After defeat in World War I and the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forbidden to build military aircraft. But the growing ambition of the Reich dictated the necessity of a new fleet of warplanes, so its gradual increase in aerial might was kept secret. Bombers of the 1930s were an example of this tactic, for example, the Junkers Ju 86 and Heinkel 111.
Junkers Ju 86E
The Junkers Ju 86 was created in 1934 as a dual-purpose aircraft. Officially it was a commercial airliner for Lufthansa and foreign clients that could transport 10 passengers. But the main advantage of this machine was its ability to be easily and quickly transformed into a medium bomber.
Both the civilian and military variants of the Ju 86 were delivered to their customers (Lufthansa and the Luftwaffe) in 1936. One of the features that differentiated those aircraft from others of the time was the usage of Jumo 205 diesel engines.
Several aircraft were sent to Spain for trials, which was in the throes of the Civil War at the time. They were delivered to the Condor Legion. Combat sorties showed multiple flaws in the aircraft’s design, the diesel engines’ unreliability in particular. Later on, the Ju 86 was upgraded for radial petrol BMW 132 engines. Nevertheless, it was disliked among the Luftwaffe and was gradually withdrawn from the frontlines soon after the 1939 Polish campaign. The German air force chose more promising aircraft for the role, the Heinkel He 111 was among them.
The Junkers Ju 86 in World of Warplanes is a Tier III Premium German bomber with a powerful bomb load. High altitude performance, a large HP pool, and efficient machinegun turrets allow it to attack ground targets from relative safety and successfully defend against rare fighters that can climb to its altitude. At the same time, this heavy machine cannot enter active dogfights because of its low speed, dynamics, and maneuverability.
Heinkel He 111 H-2
Just like the Junkers Ju 86, the Heinkel He 111 was created in the 1930s as a dual-purpose aircraft, officially designated as a passenger and post aircraft, but in reality — a medium bomber. But in this case, the machine designed by the Gunther brothers was designed with the demands of the military as a priority. Nevertheless, the capability of carrying passengers was reflected in its design: the fuselage was rather wide for a typical bomber. Still, that peculiar feature later turned out to be useful in combat applications when additional fuel tanks could be installed inside the bomb bays. The main visual difference between civilian and military He 111’s was their nose: a regular metallic one for the former, framed and glassed for better visibility for pilots and navigators on the latter.
Just like the Junkers Ju 86, the Heinkel He 111 was sent to Spain into its own “trial by fire” after conducting several test flights in 1935-36. Fighting with the Condor Legion, it demonstrated quite good performance and conducted many combat sorties. Pilots noted the great handling of the aircraft and relative safety of operations in the regions where enemy fighters could confront them. The second factor was very relative though: the I-15s that fought in Spain on the republican side could not rival the He 111 in terms of speed and altitude. But later on, when the I-16 entered the fray, the He 111 found itself at a disadvantage, with ambushes and intercepts becoming frequent and deadly. This experience showed that the aircraft needed better speed and more powerful engines. With the DB 600 variations used on the first modification, the He 111 became slow and sluggish when carrying a bomb load. Other improvements were made for crew safety and defensive armaments. Multiple changes to the nose and wings were made. As a result, the He 111 received its easily recognizable rounded glass nose. With this variant, the designers implemented a unique feature. Since the heavy curve of the glass cockpit distorted vision and caused reflections when flying in low visibility conditions, they made the pilot’s seat and control organs able to rise up. The pilot’s head then protruded out of the cockpit through a small hatch, covered against the airflow by a short flap.
After numerous improvements, the main modifications to enter mass production were the P- and then H-series. The deficit in DB 601 engines used on the P series necessitated its replacement with the Jumo 211, and with the change in powerplant, the bomber’s designation was changed to He 111 H. Mass production was increased and, during four months in 1939, 400 aircraft were built. During World War II, the bomber was continuously upgraded, receiving new engines, improved defensive armaments, and becoming capable of deploying torpedoes, depth charges, naval mines, and even launching the Fi-103 flying bombs, known as V-1.
The He 111 took part in offensives against Poland, France, USSR, Great Britain, Scandinavian countries, and even African nations. These bombers dropped their loads on Moscow and Kursk, and attacked naval convoys. As the war progressed, the aircraft was gradually switched to a transport role. The He 111 participated in aerial resupply of the German forces encircled near Stalingrad. Its quite good flight characteristics for the time didn’t save it from suffering increasingly heavy losses. Eventually it was phased out for more modern bombers. Different sources state that by autumn 1944, Germany had built 6,500–7,300 Heinkel He 111 bombers of all modifications, but by 25 April 1945, the Luftwaffe operated only 27 of them in a bomber role.
The Heinkel He 111 H-2 in World of Warplanes is a Tier IV Premium bomber with excellent altitude performance and devastating bomb loads. The large HP pool and multiple machinegun turrets with good firing sectors allow it to counter most intercepts at high altitude. Like its lower-tier brother, the He 111 still cannot dogfight at lower altitudes, where its low speed and dynamic characteristics are far inferior to fighters. This is a classic medium bomber built for crushing its targets from high above.