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German anti-aircraft missiles 1940-45

By Sakhal

It is not much what is known about the Hecht, German pioneer of the surface-to-air missiles, developed by Rheinmetall-Borsig, except that its name means Pike, its length was 2.5 meters, its diameter was 0.381 meters, its wingspan was 0.95 meters and its launching weight was 140 kilograms. It could have been an artifact exclusively conceived for investigation and in 1941 it was replaced by the version F 55 of the Feuerlilie.


The history of this missile started as an investigation project sponsored by the Ministry of Aviation and following the aerodynamic principles from the Institute of Aerial Investigations, with growing expectatives towards a special anti-aircraft missile. Its name means Fire Lily and its development program was effectuated with three different sizes. The Feuerlilie 5 had a diameter of only 5 centimeters, and in the late 1941 it was superseded by the F 25 - with a diameter of 25 centimeters -, project that was awarded to Rheinmetall in 1942. After a long trials program, carried between May and September 1944, this artifact of high subsonic speed - 840 kilometers/hour - was superseded by the F 55 - of much larger size, as the reader can already imagine -, fitted with automatic pilot and radio-commanded guide system. A rocket engine designed by Doctor Konrad - which used as fuel a mixture of R-Stoff and S-Stoff (respective mixtures of xylidine-triethylamine and nitric acid at 95 percent and sulfuric acid at 5 percent) -, was still unavailable, and because of this it was used instead the engine Rheinmetall 109-515 fed with diglycol, which was much less powerful. The original engine should have provided a thrust of 6350 kilograms during seven seconds and because of its absence could not be achieved all the prestations expected. The structural design of the F 55 was rather simple; it had a cylindrical body with an ogival shape in the fore end, while the rear end was narrowed as well but truncated to serve as its sole exhaust. The rear section, in a length equivalent to a third part of the body, had attached two large and strongly angled fins, one to each side, fitted with pitch rudders. In turn, each of the fins had perpendicularly attached to its end a smaller tail fitted with yaw rudders. Even so simple, the F 55 looked much more like a missile than its predecessor F 25, which curiously was built with the same aspect of a turbojet fighter from the 1960s, with two swept wings in the center of the body and a vertical tail in the upper rear which had attached two horizontal stabilizers. Surprisingly, the program F 55 survived almost until the surrender of Germany, but it was never attempted its operative employment.

Specifications for F 55

Length: 4.8 meters

Diameter: 0.55 meters

Wingspan: 2.5 meters

Launching weight (with liquid-fuel rocket engine): 470 kilograms

Speed: 1500 kilometers/hour

Range: 7.5 kilometers

Hs 117 Schmetterling

This anti-aircraft missile was closer than any other to be operatively used. Its history began as one of the studies for anti-aircraft missiles carried by Professor Wagner in the aeronautical company Henschel, in 1941, with the denomination Hs 297. Two years had to pass until the Ministry of Aviation showed interest about the project. In that time the Allied offensive of air bombings over Germany was increasingly intense, and it was signed a contract for the development of the missile, whose designation was changed to Hs 117. Its German name means Butterfly. Conceived solely for interceptions within visual range, this missile was initially mounted in a modified mounting of the 37-millimeter anti-aircraft cannon Flak 18. The target had to be visible for the operator, which in the practice constituted a great limitation, since reaction time was too long for being used against low-flying aircraft. To estimate the future position of the target it was adopted the normalized fire control calculator used by the conventional anti-aircraft defense. The missile required two operators; one of them used a 10x magnification optical sight and the other aligned the launcher by using a control stick. The control of the trajectory was kept by the ground operator via radio command Kehl/Strassburg, which moved aerodynamic deflectors Wagner installed in the wings of the missile. Precision was notable, for the missile could hit an area of 7.5 meters in diameter from a distance of 15 kilometers.

When launched, the missile accelerated its speed, reaching 1100 kilometers/hour in only four seconds. This impulse was given by two rocket engines Schmidding 109-553 fed with diglycol, which were placed one on each side of the missile body, being automatically detached after being depleted the fuel, being so decreased the weight of the missile to 260 kilograms when it started to cruise. Subsequently would be started a lift engine, generally a BMW 109-558, able to provide a thrust of 375 kilograms at sea level. This rocket engine was fed by a mixture of R-Stoff and SV-Stoff, and it kept airspeed at 864 kilometers/hour by regulating its thrust. The body of the missile was fitted with two swept wings in the central section and four tails in the rear section. Due to the absence of a proximity fuze, the 25-kilogram explosive charge was detonated by a telecommand operating in a frequency different to the one used to guide the missile. If the target aircraft flew at high altitude, the estimation about the most timely moment to detonate the charge resulted virtually impossible. The warhead was installed in the right part of the nose while a pinwheel generator occupied the left part. Hence, the nose was of asymmetric design, in resemblance to the one of the air-to-air missile Hs 298.

The trials of the Hs 117 started in Karlshagen in May 1944. When it was authorized the beginning of the serial production, in December, 59 launchings had been effectuated from land and a number of exemplars had been launched from bombers He 111. A total of 34 launchings were failures. In the late 1944 it was decided as well to equip the launching platform with radars Wurzburg and screens Mannheim Riese, to grant operativity to the missile during night and bad weather conditions. It was tested as well a proximity fuze Fuchs. It was projected to achieve a production of 150 monthly units in March 1945, that should reach 3000 in November. The initial number of launching emplacements would be 60. None of them, however, entered action, despite from September 1944 the unit of anti-aircraft investigations of the Luftwaffe (LET 700) carried diverse tests and even redacted the training manual for the operators. A supersonic version of this missile did not reach completion either. On the other hand, the designation Hs 117H corresponds to an air-to-air missile that was tested from a bomber Do 217.

Length (with fuze): 4.29 meters

Diameter: 0.35 meters

Wingspan: 2 meters

Launching weight: 419-445 kilograms

Speed (launching): 1100 kilometers/hour

Speed (cruising): 864 kilometers/hour

Range: 32 kilometers for a large formation of aircraft flying at mid or high altitudes

Effective ceiling: 10000 meters


The "Daughter of the Rhine" was a large and ambitious anti-aircraft missile developed in two different configurations: Rheintochter I for the Army (Heer), from November 1942, and Rheintochter III for the Aviation (Luftwaffe) - responsible of the anti-aircraft defense -, during the last year of the war. The number II belonged to an irrelevant transition model. The Rheintochter I was a remarkable creation for its time, with a large accelerator engine in tandem that provided a thrust of 75000 kilograms during 0.6 seconds, with four strongly angled fins, six fixed swept wings - similar in design to the ones used by modern passenger aircraft -, four movable control surfaces in the nose and a lift engine that provided a thrust of 4000 kilograms during ten seconds, with the exhaust ducts placed between each pair of wings. The Rheintochter I used as launching platform a modified carriage of an 88-millimeter anti-aircraft cannon. The control of the trajectory was made via radio command. By means of a control stick and observing the flares installed in two wings of the missile and placed in opposite position, the operator had to keep the missile in hisline of sight towards the objective. The first launching took place in Libau, in the Baltic, in August 1943. The program Rheintochter I was abandoned in December 1944, when 82 launchings had been carried out, since this missile could not match the prestations of altitude achieved by the Enzian or the Schmetterling.

Much better prestations were achieved by the Rheintochter III, which had accelerator engines laterally installed. This was a two-phase missile propelled by two engines, one fed with solid fuel and the other fed with liquid fuel. It should have had a lift engine projected by Doctor Konrad, whose combustion time was 43 seconds, but five of the six missiles that had flown when the project ended in December 1944 used a solid-fuel lift engine. The guide system was unchanged: the ground operator had to manually maneuver the missile until reaching the enemy formation and in that moment the operator could detonate the explosive charge or leave this to an acoustic sensor. A variant of the Rheintochter program was intended for a piloted version. The pilot, housed in the nose of the missile, had to direct it towards the enemy formation by following the instructions received from the base and, once the missile was "locked" upon the enemy, get out of the missile by parachuting. This project, however, remained very delayed in respect of the conventional missile; the flight tests started in the early 1945. Despite its primitive guide system, the Rheintochter program, in any case, constituted an important technical legacy for the subsequent generations of missiles.

German anti-aircraft missiles 1940-45

The Rheintochter I, projected by Rheinmetall, was an anti-aircraft missile fitted with a 150-kilogram warhead. When the construction was started, the Ministry of Aviation (Luftministerium) requested the missile to have a higher effective ceiling, so the investigations had to be restarted.

Specifications for Rheintochter I

Length: 6.3 meters

Diameter: 0.54 meters

Wingspan: 2.22 meters

Launching weight: 1750 kilograms

Range: 40 kilometers

Effective ceiling: 6000 meters

Specifications for Rheintochter III

Length: 4.97 meters

Diameter: 0.54 meters

Wingspan: 2.22 meters

Launching weight: 1500 kilograms

Range: 40 kilometers

Effective ceiling: 15000 meters


Albeit anti-aircraft missiles belonged to the domain of the Luftwaffe, one of the most promising of such artifacts was developed in Peenemunde, whose facilities belonged to the Army. This was so because only in there existed experience with rockets that reached so high speeds as Mach 3. To divert attention about such secret projects, the facilities at Peenemunde had received the official name of Electromechanical Factory Investigation Department. There, in December 1942, started the development and construction of a real-sized model of the Wasserfall (Waterfall), whose aerodynamic profile was based in the previous studies made for the surface-to-surface missiles A-4 (better known as V-2) and its derivative A-7, a project of much larger size fitted with wings. Like these, the Wasserfall was launched in vertical position from a platform and it had to take off impulsed by the relatively modest thrust generated by its lift rocket engine. Flight control was effectuated by means of radio command which actuated in graphite deflectors, whose movement directed the exhaust jet produced by the engine. The possibility to use these deflectors ended 15 seconds after the launching, but the control system allowed to actuate also in the rudders installed in the four rear tails, capable to perform maneuvers of up to 12 g of acceleration (modern jet fighters do not exceed 9 g), once the speed of the missile had surpassed 1350 kilometers/hour.

The operator that directed the missile from the ground had to attend a complex screen that indicated two lines of sight, both in two dimensions, within the denominated Rheinland system, in which the target and the missile were tracked by different radars. Considering that the operator had to manage the control system of the missile to make coincident both lines, he however lacked any information about the range to know when to push the button that would detonate the explosive charge. Due to this, this one had to be fitted with a proximity fuze, which triggered the explosion at not less than ten meters from the enemy aircraft. To achieve this the missile was fitted with an infrared detector, able to "sense" the heat from the engines of the enemy bombers from a distance of 3-4 kilometers. The heavy payload included 145 kilograms of explosive and 90 kilograms for the self-destruction system that had been prepared for the event that the missile missed its target. Doctor Thiel, chief of the project of the engine for the Wasserfall, died in the attack that the Royal Air Force effectuated upon Peenemunde in August 1943, and it was M. Schilling who took charge of the propulsion system P IX, experimenting with many different mixtures of the fuels usually used in the propulsion of the German rockets of that time. The thrust provided by the rocket engine at sea level was 8000 kilograms during 40 seconds. The displacement of the gravity center of the missile as the fuel was being consumed was one of the obstacles that had to be solved.

After overcoming numerous difficulties, a Wasserfall was sent in January 1944 to Greifswalder Oie, a Baltic isle next to Peenemunde, for being tested, but the missile was unable to fly. However the second missile tested managed to fly the 29th February, reaching an altitude of 10500 meters, a third part of what it was intended. When the program was abandoned, the 6th February 1945, at least 35 (the real number was almost certainly 51) Wasserfall missiles had been launched, besides a high number of aerial launchings and some prototypes built in reduced scale. A third part of the launchings had been deemed as unsatisfactory. The cessation of the program was due to constant design changes, to a number of minor accidents and to the lack of basic technology. Besides, the program had been delayed because the A-4 had higher priority. In the date in which such decision was taken, the series missile, designated C2-8/45, had been completely defined and it had been proposed to produce 900 units per month in an underground factory that had to be constructed in Bleichrode. The Wasserfall had been proposed as a weapon for the defense of large cities; the plan provided the installation of 200 batteries disseminated in three large zones, equidistant 80 kilometers each other. Subsequent plans provided 300 batteries for being able to defend the entire metropolitan territory. For carrying this successfully, 500 of these missiles would have to be built every month.

German anti-aircraft missiles 1940-45

German anti-aircraft missiles 1940-45

German anti-aircraft missiles 1940-45

Test launching of a Wasserfall in Greiswalder Oie, in 1944. The size of the missile was similar to the one of the surface-to-surface missile A-4. The development of an anti-aircraft missile posed new challenges for the German scientists.

Length: 7.83 meters

Diameter: 0.88 meters

Wingspan: 2.51 meters

Launching weight: 3500 kilograms

Range: Usually 35 kilometers, varying according to the altitude of the target and the required maneuvers

Effective ceiling: 17700 meters


Preceded by a series of test vehicles Flak-Rakete (Anti-Aircraft Rocket), the Enzian (Gentian) was a subsonic anti-aircraft missile built in wood, built by Messerschmitt and initially projected by George Madelung, albeit the program was later directed by Doctor Hermann Wurster, in Oberammergau. The artifact used the basic plant of the aircraft Me 163 - a fighter propelled by a rocket engine - and the control was effectuated by means of ailerons. The Enzian was launched from the modified mounting of an 88-millimeter anti-aircraft cannon. Four rocket engines Schmidding 109-553 fed with solid fuel provided a thrust of 7000 kilograms during four seconds. The trial vehicles E-1, E-2 and E-3 were fitted with the lift engine Walter R I 210B, fed by a mixture of diverse liquid fuels, which worked during 70 seconds keeping the speed of the missile around Mach 0.85. At least ten of these artifacts flew in Karlshagen from April 1944. The following vehicles had a guide system by telecommand Kehl/Strassburg or Kogge/Brigg, but imprecise thrust axes often caused loss of control. The operative E-4 - which was an E-3B of larger size - was to have an explosive charge that would weigh 300 kilograms - including the self-destruction system - and it would have several proximity fuzes. Several systems had been projected for autonomous guide, among them an infrared one - called Madrid -, a radar one - called Moritz - and an acoustic one - called Archimedes -. None of these systems was matured, as happened as well with the lift engine Walter, so the 28 flights of the E-4 were effectuated with an engine DVK of similar prestations than the one on the prototype E-3B. In total about 60 Enzian E-3B and E-4 were built, but when the program succumbed in the generalized screening that was carried in January 1945, the Enzian still had to run a long path to be apt to enter service. Still in February, Messerschmitt tried to support the prototype E-5 - a slender supersonic version with swept wings, lighter explosive charge and an improved lift engine -, but the Nazi Germany was living its last weeks. On the other hand, the denominated E-6 was a small cable-guided anti-tank version, which probably did not reach construction.

German anti-aircraft missiles 1940-45

German anti-aircraft missiles 1940-45

One of the first Enzian in its launching platform. The photo was taken in April or May 1944. The structure of the missile was based in the rocket-propelled fighter Me 163 Komet.

Specifications for E-4

Length: 2.4 meters

Diameter: 0.88 meters

Wingspan: 4 meters

Launching weight: 1800 kilograms

Speed: 1050 kilometers/hour

Range: Maximum of 24.5 kilometers, against a target flying at 2500 meters of altitude

Taifun and Tornado

Despite lacking a guide system, this rocket is interesting because it was the last anti-aircraft system developed by the Nazi Germany, representing a reaction against the futility of the complex and immature missiles fitted with a guide system. The project Taifun (Typhoon) emerged from an evidently right standpoint from engineer Scheufeln, working at Peenemunde, who pointed that the program Wasserfall did not reach the minimum requirements of cost versus effectiveness. By his own initiative he started to work in the Taifun, a rocket stabilized by rotation which costed only 25 German marks, was fired in salvos and was fitted with the optimal weight of explosive required to destroy a bomber. Specifically, 500 grams to reach an altitude of 15000 meters. The rocket was fitted with a propulsion plant, fed by liquid fuel, that provided a high directional precision, accelerating the rocket to a speed of up to 3600 kilometers/hour in only 2.5 seconds. The launcher - again, a conveniently modified mounting of an 88-millimeter cannon - fired groups of 30 Taifun at once. In January 1945, the Taifun F - basic series missile - was already being produced in Peenemunde, but only 600 units had been built at the end of the war. Which remained as a mystery was how to arrange the launcher to be aimed with a precision that were at least so good as the one achieved by conventional anti-aircraft artillery, regarding very high altitudes. A parallel project was the Tornado, another unguided rocket similar to the Taifun but propelled by solid fuel; its prestations were almost identical to the ones of the Taifun, but the absence of materials prevented to authorize its production.

German anti-aircraft missiles 1940-45

The Tornado, an anti-aircraft rocket propelled by solid fuel, could have achieved optimal results if it had been available some years before; when it was perfected, it could not enter production because of lack of fuel.

Specifications for Taifun F

Length: 1.93 meters

Diameter: 0.1 meters

Wingspan: 0.22 meters

Launching weight: 21 kilograms

Speed: 3600 kilometers/hour

Range: Usually 8 kilometers

Categories: Missiles - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-01-23

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