2 x 2,950 hp ea.
3 – 7.92 + 3 – 13 mm
2 – 20 mm
72 ft. 2 in.
103 ft. 2 in.
The Heinkel 177, officially Heinkel He-177 Greif (Griffin), was an innovative aircraft that never achieved its full potential. Although a twin prop design, it was capable of carrying the largest ordnance available to the Luftwaffe. It appears that the aircraft had more unfulfilled potential than any other WW II Luftwaffe aircraft.
In the late 1930’s the German government requested that Heinkel produce a long range heavy bomber that was capable of dive bombing.
To keep drag to a minimum, Heinkel requested that Daimler Benz couple two engines in-line, with each engine driving one propeller. In effect, the Heinkel 177 was a four engine bomber. However, the problems of the engine design far outweighed the drag reducing benefits of the twin engine design.
The need for the aircraft to withstand the rigors of dive bombing resulted in increased aircraft weight.
During test flights of Heinkel 177 prototypes, engine overheating became an issue. This led to engine fires and the downing of several aircraft. Yet, aircraft production proceeded.
Other than the engines, the Heinkel 177 was essentially a good design. Its aerodynamics enabled a maximum range further than any other Luftwaffe aircraft.
Pilots appreciated the handling and performance of the Heinkel 177, but engine problems negated any positive attributes. A primary issue was found to be that the streamlined engine cowls fit so tightly around the engines that enough air didn’t get to the engines to provide sufficient cooling. This was eventually remedied in later production models. However, too few were built to have any effect on the war effort.
A small number of Heinkel 177 aircraft entered service in France in 1942. These were used primarily as anti-shipping aircraft. Some were equipped with Hs 293 guided missiles which were controlled by an operator on board the bomber by using a joystick. The missile operator was located in a gondola beneath the nose of the aircraft. Flares on the missile facilitated its tracking toward a target.
The Heinkel 177 was also armed with mines and torpedoes. Missile operations continued through early 1945, while the use of other weapons ceased. These aircraft also had limited success due to their unreliable engines.
About 35 Heinkel 177 aircraft were assigned to bomb London in early 1944. These were planned by Hitler as “revenge raids” in response to Allied bombing of German cities. In an effort to avoid being intercepted, the aircraft flew at about 30,000 feet when approaching the European coast. They then began a shallow dive, at full power, towards England. When they neared their target, they were traveling at speeds approaching 440 mph. This made the aircraft difficult to intercept, but greatly reduced bombing accuracy. It appears that although the aircraft succeeded in evading interception, few actually were able to engage their targets due to engine problems.
About 700 of the aircraft were deployed on the Russian Front for cargo transport, bombing, and ground attack. A number were fitted with 50 mm and 75 mm anti-tank cannons. Few were capable of completing their missions due to engine problems.
It is somewhat surprising that the Heinkel 177 even made it into production, considering the number of functions it was originally intended to fulfill and its continuing engine issues.
Heavy bombing aircraft were not a priority for the Luftwaffe. They were more interested in attack aircraft capable of supporting their ground troops, rather than strategic bombers.
A total of some 1,170 Heinkel 177 aircraft of all types were produced. Many never flew due to a lack of available engines.
A single Heinkel 177 was found in Czechoslovakia after the War. It appears that it was undergoing modifications to deliver an atomic bomb, had the Germans finished producing one.
RC Heinkel 177