Military Review

Missile Wasserfall: Hitler's Lost Chance

A quarter of a century after the end of the Second World War, former Minister of Arms of Germany Albert Speer called one of his decisions taken during his work as minister a grave mistake. It was about choosing between two missiles - the ballistic V-2 and the anti-aircraft Vasserf.

According to Speer, “we should have thrown all our forces and means at the production of ground-to-air missiles. From the homing missile - the length of the 8 m, the weight of the combat charge is about 300 kg, the ceiling height of the 15 000 m - almost no enemy bomber could escape. ” And of course, it's a miracleweapon could seriously affect the course of the war - in any case, Speer writes without a shadow of a doubt that "already in the spring of 1944, it was possible to reliably protect our industrial facilities from air raids."

Is it so? Did Hitler (and Speer) really have a chance? To answer this question, we will have to go back a little.

The younger heir to the beggar

Hardly anyone of the readers had heard of the Wehrmacht missile range at Peenemünde. A team of engineers working there under the leadership of Colonel (later Major General) Walter Dornberger succeeded in many technical wonders. However, few people know that the rocket creativity of Dornberger, von Braun and their team for a long time did not enjoy the favor of the leaders. Hitler, always wary of technical innovations, after the start of the war, believed that it would be fast and there would be enough ready-made weapons for it. Prospective developments that implied years of operation were deleted from the list of priorities. With Peenemünde, this happened in the spring of 1940. The resources, which were scarce in wartime, instantly became inaccessible, and the mobilized employees left for the Wehrmacht.

Hitler’s position was not affected even by a personal visit at the beginning of 1939 of the year to Kum-mersdorf Spoligon, which was used by missilemen before Peenemünde], during which Dornberger and von Braun went all out to interest the Fuhrer in their developments. But, quoting Dornberger’s memoirs, “the leader of the German people was walking alongside, looking straight ahead and not saying a word.” So I left, leaving the landfill owners in mild confusion.

At that moment, the design team was working on two experimental "units" - A-3 and A-5. None of them has been designed for military use; first it was necessary to work out the liquid jet engine, control systems and many other components of the "weapon of retaliation". The future V-2 was already an “4 unit”, but all work on it was halted to clarify fundamentally important aspects.

By the beginning of 1943, Dornberger achieved reception from Speer, at which he heard that "the Fuhrer cannot yet give your project the highest priority status."

By that time, the Wasserfall anti-aircraft missile existed only on the drawings, and its individual components on test benches. Bringing the design to mind and production took time and effort.

The return of the highest priority was only 7 July 1943 of the year. In the blink of an eye, almost all problems with resources and labor were solved. But both of them did not stand out for the needs of the Reich air defense. Hitler was shown a film about the launch of A-4, the future V-2, a rocket capable of reaching England, where Luftwaffe bombers no longer reached. What kind of father of the nation will refuse to be able to reach the enemy, albeit symbolically? Then it turned out that Scheer was scoring] "our most expensive project was at the same time the most meaningless," but at that moment it was still quite far from summing up. The Fuhrer, who was carried away by pleasant prospects, even demanded to increase the charge of the A-4 to 10 T, and Dornberger and von Braun had some difficulty in convincing him that such a bonus would require the development of a completely new rocket.

Leaders of nations love offensive weapons - remember, with what persistence Hitler demanded the release of Me-262 in the bomber version. It seems unlikely that in the summer of 1943, Speer would have been able to seduce the Fuhrer with an anti-aircraft missile instead of a ballistic missile, even if he had such a desire. In the meantime, the "anti-aircraft" development existed as a poor relative in a poor family.

Wasserfall itself

A formal order for the development of an anti-aircraft missile controlled from the ground was issued at the end of 1942, but in fact work began on it much earlier. It is impossible to name the exact date: hardly anyone, except the creators themselves, knew when and what ideas came to their minds. In addition, the first designer of "You-Surfal" Dr. Walter Thiel died during a British raid on Peenemünde on the night from 16 to 17 in August 1943 of the year.

Structurally, Wasserfall was a version of the rocket A-4 (V-2), approximately halved and equipped with an additional four arrow-shaped "wings" approximately in the middle of the body. As the project progressed, the upper stabilizers changed shape and placement: on some versions of the rocket, they are located in the same plane as the lower ones, and on others they are rotated 45 °. At least three versions embodied in metal are known, having the designations Wl, W-5 and W-10. The last of them is recognized by most sources as almost ready for mass production, but this is probably worth a doubt. According to the recollections of participants in the post-war Soviet tests, the German wonder-technology in many cases behaved not so hot, trying to fly away from the launch pad somewhere sideways.

An anti-aircraft missile (as opposed to a ballistic missile) should be ready to launch at any time, and therefore, always fueled. Liquid oxygen, used as an oxidizing agent in a V-2 engine, was categorically not in compliance with this requirement - it evaporates too quickly even from hermetically sealed containers. In addition, in the Third Reich, he was deficient. The oxidant “Salbay” used in “Wasserfale” was a mixture of nitric [90%) and sulfuric [10%) acids. Several mixtures could be used as the actual fuel:
Sol "- rocket fuel based on vinyl or" Tonka "- based on xylidines. The fuel and oxidizer were fed into the combustion chamber by displacing them from tanks with compressed nitrogen, under pressure around 250 atm. Note -1 - the very first rocket of Werner von Braun, which took off in the air a dozen years before the events described.
The supply of nitrogen was started by undermining a special igniter that opened access to the fuel tanks for the compressed gas. From this point on, the launch of the rocket was inevitable — even if the target turned, before reaching the firing line.

The main problem of the anti-aircraft missile was, oddly enough, it sounds like the need to hit a target. Recall that in those days there were no computers in the modern sense of this
In the Americans successfully used German developments. The photo shows the first test launch of the Hermes A1 16 rocket on April 1946, White Sands test site, New Mexico. The Hermes A1 rocket was an American replica, built on the base of Wasserfall W10 and V-2 by General Electric

Two radar stations were used for control, one tracked the target, the second - the rocket itself. The operator combined two marks on the radar manually, using a special joystick, the “joystick”. True, even these mechanisms did not go beyond the laboratory development.
words, and electronics in general. The first missile control systems implied that the operator sitting on the command gear directs the missile visually. The disadvantages of this approach have become apparent even before the readiness of the rocket itself. The trial launch of A-4 with this control system in June 1944 of the year is indicative - the ground operator "lost" a rocket in the clouds, after which it flew to Sweden, causing a diplomatic scandal.

Practically applicable and more or less developed methods of targeting were two. In the first case, the onboard transponder of the missile transmitted a signal to the Rheinland coordinate determinant, which calculated the azimuth and the aiming angle. This information was compared with the coordinates of the rocket according to the ground-based radar, after which the corresponding commands were sent to the governing bodies of the rocket.

In another case, two radars were used for control, one of which tracked the target, and the second - the rocket itself. The operator saw on the screen two marks that were required to be combined using a device called the "joystick" - a kind of joystick. The processing of data and the calculation of the required commands were carried out by Siemens computing devices - almost computers. This method of guidance was assumed as the main one. However, according to Dornberger, "even these mechanisms have not gone beyond the stage of laboratory models, although the latter of them turned out to be quite efficient."

Different sources cite various data on the Wasserfall missile tests, but by somewhat averaging the information, it can be assumed that the Germans managed to make about fifty test launches, of which about a dozen were considered successful - in the sense that the rocket took off and headed approximately in the right direction.

The plans of the German command envisaged the deployment of two hundred anti-aircraft missile batteries in 1945, but it was already too late. The Third Reich died under the blows of the Allies, and not having time to start another "miracle weapon" in the course.

A belated chance?

So was Speer right? Could the Wasserfolf missile change its course stories? Only the results of its combat use could give a final answer - but they are not. Nevertheless, you can try to assess the prospects.

German industry in 1944 could produce about 900 V-2 per month. Wasserfal is about eight times cheaper than V-2 in labor and materials costs. It may be thought that producing about 7000 rockets per month looks real. Much more difficult with the effectiveness of these missiles.

It is known that a quarter of a century later, during the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese air defense system launched about 6800 missiles, hitting a total of 1163 aerial targets, one shot out of six. This is with proven technologies and polished structures. One can hardly think that the Germans in 1945 would have turned out better.

In addition, even 300 rocket batteries with a range of missiles around 20 km would close only a small part of the sky over Germany. Perhaps the Allies would have had to reduce the massive bombing of large cities, but, as we know, their real military effect was small. And to protect the Wasserfaly-mi transport infrastructure of Germany would be problematic. It seems that the former Reich Minister Albert Speer was somewhat more optimistic than real conditions allowed him. However, we apparently will not know the final answer - and this is very good.

Missile Wasserfall: Hitler's Lost Chance

Paris, 1940 Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler
During the war, several dozen missile projects were developed by German designers; some were embodied in metal and even passed tests

At the beginning of 1945, Lieutenant-General Dornberger, who had attained late recognition and influence, was appointed chairman of the air defense system commission, designed to sort out the existing developments and select feasible ones. But by mid-February it became absolutely clear that none of these guided anti-aircraft missiles would have time to enter service. Competitors "Wasserfaly" could become several designs, of which we mention two. The Henschel Hs-117 company was mainly developed by the beginning of 1944, Sfirma proposed the idea in 1941, but the Goering Ministry refused. The cruise missile from the Walther LRE system (for hydrogen peroxide) was carried in 3,7 kN by carrying 250 kilograms of explosives and was induced over the radio beam. According to German data, the rocket was successfully tested, but we could not find detailed information about this.

The Messerschmitt Enzian cruise missile was based on design solutions previously used to create the Me-163 interceptor, also flying a rocket engine. The aircraft showed excellent flight data for those years, but it had a significant drawback - there was enough fuel for only a few minutes of the LRE.

During this time, the pilot had to take off, gain altitude, find a target, attack it and turn around on the opposite course - the landing was already "engineless". There was no time for an air battle, to have time to aim once. The logical decision was to free the rocket engine from the pilot and aim from the ground. Actually, all experiments with LRE in aviation around the world about this and ended, but a little later, and in 1944 the Germans still managed to experience Enzian.

The development of anti-aircraft missiles in Germany were one after another stopped at the beginning of 1945 year - for them there was no time, no conditions.
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  1. avt
    avt 23 March 2013 10: 03 New
    A good article, a review. But about the missed chance request ..... Rather, no, here it would have been a long time to bring it up. By the way, after the war, the captured Germans were busy with her, it didn’t.
  2. Stas57
    Stas57 23 March 2013 10: 14 New
    there was no chance.
    At that time, due to technical capabilities, the creation of any guided, self-guided missile ground-to-air or air-to-air is more than fantastic, and the fight against such missiles was simple and cheap, and there would be another throwing money into the pipe.
    German generals and industrialists, at one point found themselves guilty of all the flaws and miscalculations (usually years after 10-15 after the war) and quickly blamed their sins on him, becoming the most ingenious backdoor — we said, but Hitler did not listen ...
  3. avt
    avt 23 March 2013 11: 21 New
    Quote: Stas57
    At that time, due to technical capabilities, the creation of any guided, homing missiles of the ground-to-air class

    And here you are wrong. The Germans brought something pretty cool to mind. For example, a wire-bombed bomb, which they attached to the Italian fleet. Yes, and radio-controlled Henschel missiles air - land very much spoiled the blood of the allies in the Mediterranean Sea. Even amers ordered air defense cruisers with universal 152 mm guns. But it was precisely with this model that they did not succeed. This fact, after the war, was confirmed by us experimentally on captured samples.
    1. Stas57
      Stas57 23 March 2013 12: 43 New

      maybe wrong, not a strong special. I admit right away, however, judging from what I read, counteracting such weapons was much cheaper, more efficient and easier, while the creators had to solve, in addition to the missile problems themselves (preparation, quick start, and a stable controlled flight) and a number of other guidance , aiming and detonating near a high-speed high-altitude target ..
      such countermeasures were cited
      - installation of radio noise, the fight against which only got on its feet, despite the fact that normal natural interference was often a problem.
      -scattering of various materials
      -Changing the construction order, etc.
      the main thing is the presence of such a missile not to 46 or 45, but to the beginning of the mass bombing of the Allies, by the summer of 43, to Hamburg.
      At the same time, it is necessary to curtail other projects and high-voltage forces, for example, for the same radio fuses.
      Although yes, a sharp increase in losses in the air would do the trick, but it was necessary to go, IMHO nevertheless, along the standard air route
  4. pinecone
    pinecone 23 March 2013 11: 55 New
    Comparison with the Vietnam War is not entirely correct, since Wasserfall antiaircraft missiles were supposed to be used primarily to repel massive attacks by piston bombers operating in closed battle formations.
  5. Bosk
    Bosk 23 March 2013 12: 00 New
    Such a missile was purely economically disadvantageous, because, say, the same Foker could shoot a flying fortress and go through the infantry and do all this more than once, and I think the cost of one such brought missile will wake up more than one or even two Fokers.
  6. AlexMH
    AlexMH 23 March 2013 14: 18 New
    I leave aside the question of the possibility of technical refinement of the rocket at that time (it is very doubtful that the Germans would have succeeded. Only in the early 60s, despite the use of German experience and the intensive work of our and American designers, they really became reliable and effective). But was it even possible to build German air defense on the basis of such missiles? Air defense can be both zone and object, and in the case of zone defense, the continuity and density of both the radar field and the zones of destruction of SAMs are very important. Imagine that the Germans created a belt of air defense systems on the border of the Reich. Its density would be negligible, and the probability of a breakthrough by a compound of bombers is 100 percent. Unlike fighters, which can be relocated relatively quickly to intercept attacking bombers, the maneuverability of such air defense systems is extremely low. On the other hand, one could cover the sky quite tightly over several cities. But this would preclude the use of air defense fighters (the “friend or foe” system was undeveloped) and would not save either the transport network or industry as a whole. For Germany, it would be more advantageous to use guided air-to-air missiles from jet fighters equipped with radars and capable of quickly intercepting the connection of bombers, and such work was also carried out by the Germans, but they were even further from completion than the air defense systems,
    1. Andrey77
      Andrey77 23 March 2013 14: 59 New
      Perhaps a combination of systems. Objects cover plants, and throughout the rest of the territory - free hunting of the Luftwaffe.
  7. tomket
    tomket 23 March 2013 14: 59 New
    the development is interesting, but all these missed chances .... First of all, England and America could not, or did not want to bomb Germany, and since fate was decided on the Eastern Front, where there was no armada of strategic aviation, there was no chance.
  8. I think so
    I think so 23 March 2013 16: 51 New
    "... However, we, apparently, will not know the final answer ..."

    I think that with the development of computer technology, all issues related to the simulation of armed struggle can be reliably verified. If you allocate the resources of programmers for this, then it will be possible to create such a "game" program that will allow you to simulate the course of the war. Knowing even approximately the initial conditions, you can get a fairly objective picture. So, I do not agree that "we don’t know the answer." Everything rests on the allocation of resources. It is possible that once humanity has the brains to fight not in real life, but in virtual space ...
  9. Aeneas
    Aeneas 23 March 2013 21: 39 New
    the rocket, or rather the complex itself, is very perfect at that time. But it should be noted that the Germans were ahead of the Allies in rocket science, but the British and Amers were very far ahead of the Germans in radar (and the Japanese hardly used radars at all) using radars on ships, air defense (raid warning), and even massively used airborne radars on night fighters and submarine hunters, and quite quickly reacted to the use of radars by the Germans using interference. Having a radar, the Germans could not overcome the problem of target selection from dipole reflectors used by the Allies. Essentially, after the first more or less successful use of air defense systems, the Anglo-Amers, by all possible means of reconnaissance, would recognize the parameters of the signal emitted by the radar and “strike” tens of thousands of dipoles of the desired wave for one bomber. It is possible that active interference would be applied, although I have not seen such cases in the literature.
  10. anip
    anip 24 March 2013 14: 31 New
    Photo of Hitler and Speer in Paris cropped. There, on the right, is also a sculptor-artist, Professor Arno Breker (Arno Breker) stands. And photographed by Hitler's personal photographer Walter Frentz (Walter Frentz).

  11. Alex
    Alex 2 September 2013 19: 45 New
    I think such a weapon at that time in Germany hardly helped. Air defense based on air defense systems does not just require 200-300 batteries or 7000 missiles per month. This is the creation of a whole type of armed forces with a developed system of support services. Radar, mobile generators, a missile refueling and maintenance service, the corresponding capacity of chemical enterprises for the production of fuel components, and even the hell knows what is needed to carry a missile and aim it at a target. To imagine such an armada of people and materials, the diversion of industry in conditions when tank and infantry divisions are slowly but surely grinding on the Eastern Front, when opponents are more and more dominated in the sky, when the sea blockade is only intensifying, is simply not possible. I’m afraid this weapon would eat up not only itself, but also the entire German economy. Something like this happened with Goeben in WWI, which nearly brought down the Turkish economy.