Air-to-air rocket

An air-to-air rocket or air interception rocket is an unguided projectile fired from aircraft to engage other flying targets. They were used briefly in World War I to engage enemy observation balloons and in and after World War II to engage enemy bombers. Fighters were too maneuverable to be effectively engaged with rockets.

History

World War I

Rockets were used in World War I to engage observation balloons and airships. Success rates were low and the rockets were dangerous to handle in the early fighters built from highly flammable materials. [cite web|url=http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/history/rocket-history.txt|title=NASA Spacelink - "A brief history of rocketry"|accessdate=2006-08-19] By the end of the war they were replaced by the incendiary Pomeroy bullets. [cite web|url=http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/leprieur.htm|title=First World War.com - "Le Prieur Rockets"|accessdate=2006-08-20] One of the notable rockets from World War I was the Le Prieur rocket which had a range of about 115 m (125 yd), limited by inaccuracy. It was first used in the Battle of Verdun.

Interwar period

The first known example of a successful attack of air-to-air rockets on another plane took place on August 20, 1939 during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. A group of Soviet Polikarpov I-16 fighters under command of Captain N. Zvonaryev succefully destroyed a few Japanese warplanes by launching of RS-82 rockets. Soviet RS-82 rockets were mounted on special pylons under wings of Soviet fighters.

World War II

Air-to-air rockets were utilized in World War II to engage bombers because cannon fire proved ineffective at high closing speeds. On top of that, getting in the range to fire one's guns also meant getting in the range of the bomber's tail gun. The German R4M rocket was the first practical rocket. It was highly successful, but came too late to win the war for Germany. After experiencing the effectivity of the German rockets, both the Soviet Union and the United States started developing their own.

The invention of effective air-to-air missiles spelled the end for their unguided counterparts in the 1950s. The capability of steering during the flight trajectory significally increased the hit percentage over rockets. The United States built one last air-to-air rocket, the AIR-2 Genie. It used a nuclear warhead with a blast radius of 300m to compensate for its inaccuracy.

List of air-to-air rockets by country

France
*Le Prieur rocketGermany
*Nebelwerfer derived "Werfer-Granate 21" (Wfr. Gr. 21)
*R4M rocketUSA
*Fin-Folding Aerial Rocket (FFAR)
*AIR-2 GenieUSSR
*RS-82 and RS-132

References


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