11 Key German Aircraft of World War Two

Tristan Hughes

Twentieth Century World War Two
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The Luftwaffe was the aerial warfare branch of Nazi Germany’s Wehrmacht. From fighting for aerial supremacy in the skies above southern England to dropping Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers) over Crete and spotting enemy convoys in the Arctic, the Luftwaffe fielded various types of aircraft for different purposes.

Below are 11 German aircraft of World War Two.

1. Henschel Hs 123

A Hs 123 in flight, before World War Two.

The German bi-plane Henschel Hs 123 functioned as a ground-attack aircraft. Despite appearing somewhat archaic alongside the more famous monoplanes of the Luftwaffe, the Hs 123 was a firm favourite with its pilots.

They valued the plane’s sturdiness and dependability – it was able to sustain a surprising amount of damage without crashing.

Squadrons of Hs 123s flew into the midst of numerous battles during the early years of World War Two, providing vital support for the ground troops at critical battles, such as at Sedan in 1940.

The Hs 123 continued to see service until 1944. Alongside the British Fairey Swordfish, it proved the high-value of sturdy bi-planes for military operations.

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2. Arado Ar 196

A German Arado Ar 196 float plane is catapulted from a German warship during the Second World War.

The Arado Ar 196 was a shipboard reconnaissance and coastal patrol float seaplane. Launched from catapults, they protected Kriegsmarine vessels from the air, chasing away RAF patrol boats.

They saw service on famous battleships such as the Bismarck and became the standard aircraft of the German navy throughout the war.

3. Blohm und Voss BV 138

An image of a BV 138 published in a British Aircraft guide.

The Flying Clog. The BV 138 was a long-range flying boat primarily tasked with maritime reconnaissance. They played a significant role locating Allied convoys in the Arctic, relaying their position to U-boats and German surface vessels.

The introduction of Sea Hurricanes and Swordfish squadrons to protect the convoys helped mitigate the threat from Bv 138s.

Bv 138s were produced from the start of the war until 1943.

4. Junkers Ju 87

Ju 87 Bs over Poland, September/October 1939.

The ‘Stuka’. During the early stages of World War Two, the Ju 87 dive bomber was considered the supreme aerial weapon.

Ground targets were attacked with remarkable accuracy, while the infamous sound of their Jericho Trumpet siren demoralised Allied soldiers and innocent refugees alike.

The Ju 87 was easy prey for faster and better-armoured fighter planes, however, and therefore only thrived once the Luftwaffe had all-but-assured air superiority. It would have been squadrons of Ju 87s that would have had to disable the British fleet, if the Luftwaffe had won the Battle of Britain.

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5. Messerschmitt Bf 109

Messerschmitt Bf 109G-10 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The museum’s Bf 109G-10 is painted to represent an aircraft from Jagdgeschwader 300, a unit that defended Germany against Allied bombers during World War Two. Image Credit: US Air Force / Commons.

The most-produced aircraft of World War Two. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 formed the backbone of the Luftwaffe’s fighter force, with over 33,000 seeing service on all European fronts.

Like the Spitfire, several variants of the Bf 109 were produced during the war to improve its design.

Bf 109Es, for instance, featured heavily during the Battle of Britain. Though they outclassed the Hurricane and the Defiant, they met their match with the Spitfire.

6. Focke-Wulf Fw 190

A captured Focke-Wulf Fw 190A in replicated Luftwaffe insignia.

The Fw 190 was the Luftwaffe’s 2nd most produced fighter plane of World War Two, behind the Messerschmitt 109. Faster and more manoeuvrable than opposing planes such as the Spitfire V, these planes saw service on all fronts.

Fw 190s gained an infamous reputation among Allied pilots in the west.

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7. Junkers Ju 52

A Luftwaffe Ju 52 being serviced in Crete in 1943. Image Credit: Bundesarchiv / Commons.

The ‘Iron Annie’. The Junkers Ju 52 was the Luftwaffe’s primary transport plane. It served in various theatres of war both before (Spanish Civil War) and during World War Two.

Junkers Ju 52s operated on almost every front during the Second World War, from the airborne invasion of Crete to providing vital logistical support in Norway and the Eastern Front. Though not as elegant as the Messerschmitt 109 or the Focke-Wulf 190, it oversaw a vital logistical role.

It was large air fleets of Ju 52s that tried to get supplies through to the surrounded Germans in Stalingrad, but with little success. Nevertheless Iron Annie’s saw service throughout the war.

A Ju 52 approaching Stalingrad, 1942.

8. Dornier Do 17

Do 17 in the Soviet Union, winter 1941-42. The image provides a clear view of its sleek, pencil-like, outline. Image Credit: Bundesarchiv / Commons.

‘The Flying Pencil.’ Originally a peacetime transport aircraft, the Dornier was developed as a bomber before the Second World War, first seeing service in the preceding Spanish Civil War.

During World War Two the Do 17 saw service in various theatres such as in the central Mediterranean, on the Eastern Front and during the Battle of Britain. It was Do 17s that led the infamous attack on Coventry in November 1940.

9. Heinkel He 111

Heinkel He 111. Image Credit: Bundesarchiv / Commons.

The Heinkel He 111 was one of the Luftwaffe’s main medium bombers. First seeing service in Spain, it featured prominently during the early years of World War Two, but soon proved highly-vulnerable to fighter aircraft such as the Spitfire and Hurricane.

Its iconic glazed nose provided the crews good visibility, but also left them feeling highly-vulnerable. By 1942 the Heinkel He 111 was considered obsolete, but the lack of a replacement in sufficient numbers (such as the He 177 Griffon) ensured it carried on seeing service much longer than it should have.

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10. Messerschmitt Me 262

Me 262 A in 1945. Image Credit: Bundesarchiv / Commons.

The world’s first jet fighter. Over 100 mph faster than their piston-engine opponents, the Me 262 could have been a game changer for the Luftwaffe. Units of Me 262s – armed with rockets and cannon – became the bane of Allied bomber and fighter squadrons due to their fast speed.

To counter the jet fighter, Allied pilots were forced to patrol above enemy airfields – it was only during take off and landing that they had a chance of downing an Me 262.

11. Heinkel He 219 Uhu

He 219 Uhu.

Known as the Eagle Owl, some consider the Heinkel He 219 Uhu to be the best pistol-engine night fighter of World War Two.

Despite its high-quality, few ever ever produced due to disagreements within German High Command. Of the few that were created in the latter stages of the War, they proved superior to the British Mosquito in nocturnal combat and gained a feared reputation among four-engine bomber crews.

Referenced

Shepherd, Christopher 1975 German Aircraft of World War Two Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd.

Tristan Hughes