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Henschel missiles

Written by Sakhal

The company Henschel Flugzeugwerke was constituted in 1933 as the aeronautic affiliate of the large company of the same name located in Kassel and dedicated to manufacturing trucks and locomotives. That new corporation was the first one in the world that dedicated itself to the massive production of missiles. The series Hs 293 was the most prolific and diverse in the history of the first missiles and a large quantity of versions adequated to diverse types of targets was built. The company entered the business in 1938 together with propellers manufacturer Schwartz and many other industrial interests, with the support of the German Institute of Aeronautic Investigations. In January 1940, professor Dr. Herbert A. Wagner left the company Junkers to lead the team working in the Henschel missiles. The works started with an air-to-surface missile that should be able to travel at sea level. The project was denominated probably Hs 291 and was abandoned for resulting excessively difficult. Instead, in July 1940 it was started the design of the Hs 293, conceived as a gliding bomb configured as an airplane.

The Hs 293 was a successful design and the first on the series of rocket-propelled, radio-commanded bombs built by Henschel. Its warhead contained 550 kilograms of high explosive and propulsion was given by a Walter rocket engine with an operational range of only 10 seconds. Once the missile was launched, and after the shutdown of the engine, it followed its course towards the target guided by the radio system. Many models fitted with different control systems, new rocket engines and innumerable devices in experimental stage were built; still despite this dispersion, circa 12000 exemplars were produced. Dropped from the Dornier 217, these missiles were used frequently during 1942-43 against ships in the Gulf of Biscay and in the Mediterranean, but they were soon rendered useless by the Allies, who by means of special devices, interfered in the radio control system. Because of this the radio-commanded Hs 293 was retired from the battlefield in 1944.

Hs 293

The Hs 293 was based in the general purpose bomb SC 500, of 500 kilograms of weight, to which wings and a tail made of light alloys were incorporated, with ailerons actuated by a solenoid and elevators electrically driven. A system of sensors measuring the dynamic pressure (varying with altitude and speed of the missile), modified the movement of the elevators to minimize the effect of lack of precision in the angle employed. The first missiles, of the model Hs 293 V2, were launched over Karlshagen around May 1940. In July, these were followed by the model Hs 293 V3, provided already with the definitive telecommand, produced by Kehl/Strassburg. In December 1940 tests were carried on the pre-series model Hs 293A-O, provided with a gondola hanged in ventral position, which contained a rocket engine Walter 109-507B. This one consumed a composite of T-Stoff (hydrogen peroxide unsolved in water) and Z-Stoff (aqueous solution of calcium - or sometimes sodium - permanganate) which was fed by compressed air. The rocket engine provided during 10 seconds a thrust of 600 kilograms, for fastly driving the missile forward, in a position from where it could be easily seen by the operator placed aboard the launching aircraft. Although at least a hundred of missiles were tested with a control system by cable Dortmund/Duisburg - achieving ranges of even 30 kilometers -, the normalized control system was the radio link. The device disposed of 18 channels in the band from 48 to 50 megahertz, so up to 18 missiles could be guided simultaneously without interfering each other.

Henschel missiles

Production exemplar of Hs 293A-1. This missile was rather effective when employed against unarmored targets.

Destruction of a ship from the air

The first aircraft that carried this missile was the twin-engined bomber Dornier Do 217E-5 (also other versions with launching equipment Rustsatze), which equipped the special unit Edko 36 for performing trials on the Baltic, in July 1943. With the same aircraft, the missile entered service with the operative group II/KG 100, which was deployed in Cognac (southwest of France) in the summer 1943. The 27th August this unit sank the British corvette HMS Egret, the first vessel in History that was destroyed by a missile launched from the air. In later dates, numerous vessels were sank as well by the Hs 293A-1, including four British destroyers and a Greek one. The procedure employed by the Luftwaffe consisted of keeping the missile hot in flight, by means of hot air delivered through a duct by the launching aircraft, which was generally a bomber He 111, He 177, Do 217 or Fw 200, or rarely of different model. The sparkles in the tail allowed the guide system to be operative either at daytime or nighttime. The operator controlled the missile by performing a trajectory composed of a series of arcs, by means of a two-axled command lever, placed in one of the flanks of the fore compartment of the bomber. In the vicinity of the target and based on the diving angle, guide became more difficult. The speed of the missile oscillated between 435 and 900 kilometers/hour. A large number of the attacks performed with Hs 293 took place in the Italo-Mediterranean theater, albeit a special KG 100 unit was reorganized in April 1945 for attacking the bridges laid by the Red Army in the Oder. Production reached several thousands of units and a minimum of 2300 were launched.

Henschel missiles

The operator of missiles, located aboard a twin-engined bomber He 111H-12, commands a Hs 293A-1 by means of a command lever and a radio-transmitter Kehl. The versions guided by cable disposed of a similar control lever.


The original version was the Hs 293A-1; it had a length of 3.82 meters, a diameter of 0.47 meters and a wingspan of 3.1 meters, with a weight of 1045 kilograms in the moment of being launched and a maximum range of 18 kilometers. The version Hs 293B was equipped with guide by cable. The version Hs 293C had a conical fuselage intended for submarine attacks and gave pass to the variant Hs 294, a powerful missile fitted with two rockets of which some hundreds of units were built. The version Hs 293D was a daring attempt of installing a television-based guide system, and the very Herbert A. Wagner guided many of the missiles launched for testing, about 70 units. The limited range of the TV/radio system (about four kilometers) led to the adoption of a cable-based guide system. In the tips of the wings of the missile cones were installed for decreasing the speed. The version Hs 293F had a delta shape and two engines, built with non-strategical materials due to the scarcity suffered by Germany during the last years of the conflict. The version Hs 293G was destined to be used in very pronounced diving angles, while the Hs 293H was intended to break the bomber formations of the USAAF 8th Air Force. The variant Hs 295, fitted with two engines, had a piercing warhead and the Hs 296 combined this warhead with the structure of the Hs 294 and the guide system of the Hs 293.

Henschel missiles

The Hs 293D, equipped with a television-based guide system.

Hs 294

The Hs 294 was very similar to the Hs 293, but it was built with a special nose that allowed it to make contact with the surface of the sea without exploding. Once on the water it was able to follow its course towards the target, like a normal torpedo. Its construction started in 1940 and during subsequent years it was tested many times; however there is no evidence that it were used against the Allies, probably because these were able to perturbate the radio command system. For eliminating this problem many missiles were fitted with anti-interference devices while others were equipped with small cameras located in the nose, allowing to see in first person where the missile was heading. The version Hs 294B adopted the guide system by cable.

Henschel missiles

Hs 117

The Germans, in general, dedicated little attention to the research of non-guided rockets and a great attention to the investigation of complex guided rockets. This interest was elicited by the experiments carried at the Research Station of Peenemunde since the interwar years. Apart from the air-to-surface missiles - the Hs 293 and its derivatives - Henschel experimented with surface-to-air missiles, being a prominent example the Hs 117, later known as Schmetterling (Butterfly), a missile conceived from scratch with the purpose of bringing down the Allied formations of bombers. The missile was built by BMW and the development was supervised by professor Dr. Herbert A. Wagner in 1941, a time when the Hs 117 did not receive much attention from the authorities, since it was classified as a defensive weapon. In 1943, however, the responsibles of the Luftministerium changed their views and ordered the experimentation for a future production in large scale, which was hoped to be reached in the beginning of 1945. The missile in question was basically composed of a tubular body, two angled wings, four tails forming a cross in the rear, a warhead equipped with a proximity fuse and a guide system. Two rockets fed by solid fuel were attached to the body of the missile to support it during takeoff. In the moment of takeoff the missile weighed 450 kilograms, but once in the air the weight decreased to 260 kilograms, since the support rockets disintegrated few seconds after the launching. The missile was able to keep a steady speed of 860 kilometers/hour during 40 kilometers; its precision was notable, being able to hit inside a circumference of 7.5 meters in diameter at a distance of 15 kilometers. The Hs 117 was guided via radio by an operator that had to keep constant visual contact with both the missile and its target. Due to the continuous bombardments by the Allies that destroyed or damaged the production centers, this missile did not reach operativity in the battlefield; besides, the problems relative to the control of the rocket at high speeds were numerous and required long time to be solved. From 59 missiles launched experimentally, only 25 flew correctly.

Henschel missiles

Hs 298

The Hs 298 was an air-to-air missile intended for being launched from the Dornier Do 217 or the Focke-Wulf Fw 190. It was much smaller than the previous missiles, measuring 2.05 meters in length and 1.22 in wingspan, and weighing 95 kilograms in the moment of being launched, with a warhead containing 25 kilograms of explosives, fitted with a proximity fuze that allowed the missile to explode even if not touching the target. Unlike other missiles built by Henschel, the Hs 298 possessed a fuselage with an oval section, having 41.5 cemtimeters in height, fitted with arrow wings mounted at half height, provided with ailerons. The horizontal tail was provided with ailerons as well, while the vertical tails were fixed. Propulsion was given by a two-stage rocket engine fed with solid propellant that granted thrust during 25-30 seconds. As in previous missiles created by Henschel, the trajectory was radio-commanded, generally by Kehl/Colmar devices, and required keeping visual contact with the target until the missile reached it. The range was about 2.5 kilometers. A codified signal triggered the explosion of the warhead, but it was intended as well to fit a proximity fuze, indicating some reports that the Hs 298 could have been equipped with fuzes model Fox and Kranich. The fuze occupied the upper cone in the nose of the missile, while in the lower part a pinwheel actuated on a generator that gave energy to the electric systems for guide and control. In the model of larger size Hs 298 V2, of which few exemplars were built at the end of the program, the positions of the forementioned elements were exchanged. Another larger version guided by cable was built, weighing 120 kilograms and containing a warhead with 50 kilograms of explosive, which could have been destined for becoming the Hs 298 V2. More than 300 missiles Hs 298 were launched, mainly in Karlshagen from aircraft Junkers Ju 88 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190A/G. It was indicated that the attack should be effectuated inside a cone of about 30 degrees of semiangle located behing the target, being the axis of the cone around 15 degrees upwards. The baptism of fire for the Hs 298 happened in December 1944 but the results were not exciting and the production was closed in February 1945, since technicians stated that the project would require a lot of time to be tuned.

Henschel missiles

Disassembling of the Hs 298 V1.

Henschel missiles

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


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-10-21

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