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WW2 Drones


Gildwiller1918

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Aerial drones are common place in modern warfare, however they were starting to be used before WW1, an example of this would be the The Kettering Bug. During WW2, many advances were made in the drone field, one such drone was the U.S. TDR-1 made by the Interstate Aircraft Company. The U.S. Navy ordered a remote controlled bomber that could carry either a 1,000 pound bomb or torpedo. The drone could be piloted remotely or with a pilot on board. The body of the drone was made of pressed wood, the same type used to music organs and the metal tube body was ordered from the Schwinn bicycle company. The TDR-1 had a TV camera in the nose, which at the time was quite advanced. This allowed for a following aircraft (typically an TBM Avenger) to use the TV to steer the drone onto its target. The TV for this drone was nothing like the TV's we have today, but was sufficient enough to distinguish targets. The drone was successfully used in September 1944 against Japanese gun emplacements on the Island of Bougainville. 

 

 

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Another U.S. Navy drone developed in 1942-1943 was the TDN-1, which was the predecessor of the TDR. This model was deemed unfit for operational use and was relegated to training roles, some were used as aerial targets. This drone is often credited as being the first to take off freely from an Aircraft Carrier. 

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TDN taking off from the USS Sable (IX-81)

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Operation Aphrodite used large bombers such as the Boeing B-17 and the Consolidated PB4Y as radio controlled guided munitions. The idea was to load as much explosives as possible onto these aircraft and fly them into hardened structures such as U-Boat pens and V-Weapon sites.  The planes were loaded with double the bomb capacity as all other non-essential items were removed. The pilots would take off and once the plane was at the designated height and direction, they would bail out and the trailing plane would take over flying by remote.  RAF Fersfield in Norfolk was used as the launch site for these missions, however out of 14 missions launched, none were successful. Most planes crashed when the remote control system failed or malfunctioned, some were shot down by anti-aircraft units. Most of the volunteer pilots were killed, one such pilot was LT. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., brother of future US President Kennedy.
 

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View of a B-17 used in Operation Aphrodite, the cockpits were removed to allow the pilots to bail out easier. 

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Another U.S. model was the ASM-N-2 Bat, which was a radar controlled glide bomb used for anti-shipping proposes and for bombing of static targets, which was deployed in the spring of 1944. Several of these devices were used successfully against Japanese ships and also against Japanese bridges in Burma. The Bat could reach up to 390 MPH and carried a 1,000 pound charge, nearly 2,600 were used during the war. 

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BAT under a wing of a US Navy PB4Y

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The Germans also had their share of remote guided weapons, one of which was the Henschel Hs 293. The 293 was designed for an anti-shipping role, one it did fairly well in, sinking or damaging 25 ships. Around 1,000 of these drones were built before the end of the war. Although designed for anti-shipping, they were also used to destroy static land based targets, in this role it was not successful. The allies developed radio jamming devices to limit the capabilities of the 293 such as the British type 650 transmitter. Later models of the 293 were being developed to use wire guided and TV Camera technology, but the war ended before they could become operational.

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HS 293 being loaded onto a HE-111

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