One of the four Nazi German Surface to Air Missiles (SAM), Messerschmitt’s Enzian was based on the Me-163 rocket fighter and tried to overcome its main shortcoming – the limited flight time due to which it had difficulty in engaging the high altitude bombers. Also, the massive 500kg warhead of the Enzian more than made up for the lack of a suitable weapon for Me-163.
With no pilot, the Enzian was more compact than the Me-163. Its short tailless delta wing design had a span of 4.05 m, length of 3.75 m and launch weight of 1,800 kg. It was built from ‘non-strategic’ materials like glued plywood and sheet-metal. The missile used Walther HWK 109-502 dual propellant engines during the trails though the final engine used was the VfK-Triebwerk Zg.613 A 01. In addition, it used four strap-on Rheinmetall-Borsig boosters.
The use of non-strategic materials and dual propellant engines were a conscious decision to produce a missile which could be built with a low number of man-hours per unit utilising resources not required by other users.
As the plan was to have a mobile launcher for the Enzian, use was made of a modified Flak 88 trailer with the launch rail replacing the 88 mm gun. Once the boosters burned out and were jettisoned, the Enzian would climb under rocket power guided by radio link to a position ahead and above a bomber formation. Gliding at motor burnout, the original aim was to fly the Enzian into the formation and detonate its massive 500 kg warhead by radio link.
Due to the repeated failure of the radio link to detonate the warhead at the desired point of time, terminal guidance was attempted and at least two terminal seekers were planned: a scanning infrared homing seeker; and an active radar homing seeker. To increase the probability of causing damage to the target(s), proximity fuse was used; either using a Marabu or Fuchs radio proximity fuse, or the Paplitz infrared fuse
Three warhead variants were planned. The first had a payload of 25mm steel pellets filled with incendiary material while the second warhead fired 550 small rockets with a lethal radius of 500 metres. The third warhead was designed for pure blast effect, lethal to a radius of 45 metres.
Of the sixty Enzian which were built, thirty-eight were flight tested, with tests beginning in early May 1944, continuing through 1944 but the project was halted in January 1945. Enzian had a high probability of success due to its design stability and large warhead but was not favoured by the Flak Ministerium, and other projects, most notably Schmetterling were given higher priority; (Schmetterling gained favour because of its smaller size and therefore ease of handling). Prejudice, personal favouritisms and politics within the RLM were also partly to blame for the loss of Enzian, although some carelessness in test flights had apparently led to faulty test data and a subsequent loss of confidence amongst Army and Air Force officers.
Despite this, work on the project continued privately by Messerschmitt who lobbied for the Enzian but further approval for the Project was never accorded and it foinally wound up by mid March 1944. Thus ended the Enzian story- a missile clearly ahead of its time.