Bachem Ba 349B Natter
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Photo at Freeman Field

Photo in hangar at Freeman Field

Photo in hangar at Freeman Field

Photo in hangar at Freeman Field

All above photos taken at Freeman Field. 
Pictures 2,3 & 4 courtesy of Mr. Lynn Ware's family

This rocket powered aircraft launched vertically, along a rail.  It was made so that when the flight was over, it broke into pieces, each parachuting back to earth.

Source Disposition
War Prizes, Pg 207

Believed to have been surrendered to US Forces at the DFS establishment at St Leonards, near Salzberg in Austria.  Shipped to the USA but not flown.  Taken to Freeman Field and prepared for static display by May 1946.  In June 1946 taken to Park Ridge and is currently on display with the National Air and Space Museum, Silver Hill, MD.


To be sent to Chicago (Park Ridge) to be stored as permanent display.


U. S. Air Force transferred it to the National Air Museum (now NASM) on May 1, 1949.

Believed to have been surrendered to US Forces at the DFS establishment at St Leonards, near Salzberg in Austria.  Shipped to the USA but not flown.  Taken to Freeman Field and prepared for static display by May 1946.  In June 1946 taken to Park Ridge and is currently on display with the National Air and Space Museum, Silver Hill, MD.

source: "War Prizes" by Phil Butler

Wingspan 11 ft. 9 3/4 in.
Length 20 ft.
Height 7 ft. 4 1.2 in.
Weight 4,850 lb. loaded

 U. S. forces captured the artifact at war's end and shipped it to Freeman Field, Indiana.  The captured equipment number T2-1 was assigned to the Natter and the U. S. Air Force transferred it to the National Air Museum (now NASM) on May 1, 1949.

This plane was launched vertically on a rail.  When the flight was complete, the plane broke into sections and floated to ground on parachutes. Per Mr. Al Seibert, Freeman Museum

Only two Bachem Natters are known to exist. The Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany, displays a Ba 349A restored in the colors and markings of one of the unmanned test aircraft. The NASM has the other Natter. U. S. forces captured this artifact at war's end and shipped it to Freeman Field, Indiana, for analysis. The captured equipment number T2-1 was assigned to the Natter and the U. S. Air Force transferred it to the National Air Museum (now NASM) on May 1, 1949.


Air News with Air Tech
December 1945

IN August, 1944, Allied bombers were roving I above the Reich in such numbers it be­came apparent that no ordinary means could stop them. It was then that the .idea of “Natter” (German for Viper) was conceived and four designers, Heinkel, Junkers, Messerschmitt and Bachem, were directed to submit plans. Dr. Bachem’s design was chosen and in November of that year Natter BP-20 was flown for the first time. Smaller than the Me-163 (span, 13 feet; length, 20 feet, 6 inches) and simpler to build (wooden airframe required only 600 man hours) it looks more like a mock-up than a full-fledged fighter. In conception Natter was half anti—aircraft artillery, half interceptor. Because of the short take-off area required it was well suited to close defense of vital targets and pilots required very little train­ing. Launched from a nearly vertical ramp, powered by a Walter rocket unit similar to that used in the Me-163, the initial rate of climb was calculated at 37,000 feet per minute, its top speed at more than 600 miles per hour. A controlled missile until within a mile of its target, the pilot then takes over, jettisons the nose cone exposing 24 Fohn 7.3 caliber rockets which are fired in one salvo. Protected by exceptionally heavy cockpit armor and presenting a small head-on target, the pilot is virtually invulnerable to enemy fire. His principal danger is in take-off and descent. Going .j~ a dive after two minutes or less in the air he bails out and a section of the fuselage containing the. rocket unit likewise descends by para­chute. On paper the Natter is a formidable weapon. It has been reported in action on several occasions but may have been confused with the Me-163.

Bachem Ba-349 Natter (Adder)

Builder: Bachem Werke GmbH
Type: Single-use Vertical-Takeoff Interceptor

In this age of disposable pens, disposable diapers, disposable razors and disposable cameras, the idea of a disposable manned fighter aircraft still seems ridiculous. Yet, the Bachem Ba-349 Natter was such an aircraft, essentially a manned surface-to-air missile that was an imaginative but fatally flawed answer to a desperate problem. It was also the first vertical-takeoff fighter ever built and certainly the first where the pilot was expected to bail out on every mission.

Bachem Werke GmbH was founded on February 10, 1942, by Diplomeur Ingenieur Erich Bachem, formerly the Technischer Direktor of Fieseler Flugzeugbau. Bachem manufactured spare parts for piston-engine fighters and other aircraft equipment before their moment of fame with the Natter project. That project had its origin in a proposal in 1939 by noted rocket engineer Dr. Werner von Braun, who would become the father of the V-2 ballistic missile and, later, the United States space program. This proposal was rejected as unworkable by the Reichluftfahrtministerium (RLM-German Air Ministry) but found an enthusiastic supporter in Bachem who tried, and failed, to generate interest in several different proposals for a rocket interceptor along the lines suggested by von Braun.

Time, and the changing fortune of Germany, did a lot to change the RLM’s definition of impractical and unworkable. By spring of 1944, the Allied bombing offensive was taking a serious toll on German industrial capacity, to say nothing of German cities. None of the conventional methods used by the Luftwaffe were having much effect, so the service began to explore less conventional means, along with a new point defense plan designed to simplify air defense of the Vaterland. The basic idea behind point-defense was to divide: Germany into geographical “boxes” or parcels of land. Each box would contain its own specifically assigned interceptors, and as the Allied bombers passed overhead these interceptors would rise up like a swarm of wasps to attack them. As the bombers flew on, so they would meet one such attack after another, passing from box to box. A new type of fighter would be needed, one that not only would be cheap to build but could be built from non-strategic materials by semi-skilled labor. It also should have low weight, the speed to outrun Allied fighter escorts and (hopefully) be robust and reusable. The box system made long range unnecessary, so this would not be a consideration.

The RLM Technical Office issued a requirement for such a fighter and various manufacturers were invited to put proposals forward later that year. Among them was Diplomeur Ingenieur Erich Bachem who made his first appearance with his submission of the BP(Bachem Projekt)20 Natter (Adder). The BP-20 was envisioned as a small lightweight expendable interceptor, capable of destroying any enemy bomber using the least possible weapon expenditure. The aircraft would be rocket powered and employ a vertical takeoff followed by separate descent and landing of pilot and motor by separate parachutes. (The ability to recover the rocket motor for reuse was considered an important feature of this aircraft, which was essentially a manned missile.) By this method, it was believed that pilots having little or no experience would need only rudimentary flight and gunnery instruction, rather than spending valuable training resources on the finer points of flight training such as being able to land the aircraft. A reasonable number of such interceptors and launch sites could be installed around key industrial targets to make attacking Allied bombers pay a prohibitively high price.

The design was a simple one. The airframe was comparatively crude, largely of wood construction and was to be built without the use of gluing presses or complex jigs. Most parts could be made in small woodworking shops through Germany, without interfering with the existing needs of the aircraft industry. According to Bachem, only 600 man-hours would be required for the production of one airframe, excluding the rocket motor, which was relatively simple to manufacture when compared to a sophisticated turbojet. This motor was the same basic engine used in the Me-163 Komet interceptor, a Walter 109-509A that used the reaction between two chemicals, T-Stoff (a highly caustic solution of concentrated hydrogen peroxide and a stabilizer) and C-Stoff (a mixture of hydrazine hydrate, methanol alcohol, and water) to provide 3,740 lb (1,700 kg) of thrust. Extra power for liftoff was generated by four solid-fuel rocket boosters bolted to the rear fuselage. The short stubby wings had no ailerons, lateral control being exercised by differential use of the elevators mounted on a cross-shaped tail augmented by guidel vanes positioned in the exhaust plume of the main rocket. . The cockpit was armored and armament consisted of 24 unguided Henschel Hs 217 Föhn 73 mm rockets mounted in tubes in the nose of the aircraft and covered by a nose cone.

In operation, the Natter would be launched from a 79 ft (24 meter) tower. Guide rails would stabilize the wingtips and lower tailfin until the tower was cleared. (Towards the end of the war, as steel became scarce, the tower was replaced with a simple 29 ft [9 meter] wooden pole with a pair of shortened launch rails bolted to it. Common to both designs was the need for a solid concrete foundation into which the gantry could be secured, though the wood pole version could be quickly dismantled and removed from a mounting set into such a base.) Controls would be locked during launch. About 10 seconds after launch, the solid-fuel boosters would burn out and be detached by explosive bolts and the controls would become operational. The aircraft’s autopilot would be controlled from the ground by radio; the pilot could assume manual control at any time. The Natter would accelerate upward with a proposed climb rate of 37, 400 ft (11,563 meters) per minute until it reached the altitude of the Allied bomber formations which could range from 20,000 ft to 30,000 ft (6,250 meters to 9,375 meters) . The pilot would then take control of the Natter, steer it in close, jettison the nose cone, and fire all 24 of the rockets simultaneously like an enormous shotgun at the bomber. The rocket fuel would be exhausted by now and the pilot was to glide downward to about 4,500 ft(1,400 meters). He would then release his seat harness and fire a ring of explosive bolts to blow off the entire nose section. A parachute would simultaneously deploy from the rear fuselage and the sudden deceleration literally throw the pilot from his seat. The pilot would activate his own parachute after waiting a safe interval to clear the bits of falling Natter. Ground crews recovered the Walter motor to use again but the airframe was now scrap. It was also envisioned that the Natter could be used to endow the remaining surface fleet with an air defense capability hitherto denied the ships as the Kriegsmarine lacked aircraft carriers and the Natter’s innovative launch rails could be fitted to any warship if necessary,

Besides Bachem, three other companies submitted proposals for the Jägernotprogramm (Emergency Fighter Program). The front runner was Ernst Heinkel A.G. with their P.1077 Julia which took off from a rail and landed on a skid like the Me-163, the runner up was the Junkers Flugzeug und Motorenwerke’s EF-127 Walli; the Messerschmitt A.G.’s P.1104 was also in the running. As expected, Heinkel won the contract; Heinkel was a preferred and established aircraft manufacturer and already had its own dedicated woodworking shop in Vienna, which could be geared up to build the Julia very quickly. In addition, the P.1077 was easy and cheap to build and had low running costs. The Heinkel project had been in development since August and was granted the point-defense commission on September 8th.

Bachem now pulled strings to get his proposal accepted. It would not be the first time that he had done this; he had submitted the BP-20 proposal through influential but unofficial channels offered by his close associate Hans Jordanoff, and as Technical Director of the Fieseler-Werke, builders of the V-1 flying bomb, he also had close ties with Peenemünde, the German rocket and jet research facility. The strings that he pulled now belonged to one of the most powerful people in the Nazi hierarchy, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, head of the dreaded Shutzstaffel (SS-Protective Staff). Himmler saw the possibility of establishing a fleet of aircraft beyond the control of the Luftwaffe and the RLM and signed an order for 150 of Bachem’s machines using SS funds. Alarmed, the RLM now approved Bachem’s design and placed their own order for 50 of the aircraft under the designation Ba-349 Natter (Adder).

With orders from both the Luftwaffe and the SS Führungshauptamt (Planning Office), Bachem set about turning his design into reality. Bachem set up a factory to design and build his dream at Waldsee in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) about 25 miles (40 km) from the Bodensee (Lake Constance). Wind-tunnel models which were built early in the program were shipped off for testing and the only results returned to the Bachem designers were that it would be satisfactory up to speeds of about 685 mph(1,102 km/h). By November of 1944, the first Natter was ready for tests configured as a motorless glider. A Heinkel He-111 bomber carried one to 18,000 ft (549 meters) and released it. The pilot found the aircraft easy to control. At 3,200 ft ( 1000 meters), he fired the explosive bolts and the escape sequence worked as designed. A powered vertical launch failed on December 18 because of faulty ground equipment design. On December 22, the aircraft made its first successful launch with the solid fuel boosters only because the Walter motor was not ready. Ten more successful launches followed during the next several months. Early in 1945, the Walter engine arrived and the Natter launched successfully with a complete propulsion system on February 25, 1945, carrying a dummy pilot. The launch proved that the complete flight profile was workable. All went according to plan, including recovery of the pilot dummy and Walter rocket motor. A manned powered flight was next and the first test came on February 28 when Oberleutnant Lothar Siebert climbed into a Ba-349, strapped in, and rocketed off the launch tower. At about 1600 ft (500 m), the Natter shed its canopy and headrest and the aircraft veered off and flew into the ground, killing Siebert. No cause was determined but the ground crew may have failed to lock the canopy and it could have struck the pilot. Despite the tragedy, more pilots volunteered to fly and the Bachem team launched three flights in March

For all the effort, the Natter never saw action. Several sources claim (the evidence for this is inconclusive) that a battery of ten Nattern was set up by volunteers in Kirchheim near Stuttgart. Pilots stood alert day after day but no U. S. bombers flew into range. The U. S. Seventh Army overran the site but not before the Germans blew up all ten Nattern and their launchers. French tanks advanced into Waldsee on April 1945 and a great number of spare parts from the Bachem factory were captured- Only a few days before the French arrived, fifteen rocket engines destined for Nattern had been thrown into Lake Waldsee to prevent their capture. The secret was not well kept however and all were later recovered.

Only two authentic Nattern survive today. One is at the Deutsches Museum in München ( Munich), restored in the colors and markings of one of the unmanned test aircraft. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC has the other Natter which was captured by U. S. forces at the war's end and shipped it to Freeman Field, Indiana, for analysis. The captured equipment number T2-1 was assigned to the Natter and the U. S. Air Force transferred it to the National Air Museum (now NASM) on May 1, 1949. Replicas exist at several other museums including Planes of Fame in Chino, CA and the Fantasy of Flight museum in Polk City, FL.

Many of the Wunderwaffen (wonder weapons) that the Germans developed during the last years of the Third Reich were truly revolutionary and could have changed the course of the war had they arrived earlier. Among these are the Me-262 jet fighter, the Schnorkel that enabled submarines to recharge their batteries underwater,the V-2 ballistic missile (this was handicapped by lack of an effective warhead) and the Hs-293 air to surface anti-shipping missile. Still others were inventions worthy of the American cartoonist Rube Goldberg and his alter egoes Boob McNutt and Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. Some of these were the V-3 Hochdruckpumpe long-range cannon, the He-162 Salamander and the Fi-103R Reichenberg manned missile. Unfortunately, the Bachem Natter must be counted in the latter category. There are probably a number of Germans enjoying a comfortable old age today precisely because the Natter did not go into operation. Realistic flight training was next to impossible using an aircraft that destroyed itself after every flight and as Oberleutnant Siebert had demonstrated, the bail-out procedure was problematic. Nor would it have been effective; once the Germans erected a Natter site, U. S. Army Air Forces strike planners could have easily routed the bombers out of harm's way. It is probably safe to say that Bachem’s Adder was a bad idea from the very beginning and that without the pressure of the bombing campaign and Reichsführer Himmler’s political influence, it would have been recognized as such. axl/profile.asp

Profile written by: Leon Kay

Bachem Ba 349

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

(Redirected from Bachem Ba 349 Natter)


Bachem Ba 349


Manned anti-aircraft missile



Unit cost




General Characteristics


One Walter HWK 509A rocket + 4 solid rocket boosters, 16.7 kN (10,600 lbf)

Launch weight

800 kg (1940 lb) (empty), 2,232 kg (4,920 lb) (full load)


6.02 m (19 ft 9 in)


2.25 m (7 ft 5 in)

Wing span

3.60 m (11 ft 10 in)


1,000 km/h (620 mi/h)


6 min of flight

Flying altitude

14,000 m (46,000 ft)


24x 73 mm Hs 217 Föhn rockets or 33x 55 mm R4M rockets





Launch platform


Bachem Ba 349 Natter (Viper) was an experimental rocket-powered, radar-guided interceptor aircraft which was to be employed in a very similar way as surface-to-air missiles.

With the Luftwaffe air superiority being challenged by the Allies even over the Reich in 1943, radical innovations were required to overcome the crisis. Surface-to-air missiles appeared like a very promising approach to counter the Allied bombing offensive and various projects were started, but invariably problems with the guidance systems prevented these from seeing widespread use. Providing the missile with a pilot who could control the weapon during the critical terminal offered a solution and was requested by the Luftwaffe in early 1944.

A number of simple designs were proposed, most using a prone pilot to reduce frontal area. The front runner for the design was initially the Heinkel P.1077 that took off from a rail and landed on a skid like the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet.

Erich Bachem's BP20 was a development from a design he worked on at Fieseler, but considerably more radical than the other offerings. It was built using glued and screwed wooden parts with an armored cockpit, powered by a Walter HWK 509A-2 rocket, similar to the one in the Me 163. Four jettisonable Schmidding rocket boosters were used for launch, providing a combined thrust of 4,800 kgf (47 kN or 10,600 lbf) for 10 seconds before they were jettisoned. The plane rode up a rail for about 25 metres, by which time it was going fast enough for the aerodynamic flight controls to keep it flying straight.

The plane took off and was guided almost to the bomber's altitude using radio control from the ground, with the pilot taking control right at the end to point the nose in the right direction, jettison the plastic nosecone and pull the trigger. This fired a salvo of rockets (either 33 R4Ms or 24 Hs 217s), at which point the plane flew up and over the bombers. After running out of fuel the plane would then be used to ram the tail of a bomber, with the pilot ejecting just before impact to parachute to the ground.

Despite its apparent complexity, the design had one decisive advantage over the competitors - it eliminated the necessity to land an extremely fast rocket aircraft at an airbase that, as the history of the Me 262 demonstrated, was extremely vulnerable against air raids.

After Bachem's design caught the eye of Heinrich Himmler at the SS, it emerged as the winner of the design contest. The Luftwaffe nevertheless managed to include some minor redesigns to try to save as much of the plane as possible, as well as eliminating the ramming attack.

The resulting tiny plane was fired up a 50 foot (15 meter) wooden pole with the help of four solid fuel rockets, at the end of which it was already going fast enough for its control surfaces to work. The boosters burned out after 12 seconds, at which point the main engine was long up to full thrust. The mission now had the plane guided to a point in front and above the bombers, where the pilot would turn off the autopilot, and push over for a gliding attack. After firing its armament of rockets it continued gliding down at high speed to about 3,000 m (10,000 ft), at which point the plane "broke" when a large parachute opened at the rear of the plane, popping off the nose section and the pilot with it. Both would land under their separate parachutes, and only the cockpit and wooden wings were disposable.

Wind-tunnel models which were built early in the program were shipped off for testing and the only results returned to the Bachem designers were that it would be "satisfactory" up to speeds of about 685mph. Full sized models were then completed and started flight testing in November 1944. The initial versions didn't include an engine, and were towed in the air by a Heinkel He 111 bomber for glide testing. Other test articles were equipped with extra solid motors for launch and autopilot tests. All of these went well, but during testing it was shown that any attempt to re-use the engine was hopeless; the landing speed was simply too high.

Construction of the production Ba 349A models had already started in October, and fifteen were launched over the next few months. Each launch resulted in some small modification to the design, and eventually these were collected into the definitive production version, the Ba 349B which started testing in January.

In February 1945 the SS funders decided that the program was not going fast enough, and demanded a manned launch later that month. The first and only time that the aircraft was tested in this way was on March 1, when Lothar Sieber flew a Ba 349A, which was launched from the military training area near Stetten am kalten Markt. Things went well at first, but at 500 m (1,600 ft) the cockpit canopy pulled off. The plane suddenly turned over and flew directly into the ground. Siebert was killed in the accident, and the cause was never explained. It was suspected that the canopy may simply have not been properly latched before launch.

US forces overran the factory at Waldsee in April, but small numbers of Bachem staff had moved and taken the remaining ten B models with them. Soon the US had caught up with them again, and six of the ten were burnt.

Several sources claim that an operational unit of Natters was set up by volunteers in Kirchheim but didn't carry out any operations, but the evidence for this is inconclusive.

Coincidentally, in Japan during last days of the Pacific War, the Mizuno aircraft company under orders from the Imperial Japanese Navy developed an aircraft similar to the Natter. The Mizuno Shinryu suicide-interceptor rocket aircraft was the result. It would have been armed with air-to-air unguided rockets mounted under its wings used for interception of enemy aircraft like the Natter and a nose mounted warhead to be used for a suicide attack.

Two Ba 349s are still existent—one at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C., and one at the Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany.


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Designation Series

Go 345 - FS 346 - Rk 347 - Ba 349 - Ju 352 - Me 362 - Me 364

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Jim West
Page last revised 02/05/2020