As the fortune of war shifted against Nazi Germany by the mid of 1942, its leadership increasingly placed their hopes in the development of Wunderwaffe (Miracle Weapons) to turn the tide back in their favor. Many of such weapon designs never went further than the concept stage and that which went into combat service, suffered from frequent reliability issues as their production was rushed. While never made in significant numbers to make an impact, their pioneering designs and technology would leave a lasting impact on not just future weaponry and in other fields as well. From the first true assault rifle to the gargantuan 1,350-ton siege artillery, we present to you the top ten Nazi Super Weapons.
Note: This list only contains weapons that were actually built, operated and entered production. Proof of concepts and prototypes are not included.
10. Goliath tracked mine
Why wait for the enemy to stumble upon your mine when your mine can stumble upon your enemy! The Goliath was a single use detonation vehicle armed with 220 lb of explosives that was controlled remotely. A highly versatile Trolling weapon, the Goliath saw use in anti-tank warfare, disruption of infantry formation as well as for the destruction of buildings and bunkers. While more than 7000 of mobile mines were built, the high-cost, low-speed, as well as its vulnerability, didn’t make it an effective weapon.
9. Type 23 Electric Submarine
The Type 23 was a class of small coastal diesel-electric submarines that revolutionized submarine design. More streamlined with a bigger battery and incorporating the snorkel, they were faster as well as more maneuverable than other conventional submarines and could remain submerged under water almost indefinitely. By the end of the 63 were completed, of which only 6 saw operation; none of which were sunk by enemy ships.
8. StG 44
The Sturmgewehr 44 was the world’s first mass-produced assault rifle, developed out of the need to fill the gap between long range rifles and short-range SMGs. Despite entering late in the war, the rifle proved to be a valuable weapon, particularly on the Eastern Front, packing a lot of firepower with surprising accuracy. The pioneering design of the German assault rifle would greatly influence both the development of the Soviet AK-47 as well as the American M16. After nearly 75 years since its inception, the StG 44 is still seeing combat in the hands of militia and insurgent groups.
7. Fritz X
The Germans were early innovators in creating the world’s first precision guided weapons. One such weapon, the Fritz X was employed by the German Airforce, Luftwaffe, against armored naval targets such as heavy cruisers and battleships. The bomb weighed more than a standard Toyota Corolla and had an effective operational range of 5 km (3.1 mi). However, it was far from the wonder weapon some had anticipated, being susceptible to Allied radio link jammers and the fact that the pilot in the control plane found it impossible to evade enemy fire while it guild the bomb towards its target.
The Zielgerät 1229, also known by its code name Vampir, was a night vision kit introduced during the final stages of the war in Europe. Only 310 units were managed to be delivered to the war theater, not nearly enough to turn the tide by any means. The gear was used by snipers on the Eastern front as well as grenadiers wielding assault rifles.
5. V-3 cannon
The V-3 Cannon was a German super artillery, utilizing multiple propellant charges to fire rounds across vast distances. The weapon was originally planned to be deployed near the shores of Northern France as a means to bombard London. However, the bunkers which were to house the great gun was rendered unusable by Allied bombing before completion. Three more such guns were produced, two of them being used in the bombing of poor Luxembourg. By then, however, the war was coming to an end in Europe and all four was eventually disassembled and abandoned in the face of Allied advancement.
4. Me 163 Komet
The only example of an operational rocket-powered aircraft, the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet was an experimental interceptor that allegedly achieved record speeds of up to 1,130 km/h (700 mph), a feat that would be unmatched by any jet aircraft for nearly a decade. Even at such high speeds, the aircraft was surprisingly agile, reportedly being able “fly circles around any other fighter of its time”. However, its very strength proved to be its greatest weakness. Because the plane flew so fast, it was hard for the pilot to fire enough rounds to destroy an enemy aircraft in a single pass and almost impossible in the case of a slow-moving allied bomber. To remedy the problem, the Jagdfaust recoilless rifle was developed for use in the Me 163 Komet. However, before there could be an extensive deployment of either the aircraft or the gun, the war ended.
3. Schwerer Gustav
With each round weighing as much as an elephant and itself weighing 1,350 tons, this supermassive artillery gun was designed to break through the Maginot line, at the time the most heavily fortified structure in existence. However, the gun was finished too late to see any action during the battle of France. It was later deployed on the Eastern front during the siege of Sevastopol as well as for the planned attack on Leningrad which got canceled before it could fire. Gustav, as well as its twin gun, Dora, would later be destroyed during the German retreat to prevent its capture by the Soviet Red Army.
2. Messerschmitt Me 262
The first operational turbojet aircraft, the Me 262 was faster and more heavily armed than any allied aircraft when it was first deployed in the mid of 1944. The ‘Tiger’ of the skies, Me 262 pilots claimed a total of 542 enemy aircraft shot down. Fighter ace Kurt Welter allegedly had 28 kills to his name while flying the Messerschmitt Me 262. On the skies, it easily outclassed its adversaries and the Allies learned that the only reliable way to destroy the Me 262 was while it was still on the ground. However, it entered too late to make any meaningful impact on the course of the war and like many advanced weapons pioneered by the Germans, had its fair share of reliability issues.
1. V-2 Rocket
The V-2 (Vengeance weapon II) was the world’s first long-range guided ballistic missile as well as the first man-made object to travel into space. Entering service during the concluding years of war, the rocket was designed as a sort of retribution against the bombing of German cities and represented the pinnacle of German engineering. However, while highly advanced, it proved to be not a very effective weapon in terms of damage, taking the lives of ‘only’ 9000 allied civilians and personnel before the war ended. Compare this to the relative destruction caused by the raw firepower of Allied bombing. As the German state collapsed, both the US and the Soviets rushed to capture the key facilities, technology and scientists that were part of the V-2 project for use in their own separate missile programs as an iron curtain began falling on the destroyed fields of Europe.
Also read: Top Ten Biggest Guns Ever Made in History
Horten Ho 229
While never entering production, this futuristic fighter/bomber jet plane does deserve a mention. The Ho 229 an aircraft designed as a response to the military need for a fast, long range light bomber. The plane had an estimated top speed of 607 mph (977 km/h), a service ceiling of 9.8 miles (16 km) and purportedly a range of 620 Miles (1000 km). Despite its appearance, it was not a stealth plane.