Aviation of World War II
The company Henschel & Son was founded in 1848, in the second half of the 19th century it managed to become one of the world's leading manufacturers of steam locomotives. At the beginning of the 20th century, the company expanded its product range with heavy trucks and metalworking machines. In 1931, the top management of the firm became interested in the aviation business when the Henschel firm tried to take control of the Junkers Flugzeugwerke AG concern, which was on the verge of bankruptcy. Negotiations between representatives of Henschel and Junkers were not crowned with success, after which in February 1932 Oscar R. Henschel instructed Walter Hormel to develop his own aircraft production.
Officially, the "secondary" aircraft production at the company Henschel & Son was founded on February 15, 1933. On March 30, the post of the head of the subsidiary of the main company of Henschel Flugzeugwerke GmbH (Ltd.) was taken by a graduate engineer Erich Koch, the post of chief designer went to a graduate engineer Friedrich Nikolaus. Allocate the factory buildings of the former wagon factory in Berlin-Johannestal for the production of aircraft. Work on the new production began on September 2, the number of the company Henschel Flugzeugwerke GmbH (Ltd.) then numbered 69 people, soon instead of the prefix GmbH (Ltd.) in the name appeared more solid letters AG. The production of aircraft for Henschel was a novelty, so they started with the release of licensed samples. A relatively small plant in Berlin-Johannestal could not fulfill large production orders, it was necessary to expand production capacity. For the construction of the new plant, they chose another Berlin suburb - Schönefeld, construction began on October 15, 1934, and on December 22, 1934, the first aircraft assembled here, the Junker Ju-86D, was rolled out of the gates of the new plant.
In parallel with the development of licensed structures, the design of its own aircraft was carried out, the supply of Henschel Hs-123 biplanes to the Luftwaffe began in the summer of 1936. The first successes in the field of aircraft construction aroused enthusiasm among the company's management, stimulating further expansion of Henschel into the German aircraft market. In August 1936, a grand opening of a plant in Kassel for the production of aircraft engines took place: another "daughter" appeared - the Henschel Flugmotoren GmbH company. In eight years, the Henschel production facility in Kassel has produced more than 14,000 Daimler-Benz DB-601 and DB-605 engines under license. Instead of the Ju-86D bomber, the Schoenefeld plant began to produce another licensed bomb carrier - Dornier Do-17, and the Hs-123 biplane of its own design on the assembly line was replaced by the Hs-126 reconnaissance monoplane, the latter being built at both plants in Schoenefeld and Johannestal. The simultaneous expansion of production and the design office led to a sharp increase in the number of the aviation department of Henschel & Son. Together with Deutsches Versuchsanstalt fur Luftfahrt (DVL), the firm took part in a number of ambitious projects - the creation of pressurized cabins for high-altitude aircraft, corrected aerial bombs, guided air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. In the field of development of corrected and guided gliding bombs, Henschel has achieved outstanding success, in fact becoming the pioneer in the creation of this type of weapon throughout the world.
Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe Hermann Goering for a long time believed that aviation was not capable of performing the role of "air artillery": its impact on the front line of enemy defenses would have a purely moral effect rather than a military one. An analysis of the experience of the first months of the Spanish Civil War showed that Goering, to put it mildly, was wrong. The views of the Luftwaffe command on armored aircraft for direct support of ground forces have changed dramatically.
This is not to say that the concept of an armored attack aircraft was news for aviation specialists. Attempts to create such aircraft were made during the First World War, but now "new wine has been poured into the old furs." It was believed that the mass of armor required to protect the pilot and the vital elements of the machine would lead to an unacceptable decrease in the payload mass and flight range, such an aircraft would be able to perform the tasks assigned to it only in conditions of total air supremacy of its aviation. In the spring of 1937, the Luftwaffe headquarters introduced the term Schlachtflugzug (attack aircraft to destroy enemy armored vehicles and fortifications) and announced a competition to create such a machine. In April of the same year, the tactical and technical requirements for the "Schlachtflugzug" were sent to four aircraft manufacturers: Hamburger (later Blomm and Voss), Focke-Wulf, Gotha and Henschel. The requirements specifically stipulated the composition of the power plant - two engines of relatively low power, small geometric dimensions of the aircraft, the presence of armored glass in the cockpit canopy with a thickness of at least 75 mm, armor protection for engines and a crew member, armament from two 20-mm automatic cannons and machine guns. There was no clarity regarding the number of crew members, but the military was inclined in favor of a one-seater vehicle, believing that protection from attacks from the rear hemisphere would not be required. In general, the requirements looked quite liberal, not to say vague, and did not tie the freedom of hands to the designers.