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Heinkel He 111 Medium Bomber (1936)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 9/30/2013

The He111 was the principle medium bomber for the Third Reich through the Battle of Britain and beyond.

Though the base He 111 was arguably the most important bomber of the Third Reich during the Second World War, the idea of bombers winning the war was lost on German warplanners - in particular Adolf Hitler - whom envisioned a future where hybrid fighter-bomber types would do the job. The He 111, able to apply an acceptable bombload onto various types of targets and defend itself from aircraft attack with its decent array of self-defense machine gun arrangements was still a formidable weapon in its own right. To that end, the He 111 would be developed into a myriad of variants that would include dozens of sub-variants, solidifying its importance to the German war effort - at least while it could stay on the offensive.

The He 111 is purportedly developed as a civil airliner passenger transport but most assuredly used as a way for Germany to build its war machine in secrecy. In fact, the transport/bomber design produced by Seigfried and Walter Günter was the basis for the future He 111 system that would be used throughout the war. Suspicions would go proven during the Spanish Civil War in which He 111B-1 model would take part under the Condor Legion banner. First prototypes would be in flight as soon as 1935.

At its core, the He 111 was a low-monoplane twin-engine aircraft with a "medium" bomber type designation applied to the series. The principle identifying feature of the aircraft was its greenhouse-type nose assembly and low-mounted wing powerplants. Defensive armament varied some between models but was usually centered around machine guns mounted in two waist gunner positions, dorsal and ventral gunner positions. A single 20mm cannon was mounted in the nose (He 111H-16). Internal or externally held ordnance could consist of bombs or a torpedo.

The He 111 was a principle instrument for the Third Reich during the crucial Battle of Britain days when, if provided with air support by Bf 109 fighters, it could strike radio centers, airbases and downtown London with a certain level impunity. The system, however, would cease to be a factor in this limited assault role, and for the rest of the Second World War for that matter, once air superiority had been gained by Britain and (later) the Allies alike. By then, Germany was forced to fund their line of fighter and fighter/bomber types in a truly defensive effort to stem the tide of the war in her favor.

The He 111 series proved such a success for the German Luftwaffe, however, that it appeared in quantity in various other forms including a glider tug, paratroop transport and torpedo bomber. Largely at the mercy of Allied fighters as the war years moved on, the He 111 was relegated to sorties closer to home bases. Ultimately, despite its successes and usefulness to the Third Reich, the He 111 would become outclassed and underused, both based on Allied advanced, superiority in class and numbers and by German necessity to produce more defensive measures.

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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 - Germany
Initial Year of Service: 1936
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 1,350hp 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: 2
Armament Suite:
1 x 20mm MG FF cannon in nose position
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.

Maximum bombload of up to 4,409lbs held internally and up to 4,409lbs fitted externally.

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-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.

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