“Wonderful weapon” of the Third Reich

The closer Nazi Germany by the time of the crash approached, the more its management hoped for “wonderful weapon” (German of Wunderwaffe). But defeat of the Third Reich threw out “wonderful weapon” on an ash heap of history, having made developments of the German scientists property of the winner countries.

It is worth making a reservation that it was talked not just of creation of the latest samples of arms – Nazi engineers aimed to reach complete technological superiority over the opponent. And Germany managed to achieve much on this way.


Nearly the German designers made the most great progress in the aircraft sphere. Namely, in respect of jet aircrafts. Of course, the first of them weren’t deprived of shortcomings, but also their pluses were on the person. First of all, it is big, than at propeller aircrafts the speed and more powerful arms.

Any of belligerent parties didn’t use so many reluctance machines as Germany in fighting. Here it is possible to remember both the first serial jet Me.262 fighter, and “the national fighter” He 162, and the first-ever jet Ar 234 Blitz bomber. Germans had also a rocket Me.163 Komet fighter interceptor which had the liquid rocket engine and capable to be airborne no more than eight minutes.

Heinkel He 162 got the nickname “national fighter” because it shall become the mass and available reluctance machine in development. It was armed with two 20 mm MG 151 guns and could gather speed to 800 km/h. Until the end of war managed to construct only 116 He 162 fighters, in fights they were almost not used.

All these planes were under construction serially and were involved in war. For comparison, from all countries of the anti-Hitlerite coalition only Great Britain in the years of war was armed with the jet warplane – the Gloster Meteor fighter. But British used it only for interception of the German Fau-1 cruise missiles and didn’t send to fight against fighters.

Me.262 fighter

If to speak about the German jet planes, then one of them were used more often, others – are more rare. Rocket Me.163 have made only several fighting departures, and here Me.262 were widely applied on the Western front and could write down 150 planes of the enemy into the account. Their crudity was a common problem of the German jet fighters. It led to huge number of accidents and accidents. In them the lion’s share of new cars of Luftwaffe has been lost. Systematic raids of the American and British aircraft have led to the fact that Germans by the end of war couldn’t even overcome “children’s diseases” of Me.262 (and Nazis laid huge hopes for this fighter).

The Messerschmitt Me.262 fighter bore truly terrible arms – four 30 mm of the MK-108 gun. There was enough one volley to do the heavy B-17 bomber in. And here to heavy two-engined Me.262 to compete with maneuverable screw fighters it was problematic (small rate of firing of MK-108 played a role). By the way, one 262nd was written down into the account by the Soviet pilot expert Ivan Kozhedub.

Planes about which we have told have become widely known, but a number of aviation projects of Germany and remained unnoticed. And here it is possible to remember the experimental Horten Ho IX warplane – the first-ever jet plane constructed according to the aerodynamic scheme “flying wing”. He has been created within the program 1000*1000*1000 – it means that speed had to reach 1000 km/h, range – 1000 km, and bombing loading – 1000 kg. Horten Ho IX has made several test flights in 1944-1945, but didn’t take part in fights.

Истребитель Heinkel он 162

It was even less lucky a child of the famous German aircraft designer Kurt Tank – the turbojet Focke-Wulf Ta 183 fighter. This fighter wasn’t fated to rise into the sky at all, but at the same time it exerted enormous impact on development of aircraft. The airplane structure was revolutionary: Ta 183 had an arrow-shaped wing and a characteristic arrangement of an air inlet. Later these technology solutions were used when designing the Soviet fighter MiG-15 and the American F-86 Sabre – cult machines of a post war era.

Throughout all World War II guns and machine guns of different caliber remained the main tool of air fight. But Germans were among leaders in the field of creation of the air-air rockets. One of them – Ruhrstahl X-4 – had the liquid jet engine and could gather speed to 900 km/h. Control after start was exercised through two thin copper wires. The rocket could become quite good weapon of fight against the big and slow B-17 and B-24 bombers. However there are no reliable data about fighting application of this X-4. It was heavy to pilot to manage at the same time the rocket and plane therefore the second pilot was required.

Nazis and the managed weapon of the class “air surface” created. Here it is worth remembering the radio-controlled planning bomb of FX-1400 Fritz X which was used in the second half of war against the ships of allies. But efficiency of this weapon was ambiguous, and in process of a gain allies of an air superiority, blows to the land purposes faded for Luftwaffe into the background.

All these developments, certainly, outstripped the time, but they didn’t come within miles of Silbervogel. “The silver bird” became the most ambitious military project of the Third Reich for all years of its existence. The project represented the partial and orbital bomber spaceship designed to strike blows to the territory of the USSR and the United States. The concept was offered by the Austrian scientist Eugen Sänger. The bomber could take aboard up to 30 thousands kg of bombing loading if it was talked of striking blows on the territory of the USA – loading decreased to 6 thousands kg. The weight of the plane constituted 10 t, and its length reached 28 m. In a tail part of the fuselage the liquid rocket engine draft to 100 t was located, on each side there were two auxiliary rocket engines.

For start of the bomber Zenger suggested to create a rail track about 3 km long. The plane was located on a special sled, to them also additional accelerators could fasten. At the expense of it the device shall accelerate on a track to 500 m/s, and then gain height already by means of own engines. “Ceiling” which could reach Silbervogel equaled 260 km that actually did it by the spacecraft.

There were several options of fighting application Silbervogel, but all of them were integrated to a number of risks (loss of the pilot and the plane) and engineering problems which couldn’t be permitted. It became the reason that in 1941 refused the project. By then it was at a stage of paper drawings. At the very end of war, however, the German management became interested in the project again, but then already nobody believed in its implementation. After war scientists carried out calculations and found out that the device designed by Zenger would collapse right after atmospheric entry. At the same time it should be noted impudence of the German engineers, the concept outstripped time for many decades.


The first association in case of the word Wehrmacht – a clang of steel caterpillars and thunders of cannon peals. The leading role in implementation of an overnight war – blitzkrieg was assigned to tanks. Today we won’t determine the best tank of World War II, having laid aside such outstanding creations as Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I or Panzerkampfwagen V Panther. It will be a question of those German tanks which weren’t fated to go to fight.

In the second half of war the Nazi management (and first of all, Hitler) was subject to an unjustified gigantomania, and it was especially noticeable on the example of tanks. If already mentioned “Tiger of I” weighed 54-56 t, then his brother – “The Tiger of II” had weight of 68 t. On it Nazis didn’t stop. At the end of war the gloomy genius of the German tank construction generated terrible, frightening and absolutely absurd projects.

For example, the superheavy Maus tank – the most known of all little-known tanks of World War II. The famous designer Ferdinand Porsche directed development though the father of superheavy tanks can be considered also the Fuhrer. With an enormous weight in 188 t of Maus resembled a portable pillbox rather, but not the full-fledged fighting vehicle. The tank had weapon of KwK-44 L/55 of caliber of 128 mm, and its front armor reached 240 mm. At the engine capacity of 1250 hp the tank gathered speed on the highway to 20 km/h. Six people entered into crew of the machine. At the end of war two Maus tanks were made, but they didn’t manage to be involved in fights.

At Maus-and some kind of analog could appear. There was a so-called E-series – a row most unified and at the same time technologically advanced fighting vehicles. There were several projects of tanks of a series E, and superheavy Panzerkampfwagen E-100 became the most unusual of them. He was created as an alternative Maus-at and had weight – 140 tons. Designers have created several options of towers of this tank. Also various arms and different versions of the power plant were offered. With a huge weight of the tank the speed of E-100 had to reach 40 km/h, but Germans haven’t managed check technical characteristics any more as the left unfinished prototype has fallen into hands of allied troops.

The German superheavy tanks, in particular and the Maus tank, are actively popularized in mass culture in recent years. First of all in online games. You shouldn’t perceive, however, “game” characteristics of these cars seriously. In fights such tanks weren’t used, so, plausibly it is impossible to simulate their behavior. It is necessary to consider also that documentary data on these tanks aren’t enough.

The tank which was even more impressing by the sizes was developed by the designer Edward Grote. The project was called by Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte within which wanted to create the tank weighing up to 1 thousand tons. Length of the overland cruiser made 39, width – 14 m. Two coupled 283-mm SKC/34 guns had to become the main tool. The tank was also wanted to be supplied with an antiaircraft artillery – to eight antiaircraft guns of caliber of 20 mm.

It is remarkable that even this giant concedes on the dimensions to other, even more improbable project – Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster. This “monster” represented the superheavy tank constructed on the basis of the huge railway Dora art system. Main difference of P. 1500 was that it had to move not by rail. There are almost no authentic data on this grandiose car: it is considered that length of the case could make 42 m while armor in some places would reach 350 mm., P. 1500 could use long-range weapon of caliber of 807 mm for which service it was supposed to involve crew in 100 people. Strictly speaking, the tank represented mobile long-range artillery and couldn’t be used on an equal basis with other heavy or even superheavy tanks in any way. Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster, as well as Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte were never made, there were no prototypes of these cars even.

It is possible to call all these developments “wonderful weapon” unless in quotes. Not it is clear in principle for what superheavy tanks and what function they shall perform were created. Large objects weighing more than 100 t couldn’t almost be transported. Their weight couldn’t sustain bridges, and tanks easily stuck in dirt or the swamp. Moreover, despite the armor, superheavy tanks were surprisingly vulnerable. They would be completely defenseless against aircraft of allies. Hit of one bomb turned even the most protected tank into a scrap metal pile. It while dimensions of these machines didn’t allow to cover them from raids of aircraft.


Everyone for certain heard about the German rockets “Fau-1” and “Fau-2”. The first of them represented the plane shell, and the second was the first-ever ballistic missile. These rockets were used in war, but from the strategic point of view the result of their use was insignificant. But the Fau rockets were a source of big problems for residents of London which often became their target.

But there was also more original project of “punishment weapon” – “Fau-3”. Despite similar names, the last had a little general with “Fau-1” and “Fau-2”. It represented the huge mnogokamorny gun which was also called “The pump of high pressure”. The project was developed under the leadership of the designer August Cönders. Length of the tool constituted 130 m, it consisted of 32 sections – each of them had the charging kamor located sideways. The gun shall use special arrow-shaped shells, 3,2 m long. The maximum distance of firing constituted 165 km, but the weight of a charge of explosive was no more than 25 kg. At the same time the tool could do up to 300 shots an hour.

Line items for such guns wanted to equip near the coast of English Channel. They were located in only 95 miles from the British capital, and destructions of London could be serious. In spite of the fact that tools were in special protective adits, they were completely destroyed during an air raid on July 6, 1944. As a result original “Fau-3” wasn’t involved in war. And here its reduced analog was lucky more – LRK 15F58 was twice used for firing of Luxembourg by winter of 1944-1945. The maximum distance of firing for this art system constituted 50 km, the weight of a shell equaled 97 kg.

Germans became the first who created the managed anti-tank missiles. Ruhrstahl X-7 existing in aviation and overland modifications was the first of them. Control of the rocket was exercised by means of two isolated wires – it was necessary to manage X-7 visually, by means of the special joystick. In fighting the rocket was used episodic, and the beginning of mass production was prevented by the end of war.

Amerika-Rakete A-9/A-10 became much more ambitious Nazi development. As it is clear from the name, the USA so A-9/A-10 could become the first-ever intercontinental rocket were the purpose of the rocket. There is practically no reliable information about it too. Besides, after war the rocket was surrounded by an area of mystifications. A number of sources claims that the rocket “was almost ready to the end of war”. It could hardly be the truth. It is doubtful that such rocket in general could be used in the military purposes probably the Amerika-Rakete project to the end of war and remained on paper.

The starting A-10 accelerator which provided vertical start-up and shall separate at the height of 24 km shall become the first missile stage. Then the second step which represented the A-9 rocket supplied with wings went into action. It dispersed Amerika-Rakete to 10 thousand km/h and lifted it on height to 350 km. In a case with A-9 steady aerodynamic supersonic flight which was impossible those years could become the main problem. Theoretically, the rocket could reach from the German territory the coast of the USA approximately in 35 minutes. The charge of explosive constituted 1000 kg, and guidance of the rocket owed be performed on the radio beacon established in Empire State Building (for its installation Nazis wanted to use the agents). Allegedly, for targeting the pilot who was in a hermetic cabin could be also used. After adjustment of flight of A-9 it shall catapult from height of 45 km.

“Fau-2” the outstanding German designer Wernher von Braun created. Baptism of fire of the rocket took place on September 8, 1944, all 3225 fighting starts were made. Flying range of “Fau-2” made 320 km. It was enough for defeat of the cities of Great Britain. Civilians became the victims of missile attacks mainly – hits of “Fau-2” cost life of 2,7 thousand people. “Fau-2” had the liquid rocket engine allowing to gather speed to 6120 km/h.

Nuclear program

The Nazi nuclear program – a separate subject for researches, and we won’t go deep into its essence. Let’s notice only that though Nazi scientists achieved a certain progress, by 1945 they were far from creation of nuclear weapon. One of the reasons of it that Germans chose the concept with use of the so-called “heavy water” (called still deuterium oxide; usually this term is applied to designation of tyazhelovodorodny water which has the same chemical formula, as regular water, but instead of two atoms of regular light isotope of hydrogen contains two atoms of heavy isotope of hydrogen – a deuterium, and its oxygen on isotope structure corresponds to air oxygen. The most important property of tyazhelovodorodny water is that it practically doesn’t absorb neutrons therefore it is used in nuclear reactors for braking of neutrons and as the heat carrier – NS). This concept was not the best if to speak about speed of achievement of the chain nuclear reactions necessary for creation of nuclear weapon. The plant on production of heavy water was located in the Norwegian administrative center of Ryyukan. In 1943 allies performed operation Gannersayd as a result of which saboteurs destroyed the entity. Nazis didn’t begin to recover the plant, and sent the rest of heavy water to Germany.

There is an opinion that the western allies after war strongly were surprised, having learned how far there were Nazis from creation of nuclear weapon. So it or not, we, probably, never learn. This hypothesis is spoken well by the fact that Germany spent about 200 times less funds for creation of nuclear weapon, than it was required to the USA on implementation of “The Manhattan project”. Let’s remind, the program of development of nuclear weapon cost to Americans 2 billion dollars, by the standards of that time, the amount huge (if to transfer it to modern dollar exchange rate, then will turn out about 26 billion).

Sometimes to number of samples of “wonderful weapon” attribute the German XXI submarines and type XXIII. They became the first-ever submarines capable to be constantly under water. Boats at the very end of war were under construction and almost didn’t take part in fighting. Strictly speaking, the war in Atlantic for Germany was lost in 1943, and the fleet gradually lost former value for a Nazi management.


The main issue can be formulated so: whether German “wonderful weapon” could have significant effect on the course of war and incline to hour of scales towards the Third Reich? It to us was answered by the famous historian, the author of a set of works on the First and World War II, Yury Bakhurin:

– “Wonderful weapon” could hardly change the course of World War II, and that is why. Already in view of complexity of a design of the majority of similar projects, in the conditions of limitation of resources, Hitlerite Germany had no opportunity to arrange serial production of this or that “weapon of punishment”. Its single samples would be anyway powerless against total power of Red army and forces of allies. Without saying that many vundervaffe projects were technologically deadlock. Among armored machinery the most expressive examples of that are superheavy “rodents” – Maus and Ratte tanks. After the embodiment in metal, Germans couldn’t even evacuate the first in case of approach of troops of Red army. The second, with a projectible weight to 1000 t, was deadborn at all – case didn’t reach assembly of a prototype. Searches to “vundervaffa” were a peculiar form of military and technical escapism for Germany. Respectively, to remove the Reich losing war from crisis at the front, in the industry etc., it couldn’t.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x