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The Sonderkommando Elbe was a group of pilots of the German Luftwaffe during late World War II who were charged with the task of destroying Allied bombers by ramming them with their own aircraft. It was hoped that this would terrify the Allied pilots and cause the bombing attacks on Germany to relent long enough for the Luftwaffe to build up its forces and more effectively defend the country. This goal was not achieved, however, and in the end the operation was considered a failure.
The Sonderkommando Elbe flew stripped-down Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, armed with only one 7.62 mm machine gun loaded with approximately 50 rounds, and totally lacking armor. Because of this, they were extremely vulnerable to Allied fighters.
The goal of a Sonderkommando Elbe pilot was to approach an enemy bomber stream undetected and make a quick attack, ramming his airplane into the tail, fuselage, or cockpit of a bomber. After this, if the pilot was still alive, he would bail out and parachute to the ground. Because they intended to escape their ruined aircraft after the attack, the Sonderkommando Elbe pilots did not consider the mission a suicidal one, although it was extraordinarily dangerous, with only a 10% survival chance.
The only Sonderkommando Elbe mission took place on April 7, 1945, by a flight of 120 Bf 109s. All in all, only eight bombers were destroyed by ramming attacks, and numerous Bf 109s were shot down by Allied fighters before they ever reached their targets.