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  • Heinkel He 51 Fighter / Floatplane / Ground Attack Aircraft

    The Heinkel He 51 series was part of Germany's rebuilding program, providing priceless combat experience for Luftwaffe pilots in the Spanish Civil War.

     Updated: 4/3/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The He 51 was a product of the German Heinkel firm and a design of the Gunter twins, Walter and Siegfried. The Gunters became part of the Heinkel firm in 1931 and made the He 49 their first product with the company. The He 49 was a biplane aircraft developed as a fighter, sporting a pair of machine guns, and developed into three major prototype forms. It was these prototype designs that eventually developed into the He 51a prototype and, ultimately, the He 51 production models.

    The He 51a differed from the previous He 49 forms in that it was given a new tail fin, wings, undercarriage and radiator. The He 51 itself would become a successful German fighter in World War 2, becoming a serviceable floatplane derivative and light ground attack platform as well. Despite the limitations imposed on German war machine development following the close of World War 1, the He 51 was none-the-less pursued under the guise of it being an advanced trainer. In many ways, the He 51 was part of the "new-look" German military soon to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

    The He 51 was given uneven-span biplane wings (also known as "sesquiplane") with the upper span longer (and situated forward) than the lower span. Each wing had a single bay with parallel struts angled forward (in profile) and outward with applicable bracing cables. The engine was positioned at the extreme forward of the contoured fuselage and consisted of a liquid-cooled inline engine powering a two-bladed propeller. The pilot sat directly behind and under the upper wing element in an open-air cockpit protected by a forward windscreen. The empennage was conventional with a rounded vertical tail fin and mid-mounted elevators. The undercarriage was fixed and featured two main landing gears faired over and a tail wheel at rear, also faired over. The seaplane version of the He 51 was very similar in design with the most notable exception being the large pontoon floats affixed in place of the landing gears. Armament consisted of 2 x MG 17 machine guns mounted over the engine, synchronized to fire through the revolving propeller blades, with 500 rounds reserved to a gun. For the light strike roles inherent in the C-models, up to six 22lb bombs could be carried.

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    Heinkel He 51A Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1935
    Type: Fighter / Floatplane / Ground Attack Aircraft
    National Origin: Nazi Germany
    Manufacturer(s): Heinkel - Nazi Germany
    Production Total: 700

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 27.56 feet (8.4 meters)
    Width: 36.09 feet (11.00 meters)
    Height: 10.50 feet (3.20 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 3,219 lb (1,460 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 9,211 lb (4,178 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x BMW VI 12-cylinder liquid-cooled engine developing 750 horsepower.

    Maximum Speed: 205 mph (330 kph; 178 knots)
    Maximum Range: 354 miles (570 km)
    Service Ceiling: 25,262 feet (7,700 meters; 4.78 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 350 feet-per-minute (107 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    2 x 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns in nose

    Up to 6 x 22lb bombs

    Global Operators / Customers

    Bulgaria; Nazy Germany; Spain

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    He 49a - Initial Prototype Model showcasing a shortened fuselage.

    He 49b - Second Prototype Model; revised lengthened fuselage; evaluated as both seaplane and land-based plane.

    He 49c - Third Prototype Model; revised engine mount.

    He 51a - Fourth Prototype Model; new radiator system; revised vertical tail fin and main wings; redesigned undercarriage.

    He 51A-0 - Nine Pre-production Examples; based on He 51a.

    He 51A-1 - Initial Full-Rate Production Model; 150 examples produced.

    He 51B-0 - Second Pre-production Batch; reinforced understructure; 12 examples produced.

    He 51B-1 - Second Production Batch; based on He 51B-0 model; 12 examples produced.

    He 51B-2 - Sea-Plane Derivative; dedicated reconnaissance platform; 46 examples produced.

    He 51B-3 - High-Altitude Platform

    He 51C-1 - Ground Attack Variant

    He 51C-2 - Improved He 51C-1 model; new radio equipment;2 1 examples produced.