The Heinkel He 162 was developed during the Jägernotprogramm in record time. This emergency fighter program was setup as reaction on the Allied bombing raids, lots of new, easy and fast to build fighters were needed to protect the German industry, Infrastructure and civil areas. Set up as competition with requirements like, a max in weight of 2000 kilo’s, max length runway needed 500m, a flight of 30 minutes, good flight capabilities, easy to fly, with a minimum speed of 800 km/h and it had to be a fast and easy to build plane. It was won by the Heinkel company which presented a plane made of wood, glued together and powered by a single BMW 109-003E jet engine.
Herman Goring and Albert Speer supported this idea from Heinkel and named it the Volksjäger, the People’s Fighter. Heinkel originally called it Spatz – Sparrow in comparison to the bigger Me 262 Schwalbe – Swallow. The other nickname giving to it was Salamander.
The development speed was in record time, it might even be in the Guinness books of records. The specs were given on 8 September 1944 and the order was issued on 15 September 1944. On 6 December 1944, only 69 days later the Heinkel He 162 flew its maiden flight.
Prior to construction of the He 162 the factory which produced the glue used in German aviation was bombed, the Tego film plywood glue had to be replaced quickly. The glue chosen was unfortunately highly acidic and caused disintegration on the wooden structure and loss off part during test flights.
The requirements made the plane not an item to repair and use for long periods, unintentionally the Luftwaffe ordered the first disposable fighter plane. It was the third German Jet to enter the production line after the Me 262 and the Arado 234. The single seat wooden jet was faster than its bigger brother Me 262. At 6000 m above sea level the Heinkel He 162 could reach a top speed of 905 km/h, the Me 262 reached 870 km/h at this height.
This specific Heinkel on the photo’s is the He 162 A-2 and is armed with two 20mm MG 151/20 cannons with 120 rounds per gun and has Werknummer 120076.
In January 1945 it was ready for production, and shortly after the first 46 planes were brought to the Rechlin test facility in Germany. In February 1945 the He 162’s were taken to the first operational unit Jagdgeschwader 1 – Oesau and from March 1945 an extensive pilot training started. The Heinkel He 162 saw first combat on 19 April in 1945, keep in mind that even though the speed of development, testing, training to its first combat action was really fast, the Battle of Berlin, the last fase of World War Two started, at 16 April 1945, three days earlier than the first combat action of the Heinkel He 162.
When the German capitulated on 8 May 1945, 120 He 162 Salamanders were delivered to combat units, 200 finished planes awaited pick up from the factories and 600 more were on the production line, in just 4 months of productions and 9 months after the requirements were published.
This Heinkel He 162 A-2 Volksjäger was photographed in Berlin at the Deutsches Technik Museum in 2016.