The Japanese Mitsubishi G4M (yes, that Mitsubishi) was designed to be a quick, light and insanely long-range bomber. With two 1,850-horsepower engines and nearly 3,000 miles of range, the G4M "Betty" was presumably built in case Japan ever decided to declare war on the Moon.
The only problem ...
The Betty owed its impressive range to its huge fuel tanks and the many, many parts removed from its design to lighten its weight. So many pieces were stripped off the Betty to increase its range, it's amazing the thing got off the ground at all. Because they felt they were unnecessary weight, the designers went ahead and removed the standard self-sealing fuel tanks, responsible for making sure the plane didn't blow to smithereens if a bullet punctured it.
Imperial Japan putting its pilots in unnecessary danger? Shocking.
This probably wouldn't have been catastrophic if they hadn't then decided to remove all armor from the plane as well, basically turning the aircraft into a flying flask of explosives that'd ignite at the slightest provocation.
The Americans quickly realized one shot was enough to convert the Betty into a portable fireworks show. It quickly earned the nickname "the One-Shot Lighter."
Incredibly inexpensive and quick to build, the He-162, sometimes referred to as the "Salamander," was the fastest first-generation Axis jet ever built. It could theoretically be built by unskilled laborers and was intended to be flown by untrained Hitler Youth as pilots. And should it be damaged or worn out, it was cheap enough to simply throw away.
Much like its pilot.
That had to have inspired confidence in anyone looking down from one of these from several thousand feet in the air.
The only problem ...
If you trained 100 monkeys to build planes and gave them only the instructions "We want our pilots dead, and fast," they still wouldn't have come up with something as artfully stupid as the He-162.
It was the first aircraft made under the "throwaway fighter" concept in which it, after being flown, could be simply thrown away like a used condom. When wartime resources are scarce, cheapness is usually a good thing, but it seems like the Nazis had a "How to Fail" checklist that they followed with unbridled enthusiasm:
1. Have your jet-powered nightmare capable of over 1,700 pounds of thrust assembled by random townsfolk? Check.
2. Have it made of plywood crudely glued together with adhesives that not only didn't work but were actually acidic to the wood? Check.
3. Hilariously rush the design and construction process to guarantee no hope of safety? How about going from the first plan to the first prototype in less than 90 days? Double-check.
Also, the cockpit had a liquor cabinet.
The slightly corrosive, highly terrible glue caused a piece of the nose cone to come off during the first flight. Rather than halt production for even a day to fix this problem, the Nazi engineers, boldly laughing in the faces of safety, logic and even sanity, demanded that production continue. The second test flight began to show the plane's reckless instability and ludicrously difficult controls before a piece of the wing separated from the jet entirely, causing it to lurch into the ground.
While the plan was still to use barely trained Hitler Youth to pilot this jet-fueled death machine, it was like grabbing a group of toddlers from the go-cart track to pilot a fleet of Millennium Falcons while solving Rubik's Cubes: the He-162's controls were too insanely complicated for all but the most experienced pilots.
Now, while we can all admit this would've been the recipe for a truly terrible plane, it just wasn't Nazi terrible. Their solution?
Yes, that's a jet engine intake, and yes, it's right behind the pilot's ejector seat. And with its absurdly low 30 minutes of fuel capacity (Thirty minutes! Unless you're bombing your own base, good luck with that one), that was kind of a big deal. During the He-162's combat debut in April, 1945, 13 of the planes were lost, though only two were the result of enemy attack.
Oh, look! Some neighborhood kids built a pinewood derby car for Boy Scouts, and they made it look like a WWII-era plane? Adorable!
The only problem ...Wait. That's an actual plane? Wow.
The suicidally insane FI 103R "Reichenberg" was proof that the Nazis weren't just bad at designing planes; they just really fucking hated their pilots. The Reichenberg started out as the Fieseler FI 103-V-1, or "the Flying Bomb." The entire concept of the plane was born essentially when a Nazi looked at a projectile missile and asked, "How can we strap one of our own pilots to that thing?"
Nazis weren't big on the whole "valuing human life" thing.
Their answer was to crudely attach a plywood bucket seat into a newly hollowed-out cockpit small enough to house a Chilean miner. The newly piloted bomb launched from a larger aircraft like a Protoss Carrier, then the pilot would steer toward his target until the last possible moment, at which point he'd presumably eject. And if he had somehow survived thus far, the pilot would almost immediately be sucked back into the pulse-jet engine intake, positioned right behind his head.
Flying the Reichenberg was so dangerous that its "volunteers" were required to sign contracts stating they understood it was suicide. All in all, it was estimated that the pilot's chance of survival was less than one percent.
For more baffling vehicles, check out 6 Transportation Innovations More Baffling Than The Segway and 18 Hilarious Modes of Transport Science Gave Up On Too Soon.
And stop by Linkstorm because it's Jesus' favorite place on the Internet.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infograpic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!