Heinkel He 111
The Heinkel He 111 was the primary Luftwaffe medium bomber during the early stages of World War II, and is perhaps the most famous symbol of the German side of the Battle of Britain. Developed from a pre-war airliner design, the He 111 was phased out of front line service in 1942, but remained in production until the end of the war.
This German four/five-seat bomber and torpedo dropper was in service from 1937-45 (Spain until 1965). Designed by the Günter brothers, who liked curving elliptical wings and tails, the Heinkel He 111 made a name for itself in 1935 as a civil airliner, and later as a bomber that gained world records for high speed while carrying a heavy load.
In 1938 the first mass-production versions, the four-seat Heinkel He 111E and F, did very well in the Spanish Civil War, dropping heavy bomb loads and proving too fast for Republican fighters to catch easily. Thus the three hand-held machine guns carried by these aircraft appeared adequate.
When World War I ended, the German Air Force was disbanded under the Treaty of Versailles, which required the German government to abandon all military aviation by October 1, 1919. However, by 1922, it was legal for Germany to design and manufacture commercial aircraft, and one of the first modern medium bombers to emerge from this process was the Heinkel He 111, the first prototype of which an enlarged, twin-engine version of the single-engine mail-liaison He 70, which set 8 world speed records in 1933 flew in February of 1935.
The second prototype, the He 111 V2, had shorter wings and was the first civil transport prototype, capable of carrying 10 passengers and mail. The third prototype, He 111 V3 also had shorter wings and was the first true bomber prototype. Six He 111 C series airliners were derived from the fourth prototype, the He 111 V4, and went into service with Lufthansa in 1936, powered by a variety of engines, including BMW 132 radials. The first production models had the classic stepped windshield and an elliptical wing, which the designers, Siegfried and Walter Gunter, favored.
As a military aircraft, it took longer to gain favor, because military load requirements and underpowered engines kept its cruising speed down to less than 170 mph. However, in early 1936, the plane was given 1,000 hp Daimler Benz DB 600A engines which improved performance dramatically enough to bring in substantial orders. The first two mass-production versions, He 111 E and He 111 F experienced great success during the Spanish Civil War, where they served with the Condor Legion as fast bombers, able to outrun many of the fighters sent against them.
In fact, the experience in Spain generated a false sense of security in which the Germans thought that the He 111’s light armament and speed would be sufficient in the coming war. Thus, although it was out of date, the large numbers in which it had been produced made the He 111 the Luftwaffe’s primary bomber for far too long in the war, availability being more persuasive than practicality for this serviceable, but highly vulnerable, aircraft.
Modern fighters like the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane proved the He 111’s inadequacy during the Battle of Britain. As soon as possible, the Luftwaffe replaced the Heinkel with the Junkers Ju 88, reassigning the Heinkel to night operations and other specialized tasks until, by war’s end, it was being used primarily as a transport.
More than 7,300 had been built for the Luftwaffe by autumn, 1944, with another 236 (He 111H) being built by the Spanish manufacturer, CASA, during and after the war (as the CASA 2.111), some with the traditional Jumo 211 engines, some with Rolls-Royce Merlins. In service with the Luftwaffe from 1937 to 1945, the Heinkels remained in Spanish service until 1965.
The E, used in large numbers by the prewar Luftwaffe, carried eight 551lb bombs, dropped tail-first from vertical cells in the beautifully streamlined fuselage to tumble end-over-end in a Heinkell He 111P-1 way that rivals said spoilt accuracy. But by the time World War II broke out the standard production model was quite different.
The He 111P had broad straight-tapered wings, and an odd offset nose with no separate cockpit for the pilot. With two 1100hp DB 601A engines it was only slightly slower than the earlier models, at 247mph, but with full bomb load it was slower still. During most of the war the production version was the H-series with 1,350hp Jumo 211F engines. Despite the higher power these were so burdened by bombs, missiles and extra protection that few exceeded 220mph.
The “P” version was equipped with Daimler Benz DB 601 engines. At first (autumn 1938) Junkers start the production of “P” version, but in 1939 the production was quickly switched to “H” version, because there was lack of DB 601 engines, mainly destined to Me 109 and Bf 110 fighters. More or less, “P” and “H” versions had same performances and payload. In the first phase of the war they were used together, although during “Battle of Britain” the “H” almost supplanted the “P”. Probably “P” version was slightly better, because the Commander of each Kampfgeschwader usually flew a “P”.
One of the more bizarre adaptations of the Heinkel by the Luftwaffe was the He 111 Z-1, in which two He 111s were joined at the wing with a special section containing a fifth engine. Two prototypes and 10 production models were manufactured, their purpose being to provide the power to haul the huge Messerschmitt Me 321 transport gliders.
The sole remaining He 111 in regular use was owned by the Arizona wing of the Commemorative Air Force in the USA. It was a Spanish-built CASA 2.111D that was used to transport VIPs during the Franco regime. It was destroyed in a crash in July 2003. Another He 111 is currently under restoration in the USA.
Specifications Heinkel He 111P-1:
- Type: Medium bomber
- Engines 2 x 1100 hp Daimler Benz DB 601A
- Fixed armament 3 x 7.9 mm MG 155 machine guns
- Bomb load 8 x 250 kg or 32 x 50 kg bombs
- Max speed 395 km Lenght 16.4 m
- Wing span 22.5 m
- Height 4.4 m
- Load weight Approx 13.000 kg
Specifications (Heinkel He 111):
- Crew 4
- Length 16.6 m (54 ft 6 in)
- Wingspan 22.6 m (74 ft 3 in)
- Height 4.2 m (13 ft 9 in)
- Wing area 87.5 m² (942 ft²)
- Empty weight 5,850 kg (12,900 lb)
- Loaded weight 11,300 kg (24,900 lb)
- Maximum gross takeoff weight 12,400 kg (27,400 lb)
- Powerplant 2× Daimler-Benz DB 601A liquid-cooled inverted V-12, 1,540 kW (1,150 hp) each
- Maximum speed 440 km/h (274 mph)
- Range 2,150 km combat, 3,440 km ferry (1,335 mi / 2,140 mi
- Service ceiling 7,350 m (24,100 ft)
- Climb rate 4.5 m/s (890 ft/min)
- Wing loading 129 kg/m² (26.4 lb/ft²)
- Power/mass 0.27 kW/kg (0.092 hp/lb)
- Armament 6 machine-guns 3,000 kg (6,615 lb) of bombs
This Heinkel He 111 was built in 1938 in version P-2, with building number 1526. It entered service with II. Gruppe Kampfgeschwader 253 and was coded 33+C25.
In May 1939′ the unit designation changed to Kampfgeschwader 4 GeneralWever, and the aircraft became 5J+CN in July. Flyinging with II. Gruppe’s 5. Staffel and commanded by its observer Feldwebel (later Oberfeldwebel) Günther Hölscher, the bomber was in action right from the start of the Norwegian campaign.
On 23 April 1940, K G4 transferred from Fassbergin northernG ermany to Oslo/Fornebu, and the following day 5J+CN bombed Namsos. 25 April saw the aircraft taking part in two of the numerous Luftwaffe attacks against the frozen Lake Lesjaskogsvatn, where No 263 (Fighter) Squadron Royal Air Force had arrvied the previous day with their Gloster Gladiators.
At 07.30 26. April, 5J+CN and two other Heinkels lifted from Fornebu for an armed reconnaissance patrol. Passing over Romsdalsfjord, anti-aircraft fire from the cruiser HMS Manchester hit 5J+CN’s right engine, but without Holscher’s crew noticing. After dropping their bomb loads over Andalsnes, the Heinkels were suddenly pounced on by Blackburn Skuas from No 801 Squadrron Fleet Air Arm, operating from the carrier HMS Ark Royal. Two of them singled out 5J+CN as their target, killing the German flight engineer with the first burst of fire. Pressing home their attacks, the two Skuas scored hits all over 5J+CN and wounded its wireless operator, until they ran out of ammunition.
The German pilot struggled to keep his bomber airborne, but a crash landing was inevitable and he soon had to put it down near Digervardens,outh of Lesjaskog Leaving their dead comrade and the wreck of their aircraft, the three surviving crew members set out in the deep snow towards their own lines. They were captured by a Norwegian ski patrol on the 30th and later handed over to the British, to spend the rest of the war as prisonersin Canada
The Heinkel He 111 remained almost untouched during the war years, but later souvenir hunters and vandals began picking the wrecka part. 5 J+CN was eventually recovered in 1976 and taken to Gardermoen where a painstaking restoration process eventually saw it return almost to its original condition. Interestnigly, the restoration team was headed by Captain Øystein Mølmen, who had first set eyes on the wreck back in 1943 as a boy of 14.