August 1945 Radio-Craft
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Radio-controlled flying drones are commonplace today - so much so
that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has enacted legislation
to strictly limit who can fly them, where they can be flown, how
big they can be, what type of payloads can be carried, how far from
the pilot they can be flown, etc. - the typical kind of overreaching
overregulating that governments promulgate
(especially in the last few years).
Sport model airplane flying has suffered loss of freedoms because
of it by getting lumped in with
The military, of course, has been using radio-controlled drones
for decades, as highlighted in this 1945 Radio-Craft magazine
article. Author Louis Bruchiss extolls the advantages of being able
to guide an ordinance payload after being released from an aircraft
of after being launched from the ground. Even vehicles like the
V-2 rocket with its gyroscopically stabilized guidance system
was not able to have its flight path altered once in flight.
V-1 Buzz Bombs were winged bomb-carrying vehicles that could
either be dropped from airplanes or from launching rails on the
ground, but it too was not steerable. Adding remote control
to the flying bombs would make a huge difference in the ability
to hit specific targets using fewer vehicles rather than needing
to launch a large number of them and hope that at least one manages
to score. Of course precision bombing does lose the psychological
warfare advantage of terrorizing the civilian population by reducing
do have some observations about the drawing of the proposed radio-controlled
drone. First, there is no landing gear meaning it will never take
off from the ground; therefore, what is the need for a harder-to-build
inverted gull wing shape? More structure - and thereby more weight
and scarce material - is needed to accommodate the shape. The
Vaught F4-U Corsair, made famous by the
Black Sheep Squadron, is perhaps most recognizable because of
its inverted gull wing (as seen from the front). It was necessary,
even with a 3-bladed propeller, in order to get the nose of the
plane up high enough to prevent the prop from hitting the ground
(the F4-U had a massive
Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp twin-row, 18-cylinder radial
engine, rated at 1,805 hp). The second observation is
the extraordinarily high angle of incidence of the wing relative
to the horizontal stabilizer (the technical
term is 'decalage').Third, why use a fully symmetrical airfoil
rather than a high lift, semi-symmetrical airfoil that would reduce
power requirements and/or increase range
(for a given amount of fuel)? Other than that, I approve
Radio Robot Plane
By Louis Bruchiss
A comparison of present-day short-trajectory bombing
methods with future bombing, using long-range radio-controlled
One of the most startling possibilities in future air warfare
appears to be the development of radio-controlled robot airplanes
that can accompany heavy, long-range bombers to their distant objectives.
Large bombers, despite their numerous gun stations and heavy armament,
are always vulnerable to numerically superior and faster enemy fighter
aircraft because they are of themselves slower and more cumbersome.
Fighter aircraft cannot accompany them on distant missions because
their normal fuel capacity is limited.
As part of the bomb load, these huge flying fortresses could
each carry a number of tiny radio-controlled planes. These miniature
planes would have folding wings so that they could be stowed away
in the fuselage of the larger mother ship, the robot planes being
staggered to fit the least possible interference into the faired-away
interior. They would have small and inexpensive engines of the required
output, fed from fuel tanks of rather small capacity, since their
radius and duration of action would be intentionally limited. They
will carry a gyro pilot, controlled by robot mechanism set by radio
impulses transmitted from the mother plane, as well as several bombs
and smoke-screen gas tanks. The bombs could be detonated by radio.
In no branch of aerial warfare has there been any weapon exhibiting
the versatile possibilities that these radio robot planes incorporate.
They could be hung upon special hooks within the fuselage and the
crew could lower them through the fuselage doors, open and lock
the wings, start the engine, check the radio control, and release
them for free but controlled flight within the visual range of the
radio control operators. Carrying their timeable bomb load, they
could be directed into formations of enemy aircraft to create havoc
among them, and divert and prevent attacks upon the bombers themselves.
They could be sent into enemy ground objectives with more accuracy
and with less danger to the bombers than any precision-aimed free
bomb drops. They could precede or surround the bombers they protect,
sometimes emitting smoke screens to confuse the enemy aircraft.
Construction of Radio Torpedo
|1 - High explosive charge.
2 - Detonator and fuse.
3 - Firing pin.
4 - Radio control space.
High-powered gas engine.
6 - Radio aerial.
7 - 3-blade
8 - Gas tank.
|9 - Gear.
10 - Propeller hub.
11 - Shaft.
12 - Propeller head.
13 - Exhaust pipe.
15 - Filling plug.
16 - Tail.
17 - Wing.
Since they could not be retrieved, and their object would always
be to destroy themselves with their deadly cargo, it is apparent
that they could be constructed of nondurable materials. Being small
and light, they could be produced in huge quantities at comparatively
low cost. They would represent an enormous "suicide squad," but
one which would not risk a single life of the operating forces.
While they could be adapted equally well to protect shipping when
operated from surface vessels, their greatest all-round use would
be as bomber-based flying bombs.
This particular radio-controlled bomb would have several unique
features differentiating it sharply from long-range robot planes
controlled by set mechanisms, such as the V-1 type used by the Nazis
against England. The latter must have sufficient instruments to
detect, correct and compensate for variations in air density, winds
and course changes caused by exploding anti-aircraft shells. Being
controlled within the limits of visual range from mother aircraft
(these limits may extend up to a hundred miles under good weather
conditions if observed through high-powered glasses and if equipped
with smoke trail apparatus), the flying bomb is not a robot in the
sense of those that are launched with preset controls. If anything,
it becomes more of a precision bomb than those which are dropped
in free flight and over which no further control can be exercised.
The constructional possibilities are disclosed in the accompanying
illustration. Essentially, this radio-controlled bomb could be made
in three sections which could be nested into each other for final
assembly. The forward section or nose would contain the small compression-ignition
engine, together with fuel tanks and propeller. Due to their short-range
action, fuel tanks would be relatively small. The center section
would be the actual bomb containing the explosive, which could be
detonated either through the firing pin extending through the forward
power section, past the propeller spinner, or by means of radio
through a detonator operated from the rear section. The rear section
would carry the radio receiver connected directly to the tail surface
controls. Connecting rods, cables and wires therefore would be direct
and short. The wings would set into special recesses and hooks on
the center section.
While controllable bombs of this type would cost more than free-drop
bombs of similar weight, they might in all likelihood reduce heavy
bomber losses because the latter could remain well away from the
target area in any direction.
Excerpt from "Aircraft Armament," published by Aerosphere Inc.,
N. Y. C.
Posted November6, 2014