Heinkel He 59

He 59B-2

The design project for this large fuselage torpedo-bomber/reconnaissance biplane was begun in 1930 by Reinhold Mewes of the Heinkel company, and was the largest of the company's designs up to that time. The first prototype to fly, the He 59A (D-2215), was of sturdy appearance with a faired-in wheeled undercarriage and was powered by two 492kW / 660-hp BMW VI liquid-cooled engines. The airframe comprised a welded steel-tube fuselage, with wooden frame wings, all of which were fabric covered.

As its intended role was for overwater reconnaissance, all production models and the He 59B first prototype (which was the second example to fly) were fitted with twin-float undercarriages. After service trials of the He 59A, production began in spring 1932 with a pre-series batch of 16 armed He 59B-1s. It is fairly certain that these were built by Heinkel, but the next production orders, for 140 He 59B-2s and B-3s, were executed by the Arado Flugzeugwerke. The B series differed basically in internal equipment only. The B-1s were equipped with a 7.9-mm (0.311-in) ring-mounted MG 15 machine-gun in the extreme nose. Two additional MG 15s were fitted on the He 5913-2, in the dorsal and ventral positions. A crew of four was carried. A long-range reconnaissance version, the He 59B-3, carried extra fuel in place of one of the guns.

In 1936 10 He 59B-2s were sent to Spain to join the Legion Condor, their floats prompting the nickname “Zapatones," or "Big Shoes," three of the planes being transferred to Franco when the Germans returned home.

The He 59C-1, used for training, had additional maritime navigation equipment installed and all armament deleted. The He 59C-2 was used for air-sea rescue duties and it too was unarmed, carrying instead six dinghies plus additional radio equipment. Other variants included the He 59D-1 for air-sea rescue and training, with a rounded, all-metal 'solid' nose; the He 59E-1 torpedo trainer; and the He 59E-2 photographic reconnaissance trainer model. All of the C, D and E models were converted for their various roles from He 59B aircraft of the original order by the Walter Bachmann Flugzeugbau. The He 59N was a Bachmann conversion from the He 59D-1 for specialized navigation training duties, and was equipped to carry a practice torpedo plus smoke bombs.

Although more or less obsolescent when it entered service with the Luftwaffe in 1934, the He 59 was to remain in production for four more years and in service for about a decade, not disappearing finally from active duty until the middle of the Second World War. Its long service was due chiefly to the versatility of its roomy fuselage, virtually all of which was available for crew and payload since fuel was carried in the floats. In the maritime bomber role, this meant the ability to carry two 500-kg (1100-lb), four 250-kg (550-lb) or 12 50-kg (110-lb) bombs internally; or, alternatively, one or two 700-kg (1540-lb) or 1000-kg (2200 lb) externally-slung torpedoes.

The He 59 was 'blooded' in the latter part of 1936 in the Spanish Civil War as part of the Luftwaffe’s Legion Kondor, operating both in the maritime role and as a night bomber. Some examples were fitted with a 20-mm (0.79-in) MG FF cannon for attacks on shipping. At the start of the Second World War there were still about 30 He 59s on the strength of the Kustenfliegergruppe (coastal aviation group) covering the North Sea area. In addition to the majority by then employed in various training roles, the He 59 continued in Luftwaffe service until as late as 1943 on air-sea rescue, mine-laying, convoy-shadowing and coastal reconnaissance duties, latterly in the somewhat less dangerous waters of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Seas. It was important as an electronic-warfare platform and as a special trials aircraft.




He 59B-2
Engine: 2 x BMW VI 6.0 ZU, 485kW
Max take-off weight: 9100 kg / 20,100 lb
Empty weight: 5440 kg / 11993 lb
Wingspan: 23.7 m / 77 ft 9 in
Length: 17.4 m / 57 ft 1 in
Height: 7.1 m / 23 ft 4 in
Wing area: 153.4 sq.m / 1651.18 sq ft
Max. speed: 240 km/h / 149 mph
Cruise speed: 205 km/h / 127 mph
Range w/max.fuel: 800 km / 497 miles
Crew: 4
Armament: 1-2 7.92mm machine-guns 15 or 1 x 20mm machine-guns FF cannon