The Enzian was a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

Surface-to-air missile
A surface-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles...

 anti-aircraft missile that was the first to use an infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 guidance system. During the missile's development in the late stages of the war, it was plagued by organisational problems and was cancelled before becoming operational.

As early as 1943 it was becoming clear that Messerschmitt
Messerschmitt AG was a famous German aircraft manufacturing corporation named for its chief designer, Willy Messerschmitt, and known primarily for its World War II fighter aircraft, notably the Bf 109 and Me 262...

's super-interceptor
Interceptor aircraft
An interceptor aircraft is a type of fighter aircraft designed specifically to prevent missions of enemy aircraft, particularly bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. Interceptors generally rely on high speed and powerful armament in order to complete their mission as quickly as possible and set up...

, the Me 163
Messerschmitt Me 163
The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet, designed by Alexander Lippisch, was a German rocket-powered fighter aircraft. It is the only rocket-powered fighter aircraft ever to have been operational. Its design was revolutionary, and the Me 163 was capable of performance unrivaled at the time. Messerschmitt...

, would be difficult to use in combat. After flying to the 25,000 ft altitude of the US bombers, it had only a few minutes to track them down before running out of fuel. Even if it did manage to find the bombers, it had the equally prickly problem of lacking a weapon that could be aimed effectively while closing on the target at some 400 mph difference in speeds.

Dr Wurster of Messerschmitt suggested the answer in the form of Flak Rakete 1 in 1943. Instead of tracking down the planes, the rocket would fly just in front of the target and then detonate
Detonation involves a supersonic exothermic front accelerating through a medium that eventually drives a shock front propagating directly in front of it. Detonations are observed in both conventional solid and liquid explosives, as well as in reactive gases...

 a gigantic 500 kg warhead. With no human pilot on board, and thus no need to limit takeoff acceleration, the rocket could use solid fuel boosters for added thrust, reducing the amount of fuel needed for the rest of the climb. The result, even with this heavy warhead, was that a much smaller airframe was needed to carry the required fuel - so small that the design could be portable and launched from a modified 88 mm gun
88 mm gun
The 88 mm gun was a German anti-aircraft and anti-tank artillery gun from World War II. It was widely used by Germany throughout the war, and was one of the most recognizable German weapons of the war...

The design made as much use of wood as possible, due to the need to conserve other "strategic" materials in the rapidly deteriorating war situation. For the same reasons a new type of Walter
Hellmuth Walter
Hellmuth Walter was a German engineer who pioneered research into rocket engines and gas turbines...

 rocket was envisioned, a modification of the engine in the Me 163 that would burn coal-gas (benzine) instead of the hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is the simplest peroxide and an oxidizer. Hydrogen peroxide is a clear liquid, slightly more viscous than water. In dilute solution, it appears colorless. With its oxidizing properties, hydrogen peroxide is often used as a bleach or cleaning agent...

 used in other Walter designs (although a small amount of peroxide was used to drive the fuel pumps).
The missile would be guided primarily under radio control
Radio control
Radio control is the use of radio signals to remotely control a device. The term is used frequently to refer to the control of model vehicles from a hand-held radio transmitter...

 from the ground. The operator would fly the missile into the vicinity of the bombers, then cut the engine and let it glide. This presented a real problem in the Enzian. Other German missiles were high-speed designs that could be flown directly at their target along the line of sight, easy enough to do even from the ground. The Enzian would instead be approaching its target from somewhere in front, which is considerably harder for the operator. Many experiments with radio and wire-guided missiles had demonstrated real problems with last-minute terminal guidance corrections.

The initial plans for solving this problem were rather advanced. The large airframe left plenty of room in the nose, which they intended to fill with a self-contained radar unit called Elsass. In the short term it was planned to use some sort of proximity fuze
Proximity fuze
A proximity fuze is a fuze that is designed to detonate an explosive device automatically when the distance to target becomes smaller than a predetermined value or when the target passes through a given plane...

 while flying the missile through the bomber stream. The warhead, of which several were studied, was to have a nominal lethal radius of 45 metres.

Several studies on the basic design were carried out, resulting in the FR-1 through FR-5. The FR-5 was considered to be a reasonable starting point, so development commenced on the newly-named Enzian E.1 (and its engine) in September 1943. By May 1944 60 airframes were complete, awaiting their engines. In order to gain flight test data they were fitted with RATO units instead.

A series of 38 flight tests commenced with generally favourable results, but the engine still lagged. Finally Dr. Konrad, designing the engine for the Rheintochter missile
Rheintochter was a German surface-to-air missile developed during World War II. Its name comes from the mythical Rheintöchter of Richard Wagner's opera series Der Ring des Nibelungen.- History :...

, was asked to modify his design for the Enzian. After study, it appeared this was a much better (and cheaper) solution anyway, and after January 1945 there were no plans to use the Walter design. The resulting E.4 version with the Konrad engine was considered the production version.

A new design of the proximity fuze known as Madrid then gained favour, and it is for this reason the Enzian remains famous. However the system was never actually developed beyond a test-bench mockup.

On January 17, 1945, all ongoing projects were cancelled by the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 in order to concentrate all possible efforts on only two designs, the Messerschmitt Me 262
Messerschmitt Me 262
The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe was the world's first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. Design work started before World War II began, but engine problems prevented the aircraft from attaining operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944...

 and the Heinkel He 162
Heinkel He 162
The Heinkel He 162 Volksjäger was a German single-engine, jet-powered fighter aircraft fielded by the Luftwaffe in World War II. Designed and built quickly, and made primarily of wood as metals were in very short supply and prioritised for other aircraft, the He 162 was nevertheless the fastest of...

. Although this was the official story, many in the Nazi
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 and Luftwaffe hierarchy had their own pet projects continue. The Enzian was judged further from completion than Henschel's Schmetterling missile, so it was cancelled. Messerschmitt engineers continued some low-level work on the project, hoping it would be re-funded, but by March it was clear the order would not be rescinded (although it had been for other designs) and all efforts ended.

See also

  • List of World War II guided missiles of Germany
  • AIM-9 Sidewinder
    AIM-9 Sidewinder
    The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a heat-seeking, short-range, air-to-air missile carried mostly by fighter aircraft and recently, certain gunship helicopters. The missile entered service with United States Air Force in the early 1950s, and variants and upgrades remain in active service with many air forces...

  • List of missiles

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.