Aviation Archive Issue 25 - 2016 UK

(Jacob Rumans) #1

HEINKEL He 219 85

Above: Only the P-61 Black Widow shares the
He 219’s unique status of being designed
specifically for night operation. Advanced
features included cannons mounted to fire at an
oblique angle, the first steerable nosewheel on
an operational German aircraft and the world’s
first ejection seats on an operational aircraft.

development of the P1060 and the prototype
made its maiden flight on 6 November 1942
and immediately impressed. Following a
competition with the Ju 88S night fighter in
early 1943, the Luftwaffe ordered 300 He 219s.
Production was delayed when RAF raids on
Heinkel’s Rostock and Vienna-Schwechat
factories destroyed nearly all of the drawings
in March and April 1943. A small batch of
pre-production He 219A-0s was nevertheless
delivered to I/NJG-1 at Venlo, the Netherlands,
in April 1943. The He 129 had an auspicious
baptism of fire when on its first operational
mission, on the night of 11/12 June 1943, an
aircraft, flown by Maj Werner Streib and his
radio operator, downed five British bombers,
four Halifax and one Lancaster.
Power for the principle He 219A-7 model
was derived from a pair of Daimler-Benz DB
603E liquid-cooled inverted V12 inline engines

delivering 1,900hp each. A maximum speed
of 385mph was reported, while its operating
ceiling was near 30,500ft, justifying the use of
the pressurised cockpit. The improved, longer-
wavelength Telefunken FuG-220 Lichtenstein
SN-2 radar was fitted, which was not blinded
by chaff. Equipped with a different but still
clumsy antenna array, called ‘Hirschgeweih’ or
‘antlers’, this radar provided detection out to
4,000m. Any night-fighter was essentially only
as good as its armament and the He 219 did
not disappoint. Its armament suite centred
around four 20mm MG151 cannons situated
in a ventral fairing. An additional two 20mm
MG151 cannons were fitted into the wing roots.
Later versions also had a Schräge Musik gun
installation, with two MK108 cannon firing
obliquely upward from behind the cockpit.
This 30mm cannon was so powerful that three
of its explosive rounds were enough to bring

down a heavy bomber like the Lancaster. The
oblique installation allowed attacks to be made
on bombers from their vulnerable undersides
while avoiding defensive gunfire. Schräge
Musik proved so effective that it became the
preferred armament of the night fighter aces.
Though a capable aircraft and proven in
combat, many factors worked against this fine
machine, keeping the He 219 from achieving
any level of quantitative usefulness. Its impact
on the RAF night-time bombing campaigns was
minimal at best, but offered a glimpse of what
could have been possible.
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