Heinkel He 111
Type: medium bomber (later also torpedo bomber, glider tug and missile launcher).
Table of Contents
In 1934, Walter and Siegfried Günter started to design an all-metal low-wing aircraft which could be used as a civil aircraft or as a bomber. Even though it was supposedly originally intended as a fast, civilian transport aircraft, the design required only minor modifications to be able to be used in the role of a bomber aircraft. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the intended use was military.
The first He 111 was originally a twin-engine enlargement of the He 70 with elliptical wings and elevator. The He 111V1 bomber prototype flew for the first time on February 24, 1935, powered by two 660 HP BMW VI engines, and shortly after that the prototype of the commercial transport aircraft He 111V2 flew, which could be modified for 10 passengers.
It is interesting to note here that the He 111 prototypes were in the air before a similar British twin-engined bomber used by the Royal Air Force in 1939-40. This includes the Whitley, Bristol Blenheim, Wellington and Hampden bombers. In addition, the older He 111, dating from 1934, flew far more and, above all, far longer during the Second World War in daylight operations than the comparable Allied, French and Soviet bombers ever did.
The early He 111 had a conventionally stepped cockpit windshield, which was later replaced by a fully glazed bubble nose, which became the distinctive feature of this aircraft.
The ten He 111A pre-series bombers built, using BMW engines, could carry 2,205 lb (1,000 kg) of bombs internally, loaded upright. The bomber was armed with three 7.92 mm machine guns, one in the nose, one on the back and one retractable in the belly.
It soon turned out that the He 111A was underpowered for military use. For this reason, the He 111B-1 and B-2 used 950-HP Daimler-Benz 600 engines, while at the same time incorporating several structural improvements which allowed bomb payloads of up to 3,307 lb (1,500 kg).
Delivery of the He 111B-1 to the combat squadrons began in late 1936, and like many other new aircraft of the German Luftwaffe, 30 He 111B-1s were assigned to the Legion Condor in Spain in February 1937. There they achieved considerable success, as the He 111B was able to fly faster than most of the fighters used there and therefore did not need fighter protection.
However, these successes in Spain were only possible due to the lack of modern enemy fighter planes. Nevertheless, the German tacticians believed that the defensive armament of three light machine guns and a crew of four men was sufficient.
In the defense, the He 111 was essentially even more dependent on its machine guns than the other German twin-engined bombers, as it was considerably slower and less maneuverable. The subsequent events in the Second World War then also clearly showed that the first He 111s were too poorly armed to defend themselves against modern fighters. Their best defense was only their toughness and ability to come back even when almost shot to pieces.
The B-series, of which about 300 were built, was followed by the He 111C passenger aircraft, the He 111D experimental series and the He 111E with Junkers Jumo engines, 190 of the latter being built. The He 111E-1 could load up to 4,409 lb (2,000 kg) of bombs, while the E-4 at underwing stations could carry a further 2,205 lb (1,000 kg) of bombs externally. Small numbers of the He 111F, G and J were also built, alongside the He 111J-1, which was designed as a torpedo bomber.
The next major design of the He 111 was the He 111P, one of the most important production variants. Although arranged in alphabetical order behind the most important H-series, the He 111P was developed more or less in parallel around a different engine.
The P-Series used the 1,100-horsepower DB601A-1 engine and included a complete redesign of the fuselage nose, replacing the conventional step caused by the pilot’s flight deck in favour of a fully glazed front, which produced a continuous streamlined fuselage above and below the nose.
The He 111P-0 pre-series aircraft appeared at the end of 1938 and the first He 111P-1 series models were delivered in early 1939. The P-1 continued to retain the inadequate defensive armament consisting of three machine guns, as did the P-2 with different radio equipment from May 1939.
After the first combat experiences followed the He 111P-4, which used the same DB601A engines with a bomb load of 4,409 lb (2,000 kg), but the crew was increased from four to five men, a heavy tank protection was installed and the defensive armament more than doubled to up to seven 7.92 mm machine guns. These were located in the nose, on the back, on the belly, on the sides and one optionally in the rear.
However, since production of the DB601 engines was now reserved for the Messerschmitt Bf 109E fighter and Me 110 heavy fighters, production of the P-Series ended in early 1940, after a total of about 400 aircraft had been built.
The P-Series was used extensively in all the Luftwaffe’s early campaigns, from the Polish campaign, Operation Weser Crossing in Norway, the Western campaign, the Battle of Britain and the night-time ‘Blitz’ raids.
By June 21, 1941, the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the P-Series had largely been replaced by the final H-Series, but a small number of He 111P-4 in the combat groups were also used in Russia. At this time, however, the surviving P-Series aircraft were mostly deployed on quieter frontlines or in Pilot Training for bomber crews.
The He 111H was by far the most important version. Of the total of about 7,300 He 111s built, 6,200 alone were of the He 111H.
Externally, the early He 111H were similar to the He 111P, with the exception of the Junkers Jumo 211 engines, which were standard throughout the series.
The prototype of the He 111H flew for the first time in January 1938 and a pre-series He 111H-0 with 1,100 hp Jumo 211A-1 engines followed. The He 111H-1 series aircraft entered service in May 1939 and by the outbreak of World War II there were about 400 of them in German Luftwaffe units.
A total of 23 different subtypes of the H-series were built during the Second World War, the most important of which were the H-2, H-3 and H-6 until 1942.
The He 111H-2 was the result of the first combat experiences and was identical to the H-1, but with Jumo 211A-3 engines, improved armour protection and stronger defensive armament as with the He 111P-4 (see above).
The He 111H-3 was designed for ship combat, had more powerful 1,200 HP Jumo 211D-1 engines and a 20 mm cannon in a nose pod.
The He 111H-6 was probably the most important subtype of the whole He 111 series and became the main series machine. The H-6 was built from the end of 1940 and included all previous modifications. It was powered by even more powerful 1,350 hp Jumo 211F-1 engines, could carry two 1,686 lb (765 kg) LT5b torpedoes or up to 8,818 lb (4,000 kg) bombs internally and externally over short distances. It had a crew of 6 men and was armed with a 20 mm machine gun, a 13 mm MG131 and up to six 7.92 mm MG15/81.
With increasing armament and armour, however, the performance of the ‘spades’ decreased, so that the record breaker from 1936 to 1938 became the ‘lame duck’ from 1942 to 1945.
Nevertheless the He 111 was built in increasing numbers, with all later subtypes actually belonging to the H-series. There were innumerable variations, including those with barrage balloon deflectors, with various guided weapons and flying bombs, including the V-1, which was fixed under the left wing root, as well as transport aircraft and special command aircraft for dropping agents behind enemy lines.
On 21 June 1941 a total of 280 He 111 in 10 combat groups were ready for the war against Soviet Russia. At that time, about 30% of all twin-engine bombers of all types of the German Luftwaffe were in combat groups or coastal flying units on the Eastern Front.
During 1941 the He 111H-6 was the dominant type in the bomber forces and to the chagrin of the Soviets, this bomber was significantly more powerful than the He 111P and previous H-models which the French and British had encountered over Western Europe in 1940.
All necessary modifications, which were installed from the H-6 on, were combined in the He 111H-16 main series, which was produced from 1942 on. The H-16/R1 had an MG 131 mounted in an electrically operated rear stand. With a trailer hitch for cargo gliders the aircraft was designated H-16/R2 and as R3 it was a Pathfinder bomber with better tank protection and reduced bomb load.
The He 111 remained in production in one form or another until mid-1944. By this time the airframe had already outlived its useful life, but since no suitable replacement aircraft was ever introduced in sufficient numbers, the He 111H bomber remained in service until the end of the war.
Even after the German surrender, the He 111 continued to be built, namely in Spain. This resulted in an active service period of over 30 years after the first flight of the He 111, which is exceptional praise for the design of the Günter brothers and a service career which few other aircraft types could look back on.
Users: China, Germany, Hungary, Iraq, Romania (license-production at Fabrica de Avione SET), Spain (license-production of H-16 at CASA), Turkey.
Specification for Heinkel He 111 H-16
|Heinkel He 111 H-16||Specifications|
|Power plant||two 1,350-hp Junkers Jumo 211 F-2 engines|
|Wing span||74 ft 18 in|
|Length overall||53 ft 9.7 in|
|Height overall||13 ft 1.5 in|
|Weight empty||19,136 lb|
|Weight maximum loaded||30,865 lb|
|Max level speed||252 (maximum weight) - 270 mph at 19,685 ft|
|Cruising speed||221 mph at 16,405 ft|
|Time to height||8.5 min to 6,560 ft|
|Time to height||in 30-35 min at gross weight, 50 min at maximum weight to 14,765 ft|
|Service ceiling||21,980 ft (maximum weight) - 27,890 ft|
|Range||1,212 - 1,280 miles|
|Heinkel He 111 H-16||specification|
|in front of ventral gondola||one 20-mm MG FF cannon (540 rpm, velocity 1,920 ft.sec)|
|in electrically operated dorsal turret||one 13-mm MG 131 (930 rpm, velocity 2,461 ft.sec)|
|up tp seven 7.92-mm MG 15/17/81||manual mountings in nosecap, open dorsal position, ventral gondola, waist windows. Fixed forward-firing and rear-firing machine gun (1,200 rpm, velocity 2,477 ft.sec)|
|Bomb load||One 2,000-kg (4,409 lb) bomb carried externally and one 500-kg (1,102 lb) bomb internally, or eight 250-kg (551 lb) bombs all internally. Total maximum 2,000 kg (5,511 lb) (other marks carried one or two 765-kg (1,686 lb) torpedoes, BV246 glide missiles, Hs293 rocket missles, Fritz X radio-controlled glide bombs or one FZG-76 'V-1' cruise missile)|
|Heinkel He 111 H-16||figures|
|First flight (prototype)||24 February 1935|
|Production delivery (B-1)||30 October 1936|
|Production delivery (H-1)||January or February 1939|
|Service delivery (H-16)||1942|
|Final delivery (Germany)||October 1944|
|Total production figure||6,086+ (with foreign production approx. 7,450)|
|Accepted by Luftwaffe 1/39-12/44 (including transports)||6,615|
|Production (always only bombers) 1939||452|
|He 111 's in First Line Units 1.9.39||780|
|He 111's in First Line Units 20.9.42||398|
|He 111's in First Line Units 31.12.42||315|
|He 111 's in First Line Units 10.1.45||212|
Animated 3D model of Heinkel He 111
References and literature
Operation Barbarossa: the Complete Organisational and Statistical Analysis, and Military Simulation, Volume I – IIIB (Nigel Askey)
The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II (Chris Bishop)
Combat Aircraft of World War II (Bill Gunston)
Technik und Einsatz der Kampfflugzeuge vom 1. Weltkrieg bis heute (Ian Parsons)
Das große Buch der Luftkämpfe (Ian Parsons)
Flugzeuge des 2. Weltkrieges (Andrew Kershaw)
German Aircraft of World War 2 in Colour (Kenneth Munson)
Warplanes of the Luftwaffe (David Donald)
The Luftwaffe Album, Bomber and Fighter Aircraft of the German Air Force 1933-1945 (Joachim Dressel, Manfred Griehl)
Luftwaffe Handbook (Dr Alfred Price)
Die Schlacht um England (Bernard Fitzsimons, Christy Campbell)