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American soldier posing beside a captured Heinkel He 162 Spatz.

Model of the He P.1077 Julia interceptor

Model of the Junkers EF 128, one of the last interceptor aircraft projects before the fall of the Reich

Model of an Arado Ar 234 V21 carrying an Arado E.381 Kleinstjäger – "smallest fighter" at the Technikmuseum Speyer.

The Emergency Fighter Program (German language: Jägernotprogramm, literally "Fighter Emergency Program") was the program that resulted from a decision taken on July 3, 1944 by the Luftwaffe regarding the German aircraft manufacturing companies during the last years of the Third Reich. This project was one of the products of the latter part of 1944, when the Luftwaffe High Command saw that there was a dire need to put up a strong defense against the devastating Allied bombing raids. Although opposed by important figures such as Luftwaffe fighter force leader Adolf Galland, the project went ahead owing to the resolute backing of Marshall of the Reich Hermann Göring.[1] Most of the designs of the Emergency Fighter Program never proceeded past the project stage.[2]


In the Emergency Fighter Program emphasis was laid in shifting production to defensive interceptor/fighters. A number of new aircraft design competition programmes were launched to provide new jet fighters. Production of the Messerschmitt Me 262A fighter versions continued, as well as the development of advanced piston-engined fighters such as the Dornier Do 335 as per Hitler's personal request on May 23, 1944, before the July 3rd announcement of the program. Bombers, however, were severely curtailed, the only bombers allowed to continue in production after the edict was issued were those powered by jets, such as the Arado Ar 234. Newer jet bomber designs such as the Junkers Ju 287 and Heinkel He 343 were worked on fitfully as lower priority projects in the last months of the war. Towards the end of the war some of the fighter designs, such as the Bachem Ba 349 Natter, the Heinkel P.1077 Julia, the Blohm & Voss BV 40 or the Arado E.381 Kleinstjäger – "smallest fighter" were designed with the pilot flying the aircraft in a prone position. The first two were expected to climb to their ceiling at vertical or near vertical angles, while the latter was a parasite aircraft that needed to be carried by a "mother" plane. These small interceptors had fuel for only a few minutes for combat action and landing was rough, for instead of a proper undercarriage they had only a fixed skid. Such simplified and dangerous planes were the products of the last phase of the Third Reich, when the lack of materials and the dire need to put up a strong defense against the allied bombing raids required such craft to be built as quickly as possible in underground factories. In the design of the planes little thought was given to the safety and comfort of the pilots who were mostly young Nazis motivated by fanaticism. Those were dire years in which Nazi authorities even considered to use selbstopfer (suicide) planes such as the Messerschmitt Me 328 and the Reichenberg (a manned version of the V-1 flying bomb).[3]

Peoples' Fighter Project

In August 1944, a requirement led to the Volksjäger ("Peoples' Fighter") aircraft design competition, to create a lightweight high-speed fighter/interceptor using a single turbojet engine, intended for rapid mass-production while using minimal resources. The Volksjäger was intended to be essentially disposable, with damaged aircraft being discarded rather than repaired, while it was to be flown by pilots, including members of the Hitler Youth, hastily trained on gliders. After a hurried design competition involving almost all of Germany's aircraft companies, Heinkel's He 162 proposal was selected as the winning Volksjäger airframe design.[4] The first prototype of the He 162 Spatz (Sparrow), erroneously known as the Salamander jet fighter flew in December 1944.[5] Other designs submitted to the Peoples' Fighter Programme, such as the Blohm & Voss P.211, were allegedly superior, but never proceeded past the project stage.[6]

Miniature Fighter Project

In November 1944, a programme for an even simpler fighter, the so-called Miniaturjägerprogramm ("Miniature Fighter Program") was launched. The aim was to develop and mass-produce a very small interceptor for the absolute minimum cost in strategic materials. The aim was to produce them cheaply and in large numbers so as to overwhelm the Allied bomber formations that flew daily over Germany's skies. The Miniaturjäger would be powered by one Argus As 014 pulsejet engine per unit, as this engine required far fewer construction man-hours than a turbojet.[7] The various German aircraft designers showed less interest in this new enterprise than in the Peoples' Fighter Project for the imminent He 162 program would swallow up most of what was left of the country's available — and rapidly diminishing — production capacity. Furthermore, it was already well known by the time the Miniaturjäger competition was announced that, as they didn't produce enough power at low speeds for takeoff, the Argus pulsejets were unsuitable for manned aircraft that would have to takeoff unassisted. Since additional launch schemes would had to be added to the project, such as towplanes, catapults or rocket boosters, the goal of the program would be defeated and expenses would be far higher.[1] Thus the Miniaturjäger project never saw mass-production, being scrapped already in December 1944.

Even so, aircraft manufacturers Heinkel, Blohm & Voss and Junkers came up with light fighter designs using a strict minimum of materials before that date. The resulting planes were small, spartan creations, with no radio and almost no electrical equipment, Heinkel would use a He 162 air frame powered by a pulse jet, Blohm & Voss designed the BV P.213 and Junkers would submit the Ju EF 126 Elli project.[8] Finally the only Miniature Fighter aircraft that got beyond blueprint status was Junkers EF 126 'Lilli'. Although unbuilt during the war, five prototypes were built in the Dessau Junkers plant in the area occupied by the Soviet Union. One of the prototypes was destroyed during unpowered testing in 1946, killing the pilot.[9]

Other projects

At the beginning of 1945 a further programme was launched by the OKL in order to replace the He 162 Volksjäger. The new aircraft was intended to have superior performance in order to deal with high altitude threats such as the B-29 Superfortress (though this American bomber was never used in Europe). To meet this requirement, power was to be a single Heinkel HeS 011 turbojet, of which only 19 examples were ever produced, solely for development testing. The designs of the Messerschmitt P.1110,[10] Heinkel P. 1078, Focke-Wulf Ta 183, Blohm & Voss P 212 as well as the official winner of the competition, the Junkers EF 128, were submitted by February 1945.[11]

This more advanced fighter had attracted more interest than the austere Miniaturjäger, particularly from Focke-Wulf and Messerschmitt,[12] but construction of the prototypes had not started by the end of the war.[13] Messerschmitt continued development of one of its designs, the Messerschmitt P.1101, with one prototype being 80% complete when captured at the end of the war, being taken to America and used as the basis of the Bell X-5 variable geometry research aircraft.[14]

List of Third Reich emergency fighter projects

Pulsejet-powered aircraft

Rocket-powered aircraft

Turbojet-powered aircraft

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Heinkel He-162 Volksjaeger
  2. Heinkel He P.1077 (Julia) Rocket-Powered Interceptor - History
  3. Ulrich Albrecht: Artefakte des Fanatismus; Technik und nationalsozialistische Ideologie in der Endphase des Dritten Reiches
  4. Smith and Kay 1972, pp. 307–308.
  5. Smith and Kay 1972, p.308.
  6. "Blohm & Voss BV P.211 Luft '46 entry". Retrieved 2013-05-01. 
  7. Smith and Kay 1972, p.614.
  8. "Blohm & Voss BV P.213 Luft '46 entry". Retrieved 2013-06-01. 
  9. Junkers Ef-126 "Lilli"
  10. Peter Allen's Aircraft Profiles - Fighters
  11. Karl-Heinz Ludwig, Technik und Ingenieure im Dritten Reich. Athenäum-Verlag, Königstein/Ts., 1979, ISBN 3761072198
  12. Smith and Kay 1972, p.618.
  13. Smith and Kay 1972, pp. 626–628.
  14. Smith and Kay 1972, pp. 622–624.


  • Smith, J.R. and Kay, Antony L. German Aircraft of the Second World War. London:Putnam, 1972. ISBN 85177 836 4.

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