Aircraft / Aviation Vehicles & Artillery Small Arms Warships & Submarines Military Ranks Military Pay Chart (2024) Special Forces
Aviation / Aerospace

Heinkel He 176

Rocket-Powered Demonstrator Aircraft [ 1939 ]

Lackluster performance doomed the all-liquid-fueled Heinkel He 176 rocket aircraft - one example being completed.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 01/21/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

In the late 1930s, the Heinkel concern of Germany began work on the world's first all-liquid fueled rocket-propelled aircraft. The idea of rocket propulsion was not a new one by this point in aviation history for several developmental airframes - mostly glider-type aircraft - took to the skies during the decade. All-liquid fueled rocket motors were a progressively better alternative to the solid-fuel offerings of the time concerning their use in aircraft. Heinkel began experimentation with such propulsion in 1936 and, by 1939, the technology had progressed to the point that the rocket-powered airplane was a very feasible subject. Foremost on the mind of Ernst Heinkel was the eclipsing of the then-standing world airspeed record which would bring national pride to Germany and notoriety to Heinkel itself. To achieve this feat, Heinkel envisioned an all-liquid fueled, rocket-powered aircraft utilizing a streamlined airframe and reaching speeds of 620 miles per hour.

Under the direction of Wilhelm Benz and Hans Regner, work began on a private venture design which became the "He 176". To begin with, the aircraft would be powered by a refined Walter HWK-R1rocket engine outputting 1,373lbs of thrust. The airframe would house the required fuel stores, avionics and single-seat cockpit. Key to its design would be the smallest possible airframe in an effort to delete all unnecessary aerodynamic-defeating protrusions and save on overall weight. The fuselage took on an aerodynamic approach with a glazed-over acrylic nose cone, cylindrical center section and tapered empennage. The tail unit included a conventional vertical tail fin and applicable horizontal tail planes. As speeds were projected to be rather intolerable for the feat at hand, the pilot would be given a reclined position to counter the effects of g-forces. The wings were short, small-area straight assemblies added to the middle of the fuselage sides, shoulder-mounted in place and slightly reminiscent of those as seen on the Heinkel He 111 Medium Bomber prior. The fuselage proved just large enough to house the intended components - measuring just 2.7 feet in diameter while the undercarriage was of the typical "tail-dragging" configuration of the time to include a pair of main landing gear legs and a tail skid along a narrow-track design. Due to this, skids were added to the wing tips to counter any possible tipping. The main landing gear legs themselves were fully retractable to help maintain aerodynamic qualities.

One of the more interesting design features of the He 176 was its pilot escape feature. As the intended airspeeds to be reached were truly monumental and very new territory, the He 176 was given a completely jettisonable cockpit section in the event of a catastrophic event during flight, leaving the rest of the fuselage to fall to its destruction with the pilot escaping (hopefully) without injury.

The first He 176 prototype was first flown on June 20th, 1939. However, the aircraft's performance was such that attending German Reich Air Ministry (RLM) officials were rather underwhelmed by the attempt. This particular rocket-fueled approach was not held in high regard both for its rather noisy execution and inherent dangerous nature concerning the combustible fuel. The He 176 even failed to surpass 435 miles per hour in her first flight attempt. As such, the He 176 project was not pursued beyond this developmental "peak" despite a second prototype on the drawing board. In the end, the airframe proved too heavy for the intended rocket powerplant - the thrust output rating not nearly consistent enough particularly during take-off actions and generally lackluster in straight-level flight. Additionally, the wing surface area was deemed too small for the required lift and control at the expected speeds, further dampening the performance numbers. From then on, the He 176 was sentenced as a museum piece, being sent to Berlin from Heinkel for public display in 1942. However, the Allied bombing campaign saw to it that the German capital was not out of its reach and responded accordingly, the He 176 being destroyed an air raid during 1943.

With the loss close of the He 176 rocket-propulsion project, Heinkel moved on to other endeavors. With Germany fully committed to war by this point - having moved politically and militarily across Europe to begin World War 2 - thought still centered on the use of high performance interceptor aircraft especially to counter the ever-growing threat of the allied bomber campaign wreaking havoc on German infrastructure and war-making capabilities. The RLM therefore moved on another similar aircraft initiative which ultimately produced the famous rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me 163 "Komet" - the first (and only) operational rocket-powered fighter anywhere in the world. This aircraft utilized an evolved form of the Walter rocket engine coupled with swept-back wings to which some 370 examples were ultimately produced, eventually seeing combat action against Allied aircraft in the air war over Europe. However, advances in jet technology made the age of the rocket-powered fighter short-lived.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


Heinkel - Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Operators National flag of modern Germany National flag of Nazi Germany
Service Year
Nazi Germany
National Origin
Project Status

Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.

16.4 ft
(5.00 meters)
13.1 ft
(4.00 meters)
4.9 ft
(1.50 meters)
7,617 lb
(3,455 kilograms)
Empty Weight
9,700 lb
(4,400 kilograms)
Maximum Take-Off Weight
+2,083 lb
(+945 kg)
Weight Difference

1 x Walter HWK-R1 rocket engine developing 1,323 lb of thrust.
435 mph
(700 kph | 378 knots)
Max Speed
29,528 ft
(9,000 m | 6 miles)
68 miles
(109 km | 59 nm)
199 ft/min
(61 m/min)

MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030


He 176 - Base Series Designation
He 176 V1 - Sole Prototype

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for Special Forces
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Ukranian-Russian War
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft


1 / 4
Image of the Heinkel He 176
The only known photograph of the Heinkel He 176 rocket plane
2 / 4
Image of the Heinkel He 176
Artist impression of Heinkel He 176
3 / 4
Image of the Heinkel He 176
Artist impression of Heinkel He 176
4 / 4
Image of the Heinkel He 176
Artist impression of Heinkel He 176

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Cookies

2024 Military Pay Chart Military Ranks DoD Dictionary Conversion Calculators Military Alphabet Code Military Map Symbols

The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com. No A.I. was used in the generation of this content; site is 100% curated by humans.

Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world, WDMMA.org (World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft), WDMMW.org (World Directory of Modern Military Warships), SR71blackbird.org, detailing the history of the world's most iconic spyplane, and MilitaryRibbons.info, cataloguing military medals and ribbons. Special Interest: RailRoad Junction, the locomotive encyclopedia.

©2023 www.MilitaryFactory.com • All Rights Reserved • Content ©2003-2023 (20yrs)