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The V-1 Flying Bomb

This small, pilotless aircraft was used by the Germans in World War II.

  • Grades: 6–8, 9–12

The German V-1 flying bomb, or buzz bomb, known originally as the Fieseler Fi 103, was the first of the Vergeltungswaffen ("weapons of vengeance," named in response to Allied air assaults on Germany during World War II). It emerged from proposals made in 1939 by the Argus Motorenwerke. The first V-1 test flight was made over the Peenemünde range in December 1941. The project was given high priority by the German High Command in 1942, with Fieseler Flugeugbau Firm, in Kassel, taking the leading development role.

The V-1 weighed 2,180 kg (4,806 lb), including the gasoline fuel and an 850-kg (1,874-lb) warhead. Powered by a pulse-jet engine producing 300 kg (660 lb) of thrust and mounted above the rear of the fuselage, the V-1 was actually a small, pilotless aircraft having an overall length of 7.9 m (25.9 ft) and a wingspan of 5.3 m (17.3 ft). The speed range was 563 to 644 km/h (350 to 400 mph).

The V-1 was used to attack London from sites near Calais, France, beginning in June 1944. More than 8,000 V-1s were launched against London alone. Ramp-launched by a hydrogen peroxide catapult, the V-1 could fly an average of 240 km (150 mi). At the end of a preset range, it was put into a dive and the engine cut out, giving the populace only a few seconds during which to take cover.

Kenneth Gatland

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