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Pioneers of surface-to-surface missiles

By Sakhal

For this article I have not included the famous German missiles Fi 103 (V-1) and A 4 (V-2) since I have already published specific articles about such prominent contraptions. I have chosen to present the also well known German missile Rheinbote which I had not included in this website so far, and the probably less known but not less interesting Soviet missile Type 212. And for ending, I included a brief mention of the British drone Hoop-la, even if it was not a missile strictly speaking.

Type 212

Russia had many pioneers and visionaries interested in rocketry and that "tradition" remained after the Revolution of 1917 that brought the Soviet Union to life. N. I. Tikhomirov established an official laboratory in 1921, which in 1928 became the Laboratory of Dynamic Gases. The scope of the Laboratory was extended in 1930 to include those engines fed by liquid fuel. In 1936, this branch of the Laboratory, led by V. P. Glushko, had ignited the notable engine ORM, which used nitric acid and kerosene and was able to effectuate up to 50 ignitions, with a total combustion time of 30 minutes. The propellants were fed by pressure gas to a regenerative cooled chamber, with electro-pyrotechnic ignition system and excellent combustion with regulable thrust of up to 175 kilograms. In 1933 it had been established a Research Institute of Jet Propulsion and the chief delegate, S. P. Korolev, led the design of a rocket fitted with wings, denominated Project 212. It was a research vehicle with military possibilities. The launching was effectuated by means of a solid propellant by the Laboratory of Dynamic Gases and a lift engine ORM-65 installed in the cylindrical fuselage, from a ramp fitted with rails built on purpose. Thirteen static combustions were effectuated in 1937-38 and the rocket flew for the first time in 1939 with an automatic control system. Albeit it carried 30 kilograms of explosives and a similar weight of propellants, this missile was not fitted with a guidance system and no further development was made on it. This missile had a length of 3.16 meters and a wingspan of 3.06 meters, a launching weight of 210 kilograms, a maximum speed of 500 kilometers/hour and a range of 50 kilometers.

In 1937 it was developed an improved version, the Type 212 A, under direction by Korolev, but apart from the drawing below there are few details known about this missile and official reports did not mention test flights. The fuselage, built entirely of light alloy and steel, like in the original model, was forced for flight at speeds of 1000 kilometers/hour and there is little doubt that this one was the most formidable tactical missile developed in the world before the outbreak of the Second World War. The cross-section drawing shows the fuel and the feeding system by gas bottles.

Pioneers of surface-to-surface missiles


Almost surely, this was the first missile of several phases used in war, despite of being a model which lacked guidance system and was unable to attack targets of lesser size than a city. The development work for this missile was started in 1942 by Rheinmetall-Borsig, to satisfy a requirement from the Army (Heereswaffenamt) for a bombardment rocket that would cover the gap between the conventional artillery and the strategic missile A 4, being capable of transporting 120 kilograms of high explosive to a distance of 200 kilometers. The research was centered around a three-phase rocket which made use of propellant charges used in the takeoff of aircraft and the final project was ready in 1944. Denominated RhZ 61/9 Rheinbote (Messenger of the Rhine), it was fitted with a powerful first phase capable of providing a thrust of 38 tonnes during one second and it required a rather long launcher (a transformed 88-millimeter anti-aircraft mounting or a modified Meillerwagen, the carriage used to transport the A 4, which in the case of the Rheinbote would serve as both transporter and launcher). Still, the Rheinbote was much more manageable than the much heavier A 4 and two missiles could be launched every hour.

The first phase had a central nozzle and another six peripheral ones. The propellant fuel (diglycol) was stored in separated compartments to obtain the largest possible combustion surface. The first phase was followed by three lifting phases, each one with a burner tube of diglycol in internal and external surfaces and fitted with a single central nozzle whose impulse detached the previous phases already depleted. The guidance system required the launcher to be carefully aimed in the desired direction. Each phase had also six slightly inclined fins that induced rotation on the missile to improve precision. The speed of the Rheinbote, once the combustion of the successive phases had ended, was a mark not surpassed until the introduction of the intercontinental ballistic missiles in the late 1950s, reaching from 5900 to 6800 kilometers/hour (from 4.81 to 5.55 Mach). One of the many problems of this missile was that the depleted phases were detached at distances of only 3.5, 12 and 25 kilometers from the launching point. Hundreds of exemplars of the Rheinbote were built and more than 200 were launched against Antwerp during the bombardment of that city in November 1944. The Rheinbote had a total length of 11.4 meters, a diameter of 190 millimeters in the final phase, a winspan of 1.49 meters in the fins of the first phase, a launching weight of 1715 kilograms and a range of up to 218 kilometers. The construction of the Rheinbote was made in hardened steel and it was the slenderer and the one with more phases of the missiles ever built.

Pioneers of surface-to-surface missiles


In 1940, understanding that the circumstances of the war required to take unusual actions, the British aeronautic company Miles Aircraft, from Woodley, proposed to the Ministry of Aircraft Production an unmanned flying bomb able to reach the German cities. It is possible that the idea were inspired by a well documented article published in "The Aeroplane" by C. R. Tennant, who highlighted the little success of the Royal Air Force in hitting specific targets and insisted in that the future air attacks should be directed against entire cities (exactly as it would happen later with the policies of terrorist bombings developed by Germany and specially by Britain). The answer to such conception was a simple flying machine without armed turrets or a large crew, but carrying only bombs. The design Miles Hoop-la proposed was developed around the 1000-pound (454 kilograms) general-purpose bomb, after which would be built an aerodynamical fuselage of 4.3 meters in wingspan, able to reach a speed estimated in 483 kilometers/hour, with a piston engine Gipsy Major and a two-blade propeller. Miles suggested that the Hoop-la should be produced in mass and stored, but the Ministry showed no interest in the project, even if the production cost would have been almost trivial.

Pioneers of surface-to-surface missiles

Note from the author/translator: The project of the Hoop-la was maybe inspired by an earlier project called Larynx, whose development had been started by RAE in 1926, being carried out many tests until 1930. The Larynx was propelled by a radial piston engine Lynx of 220 horsepower, developed by Armstrong Siddeley. The prototype effectuated a flight of 160 kilometers after having been launched from a hydraulic catapult onboard a destroyer, guided only by means of an automatic pilot, but using a radio system to correct the direction and telemetry to transmit the revolutions of the engine. The specification requested the Larynx to be able to carry 91 kilograms of explosive to a distance of 322 kilometers in one hour. In some flights the prototype carried a 250-pound (114 kilograms) bomb. The Larynx was the first missile used by the Royal Air Force and probably the first surface-to-surface missile in the world that entered active service.

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


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-06-14

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