WGr 21 rocket launcher
The Werfer-Granate 21 rocket launcher, also known as the BR 21 (the "BR" standing for Bordrakete) in official Luftwaffe manuals, was a weapon used by the German 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....

 during World War II
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...

 and was the first on-board rocket in service by the Luftwaffe and was introduced in mid 1943. The weapon was developed by Rheinmetall
Rheinmetall AG is a German automotive and defence company with factories in Düsseldorf, Kassel and Unterlüß. The company has a long tradition of making guns and artillery pieces...

-Borsig under the leadership of Dipl.-Ing. Rudolf Nebel
Rudolf Nebel
Rudolf Nebel was a spaceflight advocate active in Germany's amateur rocket group, the Verein für Raumschiffahrt in the 1930s and in rebuilding German rocketry following World War II....

, who had pioneered German use of wing-mounted offensive rocketry in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 with the Luftstreitkräfte
The Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte , known before October 1916 as Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches , or simply Die Fliegertruppen, was the air arm of the Imperial German Army during World War I...



The Luftwaffe's defensive fighters by mid-1943 needed a method to break up the massed formations, also referred to as the combat box
Combat box
The Combat box was a tactical formation used by heavy bombers of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. The combat box was also referred to as a "staggered formation"...

, of the United States Army Air Forces
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

 (USAAF) heavy bombers that protected the bombers from return fire. This weapon enabled the German pilots to attack their bomber targets out to a distance of 1200 metres (1,312.3 yd).

JG 1 and JG 11 were the first front line units to utilise the weapon during the spring of 1943. During the autumn of 1943 the Bf 110 G-2
Messerschmitt Bf 110
The Messerschmitt Bf 110, often called Me 110, was a twin-engine heavy fighter in the service of the Luftwaffe during World War II. Hermann Göring was a proponent of the Bf 110, and nicknamed it his Eisenseiten...

 Zestörer of ZG 26 and ZG 76 were also equipped with it.

These weapons were also sometimes used against ground targets from late 1943 onwards, such as in the Italian campaign
Italian Campaign (World War II)
The Italian Campaign of World War II was the name of Allied operations in and around Italy, from 1943 to the end of the war in Europe. Joint Allied Forces Headquarters AFHQ was operationally responsible for all Allied land forces in the Mediterranean theatre, and it planned and commanded the...

 1943–44, the 1944 Normandy campaign
Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

 and during the Ardennes Offensive.

Design and Capabilities

Modified from the 21 cm Nebelwerfer 42
21 cm Nebelwerfer 42
The 21 cm Nebelwerfer 42 was a German multiple rocket launcher used in the Second World War. It served with units of the Nebeltruppen, the German equivalent of the American Chemical Corps...

 infantry barrage rocket projectile, modified for air-launch, the spin-stabilised rocket was propelled by 18.4 kilogram diglycol solid fuel, and the warhead weighed 40.8 kilogram. The Wfr. Gr. 21's projectile had a velocity of 320 metres (350 yd) per second (1,150 km/h, 716 mph) and a maximum range of 1200 metres (1,312.3 yd). The rocket and tube weighed some 112 kilogram in total. A time fuse detonated the warhead at a pre-set distance of 600 metres (656.2 yd) to 1200 metres (1,312.3 yd) from launch point, resulting in a lethal blast area approximately 30 metres (32.8 yd) wide.


Single seat fighters carried a single tubed rocket under each wing, while the Zestörer heavy twin engine fighters carried two under each wing. Operationally the weapon had several disadvantages; the launcher tubes produced significant air resistance and reduced speed and manoeuvrability and general performance. The tubes were jettisonable, and once the rocket had been fired the fighter could revert to a 'clean' profile.


The relatively low velocity of the rocket created a considerable problem in attempting to counter the resultant ballistic drop of such a slow-moving projectile, which required that the launcher tubes be mounted at a roughly 15° angle upwards from the line of flight, causing considerable drag
Drag (physics)
In fluid dynamics, drag refers to forces which act on a solid object in the direction of the relative fluid flow velocity...

 on the airframe of the carrier aircraft. The low launch velocity also meant accurate aiming was difficult, as it was for the attacking pilot to accurately judge the distance to the target. As a result most of the rockets fired exploded either in front of or behind the bomber target. However, they did often achieve the effect of opening up the bomber formations enough for fighters to attack with conventional weapons.

Aircraft armed with the Wfr. Gr. 21

Underwing mount (singly, one under each wing)
  • Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-7
    Focke-Wulf Fw 190
    The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger was a German Second World War single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank in the late 1930s. Powered by a radial engine, the 190 had ample power and was able to lift larger loads than its well-known counterpart, the Messerschmitt Bf 109...

     and newer: as Rüstsatz 6 (/R6) modification
  • Messerschmitt Bf 109
    Messerschmitt Bf 109
    The Messerschmitt Bf 109, often called Me 109, was a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser during the early to mid 1930s...

    G: as BR21 modification

Underwing mount (two under each wing)
  • Messerschmitt Bf 110
    Messerschmitt Bf 110
    The Messerschmitt Bf 110, often called Me 110, was a twin-engine heavy fighter in the service of the Luftwaffe during World War II. Hermann Göring was a proponent of the Bf 110, and nicknamed it his Eisenseiten...

  • Messerschmitt Me 210
    Messerschmitt Me 210
    The Messerschmitt Me 210 was a German heavy fighter and ground-attack aircraft of World War II. The Me 210 was designed to replace the Bf 110 in heavy fighter role; design started before the opening of World War II. The first examples of the Me 210 were ready in 1939, but they proved to have poor...

  • Messerschmitt Me 410
    Messerschmitt Me 410
    The Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornisse was a German heavy fighter and Schnellbomber used by Luftwaffe during World War II. Though essentially a straightforward modification of the Me 210, it was designated the Me 410 to avoid association with its notoriously flawed predecessor.-Design and...


Under-fuselage mount (one each side, from bomb racks flanking nosegear well)
  • 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...

External links

http://www.adlertag.de/waffen/rockets.htm http://www.luftarchiv.de/index.htm?/flugkorper/wgr21.htm
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.