Heinkel He 112 Fighter Aircraft
The serviceable Heinkel He 112 lost out to the Messerschmitt Bf 109 to be Germany's first new generation standard monoplane fighter.
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The Heinkel He 112 was the only serious threat (next to the Messerschmitt Bf 109) to becoming Germany's first modern monoplane design in operational service. The aircraft exhibited potential right from the start but was ultimately developed too late for consideration by the RLM to which the Bf 109 made the right impressions at the right time. With Britain already inking a deal with Supermarine to mass produce the Spitfire, Germany felt the dire need to modernize and went ahead with their most promising design - that being the Bf 109. This left the Heinkel design in limbo though the aircraft was progressed through a development life cycle. The airframe was used in a battery of rocket propulsion tests and proved to be a better aircraft at the end of its development run than at the beginning. The system was exported to a handful of Axis-friendly countries, produced in limited numbers and went away as quietly as it appeared.
Design of the He 112 was put into action 1934 just in time for the run-off evaluation against a Messerschmitt, Arado and Focke-Wulf design. The trials occurred in spring of 1935 with the Messerschmitt and Heinkel types coming out ahead. The He 112 was developed from the Heinkel He 70 4-seat passenger aircraft which is an important footnote in itself as the development of the He 70 forced the Heinkel firm to develop new construction and design methods for modern aircraft. Initial He 112 systems were actually fitted with the Rolls-Royce Kestrel Mk IIS engines of 695 horsepower as the intended Junkers Jumo 210 series was as yet unavailable. The initial display of the He 112 V1 prototype yielded some noticeable drag that resulted from its large wings. as a result, the V2 was designed with "clipped" thin wings. The V3 appeared shortly with some minor changes, the most notable of these being the enclosed cockpit.
Trials between the He 112 and the Bf 109 continued throughout 1935 but was over by 1936, with the Messerschmitt product entering full production. Nevertheless, the development of the He 112 continued in an effort to nab a variety of potential export customers on the horizon. The total amount of sales on the export market never seriously materialized with just under 100 total He 112's being produced.
Despite the effort put into development, the He 112 program had nothing but a large series of developmental prototype models to show for it. Inevitably, the He 112A model series became the initial production fighter but this was followed by the more refined, completely redesigned he 112B series. The B model was noted for its bubble canopy which in itself was quite an advance over the standard "framed" designs. Though useful to a combat pilot, this particular bubble canopy was quite complicated and came in three separate parts as opposed to the two-part canopies later seen in Mustangs and Spitfires. Armament was impressive with twin 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns housed ingeniously in the engine cowling sides with an additional two 20mm MG FF type cannons in the wings.
The He 112 airframe was used extensively in rocket propulsion testing to which several prototypes were crashed yet miraculously rebuilt. Beyond its development years, the system did in fact serve in some limited combat sorties with the Condor Legion. A full 30 units were shipped to the Japanese Navy but were used for pilot training instead. While the Bf 109 went on to achieve mythical status in the global conflict, the promising yet unfulfilling He 112 design became something of a footnote for aircraft design in the Second World War. In any case, it was a promising endeavor and one that most likely provided much needed experience in the way of furthering the German rocketry research program.
The discerning aviation aficionado will note the similarities in wing and nose design to the British Hawker Hurricane.