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Heinkel He 111 Medium Bomber (1935)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 10/30/2014

The most important of the German medium bombers became the classic Heinkel He 111 series - a prewar design that managed to fight into the final days of World War 2.

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The German Luftwaffe of World War 2 fielded a trio of capable (though eventually limited) medium-class bombers in the Dornier Do 17, the Junkers Ju 88, and the Heinkel He 111. The latter became the Reich's most important bomber of the war despite being exceeded in production numbers by the competing Junkers Ju 88 line (15,138). The He 111 appeared during the tumultuous interwar years as part of the reemerging German military and enjoyed a long service life with final versions not retired until 1975 with Spain (as the CASA 2.111). Over 7,000 examples were ultimately produced in all with variants, some to suit certain battlefield roles including transport, glider towing, and torpedo delivery. A very specialized transport version - the He 111Z "Zwilling" (detailed elsewhere on this site) - mated two whole He 111 airframes together by way of a common joining inboard wing structure to produce a doubly-capable tow aircraft for the massive Messerschmitt Me 321 glider detailed elsewhere on this site.

Development

After World War 1 (1914-1918) and the restrictions placed upon German industry - particularly its war-making capabilities - several projects were undertaken in secrecy or under the guise of civilian market operation. This proved the case with the He 111 which was developed as a fast medium bomber posing as a fast passenger airliner. The design was headed in the early 1930s by brothers Siegfried and Walter Gunter who, at that time, brought little experience to the table. The record-setting Henkel 70 was used as the starting point as this aircraft was specifically made for fast passenger and mail transportation. its design showcased a very streamlined form with elliptical wing mainplanes and 324 of the type were eventually realized with local production also seen in Hungary.

The Model 70 was revised into a twin-engine layout, the nose-mounted engine removed and the engine pair now fitted to the wing leading edges. The high-performance elliptical wings were retained though lengthened and attention was given to the fuselage with was also extended. A stepped cockpit was used and the engine of choice became the relatively underpowered BMW VI 6.oZ piston engine of 660 horsepower (each) for heftier engine breeds were being reserved for "true" military aircraft. A single vertical fin was seated at the tail along with low-set horizontal planes - all well-rounded for aerodynamic efficiency. The fuselage was very tubular and the wing mainplanes set low along its sides. The undercarriage featured two single-wheeled main landing gear legs under the mass of the aircraft with a diminutive tail wheel under the aft section (the tail wheel only partially retractable into the fuselage). First flight was recorded on February 24th, 1935 - the prototype being He 111 V1 under a civilian registration - and the resulting flight proved the design sound on the whole though maximum speed was limited to 225 miles per hour. V2 followed, also with civilian markings, but incorporated refined wings, various engine installations from BMW, and other general upgrades to reach speeds in the 255 mile per hour range.

By this time, Heinkel was in direct competition with a Junkers design (the Ju 86) and the Dornier Do 17 but all three were supported by the German Air Ministry. Performance of the Ju 86 resulted in limited interest and Junkers then moved onto bettering its classic Ju 88 product. The Do 17 was adopted to replace the Heinkel Model 70 and the He 111 was continually evolved through extensive work.

A- and B-Models

Ten trials He 111 A-0 aircraft followed as did another prototype (V3) for further evaluation. The V3 was selected as the primary serial production model and the ten pre-productions were then later sold off to China. With Daimler-Benz DB 600Aa inline engines installed, the aircraft was formally received into Luftwaffe service as the He 111 B-0 and production models bore the He 111 B-1 designation while being powered with Daimler-Benz DB600C engines. The He 111 B-2 was given DB 600GG engines (later DB 600Ga engines) but was more or less faithful to the B-1 and B-3 served as a trainer.

C-, D-, and E-Models

He 111 C-0 was used to signify six additional pre-production airframes which led to the He 111 D-0 production models with longer range capability and updated equipment. He 111 E-0 marked more pre-production aircraft built from the B-0 models though with Junkers Jumo 211 A-1 engines. Its production form became the He 111 E-1 and the E-3, the latter with Junkers Jumo 211 A-3 engines. The E-4 brought about use of external hardpoints and E-5 added more internal fuel storage for improved ranges.

F-Models

The He 111 F-0 served as a pre-production mark while being based on the E-5 models of earlier. The wings were refined for a more simplified construction approach and the aircraft outfitted with Junkers Jumo 211 A-1 series engines. Its production mark became the He 111 F-1 and about two dozen were sold to Turkey in an attempt to woo the Asian power into supporting the Axis cause. The He 111 F-2 then followed in twenty production aircraft and were largely the F-1 model though with an improved communications system. The F-3 became an unrealized reconnaissance-minded derivative that utilized camera equipment instead of the regular bomb load. The F-4 were F-models converted as staff communications platforms.

G- and J-Models

G-models followed as transport-minded aircraft with the G-0 serving as pre-production aircraft based on the F-0 form. The G-3 was outfitted with BMW 132Dc radial piston engines and the G-4 with Daimler-Benz DB 600G inline piston engines. G-5 numbered five airframes for Turkey powered by DB 600Ga engines. The He 111 J-0 was the pre-production torpedo bomber form based on the F-4 model and powered by 2 x DB 600CG engines. Its production guise came in the He 111 J-1 and 90 were seen in all.

The Revised He 111 P-Model

The drastically revised He 111 form - with its all-glazed cockpit flightdeck arrived in the He 111 P-series lead by the P-0 pre-production aircraft in 1939. A new straighter wing element was implemented as were Daimler-Benz DB 601Aa series engines. Along the belly of the aircraft was added a gondola for observation purposes as well as another (improved) defensive machine gun position. The production form became He 111 P-1. P-2 included better radio kits and defensive machine guns were increased form three to five. The trainer variant was the P-3 (crew) and the P-5 (pilot) while P-4 added additional armoring and machine guns, external bomb racks, and additional fuel stores. Some of the following P-6 models used DB 601N engines until their supply became restricted for German fighter use. P-6/R2 was used as a glider tug as was the P-9.


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Specifications for the
Heinkel He 111
Medium Bomber


Focus Model: Heinkel He 111H-16
Country of Origin: Nazi Germany
Manufacturer: Heinkel Flugzeugwerke - Nazi Germany
Initial Year of Service: 1935
Production: 7,300


Crew: 5


Length: 53.81 ft (16.4 m)
Width: 74.15 ft (22.60 m)
Height: 11.15ft (3.40 m)
Weight (Empty): 19,136 lb (8,680 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 30,865 lb (14,000 kg)


Powerplant: 2 x Junkers Jumo 211F inverted V-12 piston engines generating 1,350 horsepower each.


Maximum Speed: 271 mph (436kmh; 235 kts)
Maximum Range: 1,212 miles (1,950km)
Service Ceiling: 21,982 ft (6,700 m; 4.2 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 487 feet per minute (148 m/min)


Hardpoints: 6
Armament Suite:
STANDARD (H-Model)
1 x 20mm MG FF cannon in nose
1 x 13mm MG 131 machine gun in dorsal position
2 x 7.92mm MG 15 machine guns in rear of ventral gondola position.
2 x 7.92mm MG 81 machine guns in two beam positions.

OPTIONAL:
Maximum bombload of up to 4,400lb held internally OR up to 7,900lbs fitted externally.


Variants:
He 111A - Preproduction Model Designation of which 10 such models were produced.


He 111B - Initial Production Model Designation fitted with Daimler-Benz DB 600 inline engines generating 1,000hp each.

He 111B-1 - Stepped windscreen; elliptical leading edge wings; serving with the Condor Legion.

He 111C - 10-passenger production models similar to the He 111B; six such aircraft produced.

He 111E - Fitted with Junkers Jumo 211A at 1,000hp each due to shortened supplies of the DB 600 powerplant; 190 produced and developed into other subvariants.

He 111F - Amalgam of He 111G wing systems with Jumo 211A-3 engines; first production version with straight-wing leading edge; fully-glazed asymmetric nose; sans external windscreen step.

He 111G - Straight wing elements (instead of tapered approach); fitted with either BMW 132 radials or DB 600 inlines.

He 111H - Based on the He 111P; most produced model at 6,150 examples; built into many subvariants.

He-111H-6 - First version to carry torpedoes

He-111H-8 - Fitted with balloon cable fender

He-111H-11/R2 - Go 242 Glider Tug Variant

He-111H-14 - "Pathfinder" version fitted with specialized radio equipment.

He-111H-15

He-111H-16 - Sub-variant of the He 111H; increased defensive gun armament.

He-111H-18 - "Pathfinder" version fitted with specialized radio equipment.

He 111H-20 - 16-person paratroop transport model.

He 111H-22 - Fitted with a single Fi 103 flying bomb.

He 111H-23 Sub-variant of the He 111H; fitted with more powerful powerplants and improved defensive armament; improved equipment throughout; fitted with either Jumo 211 or Jumo 213 engines.

He 111J - Torpedo Bomber Variant; 90 such models produced.

He 111P - Glazed forward fuselage design; forty such aircraft produced in subvariants; introduced in 1939 despite its "P" designation in the series.

He 111P-1 - He 111P Sub-variant

He 111P-2 - He 111P Sub-variant

He 111P-3 - He 111P Sub-variant

He 111P-4 - He 111P Sub-variant

He 111P-5 - He 111P Sub-variant

He 111P-6 - He 111P Sub-variant

He 111Z "Zwilling" - Me 321 Heavy Glider Tug Variant; Designed as two He 111H-6 bomber types joined at the wing; fitted with an additional Jumo 211F engine for a total of five powerplants.


Operators:
Bulgaria; China; Czechslovakia; Nazi Germany; Hungary; Romania; Slovakia; Soviet Union; Spain; Taiwan; Turkey; United Kingdom (post-war evaluation); United States (post-war)