The scientific tourist #118 — the Natter

This week’s image comes to you from the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany — it’s a replica of a Bachem Ba349 Natter (Adder):

Natter interceptor

The Natter was another one of those interesting / crazy ideas cooked up in the heat of battle in the second world war. Allied bombing was wreaking havoc on the Reich, and surface-to-air missiles were a promising countermeasure — but guidance technology was lacking at the time. So the rocket-propelled Natter would have a pilot — strap-on boosters would get it started, and its main rocket engine would get it above the elevation of an incoming bomber group. Then the pilot was to steer it toward the aircraft, fire a salvo of unguided rockets at them, then head toward the tail of one of the bombers. The plan was for the Natter to ram the tail of a bomber, with the pilot ejecting just before impact.

36 Natters were eventually built — half of them seeing flight in unmanned test, and two of them crashing with pilots onboard. The rest were largely destroyed upon capture by the allies, with just a few retained for evaluation. So when you see a Natter in a museum, it’s almost certainly a replica of this very odd bird.

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