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Не-177 Modifications

He 177А-0. While the prototypes were being tested, the Heinkel factories in November 1940 began production of the first batch of 15 serial Vultures. The first instance of He 177A-01, assembled at a pilot plant in Rostock, took off only a year later. The remaining 14 aircraft were assembled at factories in Oranienburg. Another 5 cars were produced under license by Arado.

He 177 A-01 was intended for weapons testing. He died under "standard" for the "Grif" circumstances (engine fire) during takeoff from the airfield in Brandis in 1942. The second serial copy of the He 177 A-02 was used for testing engines and burned out for the same reason on May 11, 1942. The crew barely had time to leave the plane engulfed in flames before it exploded.

By the time of the accident, they managed to complete about 20 flights and develop a plan for fine-tuning the propulsion system in order to reduce the fire hazard. It was planned to lengthen the engine mount (to divert the oil lines from the hot engine units), refine the exhaust system, install fire bulkheads and move the oil tank to a safer place. But for some reason, all these alterations came to life only much later, on aircraft of the third series He 177 A-3.

Zero-series aircraft served primarily as "flying test beds" for various innovations. So He 177 A-05 later became known as He 177 V9 (the letter "V" in German aviation denoted experimental and experimental machines). Then He 177A-06 and He 177 A-07 turned into V10 and V11, respectively. He 177 V9 was tested in Rechlin with twin fins, V10 was used in tests of pressurized cabins.

Three vehicles produced by the Arado plant were also experimental: He 177 V15 was used to test the operation of aerodynamic brakes, radio installations were tested on He 177 V16, and He 177 V17 in 1942 participated in tests of torpedo armament. The He 177 A-015 aircraft was tested with two MK 101 guns of 30 mm caliber, placed in front of the ventral gondola.

He 177A-1. He 177 A-1 were built at the Heinkel factories in Oranienburg, but the Arado factory in Warnemünde was chosen as the main manufacturer of the Vultures, which produced until November 1942 g. 130 cars.

The standard armament of the aircraft of this version consisted of a Mauser MG 81 machine gun in the nose of the cockpit, a MG FF cannon in the front of the ventral gondola, an FDL B 131 / 1A remote-controlled turret armed with a pair of MG 131 machine guns and the same machine gun at the tail gunner . In addition, several additional weapons options were envisaged, called Rustsatzen (Rustsatzen) and designated by the letter "R". For example, the He 177 A-1 / R1 aircraft were equipped with a coaxial machine gun MG 81Z (“zwilling”) at the rear of the gondola, and on the He 177 A-1 / R2 there was a bomb sight. The He 177 A-1/R3 was armed with a remote-controlled ventral gun turret and an MG 131 machine gun.

Since the "Vultures" continued to be considered dive bombers, aerodynamic brakes were mounted on the wings of the He 177 A-1. But static tests carried out in 1942 showed that the strength of the wing was one third lower than calculated and there could be no talk of any dive. It was already unrealistic to further increase the strength, and, accordingly, the weight of the structure, so the concept of “heavy, long-range and diving” had to be finally abandoned. For subsequent modifications, aerodynamic brakes were no longer installed.

After abandoning the dive, the He 177 still had two more trump cards - a decent range and a good payload. Hitler needed such an aircraft for the war in the vast expanses of Russia. Therefore, the Vulture construction program was not curtailed, but, on the contrary, they stimulated the expansion of production. Now the aircraft was required to operate mainly at night, on area targets and at the maximum distance from the front line, for example, over the industrial giants of the Urals and Western Siberia (they remembered the “Uralbomber”). In the future, the bomber was supposed to be used as a carrier of guided missile weapons, the development of which was already in full swing.

But He 177 A-1 still remained a rather "raw" aircraft. None of the identified problems with the engines on it was eliminated, which means that throwing such vehicles into battle is suicide (more precisely, murder in relation to their crews). Therefore, in 1942, most of the "A first" did not get to the front, with the exception of three vehicles that did not serve long in the "special reconnaissance squadron" under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Theodor Rovel. The rest were used as training and most of the time they were idle for repairs. By the time the serial production of the A-1 ended, 19 bombers of this series had already been decommissioned, another 20 were at repair plants. In general, we can say that the He 177 A-1 was just another step towards a full-fledged combat aircraft.

He 177A-3. As already mentioned, on the next serial modification of the "Vulture", designated He 177 A-3, many defects of the power plant were eliminated, or rather, smoothed out. True, they were still going to replace the DB 606 engines with more powerful DB 610s, but it didn’t come to that (although two prototypes with such engines were built). As a result, the speed of the car did not exceed 480 km / h, which means that it could not “escape” from modern fighters. I had to strengthen the protective armament - immediately behind the wing there was an additional section of the fuselage 1.6 m long with a rifle tower installed on it. A pair of heavy machine guns MG 131 stood in the electric turret. The ammunition load of 750 rounds per barrel was placed along the sides of the fuselage. Due to the tower shooter, the crew increased to five people.

Production of the A-3 began in October 1942, but by mid-December only 12 vehicles had been assembled. In total, before switching to the next modification, 170 “A thirds” were rolled out from the shops of the Heinkel and Arado factories. In addition, all copies of the He 177 A-1 that survived by the summer of 1943 were converted by replacing power plants to the A-3 standard. True, the weapons on them, apparently, remained the same.

The first production aircraft (100 pieces) were designated He 177 A-3/R1. The next "submodification" was He 177 A-3/R2. Knives were installed on it to cut the cables of the barrage balloons. The tail gunner received a more spacious cockpit, allowing him to sit (previously the gunner was located prone), as well as a 20 mm MG 151 cannon instead of a 13 mm machine gun. The same gun replaced the Oerlikon in the ventral gondola.

He 177 A-3 / R3 aircraft were designed to carry Henschel Hs 293 anti-ship missiles, controlled by a FuG 203d guidance station located in the ventral gondola (we usually call these missiles glide bombs, since their rocket engine worked not on the entire flight path to the target. Note ed.). Machines of this type were used mainly for training crews and training guidance operators, and aircraft of a later modification A-5 went into battle.

He 177A-5. After building 170 copies of the He 177 A-3, Heinkel and Arado switched to the production of a new version of the He 177 A-5, equipped with DB 610 propulsion systems (Daimler sparks -Bentsev" DB 605). By the beginning of 1943, these units were put into serial production. In addition to engines, the He 177 A-5 differed from previous modifications in a reinforced wing set, slightly shortened landing gear and some changes in the design of the flaps. On most copies, the front bomb bay was sealed, and holders were mounted under it for external suspension of heavy bombs, missiles or torpedoes. "A fifth" was originally designed as a carrier of guided missiles Hs 293, FX 1400 ("Fritz X") and high-altitude torpedoes LT 50.

The first aircraft of the fifth modification left the assembly shop of the Heinkel plant in February 1943. At first, 12 aircraft were built per month, but by the end of the year, the monthly production rate increased to 42 aircraft. Until October 1944, when the production of multi-engine bombers in Germany was curtailed in connection with the adoption of the "emergency fighter program", 565 copies of the He 177 A-5 were produced. "A fifth" thus became the most massive modification of the "Vulture". Most of the "Vultures" - 95 cars - left the factory floors in June 1944.

The most large-scale "sub-modification" of the "A fifth" was He 177 A-5 / R2, identical in armament to the A-3 / R2 version. He 177 A-5/R5 was equipped with an additional remote-controlled gunnery tower, located on the fuselage behind the bomb bay. The A-5/R6 had a twin bomb bay and the same gun mount as the R5. He 177 A-5 / R7 was equipped with a pressurized cabin, which made it possible to reach an altitude of 15,000 m.

He 177A-6 and He 177A-7. Large-scale production of the He 177 aircraft ended with the A-5 version, and further modifications did not go beyond the prototype stage. He 177 A-6 was developed taking into account the wishes of front-line pilots. First of all, this concerned the active and passive protection of the machine. The gas tanks of the "A-sixth" were armored, and a four-machine-gun remote-controlled rifle turret from the Rheinmetall company appeared in the tail of the aircraft, which had solid firepower. In addition, the A-6 was equipped with a pressurized cabin and an additional gas tank instead of the front bomb bay. With him, the flight range was 5800 km.

By the end of May 1944, sets of assemblies and parts for 15 copies of the He 177 A-5 were manufactured, but in June only 6 machines were mounted. Then all work on the A-6 was discontinued in favor of the four-screw He 277, which was considered more promising.

The He 177 A-7 was a high-altitude long-range reconnaissance aircraft that retained the ability to carry a bomb load if necessary. Its wing span was increased to 36 m, the power plant was two DB 613 engines (two twins DB 603G, which produced takeoff power of 3600 hp each). The weight of the empty aircraft was 18,100 kg, the takeoff weight was 34,641 kg. Maximum speed - 545 km / h at an altitude of 6000 m.

"A seventh" was very interested in the Japanese, who planned to start its production at the new aircraft plant of the Hitachi concern in the city of Chiba. In May 1944, the Germans offered to supply Japan with a demonstration sample of the He 177 A-7 for a comprehensive study. The only possibility of such a delivery was a non-stop flight across the whole of Eurasia. Two routes were considered: from East Prussia through the Soviet Union and China to Manchuria, and from Bulgaria through Turkey, Iran and India to Japanese-occupied Burma. But, although the “A Seventh” could theoretically cover such distances, both options were considered too risky and the unprecedented flight was abandoned. There is evidence that the Germans also planned to use He 177 A-7 aircraft for suicidal attacks on targets located in the United States (there was only enough fuel one way). However, this project also remained unfulfilled. However, at the end of the war, one "A-seventh" nevertheless reached the United States. The Americans captured a prototype aircraft and took it to their place for testing.

The total number of He 177 completed in the construction of all modifications was approximately 1170 machines.

Gennady Volosko


  • magazine   AviAMaster No. 1 2000    /Gennady Volosko/