|V-1 Rocket at a launch site|
Designed by the Fieseler company, the Fieseler Fi 103/FZG-76, better known as the V-1 and "Buzz Bomb", also colloquially known in Britain as the "Doodlebug", was a liquid-fueled un-manned, un-guided early flying bomb that could carry a 1,800-lb warhead to a range of 150 miles. It is considered to be the predecessor of the cruise missile. The V-1 was developed for the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War. During initial development it was known by the codename "Cherry Stone". The first of the so-called Vergeltungswaffen (Retaliation) series, designed for the terror bombing of London, the V-1 was initially fired from a series of fixed "ski" launch sites along the French (Pas-de-Calais) and Dutch coasts. There were also launch sites in Denmark and Germany. However, faced with a strong bomber and fighter-bomber offensive against the V-1 launch sites, the Germans were forced into creating mobile launch sites and launching some from Heinkel 111 bombers.
Design of the weapon was overseen by Robert Lusser of Fieseler and Fritz Gosslau of the Argus Engine Works. Refining the earlier work of Paul Schmidt, Gosslau designed a pulse jet engine consisting of few moving parts, operated by air entering into the intake where it was mixed with fuel and ignited by spark plugs. The combustion of the mixture forced sets of intake shutters closed, producing a burst of thrust out the exhaust. The shutters then opened again in the airflow to repeat the process. This occurred around fifty times a second and gave the engine its distinctive "buzz" sound. A further advantage to the pulse jet design was that it could operate on low-grade fuel.
Gosslau's engine was mounted above a simple fuselage which possessed short, stubby wings. Designed by Lusser, the airframe was originally constructed entirely of welded sheet steel. In production, plywood was substituted for constructing the wings. The flying bomb was directed to its target through the use of a simple guidance system which relied on gyroscopes for stability, a magnetic compass for heading, and a barometric altimeter for altitude control. A vane anemometer on the nose drove a counter which determined when the target area was reached and triggered a mechanism to cause the bomb to dive. Once in a dive, the V-1 became silent, and people who had been listening to the buzz braced for impact, not knowing where it would land, adding to the terror. While V-1 production was spread across Germany, many were built by slave-labor at the notorious underground "Mittelwerk" plant near Nordhausen.
The first V-1 was launched at London on 13 June 1944, prompted by the successful Allied landing in Europe on 6 June. At its peak, an average of 190 V-1s were fired at southeast England per day. The British quickly became expert at spotting and shooting them down and only about 25% of the V-1s hit their target. They established defensive zones: first were the fighters (Mosquitoes, Spitfires and Typhoons) over the English channel, then came a thick zone of heavy Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns equipped with the first radar proximity fuses, then a zone of light AA guns and rocket projectors and finally barrage balloons. The attacks on England decreased in number as launch sites were overrun, until October 1944, when the last V-1 site in range of Britain was taken by Allied forces. At this point, the targets of choice switched to Antwerp, the main Allied port, and other key targets in the Low Countries.
Over 30,000 V-1s were produced during the war with around 9,521 fired at targets in Britain. Of these only 2,419 reached London killing 6,184 people and injuring 17,981. Antwerp, a popular target, was hit by 2,448 between October 1944 and March 1945. A total of around 9,000 were fired at targets in Continental Europe. Overall, the V-1 was largely a terror weapon that had little impact on the outcome of the war.
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