The V-2 Vergeltungswaffe 2 “Vengeance Weapon 2” was the world’s first ballistic missile. The V-2’s design and development phase were long and arduous due to the multitude of leading-edge technologies required. The V-2 production also had a long and arduous path. Unlike the V-1’s simplistic design and manufacturing the V-2 required robust guidance, turbopumps, and other new technologies. The V-2 was really a weapon platform that would reach maturity over a decade later after many millions of dollars and rubles were spent.
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Vengeance Weapon 2
The average V-1 cost 5,090 Reichsmarks (RM) (approximately $2,000 in 1944) whereas a V-2 cost 100,000 RM at the beginning of 1944 and dropped to 50,000 RM by the end of the war. The V-1 required approximately 800 manhours of labor whereas the V-2 required 20,000 hours in early 1944 and decreased to 10,000 hours per unit by war’s end. Over 30,000 V-Is were produced whereas just over 3,000 V-2s were produced even though the first operational launches were only two months apart.
During its development phase numerous design issues were discovered through testing. This was a slow process as each issue had to be identify down to its root cause and appropriate corrective action taken. This included moving away from the pressure tanks utilized by the V-1 to deliver fuel to turbopumps, reengineering the combustion chamber to preclude burn through, and a host of other technical issues.
Hitler authorized mass production of the V-2 in December 1942. However, a year and a half later mass production issues plagued the program. The Royal Air Force launched Operation Hydra at the Peenemunde production site neared readiness resulting in a four-to-six-week delay. Even though mass production had been authorized the design was still in flux and a finalized parts list still did not exist by the mid 1944.
Due to the Allied bombing efforts V-2 production was moved underground to the Mittelwerke production facility. As Peenemunde production wound down Mittelwerke production ramped up. Mittelwerke production facilities were underground well away from Allied bombers. A total of 515 V-2s were produced at Peenemunde and 6400 V-2s at Mittelwerke.
The V-2 weighed 27,600 pounds, stood 45 ft 11 inches, and had a war with an explosive weight of 2000 pounds. The V-1 carried a slightly smaller warhead at 1,870 pounds versus the V-2’s warhead at 2,000 pounds.
V-2 rockets were most often transported by train at night and launched quickly from mobile launch sites. A dedicated tow vehicle, Meillerwagen, was used to move the V-2s from the train depot and erect the rocket at the mobile launch sites. The mobile launch sites were Germany’s response to the Allied targeting fixed launch sites or underground bunkers.
First Launch and Targets
First launch occurred on September 7, 1944, when two units were launch at Paris, but both failed shortly after launch. The next day would see the first successful operational V-2 as one was launched and struck Paris. The most frequently targeted countries were Belgium 1,664 and England 1,402 times. The most targeted cities were Antwerp 1,610 and London 1,358 times.
V-2 Production Estimates Data
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“Aircraft Division Industry Report – U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.” Second Edition January 1947, Chapter IX, Table IX-2, Page 121, https://www.angelfire.com/super/ussbs/airrep.html/index.html, data accessed on June 28, 2022
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