Heinkel He 112
Foreign Users

The Spanish government purchased 12 He 112Bs. This increased to 19. The He 112s were to operate as top cover for Fiat fighters in the opening stages of the Civil War, the Fiat having considerably worse altitude performance. In the event, only a single kill was made with the He 112 as a fighter and it was moved onto ground-attack work.

Heinkel He 112 of the Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force)
Heinkel He 112 of the Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force)
[Source: Unknown]

During World War II, when Allied forces landed in North Africa, Spanish forces in Morocco intercepted stray aircraft of both Allied and German forces. None of these incidents resulted in losses. In 1943, one He 112 of Grupo nº27 attacked the tail-end aircraft of 11 Lockheed P-38s forcing it down in Algeria after they re-entered French territory having crossed into Spanish Morocco. By 1944, the aircraft were largely grounded due to a lack of fuel and maintenance.

Like the Germans, Hungary had stiff regulations imposed on its armed forces with the signing of the Treaty of Trianon. In August 1938, the armed forces were re-formed, and with Austria (historically her partner for centuries) being incorporated into Germany, Hungary found herself in the German sphere.

One of the highest priorities for the forces was to re-equip the MKHL as soon as possible. Of the various aircraft being considered, the He 112B eventually won out over the competition, and on 7 September, an order was placed for 36 aircraft. The Heinkel production line was just starting, and with Japan and Spain in the queue, it would be some time before the aircraft could be delivered. Repeated pleas to be moved to the top of the queue failed.

Germany had to refuse the first order at the beginning of 1939 because of its claimed neutrality in the Hungarian/Romanian dispute over Transylvania. In addition, the RLM refused to license the 20 mm MG FF cannon to the Hungarians, likely as a form of political pressure. This later insult did not cause a problem, because they planned to replace it with the locally designed 20 mm Danuvia cannon anyway.

V9 was sent to Hungary as a demonstrator after a tour of Romania, and arrived on 5 February 1939. It was test flown by a number of pilots over the next week, and on 14 February, they replaced the propeller with a new three-bladed Junkers design (licensed from Hamilton). While being tested against a CR.32 that day, V9 crashed. On 10 March, a new He 112 B-1/U2 arrived to replace the V9 and was flown by a number of pilots at different fighter units. It was during this time that the Hungarian pilots started to complain about the underpowered engine, as they found that they could only reach a top speed of 430 km/h (270 mph) with the Jumo 210Ea.

With the Japanese and Spanish orders filled, things were looking up for Hungary. However, at that point, Romania placed its order, and was placed at the front of the queue. It appeared that the Hungarian production machines might never arrive, so the MKHL started pressing for a license to build the aircraft locally. In May, the Hungarian Manfred-Weiss company in Budapest received the license for the aircraft, and on 1 June, an order was placed for 12 aircraft. Heinkel agreed to deliver a Jumo 210Ga-powered aircraft to serve as a pattern aircraft.

As it turns out, the He 112 B-2 was never delivered; two more of the B-1/U2s with the Jumo 210Ea were sent instead. On arrival in Hungary, the 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns were removed and replaced with the local 8 mm 39.M machine guns, and bomb racks were added. The resulting fit was similar to those originally ordered by Austria. Throughout this time, the complaints about the engines were being addressed by continued attempts to license one of the newer 30 L (1,831 in³)-class engines, the Junkers Jumo 211A or the DB 600Aa.

Late in March, the He 100 V8 took the world absolute speed record, but in stories about the record attempt, the aircraft was referred to as the He 112U. Upon hearing of the record, the Hungarians decided to switch production to this "new version" of the 112, which was based on the newer engines. Then in August, the Commander-in-Chief of the MKHL recommended that the 112 be purchased as the standard fighter for Hungary (although likely referring to the earlier versions, not the "112U").

At this point, the engine issue came to a head. It was clear that no production line aircraft would ever reach Hungary, and now that the war was underway, the RLM was refusing to allow their export anyway. Shipments of the Jumo 211 or DB 601 were not even able to fulfill German needs, so export of the engine for locally built airframes was likewise out of the question.

By September, the ongoing negotiations with the RLM for the license to build the engines locally stalled, and as a result, the MKHL ordered Manfred-Weiss to stop tooling up for the production line aircraft. The license was eventually canceled in December. The MKHL turned to the Italians and purchased the Fiat CR.32 and Reggiane Re.2000. The later would be the backbone of the MKHL for much of the war.

Nevertheless, the three He 112 B-1/U2 aircraft continued to serve on. In the summer of 1940, tensions with Romania over Transylvania started to heat up again and the entire MKHL was placed on alert on 27 June. On 21 August, the He 112s were moved forward to the Debrecen airfield to protect a vital railway link. The next week, a peaceful resolution was found, and the settlement was signed in Vienna on 30 August. The He 112s returned home the following week.

By 1941, the aircraft were ostensibly assigned to defend the Manfred-Weiss plant, but were actually used for training. When Allied bomber raids started in the spring of 1944, the aircraft were no longer airworthy, and it appears all were destroyed in a massive raid on the Budapest-Ferihegy airport on 9 August 1944.

After the licensed production of the He 112B fell through in 1939, the plan was to switch the production line to build a Manfred-Weiss-designed aircraft called the W.M.23 Ezüst Nyíl ("Silver Arrow"). The aircraft was basically a He 112B adapted to local construction; the wings were wooden versions of the He 112's planform, the fuselage was made of plywood over a steel frame, and the engine was a licensed version of the 746 kW (1,000 hp)-class Gnome-Rhone Mistral-Major radial.

It would seem that this "simplified" aircraft would be inferior to the He 112, but in fact the higher-powered engine made all the difference and the W.M.23 proved to be considerably faster than the He 112. Nevertheless, work proceeded slowly and only one prototype was built. The project was eventually canceled outright when the prototype crashed in early 1942.

The Imperial Japanese Navy purchased 12 Heinkel He 112B-0 fighters, which it designated both as the Heinkel A7He1 and as the Navy Type He Air Defense Fighter. The Japanese flew the A7He1 briefly during the Second Sino-Japanese War, but phased it out of service before the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 in favor of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Assuming it still to be in Japanese use, however, the Allies assigned the reporting name "Jerry" to the A7He1 during World War II.

Germany looked on Romania as an important supplier of war material, notably oil and grain. Looking to secure Romania as an ally, throughout the middle of the 1930s, Germany applied increasing pressure in a variety of forms, best summed up as the "carrot and stick" approach. The carrot came in the form of generous trade agreements for a variety of products and by the late 1930s, Germany formed about ½ of all of Romania's trade. The stick came in the form of Germany siding with Romania's enemies in various disputes.

Heinkel He 112 of the Forţele Aeriene Regale ale României (Royal Romanian Air Force, or FARR)
Heinkel He 112 of the Forţele Aeriene Regale ale României
(Royal Romanian Air Force, or FARR).

[Source: Unknown]

On 26 June 1940, the Soviet Union gave Romania a 24-hour ultimatum to return Bessarabia and cede northern Bukovina, even though the latter had never even been a part of Russia. Germany's ambassador to Romania advised the king to submit, and he did. In August, Bulgaria reclaimed southern Dobruja, with German and Soviet backing. Later that month, German and Italian foreign ministers met with Romanian diplomats in Vienna and presented them with an ultimatum to accept the ceding of northern Transylvania to Hungary.

Romania was placed in an increasingly bad position as her local allies were gobbled up by Germany, and her larger allies' (Britain and France) assurances of help proved empty, as demonstrated by their lack of action during the invasion of Poland. Soon the king was forced from the throne and a pro-German government was formed.

With Romania now firmly in the German sphere of influence, her efforts to re-arm for the coming war were suddenly strongly backed. The primary concern was the air force, the FARR. Their fighter force at the time consisted of just over 100 Polish PZL P.11 aircraft, primarily the P.11b or the locally modified f model, and P.24E. Although these aircraft had been the most advanced fighters in the world in the early 1930s, by the late 1930s, they were hopelessly outclassed by practically everything.

In April 1939, the FARR was offered the Bf 109 as soon as production was meeting German demands. In the meantime, they could take over 24 He 112Bs that were already built. The FARR jumped at the chance and then increased the order to 30 aircraft.

Late in April, a group of Romanian pilots arrived at Heinkel for conversion training, which went slowly because of the advanced nature of the He 112 in comparison to the PZL. When the training was complete, the pilots returned home in the cockpits of their new aircraft. The aircraft, all of them B-1s or B-2s, were "delivered" in this manner starting in July and ending in October. Two of the aircraft were lost, one in a fatal accident during training in Germany on 7 September, and another suffered minor damage on landing while being delivered and was later repaired at SET in Romania.

When the first aircraft started arriving, they were tested competitively against the locally designed IAR.80 prototype. This interesting and little known aircraft proved to be superior to the He 112B in almost every way. At the same time, the test flights revealed a number of disadvantages of the He 112, notably the underpowered engine and poor speed. The result of the fly-off was that the IAR.80 was ordered into immediate production, and orders for any additional He 112s were cancelled.

By 15 September, enough of the aircraft had arrived to re-equip Escadrila 10 and 11. The two squadrons were formed into the Grupul 5 vânãtoare (5th Fighter Group), responsible for the defense of Bucharest. In October, they were renamed as the 51st and 52nd squadrons, still forming the 5th. The pilots had not been a part of the group that had been trained at Heinkel, so they started working their way toward the He 112 using Nardi F.N.305 monoplane trainers. Training lasted until the spring of 1940, when a single additional He 112 B-2 was delivered as a replacement for the one that crashed in Germany the previous September.

During the troubles with Hungary, the 51st was deployed to Transylvania. Hungarian Ju 86s and He 70s started making reconnaissance flights over Romanian territory. Repeated attempts to intercept them failed because of the He 112's low speed. On 27 August, Locotenent Nicolae Polizu was over Hungarian territory when he encountered a Caproni Ca.135bis bomber flying on a training mission. Several of his 20 mm rounds hit the bomber, which was forced down safely at the Hungarian Debrecen airbase - home of the Hungarian He 112s. Polizu became the first Romanian to shoot down an aircraft in aerial combat.

When Germany prepared to invade the USSR in 1941, Romania joined it in an effort to regain the territories lost the year before. The FARR was made part of Luftflotte 4, and in preparation for the invasion, Grupul 5 vânãtoare was sent to Moldavia. At the time, 24 of the He 112s were flyable. Three were left at their home base at Pipera to complete repairs, two others had been lost to accidents, and the fate of the others is unknown. On 15 June, the aircraft were moved again, to Foscani-North in northern Moldavia.

With the opening of the war on 22 June, the He 112s were in the air at 1050 supporting an attack by Potez 63s of Grupul 2 bombardment on the Soviet airfields at Bolgrad and Bulgãrica. Although some flak was encountered on the way to and over Bolgrad, the attack was successful and a number of Soviet aircraft were bombed on the ground. By the time they reached Bulgãrica, fighters were in the air waiting for them, and as a result the 12 He 112s were met by about 30 I-16s. The results of this combat were mixed; Sublocotenent Teodor Moscu shot down one of a pair of I-16s still taking off. When he was pulling out, he hit another in a head-on pass and it crashed into the Danube. He was set upon by several I-16s and received several hits, his fuel tanks were punctured but did not seal. Losing fuel rapidly, he formed up with his wingman and managed to put down at the Romanian airfield at Bârlad. His aircraft was later repaired and returned to duty. Of the bombers, three of the 13 dispatched were shot down.

Over the next few days, the He 112s would be used primarily as ground-attack aircraft, where their heavy armament was considered to be more important than their ability to fight in the air. Typical missions would start before dawn and would have the Heinkels strafe Soviet airbases. Later in the day, they would be sent on search and destroy missions, looking primarily for artillery and trains.

Losses were heavy, most not due to combat, but simply because the aircraft were flying an average of three missions a day and were not receiving adequate maintenance. This problem affected all of the FARR, which did not have the field maintenance logistics worked out at the time. On 29 July, a report on the readiness of the air forces listed only 14 He 112s in flyable condition, and another eight repairable. As a result, the aircraft of the 52nd were folded into the 51st to form a single full strength squadron on 13 August. The men of the 52nd were merged with the 42nd who flew IAR.80s, and were soon sent home to receive IAR.80s of their own. A report from August on the He 112 rated it very poorly, once again noting its lack of power and poor speed.

For a time, the 51st continued in a front-line role, although it saw little combat. When Odessa fell on 16 October, the Romanian war effort ostensibly ended, and the aircraft were considered to be no longer needed at the front. 15 were kept at Odessa and the rest were released to Romania for training duty (although they seem to have seen no use). On 1 November, the 51st moved to Tatarka and then returned to Odessa on the 25th, performing coastal patrol duties all the while. On 1 July 1942, the 51st returned to Pipera and stood down after a year in action.

On 19 July one of the He 112s took to the air to intercept Soviet bombers in what was the first night mission by a Romanian aircraft. As the Soviets were clearly gearing up for a night offensive on Bucharest, the 51st was then re-equipped with Bf 110 night fighters and became the only Romanian night fighter squadron.

By 1943, the IAR.80 was no longer competitive, and the FARR started an overdue move to a newer fighter. The fighter in this case was the barely competitive Bf 109G. The He 112s found themselves actively being used in the training role at last. The inline engine and general layout of the German designs was considered similar enough to make it useful in this role, and as a result the He 112s came under the control of the Corpul 3 Aerian (3rd Air Corps). Several more of the He 112s were destroyed in accidents during this time. It soldiered on in this role into late 1944, even after Romania had changed sides and joined the Allies.

Wikipedia - He 112