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15 Of The Craziest German WW2 Wunderwaffe

15 Of The Craziest German WW2 Wunderwaffe

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Wunderwaffe, a German term translating to ‘wonder-weapon,’ was coined by Nazi Germany’s propaganda ministry during World War II to describe revolutionary superweapons. Despite the hype, most of these weapons were mere prototypes that either never saw combat, arrived too late, or were deployed in such limited numbers that they had little to no impact on the war.

But it is still fun to look back on these prototypes or ideas, as many of them were far ahead of their time, so lets take a look at some of the craziest Wunderwaffe.

1. Rocket U-boat

The rocket U-boat was essentially the first vision of a ballistic missile submarine. The weapon was designed to attack mainland USA and also targets in the UK that traditional missiles couldn’t reach.

Essentially, a U-boat would tow a container carrying a V-2 rocket; once in position, these would be fired at their target from a stabilized platform in the sea.

This idea, whoever novel, looks like it never made it past the theory stage as there is no evidence of it ever being tested.

Credit Wikimedia Commons

2. Kugelblitz

With the German Air Force’s waning ability to defend against enemy fighter bombers during World War II, there arose a pressing need for specialized self-propelled anti-aircraft guns capable of keeping pace with armored divisions.

Thus, numerous improvised and purpose-built models emerged, including the Flakpanzer IV Möbelwagen, Wirbelwind, and Ostwind, all mounted on the Panzer IV chassis. However, these early designs suffered from drawbacks such as insufficient armor and exposed tops, which led to the development of the Kugelblitz.

Initially proposed with dual 30 mm MK 303 Brünn guns, the Kugelblitz ultimately adopted the more practical 30 mm MK 103/Pz cannon in a twin-flak arrangement. Incorporating a fully enclosed oscillating turret on the Panzer IV chassis, the Kugelblitz showed promise for mass production, although Allied bombing disrupted these plans.

Despite efforts to transition production to the Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer chassis, only five Kugelblitz prototypes were completed by the war’s end.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

3. Ratte (Rat)

The Landkreuzer P. 1000 “Ratte” (“Rat”) was a proposed 1000-ton tank, possibly conceived by Krupp director Edward Grote in June 1942. Intended to surpass the Panzer VIII “Maus” in weight (the heaviest tank ever at 188 tonnes), the project garnered Adolf Hitler’s approval but was ultimately canceled by Minister of Armaments Albert Speer in early 1943.

The proposed size of the Ratte was staggering, weighing in at 1,000 tonnes (1,100 short tons), surpassing the Panzer VIII Maus by over fivefold in weight. Its proposed measurements were 35 meters (115 ft) in length (39 meters (128 ft) with naval guns), 11 meters (36 ft) in height, and 14 meters (46 ft) in width.

Its immense weight was to be distributed by six 1.2-meter (3 ft 11 in) wide and 21-meter (69 ft) long treads, providing stability and weight distribution yet posing significant challenges for road integrity and bridge crossings due to its sheer mass.

The tank’s immense size and weight would have posed significant challenges, rendering it unable to cross bridges without risking collapse and causing rapid deterioration of roads.

Despite its intended top speed of 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph), its sheer size and visibility would have made it highly susceptible to aerial bombings and artillery attacks.

Furthermore, its colossal proportions would have limited its mobility, as it would rely solely on its own drivetrain for transportation between firing positions, with existing railways and train cars unable to support its weight and existing tunnels too narrow to accommodate its width.

4. Blohm & Voss BV 141

The Blohm & Voss BV 141, a tactical reconnaissance aircraft from World War II, stood out for its unusual structural asymmetry. Despite its effective performance, the BV 141 never entered full-scale production due to factors like the unavailability of the preferred engine and competition from the Focke-Wulf Fw 189.

In 1937, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (German Aviation Ministry) issued a specification for a single-engine reconnaissance aircraft with optimal visual characteristics. Blohm & Voss, without an official invitation, pursued a radical private venture resulting in the uniquely asymmetric BV 141, designed by Dr. Richard Vogt.

Featuring a Plexiglas-glazed crew gondola on the starboard side, similar to the Fw 189, the BV 141 accommodated the pilot, observer, and rear gunner, while the port-side fuselage seamlessly integrated with the BMW 132N radial engine. Despite initial concerns about weight distribution inducing roll tendency, the BV 141’s wings evenly supported the weight. Thrust vs. drag asymmetry was countered through mechanisms like P-factor and trimming.

Although three prototypes and an evaluation batch of five BV 141As were produced, the RLM deemed them underpowered.

Several wrecked BV 141s were discovered by advancing Allied forces, with one captured by British forces for examination. Unfortunately, no surviving examples of the BV 141 exist today.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

5. Natter Rocket-Powered Interceptor

The Bachem Ba 349 Natter, a World War II German rocket-powered interceptor, operated akin to a manned surface-to-air missile, with a vertical take-off negating the need for airfields.

Guided mostly by autopilot, the pilot’s main task was targeting Allied bombers and firing rockets, with separate parachutes for the pilot and rocket engine-fitted fuselage during landing, while the disposable nose section fulfilled its role.

Tragically, the first and sole manned vertical take-off flight on March 1, 1945, resulted in the fatality of test pilot Lothar Sieber.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

6. Sturer Emil

The “Sturer Emil” also known as Panzer Selbstfahrlafette V, was an experimental self-propelled anti-fortification gun. Built upon the chassis of the Henschel VK 30.01 (H), it boasted a formidable Rheinmetall 12.8 cm Kanone gun, based on a anti aircraft flak gun.

Constructed from hulls remaining from Henschel’s VK 30.01 heavy tank project, which eventually evolved into the Tiger tank, modifications included stretching the hull and adding an additional road wheel to its Schachtellaufwerk suspension system to accommodate the large gun.

Positioned ahead of the engine on a pedestal, the gun was housed in a spacious, open-topped fighting compartment reminiscent of the Panzer IV-based Hummel self-propelled 15 cm howitzer.

Only two vehicles were produced, both serving on the Eastern Front. One encountered persistent mechanical issues and was either destroyed or abandoned in 1942, while another was captured at Stalingrad in January 1943, adorned with at least 22 kill marks on its barrel. This captured vehicle is currently showcased in the Kubinka Tank Museum collection.

credit: Wikimedia Commons

7. Focke Rochen VTOL Aircraft

The Focke Roche, was a visionary German VTOL aircraft project conceived by Heinrich Focke towards the end of World War II, with some development continuing in the postwar era. Named after the ray due to its distinctive shape, the aircraft featured a central airfoil section housing two large propellers.

In the waning years of the Third Reich, Heinrich Focke initiated design work on the Rochen, or Schnellflugzeug, upon acquiring pertinent data for new German jet engines. Patented in 1939, the concept envisioned a circular aircraft with a spacious airfoil section enclosing twin contra-rotating propellers, powered by a projected Focke-Wulf turbojet engine.

Forward flight was to be achieved by redirecting the propeller downwash rearward through louvers, which could be closed for gliding flight in case of engine failure. Additionally, auxiliary combustion chambers, fueled to act as primitive afterburners, facilitated horizontal flight.

Following the war, a wooden 1/10 scale model underwent wind tunnel tests in Bremen, and in 1957, Heinrich Focke filed a patent for the aircraft, although it remained unrealized.

8. Kugelpanzer (Ball Tank)

The Kugelpanzer, or “ball tank,” is a mysterious one-man armored vehicle crafted by Nazi Germany during World War II. Little is known about its origins, though records suggest at least one was dispatched to the Empire of Japan for use by the Kwantung Army. The vehicle’s history remains shrouded in ambiguity, exacerbated by the scarcity of documentation and the incomplete nature of the sole surviving model.

Presently, the only known Kugelpanzer is showcased as “exhibit no. 37” within the German armored vehicles collection at the Kubinka Tank Museum in Moscow. Believed to have been seized by the Red Army in Manchuria, its combat history remains unrecorded, though some reports claim it was taken from the Kummersdorf proving grounds alongside the Maus super-heavy tank. Following its capture, the vehicle underwent modifications, including a repaint and removal of its drive, with its original paintwork restored in 2000.

While many aspects of the Kugelpanzer remain speculative, certain characteristics are gleaned from the surviving model: it was of German origin, utilized as a light reconnaissance vehicle, captured by Soviet forces in 1945, featured outer armor just five millimeters thick, and was powered by a single-cylinder two-stroke motorcycle engine.

Functionality is inferred from its exterior design, suggesting a one-man reconnaissance tank with an armored exterior and viewing slot. The likely placement of the drive, possibly beneath or behind the driver, enabled rotary movements supported by a steerable wheel at the rear. In stationary mode, it could serve as an armored refuge or makeshift bunker. However, details such as firearm access from within the tank remain uncertain based on available imagery.

9. Blohm & Voss BV 238

The Blohm & Voss BV 238 was a colossal German flying boat, holding the title of the heaviest aircraft ever constructed upon its inaugural flight in 1944. Serving as the largest aircraft produced by any Axis power during the war, its development commenced in 1941, following the success of the BV 222 Wiking.

Despite plans for extensive defensive armament, the initial prototype, BV 238 V1, took flight in April 1944 without any. It conducted flight trials until it was attacked and partially sunk while docked on Lake Schaal, near Hamburg. Salvaged with one wing remaining above water, Allied refusal to permit restoration led to its sinking in deeper waters following the war’s end.

10. Fa 223 The First Production Helicopter

The Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 Drache (Dragon) was a helicopter powered by a single 750-kilowatt (1,010 hp) Bramo 323 radial engine, it featured two three-bladed 39 ft rotors mounted on twin booms flanking the 40 ft cylindrical fuselage.

While the Fa 223 earned the distinction of being the first helicopter to achieve production status, Allied bombing of the factory limited production to just 20 units.

Capable of cruising at 109 miles per hour with a top speed of 113, the Fa 223 could ascend to an altitude of 23,300 ft. With its cargo capacity exceeding 2,200 lb, it could transport loads at cruising speeds of 75 mph and altitudes nearing 8,010 ft.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

11. Fritz X First Precision Guided Missile

Fritz X, was a guided anti-ship glide bomb, it marked a significant milestone as the world’s first precision-guided weapon deployed in combat and the first to successfully sink a ship.

Originally a refinement of the PC 1400 armor-piercing high-explosive bomb, Fritz X was tailored for penetrating armored targets like heavy cruisers and battleships. Its design incorporated a more streamlined nose, four stub wings, and a distinctive box-shaped tail unit featuring aerodynamic controls.

The genesis of Fritz X stemmed from the Luftwaffe’s recognition of the challenges in targeting moving ships, notably observed during the Spanish Civil War.

Guided by a Kehl-Strasbourg radio control link, Fritz X relied on movable spoilers within its tail fin surfaces for navigation. This control system mirrored that of the Henschel Hs 293 anti-ship ordnance, introduced in August 1943. Operating under manual control, Fritz X required the operator to maintain visual contact with the bomb throughout its flight, limiting evasion tactics against enemy defenses.

Approximately 1,400 units, including trial models, were produced, contributing to the evolving landscape of aerial warfare during World War II.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

12. Krummlauf Shoots Round Corners!

The Krummlauf, German for “curved barrel,” was an innovative attachment developed during World War II for the Sturmgewehr 44 (StG 44) rifle, allowing for shooting around corners from a secure position with the aid of a periscope sighting device.

Available in various configurations, including versions tailored for infantry use (“I”), tank applications (“P”), and differing degrees of bends (30°, 45°, 60°, and 90°), the Krummlauf aimed to cover blind spots and defend against close-range assaults. However, only the 30° “I” version for the StG 44 saw significant production.

Despite its ingenuity, the curved barrel attachments had short lifespans due to the stress exerted on both the barrel and bullets—approximately 300 rounds for the 30° version and 160 rounds for the 45° variant.

Additionally, the bending of the barrel caused bullets to fragment upon exit, leading to unintended shotgun-like dispersion. To mitigate this, designers incorporated small vent holes to reduce pressure and recoil, yet this failed to extend the Krummlauf’s lifespan significantly. A triangular shield was also added to prevent vented gases from obscuring the mirror and optics.

The 30° model demonstrated a 35×35 cm grouping at 100 meters, showcasing its effectiveness within its operational range. Furthermore, a variant of the Krummlauf, mounted on a Maschinenpistole Vorsatz (P) attachment, served as a close defense weapon for tank destroyers, allowing crews to affix a StG 44 to roof hatches for use as a defensive machine gun.

By Joe Loong – originally posted to Flickr

13. V-3 Cannon

The V-3, also known as Vergeltungswaffe 3 (“Vengeance Weapon 3”), was a formidable large-caliber gun, operating on the multi-charge principle. Constructed within tunnels and permanently aimed at London, it was intended to bombard the city from two large bunkers in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France.

However, Allied bombing raids rendered these bunkers unusable before the project could be completed. Similar guns were later utilized to bombard Luxembourg from December 1944 to February 1945.

Functioning on the basis of multiple propellant stages positioned along the barrel’s length, the gun employed solid-fuel rocket boosters for added thrust.

These boosters, arranged symmetrically in pairs along the barrel, were angled to exert their force against the projectile’s base as it passed through. This configuration led to its German moniker Tausendfüßler (“millipede”).

Designed with interchangeable sections for simplified production and maintenance, the smoothbore gun fired fin-stabilized shells, relying on aerodynamic forces to maintain stability rather than gyroscopic effects induced by rifling, which typically causes projectiles to spin.

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1981-147-30A

14. Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet

The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet stands as a remarkable feat in aviation history, serving as the world’s sole operational rocket-powered interceptor aircraft. Designed and manufactured by Messerschmitt, it earned distinction as the first piloted aircraft to surpass 1,000 kilometers per hour (620 mph) in level flight.

Originating from the pioneering work of German engineer Alexander Lippisch and the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug (DFS) in 1937, the Me 163 emerged from an experimental program blending traditional glider concepts with cutting-edge rocket propulsion technology.

The maiden flight of the prototype in September 1941 heralded its exceptional performance, prompting German officials to accelerate plans for widespread adoption of the Me 163 as a point-defense interceptor.

In July 1944, test pilot Heini Dittmar achieved an impressive airspeed of 1,130 km/h (700 mph), setting an unofficial record unmatched by turbojet-powered aircraft until 1953.

Operational deployment of the Me 163 commenced the same year, with its primary role being the defense against enemy bombing raids. Germany’s collaboration with Japan led to the sharing of design blueprints, resulting in the development of the Mitsubishi J8M.

Despite its technological advancements, the Me 163 encountered challenges in combat due to limitations such as its short operational range of 7.5 minutes and volatile rocket propellant.

Although credited with the destruction of 9 to 18 Allied aircraft, the aircraft’s high loss rate, exacerbated by its hazardous fuel, claimed numerous pilots during testing and training flights. Notably, German fighter ace Josef Pöhs fell victim to exposure to T-Stoff and injuries sustained during a failed takeoff.

Following World War II, the Me 163 saw no further operational use beyond Nazi Germany, marking a unique chapter in aviation history as the sole rocket-powered aircraft to enter combat, alongside the Japanese Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka, a manned flying bomb.

By USAF – USAF photo No. 030801-F-1234P-080

15. Panzer VIII Maus

The Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus, colloquially known as the “mouse,” stood as a formidable symbol of German engineering. Completed in late 1944, it earned the distinction of being the heaviest fully enclosed armored fighting vehicle ever constructed.

While plans called for five of these behemoths, only two hulls and one turret were finished, with the turret affixed just before the testing grounds fell into the hands of advancing Soviet forces.

These two prototypes underwent trials in late 1944, showcasing the Maus’s imposing dimensions: 33 feet in length, 12.2 feet in width, and 11.9 feet in height.

With a staggering weight of 188 metric tons, its main armament featured the formidable Krupp-designed 128 mm gun, supplemented by a coaxial 75 mm gun. The firepower of the 128 mm gun rendered it capable of obliterating any Allied armored vehicle then in service, even at ranges exceeding 3,800 yards.

A major challenge in the Maus’s design lay in developing an engine and drivetrain capable of propelling its massive bulk while still fitting within its confines.

The solution involved a “hybrid drive” system, employing an internal-combustion engine to operate an electric generator that powered its tracks with electric motor units. Despite these innovations, field testing revealed limitations in speed, with the Maus reaching a maximum of 8.1 mph on hard surfaces.

Nevertheless, its weight precluded it from using most bridges, necessitating its ability to ford rivers up to a depth of 6.6 feet or submerge to a depth of 26 feet and utilize a snorkel for river crossings.

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