Aviation & Aerospace - Airpower 2024 - Aircraft by Country - Aircraft Manufacturers Vehicles & Artillery - Armor 2024 - Armor by Country - Armor Manufacturers Infantry Small Arms - Warfighter 2024 - Small Arms by Country - Arms Manufacturers Warships & Submarines - Navies 2024 - Ships by Country - Shipbuilders U.S. Military Pay 2024 Military Ranks Special Forces by Country

Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant)

Six-Engine Heavy Transport Aircraft

Nazi Germany | 1943

"The Messerschmitt Me 323 Giant had its origins in the massive Me 321 unpowered military glider."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 01/21/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
No sooner had the Messerschmitt Me 321 unpowered glider entered service that a powered version was being requested by the German Luftwaffe. Messerschmitt responded with two distinct prototype forms, both based on the earlier Me 321 glider prototype. The new aircraft was assigned the designation of "Me 323" and the first prototype - the Me 323 V1 - was fitted with four French Gnome-Rhone GR14N radial piston engines of 990 horsepower each along her wing leading edges. The second prototype - the Me 323 V2 - was given six such Gnome-Rhone engines. The use of six engines (as well as rocket-assisted take-offs - known today as "RATO") in the latter prototype meant that the Me 323 would no longer require the use of tug aircraft to get airborne. The Me 323 V1, on the other hand, still required use of a tug plane or, in the case of the dangerous "Troikaschlepp" arrangement, 3 x tethered Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighters. As such, German authorities selected for the Me 323 V2 for serial production and netted ten pre-production forms under the designation of Me 323 D-1. The Me 323 "Gigant" was formally introduced for service in 1943 with some earlier forms being conversions of existing Me 321 gliders and some even fitting two-bladed propellers over the more conventional three. Production spanned from 1942 to 1944 to which some 200 or so were produced.

Messerschmitt Me 323 Walk-Around

The lines of the Me 323 followed closely to that of the preceding Me 321 glider, the key identifiable feature being its use of six engines, three to a wing, for its own propulsion. To not tax the German need for viable aircraft engines to arm their fighters and bombers, the selection of a French-made powerplant made sense in the production process as these French facilities were now under German control. The type still exhibited a slow and ponderous nature but her wheeled landing system was now fixed (the Me 321 made use of a jettisonable wheeled dolly and landed on skids), her defensive armament was further addressed and her internal carrying capacity remained larger than what was offered through the older Junkers Ju 52 three-engined workhorse. She could haul over 100 soldiers, a tank, armored vehicle, large caliber field gun or medical patients with support staff as needed. Construction remained as on the Me 321 before it - steel tubing along the fuselage and wood covered over in fabric along the wings - the latter to save on weight. Defensive armament consisted of 5 x 7.92mm machine guns and the aircraft operated by two personnel, specialists and gunners. The Me 323 was still a large and heavy airframe and lacked any sort of defensive agility which eventually made her fodder to Allied guns.

The Changing German Situation in Africa

By this time in the war, German General Erwin Rommel faced an ever-changing situation against British and Commonwealth forces in North Africa. His supply lines ran down through the Mediterranean from Italy, across nearby Malta and ended at Tunisian ports. However, the British still maintained control of Malta and targeted the German convoys at any chance - at times resulting in only one of every four vessels making it to Tunisia. Despite a massive Luftwaffe bombing campaign, Malta would eventually claim to never have fallen under Hitler's sphere of influence throughout all of World War 2.

Article Continues Below Advertisement...
The Me 323 in Action

With the situation in North Africa needing attention, it was thought to utilize the Me 323 to resupply Rommel's forces where the convoys were failing. In November of 1942, the first Me 323s were being used for exactly that. Unfortunately, as with the Me 321 gliders before it, the slow Me 323 proved no match for British fighter patrols even when fielded with capable fighter escort protection themselves. An inherent advantage to the Me 323 was its ability to withstand a great deal of punishment from machine gun fire thanks to its large wooden structure - only the engines, cockpit and fuel stores were large critical areas that could render the aircraft uncontrollable. However, the lack of agility for the Me 323 meant that the pilot could not enact some sort of helpful defensive maneuver to avoid enemy attack. The onboard defensive machine guns and (later) cannon certainly helped to keep enemy fighters at bay but their reach was only so far. Defensive armament was continually addressed in future marks (to include heavier caliber machine guns and cannons) but this did little to stave off elimination of many Me 323s attempting the run across Mediterranean skies. Losses for the Me 323s in the Mediterranean Theater mounted and ultimately forced its withdrawal to the Eastern Front within time in support of the German Army against the Soviets. Africa was eventually lost to the Allies and the stage was set for the Allied invasions of Italy and France in the near future.

Me 323 Production

Sources vary as to the exact number of completed Me 323s for the inclusion of former Me 321 gliders converted to serve as powered Me 323 transports tends to muddle the numbers. Regardless, at least 200 of the type were in service at one time or another though, interestingly, not a single example survived the war intact.

Me 323 Production Marks

The initial production model was the Me 323 D-1 which fitted 6 x Gnome-Rhone 14N series radial engines. The Me 323 E-1 was the follow-up to the series that introduced 2 x armed HDL 151 series turrets (each mounting 20mm MG 151/20 cannon) into the upper wing surfaces for improved defensive capabilities. The Me 323 E-2 came online next but its turrets were now EDL 151 models that sported low-drag designs for better aerodynamics and 6 x Junkers Jumo 21 1R engines were fitted. The Me 323 E-2WT fitted an additional turret in the front of the aircraft fuselage to further help improve the defensive network.

Me 323 Prototypes and Proposals

Beyond the production models, the Me 323 was trialed as several prototype forms. This included the Me 323 V-13 with its 6 x Gnome-Rhone 14N 48/49 series engines (basis of the Me 323 E series production model), the Me 323 V-14 with its 6 x Junkers Jumo 211F series engines, the Me 323 V-16 with its 6 x Junkers Jumo 211R engines and the Me 323Z "Zwilling" ("Twins") heavy transport/heavy bomber proposal which fitted two Me 323 fuselages against a central wing appendage - similar in scope to the Heinkel He 111Z "Zwilling" development detailed elsewhere on this site. A single Me 323Z prototype was completed but lost to accident in July of 1944.

Content ©MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Messerschmitt Me 323D Gigant (Giant) Six-Engine Heavy Transport Aircraft.
6 x Gnome-Rhone 14N 48/49 14-cylinder 2-row radial piston engines of 1,140 horsepower each.
168 mph
270 kph | 146 kts
Max Speed
13,123 ft
4,000 m | 2 miles
Service Ceiling
497 miles
800 km | 432 nm
Operational Range
710 ft/min
216 m/min
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Messerschmitt Me 323D Gigant (Giant) Six-Engine Heavy Transport Aircraft.
92.5 ft
28.20 m
O/A Length
181.1 ft
(55.20 m)
O/A Width
33.3 ft
(10.15 m)
O/A Height
60,252 lb
(27,330 kg)
Empty Weight
94,799 lb
(43,000 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant) Six-Engine Heavy Transport Aircraft .
5 x 7.92mm MG 81 machine guns in nose
6 x 7.92mm MG 34 machine guns in beam positions

11 x 20mm MG 151 cannons
4 x 13mm MG131 machine guns

1 x 35,400lbs (17.7 ton) bomb
Notable series variants as part of the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant) family line.
Me 323 V1 - Prototype Model; fitted with 4 x Gnome-Rhone 14N engines.
Me 323 V2 - Prototyep Model; fitted with 6 x Gnome-Rhone 14N engines.
Me 323 D-1 - Initial Production Model based on the Me323V2 prototype; fitted with 6 x Gnome-Rhone 14N engines; initially limited to 2 x 7.92mm MG 15 machine guns for defensive purposes.
Me 323 E-1 - Follow-Up Production Model; wing-mounted defensive turrets introduced.
Me 323 E-2 - Third Production Model
Me 323 E-2WT - Implementation of forward turret emplacement.
Me 323 V16 - Prototype Model; fitting 6 x Jumo 211 R engines.
Me 323 V17 - Prototype Model; fitting 6 x Gnome-Rhone GR14R engines of 1,320 horsepower each; never completed.
Me 323 F - Proposed Production Model based on the Me 323V16 prototype.
Me 323 G - Proposed Production Model based on the Me 323V17 prototype.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 200 Units

Contractor(s): Messerschmitt AG - Nazi Germany
National flag of modern Germany National flag of Nazi Germany

[ Nazi Germany ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 200mph
Lo: 100mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (168mph).

Graph Average of 150 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
1 / 10
Image of the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant)
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
2 / 10
Image of the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant)
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
3 / 10
Image of the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant)
Image from the German Federal Archives.
4 / 10
Image of the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant)
Image from the Public Domain.
5 / 10
Image of the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant)
Image from the Public Domain.
6 / 10
Image of the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant)
Image from the Public Domain.
7 / 10
Image of the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant)
Image from the Public Domain.
8 / 10
Image of the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant)
Image from the Public Domain.
9 / 10
Image of the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant)
Image from the Public Domain.
10 / 10
Image of the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant)
Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant) Six-Engine Heavy Transport Aircraft appears in the following collections:
Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Cookies

2024 Military Pay Scale Military Ranks U.S. DoD Dictionary Conversion Calculators Military Alphabet Code Military Map Symbols US 5-Star Generals WW2 Weapons by Country

The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com. No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.

Part of a network of sites that includes Global Firepower, WDMMA.org, WDMMW.org, and World War Next.

©2024 www.MilitaryFactory.com • All Rights Reserved • Content ©2003-2024 (21yrs)