The sight of a massive bomber gliding into a bridge or ship is terrifying, whether disabled or on a suicide mission. What if you could create a bomber -sized aircraft that was in fact a giant bomb. That is the concept that piqued the interest of Luftwaffe engineers and led to the creation of the Mistel.
War planners looked at the Luftwaffe fleet and found the JU88 were aging and weary. Not quite ready to go back into battle, but good enough to keep alive. That is when an idea was conjured, pack the twin engine bomber full of explosives and use it as a massive guided weapon in 1943.
Eventually, the packed fuselage turned into a enormous shaped charge and became the Mistel.
The empty JU88 was fitted with an 4,000 pound shaped charge. The explosive material was formed around an aluminum or copper penetrator. When the charge detonated the inner metal penetrator would change states, from solid to a near liquid state. Explosively propelled forward, the metal penetrator was expected to punch through 24 feet of armor. The massive shaped charge was also expected to destroy a bridge in one shot and decimate any hardened structure.
The shaped charge was fixed to the nose of the Ju88 and its interior was modified to handle the piggy-backed aircraft, a FW190 fighter. After take off, the composite aircraft made its way to a target where the FW190 pilot released the Ju88 and guide terminally guide it via a cockpit joystick. With all the modifications, the Mistel composite system was particularly nimble and many aircraft were shot down by Allies far from their intended targets.
Several versions of the Mistel, with different piggy-back fighters, were planned. A total of 250 Mistels were sketched out in the closing years of the war. Stories of the effectiveness of this weapon in combat are still disputed, with Luftwaffe pilots claiming successes against bridges and ships. Allied combat records however do not entirely matching up.