A Pair of Hunchbacks
Germany knew the Allies were coming. The planned invasion of Europe by British, American and Canadian troops was not a question of if, but when. For Hitler the challenge was threefold: destroy the coming Allied armies, restore Germany’s military dominance and turn his remaining resources against the vast Russian army in the east. Hitler’s first step was to strengthen his so-called ‘Atlantic Wall’ with more concrete and guns. The other was to produce two new radical aircraft that would regain air superiority over the Reich and destroy any Allied fleet that dared cross the English Channel.
It was a fantastical order and one that would produce two of the war’s most unique aircraft known as the ‘Hunchbacks.’
As the world’s first and only jet-powered dive-bomber the Henschel 132 was a truly intriguing aircraft. With its engine mounted on the back the pilot did not sit in the cockpit in the conventional sense, but occupied the nose of the aircraft in a prone position. Lying face down pilots would be able to sustain up to 7Gs, much higher than a conventional single seat bomber. The Hs 132 never did fly, but its hunchback cousin the Heinkel 162 did.
Born in the Nazi insanity of late 1944, Hitler called for a new easy to build ‘people’s’ fighter – the Folksjadger. This hunchback was even more ambitious than the Hs 132. Built mostly of wood the He 162 was a remarkable aircraft and many were built before the end of the war. But it was far too late. By the time the Hs 162 entered service in February 1945 the war was in its final tragic days.