My mother might turn over in her grave if this flies past


I was surprised to read this report.

The US Air Force (USAF) is funding development of a new pulsejet-powered decoy as it continues seeking cheaper and simpler forms of unmanned air vehicle (UAV) and cruise missile propulsion.

The USAF Armament Directorate awarded start-up Wave Engine a $1 million contract to build and demonstrate a “Versatile Air-Launched Platform (VALP)”, the company said on 22 June.

Wave Engine says the pulsejet-powered Versatile Air-Launched Platform is intended to be a decoy

Pulsejets have been in operation since World War II, powering Nazi Germany’s V-1 flying bomb, an early cruise missile launched in the thousands from sites in occupied France against the UK … The British nicknamed the V-1 “buzz bomb”, a nod to the weapon’s noise.

Wave Engine says it has made improvements that give pulsejets advantages over jet turbines.

There’s more at the link.

Mom endured the German bombing of Britain during World War II, from “The Blitz” of 1940-41 through the Vergeltungswaffen of 1944-45.  She spent many nights on top of buildings with a stirrup pump, a bucket of water and a bucket of sand, ready to put out incendiaries that might fall on the roof and cause a fire.  She’d have looked very much like this lady (image courtesy of Wikipedia).

She remembered, and described to her children, the sound of German V-1 “flying bombs” in 1944, their pulsejet engines reverberating and snarling as they flew overhead.  She told us that you only had to worry about them if the engine cut out.  That meant they were about to crash and explode, often with devastating results.

Here’s what the engine sounded like from the ground.

I presume the modern version of the pulsejet will sound less “snarly” than the original.  Nevertheless, if anyone’s still alive who remembers what they sounded like during the 1940’s, it might bring back memories they’d rather not have . . .



  1. A man had demonstrated this engine he had built. It was at Planes of Fame Museum. The beat of the engine sound would permeate into your head. Ear protection would only make it less so.

    In this video the man does fire up the engine. He lit it off a second time about one hour later. In that second demonstration, he ran the engine until the can became glowing cherry red, and some parts tending towards white hot.

    During the first demonstration I had noticed a couple of older men walking away. Always keen to hear a personal experience (at an air museum dedicated to history) I asked one of the men about that. He answered in a British accent, it was a sound he hoped to never hear again. I understood, that sound is something one would not forget. But for the horrors it rained, that I will not know.

  2. Well, pulse jets are just darned simple and relatively cheap, so an advanced modern version for a semi-disposable vehicle makes sense.

    Though the simpler versions do make a God-aweful sound.

  3. My son is a history buff, and in particular, into tracing our families ancestry, and his other sides ancestry. He wrote me awhile back, and sent me a newspaper article, about my mom's brother, who served in the U.S. Navy, as a landing craft helmsman, but was stationed in London for a few months, before his permanent duty station, in preparation for raids on islands in the South Pacific.
    The article said that he went through just one of the blitz bombings, something that he said he never wanted to experience again, comparing it to being in hell. This was a home town article about his 30 day leave before shipping out to where ever it was that he was going to.
    I can't imagine going through it every night, for weeks to months on end. And remember, Queen Elizabeth went there, to both help nurse and raise the spirits of her fellow Brits. Although we Americans don't understand the British monarchy, at times such as that, they are indispensable.
    I never served in the military, I tried but was medically refused. But it is hard to imaging the actual feelings of horror, the fear, the total paralysis of being shelled, yet having to advance toward danger. And yet, especially in the total world wars, hundreds of thousands of American men did so, however afraid they were. And of course, they have done so in every other war, before and since. I can never say it enough, but thank you to those who have served.

  4. My mother was evacuated from Liverpool to Wales during the Blitz, along with some of her siblings. I don't know if the sound of a pulse jet was familiar to her, but I wouldn't doubt it.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *