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For All Nails (FAN) #156:  Rocket Queen

Excerpt from Chapter 12 of "Total War - The History and Battles of the 
Global War, 1939-1948" Chapter 12: Weapons of War

... The Global War ignited an explosion of intellectual pursuits.
Needless 
to say, this explosion was mainly in the field of arms, weapons, and 
military doctrine.  Perhaps no weapons technology came more into its own 
than the rocket. The scientists and weapon-smiths of virtually all
countries 
involved in the global conflagration found new and wondrous (and
sometimes 
disastrous and idiotic) uses for rockets.

The most well-known and effective use of the rocket in the first stage
of 
the war (running from 1939 to 1942) was the United Empire use of the
rocket 
airmobile. The repeated assaults on the British Isles by German
airmobile 
forces led to an immediate and pressing need for some sort of air
defence. 
This came in the form of the rocket airmobile, which was little more
than a 
large rocket with a pilot's cabin and a pair of autoguns on each of the 
rather stubby wings (by comparison to the more conventional
propeller-driven 
aircraft).  Unlike the air-breathing rocketmobiles that saw action
during 
the later part of the war, these early rocketmobiles carried their own 
supply of liquid oxidant.

North American and British popular histories of the Global War tend to
focus 
on the Redtail liquid-fuelled rocket airmobile.  The romantic aura
around 
the Redtail, however, and the focus on the vehicle's final design
obscures 
the series of ill-known and sometimes catastrophic failures which
preceded 
the Redtail.  It also obscures the fact that the Redtail, for all its 
dramatic success during the second and third invasion attempts, was
rapidly 
superceded by the Lancer-GA-series air-breathing rocket airmobile.

Early liquid-fuelled rocket airmobile designs had a depressing tendency
to 
explode violently and without warning on the runway or shortly after 
take-off. Once it was determined that the engines were being
manufactured 
with inferior materials, British engineers quickly rectified the
problem.  
Nevertheless, the program probably would have been cancelled had it not 
become the darling of the Prince of Wales, who personally volunteered to
be 
a test-pilot for the next set of prototypes. With the Prince's support
(the 
RAA Command turned down the Prince's request to be a test-pilot on the 
ostensible grounds that he was "too valuable a national resource,"
although 
rumors persist that the real reason was mental instability) the rocket 
airmobile program actually accelerated, running quickly through various 
prototypes until a functional version of the rocket air-mobile was 
developed.  (For a closer examination of the stages of rocket airmobile 
evolution see Appendix G: The War in the Air).

The Redtail made a remarkable showing when first unveiled against German 
bombers and except for a few niggling problems with the landing
capability 
of the airmobile (which by the Global War's end accounted for fully 12 
percent of all United Empire pilot casualties) the United Empire
continued 
to export various forms of the vehicle to allied militaries around the 
world…

... The Japanese were the first to use rockets for long-distance 
bombardment.  As early as 1939, the Japanese used large terramobiles 
equipped with rockets mounted on the exterior which were used very 
effectively against Chinese incursions in Fukien and Manchuria.  After
the 
Mexican sneak attack in 1942, the Japanese continuously upgraded the
range 
and accuracy of their rocket artillery.  By 1950, their ground-attack 
ballistic rockets had a range of nearly 100 miles and an accuracy to
within 
half a mile.

... the most ingenious use of rockets by the Japanese was for air
defense.  
Launched from the ground, the 'Pleasant Breeze' air defense system
entered 
service in 1948.  Rather than dumb-fired, ground-based controllers
guided 
the missile towards the radar return of enemy bombers. An acoustic
proximity 
fuse detonated the warhead when it got close enough to its target.  
Famously, many of the Pleasant Breeze operators were pilots who had
suffered 
injuries during the early battles against Mexico.  [1]  The Mexican Army
Air 
Corps never recovered from the concerted rocket attacks which decimated 
their medium and heavy bomber forces over the home islands of the
Japanese. 
In fact, these Japanese air defence rockets are memorialised in the
popular 
Mexican song "Bombs Bursting in Air," which some have jokingly called
for to 
be made the national hymn of the United States of Mexico ...

... in general, German rocket technology lagged the British and Japanese
... 
by far the German Flugkörpertruppen (rocket troops) was the most bizarre
use 
of rocket technology during the war.  Facing reversals on all fronts,
the 
Germans decided to make one final attempt to capture the British Isles
and 
force the United Empire to capitulate.  The catastrophic failure of this 
invasion was in no small part due to the Germans' own use of rocket 
technology.

...  no doubt within the files of the Reich War Ministry is the name of
the 
person who devised the Flugkörpertruppen ... the men who approved the 
program surely deserve to be locked in a mental asylum ... The Germans
used 
the rocket troops in two ways.  The first were as standard skytroopers,
only 
delivered by the disposable Maus rocket.  The hope was that the Maus,
which 
was both far cheaper than the standard airmobiles used to carry
skytroopers 
and could fly at speeds of up to 500 miles per hour, could effectively 
penetrate British air defense systems.  The rockets would then disgorge 
twenty to twenty-four skytroopers who would fallscreen out over the 
countryside and fight from behind enemy lines.

The problems with this approach were many. First and foremost, the
erratic 
propulsion and navigation mechanism of the Maus rockets meant that 
skytroopers jumped into the English Channel, into Ireland, into Scotland
and 
in some cases, into the North Sea. Fewer than twenty percent of the 
skytroopers landed anywhere near their designated landing zones. 
Scattered 
across the British isles, most were easily detained and disarmed by the
Home 
Guard. In fact, the unmanned Maus rockets which continued on their way
did 
more damage than the troops they were carrying, though this is largely
the 
result of one of them starting a fire in northern Manchester which took 
several days to extinguish.

The second use of German rocket troops was clearly devised by a madman.  
Not content with putting men inside rocket propelled craft, the rockets
were 
accompanied by a typically German (and complex) harness mechanism which
was 
to be detached when the 'pilot' was over the target area. The number of 
problems with this idea were manifold, but perhaps the most spectacular 
aspect of the devices (more so than the random directions they had a 
tendency to shoot off in, the high-rate of unconsciousness suffered by
the 
pilots and the legendary difficulty in unfastening the harness) was
during 
take-off. Admittedly, the most likely cause for the spectacular failure
was 
ironically improvements in petrochemical refining which produced a much
more 
volatile fuel. However, the blame for using this improved fuel without 
actually testing it is clearly the main fault. It's hard to imagine what
it 
must have been life to be torn apart as the rocket you were strapped to 
accelerated to several hundred miles per hour in the space of a few 
fractions of a second, but we don't have to imagine what it was like to 
watch your entire flight have this happen to them while you yourself
were 
dragged around the concrete launching pad, through buildings and finally 
into the trees which surrounded the airmobile base. To quote the
eloquent 
Hpt. Hans Freilenger, FKT (ret.) in his recent memoir 'The [Censored]
High 
Command and the [Censored] Global War' (banned in the German Reich). 

"It was like watching some sort of [censored] fireworks going off as the
[censored] 
rockets headed for the [censored] sky and [censored] body parts went
flying 
[censored] everywhere. It was all [censored] started and [censored]
ended in 
a [censored] matter of a [censored] few seconds, and before I could 
[censored] get my [censored] hands on my [censored] [censored]
[censored] 
[censored] harness, my [censored] face was being [censored] scraped off
on 
the [censored] launching pad… when I [censored] came to, those
[censored] 
were still [censored] hosing off the [censored] [censored] runway."

Needless to say, this failure contributed to the lack of success in the
fourth 
attempt at invading Britain.

[1] This is envisioned as similar to the OTL WW2-era German Wasserfall 
anti-aircraft system.

All mistakes and confusing sentences are mine (especially in the last
section), in spite of editing assistance from Noel Maurer.