Bachem Ba 349 Natter

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Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Robert Forsyth, Illustrator: Adam Tooby Series Editor: Tony Holmes
Other Publication Information
Soft Bound ; 7.3” x 9.8”, 80 pages
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Company: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
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Robert Forsyth, born in Berkshire, England, has studied the history and operations of the Luftwaffe since his school days. Based in East Sussex with his wife, he runs an aviation and military publishing business full-time. He has written articles for the magazines Aeroplane , Aviation News, FlyPast, and The Aviation Historian, and is a member of the Editorial Board of the latter publication. He is the author of several hard bound books, including: JV 44 – The Galland Circus (1996), Battle over Bavaria – The B-26 versus the German Jets (Classic, 1998), Mistel – German Composite Aircraft and Operations 1942-1945 (Classic, 2001), Messerschmitt Me 264 Amerikabomber (Classic, 2006, with Eddie Creek); He 162 Volksjäger (Classic, 2009, with Eddie Creek); Heinkel He 111 (Crecy, 2014); Junkers Ju 52 (Specialty Press. 2015, with Eddie Creek). He has had a substantial relationship with Osprey Publishing, and has written Jagdverband 44 (2008, Aviation Elite Units 27); Jagdgeschwader 7 (2008, Aviation Elite Units 29); Fw 190 Sturmbocke vs B-17 Flying Fortress (2009, Duel 24); Aces of the Legion Condor (2011, Aircraft of the Aces 99); Luftwaffe Viermot Aces (2011, Aircraft of the Aces); Me 262 Bomber and Reconnaissance Units (2012, Combat Aircraft 83); Luftwaffe Mistel Composite Bomber Units (2015, Combat Aircraft 112); He 162 Volksjager Units (2016, Combat Aircraft 118); Ju 52/3m Bomber and Transport Units 1936-41 (2017, Combat Aricraft 120); Messerschmitt Me 264 Amerika Bomber (2016, X Planes); and the forthcoming hardback, Shadow Over the Atlantic (2017).

Adam Tooby is a rising star in the field of aviation art, creating groundbreaking photo-realistic work. Moving away from traditional approaches to the subject matter, he uses computer technology to produce both technically accurate and visually dynamic images of some of the greatest military aircraft in history.

Warbirds features stunning images of aircraft in action, from the First World War to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and from around the world, including the iconic Spitfire, the popular P-51 Mustang and the unusual Javelin. Some of the images have been produced exclusively for the book, while others have previously featured in aviation history publications and on the covers of Airfix boxes. With step-by-step sections, close-ups showing the incredible accuracy and detail of the art – down to rivets and bolts – as well as historical context, aviation enthusiasts, military historians and artists will be blown away.

This is the eighth in this new Osprey series that follows the format of the previous six titles (Bell X-1, Messerschmitt Me 264 Amerika Bomber, the North American X-15, and the Luftwaffe Emergency Fighters, TSR2, Bell X-2, North American XB-70 Valkyrie) and focusses on the technology involved in their development, test flights, and effect on future designs. This 80 glossy page book features a color cover painting by Adam Tooby depicting the first manned take-off of a rocket powered vehicle in the world. Approaching 600 mph, the Bachem Natter M23 shoots skyward on March 1, 1945 from a launch tower in Heutburg, Germany. Pilot Lothar Sieber would die in less than a minute later as the Natter dove head first into the ground a few kilometers from the launch site. There are several color illustrations, including a two page battle scene, along with a two page color cutaway of the Ba 349. I counted 43 black and white photographs, 12 black and white illustrations, and four color illustrations.

Germany’s Bachem Ba 349 Natter (Snake) was a manned vertical-launched rocket interceptor that would solve the guidance problems of ground to air missiles. Intended to provide point defence against Allied bombers, its only manned flight killed its test pilot. Built of non-critical raw materials (wood), it was never planned to be a ‘suicide’ attacker, indeed, the nose was to be separated and parachuted to a point where the pilot could then safely parachute out of the cockpit. The HWK 109-209 rocket engine also was to be re-usable and was supposed to parachute down for recovery.

Robert Forsyth kicks this tome off with “Rocket Men”, addressing early attempts at achieving vertical flight along with the improvements in rocket technology. Wernher von Braun saw as early as July 1939 the opportunities for vertically launched military fighters. Vertical launch eliminated the requirement for runways that could be taken out by the enemy and the mobility of the launchers made them harder to find. Robert follows up with a biography of Erich Bachem in Chapter Two “Projekt Natter”. Erich Bachem’s expertise in wooden aircraft structures gave him an advantage over several other, more experienced manufacturers’ (Junkers, Messerschmitt, Arado, etc.) and it was off to the drawing board. Erich Bachem was able to negotiate the support of Heinrich Himmler which forced the hand of the RLM to issue a contract for full development. Robert Forsyth follows the full development of the Natter in the next three chapters and then follows with an analysis of the program in “What If”. The chapters include:

  • Acknowledgment
  • Chapter One: Rocket Men [Page 7]
    • Natter attacking a formation of the 8th Air Force B-17s (2-Page Color Illustration)
  • Chapter Two: Projekt ‘Natter’ [Page 19]
    • Bachem BP-20 Natter Cockpit (Labeled Color Illustration)
  • Chapter Three: Launch
    • The Hellmuth Walter Kommanditgesellschaft HWK 109-509 Rocket Engine
    • Bachem BP-20 M17 Prototype (3-View Color Illustration) [Page 33]
  • Chapter Four: ‘Unreservedly Positive’ [Page 58]
    • Inside the Bachem Ba 349 (Labeled Color Cutaway Illustration)
    • Breakthrough – Manned Flight
  • Chapter Five: Krokus [Page 73]
  • Chapter Six: What If?
  • Further Reading
  • Index

One of the topics I found fascinating was on Operation Krokus. Operation Krokus was the operational implementation of the Natter, modelled closely after the operational deployment of the V2. The advantage was that the Bachem Ba 349 Natter was a much simpler system, a wooden structure based on a single axle wagon. Even simpler, a planed-down tree trunk (as used in street lights and telegraph poles) could also serve as a launch platform. The big issue was finding qualified pilots that could withstand the g forces on launch.

Robert Forsyth provides a good introduction to the Bachem Ba 349 Natter with an easy to read style. I especially appreciated his use of first person accounts throughout the book as it puts the reader in the cockpit. I ravaged the 80 pages in one night, staying up quite late. If you own any of the previous releases in the X-Planes series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.

My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!


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