80 pages, 7¼ x 9¼ inches, softbound
The last year of the war was one where the Germans started getting rather desperate to find ways to delay what many saw as pretty inevitable. I guess I should say the German hierarchy were the ones grasping at straws.
One of those straws was the Bachem 349 Natter VTO rocket interceptor. Bachem had made a name for themselves building gliders and components out of wood. As this vehicle was intended to be mostly wood, they were a good choice. The aircraft was to be powered by both solid fuel booster rockets and a Walther 509 liquid fueled engine. This is the same engine used in the Me-163.
It was intended to carry a barrage of rockets in the nose that would be able to bring down a bomber. It was, one launch - one bomber. The launch rails were to be made of long poles with braces to hold the Natter in place until it was launched. Set up was to be quite simple: simply dig a hole in the ground for the pole, set it in concrete, and add the outriggers.
This project had the backing of the SS and the RLM so was provided the highest priority. The aircraft could be built very quickly and so a production run of test vehicles was made to test the various systems. It was intended for the nose section to separate from the body of the aircraft to allow the pilot to easily egress the cockpit. Then he and the separated portions would float to the ground on parachutes. Testing was relatively successful, though the usual adjustments were made. Several aircraft were glide tested with good results. Pilots found the handling to be pleasant and it was an easy aircraft to fly. It was intended for the aircraft to launch under autopilot and have the pilot take over once the aircraft had reached altitude.
Though Bachem wanted more testing, time was running out and a manned flight was planned. This was to be the only manned flight as the aircraft veered off after launch and plunged to the ground, killing the pilot. It was thought that either the pilot's neck snapped during take off or, because there was no autopilot installed, he over-controlled during launch. Whatever the reason, the war ended before it could be deployed, though a number of complete airframes were eventually captured by the Allies.
Typical of the series, we get a very good background on the need for the aircraft as well as a very comprehensive look at the development of the airplane. This includes all of the various test flights and the changes made as development continued. I was particularly impressed with the number of period photos the author was able to uncover concerning the aircraft. I've seen some of these, but a large number were quite new to me. In all, it is an excellent look at this rather desperately developed aircraft and what could have been.
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