September 16, 1944: High Velocity Aircraft Rocket Testing

  • Published
  • US Army Air Forces

An experimental air-to-ground rocket testing area was set up on the bombing range in response to an Army Air Forces requirement that all fighter and light bombardment aircraft be capable of firing the Navy 5.0" High Velocity Aircraft Rocket. The Air Technical Service Command at Dover Army Airfield, Delaware, working jointly with the Navy and the California Institute of Technology, established a Detachment of the 4146th Army Air Force Base Unit to operate the range and to coordinate the test program.

The High Velocity Aircraft Rocket, also known by the nickname Holy Moses, was an American unguided rocket developed during World War II to attack targets on the ground from aircraft. It saw extensive use during both World War II and the Korean War. Two different versions of the rocket were built during World War II. The warheads were Mk 4 general purpose warheads holding 7.6 pounds of TNT with base and optionally nose fuses; or Mk. 2 AP warheads with 2.2 pounds of Explosive D.  High Velocity Aircraft Rocket testing was completed by June 6, 1944, and air-lifted Navy rockets were soon being loaded on Ninth Air Force Republic P-47D Thunderbolts to support the break-out at Normandy. Other single-engine delivery aircraft included the Vought F4U Corsair, Grumman F6F Hellcat, Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger, and Curtiss SB2C Helldiver. Twin-engine aircraft sometimes armed with HVARs included the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, North American PBJ Mitchell bomber and the Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon bomber.

HVAR penetrated four feet of reinforced concrete and was used to sink transports, knock out pillboxes and Anti-aircraft gun emplacements, blow up ammo and oil-storage dumps, and destroy tanks, locomotives, and bunkers. Navy F4U Corsairs and TBF/TBM Avengers made the most extensive use of the rockets in the Pacific theater after the victory in Europe. Over a million HVARs were made during World War II, and production continued until 1955. HVARs remained in the Navy's inventory until the mid-1960s. After World War II, newer versions included a new general purpose type with a proximity fuse, White Phosphorus smoke rounds, an anti-submarine head, and a new shaped-charge warhead for use against tanks. The 6.5 inch RAM rocket was an oversized shaped-charge head on a standard HVAR motor as well.


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