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A rapidly developed and efficient air arm equipped with aircraft of the latest types


This Dornier Do.23 is a high-wing monoplane bomber

TWIN-ENGINED BOMBER-TRANSPORT AIRCRAFT which came into use during the early expansion of the German air force. This Dornier Do.23 is a high-wing monoplane with two B.M.W. engines, each of 750 horse-power. The maximum permissible weight for the machine is 20,240 lb., of which 6,160 lb. is military load. The maximum speed is 161 miles an hour. Some of these bombers are still in service.

NO one who watches the European situation can avoid realizing that the German air force has attained significant importance in relation to the military aviation of the whole world. So the study of German military aviation is essential to all those who would become thoroughly conversant with the position.

After the war of 1914-18 German aviation operated under the famous “Nine Rules” of the peace treaty. These were made to distinguish military from civil machines, with the object of preventing Germany from building military machines. They prohibited, for instance, single-seater machines with an engine of more than 60 horse-power, pilotless aircraft, every machine fitted with any form of armour and all machines with a performance exceeding certain figures. From the time when,

in 1932, Germany quitted the Disarmament Conference rumours began to go about that she was building up an offensive air fleet. They grew in strength in 1933 when she left the League of Nations.

In March 1935 General Goering was able to announce the existence of a fully-equipped German air force. It probably did not number 300 first-line aeroplanes, but it had been built up with remarkable swiftness and the programme provided for 2,250 first-line aeroplanes by the summer of 1937.

Unlike the democracies of France and England, Germany, because of her political system, need not state publicly the extent of her air arm, and no official figures have been given. It seems probable — though estimates differ — that the German air force by the summer of 1938 contained some 3,000 first-line aeroplanes. That in itself is a notable feat of production, but what is even more notable is the fact that information available suggests that the technical quality of the machines reaches a high standard.

Among the single-seater fighters which came into service during this building-up period the chief ones were the Heinkel He.51s, with which the famous Richthofen Squadron was equipped. With a 750 horse-power engine, this biplane has a cruising speed of about 174 miles an hour, and it is said to be strongly built and highly manoeuvrable.

Another single-seater is the Henschel Hs.123 dive-bomber, an ugly-looking machine with the top plane much larger in span and chord than the lower plane. This machine has a 650 horse-power B.M.W. engine and a wing span of 34 ft. 5 in. The Immelmann Squadron has these machines. The same maker, Henschel, provides army cooperation machines.

The Junkers Ju.87 has provision for a crew of two.

NEW FIGHTER-BOMBER AEROPLANE in use by the German air force. The aircraft is a Junkers Ju.87, with provision for a crew of two. Two guns are fitted and the aeroplane is capable of carrying a bomb load up to about 1,000 lb. The engine is a Junkers Jumo 210 of over 600 horse-power. The Jumo 210 is a twelve-cylinder inverted V liquid-cooled petrol engine.

Of the bombers which came into service during this period of rapid expansion — some of them are still in service — the best-known are the Junkers Ju.52 and the Dornier Do.23 bomber transport. The Junkers is a low-wing metal machine and the Dornier a high-wing machine. The Dornier has two B.M.W. 750 horse-power engines, and when empty it weighs 12,320 lb. The maximum permissible weight is 20,240 lb, which gives an indication of the possible load. The maximum speed is 161 miles an hour.

These are all of them machines used in the expansion period. While they have been in service, work has been going on in the development of other machines. The result of this work is only recently becoming apparent. Messerschmitt, Heinkel and B.F.W. single-seater fighters incorporate the latest features of design, and have achieved some astonishing performances.

The Messerschmitt Bf 109, which can be fitted either with the 1,000 horsepower Mercedes-Benz or with the 650 horse-power Junkers engine, is a clean low-wing monoplane with retractable undercarriage and enclosed position for pilot. The use of liquid-cooled engines in single-seater fighters for the German air force follows the English practice. The engines are well cowled in, and they have duct type radiators which greatly reduce the cooling drag.

It was a Messerschmitt 109 single-seater fighter which set up at Augsburg on November 11, 1937, a landplane speed record of 379 miles an hour. In 1938 this speed was exceeded by a Heinkel single-seater which flew at a speed of 394 miles an hour.

The two-seater fighter is still being developed in Germany, though for the time being it has been abandoned in Great Britain. The Heinkel two-seater fighter is a mid-wing monoplane with exceptionally clean lines and with a retractable undercarriage. In some ways it bears a slight resemblance to the Fairey Battle bomber of the Royal Air Force.

The latest Dornier bomber has the series number Do.17. It weighs 10,383 lb. empty. The permissible overload weight is about 17,850 lb. With a wingspan of 59 feet and a stalling speed of about 73 miles an hour, this aeroplane is said to have a maximum speed with full military load of 267 miles an hour. This is with two Mercedes-Benz engines and constant-speed airscrews.

The Dornier Do.17 is credited with a maximum speed of 267 miles an hour

A HIGH-SPEED BOMBER of the German air force, the Dornier Do.17, which is credited with a maximum speed of 267 miles an hour. The aircraft weighs 10,383 lb. empty and has a maximum permissible overload weight of 17,850 lb. The wing span is 59 feet and the stalling speed about 73 miles an hour. Two Mercedes-Benz engines are fitted and the landing wheels retract into the engine nacelles.

Germany, while improving the technical qualities of her machines, has not neglected quantity production and her factories are exceptionally well equipped to turn out military aircraft with great rapidity. Certain estimates of production rates have been made by competent observers. One of these estimates was recently published in America.

Value of Gliding Experience

It was said that in 1937 the percentage increase in air strength had reached the figure of 87½ for Germany against Great Britain’s 11. In 1938 other observers in Germany credited the German factories with a monthly output of 370 machines against fewer than 200 in 1937. It was also stated (and denied) that a production rate of 500 machines a month was being sought.

Meanwhile, no difficulty seems to have been experienced in obtaining personnel. The provision of pilots has been greatly aided by the German gliding developments.

When Germany was keeping to the “Nine Rules” and before she had begun to devote herself to building up her air force, she developed the sport of gliding and soaring to an extent not met with elsewhere. The knowledge thus gained was of two kinds, aerodynamic and operational. Her aircraft designers learnt a great deal about the problems they were due to face later when building power machines and the soaring pilots acquired skill in handling sailplanes which stood them in good stead when they were called upon to turn to power flying.

Gliding also helped those in authority to amass information about suitable aerodrome sites, in addition to those earlier established. This information enabled something between three and four hundred aerodromes and landing grounds, civil and military, of varying degrees of elaboration, to be established in Germany. The military aerodromes are mainly concentrated in northern Westphalia and in the Bavarian Plain. In the organization of the German air force there are seven districts. They are based at Berlin, Konigsberg, Brunswick, Munster, Munich, Dresden and Kiel. There is, on the whole, closer collaboration between the army and the air force in Germany than in Great Britain.

MANY FLOAT SEAPLANES are in use by the fleet air arm of the German air service

MANY FLOAT SEAPLANES are in use by the fleet air arm of the German service, although the activities of the fleet section of the German air force are not great. Two aircraft carriers are under construction, but vessels of this nature have not yet been used in service. This photograph shows an officer giving instructions before a practice flight to pilots of float seaplanes. These aircraft are normally stationed on the coasts of the North and Baltic Seas.

Another difference in the constitution of the German air force is that the proportion of bombing aeroplanes is thought to be higher than elsewhere. This is presumably the outcome of the view that aerial defence, in the exact sense, is incomplete and that it must be reinforced to a large extent by counterattack. All air forces visualize counterattack as a vital function, but the British air force is extensively organized for pure defence with single-seater fighters and such devices as the balloon barrage. The German air force, seemingly, looks to the heavy bombardment of an enemy aerodrome to prevent enemy bombers from leaving on their raids.

The correct proportions of fighters and bombers must always be a matter of opinion and different air staffs are likely always to hold different views on this important subject.

So far as the fleet air arm of the German service is concerned, the development is not marked. Two aircraft carriers are under construction, but up to the present no carriers have been in service. The Germans have, however, a large number of float seaplanes, and they have developed catapulting in their commercial aviation to such an extent that their experience of catapulting is equal to that of any other country.

Named After Famous Pilots

German aviation enjoys excellent prestige. Prestige has been encouraged by every possible means by the German authorities. The squadrons are named after illustrious German air pilots, such as Richthofen and Immelmann. In addition, steps have been taken to build up a vigorous and strongly national spirit.

The marking of German military aeroplanes now consists of the Nazi swastika on the tail and the simple cross on wings and fuselage in the positions adopted for the red, white and blue cockades in the Royal Air Force and in the French air force.

Armament in German air force machines has been strengthened by increasing the numbers of guns carried and also by increasing the calibre. What the future will see it is difficult to say. Germany has shown in the past that she is able to combine those two incompatibles, high technical merit and rapid production rate, to a degree rarely achieved in the past.

The use that the Germans made in the war of 1914-18 of a limited number of machines was most ingenious. In particular the “circus” system, whereby full advantage was taken of the mobility of aircraft to throw a highly trained, concentrated force into the field which seemed to offer opportunities for it, proved extremely successful.

This tradition of ingenuity and strategical skill has been handed down to the existing German air force and there is little doubt that it must be regarded at the present time as one of the most powerful in the world. The German air force is being regarded to an increasing extent in Germany as the dominant arm.

SQUADRON OF GERMAN SINGLE-SEAT FIGHTERS lined up on the aerodrome at Dortmund

SQUADRON OF SINGLE-SEAT FIGHTERS lined up on the aerodrome at Dortmund. These aircraft were paid for by a subscription arranged among adherents of Herr Hitler and presented to him on his birthday in 1936. A plain cross, as seen on the second machine in this photograph, is used on the wings and fuselages of all German military aircraft. The swastika is on the tail.

You can read more on “French Air Force”, “Germany’s Air Lines” and “Seaplanes and Their Work” on this website.

The German Air Force