Dr. Erich Bachem 1906 to 1960
German sailplane designer, co-
He was a noted sailplane designer, who became the Technical Director at the Fieseler
aircraft company, where in 1935 he was co-
Bachem founded Bachem Werke GmbH on 10th February 1942. The company initially constructed
spare parts for piston engine aircraft. In response to the devastating Allied bombing
campaign, in August 1944 he submitted a totally revised concept for a simple, wooden,
expendable, manned rocket interceptor to attack bomber formations. In September he
received a contract for 15 experimental Natter BA 349 B-
After the war, Bachem settled in Bad Waldsee. His neighbour was Erwin Hymer, who
was designing a new caravan for the post-
When production began in 1958, Bachem was put in charge of the marketing network, dubbed ERIBA (ERIch BAchem). Bachem passed away in 1960, just as Hymer Eriba was gaining the success it would carry into the next century.
Bachem Ba 349 B-
Dr. Erich Bachem's Ba 349 Natter (Viper) was the world's first, manned, vertical-
During spring 1944, the Allied bombing offensive began taking a serious toll on the
German war machine. None of the conventional methods employed by the Luftwaffe to
intercept the bombers seemed to work so the service began to explore unconventional
means. The RLM Technical Office issued requirements for an inexpensive fighter made
They chose a more conventional offering from Heinkel but Bachem refused to give up.
He sought the support of Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS (Nazi Party
security forces). Himmler liked Bachem's proposal and signed an order to build 150
Natters using SS funds. It was now possible that the SS might develop an aircraft
beyond the RLM's control so they placed their own order for 50 Natters and announced
the official designation, Bachem Ba 349.
Bachem's design was simple and easy to build. Semi-
Aerodynamic control was augmented by guide vanes connected to the four control surfaces.
Bachem positioned each vane within the exhaust plume of the main engine, a Walter
Bachem got the extra thrust from four Schmidding 109-
The resulting 1.6 to 1 thrust-
A Heinkel He 111 bomber carried one to 18,000 ft and released it. The pilot found the aircraft easy to control. At 1000 m (3,200 ft), he fired the explosive bolts and the escape sequence worked as designed.
A powered vertical launch failed on December 18 because of faulty ground equipment design. On December 22, the aircraft made its first successful launch with the solid fuel boosters only because the Walter motor was not ready.
Ten more successful launches followed during the next several months. Early in 1945, the Walter engine arrived and the Natter launched successfully with a complete propulsion system on February 25, 1945, carrying a dummy pilot. The launch proved that the complete flight profile was workable. All went according to plan, including recovery of the pilot dummy and Walter rocket motor.
Now a man had to fly and the first test came on February 28. Oberleutnant Lothar Siebert climbed into a Ba 349A, strapped in, and rocketed off the launch tower. At about 500 m (1600 ft), the Natter shed its canopy and headrest and the aircraft veered off and flew into the ground, killing Siebert.
No cause was determined but the ground crew may have failed to lock the canopy and it could have struck the pilot. Despite the tragedy, more pilots volunteered to fly and the Bachem team launched three flights in March.
With the end near, the Germans erected a battery of ten Natters at Kircheim near
Stuttgart. Pilots stood alert day after day but no U. S. bombers flew into range.
The U. S. Seventh Army overran the site but not before the Germans blew up all ten
Natters and their launchers.
It is interesting to speculate about the Natter's potential effectiveness. Realistic flight training was next to impossible using an aircraft that destroyed itself after every flight. However, given the short duration of a typical interception (about 5-
Once the German's erected a Natter site, U. S. Army Air Forces strike planners could
easily route the bombers out of harm's way. Accuracy of the unguided rocket salvo
is also questionable and it was a one-
Only two Bachem Natters are known to exist. The Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany, displays a Ba 349A restored in the colors and markings of one of the unmanned test aircraft. The NASM has the other Natter. U. S. forces captured this artifact at war's end and shipped it to Freeman Field, Indiana, for analysis. The captured equipment number T2-