Azon

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AZON
Azon - the worlds first smart bomb.jpg
AZON, the first smart bomb developed by the United States.
Type Smart bombs
Place of origin  United States
Service history
In service 1944
Used by  United States
 United Kingdom[citation needed]
Wars World War II
Specifications
Weight VB-1: 1,000 pounds (450 kg)
VB-2: 2,000 pounds (910 kg)[1]

Operational
range
5,000 feet (1,500 m)
Guidance
system
MCLOS radio control system

AZON ("azimuth only") was one of the world's first smart bombs, deployed by the Allies and contemporary with the German Fritz X.

Officially designated VB-1 ("Vertical Bomb 1"), it was invented by Major Henry J. Rand and Thomas J. O'Donnell during the latter stages of World War II, as the answer to the difficult problem of destroying the narrow wooden bridges that supported much of the Burma Railway.

AZON was essentially a 1,000 lb (450 kg) general-purpose bomb with a quadrilateral 4-fin style radio controlled tail fin design as part of a "tail package" to give the half-short ton ordnance the desired guidance capability, allowing adjustment of the vertical trajectory in the yaw axis only, giving the Azon unit a laterally steerable capability and mandating the continued need to accurately release it with a bombsight to ensure it could not fall short of or beyond the target. There were gyroscopes mounted in the bomb's added tail package that made it an Azon unit, to autonomously stabilize it in the roll axis via operating a pair of ailerons,[1] and a radio control system to operate the proportionally-functioning rudders, to directly control the bomb's direction of lateral aim, with the antennas for the tail-mounted receiver unit built into the diagonal support struts of the tail surface assembly.[1] The bomb's receiver and control system were powered by a battery which had around three minutes of battery life. The entire setup in the added "tail package" was sufficient to guide the weapon from a 5,000-foot (1,500 m) drop height to the target. Situated on the tail of the bomb was a 600,000-candela flare which also left behind a noticeable smoke trail, to enable the bombardier to observe and control it from the control aircraft. When used in combat, it was dropped from a modified Consolidated B-24 Liberator, with earlier development test drops of the Azon in the United States sometimes using the B-17 Flying Fortress as the platform.[1] Some ten crews, of the 458th Bombardment Group, based at RAF Horsham St Faith, were trained to drop the device for use in the European theater.

The 493rd Bomb Squadron[2] also dropped Azon bombs in Burma in early 1945 from similarly-modified B-24s, based at Pandaveswar Airfield, India, with considerable success, fulfilling the designers' original purpose for the ordnance.

Azon operations[edit]

Components of Azon
Azon Operations in Europe by the Eighth Air Force, June–September 1944[3][4]
Target Date Result
Melun June 8, 1944 Mission 400: an attack on the Melun bridge by an Azon unit is foiled by clouds.
Ham-sur-Somme June 14, 1944 Mission 412: 7 of 15 B-24s hit the bridge over the Somme at Ham and 5 use Azon bombs against targets of opportunity; no losses.
Etaples June 15, 1944 Mission 414: 12 B-24s use Azon bombs against Etaples railroad bridge and 7 others use the bombs against the Pecrone railroad bridge.
Saumur June 22, 1944 Mission 432: 9 of 10 B-24s use Azon bombs against the Saumur Bridge.
Les Foulous August 17, 1944 Mission 558: 10 B-24s are dispatched to drop Azon bombs on the Les Foulous rail bridge but the mission is abandoned due to deteriorating weather.
Moerdijk August 25 1944 Mission 571: 10 of 10 B-24s fly an Azon bomb mission to attack railroad bridge at Moerdijk, Netherlands but the target is missed by all 40 bombs launched.
Moerdijk August 26, 1944 Mission 577: a second attempt on the Moerdijk rail bridge is made with 9 aircraft, but clouds prevent an attack.
Ravenstein September 1, 1944 Mission 597: 12 of 12 Azon-equipped B-24s hit the Ravenstein rail bridge in the Netherlands, without loss.
Hemmingstedt & Kropp September 13, 1944 Mission 629: 6 of 11 B-24s dispatched on an Azon mission attacked the Hemmingstedt oil refinery and 5 hit the secondary target, ammunition dumps at Kropp. Operation Aphrodite guided bombs also attacked Hemmingstedt the next day.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes
  1. ^ a b c d United States Office of Strategic Services (1943). WW2: Azon (1943) Radio-Controlled Dive Bomb (YouTube) (in English). The Digital Implosion. Retrieved 21 July 21 2013. 
  2. ^ Marion. "Old China Hands, Tales & Stories - The Azon Bomb". oldchinahands. Retrieved March 20, 2012. 
  3. ^ "8th Air Force 1944 Chronicles". Retrieved 2007-05-25. [dead link] June[dead link], July, August, September[dead link]
  4. ^ 8th Air Force Historical Society
Bibliography

External links[edit]