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Heinkel He 176


Rocket-Powered Demonstrator Aircraft


Nazi Germany | 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; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
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.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Heinkel He 176 V1 Rocket-Powered Demonstrator Aircraft.
1 x Walter HWK-R1 rocket engine developing 1,323 lb of thrust.
Propulsion
435 mph
700 kph | 378 kts
Max Speed
29,528 ft
9,000 m | 6 miles
Service Ceiling
68 miles
109 km | 59 nm
Operational Range
199 ft/min
61 m/min
Rate-of-Climb
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Heinkel He 176 V1 Rocket-Powered Demonstrator Aircraft.
1
(MANNED)
Crew
16.4 ft
5.00 m
O/A Length
13.1 ft
(4.00 m)
O/A Width
4.9 ft
(1.50 m)
O/A Height
7,617 lb
(3,455 kg)
Empty Weight
9,700 lb
(4,400 kg)
MTOW
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
RANGE
ALT
SPEED
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the Heinkel He 176 family line.
He 176 - Base Series Designation
He 176 V1 - Sole Prototype
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Heinkel He 176. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 1 Units

Contractor(s): Heinkel - Nazi Germany
National flag of modern Germany National flag of Nazi Germany

[ Nazi Germany ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 500mph
Lo: 250mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (435mph).

Graph Average of 375 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
1
36183
44000
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
EarlyYrs
WWI
Interwar
WWII
ColdWar
Postwar
Modern
Future
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

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
X-PLANE
Recognition
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Heinkel He 176 Rocket-Powered Demonstrator Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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