he Henschel Hs 293 was the world’s first operational anti-shipping missile, and very successful. Just like the Hensel 117 Schmetterling surface-to-ar and the Henschel 298 air-to-air missile, Herbert Wagner was involved in the development of the rocket powered glide bomb. Tests were made with a Schmidding liquid rocket propulsion, and a Rheinmetall – Borsig solid fuel rocket propulsion. In the end they opted for the Walter propulsion. This principle was also applied in the Messerschmitt Me 163 rocket plane. The Walter HWK 109-507 used in the Hs 293 was specially made for this purpose. It was actually a radio guided glide bomb with rocket propulsion to steer it towards is target. It was the predecessor of the Anti-shipping missiles today.
The Henschel Hs 293 had a top speed of 950 km/h and a maximum range of 18 km. It had a length of 3,82 m and a wingspan of 3,2 m and carried a war head of 300 kg. The Henschel Hs 293 is released from under an aircraft, Heinkel He 111, He 177, Dornier Do 217, Focke-Wulf Fw 200 and Junkers Ju 290 bombers were primarily used. 1200 Hs 293 were made during the war. In addition to its original purpose, the Henschel HS 293 has also been deployed in Normandy and the Eastern Front to destruct bridge.
The missile was radio guided (Kehl-Straßburg Manual Command to Line of Sight (MCLOS) radio guidance system, the Funkerat FuG 203) and used a smokeless flare during the day so that the pilot could see the weapon at great distances, at night a light was used, both devices where attached on the tail. After successes were achieved with the radio-controlled missiles of the Germans, the Allied developed countermeasures. These were successfully deployed to disrupt the radio signals and were installed on the ships. The Germans had the plan to develop wire guided missile with 30 km range and use TV signals as countermeasures.
As previously indicated, the Henschel Hs 293 was very successful. Although the first use on 25 August 1943 was a hit on the British sloop HMS Bideford; it did not sink. The first major success was two days later on August 27 in 1943. 18 Doniers Do 217 of the German Luftwaffe attacked a group of British ships and sank the British sloop HMS Egret.
With over 30 warships damaged or sunk, it was the world’s most successful anti-ship missile until the introduction of the French Exocet more than 30 years later.