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Previous chapter: The A-3 rocket
Above: The A-4 rocket sits on its launching platform.
During World War II, the Nazi regime in Germany funded an unprecedented effort to build rocket weapons. Capitalizing on the experience accumulated by German rocket enthusiasts since the second half of the 1920s, a group of engineers at a secret center in Peenemünde developed a ballistic missile of incomparable size and range. Officially dubbed Vergeltungswaffe-2, or "vengeance weapon-2," the cigar-shaped rocket could reach targets some 300 kilometers away. (169)
The V-2 rocket, originally named A-4, grew out of several previous projects conducted in Kummersdorf and later in Peenemünde, including the A-3 experimental rocket with an estimated range of 50 kilometers.
Test launches of the A-4 started in 1942 and from September 5, 1944, the missile was used by the German Army to attack England and a number of allied targets in Europe. The last German A-4 rocket was launched from Peenemünde on February 19, 1945. Despite all the terror and devastation the A-4 had brought to the civilian population, its effect on the outcome of the war was minimal. It became a historical cliche that more people died producing V-2s under terrible conditions of the Nazi slave-labor system than from explosions of their warheads. Some even claimed that had Nazis invested the resources and talent dedicated to the A-4 project into conventional weapons instead, World War II would last longer.
Still, the allies looked carefully at the German rocket program. After the war, the British military with the help of German specialists launched three A-4 rockets from Germany in an effort to learn about the weapon and better estimate its capabilities. Apparently most surviving A-4 rockets were captured by the US forces and were transported to the United States were they were launched from a test range near White Sands, New Mexico.
A total of 11 A-4s, mostly fashioned from spare parts and newly produced components were also launched from Kapustin Yar by a Soviet-German team in the fall of 1947. Finally, the A-4 became a basis for a Soviet-built copy, designated R-1.
Known specifications of the A-4 (V-2) rocket:
Next chapter: Search for the A-4 rocket technology in Poland
Writing and photography: Anatoly Zak; Last update: May 21, 2013
Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: October 12, 2008
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The A-4 rocket on its transporter/erector. Copyright © 2011 Anatoly Zak
The A-4 (V-2) rocket is being erected into vertical position for launch.
The A-4 rocket. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
The combustion chamber of the A-4 rocket. Click to enlarge Copyright © 2005 Anatoly Zak
The combustion chamber of the A-4 rocket with the remnants of the turbopump recovered at the Dora underground plant. Copyright © 2007 Anatoly Zak
Scale model showing main components of the A-4 mobile complex deployed on a city street. Copyright © 2011 Anatoly Zak