Kriegsmarine Attack Airship "Manfred von Richthofen", April 1942

Started by nönöbär, April 17, 2017, 10:49:05 AM

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Kriegsmarine Attack Airship "Manfred von Richthofen", April 1942


In late 1938/early 1939, Germany send its third Arctic expedition to Antarctica. When arrived there, the area researched by the crew of the expedition ship "Schwabenland" was called "Neuschwabenland".

After the war, various rumours started about this area - some say that secret artefacts were detected there. Others say that a secret base was build which was used as a hideout for high ranking officers and politicians after the war.
others said, in the secret military base there - which was supplied by U-boats - spaceships were build to fly to the dark side of the moon.

This all is pure conspiracy theory.

In fact, those rumours, started in the early 1940s - were actively launched by the German high command. Fact is, that some secret discoveries were made an all the rumours were spread out to distract from the real discoveries.

The real discovery was made in a cave found in the coastal mountains in Neuschwabenland. There, an unknown gas, erupting from the inner earth was discovered. This gas - later called "Odins Atem" (Odins Breath) - had the astonishing effect of producing lift more than 30 time higher than hydrogen. Without being inflammable.

After the discovery was reported to Germany, it caught the interest of the RLM (Reichsluftfahrtministerium) for its potential usage in an airship. When the Hindenburg exploded in 1937, the airship technology was seen as too dangerous, but the newly discovered gas opened new opportunities. Therefore it was planned to transport the gas to Germany and to test it in the remaining airship, the "Graf Zeppelin II".
Secret tests were successful in late summer of 1939, where a much smaller volume of gas was required to operate the "Graf Zeppelin II". So the idea was born to build a deadly weapon based on the new discovery.

The Airship:

The general idea was to use the airship as a flying aircraft carrier, sending bombers and fighter to execute long range surprise attacks on enemy targets.
Equipped with two landing decks on each side, air operation could simultaneously launch and land aircraft. The internal hangar capacity allowed to carry about 20 aircraft, most times a mix of fighters and dive bombers. Powered by eight of the new jet engines, the Zeppelin was able to get a top speed of 400 kph.
During flight operations, the speed was reduced to 200-250 kph, so aircraft could almost land or take off on the spot. At those times, no personal was allowed on the outside areas.
On top of the Zeppelin, a lightweight aluminium command structure was added, based on design ideas that could be found on Kriegsmarine ships. In front of the large command tower, a "sun deck" for officers was added that could be used during cruise speed flights at 50-60 kph. Rumours say that various parties with several Luftwaffe-Helferinnen took place there...

The now renamed "Manfred von Richthofen" was completed in April of 1941. Before its completion, an internal fight started, who should operate the new deadly weapon. The Luftwaffe - namely Göring - follow its "all that can fly belongs to us" paradigm, and therefore insisted that the airship should be commanded by the Luftwaffe.
The Kriegsmarine argues that operations of the "Manfred von Richthofen" was similar to those of the the aircraft carrier "Graf Zeppelin", and therefore the airship should have been under Kriegsmarine command.

In the end, the Kriegsmarine won, and in autumn 1941, the "Manfred von Richthofen" entered service. At this time, the Zeppelin used 8 Me 109 fighters and 12 Ju 87 dive bombers in its air wing.
For air-defence, the airship was equipped with six 8,8 cm AA guns and 32  3,7 cm AA guns, half of them manually operated besides the flight decks, the others ones, remote controlled underneath it. Additionally four 15 cm ground attack guns were mounted on the lower half of the craft to allow attacks on ground targets.
The "Manfred von Righthofen" was equipped with the latest Funkmeß technology and was constantly updated during its lifetime.


The first operation took place on December 11th 1941. In "Operation Westblitz" the "Manfred von Righthofen" appeared neat New York City and only minutes after the German declaration of war against the USA, an air strike hit down town Manhattan, targeting the Empire State Building. While no military target, this was a symbol and the building was heavily damaged during the raid. The USA were totally surprised and as the airship was unknown to them, the "Manfred von Richthofen" could escape undetected and returned to Germany four days later.

In April 1942, a combined Japanse-German attack on the Panama Canal took place, while Japan used submarine launched aircraft for the attack, the Germany used the "Manfred von Richthofen". This time, the Zeppelin was detected by US fighter aircraft but thier attack was unsuccessful. However, the locks at the canal were only lightly damaged and could be repaired within two weeks.

For the rest of 1942 and 1943, the Zeppelin mostly operated over the Atlantic, providing recon data for U-boats and attacking allied convoys. With the increasing number of allied aircraft launched by CVEs, the airship got attacked several times and being damaged in those attacked a few times.

In 1944, the operations more and more shifted to the Arctic Sea, supporting attacks on convoys to Murmansk. But those operations were not very successful due to the weather conditions in the Arctic Sea. During the summer and autumn, the "Manfred von Richthoven" made a total of nine flights to Japan and back, transporting essential raw material to Germany and technology to Japan. The airship used the route over the North Pole to avoid enemy territory as much as possible.

At the end of the war, the "Manfred von Richthofen" was based in the Jonastal in Thüringen. On April 17, 1945 the Zeppelin was loaded with unknown cargo and left on the night to April 18th. Heading south, the airship was never seen again, its fate is unknown....

The model shows the "Manfred von Richthofen" prior the air strikes at the Panama Canal in April 1942.


Command structure (note the "sun deck" at the front

Nose view

Engine section

Flight operations

Lower hull:

The Model:

The model was build on base of a Revell 1/720 Hindenburg Zeppelin kit. The flight deck was made from polysterol sheets, the superstructure on top is mainly made from parts of a Matchbox 1/700 scale Graf Spee kit. Additional guns are taken form the spare part box, the aircraft were taken form a Revell 1/720 Graf Zepplin aircraft carrier kit. The jet engines were from a 1/200 scale Italieri B-52 bomber. I also added some Eduard PE-crew members, everything was painted and airbrushed with Revell Aqua Colour.

Daily updates from my engineer: https://twitter.com/Scratchbr1

German Naval History               : www.german-navy.de
Bärenreisen                             : www.barenurlaub.de



- Can't be bothered to do the proper research and get it right.

Another ill conceived, lazily thought out, crudely executed and badly painted piece of half arsed what-if modelling muppetry from zenrat industries.

zenrat industries:  We're everywhere...for your convenience..


Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.

Old Wombat

Has a life outside of What-If & wishes it would stop interfering!

"The purpose of all War is Peace" - St. Augustine

veritas ad mortus veritas est


"Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot."
 - Morpheus in Sandman: A Midsummer Night's Dream, by Neil Gaiman

"I dunno, I'm making this up as I go."
 - Indiana Jones '



In want of hobby space!  The kitchen table is never stable.  Still managing to get some building done.


CAG size pf 20? Isn't that too little for a ship that size?

Captain Canada

That is so cool. Love the underside shots imagine seeing that cruise over ! What is the air wing from ?
CANADA KICKS arse !!!!

Long Live the Commonwealth !!!
Vive les Canadiens !
Where's my beer ?


Quote from: Captain Canada on May 21, 2017, 07:55:00 AM
That is so cool. Love the underside shots imagine seeing that cruise over ! What is the air wing from ?

Taken from a Revell 1/720 Graf Zeppelin aircraft carrier.
Daily updates from my engineer: https://twitter.com/Scratchbr1

German Naval History               : www.german-navy.de
Bärenreisen                             : www.barenurlaub.de


Great idea! I have been contemplating the same exact type of subject, but I had imagined the flight deck on top. Even bought a 1/720 Tawara to use it for this. I never even considered doing it on the sides.

Army of One




Will die without understanding this world.