Mistel

From Academic Kids

Mistel (Ger. "Mistletoe") was a secret Luftwaffe aircraft bombing system of World War II. The scheme originally involved packing a war-weary bomber airframe (a Junkers Ju 88 variant) with explosives and guiding it to its target by a fighter aircraft mounted above it on a set of struts. After releasing the bomber, the fighter would return to base. The first such composite aircraft flew in July 1943 and was promising enough to begin a programme by Luftwaffe test unit KG 200, code-named "Beethoven".

Later, the technique became more refined, and the bomber component (which was often a new aircraft rather than surplus) was fitted with a specialised 1,800kg (3,960-lb) warhead. The final stage of Mistel development was the development of specialised purpose-built jet-powered bomber components, including ones developed from the Messerschmitt Me 262 and Junkers Ju 287 and the entirely new Arado E.377. None of these ambitious schemes left the drawing board before the end of the war.

The definitive Mistel warhead was a shaped charge around a core of copper or aluminium. When detonated, the explosion would liquefy the metal and direct it in a supersonic "squirt" capable of penetrating up to 7 metres (24 feet) of steel armour. It was anticipated that this would be able to "drill" straight through an enemy warship.

Some 250 Mistels of various combinations were built during the war, but met with limited success. They were first flown in combat against the Allied invasion fleet during Battle of Normandy, targeting the British-held harbour at Courseulles. While Mistel pilots claimed hits, none of these can be correlated in Allied records, and they may have been made against the hulk of the French battleship Courbet which had been specially dressed up as a decoy by the Allies. A second opportunity to use the Mistels, in Scapa Flow in 1944 was abandoned after the loss of the Tirpitz assured local air superiority for the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers.

As part of Operation Iron Hammer in late 1943 and early 1944, Mistels were selected to carry out key raids against Soviet weapons manufacturing facilities - specifically, electricity-generating plants around Moscow and Gorky. These plants were known to be poorly-defended and irreplaceable by the Soviets. However, before the plan could be implemented, the Red Army was already pushing into Germany itself and it was decided to use the Mistels against their bridgehead at Kuestrin instead. On April 12 1945, Mistels attacked the bridges being built there, but the damage caused was negligible and delayed the Soviet forces for only a day or two. Subsequent Mistel attacks on other bridges being thrown across the Oder were similarly ineffective.

Variants

  • Mistel 1 - Ju 88A-4 and Bf 109F-4
  • Mistel 2 - Ju 88G-l and Fw 190A-8 or F-8
  • Mistel 3A - Ju 88A-4 and Fw 190A-8
  • Mistel 3B - Ju 88H-4 and Fw 190A-8
  • Mistel 3C - Ju 88G-10 and Fw 190F-8
  • Mistel 4 - Ju 287 and Me 262
  • Mistel 5 - Arado E.377A and He 162

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