The Wasserfall rocket was a scaled down version of the V2 – rocket and built for air defence. This anti-aircraft missile was fired from the ground into the air at supersonic speed.
Concept rocket development started in 1941, 1942 was the year all specifications were defined and in March 1943 first test flights commenced. The Wasserfall – Waterfall had roughly the same shape as the V2 rocket and was developed, built and tested at the Peenemunde peninsula in the Karslhagen test Centre by the Flak-Versuchskommando Nord, EMW (Elektromechanische Werke GmbH Peenemünde).
During Operation Hydra, the bombing of the German scientific research Centre at Peenemünde on the night of 17/18 August 1943 Dr. Walter Thiel was killed (and many others). Dr. Walter Thiel was the major engineer of the missile, this was a huge setback for the Wasserfall development.
Operation Hydra was the start of operation Crossbow, the bombing of V1 Cruise Missile and V2 Rocket facilities.
Slowly development picked up again and in March 1944 three Wasserfall rockets were fired, until the trails were completed at the end of June 1944. A launch on 8 January 1945 had an engine failure at 7 km high. A Launch in February 1945 was successful, the Wasserfall reached a supersonic speed of 770 m/s – 2.800 km/h in vertical flight. A total of 35 rockets had been launched during the war but this ended when the Peenemünde facilities were abandoned on 17 February 1945 when the Russian Armies closed in.
The Wasserfall could stand ready for several months therefore it used another fuel type than the V2 Rocket. It was radio controlled by the Kehl-Strasbourg Funkgerät FuG 203 and Fug 230, with line-of-sight (MCLOS) control during daytime with radio waves and a joystick. The Kehl-Strasbourg Funkgerät FuG 203 and Fug 230 was originally developed for guided missile attacks on ships with the use for the Fritz X and the Henschel Hs 293 missiles. At night it was much more complex to guide the Wasserfall. A radar guiding system named Rheinland was developed which used a simple analogue computer. The Wasserfall tracked the Radar beam and together with the use of the joystick and blips on a screen the Rocket was guided to its target.
The Wasserfall was 7.85 meters long, with a diameter of 86 cm. It weighed around 3500 kg and reached a speed of 770m/s or 2.800 km/h in vertical flight up to 20 km high. It had a warhead up to 300 kg. The warhead was upgraded in due time for the engineers feared it was too hard to get really close to Allied bombers. By upgrading the warhead, they wanted to expand the blast area of the Wasserfall and tried to down more than one plane with a single missile. The Liquid-propellant rocket motor was fuelled with 450 kg Visol + 1500 kg SV-Stoff. And could be ready for a few months on end after fuelling, instead of the V2 rocket which had to be tanked just before take-off.
The Wasserfall technology had great potential therefore, after the Second World War, the Allied copied the rocket and further developed it. The Americans named theirs Hermes leading to the Viking Rocket, the Russians named it R-101 and later developed the SCUD systems, Egypt had the Al Kaher rocket and France the Eole.
Our Wasserfall rocket in the photo is a genuine test model, scaled down to a quarter of the actual Wasserfall size.