Super Guns

Vortex Gun

The Vortex Gun was designed and built by an Austrian scientist named Dr. Zimmermayr at an experimental institute at Lofer in Tyrol. It basically was a mortar barrel of a large caliber sunk in the ground, and the shells contained coal-dust and a slow-burning explosive in the center. The first experiments with compressed air were failures. The shells, once fired, were intended to have the function of creating an artificial whirlwind or tornado which would hopefully make enemy airplanes lose control and thus knock them out of the sky. If all circumstances were perfect and favorable, the strange device seemed to work fairly well. Numerous high-speed films were taken and processed for analysis and study, which concluded that the rotation and forward-moving explosion of the coal dust was in fact able to start the formation of a fairly large vortex. Although it was unknown whether the pressure changes of the tornado would be strong enough to cause frame failure in aircraft caught in the air current, it was known that the pressure on wing loading might be excessive. In the years before this invention, it was known that clear-air tubulence had brought down large airliners and broken them into pieces. It seemed possible and feasible that Dr. Zimmermayr's unlikely-sounding cannon could have the same effects too. In fact the gun would be cheaper than but as effective as shells filled with high explosive. The range of the prototype was estimated to be about 100m, even though the gun was never used in practice. But similarly designed guns using artificial firedamp explosions and shells were deployed against Polish freedom fighters in Warsaw towards the end of the war.

Wind Cannon

Like the Vortex Gun, the Wind Cannon was also developed by a factory in Stuttgart during the war. It was a type of gun that would eject a jet of compressed air against enemy aircraft. It was a strange device consisted of a large angled barrel like a bent arm resting in an immense cradle like some enormous broken pea-shooter lying askew. The cannon worked by the ignition of critical mixtures of hydrogen and oxygen in molecular proportions as near as possible. The powerful explosion triggered off a rapidly-ejected projectile of compressed air and water vapor, which, like a solid "shot" of air, was as effective as a small shell. Experimental trials of the cannon at Hillersleben demonstrated that a 25mm-thick wooden board could be broken at a distance of 200m. Nitrogen peroxide was deployed in some of the experiments so that the brown color would allow the path and destination of the otherwise transparent projectile to be observed and photographed. The tests proved that a powerful region of compressed and high-velocity air could be deployed with sufficient force to inflict some damage. However, the aerodynamics of a flying aircraft would almost surely neutralized the effectiveness of this cannon. In addition the effects of the cannon on a fast-flying aircraft was quite different from that on a fixed ground target. Still, the cannon was installed on a bridge over the Elbe, but with no significant results -- either because there were no aircraft or simply no successes (as one might suspect). The wind cannon was an interesting experiment but a practical failure.

Sun Cannon

An annoymous inventor, possibly inspired by the sun-reflector of Archimedes, designed the sun cannon during the war. The device had a big sun-reflector intended for use against hostile aircraft - on sunny days, of course. The experimental model of the sun cannon was captured by the Americans. Nothing was known about any operational use or test results with the cannon.

Peenemünde Arrow Shells

The Peenemünde Arrow Shells were conceived and developed at the Aerodynamic Research Laboratories at Peenemünde from 1942 to 1945. The arrow shells were dart-like projectiles designed to be fired from special smooth-bore versions of standard German Army artillery pieces. The project was initially envisioned and designed as ultra-long-range shells using a 310mm smooth-bored version of the famed 280mm K5 railway gun (Anzio Annie). The arrow shell was 1.91m long and 120mm in caliber, with four fins at the tail 310mm across and a 310mm sabot or discarding ring around the middle of the shell (center of gravity). The ring was naturally discarded and would fell away outside the gun muzzle when fired, while the accelerating shell would reach a velocity of 1524m/sec and obtain a maximum range of 150km. Two guns were produced, and one of them fired in anger at the US 3rd Army located 125km away from the gun.

There was an anti-aircraft version of the Peenemünde Arrow Shells. The projectile was designed for the 105mm FLAK 39 AA gun, with the goal to reach extremely high velocity so as to shorten flying time and eliminate the need to calculate aiming errors. The AA gunners would be able to aim, fire, and hit without having to worry about the speed of the aircraft and its altitude. During tests and experiments the shells obtained a muzzle velocity of 1067m/sec, which was considered excellent. Nevertheless, development had to be canceled since mass-production for combat use was impossible with the available production and industrial capacity of Germany

Vergeltungswaffe 3

The Vergeltungswaffe 3 (Vengeance Weapon 3), or V-3, was a super-long-range cannon designed to fire across the English Channel into the Greater Lond area. To disguise its true purpose it was given the cover name Hochdruckpumpe (High Pressure Pump) The cannon's configuration and layout also inspired nicknames like "Busy Lizzie" and "The Millipede." It was designed as a multiple-chambered gun of 150mm caliber with a 150m-long barrel. There was a conventional breech and a pressure chamber at the rear end. Several auxiliary chambers were constructed and arranged at 45o to the main barrel at intervals of about 40m. The theory behind the mechanism of the cannon was that a fin-stabilized shell would be loaded into the breech, together with the appropriate propelling charge. Additional charges would be added into the auxiliary chambers. The initial charge would be ignited and start the shell soaring up the bore. As it passed the auxiliary chambers additional charges would be fired to produce extra gas and thrust to boost the speed of the shell. With all these additional boosts, the shell would leave the muzzle at a very high velocity - somewhere around 1,524m/sec was projected. The shell would be hauled into the stratosphere, where the thin air offered less air resistance and would permit the projectile to reach a range of about 280km.

The idea of multi-chambered cannon is certainly not new. It was first suggested by two Americans, Lyman and Haskell, in the 1880s. A gun built on their specification was fired, but it proved unsuccessful. The propelling gases from the first charge slipped passed the shell and ignited the auxiliary charges before the shell had reached them, producing the opposite result. The idea was revived several times without success. In 1941 engineer Conders of the Rochling Stahlwerke AG put up his proposal. A 20mm prototype was built by May 1943 and appeared to work well. Somehow Conders managed to get Hitler’s approval and authorization to proceed on his own, without the knowledge of the Army Weapons Office, which would have certainly killed the project immediately. Full-scale experimental guns were built and tested, all of which exploded or underwent other disasters. At the same time hundreds of workers were set to construct a fifty-barrel gun in a hillside at Mimoyecques (near Calais), 165km from London. The underground launch site would house the gigantic cannon. Five long tubes made up the barrel, and each would fire a 136kg charge. The cannon sat at an angle on the hillside, pointing directly at London. The whole underground launch site was covered by a 5m-thick concrete dome. Ultimately the Army Weapons Office had to be consulted to provide assistance and expertise. The Office somehow managed to get the weapon working, after a fashion.

The Allies tried knocking out the site with conventional bombs but failed. Then it was decided that a plane loaded with TNT would be flown to the launch site by radio control and destroy the gun. During a test flight, however, two pilots were killed (Joseph Kennedy Jr. was one) and the plan was canceled. Ultimately a converted Lancaster dropped the "Tall Boy" bomb on the construction site at Helfaut-Wizernes. The 6.4m-long bomb weighed 5,454kg, and fell at a speed of 1,200km/h. The concrete dome was penetrated and the site destroyed. Five days later, the advancing Allies overran the installation at Calais and the project was no longer possible. Hitler had wished to make the cannon his third vengeance weapon. However, only two shortened versions of the gun were built and they were hurriedly thrown into use during the Ardennes Offensive in December 1944. One or two shots were fired without documented result, and the guns were blown up and abandoned afterwards. Fragments and pieces of the experimental guns are said to be still in existence on the Baltic Coast

The V-3 Hochdruckpumpe (aka HDP, 'Fleissiges Lieschen'; 'Tausend Füssler') was a supergun designed by Saar Röchling during World War II

The 140 m long cannon was capable of delivering a 140 kg shell over a 165 km range. Construction began of a bunker for the cannons in September 1943 at Mimoyecques, France. The site was damaged by Allied bombing before it could be put into operation and was finally occupied by the British at the end of August 1944. Two short-length (45 m long) V-3's were built at Antwerp and Luxembourg in support of the Ardennes offensive in December 1944. These were found to be unreliable and only a few shots were fired without known effect.

The V-3 used Baron von Pirquet's concept of sequentially electrically activated angled side chambers to provide additional acceleration of the shell during its passage up the barrel of the gun. This allowed a muzzle velocity of over 1500 m/s. The projectiles of the smooth bore weapon used fins for stability, as would be the case with the Canadian Martlet series 25 years later.

Lyman and Haskell of the US Army had built an unsuccessful prototype of the concept in the 1880's. It was found that the expanding gases of the base charge moved well ahead of the shell and ignited the auxiliary charges before the shell passed them, actually slowing the shell down. But in 1941 an engineer Conders at Saar Roechling proposed the use of electrically-activated charges to eliminate the problem. A 20mm prototype was built at a test site at Misdroy (Miedzyzdroje),
Poland and successfully demonstrated in April-May 1943.

Hitler was persuaded that this could be a third terror weapon to supplement the V-1 and V-2. Overruling the German military, he ordered fifty of the guns to be built in concrete bunkers in
France in order to bombard London. The first installation of five guns was to be built 165 km from London at Mimoyecques, near Calais, under Operation Wiese. The superguns were built at a fixed angle into a 30 m chalk hill, covered by a 5.2 m thick protective concrete dome. Each 140 m long cannon was capable of delivering a 150 mm / 140 kg shell on London.

The angled lateral combustion chambers were spaced every 3.65 m along the bore. The modular weapon could have the lateral chamber sections replaced as they wore out (they would burst after only a few firings).

Hundreds of slave workers began construction in September 1943 by sinking an initial tunnel 30 m below the hill's surface into the chalk. French Resistance informed the Allies of the new effort almost immediately.

Bombing raids to destroy the site began two months later. However the bunker proved impervious to Allied bombs, even 5400 kg Tallboy penetrator weapons. The weapons were nearing completion when, on
6 July 1944, three Tallboys happened to make it though the gun shaft openings. They penetrated 30 m to the first level of the complex and exploded, killing dozens of workers. Work on the complex stopped at this point.

The Allies were unaware of this success and searched for new methods to destroy Mimoyecques and other German bunker sites. Under Project Aphrodite (USAAF) and Operation Anvil (USN) radio-controlled, television-guided B-17 or PB4Y (B-24) bombers crammed with ten tonnes of explosives were to be flown by a crew near to the target. The pilot and co-pilot would then bail out while an accompanying aircraft guided the missile to a precision strike. This approach was abandoned in August 1944 after a total lack of success and several crew fatalities (including Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., elder brother of the future president).

By the end of August the Germans completely abandoned the complex in the face of the advancing British forces. Two short-length (45 m long) V-3's were built at
Antwerp and Luxembourg in support of the Ardennes offensive in December 1944. These were found to be unreliable and only a few shots were fired without known effect. The British dynamited the Mimoyecques complex on 9 May 1945.


On June 5, 1944, an armada set sail across the English Channel, the invasion of Europe had begun. Hitler continued to introduce his wonder weapons, with Buzz Bombs carrying 2000 pounds of explosives. Over 2000 were launched killing over 5000, it was total devastation.

Meteor jets and anti-aircraft guns were able to destroy many of the V-1s, but England had no defense against the V-2. It was 46 feet long with a one ton warhead and was difficult to locate when launched from a mobile site. The V-2 was propelled by liquid alcohol and liquid oxygen, taking it to 315,000 feet, then plunging back to earth at 1800 MPH. Over 1000 were fired at London. The new bunker type underground launch sites were not being destroyed by conventional bombing. The new V-3 Supergun could fire a projectile 95 miles, two every minute, striking London. It was obvious the V-1,V-2, and V-3 had to be stopped. Most of the launch sites were situated in heavily fortified underground bunkers that were difficult to destroy by conventional bombing.

England formed an elite group to destroy the launch sites, and asked for volunteers.

The U.S. had been experimenting with R.C. drones, as had Germany, which was developing R.C. glider bombs. The X-1 rocket boostered bomb released from a German bomber could glide for six miles when released from 26,000 feet.

The X-1 demonstrated devastating results by sinking many Allied ships, showing the promising use and accuracy of the R.C. guided missile.The U.S. guided their missiles in test using operator-television, however the pay load was too small. They then advanced to full size Radio Controlled aircraft that after establishing control the pilot bailed out. The aircraft would fly to the target by remote control. The Army experimented with B-17s while the Navy made test using the B-24. Early U.S. test failed. Pilots were killed, and the drones missed their target. Despite the numerous failures the U.S. proceeded with their testing of full size aircraft.

At precisely 5:52 PM on Saturday August 12, 1944, a medium sized bomber left Winfarthing-Persfield Army Air Base in Norfolk, England. Just as the end of the runway approached the plane managed to lift sluggishly into the air, for this plane was specially outrigged for a secret mission code named "Anvil" - the target was Mimoyecques, France.

It was a Navy PB4Y-1 Liberator, which was the same as the U.S. Army B-24D Liberator. It normally carried a crew of ten, and eight machine guns (0.50 inch), a bomb load of 8,000 lb. and had a maximum speed of 300 mph.

This special airplane had only a pilot and co-pilot. No machine guns or armament of any kind; instead it carried 21,170 lb. of high explosives.

The number on this Navy PB4Y-1 was 32271. This identified it as the plane of Navy Lt. (jg) Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr - the brother of Navy Lt. (jg) John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who became the 35th President..

This special bomber had also been rewired to become a "Drone," a radio controlled robot with an arming pin installed to prevent accidental ignition of the explosives.

Fourteen other aircraft gathered in formation with the "flying bomb". The lead plane was a B-17. There were two P-38s to accomplish aerial photography over the target. Also included were two Mosquito bombers, one to monitor weather, the other flown by Elliot Roosevelt, the son of the President of the United States. Another B-17 acted as a signal relay over the channel, with six P-51s as escort. The flying bomb was followed by two Lockheed Venturas which are believed to have been the "mother" guidance planes. This armada after hooking up in formation flew from Fersfield to Framingham, England, then to Beccles testing their RC equipment. Final test would be made with the B-24 flying alone on Radio Control.

At exactly 6:15 p.m. they passed over Framingham, England, this was "Able" the first check point. Lt. Joe banked his plane to the left and headed for Becclec, England. This was "Baker" the second check point.

The flight plan went further east than intended and flew over Blytheburgh. Kennedy made final preparations to set the plane on remote control. He removed the safety pin, and signaled O.K. with the code phrase "Stay Flush". These would be his last words as the plane exploded at 6:20PM over Blytheburgh as two orange fire balls enveloped the plane

Very few parts of the B-24 were found, no bodies.The official crash report indicated the cause of the accident was unknown. Once the safety pin was removed ignition could have been triggered by any aircraft making radio contact with the aircraft.

After the accident there was an immediate coverup of the entire accident which was already clouded in secrecy. No information was released for almost 60 years, even now no real disclosure.

One point that is pretty hard to swallow, the whole truth is that the mission was pointless. Through a huge intelligence failure it was later disclosed that the target launch site had been severely damaged by RAF raids a week before. They had dropped massive "Tall Boy" bombs on it. So the disaster was probably unnecessary, The U.S. had tried 19 RC bomb test and none of them were successful. It is largely believed this is the reason behind the coverup.

20 years after the war ended the case was opened up, which only raised more questions. Claims bordered on the ridiculous. The Germans claimed they shot the plane down, Joe was captured and later killed in an escape attempt. Other claims were that Joe parachuted and was captured by a Panzer division, and later Kennedy and Willy were both shot. Many articles were published which claimed mostly erroneous information.

Joe was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and also the Air Medal. In 1946 a destroyer, the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. destroyer No. 850 was launched at the Fore River shipyards as the Navy's final tribute to a gallant officer and his heroic devotion to Duty.


Electric Cannon Uses No Gunpowder
(June 1932)
Source: Modern Mechanix

Silent guns sending their whistling messengers of death into the sky at speeds far beyond those now attained by powder-driven shells seem likely for the next war, using for propulsion magnetic fields so powerful that when they are short-circuited they produce miniature earthquakes.

Dr. Kapitza, F. R. S., working at the Cavendish laboratory of Cambridge University, England, in his attempts to disrupt the atom has produced magnetic fields so powerful that they “explode” the coils that produce them. This man has finally revealed the secret of the magnetic gun so long anticipated by ballistic experts. Dr. Kapitza accomplishes the electric firing of a shell by short-circuiting powerful dynamos for periods of one one-hundredth of a second.

Another English experimenter, Dr. Wall, seeking the same thing, produces ultra-magnetic fields with a more simple apparatus. Dr. Wall simply charges electrostatic condensers and permits them to discharge their powerful currents into specially made coils immersed in oil baths. Here also magnetic fields so powerful that they tear the coils to pieces have been produced. So great are these magnetic fields that they are capable of pulling iron nails out of shoes.

While the magnetic effects produced by both of these experimenters are of very short duration, they could be employed to impart their terrible energy to steel shells. The time limit, which cannot exceed one one-hundredth of a second, is imposed because of the powerful currents used. If these currents were permitted to flow through wire for a greater period of time, the wire would melt and temperatures greater than those existing in some of the hottest stars would be produced.

To produce a magnetic gun—a silent Big-Bertha—it will only be necessary to arrange a series of powerful coils within the gun barrel. Each coil will have its own generator and the shell advancing through the barrel will automatically energize the coil just ahead of it. By the time the shell reaches the end of the barrel it will have attained a speed far in excess of the speeds now attainable with even the highest explosives known.

Owing to the entire absence of internal pressures these guns may be made of ordinary iron or even of purely non-magnetic materials. The “magnetic explosions” will be initiated by the simple closing of a switch which will energize the first: coil and snatch the shell from the breech in the first leg of its journey of destruction.

Source: Modern Mechanix 9-1934

Electric Gun

The potential and power of launching a projectile using electro-magnetic force have fascinated inventors and researchers ever since the solenoid was invented. However, none of the attempts was successful. During World War II Germany started two separate projects to study electric propulsion. The first was headed by an engineer and consultant to the Siemens company named Muck. Muck proposed a solenoid-type gun to be built in a hillside near the Lille coal fields in France, since 50,000 tons of anthracite per month would be needed to generate the electricity to power the gun. This gun was designed to attack London from a range of 248km with 204.5kg shells. In 1943 Reichsminister Albert Speer was notified of the proposal, which was rejected as impractical after examination by a number of scientists and technical experts.

An electric gun for air-defense was also designed. Engineer Hansler of the Gesellschaft für Gerätbau put forward this idea in 1944. It was based on the linear motor principle and promised a 6,000 rounds per minute rate of fire from a multiple-barreled installation, a velocity of over 1829m/sec and shells containing 500g of explosive. The Luftwaffe accepted the basic concept for use as an anti-aircraft gun. Intensive tests with an electro-magnetic discharge mechanism were made on a 20mm anti-aircraft gun. The tests began in Berlin and were later continued in the foothills of the Alps, where firing tests were carried out against the slopes of the Wetterstein mountain. A muzzle velocity 2,000m/sec was attained. Preliminary assessments showed that conventional generators would easily and cheaply generate the necessary 3,900 kilowatts per gun. Later it was found that a considerable amount of energy was needed, and a new type of condenser was developed. It was hoped that the new condenser would bring an improvement, but the tests were not finished before the war's end. Work on a prototype gun began in February 1945 but was not finished before the war's end. The gun fell into the hands of the Americans. After the war the Allies closely studied the project, but eventually it was calculated that each gun would have required the services of a major city's power station. The project has never been revived.

from Intelligence Bulletin, May 1946

German Experiment With Electrically Launched Projectiles

A super-high-velocity gun, operating on electrical energy instead of an explosive propellant, has been a minor scientific dream for some time. The idea is not new; for it was tried by the French in World War I. But in World War II, a German scientist felt he was so close to a solution of the problems involved that the German Air Force had contracted for an experimental electric gun. This gun was to be capable of ejecting a 40-mm projectile at a muzzle velocity of 6,600 feet per second—far above the velocity of any shell yet fired from a conventional artillery piece.

Diagrammatic sketch of the electric gun projectile (left) and its glide wing, and (right, top to bottom) end view of the projectile, isometric view of the gun tube, and end view of the tube showing the shape of the bore and the position of the copper gliderails through which the propelling electric charge is passed.

Although the gun ordered was not delivered before the end of the war, a miniature that actually worked was built and tested. Theoretical calculations, based upon tests made with the miniature gun, led the German scientists to believe it possible to build an electric gun capable of tossing a 14-pound projectile to an altitude of 12 miles in 13 seconds.

To men familiar with the problems of antiaircraft artillery, such a weapon appeared a godsend. The 90-mm antiaircraft gun of conventional, powder-burning design, can reach only 4.4 miles in altitude in the same length of time.


Although the problem of electrically ejected shells is an old one, it has still to pass the research stages. The chief problem is to obtain a source of sufficient electrical power that will not be all out of proportion to the size of the gun. Designing a gun did not seem to be too great a problem, for the German model appeared logical.

The German gun, had it ever been built to full scale, would have had a rectangular barrel 33.7 feet long. The round bore, as designed by the Germans, is flanked by two, square grooves 180 degrees apart, so that when the bore is seen from one end, it is the same shape as the aircraft identification insignia used by the U.S. Army Air Forces. The bore is not rifled. At the extreme ends of the two grooves, an insulated, copper glide rail runs the entire length of the barrel. It is through these glide rails that the electrical energy is conducted for ejecting the shell.

The shell is a cylindrical projectile somewhat longer than the conventional artillery shell, and has four narrow fins at its base. It is fitted with a cradle, called a "glide wing," from which extend two studs which fit into the square grooves of the bore, and ride on the copper glide rails. After the shell has been placed in the gun, a jolt of electricity is shot into the weapon. The current, passing along the glide rails and through the glide wing, sets up an intense magnetic field. The reaction is such that the magnetic field and the current flow through the glide rails tend to repel each other. This, in effect, forces the projectile up the bore at an ever increasing velocity until, when it leaves the muzzle, it is traveling at a terrific rate of speed. This reaction is so fast that it is only a matter of a split second between the introduction of the current and the ejection of the shell from the gun.


It is the opinion of some scientists that the electric gun deserves further study and experimentation, since it contains, in theory at least, some marked advantages over the conventional antiaircraft artillery of the present day. It is theoretically capable of obtaining muzzle velocities far in excess of what to date has appeared possible for powder-burning weapons. It is noiseless, smokeless, and has no flash. Constructed of materials easily obtainable, it requires comparatively little high-precision machining. Unlike other artillery pieces, the machined surfaces are not subjected to high pressures and intense heat. Moving parts are few, and these can be greased. Recoil is negligible, and range can be adjusted by varying the electric current. The gun has a high efficiency, compared to ordinary pieces, since there is no energy wasted through heat and escaping gases, and the manufacture and handling of cartridges is eliminated. But perhaps most important is the fact that ranges and penetrating power now unattainable may be reached in the electric gun.

Of course, these advantages are in turn offset by the chief problem—power supply—and a myriad of minor electrical wrinkles that would require straightening before a truly efficient gun could be produced. It is one thing to handle large amperages in a power house, and quite another to supply them to, and use them in, a comparatively small piece of machinery which, to be of full military value, must retain the essentials of mobility.


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