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In 1944, despite looming defeat of the Nazi Germany, rocket scientists at Peneemunde continued efforts to improve the performance of the A-4 long-range ballistic missile. One immediate upgrade, which actually saw the flight before the end of the war, was the addition of swept wings to the standard A-4 rocket. The ability to glide during a descending phase of the flight promised to dramatically increase the range of the weapon. At the same time, a gliding rather than ballistic flight meant much slower approach to the target, thus greatly increasing chances of potential anti-missile defense systems.


Swept wings designed for supersonic-flight and enlarged aerodynamic control surfaces on stabilizers were the only visible feaftures which differentiated A-4b from its predecessor. A manned version of the rocket equipped with a tricycle landing gear was under consideration.

Test flights

The A-4 was test-fired twice during the winter of 1944-1945. Two unssucceful launch attempts were made on December 27, 1944 and January 13, 1945.

When it finally flew on January 24, 1945, the A-4b apparently pioneered a controlled supersonic flight of a winged rocket. The vehicle reportedly reached the speed of Mach 4. (174) However during the reentry the rocket lost one of its wings and failed to reach its designed range.

A-4b technical specifications: (169)

14.03 meters
Maximum diameter: 1.68 meters
Wing span: 6.2 meters
Stabilizer span: 3.99 meters
Liftoff mass: 13 tons
Maximum speed : 2.9 kilometers per second
Time of powered flight: 68 seconds
Maximum altitude : 95 kilometers
Maximum range: 600 kilometers
Engine thrust: 27.5 tons
Fuel Alcohol
Oxidizer Liquid oxygen



To purchase full-length animations and high-resolution versions of these graphics or to order custom-built 3D renderings contact Anatoly Zak

Artist redering of the A-4 rocket at launch. Click to enlarge: 232 x 400 pixels / 16K Copyright © 2005 Anatoly Zak

A proposed manned version of the A-4b rocket in flight. Click to enlarge: 400 x 300 pixels / 16K Copyright © 2005 Anatoly Zak

The A-4b rocket. Click to enlarge: 233 x 400 pixels / 16K Copyright © 2005 Anatoly Zak