This no­to­ri­ous Ger­man medium bomber was an all-too-fa­mil­iar sight over Bri­tish skies

History of War - - CONTENTS -

The terms of the Treaty of Ver­sailles were ex­plicit: in the wake of World War I, the Ger­man mil­i­tary was to have no air force ca­pa­ble of of­fen­sive ac­tion. How­ever, dur­ing the 1930s, just as it did with the army, the Nazi regime de­vel­oped a shadow air force, one that would wreak havoc across Europe by the end of the decade. The Ger­mans es­tab­lished glider ‘clubs’ to train fu­ture Luft­waffe pi­lots, and at the same time em­barked on a pro­gram that would os­ten­si­bly pro­duce air­craft for civil­ian pur­poses – but with an easy tran­si­tion to mil­i­tary ap­pli­ca­tions when war came.

The Heinkel He 111, per­haps the best­known Ger­man medium bomber of World War II, which gained in­famy in the skies above Poland, France, the Low Coun­tries and Bri­tain, was such an air­craft. Orig­i­nally slated for ser­vice as a pas­sen­ger liner for the civil­ian Lufthansa, the He 111 was large, ro­bust and built for rapid con­ver­sion to a bomber con­fig­u­ra­tion.

The Re­ich Air Min­istry pro­moted com­pe­ti­tion among air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ers, and Heinkel emerged with a con­tract for a medium bomber based on its proven sin­gle-en­gine He 70 de­sign, which had al­ready set speed records and served as a fast pas­sen­ger and mail de­liv­ery plane. Con­cur­rently, two other medium bombers, the Dornier Do 17 and the Junkers Ju 88, were de­vel­oped for the Luft­waffe.

Air­craft de­signer Ernst Heinkel re­cruited twin brothers Siegfried and Wal­ter Gün­ter to work in his fac­tory at Ro­s­tock, and the two pro­duced a twin-en­gine adap­ta­tion of the He 70, which later be­came dis­tinc­tive with a glazed nose, el­lip­ti­cal wings and ex­tended fuse­lage. The first He 111 pro­to­type flew on 24 Fe­bru­ary 1935 as a civil­ian air­craft, and the de­sign was af­firmed. In Jan­uary

1936, an­other pro­to­type was recog­nised as the fastest pas­sen­ger air­craft in the world, achiev­ing a top speed of 402 kilo­me­tres per hour (250 miles per hour).

EL­LIP­TI­CAL WING The el­lip­ti­cal wing de­sign of the He 70 ‘Blitz’, the pre­de­ces­sor of the He 111, was re­tained, although the sur­faces were length­ened to pro­vide more lift for the He 111.

WING EDGES The trail­ing edges of the He 111 wings were an­gled slightly for­ward, while the lead­ing edges were swept back on a line even with the en­gine na­celles. BOMBLOAD The He 111 was ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing mul­ti­ple bombload con­fig­u­ra­tions, in­clud­ing 2,000 kilo­grams (4,409 pounds) in the bomb bay and 3,600 kilo­grams (7,937 pounds) af­fixed to ex­ter­nal hard points. AERO­DY­NAMIC AND LIGHT­WEIGHT The sur­faces of the He 111 air­craft were de­signed for max­i­mum aero­dy­namic ef­fi­ciency, while its con­struc­tion from alu­minium and wood pro­vided strength and rea­son­able weight.

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