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Heinkel He-162 "Volksjäger"

The Volksjager (People's Fighter) flew for the first time on 6 December 1944. The whole project was started and finished in a little bit over six months and the first deliveries took place in January 1945. The specifications were issued by the RLM in Spetember for a jet fighter with a speed of 750 km/h, posibility of take off from 500 m airstrip, armed with two 30 mm cannons and with non-strategic materials used for construction. The production was supposed to reach 4000 aircrafts per month, but only 300 had been completed (including various sub-variants) and 800 more were waiting on the assembly lines by the end of the war. The aircraft featured several advanced technological innovations. This included engine driven alternator and hydraulic pump to operate flaps and landing gear, blown acrylic windshield and canopy and ejection seat. The fuselage was built from a light metal with plywood nose and wooden wings and fins and the BMW 003 turbojet engine on the back. During the first flight show for the RLM Flugkapitan Gotthold Peter died in a crash caused by a defective wood bonding in the wing, which came apart. The aircraft had many bad characteristics and was difficult to fly even by an experienced pilot. A speed of more than 180 km/h was required for take off and undercarriage colud not be retracted until the plane reached 300 km/h. Any turns were not possible below this speed either. The maximum safe speed during the dive was set at 950 km/h.

In September 1944 the Deutscher Volkssturm was established. Within this "people's movement" organisation several Luftwaffe units were supposed to be formed and equipped with Volksjagers. In January 1945 the Volksjager-Erprobungskommando 162 was formed with Oberst Heinz Bar in command. This unit started its training in Rechlin and then in Munchen-Riem. In February 1945 I./JG1 gave its Fw-109s to II./JG1 and all the personnel started training on He-162. After the training was completed the unit was moved to Leck. The II./JG1 was also equipped with Salamanders later on. Because of the lack of fuel there was almost no operational or training flights. On 24 April commander of II./JG1 Hauptmann Paul-Heinrich Dahne died when ejecting from his He-162, because the canopy did not eject. On 2 May 1945 the first victory was recorded by Unteroffizier Rechberger, who shot down an American P-47 Thunderbolt. Two days later Leutnant Schmitt shot down a British Typhoon near Rostock. The airfiled in Leck was taken over by the British Army on 8 May 1945.

The Luftwaffe received 120 He-162s which were used by I./JG1 and II./JG1 as well as a few aircrafts were delivered to JV 44. Two additional units were supposed to be equipped with the type - III./JG1 and I./JG400, but the end of war made it impossible. He-162A-2 was the main production variant, however, several prototypes of different versions were built. These were powered by different engines such as Jumo 004B, Argus As 044, As 004 and As 014 or Heinkel-Hirth HaS 011. There was also a version with BMW 003R engine, which consisted of BMW 003A and a rocket engine BMW 718. The trainer variant was designated He-162S and was similar to He-162A-2 except it had a second cockpit and did not have an engine. The He-162S was a glider with a longer wing span.