German Secret Weapons of WWII

Joris Nieuwint

hs293n4Surface-to-Surface Missiles


The A-4, also known as the V-2, was a ballistic missile. Its rocket engine used liquid oxygen and alcohol, pumped in the thrust chamber by specially developed turbopumps. The V-2 could carry its 910kg warhead at distances up to 320km. Once launched it could not be intercepted. The launchers were mobile, including a so-called Meillerwagen to carry the missile itself. Slave workers in underground plants produced about 10,000, but less than half were actually fired, primarily at London and Antwerp. Planned developments included the winged A-4b and the intercontinental A-10. The A-4 was extensively tested by the allied after the war, and the engineers who developed it contributed to later ICBM and space programmes. However, the V-2 was probably a failure as a weapon, because its cost was too high compared to the damage it did.


Fieseler Fi 103


Also known as the V-1 or FZG 76, this was the first practical cruise missile. The Fi 103 was a small aircraft, with a wing span of 5.3m or 4.87m depending on the model. It was powered by a pulse-jet engine, the noise of which lead to the nickname of buzz-bomb. To bring the V-1 up to the working speed of the engine, the Fi 103 was launched from a ramp or carried into the air by a launch aircraft. A compass controlled the course, and the travelled distance was measured by a small propeller. At the end of the range, the V-1 was steered into a steep dive. The acceleration then caused the engine to stop, but because this gave prior warning of the impact later V-1s were modified to prevent this. The V-1 flew at low altitude, and its speed just allowed the fastest allied fighters to intercept it. This, and the use of proximity fuses by the AAA, made an effective defence against it possible. London was hit by 2419 V-1s; Antwerp by 2448.

See also the V-1 Page.



The Rheinbote was a four-stage, unguided long-range artillery missile. It was a solid-fuel missile with very slim proportions. It was 11.4m long, weighed 1715kg at launch, and had a range of 215km. Its warhead was only 44kg. About 200 were fired at Antwerp in late 1944.



The V-3 or Hockdrückpumpe was not a missile system, but an advanced gun. The concept was to accelerate a fairly conventional, big projectile by detonations of charges in multiple chambers that were spaced out along the barrel.


Air-to-Surface Missiles

Blohm und Voss Bv 143

The Bv 143 was a glide bomb for anti-ship use, accelerated by a rocket engine. It was a primitive sea-skimming missile. A feeler arm was designed to keep the Bv 143 about 2m above the water, but it did not work properly, and the missile was cancelled.

Blohm und Voss Bv 246 Hagelkorn

The Hagelkorn was an unpowered long-range glide bomb. It had an excellently streamlined fuselage, and wings with a very high aspect ratio. Construction of the wings was unusual: The aerofoils were made of concrete, around a steel core. Range was up to 200km if released from 10,000m. Several guidance systems were tried, including the Radieschen radar homing system. This made Hagelkorn one of the first anti-radar missiles. Over 1100 were produced before the project was cancelled.



The Friedensengel was a set of wings and tail surfaces, designed to extend the range of a standard 765kg air-launched torpedo. The onboard control system also freed the launch aircraft from the need to maintain the exact speed and altitude required by the torpedo. About 450 were produced.



Fritz-X, also known as FX-1400, was the first successful guided bomb. It consisted of a 1400kg armour-piercing bomb, fitted with four wings in a cruciform arrangement, and a tail ring with spoilers for control. It was usually carried by specially equipped Do 217 or He 177 bombers. In the launch aircraft, an operator steered the bomb to its target using a radio command link. Two hits with Fritz-X sank the Italian battleship Roma. Others seriously damaged the Italia and the British battleship Warspite, sank the cruiser Spartan, and damaged the cruisers Savannah and Uganda. Production of Fritz-X was limited to about 1400.

Henschel Hs 293

This was the first guided missile that entered service in large numbers. The Hs 293 was a glide bomb of aeroplane configuration, with a underslung rocket engine. It was carried by bombers like the He 111, He 177, Do 217 or Fw 200. A radio command link was standard, and a flare in the tail burned to help the operator sighting. There were also versions with wire guidance, and the experimental Hs 293D had TV guidance. The sloop HMS Egret, on 27 August 1943, had the dubious honour of being the first ship sunk by a guided missile. Many other victims followed, including five destroyers. Over 2300 Hs 293 missiles were fired.


Henschel Hs 294

Derivative of the Hs 293. It was intended as a anti-ship weapon, travelling to final trajectory to its target underwater.


Henschel GT 1200

The GT 1200 was a powered glide bomb for use against ships. It was designed to dive into the water at the end of its trajectory.



The Mistel combinations consisted of a twin-engined bomber, in practice almost always a modified Ju 88, with a fighter (Bf 109 or Fw 190) mounted on top. The bomber was unmanned, its cockpit replaced by a large (3500kg) shaped-charge warhead, and additional tanks were installed to transfer fuel to the fighter. The combination was controlled by the pilot of the fighter. He would aim the Mistel at a target, then uncouple his fighter to fly back home. Over 250 were built. Plans for large scale operations, e.g. against Soviet power stations, were abandoned.

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