The Rheinbote – Rhine Messenger – was designated as V4 Rocket like the V1 Flying Bomb and V2 Rocket. This 11,40 meter long four-stage rocket is fairly unknown. Weighing around 1600 kg, this was a unguided surface to surface rocket with a range of about 200 – 220 kilometers. The rocket would climb to an altitude of under 80 kilometers into the stratosphere, before descending on its target. At its peak the Rheinbote reached a speed between 6000 and 7000 km/h, probably the fastest object of its time. Mach 5.55 is indicated in the Cosford Museum in the United Kingdom, a staggering 6800 km/h (4224 mph). For its length, speed and distance it had quite a small warhead of only 40 kilograms and carried 25 kilograms of explosives.
It was developed by Rheinmetall-Borsig at Berlin-Marienfelde in 1943. Unlike the surface to air missile Rheintochter of the same company this was the only long-range battlefield ballistic missile to enter service in World War II.
The Rheinbote used the Meilerwagen – the V2 Rocket transport cart – as launch platform. It was transported to a designated area with a crew of 8 and after the Meilerwagen was set up in direction and height the missile was launched. It was unguided so after launch it was not adjustable, for stability every one of the four stages was outfitted with fins. Before launch distance was calculated and the angle and direction was set with the Meilerwagen and crew.
It is known that about 200 were fired on the Belgium city of Antwerp. About 15 Rheinbote were fired from a forest – Zandenbos – near the Dutch town of Nunspeet. Here the engineers miscalculated the angle which made the 15 fired Rheinbote rockets overshoot their targets and land near Gent instead of Antwerp. Like the V2’s the Rheinbote was fired at Antwerp when the Allied took over the city and harbor.
The V in V4 stand for Vergeltungswaffe or Vengeance Weapon, 4 types are known today.
V1 – Flying Bomb – Cruise Missile
V2 – Rocket – Guided Ballistic Missile
V3 – Cannon – Hochdruckpumpe (High Pressure Pump)
V4 – Rocket – Rheintochter – Unguided Ballistic Rocket