The ME-163 Komet and a Test Pilot
Bernard "Ben" Hohmann - Luftwaffe Test Pilot/Engineer
Once the aircraft had achieved take-off, the trolley would be jettisoned to be used over and over again for future
flights. After several minutes of powered flight, the ME-163b would essentially be transformed into a glider and
would glide back for landing. This was the most dangerous portion of the mission for Komet pilots as they had little
ability to fight off attacking aircraft. As the aircraft prepared to land, a skid would entend from the bottom of the
aircraft to allow for landing. The Komet would slide along the ground until eventually coming to a stop using gravity to
slow the aircraft. The cockpit of the Komet was pressurized to allow for high altitude flight. The Komet was
generally armed with two 30mm MK 208 cannon in the wing roots.
The first production Me-163Bs entered combat service in July of 1944. The intention of the Luftwaffe was to place
small squadrons of Komets in strategic portions of Germany to intercept Allied bomber formations enroute to their
targets. A total of 279 ME-163b aircraft entered operational service before the war ended. The only squadron to
operate the Komet in combat was Jagdgeschwader 400 (JG-400). JG-400 was able to accomplish a small number of
air victories over Allied aircraft, while losing a little over a dozen aircraft in operational use. The majority of the
losses suffered by JG-400 was due to accidents and landing incidents involving the volatile fuels used to power the
The ME-163b Komet had a flight duration of approximately 7 minutes and 30 seconds before the fuel capacity was
used and the aircraft transformed into a glider for landing. The Komet had a maximum speed of 596 miles per hour
and could climb to a maximum altitude of 54,000 feet. The Komet could achieve an altitude of almost 40,000 feet in
under 4 minutes. The rate of climb of the Komet was approximately 4,862 feet per minute!
American gun camera footage of a Komet.
The story of Bernard "Ben" Hohmann:
Bernard Hohmann's flight career began like most aspiring pilots in Germany, flying sail planes and
gliders. Eventually joining the Luftwaffe in the early part of the war, he went on to particpate in the
Komet program and eventually flew a total of 37 test flights in both the powered and unpowered versions
of the Komet, including one crash landing which resulted in the partial American army at the end of the
war. He went on to become the Chief of Flight Developement Section: Wright Air Developement Center,
Wright Patterson Air Force base from 1947 to 1957. Mr. Hohmann then went to Cape Kennedy Cape
Canaveral and worked for the Aerospace Corporation, working on both the Gemini and Mercury space
programs, working directly with the astronauts who would become the first Americans in space. Hohmann
was named as the Mercury Team project manager. He authored two publications along with noted
scientist Joseph F. Wambolt.
Mr. Hohmann passed away on May 11, 1984. From what I have learned, the items I purchased were
sold at an estate sale following his death and eventually made their way into my collection. Mr. Hohmann
was 68 years old at the time of his passing.
A number of publication mention Hohmann's particpation in the testing program of the ME-163 Komet.
One of the best of these include "Top Secret Bird" by Wolfgang Spate and "ME-163 - Rocket
Interceptor Vol. 1" by Stephen Ransom and Hans-Hermann Cammann, which includes a two page interview
with Mr. Hohmann.
All of the photographs, documents and paperwork items shown below are part of the Hohmann
grouping. All of the items are original, WWII era items and were all obtained from the estate of Mr.
Hohmann. If anyone has any additional information about Mr. Hohmann, I would be thrilled to hear from
you. (Click on any of the photographs for a more detailed view. ) C. Daniel
Two early photographs (front and back) of Bernard Hohmann. Both photographs show him wearing the "C
these photos were taken. Notice the address, it's located on Adolf-Hitler-Platz! The center photo is signed
"Hohmann" on the reverse with a date of October 9, 1940.
The two photographs shown above (front and backs shown) are both dated June 3, 1940. These photographs show test
pilot Heini Dittmarr preparing for an early, unpowered flight of the prototype to the Komet. This day has been well
photographed and well documented in several publications, showing the same events from different angles than what is
shown in these photographs.
A Luftwaffe wedding ceremony
involving an unknown couple
and what appears to be the
mothers of both the bride and
groom. If anyone has any
information about these people,
please feel free to contact me.
A photographed showing the DFS-194. This was the early
version of what would eventually become the ME-163b
Komet rocket interceptor. The date on the reverse side of
the photograph is difficult to read, but it appears the photo
is dated April of 1941.
A photograph showing the cockpit of an ME-163b
Three photographs showing Bernard Hohmann and unknown
persons as refugees during the days following the end of the
war. Notice the make-shirt cart being used to carry the personal
Bernard Hohmann Documents: (Click on any of the documents for a more detailed view)
Above: Two Ausweis documents for Bernard Hohmann. The blue
version was issued on January 22, 1945 expiring on January 31,
1946!! The white version was issued on March 5, 1945 expiring on
February 28, 1946!! Both documents shows Hohmann as being
associated with Erprobungsstelle Karlshagen.
Right: A teletype from Messerschmitt A.G. indicating that Mr.
Hohmann was working on behalf of the Messerschmitt Company to
conduct testing of the ME-163 model, and that pilot Heini Dittmar was
to be utilized for portions of the test flying. The document also
indicates that Mr. Hohmann was still receiving "premium pay" as a test
Left: The top teletype indicates that after a
meeting held on April 13, 1945 with the
Reichsfuhrer SS, it was decided to move this unit to
a Southern region of Germany due to the
importance of their research. The document also
notes that a previous attempt had been made to
make this move, however it was discovered that the
routes to Southern Germany had been blocked
(apparently by Allied forces).
Image © The Aerospace Corporation. Reprinted with permission.
Above: Bernard "Ben" Hohmann (blue suit) standing
and others in 1965.
"Like a flea, but wow!" 2/ Staffel insignia for
the Me-163 Komet.
Major Wolfgang Spate: Winner of the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves
Wolfgang Spate joined JG-54 "Green Hearts" squadron in 1941 in the Balkans. He was later awarded the Knights
Cross for achieving 45 aerial victories in Russia, but was then transferred to the Test Kommando unit for the
development and testing of the new rocket fighter, the Me-163 "Komet." The testing for this aircraft was conducted at
the Luftwaffe victories to his total, Spate then was given command of JG-400, which became the only unit to use the
Me-163 operationally in combat. As the war progressed and grew increasingly adverse for the German military, Spate was
re-assigned and he was moved to JG-7, where he joined the Expert squadron and flew the Me 262 turbojet fighter. While
flying the Me-262, Spate added another 5 air victories to his total. Major Wolfgang Spate can lay claim to being one of
the few pilots in history to fly both the Me-262 (a turbojet fighter/bomber) and the Me-163 Komet (a rocket powered
fighter) in combat. He is credited with a total of 99 aerial victories during his combat career.
I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to write to and correspond with Major Spate several times, many
years ago. At the time, I had sent him laser copies of the photographs above related to the Me-163 Komet and Mr.
Hohmann. Through his letters, Spate not only recalled many memories of the time he spent at Peenemunde, but also
reflected on some of his experiences as the commander of the Komet testing program. He also mentioned Bernard
Hohmann and other pilots in his letters such as Me-163 test pilot Rudolf Opitz. Unfortunately, Major Wolfgang Spate
passed away in 1997.
Above: A wartime, Hoffman
postcard of Wolfgang Spate in my
collection. He is shown wearing his
Knights Cross with Oak Leaves.
Above: A note card and a post-war photograph of Major
Wolfgang Spate sitting in the cockpit of an Me-163b.
Left: Photograph of an Me-163b
autographed by Oberleutnant Franz
Woidich. Right: An art print signed by
Above: The photograph to the left is one of the photographs I obtained from the estate of test pilot Bernard Hohmann.
The photographs is an original, wartime era photograph depicting Major Wolfgang Spate (on the left in the foreground)
and test pilot Rudolf Opitz (on the right in the foreground). After sending a laser copy of this photograph to Major
Spate, he indicated that he recalled the day this photograph was taken and spoke at length about the incident. Major
Spate said this incident occurred the day that Rudolf Opitz made the first powered flight in an Me-163b. The Luftwaffe
stamp and date on the reverse side of the photograph corresponds with the same date. The photo, like those above, is
also signed by "B. Hohmann." In the photo, Major Spate is seen congratulating Mr. Opitz by placing a makeshift medal
around his neck that was quickly created by the base mechanics, to celebrate this historic occasion. Note the Knights
Cross winner in the center of the photograph.
Please do not use any of the images on this website, without first obtaining permission. Have a question? Please email me.
Other ME-163 Komet sites:
Left: A grainy, war time photograph showing a Luftwaffe pilot wearing one of
the armbands, albeit upside down, on his right arm over his flight suit.
A special thank you to Rob de Bie at www.xs4all.nl/~robdebie/me163.htm for
allowing me use of the photograph from his Me-163b website.
1) Original photographs of Me-163 Komets or protoypes.
2) Me-163 pilots near aircraft or in flight gear.
3) Me-163 aircraft items.
Left: A photograph of Mr. Hohmann dated February 28, 1945, showing him sitting in the
cockpit of what appears to be a combat operations Me-163. The center photograph shows
a party and the photographs on the right shows an unknown Luftwaffe soldier. If anyone
has any information regarding the identity of the Luftwaffe soldier on the right, I would enjoy
hearing from you.
A photograph showing a prototype version of the Komet
dated August 13, 1941. Note the stamp on the reverse
showing the Luftwaffe stamp!
Spate's book, "Top Secret BirdSpate's book, "", this is the
aircraft Hohmann crash landed. Top Secret Birdcrash
landed. As a result of the two volatile together upon impact,
the aircraft caught fire. Hohmann ", this is the aircraft
Hohmann escaped without injury.crash landed. As a result
of the two volatile fuels mixing together upon impact, the
aircraft caught fire. Hohmann escaped without injury.
Deutsche Luftwaffe armband: (left) These armbands began to be
issued for several reasons: First the Geneva convention required
that combatants have some form of recognizable insignia indicating
their country of origin and second, a Luftwaffe pilot parachuting back
into Germany and not having some form of identifying insignia, may
encounter some very hostile German citizens. Although not many
pilots actually wore them, there are numerous examples showing
Luftwaffe pilots in all different types of aircraft wearing the armbands.
These armbands were also specifically important to Komet pilots as
their protective flight suits generally did not have any form of insignia
or identification. The armbands were easy to use and simply slipped
over the flight suit and were easy to distinguish. This one is in my
collection and is an all original, wartime piece.