HEINkEL HE 51
Coming from a line of small biplanes —the He 37, He 38, He 43 and the He 49A (this latter plane being the first design by the brothers Siegfried and Walter Günter)— the Heinkel He 51 was to become the first mass-produced fighter plane ordered in 1933 by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium for the Deutschen luftsportd-verband (German league of Aerial Sports) which was the cover for the clandestine luftwaffe, the German Air Force.
The initial order of 10 pre-production units was immediately followed by 75 in the first series, the He 51A-1. units began to be received between July of 1934 and January of 1935, with Group 1 of Jagdgeschwader 132 "Richthofen" from Döberitz being the first ones ready for combat in March of 1935. A month later, the He 51s had their first public presentation, revealing the existence of an until then secret German military aviation industry, when the He 51s of the 1/JG 134 "Horst Wessel" were presented as a “birthday present” for Hitler. With its elegant and clean lines and characteristic wheel fairing and powered by a lineal cylinder engine, the He51 was the first German fighter to enter into combat during the Spanish Civil War.
It was initially very effective against the antiquated Hispano-Nieuport 52s of the Republicans and other French fighter planes. However, it was notably inferior to the Soviet Polikarpov I-15 fighters in terms of performance, armament and manoeuvrability, which had a similar configuration and a radial engine.
They were accordingly soon relegated to secondary tasks and as support for ground operations.
Type: Single-seater biplane fighter and su- pport aircraft.
Engine: BMW VI 7.3Z 750 hp 12-cylinder V engine powered by a biblade Schwarz propellor made of wood or metal with a fixed pitch and a diameter of 3.1 m.
Armament: Guns: 2 x 7.92 mm MG 17 synchro- nised machine guns in the nose, 500 RPG. Bombs: 1 Elvemag 6 C 10 IX bomb carrier for six 10 kg fragmen- tation bombs or four 50 kg bombs (He 51C).
Dimensions: Wingspan, 11m; length, 8.44 m; height, 3.2 m; wing surface area, 27.23 m2. Weights: Empty, 1,435 kg; fully loaded, 1,900 kg; wing load, 70 kg/m2
Performance: Maximum speed at sea level, 330 km/h; maximum speed at 4,000 m, 310 km/h; cruise speed, 260 km/h; landing speed, 95 km/h; climb to 1,000 m, 1 min 15 s; climb to 6,000 m, 16 min 30 s; service ceiling, 7,700 m; range, 740 km.