V-1 Pulse-Jet Engine Runs at the Military Aviation Museum

The Military Aviation Museum test running it's V-1 Doodlebug pulse-jet engine. (image still from MAM video)
The Military Aviation Museum test running it's V-1 Doodlebug pulse-jet engine. (image still from MAM video)
The Military Aviation Museum test running it’s V-1 Doodlebug pulse-jet engine. (image still from MAM video)

WarbirdsNews just received a fascinating video that we thought we would share with you. The Military Aviation Museum in Pungo, Virginia has just test run a modern replica of the Argus As 014 pulse-jet engine used on a WWII-era Fiesler Fi-103 guided missile, perhaps better known as the V-1 ‘Doodlebug’ or ‘Buzz Bomb’. The V-1, as most of you will know, was one of Hitler’s “Vengeance Weapons” with which the Third Reich attempted to exact revenge upon Allied civilians. The distinctive sound of the engine did indeed cause serious alarm to anyone who heard it during the war, but it was the sudden silence that followed the engine shutting down that was worthy of true terror, as it meant that the weapon, with its 850 kilogram, high explosive Amatol warhead, was about to strike in the immediate area. It didn’t care who, or what, was in its path. This was the dawn of the drones….

While the Military Aviation Museum does have an original, restored V-1 on display in its collection, this particular engine is a modern replica built by Alex Kuncz in Germany. Jerry Yagen, the Museum’s founder, bought the motor from Kuncz, with the idea of running it from time to time to demonstrate just what the motor would sound and look like while running. This hasn’t proven as easy to do as originally thought. As the museum’s General Manager Tom Kurtz described in a recent conversation with WarbirdsNews, “The schematics of the motor were developed by Alex but were only in German. So a lot of research went into it to figure out what was what.”

This WWII contemporary cutaway drawing of a V-1 shows how the fuel was fed from the pressurized tanks, something which is similarly replicated in the photo of the Military Aviation Museum's example in the opening image. (photo via Wikipedia)
This WWII contemporary cutaway drawing of a V-1 shows how the fuel was fed from the pressurized tanks, something which is similarly replicated in the photo of the Military Aviation Museum’s example in the opening image. (photo via Wikipedia)

Kurtz did a lot of research online. The schematics may have made sense back in 1940, but not today according to Kurtz. He called many people in trying to figure out the schematics, but with no luck until he came in contact with Bob Maddox of Maddox Jet in Oregon. Made is a genius with pulsejet technology who has built a slew of jet-powered vehicles, from automobiles to motorcycles… and even a skateboard if you can believe it. He has also worked with Jay Leno on one of his jet-powered cars. Maddox built a new system for the Argus engine which consists of six electric fuel pumps incorporated with the tank. The original 1940s system injected air into the fuel tank to pressurize the gas. Kurtz is very grateful to both Maddox and Kuncz for their work.

As the Military Aviation Museum’s director, Mike Potter, also told WarbirdsNews yesterday, it has taken “Months of background work and research… to find just the right mixture of fuel and gas that would allow for sustained operation. For such an elegantly simple concept and having virtually no moving parts, the solution was elusive. Lot’s of initial impressive “bangs”, but no sustained operations until this week. It was impressive watching the paint peel off of the engine and drift away as the unit heated up on the first successful run.”

The Military Aviation Museum's original V-1 on its cradle. Note that the engine has been used, as the paint has pealed from the surface revealing the steel beneath. It has since been repainted. (photo via Fighter Factory)
The Military Aviation Museum’s original V-1 on its cradle. Note that the engine has been used, as the paint has pealed from the surface revealing the steel beneath. It has since been repainted. (photo via Fighter Factory)

The Military Aviation Museum has a complete and original V-1 on display inside the main museum building. This example was recovered from the Nordhausen munitions factory, hidden deep inside the Harz Mountains in southeastern Germany. Rather horrifically, slave laborers from the nearby Buchenwald concentration camp, built the weapon for the Nazis in 1944. Thankfully though, it never left the factory, remaining hidden there for over a half century until its discovery shortly after the reunification of the two Germanys in 1990. A small firm in Munich restored the V-1 to its present condition. Interestingly, this particular V-1 has a triangular bracket top of the fuselage for slinging the weapon under the wing of a Heinkel He-111 bomber for an air launch. Launching the V-1 from the air was more effective as it gave the weapon longer range and greater accuracy. It also did away with the need for the expensive and vulnerable launching ramps for conventional firing from the ground . The only known radio homing device known to exist today is in this particular V-1. The engine is fully functional and was test run on a specially fabricated steel stand, although it’s too rare an artifact to run regularly. Now that the Military Aviation Museum has got their replica Argus As 014 engine running successfully though, it’s quite possible there will be public demostrations of its operation before too long.

While it might seem a little odd to want to run a V-1’s engine, given all that it represents, we have to understand that these days so few people are left who can recall that sound, or the true meaning that it carried. Many of the weapons were built under awful conditions by slave laborers, many, many of whom died in the process, and this should never be forgotten either. History comes alive with the senses, and this will remind us all of what our forebears had to endure for our freedom, whether on the battlefield, or the home front. It will remind us to be thankful for peace, and hopefully keep us eager to preserve it. That is something worthy of remembering….

Don’t forget that the Military Aviation Museum will also be holding their annual Warbirds Over the Beach air show over the weekend of May 15th – 17th. Click HERE to see the details! WarbirdsNews would like to express many thanks to Jerry Yagen, Tom Kurtz, Mike Potter and John Brawner at the Military Aviation Museum for their help in preparing this article.

4 Comments

  1. They have one at Planes of Fame in Chino, I’ve seen it run several times and I live on the other side of the country…. Interesting exhibit, actually there isn’t a whole lot to the engine, its about as simple as it comes…

    • Thanks for noticing the spelling mistake… We aren’t perfect, but we strive for accuracy and appreciate corrections when errors occur. A little politeness goes a long way though…. just saying…

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