The final year of WWII was a slow burning torment for the German people. Morale dropped, enemies advanced on both sides of their country, resources dwindled and their leader Adolf Hitler went into hiding. Nevertheless, German scientists pressed on to fight off their enemies with wonder weapons and gave it one last ditch effort with the Heinkel He 162.
By 1944 the German Luftwaffe was in ruins and planes barely had the resources to fly. They implemented the Emergency Fighter Program as a last ditch effort to stop the Allied bombing raids over Germany. The fighter that emerged from this program was designed by German aviation guru Ernst Heinkel, the Heinkel He 162 their last fighter jet.
“The jet had to be so simple to operate that teenage Hitler Youth pilots could fly into combat after rudimentary training. The Nazis considered the Volksjäger squadrons the airborne equivalent of the Volkssturm (People’s Guard) home defense squads that the Nazis formed to save the regime from imminent military defeat.”
Luftwaffe fighters were falling prey to defensive turrets on B-17 bombers and so the He 162 was equipped guns that could fire beyond their turret range. As Germany’s resources dwindled they chose to make a fighter from wood rather than metal, which actually allowed it to reach speeds up to 491 mph with its powerful turbojet.
The He 162 was also designed for fast manufacturing in order to get planes into the skies quickly. Although the plane could be built quickly, pilots were trained in haste and were not as effective as they could have been. The pilots who had the opportunity to fly the He-162 claim that it was a great fighter that only suffered minor limitations due to rushed production as well as a lack of fuel. Like many of Germany’s wonder weapons, it ultimately arrived too little too late to affect the outcome of the war.