28/32cm Nebelwerfer 41 (28/32cm NbW 41) Towed Rocket Projector System
The 28cm-32cm Nebelwerfer 41 fired two distinct rocket types from a bank of six launchers and nearly 350 units were manufactured for the German Army during World War 2.
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The German Army of World War 2 (1939-1945) deployed several major types of rocket projectors for its part in the conflict. There were the towed 15cm and 21cm "Nebelwerfer" systems (translating to "Smoke Mortar") as well as a 30cm type. The Raketen-Vielfachwerfer became a vehicle-mounted solution intended to copy the successful Soviet "Katyusha" series. The 28/32cm Nebelwerfer 41 was another system that became available to the Wehrmacht from (as their designation suggests) 1941 and were in circulation the end of the war arrived in 1945. Approximately 345 such weapons served within the ranks of the "Nebeltruppen" - the German equivalent to the American Army's "Chemical Corps".
The 28/32cm Nebelwerfer 41 (abbr. "28/32cm NbW 41") weighed 2,500lb and fired six rockets in either 280mm (28cm) or 320mm (32cm) caliber. The rockets weighed 180lb and 175lb respectively and were seated in a launcher unit which held basic elevation and traversal controls. The rockets, stabilized along their flight path by way of fins, exited the launcher at 480 feet-per-second and could reach target areas out to 2,100 yards (280mm rocket) and 2,400 yards (320mm). 28cm rockets carried a High Explosive (HE) filling weighing 110lb whereas 32cm versions were filled with incendiary oil weighing 100lb. The rocket types were known, respectively, as "Wurfkorper Spreng" and "Wurfkorper Flamm". The latter was also serviceable as a chemical delivery weapon.
The launcher racks were sat upon a two-wheeled carriage that was transported (towed) via mover vehicle. The carriage allowed for some fine adjustments in-the-field of battle by the operating crew beyond its hardware - the twin-wheeled design allowed the crew to turn the unit in the direction of intended fire, essentially allowing for a complete traversal of 360 degrees. A spade device and stabilizer arms were lowered prior to firing to contend with the violent recoil effects presented by the launching rockets. Once the system was made ready, the crew sought shelter nearby - the rockets fired one at a time but there was now inherent single-fire capability.
Interestingly, the packing crates that the rockets arrived in were designed so as to be suitable for firing the rocket without the need for the two-wheeled carriage component. Small support legs were folded down to provide the elevation. More importantly, this little quality broadened the tactical value of the 28/32cm NbW 41 series considerably as the weapon did not require the dedicated launcher to be used. As such, the crates could be mounted in different configurations and used on vehicles or as fixed positions.
The true value of the battlefield rocket was witnessed time and again in the conflict. While not accurate weapons in and of themselves, rocket projectors of the period were tremendous psychological weapons due to their lethal saturation of complete areas - influencing enemy troops unfortunate enough to find themselves on the receiving end. The greatest danger against operating crews themselves was in counter-battery fire and the fact that the manned their systems largely unprotected and somewhat close to the front lines.
Many 28/32cm Nebelwerfer 41 launcher systems were eventually modified from 1943 on to use the newer 30cm Wurfkorper 42 series rocket and this produced the new "30cm Nebelwerfer 42" series unit in turn.