The unique, rocket powered Me 163 fighter required an equally unique vehicle for efficient ground operations. The Me 163 was designed to streak up to the height of the allied bomber stream, make several quick attacks on the bombers, and then glide to a landing. The landing gear was detachable and was jettisoned shortly after take-off. Thus, a special recovery vehicle was needed to raise the Me 163 off the ground and bring it back to the point where a landing gear dolly could be reconnected.
The special Luftwaffe unit tasked with bringing the Me 163 to operational status identified the need for a specialized recovery vehicle as early as March 1943. An agricultural vehicle, the Scheuch-Schlepper (tractor or hauler), was selected for this job. This 3-wheeled tractor was developed by the Scheuch company and could be operated with or without the 3rd wheel depending on the towed apparatus.
In flight operations, the Schlepper would move the Me 163 to the take-off point using a long tow bar extending from the 3rd wheel assembly. After landing, the Schlepper would be fitted with a recovery apparatus in place of the 3rd wheel. The first version of this recovery system included inflatable bags on wheels in a v-shaped configuration behind the Schlepper. A later version consisted of hydraulic arms with caterpillar tracks underneath.
Did you know?
The Scheuch-Schlepper was used with the V-1 program, as well.