The Azon Bomb consisted of the tail fin unit (pictured above) being bolted to a 1,000-pound GP bomb. Four were usually carried, and the altitude was determined by weather conditions in the target area. Normally, about 15,000 feet was required to apply adequate controls for the missile. Crews were subjected to many alerts only to have a last-minute scrub because of weather. Only seven of the sorties were considered successful, however, Azon is the father of “smart bombs” in use by military forces today around the world. Therefore, a label of success must be applied to the total project, if not in terms of quantity, then most certainly one of quality. To a man, the crews are proud of their all-out efforts for even a limited achievement.
The ten Azon aircraft and crews were en route to the CBI Theater when they were diverted to the ETO for bridge and dock missions as D-Day pre-invasion operations. They went to Rackheath, home of the 467th BG, first, remained one day, then on to Horsham. Training in local flight conditions and procedures began and continued for most of May, 1944.
The Azon (Azimuth only) unit consisted of remote controlled fins attached to a 1,000-pound General Purpose bomb, and bombardiers altered the bomb’s trajectory in flight with radio signals which moved the fins. Also, a collar was added to its midsection for additional control. Elevators were attached to the collar similar to preset trim tabs on the control surfaces of aircraft. The elevators created a stabilizing effect on the falling bomb, allowing more ease in altering the missile’s azimuth. Gyros prevented a weaving effect of the bomb as various corrections were made. Compressed air kept the gyros spinning during the time of the fall. The radio system was powered by a dry cell battery whose life was about three minutes – more than enough to exceed time for a thousand pound bomb to strike a target.
Additionally, a smoke generator marked the bomb’s flight path. It produced a streamer of red, white, or green (yellow was added later) to distinguish between individual bombs being controlled.
The bomb only had one fuse -- in its forward end. Settings for the fuse were instantaneous. Difficulty had been encountered early in the development stages using as little as one second delay, accounting for almost as many duds as explosive bombs. This created disadvantages in some types of targets where a delay fuse would have a more destructive force – as in the armor-like surface of bridge spans or concrete construction. But it did add a security factor, deemed necessary, in that the secret weapon would more likely be destroyed on contact rather than fall into enemy hands intact.
The Azon control system was designed to correct deflection errors, and testing indicated this could potentially be reduced to zero. But it would not improve range errors. Experience was said to have shown (in the latter stages of the program) that bombardiers were inclined to be a little careless in solving range problems. Alternately, some bombardiers claimed the ability to shorten an Azon bomb’s flight, but few, if any, boasted of extending one’s range.
Weight of the control unit was only 96 pounds. However, bulkiness of the fins and collar on an assembled bomb made it too large for transporting in the standard 1,000-pound bomb racks. Thus, the aircraft had to be equipped with 2,000-pound bomb racks, and this normally limited the number they were able to carry to four. On some occasions, however, five and even six were transported.
Each aircraft had three antennas mounted beneath its tail section for control purposes. One transmitted a signal on 475 cycles for left deflection, one on 3,000 cycles for right deflection, and the third at 30-40 cycles to activate the smoke generating system. All three frequencies were changed periodically to prevent jamming by enemy radio monitoring crews.
The transmitter was a standard Signal Corps type used in controlling model planes, ships, tanks, and drones. With a power output of 25-watts, the unit was capable of sending on 15 different frequencies. This equipment weighed 33 pounds, and modification to the B-24, for accommodating it, amounted to an additional 25 pounds.