Heinkel He 119

The Heinkel He 119 was an unusual twin-engined high speed reconnaissance and bomber aircraft that used a pair of engines to power a single propeller. Despite setting a speed record in November 1937 the unusual design didn't win approval from the German Air Ministry, and the type never entered production.

Heinkel's original aim was to produce an unarmed bomber or reconnaissance aircraft that would use its speed to escape from enemy fighters, the same idea that would later produce the de Havilland Mosquito. The aircraft was designed by Siegfried Günter, whose aim was to produce the most streamlined aircraft possible.

In order to achieve this he decided to mount two Daimler Benz DB 601 engines in the centre of the fuselage, behind the cockpit. These engines were paired to produce a DB 606 A-1 double engine, which drove the nose-mounted propeller via a long shaft which ran through the nose of the aircraft (a similar design was used on the Bell Airacobra). At first Günter hoped that surface evaporation would produce enough cooling, but this wasn't the case, and so the first prototype had to be given an improvised 'bath' type radiator under the nose, while later aircraft had a less bulky retractable radiator.

In order to further reduce drag the cabin was built into the nose, which was almost entirely glazed. This gave the crew a very good view, although in some light the windows could turn into a 'hall of mirrors'.

The He 119V1 made its maiden flight in the summer of 1937. It was just as fast as Heinkel had hoped, but the German Air Ministry weren't interested in an unarmed aircraft. Heinkel modified the prototype to carry two MG 15s on flexible mounts, located behind sliding panels in the mid fuselage, and when this wasn't acceptable, were forced to move the guns into standard dorsal and ventral positions.

The second prototype, V2, was given the semi-retractable radiator, and a fully equipped weapons bay. It underwent tests at Rechlin towards the end of 1937, as a two-seat unarmed bomber. With a top speed of 363mph at 14,000ft it would have been very difficult to intercept.  

The third prototype, the V3, was built with twin floats, as an anti-shipping and maritime reconnaissance aircraft. It carried a camera bay in the rear fuselage, and a single dorsal mounted MG 15, and had a redesigned tail.

The V4 made the biggest impact on the outside world (although not under its own name). On 22 November 1937 it set a new world record on a 1,000km closed circuit course, reaching an average speed of 313.78mph (505kph) while carrying a 1,000kg payload. When this achievement was announced to the world the aircraft was described as a Heinkel He 111U. The V4 itself was very short-lived, and was destroyed in a forced landing during December 1937.

Despite its high speed the German Air Ministry wasn't interested in the He 119 and it never entered production.

Eventually eight prototypes were built. V5 and V6 were built early in 1938, as pre-production aircraft for the three-seat reconnaissance aircraft, while V7 and V8 were the pre-production aircraft for the planned He 119B bomber. After both of these projects were cancelled the V7 and V8 were sold to Japan as part of a short-lived plan to build the aircraft under licence. The remaining five prototypes were used as test beds for a series of different coupled engines.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (23 November 2009), Heinkel He 119 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_heinkel_he_119.html

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