During the development programme at Neuhardenberg with the He 112, the term "interceptor" had been coined, and the He 176 was seen as the research machine for the project. The RLM was really thinking along the lines of a new kind of fighter aircraft. With a fantastic rate of climb it would take off almost vertically to intercept enemy bomber formations at 6000 - 7000 metres, make a swift attack from below at high speed, emptying the MGs or cannons into the enemy machines and then land once the fuel tanks were dry.
Because the He 176 development was classified top secret, Heinkel set up a special department in his Rostock-Marienehe works. A wooden barrack hut was erected first for the initial testing. Only very few employees were allowed access. This "shed" was soon converted into a permanent building. The development then progressed very quickly. Meanwhile work also went ahead to build the He 176 mock-up because time was pressing.
Erich Warsitz: "Once we saw the completed mock-up we were all appalled at how small it was. We must all have been thinking, "This thing will never fly!" The 176 was so tiny that it would easily have fitted into one of the rooms at the staff quarters. It was a completely new kind of aircraft which had naturally been designed in a particular way for maximum subsonic speed, and we now saw a host of difficulties which had to be overcome."
With a new kind of aircraft like this one does not simply get in and take off. Ground work began with rolling tests to establish the characteristics on the runway.
Erich Warsitz: "I gradually extended the rolling tests to the point where I would start from the perimeter of the airfield, giving the machine full gas until it lifted off. This would allow me to do a sort of leap into the air, then I would shut down the gas and land."
Until then Heinkel had intentionally avoided demonstrating the machine to the Luftwaffe generals, but in the end a visit by an RLM party led by Udet, Milch and half the General Staff could no longer be put off.
Erich Warsitz: "After the landing our car fetched me. We drove to the spot where all the generals and Dr Heinkel were standing. Milch was the first to approach me. He offered his congratulations and for my special achievement appointed me Flugkapitän. Udet and all the other witnesses also congratulated me."
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