Heinkel He 112

The Heinkel He 112 was a fighter aircraft designed by Walter and Siegfried Günter. It was one of four aircraft designed to compete for the Luftwaffe's 1933 fighter contract. Small numbers were used for a short time by the Luftwaffe, and small runs were completed for several other countries, but less than 100 were completed in total. It remains one of the least known production fighter designs.

The first prototype, He 112 V1, was completed on 1 September 1935, but as the planned Junkers Jumo 210 engine was unavailable, a 518 kW (695 hp) Rolls-Royce Kestrel Mk IIS was fitted. Initial test flights at the factory revealed that drag was much higher than expected, and that the aircraft was not going to be as fast as originally predicted. The V1 was sent off to be tested by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) in December at Travemünde.

The second prototype, V2, was completed on 16 November. It had the 477 kW (640 hp) Jumo 210C engine and a three-blade propeller, but was otherwise identical to the V1. Meanwhile, the data from the V1 factory flights was studied to discover where the unexpected drag was coming from. The Günter brothers identified the large, thick wing as the main culprit, and designed an entirely new smaller and thinner wing with an elliptical planform. As a stop-gap measure, V2 had its wings clipped by 1.010 m (3 ft 7 in) to allow it to compete with the 109. This made the He 112 creep over the wing loading requirements in the specifications, but with the 109 way over the limit, this was not seen as a problem, and the V2 was sent off for testing.

The V3 took to the air in January. Minor changes included a larger radiator, fuselage spine and vertical stabilizer, but it was otherwise largely the same as the clipped wing V2. Other changes included a single cover over the exhaust ports instead of the more common "stack", and it also included modifications to allow the armament to be installed in the cowling. It was expected to join the V2 in testing, but instead was assigned back to Heinkel in early 1937 for tests with rocket propulsion. During a test, the rocket exploded and the aircraft was destroyed, but in an amazing effort the V3 was rebuilt with several changes, including an enclosed cockpit.

The He 112 V1 started in the head-to-head contest when it arrived at Travemünde on 8 February 1936. The other three competitors had all arrived by the beginning of March. Right away, the Focke-Wulf Fw 159 and Arado Ar 80 proved to be lacking in performance, and plagued with problems, and were eliminated from serious consideration.

At this point, the He 112 was the favorite over the "unknown" Bf 109, but opinions changed when the Bf 109 V2 arrived on 21 March. All the competitor aircraft had initially been equipped with the Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine, but the Bf 109 V2 had the Jumo. From that point on, it started to outperform the He 112 in almost every way, and even the arrival of the Jumo-engined He 112 V2 on 15 April did little to address this imbalance.

Testing continued until October, at which point some of the additional zero series aircraft had arrived. At the end of September, there were four He 112s being tested, yet none was a match for the Bf 109. From October on, the Bf 109 appears to have been selected as the winner of the contest.

General characteristics
  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 9.22 m (30 ft 11 7/8 in)
  • Wingspan: 9.09 m (29 ft 9¾ in)
  • Height: 3.82 m (12 ft 6¾ in)
  • Wing area: 17 m² (183 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 1,617 kg (3,565 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 2,248 kg (4,957 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Junkers Jumo 210Ga liquid-cooled inverted V12 engine, 522 kW (700 hp)

  • Maximum speed: 510 km/h (317 mph)
  • Range: 1150 km (715 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 9,500 m (31,200 ft)
  • Wing loading: 132 kg/m² (27.1 lb/ft²)

  • 2 × 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns with 500 rpg
  • 2 × 20 mm MG FF cannons with 60 rpg, in the wings

** Heinkel He 112 - Warbird Fare

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