My Tank is Fright
Missiles, and Ospreys, and super tanks, oh my! Once again I am here to bring you the latest and greatest in crazy technology from the Second World War. This time around I have another delightful trio of inventions from the Third Reich, proving once again that Germans do crazy super weapons the best. If you have missed any of the past installment of the "My Tanků" series, feel free to check them out.
In the meantime, on with the weapons!
HS 293 Missile
Type: Guided Anti-Shipping Missile
The HS 293 in its cute dormant state.
Specific Features: During the course of the Second World War the Germans experimented with a wide variety of guidance systems and guided weapons platforms. Among the most famous is the Wasserfall surface-to-air missile, but these weapons required coordinated radar systems, barely-proven calculation devices, and of course had to hit a fast-moving target. Much greater progress was made in developing anti-shipping weaponry of a similar nature. These devices could be remote controlled from an aircraft that remained out of anti-aircraft range and their target was moving much more slowly than even a lumbering Allied bomber.
Two guided weapons projects emerged from this mass of R&D successfully; the hulking 3,300lb Fritz-X guided bomb and the HS 293 guided anti-shipping missile. Both projects were successful, but the HS 293 proved to be the better of the two. It was essentially a 500 kilogram bomb modified with small slightly swept wings and ailerons that could be adjusted remotely by use of a radio transmitter. Beneath the body of the HS 293 was a Walter rocket motor capable of bringing the HS 293 up to a maximum speed of 580 miles per hour. The HS 293 was dropped from beneath the attacking aircraft and provided a variable range of attack depending on the attacking aircraft's altitude. A variety of aircraft were used as the launching platform for the HS 293
Guidance was achieved by a bombardier manipulating a joystick and literally watching out the window as the missile approached the target. Needless to say, it could only be used on perfectly clear days and was not exactly safe to attack an aircraft carrier considering the launch vehicle had to remain on station and vulnerable to any enemy aircraft in the vicinity. The HS 293 proved so successful when used against Allied shipping that the Germans developed various specialty warheads, including an armor piercing version and one featuring broadside charge designed to detonate beneath the water line next to a ship. The Allies also developed means to jam the radio transmissions of the HS 293 control aircraft leading to a version of the HS 293 that spooled out a control wire from its wing tips. A final development incorporated a television camera, allowing the launching aircraft to maneuver more freely and generally improving the accuracy of the HS 293.
The HMS Intrepid, relaxing unaware of its exciting fate.
History: Development of the HS 293 began at Henschel in 1940 as an offshoot of a program to create guided glide bombs. The rocket-powered HS 293 first went into action in August of 1943 in Biscay Bay where German aircraft managed to sink one ship and heavily damage a destroyer. In the Atlantic the HS 293 was primarily used as a convoy interdiction weapon and was used effectively against merchant vessels.
The missile truly hit its stride - and the sides of a shitload of Allied ships - in the Mediterranean. The British lost several destroyers to the HS 293, including the Inglefield and the Intrepid, which wasn't quite as Intrepid when 1200 pounds of armor-piercing explosive were being Radio Shacked through its port side. The battleship Valiant was also supposedly sunk, although my research on this subject produced some conflicting results. The ship nerds of the Internet claim that the Valiant was nearly destroyed during a dry dock accident in the Mediterranean and was ultimately scrapped. The missile nerds claim that the Valiant was sunk by an HS 293 launched from a German He 177.
The HS 293 takes flight.
The HS 293's impressive kill sheet makes it the most effective guided missile of the Second World War. Had it entered service at the height of conflict in the Mediterranean it could have turned the tide in favor of the Germans, particularly as it eased British naval interdiction of harried German shipping. Of course, as with so many of these Wunder Waffen, if wishes were fishes we could all be in Hitler's aquarium right now wondering how those German exo-armored shock troops landed on the White House lawn in 1944.
Weserflug P. 1003
Type: German Tilt-Rotor VTOL Aircraft
The Weserflug P. 1003 by Kyle Scott.
Specific Features: The Weserflug P. 1003 was an airplane and helicopter rolled into one back when helicopter had barely lifted off the ground. Design work began on the Weserflug in 1938 and never progressed past the modeling phase, primarily due to the mechanical difficulties inherent in the aircraft's tilt rotor configuration. During the course of the war the Germans fielded a tiny handful of primitive helicopters, mostly for reconnaissance and courier duties. Back then the strategy of vertical envelopment relied on paratroopers and glider-landed soldiers; a dangerous, messy, and usually very risky strategy. It wasn't until the Vietnam War that helicopters came into their own as the trusty steed of the airborne cavalry. Had Germany realized that developing a fast VTOL transport like the P. 1003 would have allowed them to execute daring operations undreamt of at the time they might have fast-tracked its production.
If the mechanical difficulties had been overcome and the P. 1003 rolled out onto German tarmacs - and let's assume it would have been called something awesome like the We-22 "Mordvogel" - the aircraft would have had impressive operational performance. The aircraft featured two large rotors located in nacelles on the ends of its wings linked to an air-cooled Daimler Benz 600 engine in the fuselage. The rotors provided the thrust to lift and carry over two tons of men and equipment at speeds up to 650 kilometers per hour. No armament was planned but it can be extrapolated that the P. 1003 would have also made a capable low-altitude bomber.
What made the P. 1003 so desirable should be pretty obvious to you or me with our magical 21st century hindsight. Imagine dozens of them streaming over the English Channel inside a cloud of fighter escorts, effortlessly landing squads of elite paratroopers wherever they were needed. Or consider how history might have changed had Hitler, rather than taking his own life, waved goodbye to Berlin and boarded a waiting P. 1003 with Otto Skorzeny to be whisked away to a submarine and taken to safety in Argentina. Many hundreds of alternate history novels have hinged on flimsier concepts. Hell, I'm pretty sure I read one where Hitler turned into a ghost and possessed a cyborg version of Rommel.
The Weserflug P. 10- oh wait, no, that's the Osprey seconds before crashing.
History: Many would argue that the Weserflug P. 1003 was so amazing that it is still slaughtering United States Marines to this day in the form of the crash-prone and eerily similar V-22 Osprey. The Osprey started development in 1989, the P. 1003 started development in 1938. They look almost identical and were functionally intended for the same practical role. While the P. 1003 never hovered off the drawing board to wreak havoc on Allied soldiers the Osprey has spent more than a decade hammering itself into the ground and taking us out in the name of the Reich.
The Jagdpanzer E-100 "Krokodil"
Type: Super Heavy Tank Killer
A model of the Krokodil.
Specific Features: The E-100 is infrequently referred to as the "Tiger III" and more commonly mistaken for the Maus super heavy tank. Not without good reason, considering that development of the E-100 and the Maus were concurrent and because the Maus progressed more quickly the E-100 was intended to have mounted an identical turret. This makes even technical illustrations of the two look surprisingly similar, but the E-100 was more than just a lousy Maus imposter. As the scale tipping end of Germany's rather ingenious "E-series" of next generation tanks the E-100 was planned to be the platform for a variety of super heavy armored vehicles. Among these was the E-100 "Krokodil", a super heavy anti-tank vehicle.
Without the Maus turret to contend with the Krokodil would have slimmed down the slightly ridiculous 3.6 meter profile of the turreted E-100 and lightened the load on the E-100's 800 horsepower Maybach engine. While the E-100 would have never lived up to its promised road speed of 40 kilometers per hour (twice as fast as the Maus!) the Krokodil would have likely come closer. The Krokodil would have maintained or even enhanced the E-100s already comical 24 centimeters of sloped armor. The most powerful anti-tank gun fielded by the Germans by the end of the war was the 128mm KwK 44 used by the Jagdtiger and planned for the Maus. The E-100 tank and Jagdpanzer Krokodil both would have mounted a 170mm anti-tank gun capable of driving an armor piercing shot through anything on the battlefield at ranges up to four kilometers.
The E-100 was projected to weigh a "mere" 136 tons, but this number hardly seems realistic given that the weight of the less heavily armed Maus was 188 tons. The E-100, like the Maus, also mounted a coaxial 75mm gun for anti-personnel duty. This gun would have been done away with in the purpose-built Krokodil and would have further trimmed the operational weight of the vehicle and freed up room for more ammunition.
History: The E-Series, or "Einheitsfahrgestell" Series, or General Purpose Chassis Series if you like English, began in April of 1943 with an order to various manufacturers to begin developing different weight classes of vehicles. The E-series was envisioned as a sort of fresh start for the panzer armies of Germany, an entire new wave of armored vehicles in all shapes and sizes. They ranged from the E-5 ultra-light tanks in the 5-10 ton range all the way up to the gargantuan E-100 series. The idea was a grander realization of what was attempted with the Koenigs Tiger and formative Panther II; a complete interchangeability of parts. Every piece of an ultra-light E-5 tank possible would be made to work in a super-heavy E-100 tank, greatly streamlining the efficiency of production, maintenance, and training. This was an impressive goal and one which has yet to be fully realized by any military to this day.
The loot. The warrant. The E-100 chassis...in jaaaaiiilllll.
By the end of the war many vehicles in the E-Series had progressed well into the prototype phase, including a variety of light anti-tank guns. For the E-100, fate was less kind. Because of the terrible situation Germany found itself in by 1944, development of super heavy tanks was all but halted. A handful of engineers at the Henschel facility in Paderborn were allowed to continue assembling a prototype of the E-100 tank. They had nearly completed the chassis when the facility was overrun by the British and Americans in 1945. The chassis was carted off to England where it was eventually scrapped.
The legacy of the E-100 and the Krokodil are particularly sad considering that so much noise is made about the Maus when they were both clearly superior vehicles. Their greatly improved speed, even if a bit optimistic, places them leaps and bounds ahead of the Maus in terms of the usefulness they would have had on the battlefield. Both still would have been easy targets for aircraft, but at least in the case of the E-100 an old man with a walker couldn't have come up alongside and dropped engineering charges on the engine boards. In other words and using virtually the same joke; the Maus could drive over houses, but the house would probably be able to get away.
I hope you had as much fun as I did! Who knows what will be next? The earth-frying Nazi space station? The iceberg aircraft carrier? The mysterious Foo Fighters? No, not the band, the glowing spherical surveillance aircraft that were probably imaginary or aliens.