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The early precision flying bombs and missiles

18 March 2011

The early precision flying bombs and missiles

The exhibits at the Udvar-Hazy Center are amazing and I was stunned at my ignorance when I went to the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar and saw the WW II missiles and flying bombs the Luftwaffe had developed during WW II.  Sure, I knew of the manned V-1 missiles as well as the Mistel composite aircraft and Operation Aphrodite where pilots took off and later parachuted from what would then be a remotely piloted airplane — but all of these were guided missiles or a sort and the remote ancestors of them as well as precision guided munitions (i.e., smart bombs). What I saw that day were the direct ancestors of today’s missiles and smart bombs and was amazed at how far back in history these vehicles came from as I recall reading about them employed in the Vietnam War for the first practical time. No doubt I had been a victim of product advertising. Several of the exhibits of these early precision guided bombs and missiles I saw that day are described below:

The Ruhrstahl Fritx X-1 was a precision guided munition guided by radio control from the launching aircraft. The operator viewed the trajectory of the bomb with the help of a flare burning in the weapon’s tail assembly. Keeping the Fritz X-1 and the target in view simultaneously meant the mother ship had to fly a steady and predictable pattern — not a recommended practice in combat. Nonetheless, success was achieved with this system against Italian naval vessels intending  to surrender to the Allies.

The Ruhrstahl Fritx X-1 precision guided munition —photo by Joe May

Next was the Henschel Flugzeugwerke Hs 117 Schmetterling (Butterfly) which was an exotic antiaircraft missile design characterized by swept back wings, rocket motors and an asymmetric nose having a warhead projection and an electrical generator impeller projection. It was radio controlled by a ground based operator and launched with solid rocket booster motors as well as the liquid fuel rocket motor.

The Henschel Flugzeugwerke Hs 117 Schmetterling antiaircraft missile —photo by Joe May

Then I saw the Henschel Flugzeugwerke Hs 293 precision guided munition with a rocket assisted boost which made it fast and longer ranged than a simple gravity bomb. It was successfully employed against the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean Sea as well as the Bay of Biscay during WW II.

The Henschel Flugzeugwerke Hs 293 — photo by Joe May

Lastly, for this post as there are more examples at the Udvar-Hazy Center, is the Rheinmetall-Borsig Rheintochter R I — “Rheintochter” translates to “Rhine Maiden” from German. This two stage missile was one of the largest solid rocket powered missiles of WW II. Although large it was fueled by low impulse fuel and was not successful due to its inability to achieve sufficient altitudes.

The Rheinmetall-Borsig Rheintochter R I — photo by Joe May

Rheinmetall-Borsig Rheintochter R I — photo by Joe May

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Koldo permalink
    19 March 2011 02:11

    German technology and American looting, or stealing of technology to advance and forbid the original developers country to make research. Now you know who the Masters were, and not the stories shown in THC or Discovery Channel for example.

    • warbird permalink
      27 March 2011 06:44

      If the tables were turned I’m sure that the same “looting or stealing” would occur. The winners write the history to suite themselves.

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