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I hear some new Nazi secret weapons have been discovered. What are they

00:00 Mon 07th May 2001 |

A.
Not strictly true - but some bizarre Nazi flying ideas have just been revealed in a book. It's called Luftwaffe Secret Projects - Strategic Bombers 1935-1945.*< xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Q.Such as

A.There's a bomber with propellers both front and back. Then there's a double plane - two ordinary-looking planes, joined at the wing.

Q.All daft, then

A.Pretty much so, with a notable exception - the elegant 'flying wing' Horten Ho VIII, shaped like an aerofoil and powered by three BMW jet engines. It's remarkably like America's Stealth Bomber. The Nazis planned to build it from tubular steel, wood and fabric, making it almost invisible to radar.

Q.None of these was used, then

A.No.

Q. Which secret weapons were

A.You mean the V1 and V2. The V1 (also known as Doodlebug and buzz bomb) was the first of the Vergeltungswaffen ('weapons of vengeance'), in response to Allied air assaults on Germany in the Second World War. It was terrifying - but nothing in comparison with the V2.

Q.How did it work

A.The V1 was a small, pilotless aircraft, 26ft long, a wingspan of 17ft and weighed nearly two tons, including a warhead of 1,874lb. It was powered by a pulse-jet mounted above the back, producing a speed of up to 400mph.

Q.No - how did it work as a bomb

A.The V1 could fly an average of 150 miles from its launch sites near Calais. Its range was preset and then it went into a dive as its engine cut. I have spoken to many people who witnessed this terror. One told me: 'The engine was loud - just like a pre-war [two-stroke-engine] motorbike sounded. You just hoped that the sound kept going - and some other poor blighter would get it. I heard a Doodlebug engine cut once - and leaped for cover in the air-raid shelter. It exploded harmlessly in the river.' Doodlebug attacks started in June, 1944 and more than 8,000 were launched against London alone.

Q.How could they be stopped

A.With difficulty. For a start, they were faster than conventional aircraft. More than 1,000 barrage balloons were set up in Kent to block their path. Eight fighter squadrons, equipped with Hawker Typhoons, Supermarine Spitfire IXs and XIVs, and Hawker Tempest Vs, were assigned to fight the new threat. The planes underwent modifications to squeeze every last bit of power from their engines. All armour and excess weight were removed. The leading edges of wings were polished to a high gloss. A few enterprising pilots discovered they could slide a wing under the V1's wingtip and lift it, tipping the flying bomb out of control - and into a 'safe' area. That quickly became a standard method of destroying them. Shooting them down was complex - and foolhardy. They could easily explode and bring down the fighter with it.

Q.But what about the V2s

A.Some experts believe that Germany could have won the war if these had been developed earlier. They were unstoppable. The V2, or Aggregat 4, was an unmanned, guided, ballistic missile. It was guided by an advanced gyroscopic system that sent signals to aerodynamic steering tabs on the fins and vanes in the exhaust. The motor burned for a minute, pushing the rocket to about 4,400 ft/second. It rose to an altitude of 60 miles and had a range of 225 miles. It carried a one-ton explosive warhead capable of flattening a city block. It was first fired operationally on 8 September, 1944, against Paris then London.

Q.So it was much faster than the Doodlebug

A.Oh yes! 4,400 ft/sec is 2.5 miles a second. That's 150 miles a minute. There was no chance you could have any warning of an impending V2. When its engine cut, it fell on you at a speed of 2,250mph. The V2 offensive lasted from September, 1944, until March, 1945, when the sites were destroyed. About 2,500 rockets were launched and the London area was hit by more than 500 of them.

The scientists who developed the rockets were spirited back to America and used on its space programme.

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By Steve Cunningham

* It's published by Midland Publishing at �24.95. Available from http://www.ianallansuperstore.com/cgi-bin/index.cgi

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