Luftwaffe Mistel (Mistletoe) Composite Bomber Aircraft
Luftwaffe Mistel programs were trialled as early as 1942 and evolved considerably throughout the rest of World War 2.
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The German Luftwaffe of World War 2 (1939-1945) embarked on many aircraft programs throughout the conflict - some of which never made it beyond the paper or wind tunnel testing stages and others that become full-fledged realizations intended to keep Germany from total defeat. In 1942, the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fur Segelflug (DFS) - "German Research Institute for Sailplane / Glider Flight" - developed the concept of a "composite" aircraft in which a large, unmanned airframe was stocked with explosives to serve as a guided bomb of sorts while carried to its target by way of a compact, manned fighter. The initial concept involved the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter mounted over a Junkers Ju 88 medium bomber though, theoretically, any "mothership" aircraft could be used as the primary carrier (including newer jet types emerging in the latter war years). A composite aircraft recorded its first flight during July 1943 and proved the concept sound.
It was not until 1944 that Luftwaffe authorities found the idea practical and launched an official program under the name of "Mistel" ("Mistletoe") to develop a realistic battlefield solution. In the conversion of some 100 Ju 88 bomber airframes, the crew components and defensive armament positions were all stripped from the airframe. A simple strut network was affixed to the dorsal spine of the bomber and, to this, was added the fighter portion. The initial prototype was a Bf 109E-4 fighter over a Junkers Ju 88A model series bomber.
The general idea behind the Mistletoe pairing was providing an impressive war load to a basic frontline fighter. The strut network was fitted with explosive bolts which were detonated when the payload was near the target area. Guidance was from the mothership/carrier aircraft and release was at the discretion of the pilot. Once the bomb load was dropped, the fighter regained nearly all of its fighter-like performance and handling qualities to help defend itself. A bomb load could feature as much as 4,000 pounds of explosive material - enough to cripple a warship, destroy a bridge, or penetrate fortified structures.