Ruhrstahl FX 1400 or Fritz X – German guided Air-to-Ground Anti-Ship missile

Ruhrstahl Fritz X Guided Bomb – Photo 2016


The guided glide bomb FX 1400 better known as Fritz X was created by dr. Max Kramer who also developed the smaller wire guided Air-to-air missile Ruhrstahl X-4. The Fritz X used MCLOS control. This manual command to line of sight was established from the plane where the glide bomb was released. Usually a Dornier 217K was used, equipped with a special radio set. The Fritz X was developed especially for attacks on ships. With its thick metal pointed nose cone it could penetrate 20 cm of armored plates.

Developments started in 1940 by Dr Max Otto Kramer. The weapon was also designated as X-1, PC 1400X, FX 1400, but it started out with SD 1400. SD is Splitterbombe Dickwandig 1400 kilograms (eng. Splinter bomb, Thick – walled, 1400 kg). Fritz X was derived from the FX 1400 and the X stand for the guide surfaces arranged in the X shape.

Ruhrstahl FX 1400 – Fritz X – Radio Guided Glide Bomb – photo 2016
Ruhrstahl FX 1400 – Fritz X – Radio Guided Glide Bomb – photo 2016
Ruhrstahl FX 1400 – Fritz X – Radio Guided Glide Bomb – photo 2016

Controls and Specifications

A radio set Kehl-Straßburg FuG 203/FuG 230 was used to control the glide bomb. The Frits X had 5 lights at its rear end which lit up showing the side of steering from the bomb pilot’s control stick, showing him the chosen side and direction. This simple gadget helped the bomb pilot greatly to get the Fritz X towards its target. A special set of night lights were developed with dimmed lighting to mask the bomb trajectory during a night attack. Different colors could be chosen to distinguish multiple airborne glide bombs. The same radio set, Kehl-Straßburg FuG 203/FuG 230, was also used to control the Henschel Hs 293 surface-to-air glide bomb, the Supersonic Wasserfall and the Henschel Hs 117 Schmetterling, both Surface to Air Missiles.

Early version of the Fritz X tested from a German Heinkel He 111 bomber with a FuG 203/ FuG 230 – Courtesy Nara

The 3,3 meter long, 83 cm diameter glide bomb with a wingspan of 1,40 meters and a weight of 1570 kilograms had an operational range of 5 km. Its warhead weighed 320 kilograms and as mentioned could penetrate a 20 cm thick armor plate with a maximum speed of 1235 km/h. During the war about 1400 of the Fritz X glide bombs were produced.

During tests at the Peenemunde test facility 50 % of all Fritz X glide bombs landed within a radius of 14 meter from their target. They were released from a height of 4000 to 8000 meters. All Fritz X glide bombs landed in a circle of 26 meters from their target making it one of the first precision bombs.

Ruhrstahl FX 1400 – Fritz X – Radio Guided Glide Bomb – photo 2016
Ruhrstahl FX 1400 – Fritz X – Radio Guided Glide Bomb – photo 2016
Ruhrstahl FX 1400 – Fritz X – Radio Guided Glide Bomb – photo 2016

Fritz X in combat

First combat deployment of the Fritz X was on 21 July 1944 in Sicily. Ships in the Sicilian harbor Augusta were targeted. Messina followed but both raids failed to hit any ship. On September the 9th 1944 the Germans attacked the Italian fleet on its way to Tunisia. Battleship Roma and Battleship Italia were attacked with the new Fritz X glide bombs. The Battleship Italia was hit, one Fritz X penetrated the armored plates, passed through the entire ship to explode in the water beneath the vessel causing serious damage. The Italia managed to reach Tunisia. Battleship Roma was attacked with three Fritz X bombs, one was a near miss but the other two hit the ship causing her magazines to explode and sink the ship with her crew, 1393 men died during this action.

More successes followed, multiple ships were hit and disabled, they were put out of action for months, others were sunk. The HMS Uganda, a British light cruiser was hit with a Fritz X, the glide bomb passed through seven decks and exploded underneath the ship taking it out of action for months. The American cruiser USS Philadelphia and USS Savannah were hit and damaged, like the British Battleship HMS Warspite. The HMS Spartan and the Hospital ship Newfoundland were sunk by the glide bombs. HMS Janus was attacked simultaneously by glide bombs, Fritz X or Henschel Hs 293, and torpedoes and was sunk.

USS Savannah hit by a Fritz X German guided bomb, off Salerno 11 September 1943 – courtesy US Navy
Smoke pours from the hole in the number three gun turret of the USS Savannah after being struck by a Fritz X bomb – Image NARA


After the Allied forces learned of this new German development with radio controlled glide bombs and rockets they developed jamming devices which they installed on their ships. Together with Allied air superiority it became harder and harder for the German Luftwaffe to keep their successes up. The response on the German side to the jamming equipment was to develop wire guided glide bombs. The Henschel Hs 293 anti-ship glide bombs were selected for an upgrade spools of wire on both the missile and the airplane with a total reach of 30 kilometers. The war’s end stopped this development.

Ruhrstahl FX 1400 – Fritz X – Radio Guided Glide Bomb – photo 2016

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