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Heinkel He 112 light fighter

Written by Sakhal

The Heinkel He 112 was conceived and realized in the first 1930s; the first prototype flew in the summer of 1935, being built another six exemplars for experimental purposes. A series of thirty He 112 were submitted to the Luftwaffe for evaluation in 1938. Finally the He 112 lost against the Messerschmitt Bf 109 the contest to decide which of both aircraft should be the new fighter for the Luftwaffe, the one that would replace the outdated biplanes Heinkel He 51 and Arado Ar 68. Not discouraged by this rejection, Heinkel offered his new fighter for exportation; the prototype V12 and twelve exemplars of the preseries version He 112B-0 were delivered to the Japanese Navy in the spring of 1938, being designated A7He1 by their new owners. After a brief service with a Gruppe of the Luftwaffe during the Crisis of the Sudetes (October 1938), seventeen He 112B-0 entered service with the Group 5-G-5 of the Spanish Nationalist Air Force during the last stages of the Spanish Civil War. In 1939 twenty-four exemplars were delivered to the Romanian Air Force (thirteen He 112B-0 and eleven of the series model He 112B-1), being used during a brief period in the Eastern Front (1941-42). To Hungary were sent the prototype V9 and three He 112B-1, for evaluation only, being these refused again in favor of the Me Bf 109.

And however the He 112 were regarded as excellent fighters, very liked by their pilots; their performance in the Spanish Civil War was which attracted the attention of Romania upon them. Still, the He 112 failed as a project and only a total of 68 exemplars were built, remaining controversial the reasons for the rejection in Germany, while it is known that the high price of this aircraft prevented the demand of more units from foreign countries. The He 112 was of entirely metallic construction and its silhouette was very modern for its time. It was notable its reduced relation wingspan/lenght in comparison with most contemporary aircraft, and the same could be said about the clean cockpit canopy, which granted great visibility - surpassing in this regard the Me Bf 109 - and was unusual in the 1930s. The engine was a Junkers Jumo 210Ea of twelve cylinders disposed in inverted V, refrigerated by water and with a power output of 680 horsepower, which actuated on a two-bladed metallic propeller, allowing for a maximum speed of 510 kilometers/hour at an altitude of 4700 meters, with a normal operational range of 1100 kilometers. The range was another notable feature of the He 112, largely surpassing in this regard the Me Bf 109, whose reduced operational range hindered the German efforts during the Battle of Britain.

Development record

Production started with six prototypes (V1 to V6, project He 112A), on which different propulsion plants and armaments - as well as designs for wings and tails - were tested. A second series of prototypes (V7 to V12) was later produced (being the V11 a reconverted He 112B-0), on which fuselage, wings and tails were redesigned, and several engines tested. The He 112B-0 was the preseries model, fitted with engine Jumo 210Ea of 680 horsepower, of which 43 exemplars were produced (A7He1 was the designation given to the He 112B-0 by the Japanese Navy, which received 12 exemplars). The He 112B-1 was the series model, fitted with engine Jumo 210G of 700 horsepower and revised exhaust system, but only 14 exemplars were produced. The He 112E was a project for an exportation version, fitted with engines Jumo 210G, Jumo 210Ea or DB 601Aa.

The He 112 in Spain

In December 1936 a He 112B was transferred to the Condor Legion, operating sporadically for experimental purposes. Later it was constituted a squadron piloted by Germans to test its behavior in flight. In 1938 a total of nine He 112B were integrated in the recently constituted Fighter Squadron adopting, like the Fiat CR-32, the ensign of Garcia Morato and the numeral starting by 5-1. They took part in the campaign of Catalonia, and after its end, the already fifteen He 112B were integrated along with the Me Bf 109 in the Group 5-G-5, receiving then a numeral starting by 5-51. These aircraft rarely engaged in combat, and their only registered victory was the downing of a Polikarpov I-15 by Garcia Pardo; they were used in surveillance patrols at sea, giving cover to the Nationalist Fleet. Before the end of the Spanish Civil War, two of them crashed, causing the death of their pilots, Garcia Pardo and Rogelio Garcia de Juan. After the war, together with the Fiat G-50, eighteen He 112 were integrated in the African Mixed Regiment, based in Melilla, with the ensign of the birds used by Garcia Morato being replaced by the jumping greyhound. The He 112B was then the best fighter that Spain had destined in North Africa.

In November 1942 the Allies started to disembark troops in French Morocco and Algeria, which virtually expanded the reachings of the Second World War to the Spanish border. The Allied aviation took the vicious habit of flying carelessly over Spanish airspace in occasion of these landings, which caused irritation in Spain, but patience always prevailed, avoiding Spanish fighters any hostility towards the trespassers. These encounters took place during months without trouble, but skirmishes between the He 112 and the Dewoitine 512 from the France of Vichy were registered several times, albeit without fatal consequences. Still, the good will would have a limit... The 3rd March 1943, a formation of American fighter-bombers was detected crossing Spanish airspace again, so a group of He 112 took off from Nador to intercept them. This was the regular procedure, to intercept the Allied aircraft to expel them, without attacking. However, Lieutenant Miguel Entrena had different plans in that occasion...

With his He 112B he climbed to an altitude of 3500 meters and took notice of a group of eleven P-38F twin-engined heavy fighters flying in two formations at different altitudes. To perform the attack, Entrena reached an altitude of 4000 meters, placing his aircraft between the sun and the American aircraft. From the two formations, he choose the upper one and started a effectuated a fast dive while shooting, hitting with several 20-millimeter projectiles one of the P-38F, whose larboard engine started to flame. The aircraft dropped its external fuel tanks and abandoned the formation, followed by Entrena, who demanded the American pilot to parachute. But this one preferred to keep control of his aircraft, risking his life in an attempt to avoid being interned in Spain; fortunately for him he reached French-controlled territory in an emergency belly landing. Up to this day the He 112 piloted by Entrena is the only Spanish aircraft that shot down an American aircraft, in an incident that could have had ugly consequences for Spain.

Heinkel He 112 light fighter

Upper aircraft: He 112B-0 based in Spanish Morocco in 1942-43. Lower aircraft: He 112B-0 used by the Legion Condor during 1938-39.

Heinkel He 112 light fighter

In 1996, in the cover of the monograph number 159 about the He 112, published by American editorial Squadron/Signal Publications Inc., it was depicted the scene featured by Spanish pilot Miguel Entrena.

Specifications for He 112B-1

Type: Fighter

Propulsion plant: One Junkers Jumo 210G of 700 horsepower

Maximum speed at an altitude of 4700 meters: 510 kilometers/hour

Time to reach 6000 meters of altitude: 10 minutes

Operational range: 1100 kilometers

Service ceiling: 8500 meters

Weight (empty): 1620 kilograms

Weight (full load): 2250 kilograms

Wingspan: 9.10 meters

Lenght: 9.30 meters

Height: 3.85 meters

Wing area: 17 square meters

Armament: Two 7.92-millimeter machine guns in the flanks of the nose and two MG FF 20-millimeter cannons in the wings; capability for carrying three 10-kilogram bombs under each wing

Article updated: 2015-07-18

Categories: Aircraft - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-11-13

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