1/35 Bronco Fieseler FI-103 A-1 V-1

Gallery Article by Bob Bartolacci on May 5 2009

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By June 13, 1944, the Allies felt that they had achieved air superiority, and few German aircraft even attempted to enter the British skies. Shortly after 4 AM a strange little aircraft making a strange pulsating sound appeared in the skies over Dymchurch. It passed over an observation post and flew over the fields for another five minutes before its engine stopped some five minutes later and it dove to earth to explode in an open field. The dawn of the cruise missile had arrived.

Before it was over, the "doodlebugs", or "divers" as they were nicknamed, created terror again in Britain and caused thousand of sorties against the "ski-ramp" launch sites in Europe; the removal of all British fighters outside of 2nd TAF from the Continent for home defense; and the deployment of over 2,500 anti-aircraft guns, 200 radar installations, and over a quarter of a million men and women to operate them in the "diver belt" between the coast and London.

The V-1 was a relatively simple aircraft, powered by an Argus 109-104 pulse-jet engine, giving it a maximum speed of 400 mph and a range of 180 miles. It carried a warhead of 1,760 pounds of Amatol, more powerful than TNT. It used 1,333 pounds of "B-Stoff" fuel located in a tank just behind the warhead.

An Askania guidance system used two spheres of 900 psi air to generate pneumatic signals to operate the V-1's control surfaces to keep the V-1 on a straight and level course. Direction was maintained by  a gyroscope that compared the current flight path to the alignment set in the magnetic compass of the FI-103.

At a preset point (generated by an odometer-like device driven by a small wind driven propeller in the nose), controls were severed, locking the missile on course and two small explosive charges activated a pair of spoilers under the tail plane. These dropped the nose by four or five degrees, causing the V-1 to enter a shallow dive towards the target.

The V-1 was at best an area weapon, inaccurate except for large, fixed targets. This limited military value, but maximized the terror aspects of its operations.

Only the fastest fighters could catch it at low level; Tempests, Griffon Spitfires, Meteors, Typhoons, Mustangs; antiaircraft fire proved effective due to its straight and level course, especially the new radar-directed  guns. Another technique for Allied fighters was to come up alongside and use the aerodynamic lift provided by their wing tips to lift the V-1's wing past the point where the V-1's gyros could compensate, causing it to crash.

Eventually the Allies progress into Europe brought the distance to England beyond the V-1's range, although there were still some air-launched by Heinkel 111's, 177's. and some specially modified Dornier bombers; and the V-1's successor, the V-2 was on the horizon...

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Bronco has released the V-1 in 1/35th scale, as kit CB-35058. They are also releasing the manned, training version of the V-1 that was to be used to train potential German "Kamikazes" if the war had continued.

The kit is simple, only some thirty-six parts and a decal sheet of stencils. It's contents include the missile itself, as well as a ground transportation cart. Two color schemes are provided, mostly limited to a choice of two different missiles. Colors are not spelled out, but with other references I used Dark Green 82 and light blue 76. The fit was decent throughout the kit and a quick build, pretty enjoyable over a long weekend.

As I have a 1/35th scale V-2 from Dragon on its way, I can see a small display coming in the near future!!!!

An excellent reference book for those interested is IMPACT - The History of Germany's V-Weapons in World War Two, by Benjamin King & Timothy Kutta, Sarpedon ,1998

Bob Bartolacci

Photos and text by Bob Bartolacci