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V-1 flying bomb
V-2 missile
V-3 cannon
V-2 rocket at Peenemünde Museum
H.IX V3 flying wing reproduction at the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Wunderwaffe (German pronunciation: [ˈvʊndɐˌvafə]) is a German word meaning "wonder-weapon" and was a term assigned during World War II by Nazi Germany's propaganda ministry to some revolutionary "superweapons". Most of these weapons however remained prototypes, which either never reached the combat theater, or if they did, were too late or in too insignificant numbers to have a military effect.[1] The V-weapons, which were developed earlier and saw considerable deployment, especially against London and Antwerp, trace back to the same pool of highly inventive armament concepts. In the German language, the term Wunderwaffe generally refers to a universal solution which solves all problems related to a particular issue, mostly used ironically for its illusionary nature.

As the war situation worsened for Germany from 1942, claims about the development of revolutionary new weapons which could turn the tide became an increasingly prominent part of the propaganda directed at Germans by their government.[2] In reality, the advanced weapons under development generally required lengthy periods of design work and testing, and there was no realistic prospect of the German military being able to field them before the end of the war. When some advanced designs, such as the Panther tank and Type XXI submarine, were rushed into production, their performance proved disappointing to the German military and leadership due to inadequate pre-production testing or poorly planned construction processes.[3] Historian Michael J. Neufeld has noted that "the net result of all these weapons, deployed or otherwise, was that the Reich wasted a lot of money and technical expertise (and killed a lot of forced and slave laborers) in developing and producing exotic devices that yielded little or no tactical and strategic advantage".[4] However, a few weapons proved to be successful and have had a large influence in post-war designs.

Naval vessels[edit]

Aircraft carriers[edit]

  • Graf Zeppelin – a 33,550 ton aircraft carrier laid down in 1936; never completed.
  • Flugzeugträger B – planned sister ship to the Graf Zeppelin; scrapped before launching.
  • Flugzeugträger C and D – two additional proposed aircraft carriers of the Graf Zeppelin class.
  • I (1942) – a planned 56,500 ton aircraft carrier, converted from a transport; cancelled before work started.



Oceangoing U-boats[edit]

Littoral U-boats[edit]


  • Type XI – a U-boat designed to carry the Arado Ar 231 collapsible floatplane and have 128mm turrets; four were laid down but canceled at the outbreak of World War II.

Armoured vehicles[edit]

Anti-aircraft weapons[edit]

Anti-tank weapons[edit]

  • Sturer Emil ("Stubborn Emil") –An experimental Panzerjäger style, open-topped tank destroyer armed with a Rheinmetall 12.8 cm K L/61 gun, 2 prototypes built for tests. Sole surviving prototype on display at the Kubinka Tank Museum.
  • Elefant (Ferdinand) - A heavy tank destroyer, mounting a 8.8 cm Pak 43/2 L/71 gun, 91 units produced.

Super-heavy tanks[edit]

  • Landkreuzer P. 1000 "Ratte" (Rat) –A planned super-heavy tank, weighing 1000 tonnes and armed with two 280mm cannons, one 128mm anti-tank gun, 8 20mm flak guns and 2 15mm heavy machine guns; cancelled in early 1943.
  • Panzer VII "Löwe" (Lion) –A planned super-heavy tank, weighing 90 tonnes and armed with a 105mm cannon; cancelled in March 1942 in favor of the Panzer VIII Maus.
  • Panzer VIII "Maus" (Mouse) – A super-heavy tank, weighing 188 tonnes and armed with two cannons of 128mm and 75mm calibre; five were ordered but only two operable prototypes completed – lone survivor currently on display at the Kubinka Tank Museum.
  • Panzerkampfwagen E-100 –A planned super-heavy tank (the heaviest of a series of "E-tanks") weighing 140 tonnes and armed with either 128 or 150 mm cannon, one prototype hull nearly completed, the hull was later captured and evaluated by the British before being scrapped in the 1950s.

Reconnaissance tanks[edit]

  • Kugelpanzer (ball tank)-A prototype spherical reconnaissance/cable-laying tank with a mysterious history. Sent to Japan and captured by the Soviets in 1945. Currently on display at the Kubinka Tank Museum.
  • VK 16.02 Leopard-Planned reconnaissance tank. Only mockup of Waffenträger (weapon carrier) was built.


Piston engine aircraft[edit]

Jets and rocket-propelled aircraft[edit]


Bombs and explosives[edit]




Artistic conception of Silbervogel.
  • Silbervogel (Silverbird) — a suborbital rocket bomber, similar to later generations of rocket spacecraft.
  • Sonnengewehr (sun-gun) – a parabolic mirror in orbit designed to focus sunlight onto specific locations on the Earth's surface.


Mission equipment[edit]


Similar developments in Axis powers[edit]



  • 75 mm Reșița Model 1943 – an anti-tank gun with a muzzle velocity of over 1 km/second which could also elevate enough to double as a field gun, reported to have outperformed its Western, German and Soviet counterparts to become arguably the most versatile gun in its class during World War II (at least 375 produced).[5]
  • Self-propelled 75 mm Reșița Model 1943 – 2 prototypes completed and tested (reportedly, this vehicle served as the inspiration for the Hetzer, or as a significant influence in the latter's development).[6]
  • IAR 81C fighter aircraft fitted with the Werfer-Granate 21 air-to-air rocket (1 prototype).[7]


  • 44M Tas – a local attempt to replicate the heavy Panther or the "Tiger 2" tank (2 incomplete prototypes produced, including 1 complete hull).[8]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Willy Ley, "V-2: Rocket Cargo Ship" Astounding Science Fiction, May 1945, repr. Famous Science-Fiction Stories: Adventures in Time and Space, (ed. J. Francis McComas, Raymond J. Healy, [1946], 1957), p. 359.
  2. ^ Tooze 2007, p. 611.
  3. ^ Tooze 2007, pp. 612–618.
  4. ^ Neufeld, Michael (13 April 2020). "The Myth of the German "Wonder-Weapons"". Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  5. ^ Mark Axworthy, London: Arms and Armour, 1995, Third Axis, Fourth Ally: Romanian Armed Forces in the European War, 1941–1945, pp. 235–237 and 149
  6. ^ Mark Axworthy, London: Arms and Armour, 1995, Third Axis, Fourth Ally: Romanian Armed Forces in the European War, 1941–1945, pp. 228–235
  7. ^ Mark Axworthy, London: Arms and Armour, 1995, Third Axis, Fourth Ally: Romanian Armed Forces in the European War, 1941–1945, p. 265
  8. ^ Dénes Bernád, Charles K. Kliment, Helion and Company, Magyar Warriors: The History of the Royal Hungarian Armed Forces 1919-1945, Volume 1, p. 371

Works consulted[edit]

Further reading[edit]