Fiesler Fi-103 (V1)

One of Germany’s famous terror weapons, the V1 was the first cruise missile employed en masse.

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After the jump, a brief look at this weapon.

The Fi-103, better known as the V1 (or buzz bomb or doodlebug in common slang), was built to raze British cities in response to British Bomber Command burning German cities.  It is a very simple unmanned aircraft.  Range is less than 200 miles at a speed of about 400 mph.  Capabilities actually fluctuated a lot since this missile was built by unskilled and unmotivated slave labor, resulting in very uneven quality.  It had slightly less than 2000 lbs of high explosive warhead.  Targeting was rudimentary; the small propeller on the nose provided a crude distance measure through the number of rotations it turned.  The missile was launched from a catapult in the direction of London, when it traveled the set distance, the controls locked down and the V1 plunged to earth.

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These catapults, or ski ramps, proved difficult to destroy and remained active until they could be captured by ground forces.  Alternately, some V1s were air launched from He111 bombers.  The V1 campaign was an epic battle that started shortly after the Normandy invasion (June of 1944) and continued through the end of the year.  Many of the faster fighter types were kept in Britain to chase the Buzz Bombs down; this means late mark Spitfires, Tempests, Mosquitoes, Meteor jets and Mustangs.  Operation Crossbow involved a massive bombing effort to destroy the launch sites; and finally, a ground campaign over-ran all such locations.

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V1 and V2.  The V1 was designed to be a cheap mass produced piece of ordnance.  While the V2 was a sophisticated and revolutionary new weapon.

V1 and V2. The V1 was designed to be a cheap mass produced piece of ordnance. While the V2 was a sophisticated and revolutionary new weapon.

This is the Tamiya kit.  The V1 was tested post-war by all combatants, and even produced in the US as the Boeing JB Loon.  This gave way to newer designs as engine and targeting technology improved quickly.

The JB-2 Loon.  This is nearly identical to the V1 except for the shape of the forward engine support strut. I did the modification with styrene rod and contour putty.  The decals are from Cutting Edge.

The JB-2 Loon. This is nearly identical to the V1 except for the shape of the forward engine support strut.
I did the modification with styrene rod and contour putty. The decals are from Cutting Edge.

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The Loon actually entered production just before the war ended.  It was intended as a destroyer or submarine fired surface to surface missile.

The Loon actually entered production just before the war ended. It was intended as a destroyer or submarine fired surface to surface missile.

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About atcDave

I'm 54 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 31 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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13 Responses to Fiesler Fi-103 (V1)

  1. Theresa says:

    The first of the terror weapons were uneven for results. They did do damage if they ever got to their targets which thankfully for the British was only 10% of the time. Even that little amount was pretty devastating on the public morale.

    • atcDave says:

      I’ve seen an analysis done that shows they compared pretty favorably to manned bombers flying area bombing missions.
      But for Germany it was all too little, too late.

      • duckman says:

        About 20 yrs ago I saw one of these at the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson. Absolutely captivating display. I finally had to just close my eyes and drag myself away as we had somewhere to be that eve. I checked and it’s still there, along with a v2 also. If you ever get the chance, that place is well worth a visit.

      • atcDave says:

        I occasionally have cause to travel through Kansas City down towards Houston. That looks a little off the trial, but maybe just a one day detour. I will keep it in mind.

        Thanks for dropping by Duckman, it’s always great to see old friends pay a visit!

      • duckman says:

        I’m at Wamego, roughly halfway between kc and hutch. If you find yourself in the area give me a shout, I’d love to meet.

      • atcDave says:

        Will do!

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  3. Ernie Davis says:

    I’ve always found the Vi to be a fascinating bit of untapped potential, or at least untapped contemporaneously. The technology was relatively simple, and somewhat inefficient, but it is the precursor to pulse jets, ramjets, scramjets and a LOT of supersonic jet engine alternative technology. In some sense it is an ancestor of the SR71. One more example of the rapid technological advances made in WWII, not all of which saw their full development or the avenues they opened.

    • atcDave says:

      I assume you mean the pulse jet specifically? I don’t know that much about engines, I had thought it was sort of a dead end as I never see that specific type mentioned any more.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Yes, it was sort of a dead-end specifically for the pulse-jet, but it did open up new areas of inquiry, most specifically engines whose performance could not necessarily work at low speed, but given enough speed to get them into a performance envelope that only existed at supersonic speeds used many of the principles derived from the pulse-jet’s non-mechanical propulsion.

      • atcDave says:

        Interesting. So mostly as an avenue to a field of research, even if the specific technology was limited.
        Thanks for that!

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