• 50°

The German V-1 rocket was something like a cruise missile

Again, this week we will learn about the V-1, one of German vengeance weapons developed during WWII.

In war time, there is usually a spirt of technological advances. It is a time when the bottom line is not all that important.

Although the V-1 flying bomb is sometimes called a rocket, it is more like a cruise missile.

The V-1 had an air-breathing pulse jet engine, whereas a rocket has a self-contained fuel and oxidizer on board. The pulse jet engine is deceptively simple. It can run on almost any combustible fuel, even coal dust or sawdust. It has pulses up to 50 times per second, which accounts for buzz sound. The jet engine was positioned above the fuselage where the 1,000 pounds of explosive was located. There is a V-1 located on a pedestal on the courthouse lawn in Greencastle, Indiana. Last summer when I passed through Greencastle, I saw it.

The pulse V-1 jet engine can be started without having high-velocity ram air forced into it. It is different for the ram jet, which needs high-speed air to work, which is more efficient at supersonic velocities.

The Germans started the V-1 on the catapult with acetylene. They would hold a piece of cardboard over the exhaust to keep the fuel in the combustion chamber until it started. The jet engine did not have enough power to take off, but had enough to keep it flying at 400 mph with 740 pounds of thrust. To start it for flight, it needed a steam catapult, which was fueled with hydrogen peroxide when mixed with a catalyst to generate the steam.

The V-1 were effective when they reached their target, but only about 20 percent of them did. The Germans had the capacity to send about 18 per day, but usually did not achieve that level.

The British were pretty effective with counter measures. One of the most interesting ones was using a high-speed plane to fly alongside of them and use their wing to tip the V-1 wing up far enough to disrupt the simple automatic pilot control and the V-1 would crash before it reaches the target.

To have a plane fast enough to catch it, they stripped down the P-51, P-47, the Spitfire or the Hurricane Tempest. Other means used included barrage balloons or shooting them down. Chelsey Miller, one of my roommates in college, was a WWII vet who flew in B-17 Flying Fortress out of an airfield north of London and was acquainted with the V-1. It had a characteristic buzzing sound which could be heard from 10 miles away.

He told me that when it ran out of fuel and the buzzing stopped, you could depend on hearing an explosion in a few seconds.

I have read later that it really didn’t run out of fuel aboard, but when it was programmed to dive toward the target, the g-forces caused the fuel flow to stop.

Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at eelnod22@gmail.com