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.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-674-7772-13A, Flugzeug Focke-Wulf Fw 190, Bewaffnung
Arming the underwing Werfer-Granate 21 rocket mortar of an Fw 190 A-8/R6 of Stab/JG 26


The tight formations flown by USAAF heavy bombers allowed their defensive heavy machine guns to provide mutual cover to one another, and such a combat box was an extremely dangerous environment for a fighter aircraft to fly through, with dozens of heavy machine guns aimed at attacking Luftwaffe fighters from almost every conceivable direction. This led to numerous efforts to develop weapons that could attack the bombers outside the nominal 1,000 yards (910 m) effective range of their defensive guns.

This weapon enabled the German pilots to attack their bomber targets from a safer distance of over a kilometer, where the risk of being hit was much reduced. While a single fighter's payload of two or four such rockets was extremely unlikely to score a hit, a mass launch by an entire fighter squadron (a Staffel of 12-16 aircraft) as it arrived to intercept the bombers would likely score two or three hits, about 15% accuracy. The rocket's huge blast radius also compensated for inaccuracy, and even a non-lethal hit on a bomber by a showering of shrapnel would have psychological effects and perhaps cause it to take evasive manœuvres that would drive it from the protection of its fellows.

JG 1 and JG 11 were the first front line units to utilise the weapon during the spring of 1943. During the autumn of 1943 the Bf 110 G-2 Zerstörer of ZG 26 and ZG 76 were also equipped with it.

These weapons were also sometimes used against ground targets from late 1943 onwards, such as in the Italian campaign 1943–44, the 1944 Normandy campaign and during the Ardennes Offensive.

Design and capabilities

21 cm Wurfgranate 42
21 cm Wurfgranate 42.

Modified from the 21 cm Nebelwerfer 42 infantry barrage rocket projectile and reconfigured for air-launch, the spin-stabilised rocket was propelled by 18.4 kilograms (41 lb) diglycol solid fuel, and the warhead weighed 40.8 kilograms (90 lb). The Wfr. Gr. 21's projectile had a velocity of 320 metres (350 yd) per second (1,150 km/h, 716 mph) and a maximum range of 1,200 metres (1,300 yd). The rocket and tube weighed some 112 kilograms (247 lb) in total. A time fuse detonated the warhead at a pre-set distance of 600 metres (2,000 ft) to 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) from launch point, resulting in a lethal blast area approximately 30 metres (98 ft) wide.


Single seat fighters carried a single tubular launcher under each wing, while the Zerstörer heavy twin engine fighters carried two under each wing. Operationally the weapon had several disadvantages; the launcher tubes produced significant air resistance, as well as reduced speed, maneuverability and general performance. Unlike the firmly attached underwing conformal gun pods carried by many Luftwaffe anti-bomber single-engined fighters, the BR 21's tube launchers were jettisonable, and once the rocket had been fired the fighter could revert to a 'clean' profile.


The relatively low velocity of the rocket created a considerable problem in attempting to counter the resultant ballistic drop of such a slow-moving projectile, which required that the launcher tubes be mounted at a roughly 15° angle upwards from the line of flight, causing considerable drag on the airframe of the carrier aircraft. The low launch velocity and the high angle at which the rocket was launched meant that both accurate aiming and correct judgment of the target's distance were difficult. As a result, most of the rockets fired exploded either in front of or behind the bomber target. However, they did often achieve the effect of opening up the bomber formations enough for fighters to attack with conventional weapons.

Aircraft armed with the Wfr. Gr. 21

Details of the BR 21 rocket launch tube's installation on an Fw 190A.

Underwing mount (singly, one under each wing)

Underwing mount (two under each wing)

Under-fuselage mount (one each side, from bomb racks flanking nosegear well)

Outside the Luftwaffe

See also

  • Tiny Tim, largest calibre (298 mm) aerial rocket of the U.S. Armed Forces in WW II


  1. ^ Mark Axworthy, London: Arms and Armour, 1995, Third Axis, Fourth Ally: Romanian Armed Forces in the European War, 1941–1945, p. 265

External links

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.

Air-to-air rocket

For air-to-air missiles, see Air to air missile.

An air-to-air rocket or air interception rocket is an unguided projectile fired from aircraft to engage other flying targets. They were used briefly in World War I to engage enemy observation balloons and in and after World War II to engage enemy bombers. Fighters were too maneuverable to be effectively engaged with rockets.

Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket

The Mk 4 Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket (FFAR), also known as Mighty Mouse, was an unguided rocket used by United States military aircraft. 2.75 inches (70 mm) in diameter, it was designed as an air-to-air weapon for interceptor aircraft to shoot down enemy bombers, but primarily saw service as an air-to-surface weapon.

Heinkel He 162

The Heinkel He 162 Volksjäger (German, "People's Fighter"), the name of a project of the Emergency Fighter Program design competition, was a German single-engine, jet-powered fighter aircraft fielded by the Luftwaffe in World War II. It was designed and built quickly and made primarily of wood as metals were in very short supply and prioritised for other aircraft. Volksjäger was the Reich Air Ministry's official name for the government design program competition won by the He 162 design. Other names given to the plane include Salamander, which was the codename of its construction program, and Spatz ("Sparrow"), which was the name given to the plane by Heinkel.

Heinz Knoke

Heinz Knoke (24 March 1921 – 18 May 1993) was a World War II Luftwaffe flying ace. He is credited with 33 confirmed aerial victories, all claimed over the Western theatre of operations, and claimed a further 19 unconfirmed kills in over 2,000 flights. His total included 19 heavy bombers of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF).

Jagdgeschwader 11

Jagdgeschwader 11 (JG 11) was a German fighter wing (German: Jagdgeschwader) of the Luftwaffe during World War II. Its primary role was the defense of Northern Germany against Allied day bomber raids. Formed in April 1943 as a split from Jagdgeschwader 1, the unit primarily used the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190.

The unit was initially based along the North German coast, protecting the northern flank of occupied Europe. During the summer of 1943, as the unescorted bombers penetrated deeper into Germany, JG 11 saw intensive action, with about 40 percent of some 1,200 claims submitted by the Western Front fighter wings in this period being credited to JG 1 and JG 11 .JG 11 trialled new tactics such as dropping 250 kg bombs on top of the bomber formations or using the heavy-calibre Werfer-Granate 21 unguided, underwing-launched rockets. In spring of 1944 the introduction of P-51 Mustang made the job of units such as JG 11 very difficult as they fought through the escorts to reach the bombers. Several measures were introduced to counter the bomber offensive such as the introduction of Bf 109–G high altitude aircraft with a pressurized cockpit.

In January 1945, the Luftwaffe made a last-ditch counterattack to stem the Allied offensives with Operation Baseplate. JG 11 targeted the USAAF base at Asch, Belgium called Y–29 and Ophoven, the Netherlands. What followed became known as the "Legend of Y–29". JG 11 lost its commander and several group commanders with many pilots. The unit surrendered to British forces in early May 1945.

Jagdgeschwader 6

Jagdgeschwader 6 (JG 6) Horst Wessel was a Luftwaffe fighter-wing of World War II. JG 6 was created in July 1944 from the remnants of the Messerschmitt Bf 110 equipped unit Zerstörergeschwader 26 (ZG 26, 26th Destroyer Wing) which had suffered severe losses as a bomber-destroyer unit in the Defence of the Reich during early 1944 against the Allied bomber offensive. JG 6 inherited the honorific name Horst Wessel from the Zerstörergeschwader it was created from.

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 Romanian military equipment of World War II

This is a list of World War II military equipment originating in Romania.

List of military rockets

This is a list of unguided rockets and missiles used for military purposes.

List of weapons of military aircraft of Germany during World War II

During World War II, the Luftwaffe (German air force) equipped their aircraft with the most modern weaponry available until resources grew scarce later in the war.

Messerschmitt Me 410

The Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornisse (Hornet) was a German heavy fighter and Schnellbomber used by the Luftwaffe during World War II. Though an incremental improvement of the Me 210, it had a new wing plan, longer fuselage and engines of greater power. The changes were significant enough for the aircraft to be renamed the Me 410.


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.


The R4M (German: Rakete, 4Kilogramm, Minenkopf) rocket, nicknamed the Hurricane (German: Orkan) due to its distinctive smoke trail when fired, was an anti-aircraft rocket. It was developed by the German Luftwaffe during World War II.

Royal Romanian Air Force

The Air Arm of the Royal Romanian forces in World War II was officially named the Aeronautica Regala Romana (ARR), or the Romanian Royal Aeronautics, though it is more commonly referred to in English histories as the Forţele Aeriene Regale ale României (Royal Romanian Air Force, FARR), or simply Forţele Aeriene Române (Romanian Air Force). It provided support to land forces, carrying out reconnaissance and mounting air raids between other missions.


Rüstsätze (Luftwaffe) were field modification kits produced for the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War. They were packaged in kit form, usually direct from the aircraft manufacturer, and allowed for field modifications of various German aircraft used in World War II, predominantly fighter bombers and night fighters. Rüstsätze kits could be fitted in the field, as opposed to Umrüst-Bausätze kits, which were typically fitted in the factory. This was not a hard and fast rule, however; during production runs various Rüstsätze kits were often fitted by factories in order to meet Luftwaffe demands, and "/R" designations were also occasionally applied to more complex changes in an aircraft's airframe design that were much more suitably completed at production line facilities, as with a few of the "/R"-designated versions of the He 177A-5 heavy bomber.

Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission

The Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission was a strategic bombing mission during World War II. Carried out by Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers of the U.S. Army Air Forces on August 17, 1943, it was an ambitious plan to cripple the German aircraft industry. The mission was also known as the "double-strike mission" because it entailed two large forces of bombers attacking separate targets in order to disperse fighter reaction by the Luftwaffe, and was the first American "shuttle" mission, in which all or part of a mission landed at a different field and later bombed another target before returning to its base.

After being postponed several times by unfavorable weather, the operation, known within the Eighth Air Force as "Mission No. 84", was flown on the anniversary of the first daylight raid by the Eighth Air Force.

Mission No. 84 was a strike by 376 bombers of sixteen bomb groups against German heavy industry well beyond the range of escorting fighters. The mission inflicted heavy damage on the Regensburg target, but at catastrophic loss to the force, with 60 bombers lost and many more damaged beyond economical repair. As a result, the Eighth Air Force was unable to follow up immediately with a second attack that might have seriously crippled German industry. When Schweinfurt was finally attacked again two months later, the lack of long-range fighter escort had still not been addressed and losses were even higher. As a consequence, deep penetration strategic bombing was curtailed for five months.

As soon as the reconnaissance photographs were received on the evening of the 17th, Generals Eaker and Anderson knew that the Schweinfurt raid had been a failure. The excellent results at Regensburg were small consolation for the loss of 60 B-17s. The results of the bombing were exaggerated, and the high losses were well disguised in after-mission reports. Everyone who flew the mission stressed the importance of the escorts in reducing losses; the planners grasped only that Schweinfurt would have to be bombed again, soon, in another deep-penetration, unescorted mission


Wunderwaffe (German pronunciation: [ˈvʊndɐˌvafə]) is German for "Miracle Weapon" and was a term assigned during World War II by the Nazi Germany propaganda ministry to some revolutionary "superweapons". Most of these weapons however remained prototypes, which either never reached the combat theater, or if they did, were too late or in too insignificant numbers to have a military effect.The V-weapons, which were developed earlier and saw considerable deployment, especially against London and Antwerp, trace back to the same pool of highly inventive armament concepts. Therefore, they are also included here.

As the war situation worsened for Germany from 1942, claims about the development of revolutionary new weapons which could turn the tide became an increasingly prominent part of the propaganda directed at Germans by their government. In reality, the advanced weapons under development generally required lengthy periods of design work and testing, and there was no realistic prospect of the German military being able to field them before the end of the war. When some advanced designs, such as the Panther tank and Type XXI submarine, were rushed into production their performance proved disappointing to the German military and leadership due to inadequate pre-production testing or poorly planned construction processes. However, a few of these weapons proved to be successful and have had a large influence in post war designs, such as the StG 44 assault rifle and the V-2 rocket.

In the German language the term Wunderwaffe generally refers to a universal solution which solves all problems related to a particular issue, mostly used ironically for its illusionary nature.

Zerstörergeschwader 26

Zerstörergeschwader 26 (ZG 26) "Horst Wessel" was a Luftwaffe heavy/destroyer Fighter Aircraft-wing of World War II.

German Aerial Weapons of World War II
Anti-tank autocannons
Unguided rockets
Guided bombs and Missiles
Anti-personnel bombs
Armor-piercing bombs
Cluster bombs
High-explosive bombs
Experimental weapons


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