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Arado Ar 196 - Nazi Germany, 1939

Detailing the development and operational history of the Arado Ar 196 Shipborn Reconnaissance Floatplane.

 Entry last updated on 4/4/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Arado Ar 196  
Picture of Arado Ar 196

The Arado Ar 196 reconnaissance floatplane could be found on nearly every front during the war.

The Arado Ar 196 was the principle floatplane of the German Luftwaffe throughout World War 2. The aircraft was showcased in quantity on nearly every front that Germany was threatened - or was threatening - and fared well against Allied shipping convoys and even claimed numerous Allied aircraft along the way. With nearly 600 total production examples, this superb floatplane was in use with Germany and her allies - Bulgaria and Romania. The Arado Ar 196 was a key component to Axis maritime reconnaissance and made all the more versatile by engaging enemy targets from shipboard or coastal starting points.

The Ar 196 was designed to replace the Heinkel He 60 floatplane aboard the various warships Germany had available or was in the process of constructing. The aircraft itself was to succeed the other Arado product, the now-obsolescent Ar 95. With a German request for a new shipboard catapult-launched reconnaissance floatplane (with a secondary role as a coastal patrol platform), Arado submitted their design consisting of a two-seat monoplane with all-metal skin. Focke-Wulf responded as well and submitted a biplane design. After an evaluation period, the Arado design was selected with development beginning in 1937.

The development, which produced four prototypes, tested two arrangements of floats. One prototype was fitted with a centerline float and two outboard floats whilst the remaining three utilized the more traditional twin pontoon floats each situated under their respective wing. The selected aircraft design was then made ready for production and designated as the Ar 196A. Production would be handled throughout Germany and in the Axis-held territories of France and Denmark.

The Ar 196 was constructed as two production series separated by classification role. On one side was the "shipboard" Ar 196 series which was designed for catapulting from German warships. This series was comprised of the A-1 and A-4 models. On the other side was the "coastal" Ar 196 variant, naturally designed for the defense of coastal areas with operations involving taking off and returning to their respective port areas. This production series comprised of the A-2 and A-3 models. An A-5 model was later offered that featured improved radio equipment and twin 7.92mm machine guns for the radio operator in the rear cockpit. Basic armament consisted of varying quantities of 20mm cannons and 7.92mm machine guns. More importantly, the Ar 196 could field two 110lb bombs for when in the strike role.

The aircraft was eventually deployed on a number of notable German warships that included the Deutschland, the Admiral Scheer, the Admiral Hipper and the Leipzig.

Arado Ar 196A-3 Specifications

Service Year: 1939
Type: Shipborn Reconnaissance Floatplane
National Origin: Nazi Germany
Manufacturer(s): Arado Flugzeugwerke - Germany
Total Production: 593

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 2
Overall Length: 36.09 feet (11 meters)
Overall Width: 40.68 feet (12.40 meters)
Overall Height: 14.60 feet (4.45 meters)

Weight (Empty): 5,148 lb (2,335 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 7,282 lb (3,303 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 1 x BMW 132K radial piston engine developing 970 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 167 knots (193 mph; 310 kph)
Maximum Range: 578 nautical miles (665 miles; 1,070 km)
Service Ceiling: 23,031 feet (7,020 meters; 4.36 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,125 feet-per-minute (343 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

2 x 20mm cannons (forward-fixed)
1 x 7.92mm machine gun (forward-fixed)
2 x 7.92mm machine guns in trainable rear cockpit position.


2 x 110lb bombs

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

Bulgaria; Nazi Germany; Romania

Model Variants

Ar 196A - Initial Production Variant Designation
Ar 196A-1 - Shipboard Variant; 20 examples produced; fitted with 2 x wing-mounted 7.92mm machine guns.
Ar 196A-2 - Coastal Variant; 2 x 20mm wing-mounted cannon; 391 examples produced.
Ar 196A-3 - "Strengthened" Coastal Variant; featured variable pitch propeller system.
Ar 196A-4 - "Strengthened" Shipboard Variant; based on the Ar 196A-3 models; 24 examples produced.
Ar 196A-5 - Improved radio system; 2 x 7.92mm machine gun array for radio operator instead of single machine gun; 69 examples produced.

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