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(Historical background for the events described in this section)
1945 May 9: The USSR defeats Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War (World War II).
The X-1 (Fritz X) gliding bomb paved the way to guided cruise missiles. Click to enlarge Copyright © 2007 Anatoly Zak
Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2007 Anatoly Zak
Click to enlarge: 400 x 249 pixels / 28K Copyright © 2004 Anatoly Zak
The Hs-293 Version A cruise missile. Click to enlarge: 400 x 300 pixels / 28K Copyright © 2004 Anatoly Zak
Click to enlarge Copyright © 2007 Anatoly Zak
A Walter 109-507 propulsion system of the Hs-293 missile had a thrust of about 600 kilograms. Click to enlarge: 400 x 187 pixels / 20K Copyright © 2004 Anatoly Zak
Although a term "smart bomb" became widely known decades after World War II, it could be applied to the Hs-293 cruise missile fielded by German forces as early as 1943. Based on a traditional "dumb" SC500 bomb, the Hs-293 used wings, fins and, most importantly, a rocket engine to strike its targets with high precision.
Technical specifications for Hs-293 series: (169)
The Hs-293 series of air-to-surface cruise missiles were developed by a team under Dr. Wagner at the Henschel Flugzeugwerke aviation company. The missile's aluminum wings and tail featured electrically driven control surfaces.
Earlier versions of the missile, designated V-4 and C1, were equipped with radio-control, however a threat of electronic warfare forced developers to drop the system in favor of wire guidance for C-3, C-4 and A-0 versions. After a release from the carrier aircraft, two wired coils attached to the wing tips of the missile would start unwind, allowing the operator onboard the plane to transmit electrical signals to the missile's flight control system.
Ultimately, developers planned to install a TV system on Model D, providing the operator with live images for targeting. (169) The particular system, apparently never made it onto the battlefield, however a similar concept became famous almost half a century later during the Gulf War.
Bigger versions of the missile, designated Hs-294 and Hs-295 were also developed before the end of the war.
Along with the V-1 and the V-2, the Hs-293 became the only liquid-propellant missile, which saw action during World War II. Three types of German aircraft -- Dornier-217, Heinkel-177, and Focke-Wulf-200 -- were sent to sea at the end of 1943 and the beginning of 1944 to attack allied convoys with Hs-293. Each bomber could carry a single missile below the fuselage, plus regular bombs in internal bays. (213)
In August 1943, 18 Dornier Do-217 bombers from the experimental unit II/KG-100 attacked a formation of allied ships in the Atlantic, sinking one and seriously damaging another. Another bomber unit armed with Hs-293 operated over the Mediterranean Sea, where more battleships and transport vessels were sank. (169)
The same source also said that Junkers-290 had been equipped with Hs-293, but later historians found no evidence of that. According to naval historian Marty Bollinger, the likely origin of this claim is an account that two Ju 290 patrol aircraft attempted to engage convoy ONS 29 with Hs 293 missiles in February 1944, but failed when defending fighters shot them down. This account is highly unlikely, Bollinger said, as the variants of the Ju 290 equipped to handle the Hs 293, the Ju 290 A-7, did not enter service with Fernaufklärungsgruppe (FAGr) 5 (in very small numbers) until March and April of 1944. The regular Ju 290, the only ones in service in February 1944, lacked the glazed nose and guidance equipment needed to fire the Hs 293 missile. They were used as observation aircraft only. (313)
The battlefield experience showed that Hs-293 missiles were difficult to control, hence the effort to redesign the control system. There were also reports that a smoke from the rocket engine helped to train antiaircraft fire onto the missile.
Missiles from the Hs-293 series were among other weapons captured by the Soviet trophy teams in Germany in the immediate aftermath of World War II. A report to Stalin that summarized the Soviet search for German "reactive technology" as of December 31, 1945, listed 12 such missiles, which the document identified in the traditions of the day as "Henschel aircraft-carried guided reactive torpedoes."
The development of the Soviet version of the vehicle was delegated to the KB-47 design bureau. (215)
Writing and photography by Anatoly Zak
Last update: October 10, 2008
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