[Hellmuth Walter]

Hellmuth Walter was an engineer who saw the limitations of conventional air-breathing, internal combustion engines; complexity, inefficiency, low power-to-weight ratio, and above all a heavy reliance on drawing in atmospheric air to function.

His knowledge of chemistry led him to propose that an engine powered by an oxygen-rich fuel which could develop power by combustion without the need for atmospheric air would have a variety of uses, not least of which were underwater applications such as submarines and torpedoes.

A liquid carrying the properties he desired was hydrogen peroxide, the chemical breakdown of which produced oxygen, heat and a large increase in volume - a mass flow of gas developing sufficient power for a useful engine.


Principally by tendency a marine engineer, his most famous designs were powerplants for aviation use. Experiment, the application of chemistry and a high degree of engineering skill led Walter to produce small motors with a spectacular amount of thrust. Small size, low weight and high thrust suggested many uses for these motors. But used as the primary power plant in an interceptor, the Walter motor could propel a piloted craft to be amongst a flight of attacking bombers in a few minutes rather than the forty five that a standard climb to height would normally need.

The size and power of the Walter motors required a compact aircraft and Messerschmitt designed an equally radical airframe to go with the new engine, the Messerschmitt Me 163.

[The Walterwerke] Walterwerke's vast experience gained with these motors enabled them to be developed to a high degree of reliability, despite the extremely high engineering tolerences which were required. The peroxide engine was a very successful power pack, finding uses in environments where conventional internal combustion engines were inappropriate, or carried too heavy a power-to-weight ratio. For example, Walter's aircraft take-off augmentation rocket packs, which were extremely successful.

However, once installed as the primary propulsion unit into a combat aircraft, the lack of sustained, easily controlled performance and the danger of the residual fuels in the tanks around the pilot, made it a distinctly compromise choice for an interceptor. Thrust, and time-to-height were the important considerations. Post interception performance, was apparantly less important when the Walter and the Messerschmitt were deployed on active service.

Further developments to improve the interceptor, with a redesigned airframe and a redesigned engine, complete with an additonal cruising chamber for power while aloft, were in hand at the time the war ended.


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