Monday, February 9, 2015

He 219 Operational Assessment

So, how does one assess this controversial aircraft? There is no doubt it was a 1940 design of exceptional merit which could in a more ordered society have been developed for many roles with telling effect, as it was the UK’s Mosquito. The mass of sub-types merely diluted from the main production effort, and the consistent failure of Daimler-Benz and Junkers to deliver the hoped-for engines killed the advanced versions that would have kept the He 219 in front. As for the aircraft itself, opinions are divided.

According to Gebhard Aders (author of Geschichte der deutschen Nachtjagd) the He 219 “never achieved the values given in its manual. With almost full tanks and armament the He 219 could not get above 8000m (26,247 ft) …With Lichtenstein and flame dampers the maximum fell to about 500 km/h (311 mph) at this height…”
On the other hand he states “The 219 was the only German night-fighter that could still climb on one engine, and even go around for another landing attempt” , a brief echoed by many Uhu pilots. Yet the greatest of test pilots, Captain (FAA) E. M. ‘Winkle’  Brown, who flew several captured He 219s, wrote in Air International that the type was ‘somewhat overrated…It suffered from what is perhaps the nastiest characteristic that a twin-engined aircraft can have: it was underpowered. This defect makes take-off a critical maneuver in the event of an engine failing, and a landing with one engine out can be equally critical. There certainly could be no overshooting with the He 219 in that condition.”

This marginal performance is the more remarkable when it is remembered that the DB 603 was the largest of the inverted V-12 engines used by the Luftwaffe, with cubic capacity 65 per cent greater than that of the Merlin. The problem lay squarely in the growth of systems and equipment with which the Uhu was packed, so that a typical He 219A-7 version weighted more empty than any Ju 88 night-fighter, and more than a Mosquito fully loaded!

Bill Gunston in Heinkel He 219 Uhu, Airplane No. 182 pages 5088-5094

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