Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 4: Undesignated Vehicles
3.5-Inch Rockets
Copyright © 2004 Andreas Parsch

Air-Launched 3.5-Inch Rockets

3.5-Inch FFAR (Forward Firing Aircraft Rocket)

In late 1942, the Royal Air Force began to use air-launched rockets with some success in anti-submarine warfare (ASW). This eventually sparked the interest of the U.S. Navy, and in June 1943 a high-priority project was initiated to develop an air-to-ground rocket for use by fighters and light bombers. At that time, CalTech was already developing a new 3.25-inch solid rocket motor, and this was used as the basis of the Navy's ASW rocket. The result was a 3.5-inch diameter rocket stabilized by four tail fins. It was officially called the 3.5-Inch FFAR.

Drawing: via Ordway/Wakeford
3.5-Inch FFAR

The rocket had a solid steel warhead designed to pierce the pressure hull of submarines. When launched by torpedo bombers in a shallow dive, it achieved a velocity of about 1290 km/h (800 mph) and could penetrate a submarine's pressure hull even after travelling through 40 m (130 ft) of water. The 3.5-Inch FFAR entered service in late 1943, and the first submarine kill with the weapon occurred in January 1944. At first, the rocket was fired from underwing rail launchers, but these induced a high drag on the aircraft and were therefore eventually changed to "zero-length" launchers (two posts to which the rockets were attached).

When fitted with an explosive warhead, the accuracy of the 3.5-Inch FFAR would have been good enough to be used against surface ships or land targets. However, a 3.5-inch warhead was too small to be effective, and therefore the 3.5-inch motor was fitted with a warhead of 5 inch diameter, leading to the 5-Inch FFAR.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for 3.5-Inch FFAR:

Length1.38 m (4 ft 6.5 in)
Diameter8.9 cm (3.5 in)
Weight24.5 kg (54 lb)
Speed1290 km/h (800 mph)
Range1370 m (1500 yds)
PropulsionCaltech 3.5-inch solid-fueled rocket; (2340 lb) for 0.8 s
Warhead9 kg (20 lb) solid steel

Main Sources

[1] Norman Friedman: "US Naval Weapons", Conway Maritime Press, 1983
[2] Norman J. Bowman: "The Handbook of Rockets and Guided Missiles", Perastadion Press, 1963
[3] Frederick I. Ordway III, Ronald C. Wakeford: "International Missile and Spacecraft Guide", McGraw-Hill, 1960

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 4

Last Updated: 30 November 2004