January 1951 Radio-Electronics
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Electronics,
published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
In spite of the benefit afforded by the well-respected accuracy of the
Norden bomb sight,
striking a target from altitudes of up to thirty thousand feet is literally a
hit-or-miss prospect. At that distance, a small angular error in the
sighting mechanism can equate to hundreds of feet at ground level. A one
degree field of view from 30,000 feet covers a ±262 foot area, which
is good enough for dropping a huge barrage of bombs on a munitions factory
spread out over a few hundred acres. However, the higher the aircraft flies,
the more variables enter the calculation on the bomb's earthward trajectory.
Wind shears and aircraft altitude, ground speed, and direction needed to be
accounted for, all of which was calculated automatically by the Norden's
analog computer. Even with the Norden, the bombardier needed to be able to
factor fixed quantities like bomb weight, size, shape, response time of the
release mechanism, etc. The preference often would be to deploy a small
number of large bombs for pinpoint strikes, say at the core of an artillery
installation, rather than hoping a few smaller bombs out of a load of
hundreds would hit. A guidance system on the bomb would greatly assist that
objective, but in the absence of a GPS type system that would fully automate
the flight path, the bombardier would need to visually watch the bomb all
the way to the target, which requires the airplane to stay within range
while dodging anti-aircraft (ack-ack) fire. A much preferred solution is to
have a camera in the nose of the bomb allowing the bombardier to have a
bird's-eye view all the way down without out needing to ride it a la Slim
Pickens in Dr.
Strangelove (a very weird movie). Hugo Gernsback imagines such a
system in this 1951 issue of Radio-Electronics magazine.
Guided TV Bomb
By Hugo Gernsback
Improved television bombs of this type will certainly be used in future wars.
As a guided weapon, such a bomb has a great many advantages which cannot be
overlooked in future conflicts.
At present, bombing at very great heights is more or less a hit-or-miss proposition.
Far too often only one or two out of ten bombs are effective. Particularly when
aimed at a comparatively small target most bombs are ineffective. All bombs
are subject to "drift": first because of the motion of the plane from which
they fall, and second because of winds over the target. The bombardier is supposed
to correct for such drift, but at best his aim is only approximate. Targets
such as bridges, railroad tracks, etc., are particularly difficult to hit and
usually a large number of bombs must be wasted to make a strike that will actually
demolish such objects.
Moreover, the bombardier has to count on overcast weather and erratic flying
when pursued by fighter planes or attacked by antiaircraft fire.
All this makes for a large waste of bombs. It is true that toward the end
of World War II guided bombs came into use, but even these were not accurate
in overcast weather, during fog, etc., even when radar was used.
If, however, radar and television are combined in such a manner that the
bombardier can have the target outlined on his radar screen, then during the
last stages of the television bomb fall (after it has cleared the clouds), the
bombardier then can actually see the target and can make a better strike.
For this reason the television bomb will not only prove a formidable weapon
but will sharply reduce the waste of expensive bombs.
A television bomb for many reasons will have to be a large one, usually of
the blockbuster or the large incendiary type. In its nose it will contain a
television camera operated either by special powerful batteries or a small electric
generator. Such a generator can be powered by an air turbine operated by the
airstream as the bomb falls through the air, generating enough current to operate
the television transmitter.
The television bomb has special fins and a tail, both of which can be moved
by compressed air, stored in a tank in the bomb, to guide the bomb's fall accurately.
The bomb is steered from the bomber by radio remote control in the usual manner
of guided missiles. Thus the television bomb is a regulation guided weapon except
that the television bombardier can watch on his television screen the EXACT
progress of the "falling" missile. By radio control he manipulates the bomb's
flight accurately toward any target selected. On his television screen the bombardier
can watch the bomb's progress through the thickest clouds, rain, fog, or snow
up to the instant of the hit.
Nor is the extra cost of equipping such a missile with a television transmitter
excessive. Large bombs of this type often cost up to fifteen thousand dollars
As the television bomb is far more accurate than the regulation type, the
few hundred dollars spent on a television transmitter is insignificant when
the cost of the wasted bombs, normally expended on a target, is taken into consideration.
Posted December 22, 2020