Bizarre Nazi Weapons – Bachem 349 Natter Rocket Interceptor

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The abject failure of Me 163 to become an efficient weapon against the Allied strategic bombers did not deter German engineers from pursuing (out of sheer desperation bordering on insanity) an even more bizarre project – the vertically launched Natter (“grass-snake”) rocket interceptor. Which for all practical purposes was a manned surface-to-air missile.

After a vertical take-off, which eliminated the need for airfields (by that time all but destroyed by relentless Allied bombing), most of the flight to the Allied bombers was to be controlled by an autopilot.

The primary role of the relatively untrained pilot (the pilots were supposed to be recruited from the Hitler Youth) was to aim the aircraft at its target bomber and fire its armament of rockets (33 × 55 mm R4M or 24 × 73 mm Henschel Hs 297 Föhn).

The pilot and the fuselage containing the rocket-motor would then land using separate parachutes, while the nose section was disposable. The only manned vertical take-off flight on March 1st, 1945 ended in the death of the test pilot, Lothar Sieber.

Which for all practical purposes ended the project. Although up to 36 Natters could have been produced, none of them was deployed as an operational weapon (22 were used in mostly unmanned trials).  

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