- Bogart, Charles H.
- Naval Aviation, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1980 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The weapon developed by Ruhrstahl was designated the Fritz X or FX1400. It had been developed around the SD 1400 bomb. The FX1400 profile represented more a rocket than a plane in that it had four small wings and a box kite tail. Length was 10 feet 8” and wing span 4 ft. Total weight was 3,460 lbs of which 3,100 lbs was an armour piercing bomb. The FX1400 was normally released at a height of 18,000 ft and had a terminal velocity of 950 feet per second.
The HS293 and FX1400 were originally to have been carried into battle by the HE 177 Grief heavy bomber. Due to engine troubles with the HE 177 its entry into service was delayed and as a result the DO 217E-5 was pressed into service as a substitute. The DO 217 was equipped to carry one of the weapons. An attempt was also made to use FW 200C C-3s and FW 200 C-8s to carry the HS293 but these aircraft proved to be unsatisfactory in this role.
The FX1400 when dropped was released from the plane while it was in level flight 3.1 miles from the target. Once the weapon was released, the parent plane throttled back to allow the bomb to pass in front of the aircraft so that bombardier could acquire it in his bomb sight. In order to facilitate this visual acquisition a flare was attached to the tail unit. Manoeuvring of the missile was by means of radio controlled spoilers in the tail unit. The bombardier could correct the weapon’s course via the radio link, a maximum of 1,640 ft in trajectory and 1,150 ft in range of bearing. These maximum corrections in range and bearing demanded that control of the missile be assumed immediately after dropping. If control was not gained in 15 seconds after release the missile became a free falling bomb. Commands were sent to the weapon via a joystick attached to a radio operated by the bombardier. During descent of the FX1400 the mother plane had to fly a straight and level course if the bombardier was not to lose sight of the missile.
Manoeuvring control of the HS293 was in much the same manner as the FX1400. The HS293 however differed from the FX1400 in that it was flown at the target first as a rocket plane and then when its engine burnt out, as a glider. The bombardier was thus better able to control the descent and direction of the weapon. All manoeuvres however had to be gently executed as any violent manoeuvre would cause the missile to stall and fall into a dive.
While the two missiles had passed their acceptance test late in 1940 and early 1941 they did not become operational until 1943. This was due to the fact that numerous minor problems arose in trying to train regular Luftwaffe crews to use the missiles. As previously stated the HE 177 was to have been used but engine teething problems forced the substitution of the DO 217E-2. Assigned to carry the weapon into battle were II KG 100 and III KG 100. The original plan as conceived by General Werner Baumback was to build up a large stockpile of the weapons. When this was accomplished, the Russian Baltic, White Sea and Black Sea Naval and Merchant Fleets would be destroyed. This would free Germany’s eastern sea-lanes. Once this was achieved the missiles would be used against the Western Allies. General Baumback was well aware that both the Allies and the Germans had been able to perfect countermeasures within a short time of the introduction by the other side of a new electronic weapon, and this, when all was said and done, was all the HS293 and FX1400 were. The proposal to use the weapon first against the Soviets was based on the primitiveness of their electronic industry and their tendency not to share battlefield intelligence with their Western Allies. The reverse of this however was true of the Western Allies. As with many of the German military plans and policies it was done in by Hitler, who ordered the missiles into action in the Mediterranean and Bay of Biscay.
Due to increased Coastal Command aircraft and Royal Navy surface ship patrols into the Bay of Biscay this body of water was becoming unhealthy for U-boats sailing for or returning from war patrols in the Atlantic. In order to reverse this situation Hitler instructed Goering to beef up Luftwaffe fighter and bomber squadrons in the area and undertake offensive operations against British air and surface units in the area. In response to these orders II KG 100 was moved to Southern France. On 25 August fourteen DO 217s launched the first smart bomb attack. Carrying HS293s they attacked 5th and 40th Escort Group off the NW coast of Spain.