Saturday, May 24, 2014

Weapons walkaround vol.3 : Fritz X

Subject: Fritz X
Location: RAF Museum, Hendon, London UK, 2013
Comments: The Fritz X was a further development of the high-explosive bomb SD 1400 (Splitterbombe, dickwandig, 1400 kg. It was a penetration weapon intended to be used against heavily protected targets such as heavy cruisers and battleships. It was given a more aerodynamic nose, four stub wings, and a box shaped tail unit, consisting of a roughly 12-sided annular set of fixed surfaces, and a cruciform tail with thick surfaces within the annulus, which themselves contained the aerodynamic controls. The Luftwaffe recognized the difficulty of hitting moving ships during the Spanish Civil War. Dipl. engineer Max Kramer, who worked at the DVL, had been experimenting since 1938 with remote-controlled free-falling 250 kg bombs, and in 1939 fitted radio-controlled spoilers. In 1940, Ruhrstahl was invited to join the development since they already had experience in the development and production of unguided bombs.
On 9 September, the Luftwaffe achieved their greatest success with the weapon. After Pietro Badoglio publicly announced the Italian armistice with the Allies on September 8, 1943, the Italian fleet had steamed out from La Spezia and headed to Malta. To prevent the ships from falling into Allied hands, six Do 217K-2s from III. Gruppe of KG 100 (III/KG 100) took off, each carrying a single Fritz X. The Italian battleship Roma, flagship of the Italian fleet, received two hits and one near miss, and sank after her magazines exploded. 1,255 men, including Admiral Carlo Bergamini, died. Her sister ship, Italia, was also damaged but reached Malta.The American light cruiser Savannah was hit by Fritz-Xs at 10:00 on 11 September 1943 during the invasion of Salerno, and was forced to retire to the United States for repairs. The light cruiser HMS Uganda was hit by a Fritz-X off Salerno at 1440 on 13 September. KG 100 scored another success with Fritz-X while the British battleship Warspite was providing gunfire support at Salerno on 16 September. She took on a total of 5,000 tonnes of water and lost steam (and thus all power, both to the ship herself and to all her systems), but casualties were few.
By the time of Normandy landings, a combination of Allied air supremacy, keeping bombers at bay, and ship-mounted jammers meant the Fritz-X had no significant effect on the invasion fleet. Some accounts say the Norwegian destroyer Svenner was hit by Fritz-X at dawn on D-Day. This is highly unlikely as III./KG 100, the unit which carried the Fritz-X into combat, had largely been re-equipped with the Hs 293 missile by that time for its anti-ship missions, and the attack on Svenner occurred before the first glide bombers launched their assaults on the Normandy beaches.

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