How effective were unguided rockets - really?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Conslaw, Apr 4, 2014.

  1. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    Lately I've scanned a lot of WWII literature and one thing strikes me, that in different theaters, the damage pilots claim from their unguided rockets is even more exaggerated than claims of aerial combat. American pilots, in particular, seemed to like the 5" rocket as a weapon, but as an anti-tank weapon, it was ineffective absent a direct hit, which was infrequent, and as an anti-ship weapon the record of successes seems slight in terms of the rockets expended. The website combinedfleet.com has a tabular record of movement for almost all major Japanese warships and many minor ones. In only a few cases is there any record of damage to ships by rocket hits. (There may have been more hits and damage, but not such as was deemed worthy of reporting.)

    I paid special attention to the Battle off of Samar, the escort carriers' battle during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. One would expect a lot of records of ship damage due to rockets, but precious little was found. (Incidentally, it appears that the escort carrier pilots did not have the talent for hitting ships that their First Team counterparts did during the Battle of Midway 2+ years before. According to H.P. Willmott's book, The Battle of Leyte Gulf: The Last Fleet Action, just one of the Taffy escort carrier groups, Task Unit 77.4.2, expended 49 torpedoes, 133 55 lb. bombs and 276 rockets in the defensive battle. Even without the rockets, that's similar in magnitude as to what the three American fleet carriers expended at Midway to destroy four Japanese fleet carriers.) It's a good thing for the Americans that the Japanese naval gunners had even worse aim.

    The British Navy seemed to obtain better results with rockets than the Americans. According to info at The U-boat Wars 1939-1945 (Kriegsmarine) and 1914-1918 (Kaiserliche Marine) and Allied Warships of WWII - uboat.net, the British sank a number of U-Boats with rockets, including U-804, U-843, U-1065, U-755, U-1007 and U-860.

    I couldn't find any record of any U-boats sunk by rockets alone by American forces but quite a few were sunk by rockets combined with bombs, depth charges, etc.

    Comments?
     
  2. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    Seen several gun camera videos of rockets being fired by US and RAF planes and the rockets have terrible dispersion they cant even fly paralell to each other in the horizontal and vertical unless that is deliberate. From what I have read they seemed to be more effective as terror weapons in that they put soldiers and sailors off the idea of standing up and fighting back.
     
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  3. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    FF rockets are effective against ground targets and WWII era heavy bombers. However they weren't introduced into combat until 1945.
     
  4. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    The RAF (if it was the RAF) had an Airfield defense which used rockets to launch cables or wires up in the air in the event of a low level attack, I believe it was quite effective.
     
  5. beitou

    beitou Member

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    They were also used on ships but I've no idea how effective they were.
     
  6. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    An outstanding artillery system by WWII standards.

    RM 1,500 for 6 round launcher. You can purchase about 6 launchers for the price of one 105mm howitzer.
    Light enough to be towed by almost anything. Even a Kubelwagen.
    90 seconds to reload and fire. Typically fired two salvos then scooted before counter battery fire arrived.
    7km max range.
    2.55kg HE payload (per rocket).
    50% of projectiles fall within 130m x 80m quadrangle. Overlapping blast waves kill by concussion within impact area.
    Improved diglykol rockets introduced during 1942 eliminated most of rocket smoke trail, improved range and reduced dispersion.
     
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  7. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    RAF Coastal Command had good success with rockets from Beaufighters and Mosquitos against Axis shipping off western France and later off Norway, same with RAAF Beaus in the Pacific.

    There's a report "somewhere on my hard drive" about rockets vs ground targets in Normandy, not as accurate as claimed. That said, I've seen guncam film from a Tiffie which shows the aircraft in front putting all four salvoes of two rockets apiece very precisely into a rail line, IIRC he even nails a small bridge over a stream.
     
  8. muskeg13

    muskeg13 Member

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    #8 muskeg13, Apr 6, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2014
    Near Trieste, 8 September 1944, 51,062 Ton S.S. Rex was left listing and on fire after being attacked by 12 RAF 272 Squadron Beaufighters. 59 rocket hits claimed. The Rex was sunk the next day by 12 Beaufighters of RAF 39 Squadron. SS Rex - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    According to 1LT Richard K. Curtis, in "Dumb, But Lucky-Confessions of a P-51 Fighter Pilot In WWII" pp.181-182, On 8 September 1944, 10 P-51Ds of 4th Squadron, 52 Fighter Group, USAAF flew escort for 8 RAF Beaufighters to attack the anchored Rex, that had been converted to a troop transport. A flight of P-51s strafed first to supress AA, the Beaufighters attacked with 3" rockets (6 per aircraft) and 20mm cannon, then the second P-51 flight strafed. This attack left the large liner listing and burning from the rocket fire.
     
  9. Denniss

    Denniss Active Member

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    They were good to attack large targets like SS Cap Arcona but no good to take out pinpoint targets like tanks (especially if moving) unless you come very close or fire a large salvo and the rockets having a predictable/stable flightpath.
     
  10. Koopernic

    Koopernic Active Member

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    The Luftwaffe successfully used two rockets in the air to air role; the R4M and the WGr 21 which was known as the BR 21 when fired from aircraft.

    The Luftwaffe introduced folding fin technology in the form of the 55mm diameter R4M rocket in late 1944/1945 and used them effectively against USAAF bomber formations. The R4M became the pattern for all allied and soviet post war unguided rockets.

    Adolf Galland felt that the Me 262 and R4M was finally enough to defeat the bombers. He would know as he used them in combat. They were effective and relatively accurate though not as accurate as guns. The key breakthrough was their low dispersion compared to previous rockets. The folding fins gave higher accuracy due to a large fin area, as well as a practical and compact installation. They were simultaneously spin stabilised. Their falloff was comparable to the Mk108 canon. To be effective they needed to be aimed by a Lead computing gyro sight which in the German case was the EZ42. Unfortunately for a time the remotely mounted gyros were mounted incorrectly due to a installation manual deficiency causing the pilots to loose trust and rely on their marksmanship as aces. Fw 190s so equipped never went through the problem. The EZ42 had provision for introduction of a range only radar mounted in the leading edge that fed the EZ42 via a computer called Oberon but these additions never saw service.

    The BR21, which was used from 1943 onwards, was based on the famous WGr 21 tube launched artillery rocket, the nebelwerfer (dyglycol powered since 1939). The technique was for a fighter formation to approach the target aircraft, a formation of B17 for instance, from behind and at a fixed range of about 1200m fire into the formation. The rockets warhead was set to detonate using a time fuse. Range was determined by the standard Revi gunsight which could determine range accurately from the known wingspan of the target bomber.

    A squadron of Luftwaffe fighters might reckon to destroy 2 or 3 B-17 all without getting within fully effective range of the Bombers Brownings.

    The appearance of escorts such as the P38 ended the success of this weapon as the relatively small German fighters were too cumbersome to operate in the presence of escorts while carrying this weapon.

    A planed weapon was the R100 and R100 BS of which 25 were test fired with plans for production. This was a large supersonic 18cm unguided air to air rocket equipped either with a radar proximity fuse or in the BS version a timed shaped charge fuse which fired forward 400 incendiary shrapnel pellets. It was to be aimed by the same Oberon computer mentioned above however it was intended that at night the aiming would be by a conical scan radar then under development known as the FuG 244. An Arado 234P night fighter was intended to carry 3 of these.

    The Luftwaffe nightfighter force, the Nachtjagt, was aiming for almost completely automated interception and firing with these weapons; telemetry injecting intercept data direct into the night fighter autopilot while Oberon took over final aiming and firing of both guns and rockets by radar.

    A rocket, which appears to be a 75mm version of the R4M, known as the Fohn often appears in the literature as a rocket from which much was expected.

    There was a great amount of German work in the early 1940s using spin stabilised tube launched rockets, some from revolver like magazines thereby producing a gun like rocket launcher that could be installed in the fuselage however the Luftwaffe was unsatisfied with the accuracy if these weapons.
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Panzerfaust which entered service during 1943 used folded stabilizing fins. I suspect there are other FF stabilized weapons which entered service prior to 1944 also. Late WWII Heer had plans for improved Nebelwerfer rockets which employed folding fins rather then vectored rocket thrust to impart spin.

    For some reason designers of aircraft rockets were slow to adopt FF concept.
     
  12. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    From what I have seen, some salvos were tight, on target and effective while many others were widely dispersed and not very effective. The hit percent cannot have been very good, overall.

    As a ground troop being supported OR as a pilot I would have preferred anything else to rockets in WWII. Can't shoot very close to friendlies and can't reliably hit things in your sights. I can tell you from experience that four A-1 Skyraiders overhead will discourage any unfriendly movement for a large radius even if they are well armed. Piston attack planes can hand around for an hour or more and drop SOMETHING on every pass. Give me an attack plane with four 20 mm and some ordnance hanging under the wings anytime.

    A flight of Tempests armed for ground support would give any ground pounder a wave of relief if being supported or a wave of the opposite if being targeted.
     
  13. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    Is that a typo I always understood the standard rocket load was 8 or on very rare (possibly postwar) occasions 12.
     
  14. muskeg13

    muskeg13 Member

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    It's not a typo, however, I've noticed several instances where the author was mostly correct, but not always 100% correct. I wondered about the size of the rockets, but I'm not familiar with WW2 RAF ordnance. Curtis doesn't say how many rockets hit the target.

    It should also be noted that the mission against the S.S. Rex was against "a sitting duck." The liner was anchored, weather was good, ground fire was light and ineffective, and there was no Axis air cover. This attack was similar to Gen. Billy Mitchell's 1921 demonstration, unopposed against a stationary target. The Rex attack simply proved that a large ship could be sunk by unguided aerial rockets. If the ship had been underway, making evasive maneuvers, firing back and had air cover...?????
     
  15. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    #15 fastmongrel, Apr 6, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2014
    The 3 inch rockets werent particulary big.

    Beaufighter being loaded with 3 inch rockets with anti submarine 25 pound Armour Piercing heads which were actually based on the 25 pounder gun AP round with the driving band removed.

    beaufighter_rocket_rails.jpg

    Armourers fitting 60 pound High Explosive Anti shipping and Ground attack warheads to 3 inch rocket bodies.

    3_in_RP_Attaching_60_pdr_Warheads.jpg
     
  16. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

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    My understanding is that the 3inch AP rockets were far more accurate than the 60 pound HE rockets.
     
  17. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    I have read that myself. Possibly because of a higher velocity and better aerodynamics.
     
  18. pattern14

    pattern14 Member

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    The R4m used by the Me 262 refined the tactical use of such weaponry against bomber formations, although earlier rockets had been used previously by the Luftwaffe on various occasions. They were effective in breaking up formations so they could finish off single bombers with their cannon. There are plentiful referenced to heir effectiveness. It also substantiated the claim that the 262 was the most potently armed fighter of WW2
     
  19. beitou

    beitou Member

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    Wasn't accuracy one of the reasons why ASW Swordfish changed over to AP rockets from HE as with a 3" hole in its pressure hull a U boat couldn't dive any better than with a HE hit.
     
  20. Francis marliere

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    Gentlemen,

    I am not surprised that there is few records of ships damaged by 5'' rockets during the battle of Samar. While these rockets may (or may not) be a good ground attack weapon, it has IMHO a too small warhead to be really effective against a warship. I have read several times that these rockets have roughly the same hitting power as a 5'' shells, which is a destroyer, ie small caliber weapon in naval warfare. It is not surprising that at Samar US planes used 500 and 1000 lb bombs or torpedoes to attack Japanese cruisers and battleships.
     
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