He 162 Volksjager Salamander: Third Reich jet fighter of last resort

The Heinkel He 162 jet aircraft was designed and assembled in three months in an all-out effort to prevent the defeat of Germany near the end of World War 2. Though it was a technical marvel for its time, the aircraft was designed to be among the less expensive and could be built by semi-skilled labor from non-strategic materials like wood. The airplane’s name (Volksjager) literally means “people’s fighter”. This aircraft was meant to be flown by the Hitlerian Youth, young men and women who were for the most part in their teens. Those pilots received their training on gliders and would then pass directly to the jet aircraft.

The fuselage of the He 162 was made of light metal sheets, and the jet engine located just over and behind the pilot, blowing between the fins. Fuel was poured directly into the wings that were made out of wood and protected with a special coating. In case of emergency, a basic ejection seat allowed the pilot to get out of the airplane without being sucked into the engine.

He 162 landing

Once the prototypes structural and aerodynamical problem were fixed, the first operational He 162s were delivered to the Luftwaffe in 1945. When the production stopped, approximately 250 units had been built and 800 were at different stages on the assembly lines. The full capacity rate of production had been planned to be of 4,000 units per month.


Even though it is not clear how many He 162s actually saw combat, one of them flown by Lieutenant Rudolf Schmitt presumably scored a victory over Rostock against a Tempest or Typhoon (depending on the source) on May 4, 1945. Shot down a few minutes later, Schmitt ejected safely. The fact that a rookie pilot managed to speaks volume about that aircraft that many consider to be among the best of its time. After the war, the remaining units were taken to the countries of the winning forces and used for jet engine aircraft pilot training.

he 162 cockpit


Type single-seat interceptor
Wingspan 23′ 7″ (7.2m)
Length 29′ 8″ (9m)
Height 6′ 6″ (2.6m)
Wing area 120 sq ft (11.16 sq m)
Engine One BMW 003E-1 or E-2 Orkan single-shaft turbojet
Weight, empty 4,796 lb (2180 kg)
Weight, loaded 5,940 lb (2695 kg)
Max Speed 490 mph (784 km/h) at s/l; 522 mph (835 km/h) at 19,700 ft (6000m)
Inital Climb 4,200 ft (1280m) /min
Service Ceiling 39,500 ft (12,040m)
Armament Two 30mm MK 108 cannons ( 50 rounds each), or two MG 151/20 cannon (120 rounds each)
Range 434 miles (695 km) at full throttle and at 19,700 ft