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Secret weapons of the Third Reich

Written by Sakhal

In the last years of the conflict, Germany produced a certain number of rocket and jet-propelled weapons among the diverse artifacts that should have caused a change in the trajectory of war. Many of them had been devised already before the war for scientific purposes, and were later transformed in deadly artifacts. Others were the product of hasty investigations realized in secret laboratories under the menace of Allied bombings. In any case, these weapons would not achieve the objectives assigned by Hitler, but if these were not reached, the causes of the failure cannot be fully attributed to the projectists and makers of these devices. They should be sought rather in a war industry obliged to effort to produce other materials of more immediate necessity, in the growing scarcity of the valuable special materials, in the late revitalization of these projects, in the lack of fuel and, finally, in the absolute lack of time, that did not allow to carry the prototypes to the needed point of perfectioning, throwing many times to the clash of the battlefield weapons not totally tested and often built with the available materials. Only to this is due, for instance, that the offensive upon London did not achieve to bow down the British capital faster and in a more decided way than what the Luftwaffe managed to do in the Battle of Britain. This article mentions some of the most important weapons among the ones that reached operative usage, and also the most interesting projects.

Enzian (Gentian)

In the practice this was a rocket-propelled aircraft without pilot, obtained by modifying the fighter aircraft Me 163. Built in wood and special plastics, it was intended its usage as anti-aircraft weapon. Launched from an inclined railing ramp and impulsed by four accelerating rockets, it was able to carry a warhead with 500 kg of explosive at 1050 km/h. The project, initially elaborated by Doctor Wurster, of the Holbach Kissing A.G., was abandoned after the experimental launching of 25 prototypes.

Secret weapons of the Third Reich

Rheintochter (Daughter of the Rhine)

This anti-aircraft missile was produced by Borsig Rheinmetall in three models. The R1, which was the most interesting, was a two-phase missile with a length of 6 meters and 54.5 centimeters of maximum diameter, with a maximum range altitude of 6000 meters. It could carry a warhead with 120 kg of explosive equipped with a proximity fuze. They were launched at least 80 exemplars, and of these around 20 remote-controlled by radio or radar. Many launchings had full success. The R2, smaller than its predecessor, had 5.2 meters in length and was only a transition model, after which the R3 (the one shown in the graphic) was adopted. This one promised to be an excellent missile, and some launchings were effectuated, equipping them sometimes with auxiliary rockets, but when the war ended they had not been definitely adjusted.

Secret weapons of the Third Reich

Rheinbote (Messenger of the Rhine)

Surface-to-surface missile built taking advantage of the experiences acquired with the Rheintochter. Of three phases, 10 meters long, a maximum diameter of 53.6 centimeters, it was able to carry a warhead with 40 kg of explosive farther than 100 kilometers with great precision. Built by Borsig Rheinmetall, only in the Battle of Antwerp were launched more than 200 exemplars.

Secret weapons of the Third Reich

Feuerlilie (Fire Lily)

Two versions were simultaneously studied, the F 25 and the F 55. The first one, developed by LFH Braunschweig of Ardtelwerke in 1943, was abandoned in 1944. It was a missile 1.80 meters long and with a diameter of 45 centimeters. It had an operational range of 5000 meters and flew at subsonic speed. The F 55 (depicted in the graphic), in turn, was a two-phase (the first phase of solid fuel and the second one of liquid fuel) missile, 4.5 meters long and with an operational range of 13 kilometers. The project had to be abandoned in December 1944.

Secret weapons of the Third Reich

Hs 293

Glider bomb guided by radio, able to carry a warhead with 500 kg of explosive. During the war it sank many enemy units, and was also used against ground targets.

Secret weapons of the Third Reich

Hs 294

Glider bomb similar to the Hs 293, but of larger dimensions. In the last moments of its radio-commanded trajectory the wings were detached and the bomb submerged on the sea like a torpedo. An acoustic sensor placed on the nose automatically directed it against the target ship.

Secret weapons of the Third Reich

Hs 295

Anti-ship missile that should be launched from a bomber. The project was abandoned shortly after production started.

Hs 296

Improved version of the Hs 295 that did not even reach the stage of prototype.

Hs 298

Air-to-air remote-controlled missile, 2.03 meters long and with an operational range of 8 kilometers. It could have been an excellent anti-aircraft weapon, but it could not be perfectioned before the end of the war.

Secret weapons of the Third Reich

Schmetterling (Butterfly)

During the development of the Henschel series of remote-controlled weapons, starting from a model of Hs 293, it was created the anti-aircraft missile Schmetterling, improperly called V-3 by some people. Produced by Henschel in Breslau following project from Professor Wagner, the Schmetterling, named Hs 117, was a remote-controlled device intended for anti-aircraft usage. With a weight of 450 kg, it had an operational range of 40 kilometers and was able to fly at a maximum speed of 840 km/h, being notable its precision. However, built in about 60 exemplars, there is no evidence of its operative usage.

Secret weapons of the Third Reich

A 4

Better known as V-2 (Vergeltungswaffe, "Weapon of Revenge", number 2), this excellent artifact projected by the team of Werner von Braun could be properly called the foundation of all the rockets of the modern Space Age. Its parts, due to reasons of economy and safety, were produced by several factories, among them the Zeppelin Luftschiffbau and the Ernst Heinkel G.A.. The missile, 14.03 meters long, had a diamater of 1.65 meters, weighed 12.5 tonnes (from which 70 percent was the fuel) and could deliver to a distance of 400 kilometers a warhead with 975 kg of explosive. Its maximum speed was 5470 km/h (equivalent to 1520 m/s). It was launched from a vertical platform, and it was equipped with an autonomous navigational system. Its definitive version was produced in more than 5000 exemplars.

Secret weapons of the Third Reich

Fi 103

Named V-1, this weapon was developed almost simultaneously with the V-2. It was a little aircraft without pilot propelled by an Argus 014 pulse-jet engine able of 335 kg of thrust. Launching was effectuated from an inclined railing ramp, and sustentation speed was reached through the impulse given by a steam catapult. The V-1 had 8.24 meters in length with a winspan of 5.30 meters and a diameter of 81.5 centimeters. Its operative altitude was about 3000 meters and it was able to carry a 900 kg warhead to a maximum distance of 370 kilometers, flying at a maximumj speed of 656 km/h. The guide system consisted of a simple gyroscopic device to keep the trajectory. After a provided distance, the flow of fuel to the engine would be interrupted, and the bomb would start to fall in a dive, hopefully towards the target location.

Built by the Gerhardt Fieseler Werke GmbH, it was considered the competition for the V-2 because being cheaper and faster to build. However, despite the V-2 had a high cost and long production time, it was practically invulnerable to enemy anti-aircraft artillery and fighter aircraft due to its high speed, and it was much more precise as well. Based on this data, Hitler decided to continue the production of both weapons, employing one or the other according to necessities. The V-1 was studied as well, according to project Reichenberger, in a piloted version. This type, built in few tens of exemplars, was not intended for suicidal misions, but for testing bench to solve problems relative to the control of the bomb during flight. Towards the end of the war, to reach specific targets located at large distances, some V-1 were launched in flight from He 111 bombers, specially adapted for that purpose.

Secret weapons of the Third Reich

Wasserfall (Waterfall)

This interesting anti-aircraft missile was directly derived from the V-2, of which it was a reduced size version. Being 8 meters long, it could carry a 300 kg warhead to a maximum distance of 27 kilometers, flying at a speed of 2900 km/h. The guide system was of mixed type, remote control by radar in the phase of approaching the target, and passive autoguide, through a sensor capable of detecting the infrared emissions of the engine exhausts of enemy aircraft, during the final stage of the trajectory. The Wasserfall was destined to operate against the large formations of bombers that were decimating Germany, and for such was equipped with a proximity fuze. It could have been a very dangerous weapon, but the course of the war put an end to the experiments in the beginning of 1945. It is known that the technicians had achieved the desired results only in a 25 percent of the missiles, which was a relatively successful percentage considering the complexity of the instrumental.

Secret weapons of the Third Reich

Taifun (Typhoon)

This small anti-aircraft rocket, 1.80 meters long, was used to create an effective barrier of fire in sectors that should be crossed by the enemy formations. It was not equipped with any guide or navigational system. Capable of flying at 4500 km/h, it was equipped with a proximity fuze.

Secret weapons of the Third Reich

A 9/A 10

This gigantic project, realized at the stage of prototype at the end of the war, formed part of the series of missiles A, to which belonged the A 4 (V-2). It was fortunate for the United States that this project were not finished in time, because if it had worked, and the evidences indicated this as being probable, its target would have been New York. This was a two-phase colossal missile, having 30 meters in length. The first phase was an A 10 missile, of new conception; actually it was a booster that should detach from the second phase after 180 kilometers of travel. The second phase was an A 9, this is, a notably enhanced A 4, fitted with very pronounced fins that reached almost the mid of the fuselage. In the summit of the trajectory, when the first phase was detached, the A 9 would start a long descent, increasing progressively its speed until reaching the target more than 5000 kilometers afar. The guide system was apparently of inertial navigation type, similar in principle as the one used in modern nuclear submarines.

Secret weapons of the Third Reich

Resume of Third Reich secret weapons

Enzian: surface-to-air, not operative

Rheintochter: surface-to-air, not operative

Rheinbote: surface-to-surface, operative

Feuerlilie: surface-to-air, not operative

Hs 293: air-to-surface, operative

Hs 294: air-to-surface, anti-ship, not operative

Hs 295: air-to-surface, anti-ship, not operative

Hs 296: air-to-surface, not operative

Hs 298: air-to-air, not operative

Schmetterling: surface-to-air, probably not operative

A 4: surface-to-surface, operative

Fi 103: surface-to-surface, operative; air-to-surface, operative

Wasserfall: surface-to-air, not operative

Taifun: surface-to-air, operative

A 9/A 10: surface-to-surface, not operative

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


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-09-30

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