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Heinkel He 59

Nazi Germany (1935)
Picture of Heinkel He 59 Reconnaissance / Attack Floatplane Aircraft

A pre-war design, the Heinkel He 59 floatplane biplane was outmatched heading into 1944 and did not survive in service long enough to see the end of the conflict.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Heinkel He 59 Reconnaissance / Attack Floatplane Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 4/3/2017. Authored by Langley Hester. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

Because of the restrictions heaped upon Germany after the close of World War 1 (1914-1918), its military buildup heading into World War 2 (1939-1945) was mostly handled in secrecy. Tanks were developed under the guise of farming equipment and aircraft were developed under civilian motives. The latter proved the case for the Heinkel 59, a maritime biplane that went on to serve the German military throughout most of the Second World War. 142 of the type were produced with a first flight recorded in September of 1931, a service introduction in 1935, and formal retirement coming in 1944. The He 59 was also a Battle of Britain (1940) veteran.

The Heinkel concern of Germany was established in 1922 during the post-World War 1 years by Ernst Heinkel himself. In the 1930s, the German military was restructuring and growing in its capabilities by a variety of means. At the beginning of the decade, Heinkel was in development of a new biplane to interest the German Navy (Reichsmarine) under the guise (to the watching world) that it was a civilian-minded passenger/cargo hauler. This product became the He 59 and begat both a sea-based floatplane and land-based prototype as the He 59a and He 59b respectively. The land-based b-model product was the first to achieve flight between the two though the sea-based a-model became the definitive form.

The aircraft featured a traditional biplane wing arrangement encompassing an upper and lower wing section braced by a network of struts and cabling. The fuselage was of a generally tubular shape though with slab-style side panels. A dual-engine configuration was accepted and these nacelles were set outboard of the fuselage within the bays of the biplane wing assembly. Open-air cockpits were featured for the standard operating crew of three to four personnel. The tail unit showcased a single vertical fin with low-set horizontal planes. Dimensionally, the He 59 became a relatively large seaplane with a running length of 57 feet, a wingspan of 77.8 feet, and a height of 23.3 feet. The floatplane version held two large pontoons as its undercarriage and these housed fuel stores as well. Overall construction of the aircraft was of fabric, steel, and wood. An internal bomb bay was also fitted.
The German Luftwaffe adopted the He 59 as a torpedo bomber and maritime reconnaissance platform. In time, these roles broadened to also include mine-laying, general transport, search/rescue, and pilot training. A collection of these aircraft were used by the German Condor Legion operating during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the war proving a testbed of sorts for new German equipment such as the famous Messerschmitt Bf 109 monoplane fighter. When World War found Europe once more in September of 1939, the aircraft was again pressed into its base torpedo attack role with mine-laying duties as well. Reconnaissance sorties were peppered throughout its early service career before the line was used in the other listed roles heading into 1942. The Finnish Air Force operated no more than four of the type in the reconnaissance role and this only for a short while in 1943. By 1944, the series had met its technological and operational end - heavily outclassed by new breeds of floatplanes and intercepting monoplane fighters of the enemy.

In practice, the He 59 was regarded as a good handling aircraft though not without fault in its design. The engines - 2 x BMW VI ZU V12 liquid-cooled engines of 660 horsepower each - were deemed underpowered for the airframe and thusly performance was never up to par. Performance specifications included a maximum speed of 137 miles per hour with cruising speeds in the 115mph range. Operational ranges (585 base miles, 950 miles ferry) were another limiting quality that forced reliance on auxiliary fuel tanks for increased service reaches. The aircraft's service ceiling reached 11,480 feet. Armament was another noted deficiency of the product - 3 x 7.92mm MG 15 machine guns were used in defensive positions at the nose, dorsal, and ventral areas. The offensive-minded bomb load equaled 2,200lb of conventional drop bombs or a single 1,764lb torpedo. Generally slow and plodding, the He 59 could easily fall victim to Allied fighters or warships happening to come across it.

Heinkel built several variants of its He 59 product led by the He 59a and He 59a "one-off" prototypes. He 59A were fourteen test aircraft He 59B-1 served as sixteen preproduction mounts. The He 59B-2 was an improved form and He 59B-3 became a reconnaissance minded variant. He 59C-1 was an unarmed trainer followed by He 59C-2 as an Air-Sea rescue aircraft outfitted with appropriate equipment. He 59D-1 was a "combination" mark that included the facilities and functionality of both the C-1 and C-2 variants. He 59E-1 was a dedicated torpedo bomber trainer and He 59E-2 a reconnaissance trainer. Similarly He 59N served in navigation training and were converted through a stock of existing He 59D-1 airframes.






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 150mph
Lo: 75mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (137mph).

    Graph average of 112.5 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Heinkel He 59B's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
142
142


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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Origin: Nazi Germany
Year: 1935
Type: Reconnaissance / Attack Floatplane Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Heinkel - Nazi Germany
Production: 142
Global Operators:
Finland; Nazi Germany; Spain
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Heinkel He 59B model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
3 or 4


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
57.09 ft


Meters
17.4 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
77.76 ft


Meters
23.7 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
23.29 ft


Meters
7.1 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
11,045 lb


Kilograms
5,010 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
20,106 lb


Kilograms
9,120 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
2 x BMW VI 12-cylinder liquid-cooled engines developing 660 horsepower each.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
137 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
220 kph


Knots
119 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
1,087 mi


Kilometers
1,750 km


Nautical Miles
945 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
11,483 ft


Meters
3,500 m


Miles
2.17 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
660 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
201 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft aerial torpedo
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (4):

STANDARD:
1 x 7.92mm MG 15 machine gun in nose position
1 x 7.92mm MG 15 machine gun in dorsal position
1 x 7.92mm MG 15 machine gun in ventral position

OPTIONAL:
Up to 2,200lb of conventional drop ordnance (2 x 1,100lb OR 4 x 550lb OR 20 x 110lb bombs) OR 1 x 1,764lb torpedo.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• He 59 - Base Series Designation
• He 59a - Initial one-off floatplane prototype
• He 59b - Initial one-off land-based prototype
• He 59A - Evaluation aircraft; 14 examples
• He 59B-1 - Pre-production aircraft; 16 examples
• He 59B-2 - Improved B-1 model
• He 59B-3 - Dedicated reconnaissance model
• He 59C-1 - Unarmed trainer variant
• He 59C-2 - Search and Rescue (SAR) variant
• He 59D-1 - Combination variant of C-1 and C-2 marks
• He 59E-1 - Torpedo Bomber Trainer
• He 59E-2 - Reconnaissance Trainer
• He 59N - Navigation Trainer; converted from existing D-1 production models.