Firing up

17:00, Apr 22 2011
A tank fires upon the soldiers in the WW1 mock battle.

A Nazi V2 combat rocket replica has been built for the Classic Fighters Airshow at Omaka Airfield this weekend.

The V2 rocket, or Vergeltungswaffe 2, was a ballistic missile developed during World War II by Wernher von Braun.

Classic Fighters ground display director Dave Lochead isn't giving away many details about the rocket built for this weekend's show, but a non-airborne practice run was to be held after dark this week before it is properly "fired" tomorrow. And then?

"It will get off the ground, that's all I'm going to say," Dave replies.

Maybe that's all he can hope for.

A "V2 combat rocket" search on the internet uncovers some old film footage showing the Nazis had a few failed firings.


To send the combat rockets in the desired direction, they were fitted with gyroscopes, an early form of computer.

London and Paris were key targets, Dave says.

"They were pre-set – they had to hope they had it right – then they fired them off. After that, they had no control."

Some V2s burned up before they even left the ground; a few made it to a neighbouring property then exploded.

Successfully-fired V2s could reach an altitude of 95km before reaching their destination.

Von Braun had been a rocket enthusiast before the war, and then was employed to build intercontinental missiles for bombing cities in other countries.

Dave doesn't believe his original motivation was ever killing people and, indeed, after the war von Braun went to the United States and helped develop the Apollo space programme.

The V2 rocket replica has been built at Omaka, thanks to strong support from Marlborough businesses, Dave says. He also gives special praise to an "enthusiastic , very talented volunteer" Roger Lauder. Others volunteering their time and expertise include industrial welders, aircraft sheet metal workers, painters and someone able to design computer-assisted flying plans.

The V2 rocket replica, made from steel, aluminium, timber and cloth, will be fired about 4.20pm tomorrow.

"Protecting" it will be the Panzer 4, a German tank replica appearing for the first time at Classic Fighters.

It was built for Weta Workshop, in Wellington, which has loaned it to Omaka for the airshow along with two replica Allied tanks from World War I.

Asked how the huge machines were transported, Dave just grins ad says: "You put them on a loader, take them to a ferry and drive them on, then drive them off again."

The tanks will feature with other military vehicles in airshow ground displays each morning and afternoon today and tomorrow.

The Marlborough Express