The “London Gun”, aka Hochdruckpumpe (“High Pressure Pump”) and Fleißiges Lieschen (“Busy Lizzie”) but better known as V-3 was another Vergeltungswaffe (“revenge weapon”) designed and deployed to exact revenge for incessant Allied aerial bombings of Germany.
And another undeniable proof that the idea of cost-benefit analysis (“bang for the buck”) was entirely foreign to Nazi officials responsible for new weapons development.
V-3 supergun was a very impressive – and entirely useless – piece of creative German engineering. Useless because it failed to exact any meaningful revenge (let alone make any difference in the war on the Western front).
In fact, the “London Gun” (constructed specifically to shell British capital) failed to exact any revenge at all, because by the time it was ready to bombard London, it was rendered unusable by Allied bombing raids.
However, two other (shorter) versions of V-3 were used in combat. Based in the German city of Lampaden, between December 1944 and end of February of 1945 they fired 183 rounds at targets in Luxembourg (then a major Allied army base). 142 rounds reached their targets killing ten and wounding 35 Allied soldiers – an abysmal failure of the “revenge weapon”.
One of the two Lampaden guns was dismantled on 15 February and firing ceased on 22 February, when US Army units had advanced to within three kilometers of the site.
A second battery of guns began to be deployed in January 1945 at Buhl, aimed at Belfort in support of the Operation Nordwind offensive. One gun was erected before the failure of the Nordwind offensive put the site at risk, and the equipment was removed before firing could begin.
The V-3 gun used multiple propellant charges placed along the barrel’s length and timed to fire as soon as the projectile passed them in order to provide an additional boost.
Solid-fuel rocket boosters were used instead of explosive charges because of their greater suitability and ease of use.
These were arranged in symmetrical pairs along the length of the barrel, angled to project their thrust against the base of the projectile as it passed.
The smoothbore gun fired a fin-stabilized 150mm shell that depended upon aerodynamic forces rather than gyroscopic forces to prevent tumbling (distinct from conventional rifled weapons which cause the projectile to spin); this resulted in a lower drag coefficient.
V-3 could send a 140kg shell to hit targets located up to 165km away (the maximum distance achieved was just 93 km) and – believe it or not – was supposed to fire up to 300 shells per hour (un shell every 12 seconds or so). Actual combat range was, however, just 43km (distance between Lampaden and Luxembourg).
Interestingly enough, another dictator – Saddam Hussein – tried to reincarnate the V-3 in late 1980s. Nicknamed “Project Babylon”, the 1,000mm supergun was to be 156m long. The complete device was estimated to weigh about 2,100 tons (the barrel alone – 1,655 tons).
Unlike V-3, the Babylon gun was a space gun ostensibly intended to shoot projectiles into the Earth orbit. It is possible that Big Babylon was intended both to launch satellites and to serve as a weapon, but its ability to fire conventional projectiles in the latter role would have been very limited.
In addition to the impossibility of aiming it (which probably meant that it was supposed to fire nuclear-tipped projectiles), it would have had a slow rate of fire, and its firing would have produced a very pronounced “signature” which would have revealed its location to the enemy.
However, it did scare someone (most likely, Iran or Israel) enough to take some serious preventive measures. So on March 20, 1990 Gerald Vincent Bull, the chief designer of Iraqi supergun was assassinated in his apartment in Belgium. In addition, parts of the supergun were seized in transit around Europe which put an end to Project Babylon for good.