Henschel Hs 117 'Schmetterling'

Henschel Hs 117 'Schmetterling'

Henschel Hs 117 'Schmetterling'

The Henschel Hs 117 'Schmetterling' (Butterfly) was a ground-to-air guided missile that almost entered service in the last days of the Third Reich.

Henschel first suggested building a ground-to-air missile in 1941, with the designation Hs 297. At first the RLM (German Air Ministry) wasn't interested in the design, but in 1943, after it became clear that the war was going against Germany, Henschel were ordered to produce the missile as a matter of urgency, with the new designation of Hs 117.

The Hs 117 was an odd looking piece of equipment. It had an asymmetrical nose, which had a pointed cone on the right and a propeller on the left, used to power a small generator. Two booster rockets were carried for take-off, mounted above and below the fuselage. A third rocket was built into the missile. The swept back wings were more conventional, and somewhat resemble those of more recent cruise missiles. The rocket was steered using solenoid-controlled Wagner bars on the trailing edge of the wings and the tail plane.

Launch power was provided by two Schmidding 109-553 solid fuel rockets, each of which provided 3,850lb of thrust for four seconds, bring the rocket up to 680mph. The internal rocket was normally a BMW 109-558, which used R-Stoff (which self ignited) as its main fuel and SV-Stoff to oxidize the R-Stoff. It was also possible to use the Walter 109-729 rocket, which used low-octane petrol (Br-Stoff), SV-Stoff and an alcohol igniter.

The missile was controlled using the Kehl/ Strassburg system, which had the code name 'Tarsival' and the designation FuG203/230. This used four radio frequencies, two for the vertical controls and two for the horizontal. The whole system was joystick controlled. A fifth frequency was used to detonate the warhead.

The Hs 117 was not a precision instrument. It was not expected to score direct hits on enemy aircraft, and instead relied on blast to damage or destroy its targets. It was launched from a modified anti-aircraft gun mount, which was aimed in the general direction of the target. Once the missile was in the air a flair (by day) or light (by night) would be ignited in the tail, to allow the controller to follow its path. The controller would use a normal optical telescope to follow the rocket, and use the joystick to bring it into the middle of a group of enemy aircraft, where it would be detonated. Some work was done on a radar based control system, which used two cathode ray tubes - one for the target and one for the missile. The controller used the joystick to keep the dots together.

The first test launch of the Hs 117 was made in May 1944, and by September twenty two launches had been made, including some with the Hs 117H (see below). The missile could reach 36,000ft, and had a range of up to ten miles. In December the Hs 117 was ordered into production, but the first deliveries were not expected until March 1945, and full production was not expected until November. It was hoped that the first operational unit would enter service in March, but the war ended before the Hs 117 began operations.

The Hs 117H was an air-to-air missile based on the standard Schmetterling. It didn't need the external booster rockets, and carried a larger 220lb warhead. The guidance system was the same as for the ground-launched version, although the controller would be in a nearby parent aircraft. The Hs 117H could be launched from a range of up to 6.2 miles, and could reach targets 16,500ft above the parent aircraft. Work on the Hs 117H continued into 1945, and the project was one of few to survive a savage cut in January 1945, but it was never used operationally.


Henschel Hs 117 'Schmetterling' - History

For the "8-117" Hs.117 "Schmetterling", Professor Wagner tasked J.J.Henrici to assemble a production team. The Henschel works in Berlin was collaborating with a whole raft of other German design and manufacturing organisations: Walterwerke, BMW and Rheinmetall-Borsig and Schmidding for motors, but also Opta Radio, Siemens, Askania, AEG, Telefunken and Horn for other electronic and mechanical control systems, and the test and research institutes at DVL, AVA, DFS and others.

With a wealth of experience from the Hs.293 Glide Bomb, Wagner's team had decided on a line-of-sight controlled missile, small enough to be manhandled by a ground team, but carrying a warhead capable of rendering a B.17 unserviceable from a distance of an approximately 8 yard proximity burst. The Henschel Hs.117 was designed for production with electronic receiver E232 a/b "Colmar", and proximity fuses "Kakadu" (from Donag), "Marabu" (Siemens) or "Fox" (AEG). Although an electronic guidance system would have been preferred, it was recognised that development time, and current system accuracy would render the project unfeasable. So an optical guidance system which was proven to work was chosen for the first production series, knowing that this could be upgraded to a more sophisticated guidance system when available.

To enable the best performance, the Hs.117 was designed to fly under, but as close to the speed of sound as possible whilst being able to retain good control and manouverability. Initially Henschel promised a speed of 75% of the speed of sound to the RLM, with the intention of increasing this speed during development. Depending on the ability of the missile's aimer, Henschel were predicting an initially oscillating flight path whilst the target was acquired, with a final straight flight to target. A manouvering limiter was included to keep acceleration to about 7.5G. Control was effected by oscillating spoilers or "Wagnervators" (shown here on the left), which during flight, oscillated evenly at the trailing edge of the wing, until a control signal from the ground caused a greater deflection above or below the wing to induce a roll in the appropriate direction and a so a course correction.

In order to ensure predictibility of flight close to the speed of sound, the airframe was designed to be as symmetrical as possible. However, one asymmetry was the "double" nose with the electrical generator on one aspect and the aerial for the proximity fuse the other. The second asymmetry was the shape of the fuselage at the tail. Tests were made in the high speed wind tunnel of the DVL up to 90% of the speed of sound and the initial design of a square tail was found to give lack of control at higher speeds. As the manufacturing of control components was already committed, a thinner tail could not be used, so interestingly, a tapered tail was used for achieving greater speeds. The production missiles were also carefully examined to remove sources of surface defect, for best speed.

As previously mentioned, the Hs.117 project was designed to be manhandled from storage to launch. An Hs.117 battery consisted of two sets, each with six launching stands. Both sets had one aiming stand with one observer and one aimer seated on a special gimble-mounted frame, who could follow the tracks of missiles through the air with special telescopes. Under command, the observer directed his telescope onto the target, which was linked to the aimer's telescope. When ready, the aimer would launch the missile, and with the help of the observer continuing to track the enemy, would direct the missile to the specified target until the proximity fuse exploded the warhead.


The first Schmetterling tests, from the ground and from air-dropped launches, began in May 1944, with the first rocket motor test flights in August 1944. Tested at Peenemunde, approximately sixty launches were made - around twenty reached speeds above Mach 0.90, without noticeable deterioration in performance. At first it was hoped that the missile could be seen by the light of the motor alone for up to ten miles. But even when tested with coloured dyes in the fuel, or dropped into the rocket efflux, the flare from the rocket motor alone was insufficient for directing the missile. Therefore, the rear fuselage was modified to carry flares, as were used in the Hs.293.

The plan was to have started production in February 1945, with a production output of 3,000 units a month by October 1945. However, the project was experiencing significant delays. The most serious of the delays was caused by the BMW motor. Motor production was late, numbers produced were small and the thrust available was not to design specification. In order to move forwards, Dr Schmidt of Walterwerke proposed a motor design with a different regulator, much improved performance and a new, lighter, uncooled combustion chamber. There were still concerns about the delivery of fuel from the tanks, and the introduction of air into the fuel lines during manouvering, but it was hoped that these would be resolved during testing. For a discussion of the design issues of the 109-558 and 109-729 motors for "Schmetterling", follow this discussion link.

In the end, the testing process was not completed before the war came to an end, and so "Schmetterling" never managed production to any degree, and never saw active service.


Henschel Hs 117

ในปี 1941 ศาสตราจารย์ Herbert A. Wagner (ซึ่งก่อนหน้านี้รับผิดชอบ ขีปนาวุธต่อต้านเรือ Henschel Hs 293 ) ได้ประดิษฐ์ขีปนาวุธ Schmetterling และส่งไปยัง Reich Air Ministry (RLM) ซึ่งปฏิเสธการออกแบบเพราะไม่ต้องการเพิ่มเติม อาวุธต่อต้านอากาศยาน

อย่างไรก็ตาม ในปี 1943 การ ทิ้งระเบิดขนาดใหญ่ในเยอรมนี ทำให้ RLM เปลี่ยนใจ และ Henschel ได้รับสัญญาในการพัฒนาและผลิต ทีมนี้นำโดยศาสตราจารย์แว็กเนอร์ และสร้างอาวุธที่คล้ายกับ โลมาปากขวดที่ มีปีกและหางรูปกางเขน [1]

ในเดือนพฤษภาคม ค.ศ. 1944 มีการทดสอบขีปนาวุธ 59 Hs 117 บางส่วนจากใต้ Heinkel He 111 กว่าครึ่งของการทดลองล้มเหลว [2] การผลิตจำนวนมากได้รับคำสั่งในเดือนธันวาคม ค.ศ. 1944 โดยจะเริ่มดำเนินการในเดือนมีนาคม ค.ศ. 1945 ขีปนาวุธปฏิบัติการจะถูกปล่อยจากตู้ปืนขนาด 37 มม. [1]

ในเดือนมกราคม ค.ศ. 1945 ต้นแบบสำหรับการผลิตจำนวนมากเสร็จสิ้น และคาดว่าจะมีการผลิตขีปนาวุธ 3,000 ลูกต่อเดือน [1] แต่เมื่อวันที่ 6 กุมภาพันธ์ SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Kammler ยกเลิกโครงการ

Hs 117H เป็นตัวแปรอากาศเปิดตัวได้รับการออกแบบที่จะเปิดตัวจาก Dornier ทำ 217 , Junkers จู 188 หรือ Junkers จู 388 [4] เวอร์ชันนี้ออกแบบมาเพื่อโจมตีเครื่องบินข้าศึกที่อยู่เหนือเครื่องบินที่ปล่อยออกไปได้ไกลถึง 5 กม. (16,000 ฟุต) [5]


Descripció tècnica [ modifica ]

El míssil Hs 117 tenia un cos cilíndric de 420 cm de llarg i 35 cm de diàmetre acabat en 4 aletes. A l'interior hi havia el cap explosiu, l'estació receptora de guiatge per ràdio Straßburg, Colmar o Brig, el control de vol per giroscopi i el motor BMW 109-558, però la seva empenta inadequada va portar a la consideració del Walter HWK109-729 com a alternativa. ΐ] A ell, s'hi unien les dues ales i els dos coets impulsors-acceleradors Schmidding 109-533 carregats d'etilenglicol sòlid. El morro del Schmetterling tenia una forma asimètrica inusual, que es repetia en altres míssils de Henschel. En un costat hi havia un con sobresortint que contenia una espoleta de proximitat, mentre que a la part lateral i, lleugerament enrere, hi havia un petit aerogenerador que proporcionava energia elèctrica per al sistema de control de vol del míssil. L'ús d'un generador evitava la necessitat del manteniment d'una bateria quan s'emmagatzemava el míssil. La secció del morro també contenia el cap explosiu de 40 kg . El sistema de control de vol era molt similar al Hs 293, utilitzant giroscopis per al control i ones de ràdio pel guiatge. Ώ]


Related Research Articles

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The Henschel Hs 293 was a World War II German anti-ship radio controlled glide bomb with a rocket engine slung underneath it. It was designed by Herbert A. Wagner.

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The Henschel Hs 123 was a single-seat biplane dive bomber and close-support attack aircraft flown by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War and the early to midpoint of World War II. It proved to be robust, durable and effective especially in severe conditions. It continued to see front-line service until 1944, only to be withdrawn due to a lack of serviceable airframes and spare parts.

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Daftar isi

Pada tahun 1941, Profesor Herbert A. Wagner (yang sebelumnya bertanggung jawab atas rudal anti-kapal Henschel Hs 293) menciptakan rudal Schmetterling dan menyerahkannya ke Kementerian Udara Reich (RLM), yang menolak desain karena menilai tidak perlu lagi persenjataan antipesawat.

Namun, pada 1943 pemboman skala besar di Jerman menyebabkan RLM berubah pikiran, dan Henschel diberi kontrak untuk mengembangkan dan memproduksinya. Tim tersebut dipimpin oleh Profesor Wagner, dan menghasilkan senjata yang agak menyerupai lumba-lumba hidung botol dengan sayap menyapu dan ekor silang. Ώ]

Pada Mei 1944, 59 Hs 117 rudal diuji, beberapa diluncurkan dari lambung Heinkel He 111. Lebih dari setengah percobaan gagal. ΐ] Produksi massal diperintahkan pada bulan Desember 1944, dengan penyebaran akan dimulai pada bulan Maret 1945. Rudal operasional akan diluncurkan dari rangka pembawa meriam 37 mm. Ώ]

Pada Januari 1945, sebuah purwarupa untuk produksi massal selesai, dan produksi 3.000 rudal sebulan telah diantisipasi, Ώ] tetapi pada 6 Februari, SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Kammler membatalkan proyek.


Henschel Hs 117

Henschel Hs 117 Schmetterling (German for Butterfly) was a radio-guided German surface-to-air missile project developed during World War II. There was also an air-to-air version, the Hs 117H.

In 1941, Professor Herbert A. Wagner invented the Schmetterling missile but the idea was rejected by the Reich Air Ministry as it was felt that there was no need for more anti-aircraft weaponry. When the air situation had changed for the worse by 1943, the project was revived and Henschel was given a contract to develop and manufacture the Schmetterling. The team was led by Professor Wagner, and it produced a weapon somewhat resembling a bottlenose dolphin with swept wings and cruciform tail.

The Hs 117 was an odd looking piece of equipment with an asymmetrical nose, a pointed cone on the right and a propeller on the left that was used to power a small generator. Two booster rockets were carried for take-off, mounted above and below the fuselage. A third rocket was built into the missile.

Launch power was provided by two Schmidding 109-553 solid fuel rockets, each of which provided 3,850lb of thrust for four seconds, bring the rocket up to 680mph. The internal rocket was normally a BMW 109-558, which used R-Stoff (which self ignited) as its main fuel and SV-Stoff to oxidize the R-Stoff. It was also possible to use the Walter 109-729 rocket, which used low-octane petrol (Br-Stoff), SV-Stoff and an alcohol igniter.

Like the Enzian, the operators used a telescopic sight and a joystick to guide the missile using solenoid-controlled Wagner bars on the trailing edge of the wings and the tail plane by radio control. The missile used the Kehl/ Strassburg system for steering- using four radio frequencies, two for the vertical controls and two for the horizontal. A fifth frequency was used to detonate the warhead, which was detonated by acoustic and photoelectric proximity fuses, at 10–20 m from the target.

Characteristics

Booster rockets: 2 Schmidding 109-553 solid-fuel boosters,

Main rocket: liquid fuel BMW 109-558 rocket motor

Propellants: SV-Stoff (nitric acid), Tonka

Guidance system: MCLOS visual guidance, radio controls

The first test launch of the Hs 117 was made in May 1944, and by September twenty two launches had been made, including some with the Hs 117H . Over half the trials failed, yet mass production was ordered in December 1944, but the first deliveries were not expected until March 1945, and full production was not expected until November.

In January 1945, a prototype for mass production was completed with the operational missiles to be launched from a 37mm gun carriage and it was hoped that the first operational unit would enter service in March. A production of 3,000 missiles a month was anticipated but on 6 February 1945, the project was cancelled.

It also had an air-launched variant, the Hs 117H, designed to be launched from a Dornier Do 217, Junkers Ju 188, or Junkers Ju 388.This version was designed to attack enemy aircraft up to 5 km above the launching aircraft.


Junkers Ju 88 G-1

Although the twin engined Junkers Ju 88 would prove to be useful for almost any role or task, the G version of this aircraft had an especially adapted fuselage with it’s focus on being a night fighter. It was better armed and also equipped with a standard FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN-2 90 MHz VHF radar using eight-dipole “Hirschgeweih” (eng: Deer antler) antennas, which were positioned on the nose (second photo).

Many Luftwaffe night fighter aces flew Junkers Ju 88s during their careers. One of them is Major Heinrich Prinz zu Sayn Wittgenstein (87 victories) who is buried at the cemetery in Ysselsteyn, the Netherlands.

Junkers Ju 88 G1 night fighter on display at the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, Germany

The nose of the Ju 88 with the “Hirschgeweih” antennas sticking out Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, Germany

A view into the cockpit of the Junkers Ju 88 G1 Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, Germany


Italian WWII secret weapons

From 1941, Italy had been developing a top-secret project to install guided rocket weapons aboard aircraft carriers.
Campini Capron’s revolutionary guided rocket weapon, the DAAC, which would later become Hitler’s Henschel HS-117 Schmetterling (‘Butterfly’), was the selected projectile.
Classified intelligence on the V-1 flying bomb and other aircraft projects were acquired and then discarded when Ansaldo’s naval architect, Lino Campagnoli (1911–1975), issued plans for the Impero battleship to be transformed into a modern fleet carrier.

Davide F Jabes and Stefano Sappino
Aircraft Carrier Impero: The Axis Powers’ V-1 Carying Capital Ship,
published by Fonthill Media.

Reliable source?
Other Italian secret weapons?

MG1962a

From 1941, Italy had been developing a top-secret project to install guided rocket weapons aboard aircraft carriers.
Campini Capron’s revolutionary guided rocket weapon, the DAAC, which would later become Hitler’s Henschel HS-117 Schmetterling (‘Butterfly’), was the selected projectile.
Classified intelligence on the V-1 flying bomb and other aircraft projects were acquired and then discarded when Ansaldo’s naval architect, Lino Campagnoli (1911–1975), issued plans for the Impero battleship to be transformed into a modern fleet carrier.

Davide F Jabes and Stefano Sappino
Aircraft Carrier Impero: The Axis Powers’ V-1 Carying Capital Ship,
published by Fonthill Media.


Weird, Wacky and Wonderful Weapons of World War II

On May 31, 1942, the Japanese Imperial Navy commenced an attack on the harbor (harbour for you British types) at Sydney, Australia, using 3 Ko-hyoteki-class midget submarines. With a 2-man crew and armed with a pair of torpedoes, the little subs had the potential to create tremendous damage to any ship afloat. Japan was not the only country to employ midget submarines during World War II, and midget subs were just one of many truly innovative attempts to adapt weapons for special purposes during that war that spawned so much in the way of technological progress. Today we list some of those weapons that strike us as particularly interesting with nifty technology, though you, as always, are welcome to nominate other weapons you believe belong on such a list.

(See our many articles about World War II)

Digging Deeper

Midget Submarines (Japan, Germany, Italy, UK)

Dangerous duty to the point of being almost a suicide mission, brave men in one or two man tiny submarines (crews would number as many as 5 men) could be used to place explosives on anchored ships (limpet mines), fire torpedoes, or gather up close first hand intelligence about harbors or beaches. Midget subs could be launched from a larger submarine, or even from a surface vessel. Sometimes, the midget sub was nothing more than a man guided torpedo, meant to be a suicide mission. Only Japan employed such a weapon during the war. Called the Kaiten, the suicide torpedo was a measure of desperation by Japan, and combat results are disputed, with generally minimal success attributed to the manned torpedo. Some sources claim an American tanker ship, landing craft and destroyer escort were sunk by Kaitens, with the loss of 187 American lives. Kaiten crewmen killed in action numbered 106. Notable uses of midget submarines included the infamous Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, when one of the 5 Japanese midget subs deployed managed to torpedo the American battleship West Virginia. In other actions, Japanese midget subs torpedoed the British battleship Ramillies and sank a British tanker. The British used midget subs against the German battleship Tirpitz, sister ship of the Bismarck, while Tirpitz was hiding in a Norwegian fjord. The X-class British sub, with a 3 man crew, managed to mine the giant battleship and cause disabling damage, putting the ship out of commission for a year. Italy made good use of midget submarines in their attack on British ships at the harbor of Alexandria, Egypt in 1941. The manned torpedo Italian midget subs called by their crews “pigs” snuck into the harbor hiding below British ships entering the safety (apparent) of the port, and attached mines to several ships. The mines successfully detonated and sunk 2 British battleships and a Norwegian tanker, while damaging another British destroyer. Most modern navies today field some sort of midget submarines in their fleets.

Guided “Smart” Weapons (US, Germany, Japan)

World War II was indeed a technology war, with measures and counter-measures of all sorts encompassing every part of combat and weapons systems, including, but not limited to, radar and sonar, encoding and code breaking, the earliest computers, jet and rocket engines, metallurgy, proximity fused explosive ordnance, squash head and shaped charge anti-armor weapons, navigation beacons, and exotic systems to keep submarines submerged longer. Among the priorities of scientists and engineers on all sides was to create remotely guided weapons to achieve pin-point accuracy in the delivery of ordnance. Using a manned torpedo or a manned airplane designed to be flown directly into an enemy target was a suicide mission and not really a technological advance, though those were indeed “guided” weapons throughout their entire travel envelope. More sophisticated systems included the German Fritz X, a guided unpowered glide bomb controlled by radio from the bomber aircraft that dropped it and then guided the bomb into the ship or other target aimed at. The Germans used Dornier Do-217 bombers as delivery aircraft and achieved the first known precision guided weapon success by sinking the Italian battleship Roma after the Italians had surrendered to the Allies in 1943. Many other Allied ships were severely damaged by the Fritz X bombs, though the Allies eventually realized the bombs were being guided by the bomber that loitered in the area after dropping the bomb. Thus, the bombers were immediately harassed by whatever antiaircraft fire or interceptors were available in order to disrupt the guidance. Electronic jamming of the radio control signal was also employed to defeat the Fritz X. A rocket powered German guided bomb, the Henschel Hs 293, also achieved some success, sinking or damaging several Allied ships, though it was less successful against land targets such as bridges. Less successful attempts at guided weapons included American efforts to create giant guided bombs by filling heavy bombers with explosives and using remote radio controls to fly them into the target. Unfortunately, the technology was not fully developed, and the flying bombs had to be taken off with a live pilot inside, who would later bail out once the plane was safely on its way and radio control was achieved. Primitive television was also part of the guidance suite. The older brother of John F. Kennedy, later President of the United States, Joseph Kennedy, was killed along with another naval aviator in such an attempt when his explosive laden B-24 bomber blew up with him still at the controls. The program, called Operation Aphrodite, was run in parallel efforts by the US Navy and US Army Air Force, with no real success. Another unsuccessful US stab at achieving precision ordnance guidance was the wacky idea of using pigeons inside glide bombs. The pigeons were expected to observe a video screen and try to land on the deck of the enemy ship (target) below with electric sensors relaying the attention of the bird guidance to the control surfaces. This plan failed and was canceled, though it was revived for a second go around in 1948! One success the Americans had was with their so called AZON guided bomb, which was used to destroy bridges somewhat successfully. Other American efforts at achieving guided bombs did not bear fruit until after World War II. The German Mistel was another ill-fated attempt at a high-tech weapon, using an explosive laden Ju-88 bomber with no pilot slung underneath a smaller, single engine piloted airplane, usually a fighter such as the Fw-190. The pilot would take off the piggy-back plane arrangement, and then jettison the bomber bomb over the target. Though hits were claimed by pilots, the Allies did not record any successful Mistel attacks. Though the British experimented with radio guided bombs, their program was insignificant compared to that of the Germans. Japanese scientists also got on the radio guided bomb band-wagon, including glide bombs and rocket powered bombs as well as heat guided bombs, though the war ended before the effective version of these weapons were produced. Today we have television guided, IR and heat seeking guidance, laser guided, computer program guided, GPS guided, and other sorts of precision guided weapons that have their historical beginnings in World War II.

(Note: Attempts to design air-to-air guided missiles were not successful during World War II.)

Surface to air guided missile (Germany)

As Germany was increasingly plastered by Allied heavy bombers in 1943, German efforts to design a practical Surface to air guided missile (SAM) became urgent, with the result being the Henschel Hs 117, known as the Schmetterling (Buterfly). Using radio controlled guidance by an operator with a telescopic sight, the Hs 117 was equipped with either a photoelectric or acoustic proximity fuse so that the missile just had to get near (10 to 20 meters) the target plane to blow up and hopefully take the offending aircraft down. The weapon was finally ready for production in January of 1945, but the war conditions had deteriorated so badly for Germany that the project was cancelled. A variant was being developed for use in the air to air mode.

Proximity Fuses (US and Germany)

While not a guided precision weapon, proximity fuses allowed both anti-aircraft artillery and anti-aircraft rockets to perform at a much increased effectiveness over the previous timed fuse airburst or impact fused weapons previously employed. The US led the way in this field, especially in the American 5 inch naval gun anti-aircraft role. Proximity fuse technology also created a new breed of airburst artillery shells that spread their effective kill and wound zone beyond that of ground burst artillery shells. Again, the Americans were leaders in this field.

RADAR (Britain, US, Germany, Japan)

While the discovery of radio waves echoing off distant objects was made around the turn of the 20 th Century, by the start of World War II the use of radar to detect incoming airplanes and to locate ships at sea for early warning and distant targeting became common. Advances in the technology of radar quickly followed, with radar used as a navigation device for bombing at night and in poor weather, for weather forecasting, and for finding submarines surfaced at night to replenish their batteries and air supply. Radar jamming, both electronic and with metal chaff, became a major priority, and early attempts to create stealthy reduced radar signature forms and coatings began. Radar detectors also became an important device, especially used against German U-boats utilizing radar for self-defense at night. Radar was used to direct anti-aircraft fire and to accurately establish the altitude of incoming bombers as well as to direct fighter-interceptors. Radar even became an effective anti-mortar and artillery tool, detecting the source of incoming mortar and artillery shells, thus enabling counter-battery fire. Night-fighter aircraft were developed with onboard radar sets to allow for accurate shooting at of enemy planes that could not be seen at night. (Radar gunsights were developed just after World War II based on research started during the war.)

Night vision devices (Germany, United States)

Much as the ability of birds to fly caused men to long for the sky, the ability of cats and other creatures to see in dark made men envious, especially military types. People tried to research night vision ability as early as the late 19 th Century, with the first success in infrared night vision enhancement technology coming in the 1930’s courtesy of the Dutch firm Phillips, just in time to be developed for use in World War II. In the US, RCA was also developing first generation night vision technology, though it was left to the German army to be the first to field such a device in 1939, though not until 1943 did night vision devices, based on infrared illumination, become more widely used. The US Army also developed and deployed a cumbersome infrared illuminator and vision scope mounted on the M-1 Carbine for use at night, and the systems was used with some success, especially in the Pacific theater. While World War II night vision systems required an infrared illuminator (a large light not visible to the naked eye) in order to work, later systems were able to intensify light well enough to preclude the need for a separate illuminator and even later thermal vision night vision devices would be able to see in complete darkness. It must be noted that the IR illuminator used on early night vision devices was easily seen by the enemy if the enemy had IR viewing equipment, making the use of such devices dangerous to the user.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

The featured image in this article, a photograph of a Japanese Ko-hyoteki class midget submarine, believed to be the vessel known as Midget No. 14, being raised from the bed of Sydney Harbour, is available from the Collection Database of the Australian War Memorial under the ID Number: 060696. This image is of Australian origin and is now in the public domain because its term of copyright has expired.

About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.


HITLER&rsquoS SMART BOMBS

THE FEDDEN MISSION came away from Nordhausen having seen for themselves the starkest extremes of the Nazis&rsquo secret weapon programme. On the one hand they had witnessed the abject horror and depravity of the slave labour system, while, on the other, they could not fail to marvel at the most technologically advanced weapons programme the world had ever seen.

The following day they flew south to Munich, where they inspected the BMW engine works and billeted overnight at the American 3rd Army Intelligence Centre at Freising. On Thursday 21 June the mission divided into two groups, with four members of the team departing by road to Rosenheim and the BMW rocket development department at Bruckmühl. As chief engineer and technical director in charge of BMW&rsquos jet, piston and rocket development, Bruno Bruckmann accompanied them, explaining that BMW&rsquos intensive development of rockets had started in early 1944 on RLM orders. It was conducted under the control of an engineer named Szibroski, an SS man who had disappeared before the American Army arrived in April 1945.

Many of the German rocket projects had their origins in the early stages of the war, or even before it in some cases, but the impetus to wheel them out had come with the intensification of the Allied strategic bombing campaign. As we have seen, the V-1 cruise missile and the V-2 ballistic missile were dedicated offensive weapons and had no defensive role to play, but rocket-power could be used very effectively to augment the existing ground-based anti-aircraft defences of the Luftwaffe&rsquos flak regiments, or to fill the gaps left by the increasingly overstretched fighter aircraft. In addition to their use as surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles, the range of other applications included aircraft-launched weapons &ndash either air-to-air against other aircraft, or air-to-surface against ground targets or shipping &ndash and even surface-to-surface as a form of artillery. When combined with a variety of guidance systems this array of missiles became the first generation of smart bombs, although, lacking the technology to home in on a target autonomously without human guidance, it might be more accurate to describe them as semi-smart bombs.

Press photograph released in November 1944 of an HS 293 anti-shipping missile with Walter 109-507 B liquid-fuelled rocket motor.

THE BMW TYPE 109-718

As it turned out the first rocket motor the Fedden Mission was shown by Bruckmann wasn&rsquot a weapon at all. The BMW Type 109-718 liquid-fuelled rocket &ndash 109 was also the RLM prefix for rockets &ndash was a small non-expendable assistor unit designed to be used in conjunction with the BMW 003 jet engine to which it was fitted at the rear end a configuration known as the BMW 003R. The internal and external main chambers were liquid-cooled by one of the fuels, nitric acid, passing round a spiral tube inside the outer member. The whole engine unit weighed 176lb (80kg) and gave a thrust of 2,755lb (1,250kg) for three to five minutes. The fuels used were nitric acid and a mixture of hydrocarbons. Fuel consumption was 5.5kg per 1,000kg of thrust per second, and it was estimated that with two of these assistors a Messerschmitt Me 262 could climb to 30,000ft (9,150m) in three minutes.

Unlike the expendable RATO units, this was specifically intended for rapid climb or bursts of speed in an emergency. The 109-718 had the potential to turn a jet fighter into an ultra-high-speed interceptor while at the same time conserving the rocket fuel through intermittent operation, unlike the dedicated rocket-powered aircraft such as the Messerschmitt Me 163B. It was hoped that further development work would enable the unit to use standard jet fuel in due course. The fuel pumps on the 109-718 were the centrifugal type and ran at 17,000rpm, with the fuel pressure at 50 atmospheres. A special drive with universal joints was provided on the jet engine for these pumps, and ran at 3,000rpm. The fuel flow to the unit was controlled by spring-loaded valves operated by a servo motor, and a special automatic control was being developed for this purpose to prevent an inequality of thrust on twin-engine jet aircraft.

The 109-718 rocket units were tested on several prototypes including the Me 262 C-2b Heimatschützer (&lsquohome defender&rsquo), and the single-engined Heinkel He 162E in March 1945. (The Heimatschützer was the Me 262 C-1a with a single Walter 109-509 S1 fitted in the rear fuselage and exhausting under the tail.) Bruckmann informed Fedden that twenty of the 109-718 units had been constructed, and the production time for each one was around 100 hours.

Stand-alone RATO units were frequently used by the Germans for a number of reasons, either to gain additional lift at take-off for heavily-laden aircraft, to provide extra thrust, or to save jet fuel. The Walter HWK 109-500 Starthilfe (&lsquotake-off assistor&rsquo) was a liquid-fuelled rocket pod which could provide 1,100lb (500kg) of thrust for thirty seconds &ndash the thrust was doubled as they were always used in symmetrical pairs. Once the fuel was exhausted the pods were jettisoned by the pilot and returned to the ground by parachute to be serviced and used again. The HWK 109-500 entered service in 1942 and around 6,000 were manufactured by Heinkel. They were used extensively on a wide range of aircraft, including the under-powered Jumo 004-engined Arado Ar 234.

At BMW&rsquos rocket development department at Bruckmühl, Rosenheim, Bruno Bruckmann and W.J. Stern pose beside a BMW 109-558 liquid-fuelled rocket motor for the Henschel Hs 117.

SCHMETTERLING

The next rocket Fedden&rsquos team examined at Bruckmühl was the BMW 109/558 for the Henschel Hs 117 ground-to-air guided missile. The Hs 117 was codenamed Schmetterling (&lsquobutterfly&rsquo), although it looked more like a slender bottlenose dolphin with central sweptback wings and a cruciform tail. The nose was asymmetrical with the warhead extension on one side and a small generator propeller on the other. Designed by a Henschel team led by Professor Herbert Alois Wagner, the Hs 117 was a medium-altitude missile targeting enemy bombers flying between 6,000 and 33,000ft (1,800m to 10,000m).

The Schmetterling was launched from a modified 37mm gun-carriage with two Schmidding 109-553 solid diglycol-fuel boosters, one above and one below the main body, giving a total thrust of about 6,000lb (2,700kg) for a duration of sixty-five seconds before falling away. After take-off the BMW rocket motor provided the main power, giving the 992lb (450kg) missile a speed of between 558 to 620mph (900 to 1,000km/h) taking it up to an altitude between 20,000 and 30,000ft (9,150m). In order not to exceed the velocity at which the missile was stable, the engine&rsquos thrust was regulated by sliding valves in the nozzle actuated by a small electric servo activated by a Mach meter. The Hs 117 was radio controlled by two operators using a telescopic sight and joystick. Once near to a target, acoustic and photoelectric sensors homed in automatically from a range of 33 to 66ft (10 to 20m), and proximity fuses detonated its lethal payload of 55lb (25kg) of explosives.

Surface-to-air weapons: V-2 (A4) rocket, Wasserfall, Bacham Natter, Rheintochter, Enzian and Feurlilie.

Hs 298 air-to-air missile, an Me 328 shown with Argus pulsejets, the Fi 103 R manned version of the V-1, an X-4, Hs 117 Schmetterling and the Fi 103 V-1.

The BMW 109-558 rocket motor took the form of a long tube slender enough to fit within the missile&rsquos casing. It contained a compressed air tank, an SV-Stoff nitric acid tank, and a tank for the R-Stoff, a composite of hydrocarbon self-igniting propellant codenamed &lsquoTonka&rsquo. The combustion chamber was cooled by the nitric acid and was about 18in (46cm) long with a diameter of 5in (12.5cm). A photograph in the Fedden Mission report shows Bruckmann and Stern standing behind a complete rocket assembly which was 8ft (2.4m) long overall. According to Fedden:

The whole equipment weighed 352lb (160kg), took forty to sixty hours to make, and the production price was 400 to 500 Marks. 120 had been made. It was stated that successful experiments had been carried out with this equipment, and the rocket motor which was a clean workmanlike job had started production in parallel with the Henschel flying missile.

A &lsquoworkmanlike job&rsquo is probably what passes for high praise in engineering circles. The Hs 117 underwent fifty-nine test firings, of which more than half failed. Even so, full-scale manufacture commenced in December 1944, with an eventual target output of 3,000 a month projected for the end of 1945, but production was cancelled by February 1945. Some Hs 117s were test launched from a Heinkel He 111, and there was also to be an air-to-air variant of the missile, the Hs 117H, which looked the same but did not have the booster rockets. This would have been air-launched from a Dornier Do 217, Junkers Ju 88 or Ju 388, but it never made it into operation.

Wasserfall (&lsquowaterfall&rsquo) was a higher-altitude missile than Schmetterling, and it was also much more complex and expensive to build as it was, in essence, a scaled-down version of the A4 (V-2) liquid-fuelled rocket. As an anti-aircraft missile it required a far smaller payload and range/duration than the V-2, and consequently it was only 25ft 9in (7.85m) long and weighed 8,160lb (3,700kg) roughly half the size of an A4. In appearance Wasserfall resembled the V-2, with the same streamlined bullet shape for the body, but with four short wings or fins on the midsection to provide additional control. The fins on the tail also had control surfaces, and steering was supplemented by rudder flaps within the rocket exhaust.

Unlike the V-2, Wasserfall was designed to stand for several months at a time and be ready to be fired at short notice, something for which the V-2&rsquos highly volatile liquid-oxygen fuel was not suited. Instead the new rocket motor for the smaller missile, developed by Dr Walter Thiel, was based on Visol (vinyl isobutyl ether) and SV-Stoff fuel. This mixture was forced into the combustion chamber by pressure and spontaneously combusted on contact. Guidance was by radio control, although for night-time operations a system known as Rheinland was developed, incorporating a radar for tracking and a transponder for location which would be read by radio direction finder on the ground. An alternative system using radar beams was also under development. Because of concerns about accuracy, Wasserfall&rsquos original 220lb (100kg) warhead was replaced by a far bigger 517lb (235kg) of explosives. Instead of hitting a single aircraft directly, the idea was that the warhead would detonate in the middle of a bomber formation and the blast effect would bring down several aircraft in one go. The missile itself was designed to break up to ensure that only small pieces fell on to friendly territory below.

The Fritz-X was a glider-bomb designed to pierce the armoured plating on Allied ships. (JC)

Another view of a captured Hs 293 anti-shipping bomb. (USAF)

Wasserfall was developed and tested at Peenemünde and in total thirty-five test launches had been completed by the time this facility was evacuated in February 1945. Subsequently the resources and manpower needed for the development of the defensive Wasserfall programme was diverted to the higher priority and offensive A4. It would appear that Hitler&rsquos quest for taking vengeance on his enemies, whether symbolic or real, overrode the need to defend the German homeland. Production of the Wasserfall had been scheduled to begin at a huge underground factory at Bleicherode in October 1945, by which time, of course, it was already too late.

The air-launched Hs 298 radio-controlled rocket-powered missile never entered full production and the project was abandoned in January 1945.

X-4 wire-guided air-to-air missile. Pods on two wing-tips contained spools for the control wires. (USAF)

THE RHEINTOCHTER AND ENZIAN HIGH-ALTITUDE MISSILES

In parallel to Schmetterling and Wasserfall, several other anti-aircraft missiles were also in development, in particular the Rheintochter and Enzian high-altitude missiles. Rheintochter, named after Richard Wagner&rsquos Rhine Maidens, was a multi-stage solid-fuel surface-to-air missile developed by Rheinmetall-Borsig for the German Army. Working from the top down it had four small paddle-like control surfaces near the nose for steering, plus six sweptback fins at the end of the first stage and a further four at the rear of the second, booster stage. It was 20ft 8in (6.3m) long overall including the booster stage, and the body had a diameter of 1ft 9.25in (54cm). Unusually the exhaust from the main sustainer motor was vented through six &lsquoventuri&rsquo (small tubes) positioned one between each main fin. This was partly for additional stabilisation in flight, but also because the 300lb (136kg) warhead was situated behind the motor and would be attached before launch. The Rheintochter R-I was launched from a ramp or from a converted gun mounting. Guidance was via a joystick, radio control and line of sight observation.

After eighty-two test launches, further development of the Rheintochter R-I, and the proposed operational version R-II, was abandoned in December 1944 because it was only attaining the same altitude as the other missile systems. A third version of the Rheintochter, the R-III, was to have been a far sleeker affair with a liquid-propellant rocket motor for the main stage, and it did away with the second stage in favour of solid-fuelled boosters mounted to the side of the missile. Only six test firings were made.

Rheintochter III two-stage anti-aircraft missile. (NARA)

Taifun (&lsquotyphoon&rsquo) was one of the smallest of the unguided anti-aircraft rockets. Its design was instigated by Sheufen, an officer at Peenemünde, who wanted to produce a back-up or alternative to the more complicated missiles. Further developed by the Elektromechanische Werke in Karlshagen, the Taifun was an unguided missile, 6ft 4in (1.93m) long and 4in (10cm) in diameter with four small stabilizing fins at its base. The simple rocket was fuelled by a hypergolic mixture of nitric acid and Optolin &ndash a mix of aromatic amines, gasoline, Visol and catechol &ndash pressure-fed into the combustion chamber. Burnout occurred after two and a half seconds, by which time the rocket was travelling at 2,237mph (3,600km/h) up to a maximum altitude of 39,370ft (12,000m). The rockets would have been fired in salvoes of up to thirty at a time from a rocket launcher mounted on an adapted gun mounting. Delays in the development of the rocket motor meant that Taifun was never deployed operationally. However, if this unsophisticated and unguided weapon had been ready earlier it could have caused devastation among the Allied bombers.

Schmetterling, Wasserfall, Rheintochter and Taifun were not the only surface-to-air or anti-aircraft missiles under development in Germany. Others included the Rheinmetall-Borsig Feuerlilie F-25/F-55 which Fedden had come across at Völkenrode, and also the Messerschmitt Enzian E-4 which, because of its antecedence in the Me 163 rocket aircraft, is covered in the following chapter. The third type of rocket motor shown to the Fedden Mission at the BMW works in Bruckmühl was the BMW 109-548 used on the Ruhrstahl X-4. Described by Fedden as an &lsquointer-aircraft rocket&rsquo &ndash they were still finding the vocabulary for all this new weaponry in 1945 &ndash the X-4 was a formidable wire-guided air-to-air missile suitable for use with the fast jets such as the Messerschmitt Me 262.

Developed by Dr Max Kramer at Ruhrstahl, the X-4 was designed to operate from a distance outside the range of an enemy bomber&rsquos guns. In flight the missile was stabilised by spinning slowly about its axis, at about 60rpm, thus ironing out any asymmetry in thrust. A joystick in the launch aircraft&rsquos cockpit sent control signals via two wires feeding out from spools or bobbins located within the pods at the end of two opposing wings, and small spoilers on the tail steered the X-4. The wire-guidance system was a means of circumventing the possibility of radio signals being jammed. The range for attack was 0.93 to 2.17 miles (1.5 to 3.5km) and the total payout of the wires was around 3.5 miles (5.5km). According to Fedden the compact 109-548 rocket propelled the X-4 at 620mph (1,000km/h) and had an endurance of up to twenty seconds. The X-4 was 6ft 7in (2m) long and had a wingspan of almost 2ft 3in (73cm) with four midsection fins swept at 45°.

Carrying a 45lb (20kg) fragmentation device in the warhead, the X-4 had a lethal range of about 25ft (8m) and positioning it accurately proved very difficult to judge for the controller. Accordingly a type of acoustically triggered proximity fuse known as a Kranich was also fitted, and this was sensitive to the Doppler shift in engine/propeller sound as it approach and began to pass the enemy bombers. Flight testing commenced in August 1944, initially wing-mounted on a Focke-Wulf Fw 190, but later on the Junkers Ju 88. The X-4 had been intended for single-seat fighters such as Messerschmitt&rsquos jet-engined Me 262, or possibly the Dornier Do 335, but the impracticality of the pilot managing to simultaneously fly the aircraft and control the missile were too great. Production of the airframe began in early 1945. This was designed to be assembled by unskilled labour, in other words forced labour, and incorporated low-cost materials such as plywood for the main fins. It is claimed that 1,000 were readied, but the Allied raids on BMW&rsquos production facility in Stargard held up delivery of the vital 109-548 rocket motors. Consequently the X-4 was never officially delivered to the Luftwaffe. A smaller version of the X-4, the X-7, was designed as an anti-tank missile, but there is no evidence of this ever being used.

&lsquoWINGED TORPEDOES&rsquo

The other main application of air-to-surface guided weaponry was against Allied shipping. A guided air-launched weapon greatly increased the potential range and accuracy of an attack in comparison with a direct attack using conventional bombs or torpedoes, especially on heavily guarded vessels such as warships. The Blohm & Voss company developed a series of &lsquowinged torpedoes&rsquo or glider bombs, such as the Bv 143 which featured a pair of straight wings and a cruciform tail with guidance along a fixed course provided by an internal gyroscopic system. A feeler arm extending beneath the main body acted as a gauge, keeping the missile on a level glide just above the surface of the sea by activating a booster rocket within the fuselage. Four Bv 143s were constructed and tested in 1943, but the project was shelved until a more reliable automatic altimeter could be devised.

The Bv 246 Hagelkorn (&lsquohailstone&rsquo) was an un-powered glider bomber which did enter limited production in late 1943. Once released both of these glider bombs lacked external guidance input to ensure they hit their targets.

The most successful of the anti-shipping missiles were the fully guided Fritz X and the Henschel 293. The Fritz X was officially designated as the FX 1400, although confusingly it was also known as the Ruhrstahl SD 1400 X, the Kramer X-1 and the PC 1400X. Derived from the high-explosive thick-walled 3,080lb (1,400kg) SD 1400 Splitterbombe Dickwandig (&lsquofragmentation bomb&rsquo), the Fritz X had a more aerodynamic nose, four midsection stub wings and a box tail at the rear housing the spoilers or control surfaces. Engineer Max Kramer had begun development work on the missile before the war, fitting radio-controlled spoilers to free-falling 550lb (250kg) bombs, and in 1940 the Ruhstahl company became involved because of their experience in the development and production of conventional unguided bombs.

Fritz X did not have a rocket motor and upon release it glided all the way to the target, guided visually from the launch aircraft via radio-control inputs from a joystick. The missile was designed specifically to be armour-piercing, up to 5.1in (130mm) thick, and the main targets were heavy cruisers or battleships. There was a micro delay in the fuse to ensure it detonated inside the target and not immediately upon impact. Minimum release height was 13,000ft (4,000m), although 18,000ft (5,500m) was preferred if conditions permitted, and it had to be released at least 3 miles (5km) from the target. The greater release height reduced the threat of anti-aircraft fire, which was especially important as the carrier aircraft had to maintain a steady course to keep the gliding bomb on target. It was essential that the device remained in sight of the controller and a flare was fitted in the tail to assist with this. In practice the carrier aircraft had to decelerate upon release, achieved by climbing slightly and then dipping back down, so that inertia would place the bomb ahead of the aircraft.

Fritz X had been launched from a Heinkel He 111 during testing, but in operation the Dornier Do 217 K-2 medium-range bomber became the main carrier. It was first deployed in July 1943 in an attack on Augusta harbour in Sicily, but its greatest success was with the sinking of the Italian battleship Roma on 9 September 1944. Bombers equipped with Fritz X also saw action at Salerno against American and British vessels. It is estimated that almost 1,400 Fritz X bombs were produced in total, including those used in flight testing.

Unlike the Fritz X the Henschel Hs 293 anti-shipping guided missile did have a liquid-fuelled rocket engine, slung beneath its belly, to allow operation at lower altitudes and from a far greater distance &ndash estimated at up to 10 miles (16km). Designed by Professor Herbert Alois Wagner, the Hs 293 project was started in 1939 on the pure glide bomb principle, but Henschel und Sohn added the rocket unit which provided a short burst of speed. Over 1,000 Hs 293s were manufactured and a variety of rockets were used, usually the Walter HWK 109-507, producing a thrust of 1,300lb (590kg), or the slightly more powerful BMW 109-511 with 1,320lb (600kg) of thrust. The main element of the weapon was a high-explosive 650lb (295kg) charge within a thin-walled metal casing creating, in essence, a demolition bomb. Measuring 12ft 6in (3.82m) wide, it had a pair of straight wings with conventional ailerons for control, plus a tail with side fins and a lower fin. While the Fritz X was intended for use against armoured ships, the Hs 293 was specifically for un-armoured vessels, hence the thinner casing. The missile was radio controlled via a joystick control box in the carrier aircraft, and flares attached to the rear ensured the operator maintained visual contact.

The Hs 293 was the first operational guided missile to sink a ship. The British sloop HMS Egret was attacked and sunk in the Bay of Biscay on 27 August 1943, with the loss of 194 of her crew. Numerous other Allied vessels were also sunk in the Mediterranean.

The Allies&rsquo efforts to counter the German radio-controlled weapons by jamming the signals were given a boost when an intact Hs 293 was recovered from a Heinkel He 177 which had crashed on Corsica, and improvements made to the radio jamming equipment had a major impact on the weapon&rsquos effectiveness. In response the Germans modified 100 Hs 293A-1s as Hs 293Bs with wire link, and as the television-guided Hs 293D, although neither of these were operational by the end of the war. The Hs 293H was an experimental air-to-air variant.

The Rheintochter RIII&rsquos liquid-fuel rocket engine on display at RAF Cosford. (JC)

With the experience gained with the Hs 293, Henschel developed several other anti-shipping guided missiles along the same principle. The Hs 294 was designed specifically to penetrate the water and strike a ship below the waterline, and consequently it resembled the Hs 293 but with a sleeker conical nose and two Walter 109-507D rockets mounted tight up against the wing roots. On the Hs 293F the Henschel engineers experimented with a delta wing configuration without a tail unit. The Hs 295 featured an elongated fuselage with enlarged, slightly bulbous warhead and the wings from the Hs 294, while the Hs 296 combined the rear fuselage of the Hs 294 with the control system of the Hs 293 and the bigger warhead of the Hs 295.

BATTLEFIELD ROCKETS

Rockets were also developed to augment or supplant the army&rsquos conventional surface artillery. Rheinbote (&lsquoRhine messenger&rsquo) was developed by the Rheinmetall-Borsig company in 1943. Strictly speaking this slender four-stage rocket cannot be classified as a smart bomb as it was aimed solely by the positioning of the launcher and possessed no internal or external guidance systems. Apart from the V-2 (A4) this was the only other long-range ballistic missile to enter service during the Second World War.

The biggest drawback with conventional artillery is that the guns are often too heavy to be easily and swiftly transported to where they are needed, especially in a fast-moving battlefield. This had not been an issue in the opening stages of the war when the German Blitzkrieg spread with great rapidity thanks in no small measure to the Luftwaffe&rsquos overwhelming aerial superiority and the ability to provide airborne bombardment in support of the ground forces. But the big guns had other drawbacks. Their range was limited and while the biggest guns bombarding Paris in the First World War might have had a range of just over 62 miles (100km), their huge size made them virtually immobile. Conventional artillery also required a constant supply chain to feed the guns. Rockets, on the other hand, had enormous range and were far more easily transported, although there might be an issue with accuracy. The Rheinbote project was initiated to put the battlefield rocket concept to the test.

A US Air Force officer examines an unidentified rocket-propelled guided bomb. Said to be just 8ft long (2.5m) it was most probably a test model. (CMcC)

In appearance Rheinbote was a slender spike 37ft (11.4m) long, with stabilising fins at the rear and three sets of smaller fins arranged at the end of each of the four stages. The rockets were fuelled by diglycol-dinitrate solid-fuel propellant and in tests achieved a blistering Mach 5.5, or 4,224mph (6,800km/h), the fastest speed of any missile at the time. Rheinbote was transported and launched from a modified V-2 (A4) rocket trailer which had an elevating launch gantry. The missile was aimed by orientating the trailer itself and elevating the gantry, although the accuracy of this method of aiming is highly questionable.

In tests the Rheinbote carried an 88lb (40kg) warhead, only 6.5 per cent of the missile&rsquos total mass, up to 48 miles (78km) into the atmosphere to a range of up to 135 miles (220km), but for shorter ranges some of the stages could be removed. Over 200 were produced and they were used in the bombardment of Antwerp from November 1944 into early 1945. After the war ended the Soviets helped themselves to the designs at Rheinmetall-Borsig&rsquos Berlin-Marienfelde headquarters, but in general the Rheinbote was considered to be lacking accuracy, thanks partly to the effect of the stage separations, and lacking punch as the payload was too small and the almost vertical high-speed delivery tended to bury it deep into the ground.

Time and time again the question is asked why these sophisticated and deadly weapons failed to turn the tide of war in Germany&rsquos favour. And just as with the aircraft the same answer invariably comes back: it was too little too late. Time and resources had been squandered in developing a multitude of missile projects instead of focussing on a few well-defined goals. Priorities were in a constant state of flux and by the time those projects which had any potential were put into production resources had either become stretched to the limit or they were being misdirected into other areas. As Albert Speer commented in his memoirs, Inside the Third Reich:

I am convinced that substantial deployment of Wasserfall from the spring of 1944 onward, together with an uncompromising use of jet fighters as air defence interceptor, would have essentially stalled the Allied strategic bombing offensive against our industry. We would have been well able to do that &ndash after all, we managed to manufacture 900 V-2 rockets per month at a later time when resources were already much more limited.

By the final stages of the war the measures to defend the Reich were becoming ever more ingenious, and more desperate.


Watch the video: Рисуем бабочек: контур, акварельный и бархатный эффект, авторская техника гелевая акварель