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He-112A-0

Heinkel He.112V6 (He.112A-0) single-engine front-line fighter, issued 1936.

The next prototype of the He.112V6 was equipped with an inline 12-cylinder liquid-cooled Junkers Jumo.210C engine with a takeoff power of 680 hp and a three-bladed metal Schwarz variable-pitch propeller.

The greatest difference between this plane and the previous prototype was its armament. In place of two 7.92-mm machine guns, the He.112V6 was equipped with a 20-mm Rheinmetall-Borsig MG C/30L cannon with 150 rounds which fired through the hollow propeller shaft.

The He.112V6 fighter underwent its first flight test in July of 1936. Shortly afterwards, the Reich Ministry of Aviation decided to use General Franco’s rebellion in Spain (and the ensuing Civil War) to test new combat aircraft models in real combat and to develop air combat tactics. As a result, in November of 1936 three prototype Bf.109s and one He.112V6 were sent to Spain.

In early December, all four machines arrived at the Spanish port of Cadiz and were taken to Seville’s Tablada airport. The aircraft were placed in the Condor Legion’s 88th Fighter Group, made up of German “volunteers” and armed with German equipment. The Heinkel became the only cannon-carrying fighter, not only in the Legion, but also in the entirety of the rebels’ air force. Therefore, it was decided that the plane would be used as a ground attack aircraft. Together with the Ju.87A and Hs.123 dive bombers, the Heinkel was used to strike Republican armoured vehicles, field fortifications, and artillery positions. Soon it was nicknamed the “cannon bird” (“kanonenvogel”).

In early 1937, the kanonenvogel took part in the battles over the river Jarama. On March 16, an He.112V6 was flown on its most successful sortie ever by Oberleutnant Wilhelm Balthasar. During an attack on an armoured train, Balthasar managed to hit the ammunition in one of the armoured wagons. The powerful explosion blew the car to pieces and shells detonated all around; as a result, the train was completely destroyed. On the way back, the pilot used his remaining ammunition on a Republican tank and also blew it to pieces.

After this victory, Balthasar was appointed commander of the experimental assault team, which consisted of three two-seater Ne.45 biplanes and an He.112V6 kanonenvogel.

The “cannon bird’s” combat life ended on July 19, 1937. While returning to base, the plane’s motor jammed unexpectedly. During the subsequent emergency landing, the He.112V6’s fuselage snapped in half. The pilot escaped uninjured, but the plane was discarded.

The He.112V6 became the prototype and lead aeroplane of the pre-production He.112A-0 fighter, of which a total of five were made, two of which were exported to Japan.

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