Air lunched V-1 flying bomb


The trial versions of the V-1 were air-launched. Most operational V-1s were launched from static sites on land, but from July 1944 to January 1945, the Luftwaffe launched approximately 1,176 from modified Heinkel He 111 H-22s of the Luftwaffe’s Kampfgeschwader 3 (3rd Bomber Wing, the so-called “Blitz Wing”) flying over the North Sea. Apart from the obvious motive of permitting the bombardment campaign to continue after static ground sites on the French coast were lost, air launching gave the Luftwaffe the opportunity to outflank the increasingly effective ground and air defences put up by the British against the missile. To minimise the associated risks (primarily radar detection), the aircrews developed a tactic called “lo-hi-lo”: the He 111s would, upon leaving their airbases and crossing the coast, descend to an exceptionally low altitude. When the launch point was neared, the bombers would swiftly ascend, fire their V-1s, and then rapidly descend again to the previous “wave-top” level for the return flight. Research after the war estimated a 40% failure rate of air-launched V-1s, and the He 111s used in this role were vulnerable to night-fighter attack, as the launch lit up the area around the aircraft for several seconds. The combat potential of air-launched V-1s dwindled during 1944 at about the same rate as that of the ground-launched missiles, as the British gradually took the measure of the weapon and developed increasingly effective defence tactics.

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