The Exterminator by Stan Stokes.
By mid-1941 it was clear that Hitlers plans to invade Britain were in disarray. The RAF had fought the Luftwaffe to a standoff, and many of Germanys top pilots had been killed or captured. Not willing to admit defeat in his campaign against Britain, Hitler approved the development of a pilotless terror weapon, the VF-1 Vergeltungswaffe (retaliation weapon). Designed by the Feiseler Company, the small pilotless Fi-103 was at times referred to in Britain as the doodlebug, buzz bomb, or farting fury. These flying bombs were inexpensive to build and were capable of carrying an 1870-pound warhead. The Fi-103 was powered by a ram-jet engine, and utilized three air driven gyroscopes to orient the aircraft. A rudimentary pre-set propeller device was utilized to determine when the VF-1 would land. Lacking the accuracy necessary to make it an effective weapon against military targets these doodlebugs were primarily targeted at large population centers. Therefore, they were primarily used as civilian terror weapons, and the RAF was given the assignment of providing the defense against these terror weapons. Early testing revealed many problems with the VF-1, and it was not until March 1944 that most of these problems had been worked out. The final VF-1 production models were capable of speeds in excess of 400 MPH . The high speed of the VF-1, coupled with its small size and large warhead, made it difficult for the RAF to shoot down these doodlebugs. The doodlebug had strong sheet steel skin which deflected machine gunfire, making it necessary to utilize cannon fire. Cannons had more than twice the range of machine guns, but the attacking fighters had to get in close to hit these small, fast targets. If the pilot got in too close the explosion of the VF-1s heavy warhead often disabled the attacking fighter. An alternative was to deflect the doodlebug by maneuvering alongside it, and then by executing a gentle banking maneuver, flip the VF-1, and disrupt its gyros. Generally, this caused the doodlebug to crash in an unpopulated area with little damage. Less than 10% of the buzz bombs were destroyed in this manner, and this technique was only utilized when the pilot had depleted his ammunition. One of the top buzz-bomb exterminators was Wing Commander Roland Beamont who destroyed 32 doodlebugs during his tour of duty. He flew the Tempest V with 150 Wing, which he commanded. The three squadrons of 150 Wing were credited with destroying 630 buzz bombs between June and August of 1944. The Hawker Tempest was the fastest interceptor available, and provided its pilots a highly stable platform for its four 20mm cannon. The Meteor, the RAFs first jet, was utilized briefly as a buzz bomb interceptor, but with only nine kills, it was withdrawn as being unsuitable for this purpose. As depicted in Stan Stokes painting appropriately entitled The Exterminator, Wing Commander Beamont is depicted flying his Tempest V through the debris created by a successful hit on a buzz bomb in July, 1944. The action takes place southeast of London over the tranquil English countryside.