German Rockets


Mockup of V-1

The V-1, also know as the Fieseler Fi-103, was not really a rocket. It was a jet powered cruise missile. It was the first of the "V" weapons. The "V" stood for "Vergeltungswaffen", roughly meaning "weapons of vengeance" or "weapons of retaliation". Because of the distinctive sound produced by the V-1, the Allies gave it the nickname of "buzz bomb".

The specifications for the V-1 are difficult to determine with any accuracy. The issue becomes clouded because both the United States and Russia later produced their own versions of the V-1. In the United States, the weapon was referred to as the JB-2 ("jet bomb"). Here are the specs as best as we have been able to determine.

Engine: Argus pulse jet, 600 lbs of thrust
Fuel: 150 gallons low-grade gasoline
Length: 26 feet, 3 inches
Wingspan: 18 feet, 9 inches
Weight: 4806 lbs (2180 kg) fully fueled
Range: 150-200 miles
Speed: 360-400 mph
Altitude: 2000-4000 feet
Payload: 1874 lb (850 kg) war head

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This was designed as a manned version of the V-1. It was similar to the Japanese kamikaze concept in that it was not intended to be recovered. The V-1e was about 27 feet long and included a cockpit and instrumentation. It was flown several times by German test pilot Hanna Reitsch. Fortunately, it was never deployed.

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V-2 (A-4)

V-2 launch site

The V-2 was developed under the designation of A-4. Basic design and wind tunnel testing for the V-2 was done in 1936 and 1937. Some components were in production and an early test version (A-5) launched by 1939. Supervised by Wernher von Braun, the first V-2's were ready for launch in the spring of 1942.

The first launch occurred on June 13, 1942. The rocket went out of control and crashed. A second launch on August 16, 1942 also crashed, but not before being the first guided missile to exceed the speed of sound. The third launch on October 3, 1942, was a complete success reaching an altitude of 50 miles and a range of 120 miles.

Research continued at Peenemunde, but production was removed to Mittelwerk after an Allied bombing of Peenemunde on August 17, 1943.

The first use of the V-2 in war was on September 6, 1944, when two missiles were launched toward Paris. No damage was incurred. Attacks on England began on September 8, 1944, and continued until March 27, 1945.

In total, about 1,100 V-2 missiles reached England, killing about 2,800 people and injuring 6,500 more.

Engine: Model 39 rocket motor, 60,000 lbs of thrust, 68 second burn time
Fuel: liquid oxygen and a combination of 75% alcohol and 25% water
Length: 46 feet
Diameter: 5 feet, 6 inches
Finspan: 12 feet
Weight: 27,000 lbs fully fueled
Range: 150-200 miles
Speed: 3400-4100 mph
Altitude: 180-190 miles (some may have flown as far as 220 miles)
Payload: 2000 lb war head

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This was a winged version of the V-2. The wings were intended to increase the glide time (and hence, the range) of the V-2. Two prototypes were launched, the second becoming the first winged vehicle to exceed the speed of sound on January 24, 1945. Work on the A-4b served as a cover for work on the A-9, which was prohibited after 1943. The A-4b missiles never went into production.

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This vehicle was never built. It would have been the same as the V-2 except the fuel would have been nitric-sulfuric acid as an oxidizer and vinyl isobutyl ether mixed with aniline as the fuel. These were storable liquids and would have made the V-2 faster and easier to launch.

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Other Concept Weapons

A-7: Winged missile based upon the A-5 prototype. This was intended as a research vehicle only

A-8: Winged version of the A-6, never built.

A-9: Similar in concept to the A-4b. Because of the limited guidance capabilities at the time, the A-9 would have been piloted. One version involved swept wings to provide for better supersonic lift when used as the second stage of the A9/A10. The final phase of flight would have been as a glider (to increase range). In this mode, it would have been slower and easier to intercept and thus was never built or tested.

A-10: Would have been the first stage of a two stage missile with the A-9 as the second stage. Would have produced 400,000 pounds of thrust and power by nitric acid and diesel oil. The A-9/A-10 combination could have carried a 2000 payload to a distance of 2,500 miles. This could have been the first intermediate range missile.

A-11: First stage of a three stage missile (A-10 second, A-9 third) capable of putting a manned A-9 into space.

A-12: A 2.5 million pound thrust first stage which could have carried a 60,000 payload into space using an A-11 second stage and an A-10 third stage.

Wind tunnel model of the Sanger bomber
Wind tunnel mock-up

Antipodal Bomber: A rail launched bomber with an engine capable of 220,000 pounds of thrust and skipping along on the atmosphere as a stone skips on the surface of a pond. The Antipodal Bomber could have delivered a 12,000 payload from Germany to New York in about 80 minutes.

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