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Book Review
Bachem Natter
Bachem Ba 349 Natter, X-Planes
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Bachem Ba 349 Natter is Osprey Publishing's eighth title in their series X-Planes.
    Throughout the last century, one-off experimental aircraft and high-tech military prototypes have pushed the boundaries of what's possible. Authoritative and accessible, X-Planes explains the technology behind the world's most important experimental and prototype aircraft, their often dangerous flight-test careers, and how their successes and failures fed into frontline development. - Osprey

Bachem Ba 349 Natter, X-Planes 8 is authored by Robert Forsyth and illustrated by artist Adam Tooby. Bearing ISBN 9781472820099 and Osprey's short code XPL 8, the softback book is 80 pages of content, and also available in PDF and ePUB formats. As Osprey describes the book
    The Bachem Ba 349 Natter was a secretive, vertical take-off, single-seat rocket interceptor intended to offer high-speed defence of key targets. This radical aircraft offered Luftwaffe an inexpensive means with which to intercept and attack Allied heavy bombers using a vertically-launched, semi-expendable machine built of wood and armed with a nose-mounted ‘honeycomb' battery of spin-stabilised air-to-air rockets as well as cannon armament. Launched vertically at 36,000ft per minute, the pilot was expected to fly within range of the enemy bombers, fire his rockets at them, ram another bomber, eject and parachute to the ground.

    Illustrated with contemporary photographs and stunning commissioned artwork, this study examines this inventive yet ultimately unsuccessful attempt by the Luftwaffe to defend against the tide of Allied aircraft that was bombing German cities into the ground.

Bachem Ba 349 Natter is presented through 80 pages of six chapters
    1. Rocket Men
    2. Projekt 'Natter'
    3. Launch
    4. 'Unreservedly Positive'
    5. Krokus
    6. What If?
Further Reading

Author Robert Forsyth begins this story with a treatise of vertical heavier-than-air flight and theoreticians who explored it. The inter-war years of Germany's gliders and rocket experiments is presented and we are introduced to the VfR - Verein fur Raumschiffahrt (Society for Spaceship Travel),and the many scientists who delved into the concept, including Wernher von Braun; other aircraft designs are discussed.

Next is Projekt 'Natter' with the star of the chapter being engineer and glider pilot Erich Bachem Dipl.-Ing. (engineering degree). His background is narrated as are the concept and design of the Natter. The chapter also details the disinterest of the RLM (Reichsluftfahrtministerium - Reich Air Ministry) in the Natter and Bachem's risky yet successful campaign to win support of the SS.

Twelve pages later in Launch, we are introduced to the nuts-and-bolts of the materials, design, and assembly of the BP-20, as Bachem employees referred to the Natter, even after the RLM assigned the RLM designation Ba 349 in late October 1944. Details of construction is comprehensive with descriptions of material, dimensions of components, and even the size and spacing of fasteners. A synthetic-resin glue was used for much of the assembly and it, too, is detailed. Acceleration and speed factors are mentioned as well as the scheme to substitute cardboard for some wood components! A surprisingly detailed description of the flight controls is presented. It even details which frames specific bell cranks were fastened to. A full page is separated from the main text via a shade box to present the HWK 109-509 rocket engine.

Further powerplant and booster detail included the firing and burn orders, weights and designs of the boosters, propellants, and other rocketry data.

The text continues with the testing schedule and pilots used, and methods of testing the prototypes in flight. Quirks of controllability are disclosed as well.

Natter was to be launched from a tower and remarkable detail is reveled about its design and construction.

From launch to recovery, flight test findings are discussed. The failures and disappointments, and modifications to improve Ba 349 are recounted. There is a great amount of detail within the 24 pages of this chapter.

'Unreservedly Positive' begins with exploring Luftwaffe weapons used to combat Allied bombers and the subsequent programs to develop more effective weapons. The star of this chapter is the R4M rocket. Its design, development, manufacture, and fielding is presented with a great deal of information. Comparisons with other RLM aerial weapons is explored, including the amount of time a pilot would have to track the target with different weapons.

This chapter is divided into the proceeding narrative, and then into seven full pages of Manned Flight. The first pilot to achieve vertical take-off manned rocket flight was Lothar Sieber. His remarkable flight is recounted by eye-witnesses.

Finally, Krokus and What If? fill eight pages with narrative and speculation of the last days of the Natter. Luftwaffe High Command ordered the forming of a special unit to test and field the Ba 349: E-Kdo 600. Bachem's project influence on post-war aircraft design is presented.

Bachem's Ba 349 Natter has fascinated historians and modelers since the war. Natter models are available from 1/32 through 1/144. A pair of Ba 349s are accounted for and those interested can see them, one being at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, and the other at the Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany. This book should be popular with fans of rocket-planes, German experimental aircraft, and bizarre designs. It was a great read!

Photographs, Artwork, Graphics
Photographic support is amazing. Many photographs show the Ba 349s under construction, plus mock-ups and prototypes. These might have been SS propaganda images as they are high quality studio quality photographs. Natters on the launch tower are presented in photos of varying quality. One photo shows Bachem employees carrying back a part of the aircraft with recovery contact numbers and instructions stenciled upon it. Another photo is a somber demonstration of the extreme reactivity of T-Stoff and C-Stoff.

There are several photos showing captured Ba 349s in bright sunlight, revealing fascinating detail.


1. Centerfold Central Germany, Summer 1945: a Natter destroying a B-17.

2. Bachem BP-20 Natter Cockpit: keyed to 9 controls and instruments.

3. Bachem BP-20 M17 Prototype (unmanned experimental craft): 3-view of the aircraft in the unusual paint scheme with an asymmetrical 'sun ray' finish, and "If found please return..." stenciling on the stabilizers.

4. Inside the Bachem Ba 349: full-color cut-away profile keyed to 15 components.

5. Cover art: Natter M23 moments after liftoff with Lothar Sieber at the controls.


1. Jacob Emil Noggerath's December 30, 1930, schematic of his design Aeroplane For Horizontal and Vertical Flight.

2. Rough sketch of Bachem's concept of an armed, manned rocket, dated 16 July 1944.

3. Refined drawing of Bachem's 16 July 1944 concept.

4. Call-out shaded box: The Hellmuth Walter Kommanditgesellschaft HWK 109-509 Rocket Engine: a full page describing the powerplant.

5. Bachem drawing from 3 October 1944 illustration a new tail assembly, quartet of boosters, and nose weapons.

6. Tactical Operations fro the Natter: a Bachem illustration of the flight profile from launch, to kill, through recovery, dated 27 November 1944; keyed to 7 events.

7. Diagrams of weapon packages.

8. Bachem demonstrative model of a B-24 Liberator under attack by the 'fan of fire' of the Natter nose rockets.

9. Zundstangen-Lafette ('Ignition pole platform'), a 1/75 scale sketch by Bachem of a timber launch system.

Osprey's Bachem Ba 349 'Natter' features a remarkable text full of technical and operational detail. An amazing gallery of photos, graphics, and artwork supports the text. If I were to complain about anything, it would be that the yellow airframe of the BP-20 illustration appears too ochre.

Regardless, this is a remarkable book that should be popular with fans of rocket-planes, German experimental aircraft, and bizarre designs. Highly recommended.

Please remember to mention to Osprey and retailers that you saw this book here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Remarkable text full of technical and operational detail. An amazing gallery of photos, graphics, and artwork supports the text.
Lows: The yellow airframe of the BP-20 illustration appears too ochre.
Verdict: This book should be popular with fans of rocket-planes, German experimental aircraft, and bizarre designs. It was a great read!
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: XPL 8, 9781472820099
  PUBLISHED: Jul 14, 2018

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Hi Fred. Nice review on an excellent subject. Love all of the German experimental aircraft. They had some very cool and interesting ideas for aircraft. Thank you, Randy
JUL 16, 2018 - 02:41 PM

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