Rockets are designed to engage attacking aircraft, both seen and unseen, by
day and by night. The accuracy of rockets is not as great as that of heavy antiaircraft
guns, but they are employed in groups which produce a considerable
concentration of fire and are valuable for thickening up heavy antiaircraft defenses
where there is a lack of depth. Rockets are not capable of engaging low-flying
aircraft effectively. The factors determining the siting of rockets are similar to
those relating to heavy antiaircraft artillery.
The following excerpts from an article appearing in AFGIB (Air Forces
General Information Bulletin) issue No. 17, explain certain characteristics of
* * *
Radio-controlled aerial devices are not new. They were being tested by
the end of World War I, and more than 30 years ago a certain Mr. Alban Roberts
gave demonstrations in English music halls of a radio-controlled model airship
which he flew around the theater, controlling it from the stage.
The obvious advantage of a radio-controlled bomb is that errors of calculation
or judgment can be corrected after firing; that is, the projectile can be
guided right up to the target. Another advantage is that the guiding aircraft can
remain beyond enemy gun range.
From a British source comes this paraphrased report of a radio-controlled
glider bomb in the Bay of Biscay last August:
"Along with two other sloops, we were proceeding in line abreast about
midday last summer, when we spotted two twin-engine German fighters shadowing
us astern out of our gun range. About a half-hour later a number of enemy
aircraft, subsequently counted as 22 and apparently consisting of Do-217s and
Me-110s, approached and disappeared out of range.
"The aircraft then reappeared, flying in small groups of two, three and
four, and flew aimlessly around our ships. Each group, however, developed an
attack in similar manner, which consisted of approaching us on the starboard bow,
flying downwind on a parallel course to the vessels.
"This eventually took them past us at a minimum distance of four to five
miles. Then the leading aircraft signalled with a bright, white light, whereupon
each aircraft in the group was seen to develop a trail of white smoke approximately
100 feet beneath it. At the head of each trail was a dark object.
"This object gradually forged ahead to a position approximately 100 yards
in front of the aircraft, and after a time, variously estimated at five to ten seconds
from release, it turned off in the direction of our ships. A devious course and a
steep angle of dive were then observed, after which the object, subsequently seen
to be a glider bomb, steadied up and headed in our direction at a shallow angle. During
this part of the flight, the bomb was seen to be gliding on a steady course, with
occasional well-regulated banked turns to maintain its direction toward the
target. In some cases in final stages of its path, the glider bomb became less
stable, and one observer described its behavior as exceedingly 'erratic' and 'frantic.' Twelve
glider bombs were believed to have been launched, and seven
fell in the target area. All but one exploded on impact with the water. Five came
uncomfortably close. Only one hit a ship; this one appeared to fall rather than to
be controlled towards its target, ripped through the rigging and exploded harmlessly
in the water 30 feet beyond."
Other sources report that this same glider bomb carries a green light in
its tail, apparently so it can be easily spotted from the parent plane. This device
is necessary as it is guided by eyesight, instead of a bombsight. The glider bomb
is driven by a jet-propulsion unit which involves the generation of gas that is
forced to escape at the tail. Roughly speaking, this is the same principle that
makes a toy balloon jump around when you blow it up and then let the air rush out.
There is another German radio-controlled bomb. This is not a glider bomb.
It is dropped from very high altitudes, with the trajectory controlled by radio, and
it carries a blue taillight for purposes of guiding. Apparently there is no type of
propulsion. A much heavier bomb than the glider type, it is also used on shipping
and is capable of piercing heavy armor.
So-called "rocket projectiles" are not radio controlled. They are carried
underneath the wings of fighter planes and are aimed simply by pointing the parent
plane at the target, which of course, does not permit a great degree of accuracy.
By this method, however, fairly heavy shells can be launched from aircraft as the
rocket propulsion eliminates the recoil problem, and the rockets may be released
2,000 feet from the target.
Rocket projectiles were well publicized when they were lobbed into our
heavy bomber formations while we attacked the ball-bearing plants at Schweinfurt
on 14 October. The rockets are carried by single- and twin-engine fighters.
Describing the Schweinfurt mission, one of our men reported: "The German
fighters attacked in 'layers' of sixty at a time, and when they fired their rocket
guns you could see the deadly projectiles in flight. For the first 200 yards, they
seemed to leave a trail of smoke and appeared to be gaining momentum. Finally
they exploded in your face with twice the force of flak bursts."
In point of fact, these "deadly projectiles" did not destroy many of our
planes. It seems rather to have been the enemy's intention to cripple our planes
with these weapons so that they would fall out of formation, and could be finished
off by enemy fighters. Smaller projectiles of this same general type have been
reported in use in the Mediterranean theater.
Another enemy projectile has been dubbed "the flying doughnut." Shaped
like a doughnut or a pie-plate, this type is a disk with a hole in the center. One
crew with the Northwest African Air Force reports that their B-17 was hit by one
of these projectiles which exploded against the cockpit just above the co-pilot's
window. Damage was slight.
Over Italy another B-17 was hit by a similar projectile which penetrated
the wing behind the engine and exploded. Flames streamed from the wing but
were quickly extinguished. On the basis of interrogation of crews, it is questionable
whether these projectiles are launched directly from a projector on the attacking
aircraft. It appears likely that a container holding a number of such projectiles is
fired or dropped from an enemy plane, and that this container later bursts, probably
as the result of an explosive charge, hurling the projectiles from it.
This variety of weapons testifies to German ingenuity, and to the German
willingness to experiment with new ideas. As a potential threat, of course, they
should not be minimized. But they also testify to Germany's desperate efforts
to defend herself. They are a compliment to our increasing air strength.