Henschel Hs 126
Henschel Hs 126
In 1935 Henschel developed the parasol-wing Henschel Hs122 short range reconnaissance aircraft as a replacement for the Heinkel He 45 and He 46, but although a few of the 492-kW (660-hp) Siemens SAM 22B-engined aircraft were built, the Hs 122 was not adopted for Luftwaffe use. From it, however, Henschels chief designer Friedrich Nicolaus derived the Henschel Hs 126 which incorporated a new wing, cantilever main landing gear and a canopy over the pilot’s cockpit, the observers position being left open. Making its appearance in 1936 the Henschel Hs 126 V1 was a modified Hs 122A airframe powered by a Junkers Jumo 210.
The pilot was seated in a protected cockpit under the parasol wing and the gunner in an open rear cockpit. The aircraft was of all-metal construction, the wing was a high lift parasol wing was designed by Friedrich Nicolaus and this allowed the Hs 126 to use short and rough landing strips. The wheels had long struts which gave it a nose high appearance on the ground. To reduce drag, spats were sometimes fitted. It had a strut-braced tail unit and tailwheel-type landing gear. Cockpit access was via a ladder on the side and the rear of the cockpit was open to the elements. The gunner/observer had a handheld camera and also operated a Zeiss Rb topographic camera that was located in a bay behind him. The canopy had deflector panels to shield the gunner's gun from the slipstream.
The first prototype was not entirely up to Luftwaffe standards; it was followed by two more development planes equipped with different engines. Following the third prototype, during 1937 Henschel built 10 pre-production Hs 126A-O aircraft based on the third prototype, and some were used for operational evaluation by the Luftwaffe’s Lehrgruppe reconnaissance unit in the spring of 1938.
Initial production version was the Hs 126A-1, generally similar to the pre-production aircraft but powered by the 656-kW (880-hp) BMW 132dc radial engine. Armament comprised one forward-firing 7.92-mm (0.31-in) MG 17 machine-gun, plus one similar weapon on a trainable mounting in the rear cockpit, and five 10-kg (22-lb) bombs or a single 50-kg (110-lb) bomb could be carried on an underfuselage rack. A hand-held Rb 12.5/9x 7 camera in the rear cockpit was supplemented by a Zeiss instrument in a rear-fuselage bay.
The Hs 126 entered service in 1938 after operational evaluation with the Legion Kondor contingent to the Spanish Civil War (in 1938 six were delivered to the Condor Legion and served in Aufklarungsgruppe 88. Five of these survived to be turned over to Spain at the end of the Civil War), and 16 were delivered to the Greek air force.
An improved but similar He 126B-1 was introduced during the summer of 1939, this incorporating FuG 17 radio equipment and either the Bramo 323A-1 or 671-kW (900-hp) 323A-2. The final Hs 129B- 2/R-4 version was armed with a 75 mm cannon.
Luftwaffe Henschels were active during the Polish campaign, the absence of any effective fighter or antiaircratt opposition enabling them to mix in a bit of bombing and strafing with their everyday reconnaissance and Army cooperation duties. RAF and Armee De l’air aircraft weren't so obliging, being present in large numbers and losses among the poorly armed Henschels began to rise alarmingly. By spring, when the "Sitzkrieg" ended in the invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France production of the Hs 26 was being wound down following the RLM's decision to order Focke-Wulf's Fw 189 “Fliegende Alige" into production as a replacement.
By the time the Hs 126A-1 joined the Luftwaffe, the re-equipping of reconnaissance formations was already well advanced, and by the start of World War II in September 1939, Germany already had several good short range observation and long range recon aircraft. Some 13 squadrons were equipped with the He 126 in the invasion of Poland, where it was able to operate as a bomber and ground attack aircraft, as well as in its normal army co-operation, reconnaissance and artillery spotter roles. Luftwaffe Henschels were active during the Polish campaign, the absence of any effective fighter or antiaircratt opposition enabling them to mix in a bit of bombing and strafing with their everyday reconnaissance and Army cooperation duties. RAF and Armee De l’air aircraft weren't so obliging, being present in large numbers and motivated by hostile intent, and losses among the poorly armed Henschels began to rise alarmingly- twenty were lost between 10-21 May. By spring, when the "Sitzkrieg" ended in the invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France production of the Hs 26 was being wound down following the RLM's decision to order Focke Wulf's Fw 189 “Fliegende Alige" into production as a replacement. One Staffel operated Hs 126s in Atrica in support of Rommel's Afrika Korps, but the rest were transferred to the Eastern Front when Operation Barbarossa began, gradually being phased out as Fw 189s arrived from mid 1942 on. Relegated to rear area utility jobs Hs 126s re-entered combat later that same year following the establishment of Storkampfstaffeln for night time harassment, and continued flying these missions against partisans in the Balkans during 1943.
By June 1941, there were 48 squadrons of the aircraft in service - in the aftermath of the campaign in France one squadron, 2.(H)/14 took the Hs 126 to North Africa, where it remained in service until August 1942. This left forty-seven squadrons equipped with the Hs 126 for the invasion of the Soviet Unit. The aircraft was still vulnerable, and began to suffer heavy losses. In the spring of 1942 the Fw 189 began to replace it, and by the end of the year it had gone from use in the front line. From 1942 on, most of the surviving Hs 126s were used as training aircraft but some were used as a glider tug and for night-fighting units (Nachtschlachtgruppen) in specialized close-support and ground attack roles. The Hs 126 was used by NSGr 7 in the Balkans, 3./NSGr 11 in Estonia and 2./NSGr 12 in Latvia. It remained in use in the Balkans until April 1945 and the German collapse. Production of the Hs 126 ended in 1941 and the type was retired from the front line in 1942. Some 800 in total were produced.
Production aircraft were built in Berlin, at Schänefeld and Johannisthal, from 1938 and entered operational service first with AufklGr. 35. By the outbreak of World War II the re-equipment of He 45- and He 46-equipped reconnaissance units with the Hs 126 was well under way. The type was withdrawn progressively from front-line service during 1942 on replacement by the Focke-Wulf Fw 189.