In the spring of 1938,
Heinkel received from the Reichsluftfahrtministerium a development
contract for its P.1041 project, evolved in response to an official
specification for a long-range heavy bomber. This specification called
for a heavy bomber/anti shipping aircraft with dive bombing
capabilities. This ridiculous specification would prove to be a major
contributor to the He 177s failings.
Although almost 1,200
examples of the resulting Heinkel He 177 Greif (griffon) were built,
the type never fulfilled its potential and, indeed, earned itself the
nickname of the 'Flaming Coffin'. The Daimler-Benz DB 606 engines were
prone to overheating and a number of inflight engine fires occurred.
Six of the original eight aircraft were lost, most due to engine fires,
and many of the first 35 production aircraft (built mainly by Arado)
also suffered the same fate.
Siegfried Gunter, required two 2,000 hp (1491 kW) engines to power his
brainchild, but a suitable power unit in this class was not then
available and two Daimler-Benz DB 601 engines were coupled together to
produce the 2,600 hp (1939 kW) DB 606. Another novel feature of the He
177 was the main landing gear, comprising twin main legs on each side,
which retracted sideways into the wing, inboard and outboard of each
The first prototype
flew on 19 November 1939 at Rostock-Marienehe, in the hands of Dipl.
Ing. Francke of Erprobungsstelle E-2 at Rechlin. This first flight was
cut short when the engine temperatures rose rapidly and vibration was
experienced; the tail surfaces were also judged to be inadequate, and
these were increased in area following the crash of the second
prototype, which disintegrated when flutter was experienced during
diving trials. This trouble also claimed the fourth prototype. The
fifth prototype was the first to be armed (four MG 15 machine-guns
singly mounted in nose, dorsal, ventral and tail positions), and was
the first to suffer an engine fire and be lost. Three more prototypes
were built, the first two with modified nose sections which mounted two
MG FF cannon and an MG 131 machine-gun and following further testing 35
He 177A-0 pre-production aircraft were built, 15 at Rostock, 15 at
Oranienburg and five by Arado at Warnemunde. These were used for
development trials and the conversion training of crews for the initial
production He 177A-1, which was introduced in March 1942. Arado built a
total of 130 in four sub-variants, each with minor armament variations,
under the designations He 177A-1/RI to He 177A-I/R4.
A number of early
production He 177A-Is were delivered in July 1942 for operational
trials with 1./KG 40 at Bordeaux-Merignae, but structural weaknesses in
the wing necessitated substantial redesign, and the first of the
modified He 177A-3s to see service with the Luftwaffe were delivered
during the closing months of 1942. A total of 170 of the A-3 series was
built at Oranienburg, the first 15 being designated He 177A-3/R1 and
retaining the DB 606A/B engines. The remainder of the batch were
powered by DB 610 engines, and included the He 177A-3/R2 with improved
armament, the He 177A-3/R3 carrying three Henschel Hs 293 missiles and
the He 177A-3/R4 having a gondola containing the FuG 203
missile-control equipment. The introduction of a 75 mm (2.95 in) cannon
in a ventral gondola identified the He 177A-3/R5, and three He
177A-3/R7 aircraft were built and equipped to carry two torpedoes.
Final production version was the He 177A-5 featuring a strengthened
wing to allow for the carriage of heavier underwing loads, deletion of
the Fowler flaps, and the introduction of shortened main landing gear
legs. It was produced initially in He 177A-5/RI to He 177A-5/R4
sub-variants with minor armament changes, followed by the He 177A- 5/R5
which mounted a remotely controlled barbette to the rear of the bomb
bay and the generally similar He 177A-5/R6 in which two forward bomb
bays were deleted. The He 177A-5/R7 introduced a pressurised cockpit,
with the He 177A-5/RS was equipped with barbettes in chin and rear
positions. Most interesting were five He 177A-5 aircraft converted to
carry revised offensive armament, the bomb bay area being used to mount
an array of 33 rocket tubes, these weapons being fired upwards at a
forward angle of 60 degrees. Delivered in June 1944, and known as the
He 177 Zerstorer (destroyer), they were flown initially by
Erprobungskommando 25 at Tarnewitz, but it seems unlikely that they
were used operationally.
Six He 177A-6/RI
aircraft were built as development machines for a proposed He 177A-6
production version, including armour protection for the crew
compartment and fuel tanks, and extra armament; and the He 177 V22
served as prototype for the He 177A-6/R2, this variant having a new
forward fuselage and defensive armament of two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon,
plus four MG 81 and three MG 131 machine-guns. The final variant
resulted from the conversion of six He 177A-5 airframes to incorporate
a 118 ft 11/2 in (36.00 m) span wing which had been designed for the
planned He 177A-7 high-altitude bomber, but these were flown with four
DB 610 engines, instead of the intended 3,600 hp (2685 kW) DB 613s
produced by the coupling of two DB 603Gs.
The Henschel 293 Anti-Shipping Guided Missile
During the first half
of 1944 French and German based He 177s took part in Operation 'Steinbock',
an offensive against British targets, making their attacks in a
high-speed shallow dive from altitude. This enabled them to penetrate
the defences without difficulty, but did little for bombing accuracy.
The type also saw service on the Eastern Front, but Germany's critical
fuel supply and the concentration of fighter production and operations
led to virtual withdrawal of the He 177 by the end of 1944. One of
these aircraft which was particularly noteworthy was modified
extensively at Letov in Prague during 1943-44 to provide an enlarged
bomb bay to accommodate the planned German atomic bomb; it was never
The He 177, right from
the start, was doomed to failure. An absurd specification that insisted
a heavy bomber be capable of dive bombing, the fact that no engine with
sufficient power existed and it was pressed into roles that it never
was designed to do. It was only the courage and dedication of the
designers that this plane was made in the numbers it was. This aircraft
was the predecessor for the much improved He 277 and He 274, but the
war ended before they could be built in any numbers.
aircraft used for development and conversion training.
He 177A-1/R1 to R4
130 aircraft built by
Arado in four versions, designated He 177A-1/R1 to He 177A-1/R4 each
with minor variations. Introduced in March 1942.
He 177A-3/R1 to R5/R7
170 aircraft (He
177A-3) built by Heinkel, the first 15 aircraft (He 177A-3/R1) bombers
had DB 606A/B engines and the remainder with DB 610 Engines. The He
177A-3/R2 differed by having improved armament. The He 177A-3/R3
carried three Henschel Hs 293 missiles. The He 177A-3/R4 had a gondola
containing FuG 203 missile-control equipment. The He 177A-3/R5 was
armed with a 75 mm cannon in a ventral gondola for anti-tank or
anti-shipping operations. The He 177A-3/R7 were each equipped to carry
Proposed high altitude
He 177A-5R1 to
A version with
structural modifications, primarily strengthened wing for heavier
underwing loads. The He 177A-5/R1 to He 177A-5/R4 had minor armament
changes. The He 177A-5/R5 had a remotely controlled barbette to the
rear of the bomb bays, the first two of which were deleted in the He
177A-5/R6. The He 177A-5/R7 had a pressurised cockpit and the He
177A-5/R8 had barbettes in chin and rear positions. Five He 177A-5s had
the bomb bay area modified to house an array of 33 rocket tubes, the
weapons being fired upwards at a forward angle of 60'.
Six He 177A-6/R1
aircraft were built as development examples of proposed version with
extra armament, and armour protection for the crew compartment and fuel
tanks. One development aircraft was flown with new forward fuselage and
heavier armament intended for the He 177A-6/R2.
Six He 177A-5 airframes
were modified with a 36 m (118 ft 1 1/2 in) wing intended for the
production He 177A-7, and with DB 610 engines instead of the intended
2685 kW (3,600 hp) DB 613 engines
He 177A-5/R2 Greif "Griffon")
Type: Six Seat
Heavy Bomber and Missile Carrier
Ernst Heinkel AG and Arado Flugzeugwerke
2,950 hp (2200 kW) Daimler-Benz DB 610A/B engines, each comprising of
two 12-cylinder inverted Vee DB 605 engines close-coupled to one
Maximum speed 304 mph (490 km/h) at 19,685 ft (6000 m); cruising speed
258 mph (415 km/h); service ceiling 26,245 ft (8000 m). Initial climb
rate 853 ft (260 m) per minute.
miles (5500 km) with two Hs 293 missiles or SD 1400 X guided bombs.
equipped 37,038 lb (16800 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 68,343
lb (31000 kg).
103 ft 1 3/4 in (31.44 m); length 66 ft 11 1/4 in (20.40 m); height 20
ft 11 3/4 in (6.39 m); wing area 1,097.95 sq ft (102.00 sq m).
7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 81 and three 13 mm (0.51 in) MG 131 machine-guns,
and two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon, plus 2,205 lbs (1000 kg) of bombs
internally and two Henschel Hs 293 or SD 1400 X missiles under the
wings. Could also carry mines or torpedoes. Loadout could be increased
to three missiles, if the bombay was blanked off and racks added to it.
Some aircraft, serving on the Eastern Front, carried 50 mm or 75 mm
cannon for anti-tank operations.
(original project designation), He 177 (prototype), He 177A-0/A-1/A-3,
He 177A-4 (proposed high altitude), He 177A-5/A-6/A-7.
177A-3/R4) FuG 203 missile-control system for use with the Henschel 293
flight (He 177V-1) 19 November 1939, (pre-production He 177A-0)
November 1941, service delivery (A-1) March 1942, (A-5) February 1943,
first flight (He 277V-1) December 1943, He 274 alias AAS 01A) December