Radio-Controlled Rockets for the NEXT WAR (Apr, 1931)

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Radio-Controlled Rockets for the NEXT WAR

ADVANCES in the perfection of radio control for airplanes, tanks, and battleships have made it practically certain that the next war will see the use of these fearsome weapons of destruction in actual combat. Latest of the radio-controlled death-dealing devices is the explosive rocket depicted on this month’s cover of Modern Mechanics and Inventions, now being secretly developed. Naturally photographs and intimate details of construction are not available, owing to the extreme care with which military secrets of this nature are guarded, but the drawings on these pages illustrate the essentials of a radio-controlled rocket.

Fantastic as it may appear at first glance, there is nothing impossible or even improbable in the idea of an explosive shell, propelled by rockets, being steered by radio waves to a distant target. Experiments of Prof. R. W. Goddard of Massachusetts, and others, have proved the rocket method of propulsion practical. Automobiles and other vehicles have been successfully controlled by radio. All that remains, therefore, is a satisfactory application of known principles to produce a radio-controlled rocket.

Rocket speeds can be varied according to the nature of the fuel charge and frequency of explosion. Powder, liquid air, and other fuels give varying results. A speed of 600 m.p.h. is sufficiently glow to enable officers to follow the course of the rocket, and fast enough to render it impossible for a Zeppelin or airplane to dodge it. Mortars would likely be used in launching rockets, in order to avoid danger to ground crews. After reaching a height of 1000 feet or more, the rocket propellant would be ignited and radio control established. Ordinary control fins like those on an airplane would suffice to steer the rocket.

Range-finders or “electric ears” like those employed with anti – aircraft guns would direct the radio-controlled rocket to its target when that target happened to be an aircraft, although rockets could be directed at ground targets just as easily.

Another advantage of a radio rocket is that a sufficient charge of fuel can be carried to propel it over long distances, giving it a range infinitely greater than that of the German gun which shelled Paris from a distance of 75 miles during the World war.

  1. Stephen says: February 25, 20118:33 am

    One of those stories that came exactly true – at least, if you discount launching the rocket from the mortar. The missing piece was guidance: either radar or IR for the rocket to guide itself, onboard TV cameras, “riding” a laser beam shone by an aircraft, or the dear old G.P.S.

  2. Noah says: February 25, 20119:50 am

    This is now known at TV-Guided. Guided weapons and better sights came out a few decades later reducing the need for manually controlled munitions.

  3. Christoph says: February 25, 201110:47 am

    Fascinating how they get that, yeah, guided rockets will be valuable, but they didn’t get that zeps were already militarily useless because of improved planes. 6 points out of 10.

  4. John says: February 25, 201111:26 am

    Christoph: Well, they didn’t have your 20/20 hindsight. Shame on them.

  5. Jayessell says: February 28, 20118:50 am

    Speaking of hindsight, wouldn’t a 4th of July grade skyrocket be sufficient to destroy a hydrogen gassed Zepplin?

    Maybe with more propellant?
    Weren’t Zeps sitting ducks for biplanes with machine guns?
    (Tracer rounds for the win)?

  6. John says: February 28, 20119:13 am

    Correct but “hydrogen gassed Zeppelin” wouldn’t apply to the US Navy that was still flying the helium filled ZR-3 Los Angeles when this article was written. The ill-fated ZRS-4 Akron (also helium filled) was launched August 1931. Also hyperbole is seldom useful…Zeppelins could operate at altitudes well above July 4th skyrockets.

  7. Jari says: February 28, 20112:45 pm

    Generally speaking the Zeppelins were a failure. But they were armed with several machine guns during WWI, so basically they were a sitting ducks with defensive guns. One way to took them out was to bomb them from above. Back to missiles; I’m under impression, that first successful guided missiles were German anti-ship missiles during WWII. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  8. TimE says: February 28, 20115:28 pm

    “Mortars would likely be used in launching rockets, in order to avoid danger to ground crews.”

    Alright, what if the rocket motor refuses to ignite?

  9. jayessell says: February 28, 20117:02 pm

    Speaking of anti-Zeppelin guided missiles….
    From 1909……

  10. Toronto says: February 28, 201110:03 pm

    jay: THANKS for that – really really cool (though I always hate seeing airships come to harm.)

    WWI airships operated as high as they could without having the crew pass out and/or freeze. The fighters of the day were way behind in the max ceiling race.

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