Wehrmacht defeats on all fronts and massive aviation Allied raids on the territory of Germany itself led to the inevitable defeat of the Third Reich by the end of 1944. The German political and military leadership frantically tried to grab hold of any straw, just to turn the tide in their favor. At the same time, in order to maintain morale and readiness for resistance in his fellow citizens, Hitler and his associates constantly insisted on the imminent appearance of fundamentally new Wunder-waffen systems (“miraculousweapon"," A weapon of retaliation "(Goebbels' propaganda terms), developed on the basis of advanced technical ideas.
With this weapon, Germany will stop the victorious offensive of the Allies, having achieved a turning point in the war. At the final stage of the war, the Nazis pinned high hopes on any systems of “weapons of retaliation,” no matter how strange they might seem. And this, in turn, stimulated the idea of designers, literally "gushing" new projects, both real and the most fantastic. Within one year, the German armed forces were offered hundreds of various weapons and military equipment projects, some of which promised to make a revolution in military affairs. Some of these types of weapons were not only embodied in metal, but were also produced in small quantities in 1944 – 1945, having had time to take part in the last 1945 battles of the year.
Along with the creation of reactive anti-tank grenade launchers in the Third Reich during the war years, interesting and very promising research and development work was carried out in the field of designing other types of infantry rocket weapons that were completely atypical for that time: portable anti-aircraft missile systems and rocket infantry flame throwers. Work on similar samples of similar weapons was already completed by the victor countries many years after the end of the Second World War.
Man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS)
Despite the fact that the air defense system during the last war was one of the Wehrmacht’s greatest strengths, the problem of reliably protecting its ground forces from an air attack became more acute after the defeat of the German fascist army at Stalingrad, Kursk and El Alamein, since by that time Allied aviation increasingly began to dominate the battlefield. A particularly alarming situation has developed on the Eastern Front. The buildup of the efforts of the Soviet assault aircraft could not pass without a trace for the German ground forces, who constantly suffered sensitive losses in manpower and equipment. The fighter aircraft of the Luftwaffe no longer fully cope with the tasks assigned to it. This situation was mainly due not to the lack of combat vehicles, but to a shortage of trained pilots. At the same time, the solution of this problem in the traditional way - by building up anti-aircraft artillery and large-caliber machine guns of air defense in the troops. The Third Reich was no longer under force, since it entailed excessive material and financial costs. The top military leadership of the Reich was forced to recognize the fact that, evaluating it on the main criterion of "efficiency-cost," anti-aircraft artillery turned into an increasingly expensive pleasure. So, for the defeat of one aircraft required, on average, about 600 medium-caliber projectiles and several thousand small-caliber projectiles. To reverse this alarming trend of reducing the combat capabilities of the German armed forces in the field of air defense, it was necessary to urgently find a non-trivial solution to this problem. And here the high scientific potential of the German military industry created in the prewar years played a role.
After the research, the scientists came to the conclusion that the only possible alternative to the airborne artillery of the air defense could be an anti-aircraft weapon using the jet principle of projectile movement. The development of guided and unguided anti-aircraft missiles began in Germany back in the 1930s. The range of their flight was calculated in several kilometers, with a rather high probability of hitting the target, which created the prerequisites for the adoption by the Wehrmacht of truly effective air defense weapons.
However, as in the case of anti-tank jet weapons, just before the beginning of World War II, many of these works were curtailed. The political leadership of the Third Reich, counting on the success of a lightning war, particularly paid much attention to offensive weapons, leaving defensive weapons in the background, and this was equally true of air defense weapons. Perspective weapons, the development of which could be realized only a few years later, were considered to be of no practical value to the Wehrmacht. However, the critical situation in the field of air defense, which developed on the front by 1943, forced the command of the German armed forces to take urgent measures to intensify work in this area.
Back in 1942, the artillery and technical supply department of the Wehrmacht’s weapons control set the task for several companies to conduct research and development work on the development of guided and unguided anti-aircraft missiles. The experience of warfare suggested that one of the most important conditions for successful ground forces in a modern war of maneuver could be an “air shield”, providing for a flexible combination of barreled anti-aircraft defense systems and rocket weapons. Such a complex defense would cover the ground forces from the enemy's air force, acting directly in their combat formations. At the same time, possessing complete autonomy, high combat readiness, rate of fire, it would also allow to fight with ground targets.
By the beginning of 1944, a fairly harmonious system of such a combination of artillery and rocket anti-aircraft anti-aircraft weapons was created in Germany to combat enemy aircraft both at small and medium (from 200 meters to 5 kilometers) and at high altitudes (to 10 – 12 kilometers) . The largest German arms firms (Rheinmetall-Borsig, Hugo Schneider AG (HASAG), Westphaflisch-Anhaltische Sprengstoff AG (WASAG)), connected to these developments, have created more than 20 projects of anti-aircraft guided and unguided rockets from 20 to XNX. a real chance to create anti-aircraft missile systems of weapons that would reliably protect ground forces from an air enemy.
Already in 1943, the concern for the production of anti-tank jet weapons and ammunition Hugo Schneider AG created one of the first complexes of anti-aircraft weapons: 73-mm unguided anti-aircraft missile RZ.65 Fohn and a salvo fire launcher, first 35-barrel, and later 48 trunks. A new weapon was designed to combat low-flying aircraft at a distance of up to 1200 meters.
The salvo firing across the squares allowed the creation of a sufficiently dense fire curtain, significantly increasing the possibility of hitting enemy planes. Stabilization of the rocket in flight was carried out by rotation, thanks to tangential nozzles. In case of miss, the rocket was supplied with a self-liquidator at a distance of 1500 – 2000 meters. The launcher serviced by one operator was a package of frame-type guides mounted on a pedestal with a horizontal sector of 360 degrees of shelling.
Already the first successful tests allowed the summer of 1944 to adopt this installation into service of the anti-aircraft parts of the Luftwaffe. The production of missiles Fohn R.Spr.Gr.4609 started the company HASAG, and the launch of launchers was connected to the Czech arms firm Waffenwerke Skoda Brunn. However, the Fohn anti-aircraft missile launcher, which was a stationary type weapon, could not fully meet all the needs of ground forces for such weapons, both due to their low mobility and low fire maneuverability. This was facilitated by the unsuccessful design of the manual guidance system at the target, although high flight speeds of air targets (up to 200 m / s) required high pointing speeds reaching up to several tens of degrees per minute in vertical and horizontal planes.
The first German anti-aircraft missile system could not radically change the situation in the air defense, the figures show this: from the 1000 ordered launchers, until the end of the war, only 59 units were manufactured. The Wehrmacht needed a more efficient portable anti-aircraft weapon, which, possessing great fire maneuverability and rate of fire, would not only allow them to fight enemy planes flying at any course angles at speeds up to 200 – 300 m / s, but could also accompany troops march, be in their battle formations on the battlefield, etc.
In the spring-summer battles of 1944, in all sectors of the Eastern and Western fronts in the German ground forces, there was an acute shortage of air defense weapons. Allied aviation firmly occupied a dominant position in the air. The Wehrmacht suffered heavy losses from allied aviation raids despite the fact that by the middle of 1944, 20106 antiaircraft guns of the 20 – 37 mm caliber were in units of military air defense, and that is not counting tens of thousands of anti-aircraft machine guns.
After a series of studies, taking into account the experience of creating previous designs of unguided rocket weapons, the Wehrmacht’s weapons control still developed the general concept of a new air defense weapon, which gave fairly clear answers to the question of how its power could be improved. anti-aircraft artillery. The focus was on increasing the three components: accuracy, rate of fire and the destructive action of projectiles. It may seem unexpected, but successful research and development to create a Ofenrohr anti-tank rocket launcher gave impetus to work in this direction. Tactical and technical requirements included the creation of a portable anti-aircraft missile system (MANPADS), consisting of a small-caliber unguided missile and a multi-barreled launcher, served by one operator. MANPADS was intended for salvo firing at aircraft at low level flights up to 500 meters. Considering that combat aircraft have a high speed and are within the range of anti-aircraft fire for a very limited time, the following requirements were placed on these complexes: reach for height and range, high rate of fire and accuracy of fire. Moreover, the dispersion should have been no higher than 10 percent on 50 percent of the launched missiles. These systems were supposed to equip all the infantry of the Wehrmacht. It was planned that MANPADS will be as widespread in the army as the Panzerfaust and Ofenrohr anti-tank grenade launchers. The requirements also stipulated that the design of the complex intended for mass production should be the same as theirs, high-tech and made of cheap cheap materials.
In July, the Wehrmacht’s weapons control agency 1944 re-issued an order to the HASAG concern to build a similar complex under a previously designed anti-aircraft missile. And in September, the design bureau NASG under the leadership of a talented engineer, creator of faustpatronov Heinrich Langweiler developed the first prototype of MANPADS, received the index "Luftfaust-A" ("air fist-A").
The complex consisted of a four-barrel rocket launcher caliber 20 mm with launch tubes, trunks, arranged vertically one above the other. MANPADS was installed on a light field machine and serviced by one person. The 20-mm unguided rocket, essentially repeating the RPzB.Gr.4322 grenade design, consisted of a warhead with a fuse, a cruising engine — a powder checker and an expelling charge. When the rocket was launched, the expelling charge ignited, which carried it out (at an initial speed of 100 m / s) to a safe distance for the operator, after which the gunpowder of the propulsion rocket engine ignited.
But the first pancake, baked by German designers, turned out to be lumpy. The decisive importance in this was played by the low accuracy of the new weapon, to which the flawed design of the rocket itself contributed to a considerable degree. The dynamic impulses of the expelling charge and the main engine of the rocket, superimposed on each other, violated the stability of its flight, despite the fact that the stabilization of the rocket 250 mm in length of millimeters was carried out by folding tail stabilizers. The design of MANPADS also did not meet all the requirements, first of all it related to the low density of fire, but the failures that befell Lyuftfaust-A did not cause a complete refusal of further development of the new weapon.
The need for weapons of this type was felt in the troops so acutely that in the fall of 1944, Langweiler began to create a new version of MANPADS and missiles. In early October of the same year, an improved version of the Luftfaust-B portable anti-aircraft missile system, also known as the Fliegerfaust (“flying fist”), appeared. Its successful design, relatively cheap and easy to manufacture, promised rapid development in mass production in the shortest possible time, which was important in the critical situation when Germany lost most of the military enterprises and sources of raw materials, and the Wehrmacht had to fight on its own territory.
Luftfaust-B portable anti-aircraft missile system consisted of nine trunnion-tubes connected in an annular manner with nine 20-mm smooth tubes with two firing control handles attached to them with a trigger mechanism, a hinged shoulder stop, an electric ignition mechanism, and the simplest aiming devices in the form of an open rear panel, a strap and a front sight. Weapons were loaded from a nine-charge magazine by raking 9 missiles, mounted in its pan, directly into the barrels. The shop was fixed on the breech of the MANPADS with a locking device, and fire was fired from it without its detachment. The shooting was carried out successively with two volleys, first with the simultaneous launch of five missiles and then with a slowdown in 0,1 from the remaining four. This was provided by an induction generator assembled in the electric-pass (similar to the electric generator in the RPZ RPzB. 54). There were electrical contacts for connecting electrical rocket igniters to the induction generator of the complex.
20-mm unguided rocket RSpr.Gr to Luftfaust-B, created by G. Langweiler, also received a new solution. Its main difference from the first version of the rocket was the rejection of the tail and expelling powder charge. The flight qualities of the new rocket improved markedly. The rocket consisted of a warhead with a bursting charge, a tracer and a thermal retarder, connected by rolling on a rocket chamber with a powder charge, a porcelain nozzle impeller with one central nozzle and four tangential side nozzles deviated from the normal by 45 degrees. A thin-walled combustion chamber, 170 millimeters long, was used as a propellant in the tail section of the rocket. A solid propellant substance was used - a piece of diglycine powder of 42 gram mass. In the bottom of the rocket mounted electric igniter. The introduction of a high-explosive fragmentation warhead similar to the 20-mm high-explosive fragmentation projectile for the FLAK-20 38-mm anti-aircraft cannon, with an AZ.1505 non-safety type instantaneous fuse with self-liquidation at 700 meters height in the event of a target failure, significantly improved attackers rockets. In flight in order to improve the accuracy of fire, the rocket was stabilized by rotation around its axis. A large number of revolutions (approximately 26000 rpm) was achieved by the successful design of the nozzle impeller.
Despite the successes achieved by the German gunsmiths in the creation of a new model, not all the design of the portable anti-aircraft missile system was successful. One of the main drawbacks of the modernized Luftfausta was a very large dispersion of missiles during firing. At distances up to 200 meters, it exceeded 40 meters across, and only 10 percent of the missiles reached the goal, although at smaller distances, the effectiveness of rocket weapons was quite high.
Work on the weapon continued. At the same time, the defeat suffered by the Wehrmacht in the 1944 year-autumn battles on the Eastern and Western fronts forced the Wehrmacht’s weapons control as early as November of that year (although it was still far from the end of the development work on the MANPADS, and only a few prototypes of new weapons) sign a contract with HASAG for the production for the ground forces of 10000 man-portable Luftfaust-B and 4000000 anti-aircraft missile systems for missiles to them.
The command of the Wehrmacht deliberately took this step, despite the fact that the combat and service and operational qualities of the new weapons were still too far from the required parameters. In addition to the critical situation on the front, the signing of the contract was greatly facilitated by the fact that this sufficiently effective weapon could be mastered by the German industry in the shortest time possible thanks to the rational technology of manufacturing stamped-welded structures. This made it possible to launch the system into production at unsuitable enterprises for this purpose, with significant cooperation even with small firms and workshops, as well as with massive involvement of unskilled labor. Since the use in design of non-deficient materials and raw materials in its design and the unification of a number of components and parts with other products of the military industry, also led to a reduction in development time, a reduction in labor costs and a decrease in production costs.
However, numerous difficulties that arose with the break of almost all cooperation ties with other enterprises - suppliers of raw materials and semi-finished products from the HASAG group in preparation for the manufacture of portable Luftfaust-B anti-aircraft missile systems, as well as regular attacks by Allied aviation, which destroyed part of the company's production capacity, played their a role in tightening the release of a much-needed weapon front for just a few months. Although in the end it was this delay that predetermined his fate. Rapid development of the production of MANPADS, which the Germans counted on, did not work out. The Leipzig company was unable to organize mass industrial production in the shortest possible time, both because of the need for constructive refinement of individual units and units of the system, and because it was impossible to create a complete production cycle for the production of a qualitatively new type of weapon in such a short time.
All this taken together led to the beginning of the production of MANPADS in the spring of 1945, only in the experimental workshop of HASAG. By April of the same year, only 100 man-portable Luftfaust-B anti-aircraft missile systems were assembled. In the last days of the Third Reich, the Hitlerite command threw everything that was left at hand to the disintegrating front, trying to postpone the death of the Nazi state. Therefore, in April, the Germans urgently formed a special team of anti-aircraft gunners, which included part of the test shooters of the company HASAG. Having received 80 MANPADS, they went to the front. We have not reached the information about the military use of the Wehrmacht of its newest anti-aircraft missile. But it can be assumed with a high degree of confidence that “air fists”, a highly effective weapon for fighting the air enemy, widely advertised by Nazi propaganda as one of the “retaliation weapons”, could not change the course of the war in favor of Germany in 1944 – 1945. even with its wide application. Failing to achieve the goal, Luftfaust would only increase the losses of allied aviation, but would not bring the expected decisive results.
So, Germany was able to closely approach the solution of one of the most acute problems faced by the ground forces during the war years - reliable protection against enemy air attack weapons. Despite the fact that in military affairs Luftfaust did not receive a wide resonance in its time, the birth at the end of the war of one more type of infantry weapon, man-portable air defense systems, opened a new page in stories weapons. And although it was the weapon of our enemy, it is necessary to pay tribute to the prediction of Germanic scientists and designers, and first of all Heinrich Langweiler, whose ideas of individual weapons of military air defense to fight low-flying aircraft, proposed by the Wehrmacht, were well ahead of their time. The concept of Luftfaust-B man-portable air defense systems was not in vain.
Germany, ahead of other countries by 12 – 15 years, gave a steady direction for the development of these weapons. In the 1960-s, it received a new life, embodied in MANPADS using anti-aircraft guided missiles, as well as qualitatively new control systems and guidance, created in the USSR, the USA and other countries.
Infantry disposable flamethrowers
Another unusual type of infantry weapon, created by the German military engineering idea at the end of the war, became disposable flamethrowers, which are now widely used.
The German military rightly believed that, among other types of melee infantry weapons, incendiary weapons turned out to be extremely effective in defeating and demoralizing enemy personnel; reinforcement of engineering barriers; illumination of the area at night with the aim of increasing the effectiveness of artillery and machine-gun fire; for the quick destruction of vegetation cover, if necessary, to unmask the enemy troops, etc.
During the First and Second World Wars, jet flamethrowers were widely used, which threw a stream of fire at the target, ignited by a force of flame at the muzzle of the flamethrower. Such flamethrower weapons, in addition to their main task - the defeat of enemy manpower during both offensive and defensive combat operations, also carried the function of a powerful psychological impact, which resulted in combination with effective fire from small arms, tanks and artillery to the effective implementation of tasks in the tactical link.
Taking into account the importance of incendiary means, at the final stage of the Second World War, German gunsmiths began to work on completely new types of flame-thrower weapons. Despite the fact that such weapons had many drawbacks, and in the first place it was extremely uneconomical, since part of the fire mixture was uselessly burned in the flight path, the Germans managed to create a very simple and effective sample of a single-use flamethrower.
The Air Force Directorate ordered specifically for equipping the Luftwaffe airfield divisions a new weapon that would not require special preparation for handling it. A similar project was developed as soon as possible. Already in the 1944 year, following the Panzerfaust hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher, which became very popular, the German army adopts its flamethrower counterpart, intended to destroy enemy manpower in open areas, destroy its concealed weapon emplacements, and remove vehicles and lightly armored vehicles from standing.
They became a one-time flamethrower sample 1944 of the year (Einstossflammenwerfer 44) - the most simple to manufacture, at the same time, it is a fairly effective weapon. It has been used as a supplement to complex and expensive multiple-use backpack flamethrowers. The defeat of the target was due to the high temperature of burning. The Hitlerite leadership planned with them to saturate their infantry units as much as possible, which, along with Panzerfaust, would help to slow down the allies' unstoppable advance and inflict irreparable losses in manpower and equipment.
The “44 sample” one-time flamethrower was supplied with a fire mixture charge and after pressing the shutter lever released for 1,5 seconds a directed stream (force) of the flame at a distance of up to 27 m. This was quite enough to destroy enemy personnel, hidden in buildings, light field fortifications, as well as long-term fire points (pillboxes and pillboxes) or vehicles. Aiming at the target was carried out with the help of the simplest aiming devices, consisting of a front sight and a folding rear sight. However, the complexity of the development in the production of new flamethrower weapons led to the fact that by March 1 1945, the Wehrmacht received only 3580 flamethrowers "sample 44", which did not have time to fully show their high combat qualities.
The Second World War had a significant impact on the further development of infantry weapons, which still remained the most widespread weapons. And although the role of handguns in terms of damage to the enemy, slightly decreased compared with the previous period, the following figures indicate the effectiveness of its use: if during the First World War, the share of combat losses from him accounted for more than 50 percent, during World War II, despite the use of more powerful than before types of weapons - aircraft, artillery, tanks, this number still amounted to 28 – 30 percent of all losses. However, such results were achieved at a very high price. This is eloquently shown by the fact that during the Second World War, American infantrymen spent on one hit from 10 to 50000 cartridges, which required from 260 to 1300 kilograms of ammunition, which cost ranged from 6 to 30000 dollars.
At the same time, the Third Reich, like other states, could not avoid mistakes in preparation for war. The fighting in 1939 – 1945 did not confirm some of the trends emerging in the prewar period. Despite the fact that in the prewar period one of the priorities in the development of small arms was the creation of anti-aircraft guns, the mass use of all types of infantry weapons during the war (from machine pistols to anti-tank guns) for firing at aircraft showed only the weakness of special anti-aircraft defenses . Battle experience has shown that normal-caliber anti-aircraft machine guns are not effective enough when firing at aircraft, especially protected armor. Therefore, for military air defense required stronger special anti-aircraft weapons, which were the portable anti-aircraft missile systems.
In general, the Second World War showed that with the creation of the most modern means of warfare, the role of infantry weapons did not diminish, and the attention that was paid to it in the Third Reich increased significantly during these years. The experience of using infantry weapons, accumulated by the Germans during the war and not outdated today, laid the foundation for the development and improvement of small arms not only in Germany, but also in other states for many post-war decades. The Second World War subjected the infantry weapons of the warring countries to the most serious trials. Therefore, the weapons system in all the participating countries during the Second World War, including Germany, was further developed and complicated both by the diversity of the weapons themselves and by the number of types of ammunition.
The war once again proved the inviolability of the main requirements for infantry weapons - high reliability and reliability in operation. In the new conditions, simplicity and ease of maintenance, manufacturability of the design, which allows for the mass production of small arms in wartime conditions, striving to simplify and increase the survivability of individual components, assemblies and parts, have acquired considerable importance.
The increase in the power of infantry fire affected the change in the forms and methods of combat. The rates of military production, constantly growing during the war years, made it possible to significantly increase the firepower of the ground forces.