The Info List - V-2 Rocket

maximum:5,760 km/h (3,580 mph) at impact: 2,880 km/h (1,790 mph)

Guidance system

Gyroscopes to determine direction Müller-type pendulous gyroscopic accelerometer for engine cutoff on most production rockets[2][3]:225

Launch platform

Mobile (Meillerwagen)

The V-2 (German: Vergeltungswaffe 2, "Retribution Weapon 2"), technical name Aggregat 4 (A4), was the world's first long-range[4] guided ballistic missile. The missile, powered by a liquid-propellant rocket engine, was developed during the Second World War
Second World War
in Germany as a "vengeance weapon", assigned to attack Allied cities as retaliation for the Allied bombings against German cities. The V-2 rocket
V-2 rocket
also became the first man-made object to travel into space by crossing the Kármán line
Kármán line
with the vertical launch of MW 18014 on 20 June 1944.[5] Research into military use of long range rockets began when the studies of graduate student Wernher von Braun
Wernher von Braun
attracted the attention of the German Army. A series of prototypes culminated in the A-4, which went to war as the V-2. Beginning in September 1944, over 3,000 V-2s were launched by the German Wehrmacht
against Allied targets, first London
and later Antwerp
and Liège. According to a 2011 BBC documentary,[6] the attacks from V2s resulted in the deaths of an estimated 9,000 civilians and military personnel, and a further 12,000 forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners died as a result of their forced participation in the production of the weapons.[7] As Germany collapsed, teams from the Allied forces—the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union—raced to capture key German manufacturing sites and technology. Wernher von Braun
Wernher von Braun
and over 100 key V-2 personnel surrendered to the Americans. Eventually, many of the original V-2 team ended up working at the Redstone Arsenal. The US also captured enough V-2 hardware to build approximately 80 of the missiles. The Soviets gained possession of the V-2 manufacturing facilities after the war, re-established V-2 production, and moved it to the Soviet Union.


1 Developmental history 2 Technical details

2.1 Testing

2.1.1 Air burst
Air burst

3 Production 4 Launch sites 5 Operational history

5.1 Possible use during Operation Bodenplatte 5.2 Tactical use 5.3 Final use 5.4 Post-war history

6 Countermeasures

6.1 Big Ben and Crossbow 6.2 Anti-aircraft gun
Anti-aircraft gun
system 6.3 Direct attack

7 Assessment 8 Unfulfilled plans 9 Post-war use

9.1 Britain 9.2 United States 9.3 USSR

10 Surviving V-2 examples and components

10.1 Australia 10.2 Netherlands 10.3 Poland 10.4 France 10.5 Germany 10.6 United Kingdom 10.7 United States

11 See also 12 Notes 13 References 14 Further reading 15 External links

Developmental history[edit] In the late 1920s, a young Wernher von Braun
Wernher von Braun
bought a copy of Hermann Oberth's book, Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (The Rocket
into Interplanetary Spaces).[8] Starting in 1930, he attended the Technical University of Berlin, where he assisted Oberth in liquid-fueled rocket motor tests.[8] Von Braun was working on his doctorate when the Nazi Party gained power in Germany.[9] An artillery captain, Walter Dornberger, arranged an Ordnance Department research grant for von Braun, who from then on worked next to Dornberger's existing solid-fuel rocket test site at Kummersdorf.[9] Von Braun's thesis, Construction, Theoretical, and Experimental Solution to the Problem of the Liquid Propellant Rocket
(dated 16 April 1934), was kept classified by the German Army and was not published until 1960.[10] By the end of 1934, his group had successfully launched two rockets that reached heights of 2.2 and 3.5 km (1.4 and 2.2 mi).[9] At the time, Germany was highly interested in American physicist Robert H. Goddard's research. Before 1939, German engineers and scientists occasionally contacted Goddard directly with technical questions.[9] Von Braun used Goddard's plans from various journals and incorporated them into the building of the Aggregat (A) series of rockets,[9] named for the German word for mechanism or mechanical system.[11] Following successes at Kummersdorf
with the first two Aggregate series rockets, Wernher von Braun
Wernher von Braun
and Walter Riedel began thinking of a much larger rocket in the summer of 1936,[12] based on a projected 25-metric-ton-thrust engine.

Wernher von Braun
Wernher von Braun
at Peenemünde
Army Research Center

Wind tunnel
Wind tunnel
model of an A4 in the German Museum of Technology
German Museum of Technology
in Berlin

After the A-4 project was postponed due to unfavourable aerodynamic stability testing of the A-3 in July 1936,[13][14] von Braun specified the A-4 performance in 1937,[15] and, after an "extensive series of test firings of the A-5" scale test model,[16] using a motor redesigned from the troublesome A-3 by Walter Thiel,[16] A-4 design and construction was ordered c. 1938/39.[17] During 28–30 September 1939, Der Tag der Weisheit (English: The Day of Wisdom) conference met at Peenemünde
to initiate the funding of university research to solve rocket problems.[12]:40 By late 1941, the Army Research Center at Peenemünde
possessed the technologies essential to the success of the A-4. The four key technologies for the A-4 were large liquid-fuel rocket engines, supersonic aerodynamics, gyroscopic guidance and rudders in jet control.[3] At the time, Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
was not particularly impressed by the V-2; he pointed out that it was merely an artillery shell with a longer range and much higher cost.[18] In early September 1943, von Braun promised the Long-Range Bombardment Commission[3]:224 that the A-4 development was "practically complete/concluded,"[14]:135 but even by the middle of 1944, a complete A-4 parts list was still unavailable.[3]:224 Hitler was sufficiently impressed by the enthusiasm of its developers, and needed a "wonder weapon" to maintain German morale,[18] so authorized its deployment in large numbers.[19] The V-2s were constructed at the Mittelwerk
site by prisoners from Mittelbau-Dora, a concentration camp where 12,000-20,000 prisoners died during the war.[20][21][22] Technical details[edit]

Layout of a V-2 rocket

The A-4 used a 74% ethanol/water mixture (B-Stoff) for fuel and liquid oxygen (LOX) (A-Stoff) for oxidizer.[23] At launch the A-4 propelled itself for up to 65 seconds on its own power, and a program motor controlled the pitch to the specified angle at engine shutdown, after which the rocket continued on a ballistic free-fall trajectory. The rocket reached a height of 80 km (50 mi) after shutting off the engine.[24] The fuel and oxidizer pumps were driven by a steam turbine, and the steam was produced by concentrated hydrogen peroxide with sodium permanganate catalyst. Both the alcohol and oxygen tanks were an aluminium-magnesium alloy.[1] The combustion burner reached a temperature of 2,500 to 2,700 °C (4,530 to 4,890 °F). The alcohol-water fuel was pumped along the double wall of the main combustion burner. This regenerative cooling heated the fuel and cooled the combustion chamber. The fuel was then pumped into the main burner chamber through 1,224 nozzles, which assured the correct mixture of alcohol and oxygen at all times. Small holes also permitted some alcohol to escape directly into the combustion chamber, forming a cooled boundary layer that further protected the wall of the chamber, especially at the throat where the chamber was narrowest. The boundary layer alcohol ignited on contact with the atmosphere, accounting for the long, diffuse exhaust plume. By contrast, later, post-V-2 engine designs not employing this alcohol boundary layer cooling show a translucent plume with shock diamonds. The warhead was another source of troubles. The explosive employed was amatol 60/40 detonated by an electric contact fuze. Amatol
had the advantage of stability and the warhead was protected by a thick layer of fiberglass, but even so it could still explode in the re-entry phase. The warhead weighed 975 kilograms (2,150 lb) and contained 910 kilograms (2,010 lb) of explosive. The warhead's percentage by weight that was explosive was 93%, a very high percentage when compared with other types of munition. The protective layer was used for the fuel tanks as well and the A-4 did not have the tendency to form ice, which was common to other early missiles (like the balloon tank-design SM-65 Atlas). The tanks held 4,173 kilograms (9,200 lb) of ethyl alcohol and 5,553 kilograms (12,242 lb) of oxygen.[25]

Captured V-2 on public display in Antwerp, 1945. Exhaust vanes and external rudders in tail section shown.

The V-2 was guided by four external rudders on the tail fins, and four internal graphite vanes in the jet stream at the exit of the motor. The LEV-3 guidance system consisted of two free gyroscopes (a horizontal and a vertical) for lateral stabilization, and a PIGA accelerometer to control engine cutoff at a specified velocity. The V-2 was launched from a pre-surveyed location, so the distance and azimuth to the target were known. Fin 1 of the missile was aligned to the target azimuth.[26] Some later V-2s used "guide beams", radio signals transmitted from the ground, to keep the missile on course, but the first models used a simple analog computer [27] that adjusted the azimuth for the rocket, and the flying distance was controlled by the timing of the engine cut-off, "Brennschluss", ground controlled by a Doppler system or by different types of on-board integrating accelerometers. The rocket stopped accelerating and soon reached the top of the approximately parabolic flight curve. Dr. Friedrich Kirchstein of Siemens
of Berlin developed the V-2 radio control for motor-cut-off (German: Brennschluss).[14]:28,124 For velocity measurement, Professor Wolman of Dresden created an alternative of his Doppler[28]:18 tracking system in 1940–41, which used a ground signal transponded by the A-4 to measure the velocity of the missile.[3]:103 By 9 February 1942, Peenemünde
engineer de Beek had documented the radio interference area of a V-2 as 10,000 metres (33,000 feet) around the "Firing Point",[29] and the first successful A-4 flight on 3 October 1943, used radio control for Brennschluss.[13]:12 Although Hitler commented on 22 September 1943 that "It is a great load off our minds that we have dispensed with the radio guiding-beam; now no opening remains for the British to interfere technically with the missile in flight",[14]:138 about 20% of the operational V-2 launches were beam-guided.[13]:12 The Operation Pinguin V-2 offensive began on 8 September 1944, when Lehr- und Versuchsbatterie No. 444[28]:51–2 (English: Training and Testing Battery 444) launched a single rocket guided by a radio beam directed at Paris.[29]:47 Wreckage of combat V-2s occasionally contained the transponder for velocity and fuel cutoff.[12]:259–60 The painting of the operational V-2s was mostly a ragged-edged pattern with several variations, but at the end of the war a plain olive green rocket also appeared. During tests, the rocket was painted in a characteristic black-and-white chessboard pattern, which aided in determining if the rocket was spinning around its longitudinal axis.

A U.S. Army cut-away of the V-2

The original German designation of the rocket was "V2", unhyphenated — exactly as used for any Third Reich-era "second prototype" example of an RLM-registered German aircraft design — but U.S. publications such as Life magazine were using the hyphenated form "V-2" as early as December 1944.[30] This hyphenated form has now become common usage. Testing[edit] See also: List of V-2 test launches For a description of a test explosion, see Test Stand VII. The first successful test flight was on 3 October 1942, reaching an altitude of 84.5 kilometres (52.5 miles).[3] Walter Dornberger, in a speech at Peenemünde
of 3 October 1942, declared:

This third day of October, 1942, is the first of a new era in transportation, that of space travel...[13]17

A sectioned V-2 engine on display at the Deutsches Museum, Munich (2006).

Two test launches were recovered by the Allies: the Bäckebo rocket, the remnants of which landed in Sweden on 13 June 1944 and one recovered by the Polish resistance on 30 May 1944[31] from Blizna
and transported to the UK during Operation Most III. The highest altitude reached during the war was 174.6 kilometres (108.5 miles) (20 June 1944).[3] Test launches of V-2 rockets were made at Peenemünde, Blizna
and Tuchola Forest, and after the war, at Cuxhaven by the British, White Sands Proving Grounds
White Sands Proving Grounds
and Cape Canaveral
Cape Canaveral
by the U.S., and Kapustin Yar
Kapustin Yar
by the USSR. Various design issues were identified and solved during V-2 development and testing:

To reduce tank pressure and weight, high flow turbopumps were used to boost pressure.[3]:35 A short and lighter combustion chamber without burn-through was developed by using centrifugal injection nozzles, a mixing compartment, and a converging nozzle to the throat for homogeneous combustion.[13]:51 Film cooling was used to prevent burn-through at the nozzle throat.[13]:52 Relay contacts were made more durable to withstand vibration and prevent thrust cut-off just after lift-off.[13]:52 Ensuring that the fuel pipes had tension-free curves reduced the likelihood of explosions at 1,200–1,800 m (4,000–6,000 ft).[13]:215,217 Fins were shaped with clearance to prevent damage as the exhaust jet expanded with altitude.[13]:56,118 To control trajectory at liftoff and supersonic speeds, heat-resistant graphite vanes were used as rudders in the exhaust jet.[13]:35,58

Air burst
Air burst
problem[edit] Through mid-March 1944, only four of the 26 successful Blizna
launches had satisfactorily reached the Sarnaki
target area[29]:112, 221–222, 282 due to in-flight breakup (Luftzerleger) on re-entry into the atmosphere.[32]:100 (As mentioned above, one rocket was collected by the Home Army, parts of it transported to London
for tests.) Initially, the German developers suspected excessive alcohol tank pressure, but by April 1944 after five months of test firings, the cause was still not determined. Major-General Rossmann, the Army Weapons Office department chief, recommended stationing observers in the target area – c. May/June, Dornberger and von Braun set up a camp at the centre of the Poland target zone.[3]: After moving to the Heidekraut,[12]:172,173 SS Mortar Battery 500 of the 836th Artillery Battalion (Motorized) was ordered[29]:47 on 30 August[28] to begin test launches of eighty 'sleeved' rockets.[14]:281 Testing confirmed that the so-called 'tin trousers' – a tube designed to strengthen the forward end of the rocket cladding — reduced the likelihood of air bursts.[32]:100 Production[edit]

23 June 1943 RAF reconnaissance photo of V-2s at Test Stand VII

Main article: Mittelwerk On 22 Dec. 1942, Hitler signed the order for mass production, when Speer assumed final technical data would be ready by July 1943. However, many issues still remained to be solved even by the autumn of 1943.[33] A production line was nearly ready at Peenemünde
when the Operation Hydra attack caused the Germans to move production to the underground Mittelwerk
in the Kohnstein
where 5,200 V-2 rockets were built with the use of forced labour.[34]

Production[citation needed]

Period of production Production

Up to 15 September 1944 1900

15 September to 29 October 1944 900

29 October to 24 November 1944 600

24 November to 15 January 1945 1100

15 January to 15 February 1945 700

Total 5200

Launch sites[edit]

A V-2 launched from Test Stand VII
Test Stand VII
in summer 1943

For a description of the V-2 launch equipment and procedure, see Meillerwagen. Following Operation Crossbow
Operation Crossbow
bombing, initial plans for launching from the massive underground Watten and Wizernes bunkers or from fixed pads such as near the Château du Molay[35] were dropped in favour of mobile launching. Eight main storage dumps were planned and four had been completed by July 1944 (the one at Mery-sur-Oise
was begun in August 1943 and completed by February 1944).[36] The missile could be launched practically anywhere, roads running through forests being a particular favourite. The system was so mobile and small that only one Meillerwagen
was ever caught in action by Allied aircraft, during the Operation Bodenplatte
Operation Bodenplatte
attack on 1 January 1945[37] near Lochem
by a USAAF
4th Fighter Group
4th Fighter Group
aircraft, although Raymond Baxter
Raymond Baxter
described flying over a site during a launch and his wingman firing at the missile without hitting it. It was estimated that a sustained rate of 350 V-2s could be launched per week, with 100 per day at maximum effort, given sufficient supply of the rockets.[38] Operational history[edit]

One of the victims of a V2 that struck Teniers Square, Antwerp, Belgium on 27 November 1944. A British military convoy was passing through the square at the time; 126 (including 26 Allied soldiers) were killed.[39]

After Hitler's 29 August 1944 declaration to begin V-2 attacks as soon as possible, the offensive began on 8 September 1944 with a single launch at Paris, which caused modest damage near Porte d'Italie.[12]:218,220,467 Two more launches by the 485th followed, including one from The Hague
The Hague
against London
on the same day at 6:43 p.m.[14]:285 – the first landed at Staveley Road, Chiswick, killing 63-year-old Mrs. Ada Harrison, 3-year-old Rosemary Clarke, and Sapper
Bernard Browning on leave from the Royal Engineers,[15]:11 and one that hit Epping with no casualties. Upon hearing the double-crack of the supersonic rocket (London's first ever), Duncan Sandys
Duncan Sandys
and Reginald Victor Jones
Reginald Victor Jones
looked up from different parts of the city and exclaimed "That was a rocket!", and a short while after the double-crack, the sky was filled with the sound of a heavy body rushing through the air.[14]:286 The British government initially attempted to conceal the cause of the explosions by blaming them on defective gas mains.[40][citation needed] The public therefore began referring to the V-2s as "flying gas pipes".[41] The Germans themselves finally announced the V-2 on 8 November 1944 and only then, on 10 November 1944, did Winston Churchill inform Parliament, and the world, that England had been under rocket attack "for the last few weeks".[42] Positions of the German launch units changed a number of times. For example, Artillerie Init 444 arrived in the southwest Netherlands (in Zeeland) in September 1944. From a field near the village of Serooskerke, five V-2s were launched on 15 and 16 September, with one more successful and one failed launch on the 18th. That same date, a transport carrying a missile took a wrong turn and ended up in Serooskerke itself, giving a villager the opportunity to surreptitiously take some photographs of the weapon; these were smuggled to London
by the Dutch Resistance.[43] After that the unit moved to the woods near Rijs, Gaasterland
in the northwest Netherlands, to ensure that the technology did not fall into Allied hands. From Gaasterland
V-2s were launched against Ipswich
and Norwich from 25 September ( London
being out of range). Because of their inaccuracy, these V-2s did not hit their target cities. Shortly after that only London
and Antwerp
remained as designated targets as ordered by Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
himself, Antwerp
being targeted in the period of 12 to 20 October, after which time the unit moved to The Hague.

Ruined buildings at Whitechapel, London, left by the penultimate V2 to strike the city on 27 March 1945; the rocket killed 134 people. The final V2 to fall on London
killed one person at Orpington
later the same day.[44]

Over the next few months about 3,172 V-2 rockets were fired at the following targets:[45]

Belgium, 1664: Antwerp
(1610), Liège
(27), Hasselt
(13), Tournai
(9), Mons
(3), Diest
(2) United Kingdom, 1402: London
(1358), Norwich
(43),[14]:289 Ipswich
(1) France, 76: Lille
(25), Paris
(22), Tourcoing
(19), Arras
(6), Cambrai (4) Netherlands, 19: Maastricht
(19) Germany, 11: Remagen

An estimated 2,754 civilians were killed in London
by V-2 attacks with another 6,523 injured,[46] which is two people killed per V-2 rocket. However, this understates the potential of the V-2, since many rockets were misdirected and exploded harmlessly. Accuracy increased over the course of the war, particularly for batteries where the Leitstrahl (radio guide beam) system was used.[47] Missile strikes that found targets could cause large numbers of deaths — 160 were killed and 108 seriously injured in one explosion at 12:26 pm on 25 November 1944, at a Woolworth's department store in New Cross, south-east London.[48] British intelligence sent false reports via their Double-Cross System implying that the rockets were over-shooting their London
target by 10 to 20 miles (16 to 32 km). This tactic worked; more than half of the V-2s aimed at London
landed outside the London
Civil Defense Region.[49]:p. 459 Most landed on less-heavily populated areas in Kent due to erroneous recalibration. For the remainder of the war, British intelligence kept up the ruse by repeatedly sending bogus reports implying that the rockets were now striking the British capital with heavy loss of life.[50] Antwerp, Belgium was also the target for a large number of V-weapon attacks from October 1944 through March 1945, leaving 1,736 dead and 4,500 injured in greater Antwerp. Thousands of buildings were damaged or destroyed as the city was struck by 590 direct hits. The largest loss of life in a single attack came on 16 December 1944, when the roof of the crowded cinema REX was struck, leaving 567 dead and 291 injured.[51] Possible use during Operation Bodenplatte[edit] At least one V-2 missile on a mobile Meillerwagen
launch trailer was observed being elevated to launch position by a USAAF
4th Fighter Group pilot defending against the massive New Year's Day 1945 Operation Bodenplatte
Operation Bodenplatte
strike by the Luftwaffe over the northern German attack route near the town of Lochem
on 1 January 1945. Possibly, from the potential sighting of the American fighter by the missile's launch crew, the rocket was quickly lowered from a near launch-ready 85° elevation to 30°.[52] Tactical use[edit] After the US Army captured the Ludendorff Bridge
Ludendorff Bridge
during the Battle of Remagen, the Germans were desperate to destroy it. On 17 March 1945, they fired eleven V2 missiles at the bridge, their first use against a tactical target. They could not employ the more accurate Leitstrahl device because it was oriented towards Antwerp
and could not be easily adjusted for another target. Fired from near Hellendoorn, the Netherlands, one of the missiles landed as far away as Cologne, 40 miles (64 km) to the north, while one missed the bridge by only 500 to 800 yards (460 to 730 m). They also struck the town of Remagen, destroying a number of buildings and killing at least six American soldiers.[53] Final use[edit]

The extent of damage caused to a London
residential area due to single V2 strike in January 1945

The final two rockets exploded on 27 March 1945. One of these was the last V-2 to kill a British civilian: Mrs. Ivy Millichamp, aged 34, killed in her home in Kynaston Road, Orpington
in Kent.[54] A scientific reconstruction carried out in 2010 demonstrated that the V-2 creates a crater 20 metres (66 feet) wide and 8 metres (26 feet) deep, ejecting approximately 3,000 tons of material into the air.[50] Post-war history[edit] After the Nazi defeat, German engineers were moved to the United States and the USSR, where they further developed the V-2 rocket
V-2 rocket
for military and civilian purposes.[55] The V-2 rocket
V-2 rocket
also laid the foundation for the liquid fuel missiles and space launchers used later.[56] Countermeasures[edit] Main articles: Operation Crossbow
Operation Crossbow
and Project Big Ben

engine used by V-2, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin (2014)

Big Ben and Crossbow[edit] Unlike the V-1, the V-2's speed and trajectory made it practically invulnerable to anti-aircraft guns and fighters, as it dropped from an altitude of 100–110 km (62–68 mi) at up to three times the speed of sound at sea level (approximately 3550 km/h). Nevertheless, the threat of what was then code-named "Big Ben" was great enough that efforts were made to seek countermeasures. The situation was similar to the pre-war concerns about manned bombers and led to a similar solution, the formation of the Crossbow Committee to collect, examine and develop countermeasures. Early on, it was believed that the V-2 employed some form of radio guidance, a belief that persisted in spite of several rockets being examined without discovering anything like a radio receiver. This led to efforts to jam this non-existent guidance system as early as September 1944, using both ground and air-based jammers flying over the UK. In October, a group had been sent to jam the missiles during launch. By December it was clear these systems were having no obvious effect, and jamming efforts ended.[57] Anti-aircraft gun
Anti-aircraft gun
system[edit] General Frederick Alfred Pile, commander of Anti-Aircraft Command, studied the problem and proposed that enough anti-aircraft guns were available to produce a barrage of fire in the rocket's path, but only if provided with a reasonable prediction of the trajectory. The first estimates suggested that 320,000 shells would have to be fired for each rocket. About 2% of these were expected to fall back to the ground, almost 90 tons of rounds, which would cause far more damage than the missile. At a 25 August 1944 meeting of the Crossbow Committee, the concept was rejected.[57] Pile continued studying the problem, and returned with a proposal to fire only 150 shells at a single rocket, with those shells using a new fuse that would greatly reduce the number that fell back to Earth unexploded. Some low-level analysis suggested that this would be successful against 1 in 50 rockets, provided that accurate trajectories were forwarded to the gunners in time. Work on this basic concept continued and developed into a plan to deploy a large number of guns in Hyde Park that were provided with pre-configured firing data for 2.5-mile (4.0-kilometre) grids of the London
area. After the trajectory was determined, the guns would aim and fire between 60 and 500 rounds.[57] At a Crossbow meeting on 15 January 1945 Pile's updated plan was presented with some strong advocacy from Roderic Hill
Roderic Hill
and Charles Drummond Ellis. However, the Committee suggested that a test not be carried out as no technique for tracking the missiles with sufficient accuracy had yet been developed. By March this had changed significantly, with 81% of incoming missiles correctly allotted to the grid square each fell into, or the one beside it. At a 26 March meeting the plan moved ahead, and Pile was directed to a subcommittee with RV Jones
RV Jones
and Ellis to further develop the statistics. Three days later the team returned a report stating that if the guns fired 2,000 rounds at a missile there was a 1 in 60 chance of shooting it down. Plans for an operational test began, but as Pile later put it, "Monty beat us to it", as the attacks ended with the Allied liberation of their launching areas.[57] With the Germans no longer in control of any part of the continent that could be used as a launching site capable of striking London, they turned their attention on Antwerp. Plans were made to move the Pile system to protect that city, but the war ended before anything could be done.[57] Direct attack[edit] Another defence against the V-2 campaign was to destroy the launch infrastructure—expensive in terms of bomber resources and casualties—or to cause the Germans to aim at the wrong place through disinformation. The British were able to convince the Germans to direct V-1s and V-2s aimed at London
to less populated areas east of the city. This was done by sending deceptive reports on the damage caused and sites hit via the German espionage network in Britain, which was controlled by the British (the Double-Cross System).[citation needed] According to the BBC television presenter Raymond Baxter, who served with the RAF during the war, in February 1945 his squadron was carrying out a mission against a V2 launch site, when one missile was launched in front of them. One member of Baxter's squadron opened fire on it, without effect.[58] On 3 March 1945 the Allies attempted to destroy V-2s and launching equipment in the "Haagse Bos" in The Hague
The Hague
by a large-scale bombardment, but due to navigational errors the Bezuidenhout
quarter was destroyed, killing 511 Dutch civilians. Churchill sent a scathing minute to General Ismay requesting a thorough explanation for "this extraordinarily bad aiming".[59] Assessment[edit] The German V-weapons
(V-1 and V-2) cost the equivalent of around USD $40 billion (2015 dollars), which was 50 percent more than the Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
that produced the atomic bomb.[12]:178 6,048 V-2s were built, at a cost of approximately 100,000 Reichsmarks (GB£2,370,000 (2011)) each; 3,225 were launched. SS General Hans Kammler, who as an engineer had constructed several concentration camps including Auschwitz, had a reputation for brutality and had originated the idea of using concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers in the rocket program. More people died manufacturing the V-2 than were killed by its deployment.[60]

"… those of us who were seriously engaged in the war were very grateful to Wernher von Braun. We knew that each V-2 cost as much to produce as a high-performance fighter airplane. We knew that German forces on the fighting fronts were in desperate need of airplanes, and that the V-2 rockets were doing us no military damage. From our point of view, the V-2 program was almost as good as if Hitler had adopted a policy of unilateral disarmament." (Freeman Dyson)[61]

The V-2 consumed a third of Germany's fuel alcohol production and major portions of other critical technologies:[62] to distil the fuel alcohol for one V-2 launch required 30 tonnes of potatoes at a time when food was becoming scarce.[63] Due to a lack of explosives, concrete was used[clarification needed] and sometimes the warhead contained photographic propaganda of German citizens who had died in Allied bombing.[64] The V-2 lacked a proximity fuze, so it could not be set for air burst; it buried itself in the target area before or just as the warhead detonated. This reduced its effectiveness. Furthermore, its early guidance systems were too primitive to hit specific targets and its costs were approximately equivalent to 40% of the cost of a two-engine Ju-88 bomber,[65] which was more accurate (though only in a relative sense), which could carry more warheads and was reusable. In comparison, in one 24-hour period during Operation Hurricane, the RAF dropped over 10,000 long tons of bombs on Brunswick and Duisburg, roughly equivalent to the amount of explosives that could be delivered by 10,000 V-2 rockets. Moreover, it diverted resources from other, more effective programs. That said, the limiting factor for German aviation after 1941 was always the availability of high test aviation gas, not planes or pilots, so criticisms of the V-1 and V-2 programs that compare their cost to hypothetical increases in fighter or bomber production are misguided. Nevertheless, the weapon had a considerable psychological effect because, unlike bombing planes or the V-1 Flying Bomb (which made a characteristic buzzing sound), the V-2 travelled faster than the speed of sound and gave no warning before impact. There was no effective defence and no risk of pilot and crew casualties. With the war all but lost, regardless of the factory output of conventional weapons, the Nazis resorted to V-weapons
as a tenuous last hope to influence the war militarily (hence Antwerp
as V-2 target), as an extension of their desire to "punish" their foes and most importantly to give hope to their supporters with their miracle weapon.[18] The V-2 had no effect on the outcome of the war, but it led to the ICBMs of the Cold War
Cold War
that were used for space exploration.[66] Unfulfilled plans[edit] A submarine-towed launch platform was tested successfully, making it the prototype for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The project codename was Prüfstand XII ("Test stand XII"), sometimes called the rocket U-boat. If deployed, it would have allowed a U-boat
to launch V-2 missiles against United States cities, though only with considerable effort (and limited effect).[67] Hitler, in July 1944 and Speer, in January 1945, made speeches alluding to the scheme,[68] though Germany did not possess the capability to fulfill these threats. These schemes were met by the Americans with Operation Teardrop.[citation needed] While interned after the war by the British at CSDIC camp 11, Dornberger was recorded saying that he had begged the Führer to stop the V-weapon propaganda, because nothing more could be expected from one ton of explosive. To this Hitler had replied that Dornberger might not expect more, but he (Hitler) certainly did.[citation needed] According to decrypted messages from the Japanese embassy in Germany, twelve dismantled V-2 rockets were shipped to Japan.[69] These left Bordeaux
in August 1944 on the transport U-boats U-219 and U-195, which reached Djakarta
in December 1944. A civilian V-2 expert was a passenger on U-234, bound for Japan in May 1945 when the war ended in Europe. The fate of these V-2 rockets is unknown.[citation needed] Post-war use[edit] At the end of the war, a race began between the United States and the USSR to retrieve as many V-2 rockets and staff as possible.[70] Three hundred rail-car loads of V-2s and parts were captured and shipped to the United States and 126 of the principal designers, including Wernher von Braun
Wernher von Braun
and Walter Dornberger, were in American hands. Von Braun, his brother Magnus von Braun, and seven others decided to surrender to the United States military (Operation Paperclip) to ensure they were not captured by the advancing Soviets or shot dead by the Nazis to prevent their capture.[71] Britain[edit]

Operation Backfire (WWII)
Operation Backfire (WWII)
V-2 rocket
V-2 rocket
on Meillerwagen
(S.I. Negative #76-2755)

In October 1945, British Operation Backfire assembled a small number of V-2 missiles and launched three of them from a site in northern Germany. The engineers involved had already agreed to move to the US when the test firings were complete. The Backfire report remains the most extensive technical documentation of the rocket, including all support procedures, tailored vehicles and fuel composition.[citation needed] In 1946, the British Interplanetary Society
British Interplanetary Society
proposed an enlarged man-carrying version of the V-2, called Megaroc. It could have enabled sub-orbital spaceflight similar to, but at least a decade earlier than, the Mercury-Redstone
flights of 1961.[72][73] United States[edit] Main article: V-2 sounding rocket

US test launch of a Bumper V-2.

Operation Paperclip
Operation Paperclip
recruited German engineers and Special
Mission V-2 transported the captured V-2 parts to the United States. At the close of the Second World War, over 300 rail cars filled with V-2 engines, fuselages, propellant tanks, gyroscopes, and associated equipment were brought to the railyards in Las Cruces, New Mexico, so they could be placed on trucks and driven to the White Sands Proving Grounds, also in New Mexico. In addition to V-2 hardware, the U.S. Government delivered German mechanization equations for the V-2 guidance, navigation, and control systems, as well as for advanced development concept vehicles, to U.S. defence contractors for analysis. In the 1950s some of these documents were useful to U.S. contractors in developing direction cosine matrix transformations and other inertial navigation architecture concepts that were applied to early U.S. programs such as the Atlas and Minuteman guidance systems as well as the Navy's Subs Inertial Navigation System.[74] A committee was formed with military and civilian scientists to review payload proposals for the reassembled V-2 rockets.[75] This led to an eclectic array of experiments that flew on V-2s and paved the way for American manned space exploration. Devices were sent aloft to sample the air at all levels to determine atmospheric pressures and to see what gases were present. Other instruments measured the level of cosmic radiation.

The first photo from space was taken from a V-2 launched by US scientists on 24 October 1946.

Only 68 percent of the V-2 trials were considered successful.[76] A supposed V-2 launched on 29 May 1947 landed near Juarez, Mexico and was actually a Hermes B-1 vehicle.[77] The U.S. Navy attempted to launch a German V-2 rocket
V-2 rocket
at sea—one test launch from the aircraft carrier USS Midway was performed on 6 September 1947 as part of the Navy's Operation Sandy. The test launch was a partial success; the V-2 went off the pad but splashed down in the ocean only some 10 km (6 mi) from the carrier. The launch setup on the Midway's deck is notable in that it used foldaway arms to prevent the missile from falling over. The arms pulled away just after the engine ignited, releasing the missile. The setup may look similar to the R-7 launch procedure but in the case of the R-7 the trusses hold the full weight of the rocket, rather than just reacting to side forces. The PGM-11 Redstone
PGM-11 Redstone
rocket is a direct descendant of the V-2.[78] USSR[edit] The USSR also captured a number of V-2s and staff, letting them set up in Germany for a time. The first work contracts were signed in the middle of 1945. In 1946 (as part of Operation Osoaviakhim) they were obliged to move to Kapustin Yar
Kapustin Yar
in the USSR, where Helmut Gröttrup headed up a group of just under 250 engineers. The first Soviet missile was the R-1, a duplicate of the V-2. Most of the German team was sent home after that project but some remained to do research until as late as 1951. Unknown to the Germans, work immediately began on larger missiles, the R-2 and R-5, based on extension of the V-2 technology.[citation needed] In the autumn of 1945, the group M. Tikhonravov K. and N. G. Chernyshov at NII-4 rocket artillery Academy of Sciences developed on their own initiative the first stratospheric rocket project. BP-190 called for vertical flight of two pilots to an altitude of 200 km using captured German V-2 rockets.[79] Surviving V-2 examples and components[edit]

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V-2 rocket
V-2 rocket
located at the Australian War Memorial
Australian War Memorial
Treloar Centre Annex

A rusty V-2 engine in the original underground production facilities at the Dora-Mittelbau
concentration camp memorial site.

V-2 on display in Musée de l'Armée, Paris.

At least 20 V-2s still existed in 2014. Australia[edit]

One at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, including complete Meillerwagen
transporter. The rocket has the most complete set of guidance components of all surviving A4s. The Meillerwagen
is the most complete of the three examples known to exist. Another A4 was on display at the RAAF Museum
RAAF Museum
at Point Cook outside Melbourne. Both rockets now reside in Canberra.[80][81]


One example, partly skeletonized, is in the collection of the Royal Netherlands Army Museum. In this collection are also a launching table and some loose parts, as well as the remains of a V-2 that crashed in The Hague
The Hague
immediately after launch.


Several large components, like hydrogen peroxide tank and reaction chamber, the propellant turbopump and the HWK rocket engine chamber (partly cut-out) are displayed at the Polish Aviation Museum
Polish Aviation Museum
in Kraków A reconstruction of a V-2 missile containing multiple original recovered parts is on display at the Armia Krajowa Museum in Kraków.


One engine at Cité de l'espace in Toulouse. V-2 display including engine, parts, rocket body and many documents and photographs relating to the development and use at La Coupole museum, Wizernes, Pas de Calais. One rocket body no engine, one complete engine, one lower engine section and one wrecked engine on display at La Coupole
La Coupole
museum One engine complete with steering pallets, feed lines and tank bottoms, plus one cut-out thrust chamber and one cut-out turbopump at the Snecma (Space Engines Div.) museum in Vernon One complete rocket in WWII wing of the Musée de l'Armée
Musée de l'Armée
(Army Museum) in Paris.


One complete missile and an additional engine at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. One engine at the German Museum of Technology
German Museum of Technology
in Berlin. One rusty engine in the original V-2 underground production facilities at the Dora-Mittelbau
concentration camp memorial site. One rusty engine in Buchenwald concentration camp

One replica was constructed for the Historical and Technical Information Centre in Peenemünde,[82] where it is displayed near what remains of the factory where it was built. United Kingdom[edit]

The propulsion unit from a V-2 that broke up in air on display (with exhaust-exit pointed up) Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum

One at the Science Museum, London. One, on loan from Cranfield University, at the Imperial War Museum, London. The RAF Museum has two rockets, one displayed at the museum's London site and one at the Cosford site. The museum also owns a Meillerwagen, a Vidalwagen, a Strabo crane, and a firing table with towing dolly. One at the Royal Engineers Museum
Royal Engineers Museum
in Chatham, Kent. A propulsion unit (minus injectors) is in Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum near Bungay A complete turbo-pump is at Solway Aviation Museum, Carlisle Airport as part of the Blue Streak Rocket
exhibition. The venturi segment of one discovered in April 2012 was donated to the Harwich
Sailing Club after they found it buried in a mudflat.[83] Fuel combustion chamber recovered from the sea near Clacton at the East Essex Aviation Museum, St Oysth

United States[edit]

Complete missiles

One at the Flying Heritage Collection, Everett, Washington One at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, including complete Meillerwagen, Dayton, Ohio.[84] One (chessboard-painted) at the Cosmosphere
in Hutchinson, Kansas. One at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.[85] One at the Fort Bliss
Fort Bliss
Air Defense Museum, El Paso, Texas. One (yellow and black) at Missile Park, White Sands Missile Range
White Sands Missile Range
in White Sands, New Mexico.[86] One at Marshall Space Flight Center
Marshall Space Flight Center
in Huntsville, Alabama. One at the U.S. Space & Rocket
Center in Huntsville, Alabama.


One engine at the Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma. One engine at the U.S. Space & Rocket
Center in Huntsville, Alabama. One engine at the National Museum of the United States Air Force[87] Combustion chambers and other components plus a U.S. built engine at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
in Dulles, Virginia. One engine at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. One rocket body and one engine at the United States Army
United States Army
Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen, Maryland. (moved to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton Ohio in approx 2005.) One rocket body at Picatinny Arsenal
Picatinny Arsenal
in Dover, NJ. One engine in the Auburn University Engineering Lab One engine in the Exhibit Hall adjacent to the Blockhouse building on the Historic Cape Canaveral
Cape Canaveral
Tour in Cape Canaveral, Florida. One engine at Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology
Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology
in St. Louis, Missouri One engine and tail section at New Mexico Museum of Space History
New Mexico Museum of Space History
in Alamogordo, New Mexico

See also[edit]

Spaceflight portal Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany

V-1 flying bomb V-3 cannon


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Oberg, Jim; Sullivan, Dr. Brian R (original draft) (March 1999). "'Space Power Theory". U.S. Air Force Space Command: Government Printing Office. p. 143. Retrieved 28 November 2008.  24,000 fighters could have been produced instead of the inaccurate V-weapons. Harris, Arthur T; Cox, Sebastion (1995). Despatch on War Operations: 23rd February, 1942, to 8th May, 1945. p. xliii. ISBN 0-7146-4692-X. Retrieved 4 July 2008.  King, Benjamin and Timothy J. Kutta (1998). Impact: The History of Germany's V-Weapons in World War II . (Alternately: Impact: An Operational History of Germany's V Weapons in World War II.) Rockville Centre, New York: Sarpedon Publishers, 1998. ISBN 1-885119-51-8, ISBN 1-86227-024-4. Da Capo Press; Reprint edition, 2003: ISBN 0-306-81292-4.

Further reading[edit]

Dungan, Tracy D. (2005). V-2: A Combat History of the First Ballistic Missile. Westholme Publishing. ISBN 1-59416-012-0. Huzel, Dieter K. (ca. 1965). Peenemünde
to Canaveral. Prentice Hall Inc. Piszkiewicz, Dennis (1995). The Nazi Rocketeers: Dreams of Space and Crimes of War. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-95217-7.

External links[edit]

Look up v-2 rocket in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Wikimedia Commons has media related to V-2 missiles.

History of Peenemünde
and the discovery of the German missile development by the Allies "Chute Saves Rockets Secrets", September 1947, Popular Science article on US use of V-2 for scientific research Reconstruction, restoration & refurbishment of a V-2 rocket, spherical panoramas of the process and milestones.

v t e

German WWII V-weapons

V-1 V-2 V-3


Argus As 014 Fieseler Fi 103R

Leonidas Squadron

Airfield Facilities Kawanishi Baika


Meillerwagen Wernher von Braun Walter Dornberger Arthur Rudolph The Bäckebo rocket Test launches Peenemünde

Test Stand VII

Greifswalder Oie Blizna Rocket

Construction and bunkers



Nucourt Sottevast Saint-Leu-d'Esserent Brécourt Siracourt Blockhaus d'Éperlecques
Blockhaus d'Éperlecques
(Watten) La Coupole
La Coupole
(Wizernes) Lehesten Fortress of Mimoyecques

Allied countermeasures

Intelligence Polish Home Army

Operation Most III

Réseau AGIR Operation Crossbow

Crossbow Site

Bombing of Peenemünde Operation Teardrop Operation Diver Operation Aphrodite Project Danny

Related weapons

Wasserfall Aggregat rockets Wunderwaffe WWII guided missiles of Germany Rheinbote

Post-WWII development


Republic-Ford JB-2 MGM-1 Matador PGM-11 Redstone Hermes Project Upper Atmosphere Research Panel Operation Paperclip White Sands V-2 Launching Site Bumper Rocket


R-1 R-2 Operation Backfire Project Big Ben Ghost rockets

In fiction

Battle of the V-1 633 Squadron Gravity's Rainbow Ministry of Space Operat