The V-1 was an unmanned, un-guided, flying bomb. Although primitive by today's standards, it was the first of what we now call a "cruise missile." It was designed by the Fiesler Company and designated the Fi-103. Due to the odd sound of the V-1's engine, the British public dubbed the new weapon the "buzz bomb" and "doodlebug". The Germans called it "Vergeltungswaffe" or "retaliation weapon." Since it was the first such weapon, it was designated the V-1.
The V-1 was a liquid fuelled, pulse-jet drone aircraft that could carry a 2,000 lb warhead. There was no navigation system, so it was simply pointed in the direction of its target. Simple gyrocompasses kept it level and range was controlled by the fuel supply. Its typical target was a city in southern England.
The first V-1 flew in 1942 at Peenemunde on the southern Baltic coast. A series of fixed launching sites were constructed in France, Holland, Denmark and Germany to allow the Germans to shower V-1s on any part of southern England. However, German planning did not take into account a strong bomber and fighter-bomber offensive against the V-1 launch sites. This forced the Germans into creating mobile launch sites and launching some from Heinkel He-111 bombers.
The first offensive launch was on June 12, 1943. Once the Germans got their stride they launched an average of 190 V-1 rockets a day. The British quickly became expert at spotting and shooting them down and only some 25% of the V-1s hit their target. The English established defensive zones. First were the fighters (Mosquitoes, Spitfires and Typhoons) over the English Channel, then came a thick zone of heavy AA guns equipped with the first radar proximity fuses, then a zone of light AA guns and rocket projectors and finally barrage balloons. Once the Allies captured the launching sites the target of choice switched to Antwerp, Belgium, the main Allied port. Fortunately for the Allies, they overran the launch sites that could have deluged the Normandy beachhead with these high explosive bombs, interfering greatly with the Allied army’s supply and logistics.
Almost 30,000 V-1s were built. By March 1944, they were produced in 350 hours at a cost of just 4% of a V-2 which delivered a comparable payload. Approximately 10,000 were fired at England. 2,419 reached London, killing about 6,184 people and injuring 17,981. The greatest density of hits were received by Croydon, on the southeast fringe of London. Antwerp, Belgium was hit by 2,448 V-1s from October 1944 to March 1945.
Facts and General Characteristics of the V-1 Rocket:
Length: 27' 3"
Wingspan: 17' 6"
Loaded Weight: 4,750 lbs.
Power Plant: Argus As 109-014 pulse jet engine
Range: 150 miles
Max Speed: 393 mph
Warhead: 1,870 lbs. Amatol
Facts and General Characteristics of the Model:
Hours to build and paint: 4.0
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