During the last months of the war the Föhngerät was completed by the Henschel Company, a new kind of anti-aircraft device came into play for the Germans. This static Launcher was made for mass deployment in the Volkssturm. The Volkssturm were units of 16 to 60 year old men in the late months of the Second World War when every hand was needed to defend the Reich. Basically they were poorly trained forces called upon when Germanies end was near.
The principle was based on the Fliegerfaust, Pilot Fist. It resembles a bazooka but had nine small launch tubes instead of one. It was fired from the shoulder and different than the bazooka it was developed as a small arms anti-air weapon. The Henschel Hs 297 Föhn had roughly two versions, a Schießkarren and the Föhngerät. The Schießkarren, shooting cart, was a cart with launch tubes aimed at a certain area in the air. When an Allied airplane entered this air space it unleashed a barrage of rockets. The Henschel Hs 297 Föhn was adjustable in direction and height and could be aimed at an incoming Allied airplaine. Both rocket launchers used the same rocket, the 7.3 cm Raketten Sprenggranate.
A Hand-Föhn was in development, a shoulder launched three tube version of the Henschel rocket launcher. But it was not completed before the end of the war.
Officially the Germans called this weapon Volkssturm-Flugabwehr-Rakettenwerfer, Volkssturm anti-aircraft rocket launcher, or short; Volks-Fla-R-Werfer.
The Henschel Hs 297 fired 7.3 cm Raketten Sprengranate to a height of 1.2 kilometers. It fired multplie rockets simultaneously or could fire a single rocket. It fired 35 rockets in total and the Föhngerät was set up in batteries to deliver a large barrage to defend German soil against low-flying Allied aircraft.
The 7.3 cm Sprenggranate rocket was spin stabilized, the exact caliber was 7.29 mm to be precise. It was 29.5 cm long, weighed 2.7 kg with 280 grams explosives in its warhead. The spin stabilization was achieved by slanting the exhaust of gasses out the underside of the rocket.
24 units of the Föhngerät were deployed at the Bridge at Remagen, the Ludendorff Bridge, and used for the first time on 2 March 1945 against Allied Fighter-Bomber aircraft. The rocket launchers fell undamaged into American hands after they managed to cross the bridge some days later. When U.S. soldiers encouterd this device they named it the “Beer crate Flak”.
The vertical rocket powered interceptor Bachem Natter used the same 7.3 cm Sprenggranate rockets, it carried 24 of them in its nosecone. The name of the Henschel Hs 297 Föhn multiple rocket launcher is derived from the foehn wind. Our guess is that is the name Föhn has a link with the idea that it could get very hot in the air for the pilot of an Allied airplane if 35 rockets from a single Henschel Hs 297 came his way. But it is a wild guess.
This Henschel Hs 297 was photographed by Yuri Pasholok, it was seen at the Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineering and Signal Corps, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Visit Yuri’s own page (in Russian).