacturers Junkers and Messerschmitt were asked to come up with a proposal on October 18, 1940, but had only fourteen days. The glider had to be able to carry an 88-millimeter gun or a Panzer IV tank.
It was decided that an existing glider, the Me 321, should be converted. The new model was called Me 323. It was a six-engine aircraft with metal blade propellers.
The Me323 could fly at a top speed of 219 kilometers per hour (136 miles per hour) at sea level. It carried five 13 millimeter machine guns positioned behind the wings. The crew consisted of a pilot, radio operator, engineers, and gunners.
It was the biggest land-based transport aircraft of the war. 213 were built.
5. The Arodo, Komet, and Schwalbe
The Arodo and Schwalbe were bombers, three of the first jet-powered aircraft ever to engage in combat. The Komet was the only rocket-powered aircraft to be in combat.
Although the Komet only scored nine kills on account of its flawed design, all three were too fast to be hit. They could only be attacked on the runway.
6. The Zielgerät 1229
As early as 1939, the first-night vision devices were introduced by the German army. The first devices were being developed by AEG starting in 1935.
By the end of World War II, the German army had equipped approximately 50 Mark V Panther tanks, which saw combat on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. The “Vampir” man-portable system for infantrymen was being used with STG-44 Sturmgewehr assault rifles.
The ZG 1229 Vampir weighed about 5 lbs and was fitted with lugs at the weapons production facility. The soldier carrying this was known as night-hunter.
As well as the sight and infrared spotlight, there was a wooden cased battery for the light, and a second battery fitted inside a gas mask container to power the image converter. This was all strapped to a Tragegestell 39.
The searchlight consisted of a conventional tungsten light source shining through a filter permitting only infrared light. The sensor was not sensitive to body heat because it operated in the upper infrared (light) spectrum rather than in the lower infrared (heat) spectrum.
The Vampir gear was used for the first time in combat in February 1945. 310 units had been delivered to the Wehrmacht in the final stages of the war. Eastern Front veteran reports consist of snipers shooting at night with the aid of ‘peculiar non-shining torches coupled with enormous optical sights’ mounted on their rifles.
Similar infrared gear was fitted both to MG34 and MG42 machine guns.
7. Fieseler Fi 103R
The Fiesler Fi 103R (Reichenberg) was a flying bomb, much like the V-1, except that it was piloted. When the weapon was used the pilot would almost certainly die unless he could parachute in time.
Indeed, a squadron of these missiles was named Leonidas, after the King of Sparta who perished at the Battle of Thermopylae fighting the Persians.
Only volunteers were assigned to the squadron. They signed a declaration stating ‘I hereby voluntarily apply to be enrolled in the suicide group as part of a human glider-bomb. I fully understand that employment in this capacity will entail my own death.’
At first, the Fieseler was planned for use alongside the Messerschmitt Me 328. However, the latter, with its 900 kilograms (2000 pound) bomb, was favored over the Fieseler.
Problems soon arose with the Me 328 however, and Hitler ordered Otto Skorzeny, a member of the SS who had been exploring the use of manned torpedoes to disrupt Allied shipping, to revive the Fieseler project. After consulting the famous test pilot Hanna Reitsch, he decided that a pilot had a slight chance of survival.
One or two Fieselers would be carried beneath the wings of a He 111 bomber. Once released, they would steer toward their targets. The pilots would parachute out shortly before impact.
8. Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri
The Flettner FI 282 Kolibri or Hummingbird was a single-seat helicopter with an open cockpit. It was produced by Anton Flettner. It was at first used for transferring items between ships and reconnaissance. Later in the war the Fi 282 was converted for combat, adding a position for an observer at the rear of the craft.
It became useful for spotting artillery. It flew well in bad weather, so much so that the Air Ministry commissioned BWW to construct 1,000 in 1944. But the factory in Munich was destroyed by Allied bombing. Only 24 helicopters were made before the factory was demolished.
Most of the Hummingbirds that survived were posted to Rangsdorf as artillery spotters. They were all destroyed by Soviet fighter planes and anti-aircraft guns.
9. The Vortex Cannon
Designed and built by the Austrian Doctor Zimmermayr, the Vortex Gun was a large mortar barrel sunk in the ground. Its shells contained coal –dust and a slow-burning explosive.
The idea was that these shells would create an artificial tornado which would knock enemy planes out of the sky. Zimmermayr was inspired by tornadoes bringing down even large planes.
Experiments were conducted in laboratories at Lofer in Tyrol. The theory behind the weapon appeared sound and the Vortex Gun did seem to work in ideal circumstances.
The explosion of coal dust was indeed able to start a tornado, but it was unsure whether such pressure was enough to disable a plane.
A prototype with an estimated range of 100 meters (329 feet) was produced. It was never used in combat, though similar weapons were deployed against Polish resistance fighters.
10. The Ruhrstahl X-4
The X-4 never saw combat. It was a missile designed so that it could be mass-produced by unskilled labor, using cheap materials such as wood, which could be used for the fins. It was a guided air to air missile designed to be used by a single-seat aircraft.
It was first tested from a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 on August 11, 1944. Later it was launched from a Messerschmitt Me 262. Problems arose for pilots trying to fly their aircraft and launch the missile at the same time. The X-4 was then assigned to multi-seat planes such as the J8u 88. Single-seaters were instead fitted for the unguided R4M rocket.
Production of the X-4 was severely disrupted by Allied bombing of the BMW factory at Stargard. As many as 1000 may have been made. The missile was never officially issued to the Luftwaffe, though it is possible that a few more fired in the last weeks of the war.
After the war, the missile provided the basis for the development of ground to air anti-tank missiles such as the Malkara missile.
The French tried to build missiles, modeled on the X-4, but they proved to be too unstable.