Heinkel He-219, Night Fighter
Research is by;
Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette
Aviation Art Store
Heinkel He-219A, 1/72 Scale, Revell
Retail Price $20.95; Your Cost $17.00
If you like to build scale models of your favorite Luftwaffe night fighters then do not forget to visit our Hobby Shoppe.
Sir Hamilton's Hobby Shoppe, Luftwaffe Night Fighter Models.
A classic photo of the Heinkel He-219 Night-Fighter.
The Luftwaffe had been encountering British bomber raids for a year and a half before the need for new night fighter to be developed. After the conversion of Messerschmitt Me-110's, Junkers Ju-88, Donier Do-17 and the heavier Do-217 the experts came to the conclusion to build a night-fighter from scratch. The design of the 219 had been drawn out in several different wing, fuselage and stabilizer configurations even though it was not yet classified as the Uhu or "Owl." It was at the time just one of many different types of concepts that were coming hard and fast from the Heinkel design team including Heinkel himself.
The idea was first rejected in August 1940 as being to expensive and complex. The engineer working on the design was Robert Lusser. Designated as the P.1055 it was unusual in appearance because of the concepts integrated into the overall design. First the cabin was moved to the front of the aircraft and it was fitted with a nose wheel giving the pilot complete visibility both on the ground and in the air. The fighter also had a pressurized cabin and the first operational ejector seats.
Because of the rejection Lusser redesigned the fighter offering four different versions of the original variant. The RLM again turned down all four designs. For some reason Heinkel was furious and fired Lusser.
The need for the design was still pressing so Heinkel took over the designs that Lusser had been working on and scaled down the size and engines giving the fighter a new designation as the P.1060. Heinkel worked the new design to a point that he was so sure that the fighter would be successful that he built the first proto-type out of his company funds. They say he built it out of his own pocket but we all know that almost never happens especially if you own your own aircraft manufacturing plant. If Heinkel was a shoe salesman and paid with his own money for Heinkel to design and build the proto type then the salesman did in fact pay for the construction "out of his pocket."
Anyway, what happened was when the Night-Fighter Commander personally went to Heinkel' s plant and saw the finished product he was so taken that he over rode his original decision to reject the fighter back in the beginning of the year. This decision infuriated Erhard Milch who had made the decision in the beginning of the year with Josef Kammhuber who was the commander of the night-fighters. Both men rejected the design but after seeing the fighter their minds did change even though Milch just had to act like a little "ass."
In reading about all the temper tantrums that the German leaders had, they were no different form our leaders like Curtis LeMay, and the Russian, Japanese, and Italian aviation leaders as well. Everybody blows up from time to time. That's life.
Once the He-219 production started there were changes as usual. One was a concept that was never really perfected and that was to have rear firing defensive guns that were operated by remote control. You just can not aim a gun unless you are looking down the barrel. This was dropped from the aircraft. The idea had merit but not enough time to perfect apparently.
The armament was also changed to accommodate two 20mm cannon mounted in the inside wing roots. Under the fuselage was a gondola type attachment that contained four more 20mm cannon in a ventral tray. One volley from these cannon would bring down any British bomber.
The first operation fighters reached airfields for advanced training flights in June of 1943.
The profiles and artworks below were scanned from the dozens of Luftwaffe books I have.
At an airfield located at Venlo, Major Werner Streib was assigned to form a sub-unit with NJG-1 to test the effectiveness of the Heinkel He-219. On the night of June 11th and 12th, 1943, Major Streib flew a He-219 V9 numbered "G9+FB for the fighters first aerial combat test. During his mission he shot down five British bombers. The Heinkel suffered a crash landing destroying the fighter but miracles do happen with the pilot and radar operator walking away.
During the next ten days three different Owl's shot down a total of twenty British bombers including six of the illusive Mosquitoes. That is impressive. Remember that each bomber held six to eight men and the Mosquitoes carried a two man crew. This impressive introduction had Kammhuber begging for more of this new fighter.
Due to the American and British bombing of factory facilities the delivery of the first He-219 A-2's was delayed until October 1943. Records show that the first batch or ten to fifteen fighters were equipped with FuG 212 or the Lichtenstin C-1 radar. The fighter was also equipped with the upward firing 30mm cannon know as the Schrage Musik. This extra set of cannon gave the night-fighter an advantage for the fighter to get in close underneath the unsuspecting bomber where they fired right into the wing in between the two engines where the fuel tanks were located.
Ass Master Milch finally got the Owl program shut down due to nothing other than he was a total jerk. He was promoting the Junkers Ju-388 but the delivery of this bomber conversion to a night fighter was delayed so bad that they had to start the He-219 again. How stupid! During the fifteen months of previous production there were 206 built which was a considerate amount to start with. The next production would include an up-graded radar. The new system was the Telefunken FuG-229 SN-2. The new system was less influenced by the aluminum "chaff that had been jamming the radar units leaving the pilot flying blind.
The new fighters were designated the A-5 model but it was a lighter model, the A-6 that was able to fly 404mph giving the fighter the ability to chase down the Mosquitoes.
The last model was the A-7 which had DB603 engines that had been improved. The armament changed to two 30mm Rheinmetall MK-108 cannon in the wing roots. In the vertical tray under the fighter they changed the four 20mm cannon to two 30mm and two 20mm cannon. The Musik guns were still factory installed by they were often taken out to save weight. Large caliber machine guns are very heavy not counting the extra weight of the ammunition.
This was the single most perfect twin-engine fighter that could be called Germany's "Mosquito." Here was what the Germans wanted and needed so badly. Yet some say that this was not the answer to Germany's Mosquito factor. The Owl was not as maneuverable as the Ju88 yet the warfare at night was no twisty spiraling dogfights either.
Unfortunately the production of the He-219 never reached a level of actually forming a squadron of the fighters and they were dolled out to the night-fighter squadrons to mix with the Me-110's, Ju-88's and the Do-217 that they were having to deal with in a confusion of different parts and radar units to be mixed and matched as best the squadrons could.
The Heinkel He-219 "Owl" was a bomber killer. If the Luftwaffe had put up fifty of these at a time, British bombers would have fallen from the sky like rain.
The Luftwaffe had only to down just another one or two percent of every bomber raid to have slowed the RAF and demoralized the pilots and crews even more and probably into reconsidering their missions. As is was we now know that with the combination of the Night-fighter squadrons complemented with the Wild Bore units plus with the help of anti-aircraft gunfire the Luftwaffe was downing a solid ten percent and even as much as eighteen percent of the English raiders.
For so long I wanted to know why the Luftwaffe did not take the British bombing raids more seriously until I read the many books that are only now available of the stories form the surviving night-fighter pilots and planners. The Luftwaffe was doing everything they could to stop the raids. Mind you, I still see gaps in the Luftwaffe structure and politics that if they were to have taken the problem just a little more seriously they would have claimed many more bombers. Could it have been enough to have Britton sign a truce?
Could be? I think so. No one wants to fight forever. Not even the stubborn British.
The Heinkel He-219 was to be the only aircraft developed by the Luftwaffe for the sole propose of being a Heavy Night-Fighter.
The fighter carried a crew to two but could hold three. The fighter was fifty one feet long with a wingspan of 60 feet, eight inches.
The fighter was rated at 385mh with a range of 960 miles.
Back to Luftwaffe Aircraft Directory
Back to Art Store Directory
To Sir Hamilton's Hobby Shoppe
To Sir Hamilton's Military Book Shoppe
Posted August 19, 2008