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The second cruise missile — the Fieseler Fi 103 (V-1)

4 May 2011

The second cruise missile — the Fieseler Fi 103 (V-1)

Fieseler Fi 103 (V-1) at the National Air & Space Museum on the National Mall — photo by Joe May

As posted before* during WW I the Kettering aerial torpedo — nicknamed the “Kettering Bug” — was developed but not placed into use. As well all know the V-1 was placed into use during WW II. Both weapons are more accurately described as aerial torpedos since they followed a compass course upon launch and were gyroscopically stabilized to maintain horizontal flight.

V-1 at the Fantasy of Flight Aircraft Collection — photo by Joe May

Thousands were launched against Great Britain and, later, Belgium as the launching sites were pushed inland after the D-Day invasion which liberated Europe.

Sheet metal fuselage and plywood wings of the V-1 — photo by Joe May

I don’t have reference material regarding the V-1, nor do the local libraries, but a Wikipedia article seems to be excellent and thorough article which can be read here.  It was a simple machine and cleverly designed to be so. Having no crew and a simple engine it was difficult to shoot down as there were few critical areas to hit. Great Britain developed a zone defensive strategy along with a disinformation effort. Combined with mechanical failures the hit rate was reduced to 25% although that implies accurate targeting — accuracy was such that the V-1 hit a target area as opposed to a specific target. V-1 took a terrible toll nonetheless and the final solution was to deny the V-1 launching sites.

Detail of the V-1s tail section — photo by Joe May

As happened often in WW II, the Luftwaffe led the way in terms of aeronautical advancement and the V-1 is the ancestor to modern day cruise missiles. The Allies made quick use of this research with one result being the U.S. Navy’s almost direct copy of the V-1 with identical performance numbers— the Republic-Ford JB-2 Loon.

The Republic-Ford JB-2 Loon at the National Air & Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center — photo by Joe May

Research resulting from developing and flying the Loon soon led to the Chance-Vought SSM-N-8 Regulus and Martin MGM-1 Matador guided cruise missiles which could be corrected for course while in flight.

A more dramatic perspective of the Loon missile — photo by Joe May

3 Comments leave one →
  1. shortfinals permalink
    4 May 2011 09:42

    Thank you for some excellent photographs – I had not seen the Loon before!

    One aside – the Luftwaffe got into the act, as the V1 launching sites on the Channel Coast were over-run by the advancing Allied armies. The, by then, obsolete He 111 bomber (in its H-22 version) was modified to carry a single V1 under the starboard wing, and these were launched by KG3 and KG53 (from low-level) over the North Sea, in the general direction of Britain!

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      4 May 2011 15:29

      An interesting note about the He 111. I wonder how difficult for the pilot it was to take off with the asymmetric load? It must have been a sight to see upon launch, as well. The Luftwaffe had a few other air to ground missiles that were employed in WW II, too. If I recall, in the area of the Mediterranean Sea. One cannot miss the canary yellow paint on the Loon!


  1. The second cruise missile — the Fieseler Fi 103 (V-1) (via Travel for Aircraft) « Calgary Recreational and Ultralight Flying Club (CRUFC)

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