The War Ended before the Hs 132 could take Flight

The Henschel Hs 132 was an ambitious but ultimately unrealized dive bomber project of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Developed in the closing years of the war, the aircraft aimed to provide the Luftwaffe with a potent weapon capable of delivering ordnance with precision, while maintaining high speeds to evade enemy fighters.



Like many of Germany’s late-war aircraft, the development of the Henschel Hs 132 began against the backdrop of a desperate need for superior air power. German engineers embarked on the project with a clear mandate: to create a fast, agile, and effective dive bomber that could elude the rapidly improving Allied fighters. This task set the stage for several revolutionary design choices that defined the aircraft.

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The standout feature of the Hs 132 was its employment of a prone pilot position. This design choice directly addressed the intense physical strain dive bombers experienced during high-speed, high-g-force manoeuvres.

A unique variant of the Gloster Meteor F8 , the "prone pilot" version, was developed to test the effects of flying in a prone position.
A unique variant of the Meteor F8, the “prone pilot” version, was the British’s attempt at an aircraft utilising the prone position.

By having pilots lie face-down, the design dramatically increased their tolerance to g-forces, enabling tighter dive angles and quicker recoveries. Additionally, this orientation significantly reduced the aircraft’s frontal area, offering enhanced aerodynamic properties and making the aircraft a smaller target for enemy gunners.

High Performance

The placement of the BMW 003 jet engine atop the fuselage further underscored the innovative spirit at Henschel. This position was unconventional but strategic, solving multiple engineering challenges simultaneously.

By mounting the engine on the back, designers significantly reduced the risk of engine damage from runway debris, a common problem with belly-mounted engines. This position also simplified engine maintenance and replacement, as ground crews could access the engine directly without the extensive disassembly required for wing-embedded engines.

The design team chose materials and construction techniques that would maintain structural integrity while minimizing weight. The extensive use of bonded plywood in non-critical areas allowed for a lighter airframe without sacrificing aerodynamic efficiency.

The MiG-9 used technology from the BMW 0093 engine.
There were many aircraft that used the BMW 003 engine as well as derived technology.

Metal components, critical for structural components subjected to high stress, were strategically placed to optimize weight distribution and durability.

Aerodynamically, the Hs 132 was designed to be a stellar performer. Its relatively short wingspan allowed for the necessary agility in dive-bombing operations and facilitated operations from shorter, potentially compromised runways—a likely scenario in the rapidly shifting front lines of the war.

The jet propulsion system promised unprecedented speeds, aiming to outpace any propeller-driven escort or interceptor fighters of the era.

Engineers also designed the aircraft with an internal bomb bay capable of accommodating up to 500 kg of ordnance. This internal configuration helped maintain the sleek aerodynamic profile crucial for achieving high speeds.

The minimalistic approach to armament, focusing on payload rather than defensive weaponry, underscored the aircraft’s role as a hit-and-run dive bomber, relying on speed and surprise rather than firepower for defence.


The Henschel Hs 132 dive bomber was a remarkable embodiment of high-speed military aviation aspirations during World War II. Engineers designed it with an array of features aimed at enhancing its effectiveness and survivability in hostile environments.

At the core of the Hs 132’s specifications was its jet propulsion, powered by the BMW 003 engine. This turbojet was a pioneering piece of technology that significantly influenced the design and operational capabilities of the aircraft. The engine was capable of propelling the Hs 132 to an estimated top speed of 760 kilometres per hour at sea level.

The glass cockpit, where the pilot would effectively be led down.
The glass cockpit, where the pilot would effectively be led down.

Such speed made the Hs 132 potentially one of the fastest dive bombers of its time, enabling it to outrun many of the Allied fighters it would encounter.

The aircraft’s compact design was another critical feature. It had a wingspan that allowed for excellent manoeuvrability and the ability to operate from the forward, often makeshift airstrips close to the front lines.

This capability was vital for the Luftwaffe, as it provided them with the flexibility to deploy the Hs 132 from various bases, increasing its operational range and effectiveness.

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Bomb Load

In terms of armament, the Hs 132 was designed to carry a significant payload relative to its size. The internal bomb bay could accommodate up to two 500 kg bombs. This configuration not only allowed the Hs 132 to deliver a substantial destructive force but also maintained the aircraft’s sleek, streamlined shape, which was essential for maintaining high speeds.

The choice to focus on bomb load over defensive armaments was a strategic decision reflecting the aircraft’s role as a swift strike tool that relied on speed and precision to evade threats rather than confronting them.

The aircraft’s design included minimal or no defensive weaponry, which was a calculated risk. The rationale behind this decision was that the speed and agility of the Hs 132 would enable it to escape enemy fighters before they could mount an effective attack.

This approach was typical of late-war German aircraft designs, which often sacrificed armament for speed and agility, betting on offensive power and surprise as their main defence.

The aerodynamic efficiency of the Hs 132 was a priority in its design. Its streamlined form reduced drag, allowing for faster speeds and more efficient fuel consumption, which was crucial given the fuel shortages during the latter years of the war.

The positioning of the jet engine above the fuselage not only protected it from ground debris but also contributed to the aircraft’s stability and control by centralizing the mass.

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The Hs 132 and He 162 were Very Similar

One key similarity lies in their propulsion systems. Both aircraft utilized jet engines, which represented the cutting edge of wartime aviation technology. T

The He 162 was powered by a BMW 003 engine, the same model initially selected for the Hs 132. This choice reflects a strategic push towards jet propulsion to achieve higher speeds and better performance against Allied aircraft, which were predominantly propeller-driven.

The Hs 132.
Both the 132 and 162 used the BMW 003 jet engine.

The use of jet engines was a significant shift in German military aviation, aiming to capitalise on speed as a crucial survival and effectiveness factor.

Another parallel between the two aircraft was their innovative use of materials. Both designs incorporated non-traditional materials due to critical shortages of aluminium and other metals by the end of the war. The He 162, for example, made extensive use of wood in its construction, particularly in the wings and tail surfaces.

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Simple Construction

Similarly, the Hs 132 also planned to use wood and other less common materials to cope with resource limitations. This use of alternative materials was a pragmatic adaptation to the war’s constraints, showcasing the ingenuity of German engineers under pressure.

Both aircraft were also designed to be manufactured quickly and with minimal resource expenditure, reflecting the urgent need for effective combat aircraft as the Allies closed in on Germany.

The He 162, in particular, was part of a contest to develop a “Volksjäger,” or “People’s Fighter,” that was cheap, simple, and fast to build, characteristics that were echoed in the streamlined production plans for the Hs 132.

Similarities between the 132 and 162 are immediately apparent.
Similarities between the 132 and 162 are immediately apparent.

In terms of operational philosophy, both the He 162 and Hs 132 were intended to fulfil roles that leveraged their speed and agility.

The He 162 was designed as an interceptor, capable of quickly ascending to engage enemy bombers, while the Hs 132 was developed as a fast, jet-powered dive bomber, meant to deliver its payload and escape before enemy fighters could respond.

Both aircraft relied on hit-and-run tactics rather than sustained engagement, which was a tactical shift necessitated by the Luftwaffe’s increasingly defensive posture.


Technologically, the Hs 132 was an ambitious project that pushed the boundaries of existing aviation technology. The integration of a jet engine in a dive bomber was a novel approach, and while it promised significant speed advantages, it also came with considerable developmental hurdles.

Jet technology at that time was still in its infancy, characterized by reliability issues and a limited understanding of optimal engineering practices. The engine was powerful but had its own set of operational challenges, including maintenance difficulties and a high rate of engine failures.

The cockpit design was certainly unusual.
The cockpit design was certainly unusual.

These technical issues required extensive research and development efforts, which strained the already limited resources available.

Logistically, the war environment imposed severe constraints on the production capacities and material availability. As Allied forces progressively targeted German industrial infrastructure, factories producing crucial aircraft components frequently suffered damage, disrupting supply chains and manufacturing schedules.

Lack of Materials

Furthermore, critical materials, particularly metals like aluminium, became increasingly scarce due to wartime depletion and blockade efforts. Designers were forced to substitute with less ideal materials, which could compromise the aircraft’s performance and durability.

Strategically, the late war context in which the Hs 132 was developed also influenced its fate. By 1945, the situation for Germany was dire, with significant portions of the country under Allied control and its military forces in retreat.

The shifting priorities of the war effort meant that resources were often redirected towards more immediate defensive needs, such as anti-aircraft weapons and fighter aircraft, rather than new offensive projects like the Hs 132. This redirection of focus and resources further starved the project of the support it needed to progress.

The culmination of these challenges led to the termination of the Hs 132 project. By the time the war ended, only prototypes in varying stages of completion existed; none had been tested in flight. The advancing Allied forces eventually captured these prototypes, along with much of the documentation and research associated with the project.

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Thus, the Hs 132 never reached operational status, and its potential impact on the war and aviation technology remained untested and speculative.