21 cm Nebelwerfer 42

The 21 cm Nebelwerfer 42 (21 cm NbW 42) was a German multiple rocket launcher used in the Second World War. It served with units of the Nebeltruppen, the German equivalent of the American Chemical Corps. Just as the Chemical Corps had responsibility for poison gas and smoke weapons that were used instead to deliver high-explosives during the war so did the Nebeltruppen. The name "Nebelwerfer" is best translated as "smoke-thrower". It saw service from 1942–45 in all theaters except Norway. It was adapted for aerial combat by the Luftwaffe in 1943.

21 cm Nebelwerfer 42
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-299-1803-01, Frankreich, 21cm Nebelwerfer
A 21 cm Nebelwerfer 42 being manoeuvred into position in France, 1944
TypeRocket artillery
Place of originNazi Germany
Service history
In service1942–45
Used byNazi Germany
WarsWorld War II
Production history
ManufacturerDonauwörth Machine Factory[1]
No. built2626[2]
MassEmpty: 550 kg (1,210 lb)
Loaded: 1,100 kg (2,400 lb)
Length3.6 m (11 ft 10 in)
Barrel length1.3 m (4 ft 3 in)
Width1.6 m (5 ft 3 in)
Height1.5 m (4 ft 11 in)[3]

Shell1.25 m (4 ft 1 in)
Shell weight109.55 kg (241.5 lb)
Caliber21 cm (8.3 in)
Elevation-5° to +45°
Muzzle velocity320 m/s (1,000 ft/s)
Maximum firing range7,850 m (8,580 yd)
Filling weight10.17[5] kg (22.4 lb)


21 cm Wurfgranate 42
21 cm Wurfgranate 42

The 21 cm NbW 42 was a five-barreled multiple rocket launcher mounted on the towed carriage derived from that of the 3.7 cm PaK 36 anti-tank gun. A pivoting stabilising jack was added to the front of the carriage to steady the launcher when firing.

The 21 cm Wurfgranate (thrower-shell) 42 rockets were spin-stabilized, electrically-fired and had only high-explosive warheads. The rocket nozzle assembly contained 22 orifices evenly spaced around the rim of the nozzle with the orifices set an angle of 16° from the axis of the rocket to give the rocket clockwise rotation.[6] The rockets had a prominent exhaust trail that kicked up a substantial amount of dust and debris, so the crew had to seek shelter before firing. This meant that they were easily located and had to relocate quickly to avoid counter-battery fire. The rockets were fired one at a time, in a timed ripple, but the launcher had no capability to fire single rockets.[7] The rockets could be fitted with either impact or delay fuses as necessary. Liner rails could be fitted to allow the launcher to use 15 cm Wurfgranate 41 rockets with their HE, smoke and poison gas warheads.

The individual rockets were 1.26 metres (4 ft 2 in) long and weighed 109.55 kilograms (241.5 lb). Their high-explosive warhead weighed 10.17 kilograms (22.4 lb). They had a muzzle velocity of 320 m/s (1,000 ft/s) which gave them a range of 7,850 metres (8,580 yd).[8] Despite the improved aerodynamics of the Wgr. 42 rocket over the 15 cm Wgr. 41 it proved to have similar dispersion problems; notably an area 500 metres (550 yd) long and 130 metres (140 yd) wide because of uneven burning of its propellant.[9]

Army use

The 21 cm NbW 42s were organized into batteries of six launchers with three batteries per battalion. These battalions were concentrated in independent Werfer-Regiments and Brigades.[10] They saw service on the Eastern Front, North Africa, Italian Campaign and the defence of France and Germany from 1942—45.[11]

Luftwaffe use as the Wfr. Gr. 21 (BR 21) rocket launcher

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-674-7772-13A, Flugzeug Focke-Wulf Fw 190, Bewaffnung
Arming a Fw 190 with a WGr. 21 rocket

The rocket was adapted for air-to-air use by the Luftwaffe in 1943 with a time fuse and a larger 40.8 kilograms (90 lb) warhead as the Wfr. Gr. 21, or BR 21 (for Bordrakete 21, as seen on German manuals)[12] to disrupt Allied bomber formations, particularly the Eighth Air Force's combat box formations, and make them more vulnerable to attacks by German fighters while staying outside the range of defensive fire from the bombers. Single launch tubes were fitted under each wing of the Bf 109 and Fw 190 single-engined fighters, and two under each wing on the Bf 110 twin-engined fighters. The earliest known attack against American bombers with the underwing rockets was made on July 29, 1943, by elements of both JG 1 and JG 11, during American strategic bombing attacks on both Kiel and Warnemünde. Photographic evidence indicates that the Hungarians fitted three tubes under each wing of some of their twin-engined Me 210 Ca-1 heavy fighters.[13] However, the high drag caused by the launchers reduced the speed and manoeuvrability of the launching aircraft, which could be lethal if Allied fighters were encountered. Also, the launch tube's under-wing mounting setup, which usually aimed the projectile at about 15° upwards from level flight to counter the considerable ballistic drop of the projectile in flight after launch, added to the drag problem.[14] The American nickname for the 21 cm rockets was "flaming baseballs" from the fireball-like appearance of the projectiles in flight.

The Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornisse heavy fighter was known to have sometimes been fitted with the Bf 110's quartet of launchers for the Wfr. Gr. 21 rockets,[15] but one tested an experimental installation of six launching tubes, similar in appearance to the 15 cm Nebelwerfer 41's half-dozen carriage-mounted tubes, in the Me 410's under-nose weapons bay. The tube assembly, with their axis angled upwards at 15° (as the underwing mountings were angled) was intended to rotate, as a revolver pistol's cylinder would, as each rocket to be fired was launched singly from the exposed tube at the bottom of the aircraft's nose.[16][17] A test flight was made on 3 February 1944, but the concept proved to be a failure as the rockets' exhaust substantially damaged the aircraft.[18]

A similar adaptation of the 21 cm Nebelwerfer's components were also used on an experimental bomber destroyer version of the He 177 heavy bomber, known as the Grosszerstörer, which proposed using upwards of thirty-three of the launch tubes, firing upwards from the mid-fuselage's bomb bay area at a 60° angle (similar to the effective Schräge Musik night fighter autocannon fitment) and firing slightly to starboard out the dorsal fuselage surface, flying two kilometers below the USAAF combat box formations – a few trial intercepts were attempted, without contact with USAAF bombers, and was doomed to fail from the swarms of American fighters protecting the bombers.


  1. ^ Engelmann, p. 17
  2. ^ Engelmann, p. 5
  3. ^ a b Chamberlain, Peter (1975). Mortars and rockets. Gander, Terry. New York: Arco Pub. Co. p. 39. ISBN 0668038179. OCLC 2067459.
  4. ^ Engelmann, p. 46
  5. ^ Bishop, Chris (2002). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II. ISBN 9781586637620.
  6. ^ "Catalog of Enemy Ordnance". Archived from the original on 9 September 2010. Retrieved 1 Sep 2010.
  7. ^ Gander and Chamberlain, pp. 321–322
  8. ^ Gander and Chamberlain, p. 329
  9. ^ "Raketenwerfer". Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  10. ^ Niehorster, pp. 52–53
  11. ^ Kameradschaft, vols. 1 and 2
  12. ^ [1] manual for Wfr. Gr. on Fw 190
  13. ^ Petrick and Stocker, p. 45
  14. ^ Caldwell and Muller, pp. 101–102
  15. ^ [2] photo of the twin-tube installation
  16. ^ [3] photo of the installation
  17. ^ [4] closeup of the installation fully configured
  18. ^ Petrick and Stocker, p. 29


  • Caldwell, Donald L. and Muller, Richard R.. The Luftwaffe over Germany: Defense of the Reich. London: Greenhill Books, 2007 ISBN 978-1-85367-712-0
  • Englemann, Joachim and Scheibert, Horst. Deutsche Artillerie 1934-1945: Eine Dokumentation in Text, Skizzen und Bildern: Ausrüstung, Gliderung, Ausbildung, Führung, Einsatz. Limburg/Lahn, Germany: C. A. Starke, 1974
  • Gander, Terry and Chamberlain, Peter. Weapons of the Third Reich: An Encyclopedic Survey of All Small Arms, Artillery and Special Weapons of the German Land Forces 1939–1945. New York: Doubleday, 1979 ISBN 0-385-15090-3
  • Engelmann, Joachim. German Rocket Launchers in WWII. Schiffer Publishing, 1990 ISBN 0-88740-240-2
  • Kameradschaft der ABC-Abwehr, Nebel- und Werfertruppen e.V. Die Nebel- und Werfertruppe (Regimentsbögen). 2001
  • Niehorster, Leo W. G. German World War II Organizational Series, Vol. 5/II: Mechanized GHQ units and Waffen-SS Formations (4 July 1943), 2005
  • Petrick, Peter and Stocker, Werner. Messerschmitt Me 210/Me 410 Hornet. Hinckley, England: Midland, 2007 ISBN 978-1-85780-271-9

External links

Focke-Wulf Fw 190

The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger (English: Shrike) is a German single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank in the late 1930s and widely used during World War II. Along with its well-known counterpart, the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Fw 190 became the backbone of the Luftwaffe's Jagdwaffe (Fighter Force). The twin-row BMW 801 radial engine that powered most operational versions enabled the Fw 190 to lift larger loads than the Bf 109, allowing its use as a day fighter, fighter-bomber, ground-attack aircraft and, to a lesser degree, night fighter.

The Fw 190A started flying operationally over France in August 1941, and quickly proved superior in all but turn radius to the Royal Air Force's main front-line fighter, the Spitfire Mk. V, particularly at low and medium altitudes. The 190 maintained superiority over Allied fighters until the introduction of the improved Spitfire Mk. IX. In November/December 1942, the Fw 190 made its air combat debut on the Eastern Front, finding much success in fighter wings and specialised ground attack units called Schlachtgeschwader (Battle Wings or Strike Wings) from October 1943 onwards.

The Fw 190A series' performance decreased at high altitudes (usually 6,000 m (20,000 ft) and above), which reduced its effectiveness as a high-altitude interceptor. From the Fw 190's inception, there had been ongoing efforts to address this with a turbosupercharged BMW 801 in the B model, the much longer-nosed C model with efforts to also turbocharge its chosen Daimler-Benz DB 603 inverted V12 powerplant, and the similarly long-nosed D model with the Junkers Jumo 213. Problems with the turbocharger installations on the -B and -C subtypes meant only the D model entered service in September 1944. While these "long nose" versions gave the Germans parity with Allied opponents, they arrived too late to affect the outcome of the war.

The Fw 190 was well-liked by its pilots. Some of the Luftwaffe's most successful fighter aces claimed many of their kills while flying it, including Otto Kittel, Walter Nowotny and Erich Rudorffer. The Fw 190 provided greater firepower than the Bf 109 and, at low to medium altitude, superior manoeuvrability, in the opinion of German pilots who flew both fighters. It was regarded as one of the best fighter planes of World War II.

Heinkel He 177

The Heinkel He 177 Greif (Griffin) was a long-range heavy bomber flown by the Luftwaffe during World War II. The He 177 was the only operational long-range heavy bomber available to the Luftwaffe during the war years that had a payload/range capability similar to the four-engined heavy bombers flown by the USAAF and RAF in the European theatre; it had higher cruising and maximum speeds.

Designed to a 1936 requirement known as Bomber A, the aircraft was originally intended to be a purely strategic bomber intended to support a long-term bombing campaign against Soviet industry in the Urals. In spite of its large, 30 metres (98 ft) wingspan, the design was limited to two engines. During the design, Luftwaffe doctrine came to stress the use of moderate-angle dive bombing, or "glide bombing", to improve accuracy. Applying the changes needed for this type of attack to such a large aircraft was unrealistic.

To deliver the power required from only two engines on an aircraft this large, engines of at least 2,000 horsepower (1,500 kW) were needed. Such designs were not well established and the DB 606 "power system" engine, combined with the cooling and maintenance problems caused by the tight nacelles, caused the engines to be infamous for catching fire in flight. Early models gained the nicknames Reichsfeuerzeug (Reich's lighter) from Luftwaffe aircrew.

The type matured into a usable design too late in the war to play an important role. It was built and used in some numbers, especially on the Eastern Front where its range was particularly useful. It is notable for its use in mass raids on Velikiye Luki in 1944, one of the late-war heavy bombing efforts by the Luftwaffe. It saw considerably less use on the Western Front, although it played a role during Operation Steinbock (baby blitz), against the UK in 1944.

List of Focke-Wulf Fw 190 variants

This is a list of variants of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, with detailed descriptions.

List of German military equipment of World War II

The following is a list of German military equipment of World War II which includes artillery, vehicles and vessels. World War II was a global war that was under way by 1939 and ended in 1945. Following political instability build-up in Europe from 1930, the Germans, which aimed to dominate Europe, attacked Poland on 1 September 1939, marking the start of World War II. The war in Europe ended 8 May 1945 with capitulation of Germany to the Allied forces.

The Germans used a number of type designations for their weapons. Usually, the type designation and series number (i.e. FlaK 30) are sufficient to identify a system, but occasionally multiple systems of the same type are developed at the same time and share a designation, at which point one must reference the calibre to differentiate.

List of air operations during the Battle of Europe

This World War II timeline of European Air Operations lists notable military events in the skies of the European Theater of Operations of World War II from the Invasion of Poland to Victory in Europe Day. The list includes combined arms operations, defensive anti-aircraft warfare, and encompasses areas within the territorial waters of belligerent European states.1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945


The Nebelwerfer (smoke mortar) was a World War II German series of weapons. They were initially developed by and assigned to the Wehrmacht's "smoke troops" (Nebeltruppen). This weapon was given its name as a disinformation strategy designed to fool observers from the League of Nations, who were observing any possible infraction of the Treaty of Versailles, into thinking that it was merely a device for creating a smoke screen. They were primarily intended to deliver poison gas and smoke shells, although a high-explosive shell was developed for the Nebelwerfer from the beginning. Initially, two different mortars were fielded before they were replaced by a variety of rocket launchers ranging in size from 15 to 32 centimetres (5.9 to 12.6 in). The thin walls of the rockets had the great advantage of allowing much larger quantities of gases, fluids or high-explosives to be delivered than artillery or even mortar shells of the same weight. With the exception of the Balkans Campaign, Nebelwerfers were used in every campaign of the German Army during World War II. A version of the 21 cm calibre system was adapted for air-to-air use against Allied bombers.

Sd.Kfz. 11

The Sd.Kfz. 11 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug - special motorized vehicle) was a German half-track that saw widespread use in World War II. Its main role was as a prime mover for medium towed guns ranging from the 3.7 cm FlaK 43 anti-aircraft gun up to the 10.5 cm leFH 18 field howitzer. It could carry eight troops in addition to towing a gun or trailer.

The basic engineering for all the German half-tracks was developed during the Weimar-era by the Reichswehr's Military Automotive Department, but final design and testing was farmed out to commercial firms with the understanding that production would be shared with multiple companies. Borgward was chosen to develop the second smallest of the German half-tracks and built a series of prototypes between 1934 and 1937. However development was taken over in 1938 by Hanomag who designed the main production version, H kl 6.

The chassis formed the basis for the Sd.Kfz. 251 medium armored personnel carrier. Approximately 9,000 were produced between 1938 and 1945, making it one of the more numerous German tactical vehicles of the war. It participated in the Invasion of Poland, the Battle of France, the Balkans Campaign and fought on both the Western Front and the Eastern Front, in North Africa and in Italy.

Werfer-Granate 21

The Werfer-Granate 21 rocket launcher, also known as the BR 21 (the "BR" standing for Bordrakete) in official Luftwaffe manuals, was a weapon used by the German Luftwaffe during World War II and was the first on-board rocket placed into service by the Luftwaffe, first introduced in mid 1943. The weapon was developed by Rheinmetall-Borsig under the leadership of Dipl.-Ing. Rudolf Nebel, who had pioneered German use of wing-mounted offensive rocketry in World War I with the Luftstreitkräfte.

German artillery of World War II
Tank guns
Anti-tank guns
Infantry and mountain guns
Recoilless guns
Heavy mortars
Rocket artillery
Field, medium and heavy guns
Superheavy and siege artillery
Railroad artillery
Naval artillery
Anti-aircraft guns
Demolition charges


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