The weapon consisted of a modified standard 500 kg bomb called SZ, with a thin metal shell and a high explosive charge inside, equipped with a rocket engine under the bomb, a pair of wings, and an 18-channel radio receiver, getting its signals from a Kehl transmitting set. The rocket provided for only a short burst of speed making range dependent on the height of launch. From a height of 1400 meters the Hs 293 had a range of about 3 km.
The Hs 293 was intended to destroy unarmoured ships, unlike the Fritz X that was intended for use against armoured ships. The operator controlled the radio-guided missile with a joystick. Five colored flares were attached to the rear of the weapon to make it visible at a distance to the operator. During nighttime operations flashing lights instead of flares were used.
One drawback of the Hs 293 was that after the missile was launched the bomber had to fly in a straight and level path, and could thus not manoeuvre to evade attacking fighters without aborting the attack.
The Allies also went to considerable effort to develop devices which jammed the (48.2 MHz to 49.9 MHz) radio link between the Kehl transmitter aboard the launching aircraft and the Strassburg receiver embedded in the missile. Early jamming efforts by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory produced the XCJ jamming transmitter installed aboard the destroyer escorts USS Herbert C. Jones and Frederick C. Davis in late September 1943. Unfortunately, the XCJ was ineffective because the frequencies selected for jamming were incorrect. This was updated in time for combat at Anzio with the XCJ-1 system, installed aboard two destroyer escorts above as well as destroyers USS Woolsey, Madison, Hilary P. Jones and Lansdale. These six ships rotated service at Anzio, with three deployed at any time. This system met with some success, though because of its manual interface, it was cumbersome to use and easily overwhelmed if large numbers of missiles were engaged. On balance, the probability that a Hs 293 launched (and seen as responding to operator guidance) would actually strike a target (or achieve a damage-inflicting near miss) was about the same at Anzio as it was at Salerno.
Meanwhile, as attacks were taking place at Anzio, the U.K. began to deploy its Type 650 transmitter which employed a different approach. This system jammed the Strassburg intermediate frequency receiver (3 MHz) and appears to have been quite successful, especially as the operator did not have to attempt to find which of the 18 Kehl/Strassburg command frequencies were in use and then manually tune the jamming transmitter to one of those frequences. This system automatically defeated the receiver regardless of which radio frequency had been selected for an individual Luftwaffe missile.
Following several intelligence coups, includng a capture of an intact Hs 293 at Anzio and recovery of important components from a crashed He 177 on Corsica, the Allies were able to develop far more effective countermeasures, all in time for the invasions at Normandy and in Southern France. This included an updated XCJ-2 system from the Naval Research Laboratory (produced as the TX), the modified airborne AN/ARQ-8 Dinamate system from Harvard's Radio Research Laboratory, NRL's improved XCJ-3 model (produced as the CXGE), the British Type 651 and the Canadian Naval Jammer. Perhaps most impressive of all was AIL's Type MAS jammer which employed sophisticated signals to defeat the Kehl transmission and to take over command of the Hs 293, steering it into the sea via a sequence of right-turn commands. Even more sophisticated jammers from NRL, designated XCK (to be produced as TY and designated TEA when combined with the upgraded XCJ-4) and XCL, were under development but were never deployed as the threat had evaporated before they could be put into service. In contrast to the experience at Anzio, the jammers seemed to have had a major impact on operations after April 1944, with significant degradation observed in the probability that a Hs 293 launched at a target (and responding to operator guidance) would achieve a hit or damage-causing near miss.
To improve the control of the weapon and reduce vulnerability of the launching aircraft a television-guided variant (Hs 293D) was planned but was not made operational before the war ended.
Over 1,000 were built, from 1942 onwards.
The closest Allied weapon system in function and purpose to the Hs 293 series was the US Navy's Bat unpowered, radar-guided unit.
The Hs 293 seems to bear a slight resemblance to the V-1 flying bomb
Other ships sunk or damaged by the Hs 293 include:
Although designed for use against ships, it was also used in Normandy in early August 1944 to attack bridges over the River See and River Selume. Only one bridge was slightly damaged for the loss of six of the attacking aircraft
The Hs 293 was carried on Heinkel He 111, Heinkel He 177, Focke-Wulf Fw 200, Dornier Do 217 planes. However, only the He 177 (of II./KG 40), certain variants of the FW 200 (of III./KG 40) and the Do 217 (of II./KG 100 and III./KG 100) used the Hs 293 operationally in combat.