In 1941, Professor Herbert A. Wagner (who was previously responsible for the Henschel Hs 293 anti-ship missile) invented the Schmetterling missile and submitted it to the Reich Air Ministry (RLM), who rejected the design because there was no need for more anti-aircraft weaponry.
However, by 1943 the large-scale bombing of Germany caused the RLM to change its mind, and Henschel was given a contract to develop and manufacture it. There were 59 experimental firings, of which 34 failed. In May 1944 23 Hs 117 missiles were successfully tested. Mass production was ordered in December 1944, with deployment to start in March 1945. In January 1945 a prototype for mass production was completed, but on 6 February SS-ObergruppenführerHans Kammler cancelled the project.
The Hs 117H was an air-launched variant, designed to be launched from a Dornier Do 217, Junkers Ju 188, or Junkers Ju 388 aircraft. The Hs 117H was designed to attack an enemy aircraft up to 5 km above the launching aircraft.