Heinkel He 111
The Heinkel He 111 was a German airliner and bomber designed by Siegfried and Walter Günter at Heinkel Flugzeugwerke in 1934. Through development, it was described as a "wolf in sheep's clothing". Due to restrictions placed on Germany after the First World War prohibiting bombers, it was presented solely as a civil airliner, although from conception the design was intended to provide the nascent Luftwaffe with a heavy bomber. Perhaps the best-recognised German bomber of World War II due to the distinctive, extensively glazed "greenhouse" nose of the later versions, the Heinkel He 111 was the most numerous Luftwaffe bomber during the early stages of the war. It fared well until it met serious fighter opposition during the Battle of Britain, when its defensive armament was found to be inadequate. As the war progressed, the He 111 was used in a wide variety of roles on every front in the European theatre. It was used as a strategic bomber during the Battle of Britain, a torpedo bomber in the Atlantic and Arctic, and a medium bomber and a transport aircraft on the Western, Eastern, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and North African Front theatres. The He 111 was constantly upgraded and modified, but had still become obsolete by the latter part of the war. The failure of the German Bomber B project forced the Luftwaffe to continue operating the He 111 in combat roles until the end of the war. Manufacture of the He 111 ceased in September 1944, at which point piston-engine bomber production was largely halted in favour of fighter aircraft. With the German bomber force virtually defunct, the He 111 was used for logistics.
Messerschmitt Bf 110
The Messerschmitt Bf 110, often known unofficially as the Me 110, is a twin-engine Zerstörer (Destroyer, heavy fighter), fighter-bomber (Jagdbomber or Jabo), and night fighter (Nachtjäger) developed in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and used by the Luftwaffe during World War II. Hermann Göring was a proponent of the Bf 110, believing its heavy armament, speed, and range would make the Bf 110 the Luftwaffe’s premier offensive fighter. Early variants were armed with two MG FF 20 mm cannon, four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns, and one 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine gun for defence (later variants would replace the MG FFs with MG 151s and the rear gunner station would be armed with the twin-barreled MG 81Z). Development work on an improved type to replace the Bf 110 - the Messerschmitt Me 210 - began before the war started, but its teething troubles resulted in the Bf 110 soldiering on until the end of the war in various roles. Its intended replacements, the aforementioned Me 210 and the significantly improved Me 410 Hornisse never fully replaced the Bf 110. The Bf 110 served with considerable success in the early campaigns in Poland, Norway and France. The primary weakness of the Bf 110 was its lack of maneuverability, although this could be mitigated with better tactics. This weakness was exploited by the RAF when Bf 110s were flown as close escort to German bombers during the Battle of Britain. When British bombers began targeting German territory with nightly raids, some Bf 110-equipped units were converted to night fighters, a role to which the aircraft was well suited. After the Battle of Britain the Bf 110 enjoyed a successful period as an air superiority fighter and strike aircraft in other theatres and defended Germany from strategic air attack by day against the USAAF's 8th Air Force, until an American change in fighter tactics rendered them increasingly vulnerable to developing American air supremacy over the Reich as 1944 began. Later in the war, it was developed into a formidable radar-equipped night fighter, becoming the main night-fighting aircraft of the Luftwaffe.
Junkers Ju 87
The Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka (from Sturzkampfflugzeug, "dive bomber") was a German dive bomber and ground-attack aircraft. Designed by Hermann Pohlmann, it first flew in 1935. The Ju 87 made its combat debut in 1937 with the Luftwaffe's Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 and served in Axis forces in World War II (1939-1945). The aircraft is easily recognisable by its inverted gull wings and fixed spatted undercarriage. Upon the leading edges of its faired main gear legs were mounted ram-air sirens known as Jericho trumpets, which became a propaganda symbol of German air power and of the so-called Blitzkrieg victories of 1939–1942, as well as providing Stuka pilots with audible feedback as to speed. The Stuka's design included several innovations, including automatic pull-up dive brakes under both wings to ensure that the aircraft recovered from its attack dive even if the pilot blacked out from the high g-forces. The Ju 87 operated with considerable success in close air support and anti-shipping roles at the outbreak of World War II. It led air assaults in the invasion of Poland in September 1939. Stukas proved critical to the rapid conquest of Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and France in 1940. Though sturdy, accurate, and very effective against ground targets, the Stuka was, like many other dive bombers of the period, vulnerable to fighter aircraft. During the Battle of Britain of 1940-1941, its lack of manoeuvrability, speed and defensive armament meant that it required a heavy fighter escort to operate effectively. After the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe deployed Stuka units in the Balkans Campaign, the African and the Mediterranean theatres and in the early stages of the Eastern Front war, where it was used for general ground support, as an effective specialised anti-tank aircraft and in an anti-shipping role. Once the Luftwaffe lost air superiority, the Stuka became an easy target for enemy fighter-aircraft. It was produced until 1944 for lack of a better replacement. By 1945 ground-attack versions of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 had largely replaced the Ju 87, but it remained in service until the end of the war in 1945..