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Fieseler Fi 103 flying bomb

Written by Sakhal

This artifact, probably the first guided missile that was employed in massive quantities and one of the biggest weapon systems in History, was a pioneer of the modern cruise missiles, born from the investigations about pulse-jet engines started in 1928 by the German expert in aerodynamics Paul Schmidt. In 1939 the Luftwaffe ordered to the brand Argus the development of a Schmidtrohr engine, which was materialized as the model As 109-014, with a thrust of 300 kg at sea level. Such engine had an ensemble of flap-valves just after the air intake, which alternatively admitted or cut the entrance of fresh air, which was then sent against an aerodynamic pressure by means of the ignition in the duct. The rate of operation was 47 Hertz and the noise and vibrations were notable (albeit there were numerous applications of this engine for aircraft as well as missiles).

After several years of hesitation, the Luftwaffe decided to authorize the construction of a flying bomb propelled by the Schmidtrohr engine, in the 19th June 1942. The main contract was signed with the company Gerhard Fieseler Werke, whose proposal from 1941 had been effectuated under the direction of engineer Robert Lusser. To the companies Walter and Siemens were ordered, respectively, the construction of the catapults for launching the missiles and the guide system, based in an automatic pilot Askania. Guide was effectuated by means of a compass that was regulated before the launching, the automatic pilot, an aneroid for controlling the altitude and a propeller regulator of the flight, which in the adequate moment would lead the missile against the ground in a pronounced dive.

The very Gerhard Fieseler flew in the cuatrimotor Fw 200C that in December 1942 effectuated the launching of the first bomb, which was devoid of engine. The 24th of the same month was launched from Peenemunde West a complete bomb for the first time. The frantic rush to surpass the A-4 rocket supported by the Wehrmacht was hampered by initial failures, but the trials and training for thedeploying of the first launching unit of the Luftwaffe started in July 1943. The deploying of these missiles was quite cumbersome, since they were launched from ramps mounted in reinforced concrete and required an elaborated procedure for adjusting the gyroscopes before being launched. To protect the secret of the project, this was designed as FGZ 76 (Flakzielgerat, anti- aircraft aiming device), but the missile was denominated Fieseler Fi 103 and nicknamed V-1 (Vergeltungswaffe, weapon of revenge) by the Nazi propaganda. For the inhabitants of London that started to feel their attacks the 13th June 1944, it was Doodlebug. Everybody sheltered when the intermittent engine of the missile that passed over them stopped sounding. They had learnt soon that the end of the noise was caused by the cut of the fuel feeding (despite the pressurization of the deposits) caused when the missile started the dive.

The production of at least 29000 missiles took place mainly in the gigantic underground factory Mittelwerke, near Nordhausen, served by slave workers, with additional production by Fieseler and also Volkswagen in Fallersleben. However the intended saturation attack never proved possible. The day of greater effort, by the Anti-Aircraft Regiment 155 (W), was the 2nd August 1944, when 316 V-1 were launched from 38 catapults. In that time the British fighters and anti-aircraft artillery equipped with proximity fuzes were winning the battle and only a total of 2419 flying bombs managed to reach London, out of around 8000 launched against the city. Another 2448 fell over Antwerp. From July 1944, about 1200 modified bombs were launched from Heinkel He 111H-22 bombers, some of them against the north of England. Also, a Fi 103 without engine was often trailed in the test grounds at Rechling by a turbojet bomber Arado Ar 234B, in an assemble destined to obtain longer ranges for the missile. Finally, the Reichenberg IV was the manned operative version that was planned and extensively tested (initially by well known people such as Hanna Reitsch and Otto skorzeny) but never used.

Fieseler Fi 103 flying bomb

In July 1944 British air observers received silhouettes of flying bombs with eight different types of wing, including an elliptic one, but actually there were only two models: one of parallel edges and another of shorter wingspan and inclined wings. Many bombs were not painted and some had different colors.

Fieseler Fi 103 flying bomb

When the 50000 slave workers at Nordhausen were freed the 10th April 1945, they were ready for delivery the last of more than 20000 missiles produced.

Fieseler Fi 103 flying bomb

The British fighters - namely the Spitfire - used a risky maneuver consisting in touching with the end of the wing the flying bombs, in an attempt to destabilize them, taking them out of their route.

The V-1 in detail

The V-1 was intended to be cheap to produce; the fuselage was built in welded sheet steel and the wings in plywood. Weight was about 2.15 tonnes, carrying 567 liters of fuel and a warhead containing 850 kg of a powerful explosive called Amatol, the same carried by the V-2. Maximum speed was about 640 km/h and operational range was around 250 kilometers. There was a solid structure in the middle of the bomb, composed of three basic elements assembled together: a tubular spar for the wings, a handle in the upper part to hoist the bomb and a brake shoe in the lower part for attaching the bomb to the catapult. In the nose of the missile there was a small propeller whose rotation was transmitted to a counter; this allowed to know the distance covered, to arm the warhead and later actuate in the pitch rudders in the precise moment to start the dive of the bomb, which caused as well the cut of the fuel admission to the engine, a small deficiency that would be later fixed. There was also in the nose a stabilized gyromagnetic compass enclosed in a sphere, whose purpose was to monitor the stabilizing gyroscope located in the rear part of the fuselage, below the engine intake, accompanied by a dry battery that gave energy to the circuitry. An aneroid altimeter kept the altitude within acceptable levels, never surpassing 3000 meters, since the pulse-jet engine required certain atmospheric conditions to work. Pitch, yaw and heading were controlled by the automatic pilot which was composed of or assisted by the diverse elements previously described. In the rear end of the fuselage pneumatic servo-actuators moved the direction rudder and the pitch rudders in the rear stabilizers; there were no pitch rudders in the wings. The fuel tank was located in the center of the fuselage and was filled through the cap located just before the hoist handle. There were two spherical deposits, reinforced with wire and containing compressed air, which was used to send the fuel to the engine and to operate the servo-actuators. The explosive charge was located before the fuel tank and was triggered by percussion fuses.

The pulse-jet engine was simple to produce and had a much smaller consumption of fuel than a conventional rocket engine of the same power. In the fore section of the engine a vertical duct led the fuel towards nine fuel injectors, located in an ensemble containing as well a set of flap-valves with springs (blinds). In this type of engine the thermodynamic process works at constant volume and variable pressure. Since this kind of reactor lacks any turbines, it requires an initial speed to start working; this was achieved by the launching catapults. The air crossed the intake and the blinds, at the pressure created by the flight speed. Pressure would then be growing in the combustion chamber, where at a certain level the mix of air and liquid fuel would explode. The pressure created by the explosion would close the flap-valves, therefore being exhausted exclusively through the rear section of the engine, creating so the driving force that propelled the bomb. When the gases of the explosion were gone, the pressure disappeared and the blinds opened again, allowing the admission of fresh air and repeating the cycle again and again, in the case of the Argus pulse- jet engine, 47 times per second.

Categories: Missiles - Engineering - World War Two - 20th Century - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-10-17

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