Henschel Hs 129

The Henschel Hs 129 was a World War II ground-attack aircraft fielded by the German Luftwaffe. In combat service the Hs 129 lacked a sufficient chance to prove itself; the aircraft was produced in relatively small numbers and deployed during a time when the Luftwaffe was unable to protect them from attack. Rudolf-Heinz Ruffer scored a large number of his 80 Soviet tank kills in the Hs 129.


Henschel Hs 129
Class Aircraft
Type Attack
Manufacturer Henschel
Production Period 1940 - 1944
Origin Germany
Country Name Origin Year
Germany 1939
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Germany 1942 1945 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Henschel 1940 1944 865 View

By the mid-1930s the German military, as well as its counterparts in other countries, had come to see the main role of ground attack aircraft as the interdiction of logistics and materiel, a task in which targets were often poorly protected and less likely to be protected by strong, well-coordinated defences. For high-value, well-protected tactical targets dive bombers had become the conventional solution. However, the experience of the German Kondor Legion during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) turned this idea on its head. Even though it was equipped with types unsuited to the role, such as the Henschel Hs 123 and cannon-armed versions of the Heinkel He 112, the Kondor Legion proved that ground attack aircraft were a very effective weapon. This led to support within the Luftwaffe for the creation of an aircraft dedicated to this role, and the Reichsluftministerium (RLM; "Reich Air Ministry") requested tenders for a specialized ground attack aircraft.

It was anticipated that the main source of damage to such an aircraft would be small arms fire from the ground, meaning that the plane had to be well-armored around its cockpit and engines. Similar protection was also needed in the canopy, in the form of 75 mm (2.95 in) thick armored glass. The aircraft was expected to be attacking in low-level, head-on strafing runs, so the cockpit had to be located as close as possible to the nose, in order to maximize the visibility of its targets. Another, non-operational, requirement severely hampered the designs: the RLM insisted that the new design be powered by engines that were not being used in existing aircraft, so that the type would not interfere with production of established types deemed essential to the war effort.

Only four companies were asked to submit tenders; three submissions followed and only two of these were considered worthy of consideration: One derived from an existing Focke-Wulf reconnaissance type, the Fw 189, and Henschel's all-new Hs 129.

Role Ground attack
Manufacturer Henschel
First flight 25 May 1939
Introduction April 1942
Retired 1945
Primary users Luftwaffe
Hungarian Air Force
Romanian Air Force
Produced June 1940 – September 1944
Number built 865


General characteristics

  • Crew: one, pilot
  • Length: 9.75 m (31 ft 11¾ in)
  • Wingspan: 14.20 m (46 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 3.25 m (10 ft 8 in)
  • Wing area: 29.0 m² (312.15 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 4,020 kg (8,860 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 5,250 kg (11,574 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Gnome-Rhône 14M 4/5 14-cylinder radial engines, 522 kW (700 hp) each

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 407 km/h (220 knots, 253 mph) at 3,830 m (12,570 ft) (clean)
  • Range: 690 km (372 nmi, 428 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 9,000 m (29,530 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 8.1 m/s (1,595 ft/min)

Armament

  • 2 x 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG-17 MG 17 machine guns, later models from 1943 to 1944 replaced the MG-17s with 2 x 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns
  • 2 x 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons
  • 4 x 50 kg (110 lb) fragmentation bombs on belly racks or a 30 mm (1.2 in) MK 101 armor-piercing gun in a conformally mounted gun pod. Later models could also carry a MK-103 gun pod, or a BK-3.7 gun pod.
  • 2 x 50 kg bombs on underwing mounts

End notes