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STEVEN J. ZALOGA, illustrated by JIM LAURIER
Unlike conventional aircraft, the FZG-76 was not completely assembled at the plants. Instead, the major components such as the fuselage, engine, wings, warhead and other sub-assemblies were delivered to a Luftwaffe munitions depot Four of these were assigned to the FZG-76 program, of which the most important were Pulverhof in Mecklenberg and Karlwitz near Dannenberg. There, the components were merged; the fuselage, engine, and warhead were assembled, and the rest of the components along with the completed fuselage mounted on a TW-76 trolley. This made it easier to deliver the missile to the field depots in France. At that point, the sensitive equipment such as the autopilot and compass were fitted, and from these depots the missiles were delivered to the launch sites. It was only at the launch site that the FZG-76 was completely assembled.
The FZG-76 was delivered from the manufacturing plant on its TW-76 trolley to the Luftwaffe munitions depots in the configuration shown in the lower illustration with no warhead and the tail fastened above the rudder. The depot then mated the warhead to the fuselage, added the wings and wing-spar to the trolley, and delivered the semi-complete missile to the forward supply units as shown in the upper illustration. (NARA)
When the Fi-103 finally reached quantity production in March 1944, the time to manufacture the missile had been reduced to 350 hours of which the complicated autopilot accounted for 120 hours. The unit cost was RM5,060, only four percent of the cost of a V-2 ballistic missile, and only about two percent of the cost of a twin-engine bomber.
To test whether the improvements worked, on April 14th-17th, 1944, the Luftwaffe conducted field tests of 30 Fi-103 missiles from the Heidelager test range near Blizna in Poland. Nine missiles crashed shortly after launching but the remaining missiles all struck within 30km (18 miles) of their target, and ten landed within 10km of the target One recurring problem was the fuel-pressure regulator which was supposed to alter the fuel supply automatically depending on altitude. No short-term solution to the problems could be found so in May 1944 the regulator was simplified which meant that the cruise altitude was only 4,500ft instead of the expected 9,000ft. This made the FZG-76 more vulnerable to light anti-aircraft guns such as the ubiquitous 40mm Bofors used by many British and American anti-aircraft units.
If development and production were six months behind schedule, deployment plans at the missile bases in France were also delayed, starting only in August 1943. The initial phase was Site System 1 which contained 96 Type A sites along the Channel coast from Dieppe to Calais. Each site included a launch ramp shielded on either side by a concrete wall, a non-magnetic alignment building for final adjustment to the magnetic compass prior to launch, a launch bunker, three long missile storage buildings, and several smaller buildings for storing fuel and other supplies. The precise location of each of the buildings was dependent on the site, and some effort was made to use local terrain such as hedges and tree lines to camouflage the more conspicuous structures. The missile sites were usually located next to existing roads, which were upgraded with smooth concrete surfaces to facilitate the use of the many handling trolleys servicing the launch site. Often, the site was located near farms or other buildings which could be taken over to house the launch crews, and which also helped to camouflage the site. Site System 2 was a set of reserve sites, with the intention to complete one reserve site for each battery by December 1943. Site System 3 was a more ambitious scheme to deploy the missile bases in a wider band from Cherbourg to Flanders in Belgium which would be manned by four new battalions (V-VIII Abteilungen). Eight of these sites were begun in Normandy but since the new battalions were never raised, they were allotted to IV/FR155W.
FZG-76 production was extended to the underground Mittelwerke plant near Nordhausen after the original aviation plants were bombed. Here, some US Army officers examine some unfinished missiles after the plant was captured in April 1945. (NARA)
Wachtel's FR155W included four launch battalions (Abteilungen) each with three launch batteries and a maintenance and supply battery. Each launcher battery had three launch platoons, each with two launchers, meaning 18 launch ramps per battalion and 72 launch ramps for the regiment. Each launch ramp was manned by about 50 personnel, and the regiment as a whole totaled about 6,500 personnel. Due to the technological complexity of the new weapon, FR155W was supported by several dozen civilian engineers from the factories called the Industrie-Hilfstrupp Gehlhaar (ITG).
As the battalions from FR155W completed their training at Zempin, they were transferred to France in late October 1943 to assist in preparing the missile bases. To coordinate the bombardment of London by the Luftwaffe Fi-103 and the Army A-4 ballistic missile, on December 1st, 1943, the Wehrmacht created a hybrid organization, the 65. Armee Korps zur besonderen Venwendung (65th Army Corps for Special Employment), staffed by Army and Air Force officers. Command of the 65th Corps was given to Generalleutnant Erich Heinemann, previous commander of the Army artillery school, and the chief of staff was Luftwaffe Colonel Eugen Walter. After inspecting the missile sites, the corps staff was dismayed by the poor planning and unrealistic expectations of the high command which seemed to be completely unaware of the problems. The high command insisted that the missile attack on London begin in January 1944, ignoring the fact that the bases were not complete, training had not been concluded, and there were no stores of missiles.
This shows an Fi-103 on its TW-76 trolley in shipping configuration at the Luftwaffe's Karlwitz munitions depot near Dannenberg in 1945. The warhead is not fitted yet, and the standard blue protective cover is fitted to the nose which served to protect the delicate auto-log propeller as well as contain the fuzes for the warhead which were not fitted until at the launch site. (NARA)
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