Military Review

Electronic warfare. "War of the Magi". Part of 1

After serious casualties on the Luftwaffe during the British daytime bombings, Hitler ordered a night war. This was the beginning of a new phase of the air battle for Britain, which Churchill called the “war of the magicians.” In particular, he noted the means that the British used to neutralize the radio navigation equipment of German aircraft. Churchill wrote:
“It was a secret war, whose battles, whether victories or defeats, remained unknown to the public, and even now it is only slightly understood by those who do not belong to a narrow scientific circle of technical specialists. If British science were not better than German, and if these strange, sinister means were used in the battle for survival, we could almost certainly be defeated, crushed and destroyed. ”

Night Luftwaffe bombers used to raid England

For a better understanding of how this secret war between Germany and Great Britain was prepared, it is necessary to go back several years and see how the Germans developed radio navigation systems. The first was the Lorenz company, which back in 1930 developed a system designed to land aircraft in poor visibility conditions and at night. The novelty was named Lorenzbake. It was the first course glide system based on the principle of beam navigation. The main element of Lorenzbake was a radio transmitter operating at 33,33 MHz and located at the end of the runway. The receiving equipment installed on the aircraft detected a ground signal at a distance of up to 30 km from the airfield. The principle was quite simple - if the plane was to the left of the runway, then a number of Morse code dots could be heard in the pilot's headphones, and if to the right, then a series of dashes. As soon as the car was on the right course, a continuous signal sounded in the headphones. In addition, the Lorenzbake system provided for two radio beacon transmitters, which were installed at a distance of 300 and 3000 m from the start of the runway. They broadcast the signals vertically upward, which allowed the pilot to estimate the distance to the airfield while flying over them and begin to descend. Over time, visual indicators appeared on the dashboard of German aircraft, allowing the pilot to get rid of the constant listening to the radio broadcast. The system turned out to be so successful that it found application in civil aviation, and later spread to many European airports, including the UK. Lorenzbake began to be transferred to military rails in 1933, when the idea came to use radio navigation developments to increase the accuracy of night bombing.

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Luftwaffe bomber targeting principle at Coventry

Thus was born the famous X-Gerate system, which consisted of several Lorenz emitters, of which one emitted the main radionavigation beam, while others intersected it at specific locations in front of the bombing point. The planes were even equipped with automatic deadly cargo discharge equipment over the airstrike point. For the pre-war period, X-Gerate allowed planes to deliver night bombing with incredible accuracy. Already during the war, German bombers on the way to Coventry from the French Vonnes crossed several radionavigation rays under the names Rhein, Oder and Elba. Their intersections with the main driving beam, named after the river Weser, were mapped in advance to the navigator's map, which allowed for accurate positioning above night England. Through 5 km of flight, after crossing the last Elbe checkpoint, the German armada approached the target and automatically dropped its cargo on the center of the peaceful sleeping city. Recall that the British government knew in advance about the course of this action from Enigma decoders, but in order to preserve the ultra-secrecy, no measures were taken to save Coventry. Such precision targeting German bombers became possible after the Nazis occupied France and Belgium, on whose coasts were emitters. Their mutual arrangement allowed crossing the navigation rays over Britain almost at right angles, which increased the accuracy.

The fact that Germany is working intensively on an electronic system based on radioluchs was learned in Britain in 1938, when a secret folder was presented to the English naval attache in Oslo. Sources claim that he gave her a "prudent scientist" who did not want to give Germany priority in such sophisticated weapons. In this folder, in addition to information about X-Gerate, there was information about the nature of work in Peenemünde, magnetic mines, jet bombs, and more about a lot of high-tech. In Britain, at first they were taken aback by such a flow of secret data and did not particularly trust the contents of the folder - there was a high probability that the Germans slipped misinformation. Churchill put the point, who said: "If these facts are true, then this is a mortal danger." As a result, a committee of scientists was set up in Britain who began to implement the achievements of applied electronics in the military sphere. It is from this committee that all means of radio-electronic suppression of German navigation will be born. But the Hitlerite scientists were not idle - they understood perfectly that X-Gerate has a number of shortcomings. First of all, night bombers had to fly for a long time along a leading radio beam in a straight line, which inevitably led to frequent attacks by British fighters. In addition, the system was quite complicated for pilots and operators, which made it necessary to lose precious time for training bomber crews.

Electronic warfare. "War of the Magi". Part of 1

Avro Anson Radio Scout

The British first encountered the German 21 electronic radio navigation system on June 1940, when the pilot of Avro Anson, performing a standard radio reconnaissance patrol, heard something new in his headphones. It was a sequence of very clean and distinct points of Morse code, after which he soon heard a continuous signal. After a few tens of seconds, the pilot had already heard the dash sequence. So the German radio beam was directed by bomber aircraft to the cities of England. In response, British scientists have proposed a method of counteraction based on the continuous emission of noise in the X-Gerate radio band. It is noteworthy that for this unusual purpose the medical thermocoagulation apparatus, with which the hospital in London was equipped, perfectly suited. The device created electrical discharges that prevented enemy aircraft from receiving navigation signals. The second option was a microphone located near the rotating screw, which made it possible to transmit such noise at X-Gerate frequencies (200-900 kHz). The most advanced system was Meacon, the receiver and transmitter of which were located in the south of England at a distance of 6 km from each other. The receiver was responsible for intercepting the signal from X-Gerate, transmitting it to the transmitter, which immediately relayed it with a large signal gain. As a result, the German planes caught two signals at once - one of their own, which constantly weakened, and the second strong, but false. The automatic system, of course, was guided by a more powerful course beam, which took it away in a completely different direction. Many German "bombers" dumped their cargo into a clean field, and after using up their supply of kerosene, they were forced to board British airfields.

U-88-5, which the British landed with the whole crew on their airfield at night

Modern scale model of the Knickebein emitter

The response of the German military machine to such British tricks was the Knickebein system (Curved leg), which got its name from the specific shape of the antenna-emitter. The actual difference from X-Gerate from Knickebein was that only two transmitters were used, which intersected only at the bombing point. The advantage of the “curve of the foot” was greater accuracy, since the sector of the continuous signal was only 3 degrees. X-Gerate and Knickebein were obviously used by the Germans for a long time in parallel.

Knickebein FuG-28a Signal Receiver

Bombing at night with Knickebein could be done with an error of no more than 1 km. But the British on the intelligence channels, as well as on materials from the downed bomber were able to quickly respond and created their own Aspirin. At the very beginning of the Knickebein system, the specialized Avro Anson aircraft plied the skies of Britain in search of Knickebein's narrowly focused beams and, as soon as they were fixed, the relay stations entered the scene. They selectively re-emitted a dot or a dash at greater power, which deflected the route of the bombers from the original one and again led them to the fields. The British also learned to fix the point of intersection of the rays of the Germans' radionavigation system and quickly raised fighters into the air to intercept. This whole set of measures allowed the British to withstand the second part of the Luftwaffe operation, connected with the night bombardments of England. But the electronic warfare did not end there, but only became more sophisticated.

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  1. Same lech
    Same lech 25 December 2018 05: 37
    There is an interesting British film, Battle for Britain ... Goering's air raids on Britain are colorfully shown.
    1. Narak-zempo
      Narak-zempo 25 December 2018 11: 15
      Yes, they only found the Heinkels for filming, but no Messerschmitts, they repainted the P-40.
  2. Dimas84
    Dimas84 25 December 2018 05: 51
    In addition, the Lorenzbake system provided two beacon radio transmitters, which were installed at a distance of 300 and 3000 m from the start of GDP.
    1. thinker
      thinker 25 December 2018 07: 02
      Usually done like this -
      1. just exp
        just exp 25 December 2018 07: 46
        In your screenshot, the word ashpyka is also incorrectly written.
  3. rocket757
    rocket757 25 December 2018 07: 22
    In the destruction of their opponents, people show devilish ingenuity!
    In the end, before they were invented, we can destroy humanity once and for all.
    Where to go further.
    1. Narak-zempo
      Narak-zempo 25 December 2018 11: 24
      Quote: rocket757
      In the destruction of their opponents, people show devilish ingenuity!

      So after all, a holy cause. They are strangers. And they consume resources that would be useful to their own. And already therefore barbarians and nonhumans, burn them!
      1. rocket757
        rocket757 25 December 2018 11: 31
        Quote: Narak-zempo
        barbarians and nonhumans burn them

        At the time of bows, ballistae, the maximum "Greek fire", you could just attack and destroy! Fight and disperse ...
        Now all these and other experiments do not look very good! After all, you can even achieve global, final destruction!
        Any contract, battle rules and other restrictions are swept away at a time! FEARFULLY!
        1. Narak-zempo
          Narak-zempo 25 December 2018 13: 49
          So the brains are the same as in the days of stone axes.
          1. rocket757
            rocket757 25 December 2018 14: 20
            We can have the same brains, but the danger is much greater! Lack of proper enlightenment can still play a very unpleasant "joke" with humanity, the last one!
  4. svp67
    svp67 25 December 2018 08: 49
    So the German radio beam was crossed for guidance of bomber aircraft in the cities of England.
    Yes, there were several "radio beams", but not less than two, and the point of their intersection was considered the bombing point, all ingenious is simple.
  5. ccsr
    ccsr 25 December 2018 13: 39
    If British science were not better than German

    Churchill clearly lied - it was German science at that time that gave so many new discoveries and inventions that in many respects the subsequent development of equipment and weapons without the achievement of German scientists is simply unthinkable. I will not list what it expressed, but Werner von Braun did more for the development of rocketry than all English scientists combined.
  6. Decimam
    Decimam 25 December 2018 16: 15
    "Recall that the British government knew about the course of this action in advance from Enigma's decryptions, but in order to maintain ultra-secrecy, no measures were taken to save Coventry."
    It would be interesting to know the source of this information. British physicist Reginald Victor Jones, who led the work on counteracting German guidance systems, says in his memoirs that the X-Gerät counteraction system was used for the first time to prevent Coventry from raiding, but the incorrect definition (personally, Jones error) of the parameters did not allow to disrupt plaque.
    1. Evgeny Fedorov
      25 December 2018 16: 46
      Good afternoon! Jones is either disingenuous, or was not aware of Operation Ultra, during which Churchill was aware of the impending bombing of Coventry from Bletchley Park experts who successfully decoded Enigma's radio messages. But the Prime Minister decided not to do anything, as he was afraid that the Germans would guess about the success of the British decryption service.
      I suggest to get acquainted with the sources in a series of articles. "Operation Ultra, or The Story of How the Poles and the British Hacked Enigma"
      1. Decimam
        Decimam 25 December 2018 20: 42
        There is not a single source link in your article series. Meanwhile, in the literature on Coventry Blitz, Moonlight Sonata, it is indicated that in the case of Coventry, the "Bromides" countermeasure system was used, but it turned out to be ineffective. The source of information that Churchill donated to Coventry is a book by Frederick Winterbotham (I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the translation) in "Ultra" Secret "(1974). But this version has never been confirmed anywhere.
        1. Evgeny Fedorov
          25 December 2018 21: 03
          Yes indeed. Here are the sources on Operation Ultra: - Block J, Fitzgerald P., Covert Operations by British Intelligence. - A. Jodl. War with Russia is such a war, where you know how to start, but you don't know how it will end // Security Service, No. 1-2, 1995. - D. Kahn. War of codes and ciphers. - Liner L. The Pursuit of Enigma. - Steinberg M. "Ultra" against "Enigma" // Independent Military Review, No. 40, 2004. - Winterbotham F. Operation "Ultra", 1978.
        2. ccsr
          ccsr 25 December 2018 21: 36
          Quote: Decimam
          But no one has ever confirmed this version anywhere.

          Very accurate remark.
          That is why I would like to know where the legs of this historical "fact" grow from - either the British really hid their deciphering capabilities, or they simply slipped the raid and came up with a beautiful version. I hope the author of the article will enlighten us in this.
          1. Decimam
            Decimam 25 December 2018 23: 00
            Let's think logically and consider the issue in more detail. On November 14, the Germans conduct a raid as part of the Coventry Blitz. According to all reports, except for the Winterbotham legend, the British used the Bromides countermeasures system, but the lack of precise settings reduced the effectiveness to zero. According to Winterbotham, Coventry was sacrificed for secrecy. Five days later, on November 19, the Germans carried out a raid on Birmingham as part of the Birmingham Blitz. Both the first and the second were available from the Enigma transcripts. But in Birmingham, the British boldly include a refined countermeasure system, significantly reducing the effectiveness of the bombing. The question is - why was there a secret in Coventry in order to reveal itself in Birmingham in five days?