IXO Models IXJP027 German Heinkel He 162A Salamander "Spatz" Jet Fighter - Lt. Col. Emil Demuth, Gruppenkommandeur 3. Staffel, I/JG 1, Leck, Germany, May 1945 (1:72 Scale)
"Guns before butter. Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat."
- Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, Head of the German Luftwaffe
In September 1944, with the Nazi empire under extreme pressure on all fronts, the German Air Ministry (ReichsLuftsfahrtMinisterium or "RLM") acknowledged Germany's desperate circumstances by issuing a requirement for a new jet fighter that would be simple, cheap, and easy to build in large quantity. The aircraft would be built in such quantities that little maintenance would be required, as a defective aircraft could simply be discarded and replaced with a new one. The Air Ministry called this aircraft the "Volksjaeger (People's Fighter)" while Heinkel, its manufacturer, called it the "Spatz" (Sparrow).
Such a measure made some sense under the circumstances, but there were those in the Nazi leadership, including Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering, head of the Luftwaffe, who went further, believing that the new fighter would be piloted by Hitler Youth. These adolescents would be given elementary pilot training by flying gliders based on the Volksjaeger, and then would immediately be put behind the controls of the fighter itself, to sink or swim in flight operations and air combat. The idea of putting barely trained kids into the cockpit of a high performance fighter, particularly one designed in haste and manufactured as cheaply as possible, was of course lunacy, and Goering, a fighter ace himself, should have known better.
The new aircraft was originally assigned the designation "He-500", but in order to misdirect Allied intelligence the designation was changed to "He 162". The lower number hopefully would suggest that the type had been in development for a number of years. Two variants were to be produced, including the "He 162A-1" bomber destroyer with two MK-108 30 millimeter cannon and 50 rounds per gun, and the "He 162A-2" air superiority fighter with two MG-151 20 millimeter cannon and 120 rounds per gun.
The design had some clear weaknesses, of course, such as its short endurance and the fact that the position of the engine left the pilot almost completely blind to the vital rear "six" position. Some sources also state that the back-mounted engine made the aircraft logitudinally unstable, rendering any maneuvers that "threw the aircraft around" unsafe.
In one sense the He 162 was remarkable: it was designed and flown in three months, and in the five months following, several hundred were built under the most difficult conditions. It was fortunate for the Allies that the He 162 was much too late to be anything more than a footnote to the history of the air war over Europe, but a certain curiosity remains over what it might have been able to do had events been more favorable to it. Sold Out!
Wingspan: 4 inches
Length: 6 inches
Release Date: February 2007
Original Issue Price: $24.99
Historical Account: "Big Week" - When the US 8th Air Force re-opened the bombing campaign on Germany in early 1944 with the Big Week offensive, the bombers returned to the skies along with the P-51 Mustang in escort. This changed the nature of the air war entirely; formerly German fighter units could form up for attack on the bombers unmolested, but with escort they were soon spending more time avoiding the US patrols than attacking the bombers. Changes made over the previous year to improve the fighter's bomber-killing abilities with heavy cannons and armour had the side effect of turning them into deathtraps as opposed to the lighter Mustangs, which could outperform the bomber-killers with ease.
The US now had both superior numbers and technology, and by the end of April the backbone of the Luftwaffe fighter groups had been broken. With few planes coming up to fight, the US fighters were let loose on the German airbases, railways and truck traffic.
Logistics soon became a serious problem, maintaining aircraft in fighting condition almost impossible, and having enough fuel for a complete mission profile was even more difficult.
What to do about this was a considerable problem for the Luftwaffe. Two camps quickly developed, both demanding the immediate introduction of large numbers of jet aircraft.
One group, led by General der J├Ąger (General of Fighters) Adolf Galland, reasoned that superior numbers had to be countered with superior technology, and demanded that all possible effort be put into increasing the production of the Messerschmitt Me 262, even if that meant reducing production of other aircraft in the meantime.
Another camp pointed out that this would likely do little to address the problem; the Me 262 was notoriously unreliable, and the existing logistics problems would mean there would simply be more of them sitting on the ground waiting for parts that would never arrive, or for fuel that simply wasn't available. Instead they suggested that a new design be built, one so inexpensive that if it did break it could simply be thrown away. The concept was derided by most fighter pilots, but gained significant political backing.
The argument eventually came down to Galland and other Luftwaffe senior officers on one side expressing nothing short of vehement opposition to the idea, and Reichsmarshall Goering and Armaments Minister Albert Speer fully supporting the light weight fighter idea. Unsurprisingly, a contract tender for a single-engined jet fighter that was suited for cheap and rapid mass production was established under the name Volksj├Ąger ("People's Fighter").