The Bachem Ba 349 Natter was the first vertical take-off plane which eliminated the need of an airfield. It was developed by Erich Bachem during World War 2. Natter in the German designation means snake.
This plane was more of a manned surface to air missile but it was not a kamikaze plane. The short wings gave it enough draft to glide back to earth were the pilot had to release the parachutes which landed the plane and its precious rocket, and had to bail out right after the plane was secured for a save landing. It was not an easy accomplishment, but the plane was not made for a single flight. It was by no means a ramming / collision design or kamikaze plane. Its intention was to reach the Allied bomber from below and do as much damage as possible and glide back down.
The nosecone of the Bachem Natter is filled with a rocket launcher loaded with 24 Henschel Hs 297 rockets, other versions had 33 Orkan R4M rockets or two MK 108 cannons with 30 rounds each.
It’s first manned flight was a vertical take-off with pilot Lothar Sieber on the 1st of March in 1945 at the test site in Heuberg Germany. Without problems the Bachem Ba 349 took off and was in control by the pilot. The flight had a speed of 800 km/h average, it’s top speed was 1000 km/h – climbing rate 190 m/s, a staggering 11,4 km in a minute. All but one of the four boosters released after take-off (the red tubes at the pictures), the pilot was instructed to shake off the last booster, which made the plane hard to control, and was disorientated in the low clouds and plummeted down. The brake parachutes failed to open due to the last attached booster and the plane crashed after 55 seconds, creating a 5 meters deep crater. Lothar Sieber remains were buried with military honors on 3 March 1945.
This Bachem Natter BA 349 is a replica but it seems to have original parts. It is painted to look like a BP-20 M17 experimental type but this type had no glass windows in its cockpit for it was unmanned. This Bachem Natter was the experimental type launched from a steel tower. During test flights the Germans used a vertical launch from steel towers and towed the Bachem Ba 349 by plane to released it midair and test its aerodynamics.
Only two original Bachem Natters are left, one restored and one unrestored. Both in the Smithsonian in the United States.
This Bachem Ba 349 was photographed at the Deutsches Museum in Munich in 2012.
The German Museum has more locations throughout Germany, like the Deutsches Museum Flugtwerft Schießheim, north of Munich. Check out where the planes currently are before your visit.