April 1944 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.
We don't hear much - if any - talk
these days about a certain weapon type being a "peace maker," "game changer," or
a "stale mate proposition." That is because most nations, or for that matter terrorist
groups, have access to some ferocious weapons. The world has operated for a long
time on the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) principle, where skirmishes
have been fairly local. Many conspiratorialists as well as arguably rational
people believe the real game at hand is Mutually Assured Financial Destruction
(no clever acronym for that one), where world financial powers cooperatively
trade off monetary wins and losses via what was termed by President Eisenhower
Complex. You don't need to be one who wears a tinfoil hat or keeps your savings
buried in a jar in the back yard to suspect at least some form of malfeasance is
going on at the expense of we the "little people." ... but I digress. This editorial
that appeared in a 1944 edition of Radio-Craft reports on the "recent reports" of
radio-controlled rockets and missiles that can be steered with precision to their
targets after launching, rather than relying entirely on expert ballistic predictions
that depend on variations of propellant, aerodynamic surfaces, wind, atmospheric
pressure, etc. Cruise missiles and more recently drones come to mind as the perfection
of such a weapon. Terrorists cells might still have difficulty obtaining and deploying
a cruise missile, but drones capable of delivering highly damaging explosives -
conventional and nuclear - can be bought in hobby shops and online from catalogs.
Given that reality, it might be time to trade your tinfoil hat in for a pith helmet.
Come to think of it, with Ebola virus victims being brought into the country, and
respiratory virus (and otherwise) infected illegal aliens being given free passage
across the Mexico border without health checks, maybe a
suit would be most valuable.
Future Radio Rockets
May Be World's Most Terrible Weapons
The recent reports of radio-controlled, rocket-propelled
explosive missiles mark the first practical appearance of an instrument, which -
no matter how imperfect, ineffective or inefficient it may be at present, is destined
to be the most dreadful weapon ever devised, and perhaps the most terrible weapon
that ever will be invented.
There are many who are contemptuous of the rocket as a serious weapon. Their
attitude is based, no doubt, on the fact that it has been known for a long time.
Never, up to date has it been able to perform all that was expected of it.
Such an attitude is dangerous, for should the rocket suddenly appear in a form
commanding respect, it will be much too late to do anything about it. It is not
unusual in technical matters for the perfection of a device to be held up until
something else, apparently quite extraneous, has been developed. For example, the
modern machine-gun was impossible until the brass cartridge case could be manufactured
in quantities with precision, and that depended on development in precision engineering,
particularly in presswork.
In the case of the rocket, early experiments and even practical uses, up to recently
were no more than demonstrations that rocket-propulsion does actually work. That
form of propulsion has not yet been developed in practical uses to anything like
what is possible; for instance, explosive propellants can be used much more efficiently
in a gun than in a rocket. The full power of the rocket as a weapon could not be
attained without some of the most recent scientific developments, particularly in
Rocket and Target Speed
The maximum speed of targets on land and sea may be taken at 60 miles per hour
(88 feet per second), and if the average velocity of gun projectiles is taken as
1,500 feet per second, then the latter is about 17 times faster than the former.
Taking the average speed of modern airplanes as 375 miles per hour (550 feet per
second), the projectile is less than three times faster, and if the airplane is
at a high altitude the projectile may be less than twice as fast, hence the comparative
immunity of aircraft. To restore the ratio of 17 times relative to aircraft, missiles
must have a velocity of 9,350 feet per second.
Rockets with good directional stability may therefore deprive aircraft of its
present immunity without using radio-guiding. With such guiding, - even at velocities
of 1,500 to 3,000 feet per second, aircraft would have little chance of escape,
that is, if the radio control is really effective. The radio-guided rocket-propelled
explosive missile is indeed a super-weapon, a spear which can be thrust into any
part of a country's anatomy at will and against which there can. be no adequate
defense other than counter bombardment with the same form of missiles. It is a delusion
to think that some ready antidote can be found, comparable to degaussing against
magnetic mines, which will render the radio-guided missile ineffective. No such
antidote has been found for a bullet in hundreds of years.
Equally useless is the wishful thought - based on the crazy antics of unstabilized
experimental rockets - that rocket-propelled missiles will be as dangerous to the
senders as to the receivers, for with proper radio control such erratic behavior
disappears. The idea that one need only switch on a radio transmitter to take over
the control of an enemy's missiles and thus turn them on him or render them innocuous
is absurd. In this war radio is used universally, even in the front line, giving
plenty of opportunity for radio tricks, but how effective have such tricks been?
Ordinary broadcasting has not been seriously impaired by jamming, or even the imposition
of the death penalty.
Manual Control Impossible
The present is not time for discussing the principles of or systems for radio-guiding
high velocity missiles. Certain it is that the latest developments in radio, radiolocation,
remote control and automatic devices, will be required. Radio controls such as have
been used for steering model airships around a theater; or target airplanes, are
out of question. It is difficult enough for a pilot sitting in a high speed airplane
to guide his craft so that it will ram any given target. The idea that any man by
his own manipulations of radio apparatus can accurately guide a missile he cannot
see and the immediate position of which can only be indicated instrumentally when
that missile is travelling at anything between 1,500 and 7,500 miles per hour is
ridiculous. The speed of human reactions and of human reasoning is far too low.
The actual control while the missile is in flight must be entrusted to automatic
apparatus, apart from secondary controls which are within-the powers of-human manipulation.
The -perfected radio-guided rocket-propelled missile has not appeared yet, but
it is something to be treated with profound respect. Delay in taking steps to meet
it will be, to say the least, most unwise. There is no reason why this country should
not perfect the new weapon first, but it is not one of these cases where the spade-work
can be left to others, with the idea of taking it up when it has been fully proved.
The position is more like that of two men grabbing for the revolver on the table.
The one who gets hold of it first will be the sole survivor. An obvious first step
is to find and obliterate places where the weapon is being developed or manufactured
for use against this country, and the last step, necessary if others fail, is armor
protection and plenty of it, as in deep shelters and acceptance of such changes
as are necessary in becoming permanent troglodytes.
In one respect the new weapon, dreadful as it is, may be of the greatest benefit
to man, by producing the final stalemate in war. The service personnel required
to man the defenses of a country, that is, the launching cradles, will be such a
small number that any country may be permanently mobilized. Its power in war will
depend on its stock of missiles and the rate at which it can produce them.
The stock of missiles will be the unknown or uncertain factor, and a country
can be at war in full blast in a matter of hours if not or minutes. One false move
by any nation and all hell is likely to break loose in less than no time.
Under such conditions ideas of conquest or stealing a march on other countries
are out of question, for the situation would be like that of a small village in
which the occupants of every house are fully armed, in position, with rifles aimed
and all suffering from trigger-itch. Under such conditions life could not go on
without full mutual confidence and understanding. It would be obvious to every country,
whatever its lust for power and dream of conquest might be, that there were far
more chances of gain in arbitration than in the certain destruction which would
inevitably accompany armed combat. When that happens the radio guided rocket will
take its place alongside the passenger-carrying airplane as a means of rapid, automatic
transport for mails and perishable or valuable goods. - Aeronautics (London)
Posted December 21, 2020
(updated from original post on 10/9/2014)