For a brief moment in World War 2 history (1939-1945), some elements of the German hierarchy entertained the prospect of kamikaze suicide strikes against strategic Allied targets. This thinking was further pressed home when Germany began to lose ground to Allied advances and its initiative in the air was reduced due to the relentless Allied day/night bombing campaigns. Couple desperation with the successes experienced by the Japanese in their use of suicide strikes against Allied naval targets, the idea of German suicide fighters was something to be seriously considered.
During January of 1944, members of the German Academy of Aeronautical Sciences collectively explored the possibility of such a weapon and came away agreeing that it should push the German Air Ministry to support such attacks. It was deemed that a single German pilot, giving up his life in the action, was a highly effective measure is derailing the Allied advanced - some of the German leadership hoping to sue for a favorable surrender by this point in the war. If a single bridge, supply depot or fuel storage area could be destroyed at the cost of one aircraft and its pilot while preventing a handful of bombers from receiving proper supplies, then the German kamikaze concept was understood as a viable one. The idea of self-sacrifice for the greater good, however, was not a foundational one in West thinking as it was in places such as Japan where honor and allegiance to the Emperor was ranked above all else. It would take a pilot with certain mettle to give up his life in such a way.
The German kamikaze approach was to center on a compact single-seat aircraft laden with explosives and fitted with the most basic of flying instruments and controls. At first, the Messerschmitt Me 328 seemingly fit the bill, a "parasite fighter" then under development. However, its production was seriously derailed when an air raid rendered its lines unusable for the foreseeable future. Then came the Fieseler Fi 103R "Reichenberg" which was essentially a manned version of the V-1 "Doodle Bug" rocket terrorizing citizens of Britain. While some 175 of this aircraft type were eventually completed by the end of the war, there was never much faith placed in the Fi 103 as a delivery platform - its intended Argus pulse jet engine limited its practical usefulness just as it had in the unmanned V-1 rockets before it. Additionally there proved limited interest in the project on the whole. By this time, the thought of losing expensive, valuable pilots in a suicide attack had turned to allowing the pilot a parachute to use as he vacated his aircraft prior to the moment of impact. Despite this less macabre approach, the chances were slim that the pilot would ever survive such a stunt considering the forces at play during the attack's descent.
Then came another concept for review, this time pushed by engineers at Focke-Wulf where a slim, single-seat, explosives-laden airframe fitting a turbojet engine would be used. A 2.5-ton explosive content would fill the nose section and instrumentation would be sparse to reduce the production commitment. The Heinkel HeS 011 turbojet of 2,865 pounds thrust was selected for propulsion. The aircraft's fuselage would fit a stand-off probe at its nose with electrical crush fuses used to detonate the explosive hollow charge package causing enough damage to potential sink a warship and kill many.
The other part of the equation lay in the delivery method. As the suicide aircraft stood it was too small to carry much internal fuel for a long journey and too basic to serve over long endurance runs over enemy terrain. Focke-Wulf designers enacted a plan to provide the suicide fighter with its own "kamikaze carrier", a mothership of sorts fast enough to avoid enemy interceptors yet powerful enough to haul one or several suicide aircraft. This was a departure from earlier German work on a manned fighter piggy-backing over an explosives-laden airframe, the explosive component being jettisoned against a target while the manned fighter component returning home on its own (this became the intriguing "Mistel" program). Another related concept under consideration in Germany was the "parasite fighter" scheme in which a mothership would carry its own defending escorts, these fighters being released the moment enemy interceptors were identified.
The aircraft devised by Focke-Wulf utilized a high-mounted, gull-wing mainplane of considerable span (177 feet) and limited sweepback set over a largely tubular fuselage containing a glazed-over cockpit nose. A twin-boom tail configuration was added which produced two tail rudders and a central, high-mounted plane joining the two fins. Ahead of each boom would be an engine installation protruding from the wing's leading edge. Outboard of these installations would be a pair of coupled engines in a "pull-push" configuration, presenting a long nacelle structure breaking the lines of both the leading and trailing wing edges. The undercarriage would support many landing wheels situated inline while its supporting struts would be housed under an aerodynamically-refined fairing. The aircraft would require just a two-man crew commitment which benefitted operational logistics.
The six engines in play would be Daimler-Benz DB 603N types, 12-cylinder developments outputting at 1,900 horsepower each. This engine was already shared across various other German warplanes of the conflict including Focke-Wulf's own Ta 152 high-altitude fighter so it came as a proven commodity. Performance estimates of the Fw Kamikaze Carrier included a maximum sped of 348 miles per hour - certainly not fast enough to avoid interception but this was offset some when the strategy morphed to include the carrier rendezvousing with jet-powered aircraft (Ar 234B) from two miles out of the target area. With the now-released kamikaze fighters committed to follow their jet escorts, the carrier was now free for a return trip home to resupply.
As it stood, this large aircraft would not only be used in supporting kamikaze strikes, it could just as easily double as a heavy-lift transport when serving frontline elements. Its high-wing design would also promote short field landings and its undercarriage could survive landings on rough surfaces. Hauling capability would be a key quality of the series.
As can be surmised, the German kamikaze initiative fell to naught by war's end. The project was certainly a reach with all of its intended design goals and the war situation in Germany only served to ruin many-an-aircraft development heading into the final weeks. The concept was never wholly sound nor proven and no work beyond that undertaken at drawing boards was realized before the end. The idea of German pilots even surviving the bailout process was a recurring concern and materials required to make this costly project a success were few and far between. This left the Focke-Wulf "Kamikaze Carrier" as nothing more than one of the many German wartime "paper airplane" projects simply not meant to be.
Production 0 Units
Focke-Wulf - Nazi Germany
- X-Plane / Developmental
114.83 ft (35 m)
177.17 ft (54 m)
39.37 ft (12 m)
113,097 lb (51,300 kg)
268,964 lb (122,000 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Focke-Wulf Projekt Kamikaze Carrier production model)
6 x Daimler-Benz DB 603N 12-cylinder piston engines developing 1,900 horsepower each.
348 mph (560 kph; 302 kts)
27,887 feet (8,500 m; 5.28 miles)
1,069 miles (1,720 km; 929 nm)
1,500 ft/min (457 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Focke-Wulf Projekt Kamikaze Carrier production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
None. Payload of one or several "kamikaze" suicide aircraft. Local defense supplied by accompanying escort aircraft.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Focke-Wulf Projekt Kamikaze Carrier production model)
"Kamikaze Carrier" - Base Project Name.
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
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