Fieseler Fi.103 - Doodlebug (V1)

During the Second World War, the German company Fieseler developed on its own initiative a flying bomb. It used a navigation system that guided the bomb to a pre-programmed target. As everything was done in the utmost secrecy the project was officially called FZG-76 (FZG = ‘Flak Ziel Gerät or air target apparatus). Propaganda called it Vergeltungswaffe 1 or V1 for short.
The nose section of the bomb contained 800 kos of explosives and was powered by means of a primitive pulsejet capable of doing 600km/h.
The engine of the V1 made a very peculiar noise, which made that the flying bomb was commonly nicknamed “Buzz bomb” or “Doodlebug”. A small propeller on the nose section was linked to a counter and was responsible for the countdown of a small counter, which was pre-initiated by the V1 ground crew to a number obtained after calculations on distance, speed, wind force….  When this counter reached  0 two explosive bolts exploded in the tail section. This made two spoilers pop up resulting in a downwards dive.
The original idea was to fly at a height of 10.000m, but due to lack of time, the German engineers were not capable to master this technique and so the bombs cruised at a height between 1.000 and 3.000m. The V1 first appeared over England during mid June 1944.
The first problem was the launch, responsible for the loss of 1 in 8 of the bombs. Then came the fighter aircraft forming a defense line over the North Sea.  Instead of shooting the thing down – which was considered oto dangerous, in case the explosives detonated – the pilot flew alongside the V1 and passed his wing tip over the V1’s.  German engineers at first thought that the pilot tipped  the V1 over with his wingtip and installed small switches on the tips which would detonate the bomb when pushed. But it did not help…
What really happened was that air pressure between the two wingtips pushed them apart, an action which could be corrected by the aircraft’s pilot, but not by the unmanned bomb. Its gyro compass was not built to compensate big changes, got confused, compensated and over-compensated the changes  and resulted in the bomb taking a dive.
Intercepting the bombs in this way, could only be done at fast speeds and in the end Fighter Command decided the it was too dangerous a job and it was forbidden.
During the first three weeks of June, 194.000 houses were destroyed in London and to clear the debris, 33.000 men were used.
The second line of defense (in Antwerp this was the first and only one, as fighters were no longer used for interception) were the anti-aircraft batteries. Due to the low cruising height and flying in a straight line, the bombs were an ‘easy’ target for these batteries. Antwerp was shot at from to directions. There were V1 launching sites near Apeldoorn (NL) and Koblenz (D). In all some 816 V1’s fell on Antwerp town and another 1.832 on the surrounding area and villages. The anti-aircraft batteries launched 532.000 grenades and succeeded in shooting down 2.183 V1’s (approx. 244 shells/V1). During the final months success rate was up to 98%.
V1’s were build a cost of 3.500 Reichs Marken and took some 250 man hours by non-skilled personnel. Building a V2 meant 10.000 man hours of highly skilled personnel at a cost of 240.000 Marken.  The V2 project was more expensive to the Germans the getting the first man on the moon by the Americans.
The V1 on display at the museum is on loan from the City of Antwerp.


The pulsejet engine. Very simple an efficient. High speed but short lived (ca. 45min.).
Steering was done by means of compresed air. Two servo's transferred commands from the steering installation to the rudder and elevators..
A V1 contained 2 detonators in the side of the fuselage, one mechanical and one time detonator.

Last update : 19.09.2019 13:22

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