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Dornier Do 215 Reconnaissance / Light Bomber / Night-Fighter Aircraft (1939)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 7/6/2010

The Dornier Do 215 was originally a German product intended for export - the arrival of the World War 2 officially changed that.

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The Dornier Do 215 was originally intended for export, beginning life as a redesignated version of the Dornier Do 17 light/medium bomber. Three prototypes were initially produced from the Do 17K - the V1, V2 and V3 - each with differing powerplants to showcase the aircrafts capabilities to foreign interest. The first was lost during testing while the third proved to be the winning combination. Eighteen completed aircraft were earmarked for use by the Swedish Air Force but the deteriorating political situation in Europe forced these systems to be reinstituted for use by the German Luftwaffe, whom modified three of the batch to suit their specific wartime needs. The remaining fifteen followed suit with new designations, becoming the Do 215B, with full production of the type beginning in December of 1939.

The Do 217 retained much of its visual similarities from the Do 17 bomber including the distinct "pencil" like fuselage. Engines were of inline design powering three-blade propellers and fitted to nacelles under each wing. Wings were mid-mounted monoplanes with rounded edges. The crew compartment was held in the extreme forward portion of the fuselage, complete with extensive glazing around the canopy. Conditions, no doubt, were cramped for the crew of four, consisting of the pilot, bombardier and two machine gunners. The streamlined design ended in a conventional empennage sporting twin vertical surfaces. Armament for the series varied by model type with early forms the aircraft sporting 4 x 7.92mm MG 15 machine guns then later upgrading these to six. The night-fighter version coupled the firepower of 4 x 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns with 2 x 20mm MG FF cannons all held in the nose. The Do 215 could sustain an internal payload of up to 2,200lbs in the bombing role. In the reconnaissance role, the aircraft would be fitted with a series of photo graphic cameras in the bomb bay as needed.

Performance of the base Do 215 B-1 models was supplied by twin Daimler-Benz DB 601Ba Vee 12-cylinder inline piston engines with an output of 1,159 horsepower each. These powerplants, combined with the slim and streamlined airframe, allowed for maximum speeds of up to 292 miles per hour, a normal range of about 1,522 miles and a service ceiling nearing 29,500 feet.

Though only some 100 or so Dornier Do 215's were produced, there were variants of note appearing throughout its production run. The Do 215 V1 was the initial prototype constructed from the Do 17 Z-0 and featured original Do 17 engines. The Do 215 V2 was the second prototype, this being fitted with French Gnome-Rhone 14-cylinder engines. The Do 215 V3 became the third prototype in the series, now fitted with German Daimler-Benz DB 601Ba inline piston engines.

The first production form became the eighteen Do 215 A-1's intended for use by the Swedish Air Force. Three of these were refitted (including the FuG 10 navigation system) for use by the German Luftwaffe under the new designation of Do 215 B-0. Likewise, the remaining fifteen of the original Swedish production batch fell under Luftwaffe operation with the designation of Do 215 B-1. The B-models would become the standard production models of the Do 215 series. The Do 215 B-2 were slightly revised Do 215's intended for the photographic reconnaissance role. There aircraft were fitted with three Rb 50/30 series cameras in the bomb bay and a sliding cover under the original bomb bay doors. The Do 215 B-3 was produced in only two examples, essentially the photo-reconnaissance Do 215 B-2's, produced for sale to the Soviet Union - the only two Do 215's not used by Germany. The Do 215 B-4 appeared as an "improved" reconnaissance platform developed from the Do 215 B-2 series models and were equipped with Rb 20/30 and Rb 50/30 series cameras.

Perhaps the most distinct form of the Do 215 became the Do 215 B-5 "Kauz III", a dedicated night-fighter built from Do 215 B-1 and Do 215 B-4 models. These aircraft featured the similar "Kauz II" noses found on the Dornier Do 17 Z-10's, fitted with an IR search light, antenna trees and "Spanner" infrared detection systems. Armament included 4 x 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns along with 2 x 20mm MG FF cannons all housed in the nose. The Spanner infrared detection system was later replaced by the FuG 202 Lichtenstein B/C series radar as the former proved to be of little operational value. Operation of this type ran from January of 1941 through May 1944.

In all, the Do 215 appeared in these major roles with only the reconnaissance and night-fighters making any impact of note for the German Luftwaffe. The aircraft was eventually succeeded by the Dornier Do 217, a medium/heavy bomber and night-fighter appearing from 1940 and onwards (all Do 215's were retired by the end of 1944). Official operators of the Do 215 included Germany, the Soviet Union and Hungary. Like the eighteen Do 215's intended for Sweden, an order of Do 215's to Yugoslavia (placed before the start of the war) were never completed for that country's use.

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Specifications for the
Dornier Do 215
Reconnaissance / Light Bomber / Night-Fighter Aircraft


Focus Model: Dornier Do 215 B-1
Country of Origin: Nazi Germany
Manufacturer: Dornier Werke GmbH - Germany
Initial Year of Service: 1939
Production: 105


Crew: 4


Length: 51.80 ft (15.79 m)
Width: 59.06 ft (18.00 m)
Height: 14.96ft (4.56 m)
Weight (Empty): 12,743 lb (5,780 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 19,401 lb (8,800 kg)


Powerplant: 2 x Daimler-Benz DB 601 Ba Vee 12-cylinder inline engines delivering 1,159hp each.


Maximum Speed: 292 mph (470kmh; 254 kts)
Maximum Range: 1,522 miles (2,450km)
Service Ceiling: 31,168 ft (9,500 m; 5.9 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet per minute (0 m/min)


Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
INITIAL:
4 x 7.92mm MG 15 machine guns

LATER:
6 x 7.92mm MG 15 machine guns

NIGHT-FIGHTER:
4 x 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns in nose
2 x 20mm MG FF cannnons in lower nose

Up to 2,200lbs of internal ordnance.


Variants:
Do 215 V1 - Initial Prototype Model based on the Do 17 Z-0; lost to accident.


Do 215 V2 - Second Prototype Model; fitted with French Gnome-Rhone 14-cylinder radial engines.

Do 215 V3 - Third Prototype Model; fitted with 2 x Daimler-Benz DB 601Ba series inline piston engines.

Do 215 A-1 - Swedish Export Production Model Designation; 18 aircraft produced.

Do 215 B-0 - Bomber / Reconnaissance Variant; 3 x A-1 models with FuG 10; intended for Swedish export.

Do 215B - Base Designation of Standard Production Models.

Do 215 B-1 - Fifteen late production Swedish A-1 models redesignated for Luftwaffe use.

Do 215 B-2 - Reconnaissance Variant; 3 x Rb 50/30 series cameras in revised bomb bay.

Do 215 B-3 - Two Production Aircraft based on B-2 models; sold to Soviet Union.

Do 215 B-4 - Reconnaissance Variant based on the B-2 model; fitted with Rb 20/30 and Rb 50/30 series cameras.

Do 215 B-5 "Kauz III" - Dedicated Night-Fighter; 20 conversion aircraft from B-1 and B-4 models; IR searchlight in nose; FuG 202 navigation; 4 x 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns in nose; 2 x 20mm MG FF cannons in lower nose.


Operators:
Nazi Germany; Hungary; Soviet Union