Heinkel He 219 Uhu

Nazi flag Nazi Germany (1941)
Night Fighter – 268~294 Built

Surprisingly, the He 219 started its life as a reconnaissance aircraft. However, it was not deemed acceptable for this role and was heavily redesigned as a night-fighter aircraft. While proving to be one of the best German night-fighter designs of the war, only fewer than 300 would be built and its impact on the course of World War II was negligible.

An Unsuccessful Reconnaissance Role

During the early years of the war, the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) was in great need of an advanced and dedicated reconnaissance aircraft. Seeing an opportunity, Heinkel officials presented a design proposal to the RLM (ReichsluftfahrtMinisterium) at the end of April of 1940. This proposal consisted of blueprints of a new single-engine reconnaissance plane (named P.1055), based on the earlier He 119, which was estimated to be capable of a max speed of 466 mph (750 km/h). The RLM and Heinkel officials met in early October 1940 to discuss the viability of such a project. The RLM officials initially showed interest in the project, especially the bomber variant. But, as the demand for high-speed was great, the slower bomber and later destroyer variants were considered undesirable.

On 23rd November 1940, a fully completed wooden mock-up was presented to RLM officials, who were impressed with it and ordered that the airframe be built by mid-January 1941. This aircraft was to be powered by the new DB 613, which consisted of two side-by-side DB 603 engines. Due to problems with the production of this engine, the DB 610 was to be used instead. By 20th June 1941, two wooden mock-ups with both the DB 613 and DB 610 engine types were presented to the RLM. RLM officials were concerned that the change of engine would fail to meet the required criteria and expected production of the Arado Ar 240 to commence soon. For these reasons, the Heinkel P.1055 project was rejected.

Name

While under initial development, this Heinkel aircraft received the P.1055 designation. As it was largely inspired by the earlier He 119, the new aircraft received the designation He 219 in 1941. By the end of November 1943, Hitler himself made a proposal for a new name for the He 219, the ‘Uhu’ (Owl), by which it is generally known today.

Revival

Side view of the He 219/V3 prototype [Warbird Photographs]
In the hope of somehow reviving the He 219 project, Ernst Heinkel, the owner of the Heinkel company, had a meeting with General Obst. Udet (Head of the Office of Air Armament) in July 1941. After this meeting, Udet visited the Heinkel factory in order to inspect the He 219 wooden mock-up. Udet saw a potential for the usage of the aircraft in a night-fighter role. After his visit, Udet immediately contacted General Josef Kammhuber, who was responsible for commanding night-fighter defense of Germany. At that time, the Luftwaffe was ill-prepared and lacking adequate night-fighter designs to defend against the ever-increasing Allied night bombing raids. General Josef Kammhuber was a big advocate for new types of dedicated night-fighters that would replace the Me-110. After hearing about the He 219 project, Kammhuber immediately dispatched a group of pilots to inspect the new aircraft. While the He 219 was deemed to have potential, some modifications were needed, such as increasing the number of cannons and replacing the large DB 613 coupled engines with two wing-mounted DB 603G, making 1900 hp each.

Work on the modified He 219 began in mid-August 1941. In October, Luftwaffe officials visited Heinkel to inspect the development process and were satisfied with the progress. However, they asked for modifications such as a two-man cockpit, the addition of armor plates to protect vital components, the removal of the machine gun turret, the addition of air brakes, and other changes. At the end of 1941, two He 219 versions were completed. The first was designed as a two-seat night-fighter, equipped with two DB 603G engines and armed with six 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons, with the possibility of adding two more 13 mm MG 131 machine-guns to protect the rear. This model used a somewhat unusual (for German designs) tricycle landing gear that retracted into the engine nacelles. This design made space available for special radio equipment and ejection seats. The second version was designed as a reconnaissance plane with DB 614 engines and armament consisting only of two rear-mounted machine guns for self-defense.

Due to problems with the DB 603G engine’s availability, the weaker DB 603A giving out 1750 hp was to be used instead. The development of the He 219 was nearly stopped in its tracks by a heavy Allied bombing raid on the Heinkel factories located near Rostock in late April 1942. Many vital parts, drawings, and plans were destroyed. Luckily for the Germans, the hangars where the first functional Uhu prototypes were under construction were not hit. In the hopes of avoiding any more raids, the whole He 219 development program was moved to Schwechat Airbase near Vienna, Austria.

As the work and testing on the first He 219 V-1 were underway, in June 1942, the RLM officials informed Heinkel that the production of the plane was estimated to begin in 1943. The first 20 pre-production aircraft were to be built by April 1943, followed by a monthly production of 200 units. As it would later turn out, this was never achieved. By the end of August, Heinkel officials presented an estimated He 219 production report to the RLM. It was stated that, with the existing production capacities, a production of 12 prototypes and 173 units from March 1943 to September 1944 was possible, with maximum potential for 117 additional aircraft. This was far less than the monthly production of 200 aircraft per month originally demanded. The He 219 was to be produced in German-occupied Poland, at Budzun and Mielec, in the hopes of avoiding any future Allied bombing raids.

The First Prototype

The He 219 cockpit. [Warbird Photographs]
By September 1942, the first He 219 V1 airframe was almost completed. There were delays with the delivery of the landing gear. At this stage, the He 219 had a twin tailfin design. Fearing that it was a weak point, Ernst asked for a second prototype to use a standard single tailfin. Future tests and calculations showed that the twin tailfin design did not pose any risk, so this feature was kept in the later production models.

The He 219 made its first test flight, piloted by the Gotthold Peter, on the 6th of November 1942 (or 15th depending on the source). The V1 prototype received the serial number W.Nr. 219 001 and, on the fuselage, VG+LW was painted. After the flight, which lasted 10 minutes, the pilot noted that the plane’s controls were good, but there were some issues such as inadequate radio equipment and problems with inoperable instruments, among others. On November 9th, there was an accident during a landing due to heavy rain and poor visibility. The pilot misjudged the distance to the airfield and broke the front landing gear as he hit the ground. The damage was repaired in the next few days and, through November, many more test flights were carried out. The testing would continue up to April 1943, during which time some 46 flights with the He 219 V1 were made. During this time, several pilots flew the Uhu, including Oberstleutnant Petersen, Bottcher Beauvais, Major Streib, and others.

Front view of the He 219 V5 prototype. The He 219 was fitted with an unusual tricycle landing gear. [Warbird Photographs]
On 10th January, the He 219 V2 prototype made its first test flight. In the following days, it was tested by the well known night-fighter pilot, Major Werner Streib. After testing the He 219, Major Werner Streib was more than pleased with its performance and wrote a report to Hermann Goering in which he urged for increased production of the Uhu. Further test results were not so promising, as there were several issues noted with the He 219, such as a lower top speed than originally claimed by the Heinkel, problems with strong landing gear vibrations and insufficient stability. For these reasons, the He 219 V1 prototype was sent back to Heinkel for more modifications. The fuselage construction was strengthened but also lengthened by nearly a meter. Other modifications were also made, such as modifying the engine nacelles, adding new propellers, installing a new twin rudder and adding an armament of four 30 mm MK 108 cannons.

Problems in Development and Production

The He 219/V3 prototype in flight seen from below. [Warbirds Resource Group]
In mid-February 1943, a decision was made to modify the V2 in the same manner as the V1 prototype. In addition, the construction of more prototypes was approved. Initially, 10 more prototypes were to be built and tested with different equipment and armament, such as remote-controlled guns and autopilot. The He 219 development was hindered by the lack of availability of DB 603A engines. V7 and V8, which were to be field-tested in May 1943, were equipped with these engines only after General Josef Kammhuber’s personal intervention. Other problems, like the lack of resources, adequate production facilities, and workforce, also affected the He 219’s development. The greatest threat to the He 219 project was probably Generalfeldmarschall Erhard Milch. He was of the opinion that quantity should be prioritized over quality. He urged increased production of the Ju 188, as he claimed it was much cheaper and faster to produce. To counter this, General Josef Kammhuber, the He 219’s main proponent, insisted that it should be flight tested against Ju 188. In late March 1943, a competition was held in Rechlin between several night-fighter aircraft: a Do 217, Ju 188 E-1 and the He 219 V1. Due to its much heavier weight, the Do 217 did not stand a chance. After the test flight, the results showed that the He 219 was faster by 25 to 40 km/h, had better handling characteristics and that its price was actually lower than that of the Ju 188. Despite these results, Generalfeldmarschall Erhard Milch was persistent in his attempts to stop the He 219 project, but its development continued. On 19th April 1943, the V3 prototype was damaged in a landing accident due to pilot error.

Design

Colorized Photo of an He 219 [Warbird Photographs]
The He 219 (A-0 first production aircraft) was designed as a twin-engine, all-metal, mid-wing monoplane. The He 219 fuselage was built using a monocoque design with a rectangular base with round corners. The wings were constructed using two spars, a main and a support. Flaps and ailerons were placed on the wing’s trailing edge.

The cockpit, with an excellent all-around view, was installed at the front of the fuselage. While the fuselage was held in place by using rivets, the cockpit was held in place with bolts. There was accommodation for two crew members, a pilot and a radar operator. The crew members were positioned back to back. While the forward position of the cockpit offered the advantage of good visibility, there was a risk of vulnerability to enemy fire. Another problem was that, in case of emergency, the pilot had first to shut down the engines, as there was a danger of hitting the propellers when exiting the aircraft. For this reason, the He 219 was to be provided with ejection seats for its crew.

The possibility of using ejection seats was being developed and tested by Junkers for some time. The Heinkel company also showed interest in its use. These were to be activated with compressed air or a small explosive charge. During a test flight of the unsuccessful He 280 jet fighter in January 1942, pilot Helmut Schenk was forced to use the ejection seat, which saved his life. After this accident, Heinkel spent time and resources on the production of large numbers of ejection seats, roughly 1,250. These were used on the He 162, Me 262 and He 219.

The engine nacelles were built to house two DB 603A engines. These were twelve-cylinder liquid-cooled 1,750 hp inline engines. They were provided with 3.4 m (11 ft) long three-bladed variable pitch propellers. Behind the engines, two small 20-liter fuel tanks were placed. The main fuel tanks were placed behind the cockpit and were separated with bulkhead ribs. In total, these three main tanks housed around 2,490 liters of fuel (1000, 990, and 500 liters respectively).

The He 219 had a tricycle type retractable landing gear which was somewhat unusual for German designs. The landing gear consisted of four 840 x 300 mm (33 x 11 in) wheels, placed in pairs on two struts, operated hydraulically. The front smaller landing gear consisted of a single 770 x 270 mm (30 x 10 in) wheel. Both the front and rear landing gear struts retracted towards the rear. The front wheel rotated 90° beneath the cockpit floor during retraction.

The basic He 219 A-0 armament consisted of two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons, with 300 rounds per cannon, placed in the wing roots. If needed, a ventral tray could carry four additional cannons, typically with 100 rounds of ammunition per cannon. There were three different forward-mounted weapon configurations, using two MG 151/20 and four 30 mm MK 108, two MG 151/20 and four 30 mm MK 103, or just four MK 103. For acquiring targets, Revi 16/B reflector guns sights were installed. Later models were equipped with the Schräge Musik weapon system. All guns were fired by the pilot by using a two-pronged control column. The top button was for firing the guns from the ventral pod and the front button was for firing the wing-mounted weapons.

Being used in the role of a night-fighter, it was necessary to equip the He 219 with adequate radar technology. Initially, the radar used was the FuG 212 C1 and C2 in combination with FuG 220 sets. Later during the war, the use of the FuG 212 was abandoned.

First Frontline Service Evaluation with the 1./NJG 1

Color photo of an Uhu lineup at an airfield. Note the missing left rudder. [Warbird Photographs]
On 22nd May 1943, the V7 and V9 prototypes were allocated for evaluation to the I.NJG 1 (Nachtjagdgeschwader 1) unit stationed at Venlo, Netherlands. During one flight, the V9 was tested by firing all its guns, but due to problems with one engine, the pilot had to abort the flight and return to base. While stationed there, both were reequipped with the FuH 212 Lichtenstein BC radar.

During the first combat operational flight on June 11/12th 1943, pilot Major Werner Streib managed to shoot down five RAF aircraft, four Lancasters and one Halifax bomber, over a period of 75 minutes. Only due to lack of ammunition was he forced to return to base. On his return, the canopy cracked in many places due to airframe stress, which lowered the visibility. To complicate the situation further, a number of onboard instruments simply stopped working. During landing, there were additional problems with the landing gear and the pilot landed the aircraft on its belly, heavily damaging the plane. Luckily, both crew members survived without a scratch. V9 had to be written off after this accident. In July 1943, V2 was also lost in a diving flight accident. The pilot did not survive.

Further Development

The He 219 A-7, the picture was taken in 1945. The FuG 220 radar antenna dipoles are clearly visible here. [Warbird Photographs]
Due to the demand for more planes made by General Josef Kammhuber, some 22 pre-production aircraft were to be built. These were designated as He 219 A-0. To add to the confusion, these were also marked as V13 to V34. They were used to test different equipment, engines, and weapon loads.

Note that, due to greatly different information presented by different authors, the following information was taken from M. J.Murawski’s book (2009), “Heinkel He 219 Uhu”.

The A-0 series was to be put into production under four different versions. The R1 would have a longer fuselage and an armament of two MG 151/20 and two MK 108. The R2 was similar to the R1, but with a strengthened undercarriage and armed with four MK 103. The R3 was armed with two MG 151/20 and four MK 108. Finally, the R6 was equipped with the Schräge Musik system and two MK 108 cannons.

The A-0 series was also used to test the installation of auxiliary BMW 003 turbojet engines. One A-0 equipped with this engine managed to achieve a maximum speed of 385 mph (620 km/h) at 19.700 ft (6000 m). This aircraft was almost lost due to an engine fire. Despite the attempt to produce as many He 219 A-0 as possible in the first half of 1944, only 82 were built. By the conclusion of A-0 series production, only around 100 were built. The A-0 was to be replaced by the A-1 version, also planned to be mass-produced. Alas, this was never achieved and the He 219 A-1 was never put into mass-production, with possibly only a few ever built.

The He 219 was provided with a cockpit that offered its crew an excellent all-around view.  [Warbirds Resource Group]
The A-2 version was to be put into mass production as a dedicated night-fighter. It reused the A-1 airframe with modifications to the armor thickness to improve protection, adding flame dampers, and increasing operational range. The first version of the He 219 A-2/R1 was powered by two DB 603 A/B engines and armed with an MG 151/20 and two MK 103 and Schräge Musik. The Schräge Musik was a weapon system developed by the Germans that consisted of two MK 108, with 100 rounds of ammunition each, mounted at an angle of 65°. These were mounted on the He 219 fuselage behind the larger fuel tank. In theory, these angled cannons could engage enemy bombers above the aircraft without fear of return fire. During the use of Schräge Musik in combat operation, there was a possibility that the attacking He 219 would be damaged by the debris of destroyed or damaged enemy bombers. To solve this problem, Mauser developed a new movable gun carriage that could change the elevation of the cannons from 45° to 85°. In practice, however, the ground crews simply removed the Schräge Musik system from the He 219. The He 219A-2/R2 version had increasing fuel capacity by adding extra fuel tanks of 900 liters under the fuselage.

The A-3 was a fast bomber and A-4 was intended to fight the British Mosquito, but both versions were only paper projects.

Problems with the fuel systems on the A-2 lead to the development of the A-5 version powered by the same engines. This A-5/R1 version was armed with two MG 151/20, two MK 103 and two MK 108 in the Schräge Musik system. The A-5/R2 was equipped with the FuG 220 radar and armed with four MG 151/20 and the standard Schräge Musik system. The A-5/R3 version was powered by DB 603 E engines and had the same armament as the A-5/R1. The A-5/R4 had a modified cockpit with three crew members. For this reason, the fuselage was lengthened to 43 ft (16.3 m). The third crew member was added to operate the rear-mounted MG 131 machine gun. The engines used were DB 603 E with increased fuel capacity by the addition of two fuel tanks, each with 395 l, and was armed with four MG 151/20.

The He 219 A-6 was designed to fight the British Mosquito. In order to increase speed, it was stripped of its armor plates and the armament was reduced to four MG 151/20. The sources are not clear if any were actually built.

The final version developed was the He 219 A-7, which was powered by two DB603 G engines. Its first subvariant, the A-7/R1, was heavily armed with two wing root MK 108 and four additional cannons, two MG 151/20 and two MK 103, in the ventral tray. The A-7/R2 was the same as the R1 but with the addition of the Schräge Musik system. The R3 was proposed to be used as a basis for the never-built B-1 version. The R4 had its armament reduced to only four MG 151/20. The R5 was the third and last attempt to modify the He 219 to fight the Mosquito. It was to be powered by the Junkers Jumo 213E engine, equipped with methanol-water injection that boosted the horsepower by 1,320 hp. The last R6 was to be powered by two Jumo 222A engines and armed with two MG 151/20 and four MK 103.

Unrealized Projects

Besides the main production version, two additional variants were to be tested and eventually put into production, but little came of this. The B-1 was designed as a three-seater heavy fighter powered by Jumo 222 engines. In addition, it had a redesigned fuselage and a larger wingspan of 22 m (72 ft). The armament consisted of four MK 108 and two MG 151/20 cannons and one MG 131. The B-2 was a two-seater high-altitude fighter and for this purpose had to be equipped with a pressurized cockpit. Whether any of the B-series were ever built is hard to tell, as the sources are not clear on this matter.

The C-1 was planned to be a four-seat heavy fighter powered with Jumo 222E/F engines. The armament was similar to the B-1 but armed with three more MG 131 machineguns. The C-2 was planned as a fighter-bomber based on the C-1, but with only two cannons and four MG 131. It was meant to be armed with a bomb load of 1,500 kg (3,300 lb).

The He 319 was a proposed fast bomber version powered by DB 603 A engines, but none were ever built. The He 419 was a proposed high-altitude fighter that was to be built using a combination of many different components of previous variants.

In Combat

As already mentioned previously, the He 219’s first combat flight was very successful, with five enemy planes claimed shot down. As this He 219 was lost in an accident, Heinkel sent two additional planes as replacements, V10 and V12. Uhu pilots managed to achieve more kills in the following weeks. In late July 1943, Hauptmann Hans Frank shot down two British bombers , a Lancaster and a Wellington, followed by one more Lancaster in August. On the night of August 30th 1943, these two He 219 managed to shoot down several more British bombers, three Halifaxes, one Stirling, a Wellington, and a Lancaster. One He 219 lost an engine due to enemy fire, but the pilot managed to land back safely. In early September, the two He 219 again attacked a British bomber formation and managed to achieved one kill on a Lancaster. However, on this occasion, one He 219 (V10) was heavily damaged by enemy return fire. In late September, the second He 219 was lost when it collided with a Me 110 in mid-flight. None of the pilots nor their radio operators survived the collision.

In October, the I./NJG 1 unit had seven Uhus, with only two fully operational A-0 under the command of Hauptmann Manfred Meurer. On 19th October 1943, Meurer managed to achieve his first victory while flying the He 219, his 57th overall victory. The next day, one He 219 was lost with its crew due to bad weather. On the night of October 22nd, 1943, Meurer shot down another Allied bomber. Due to quality issues with cockpit equipment and poor heating, all surviving He 219 were to return back to Germany.

As replacements, seven new He 219 (A-0 series) were delivered to I./NJG 1 in December of 1943. On the night of January 21, 1944, Manfred shot down another bomber, but during an engagement with a second bomber, Meurer’s Uhu accidentally collided with the enemy aircraft, killing the crews of both aircraft. He was succeeded by Hauptmann Paul Förster, the oldest pilot in the Luftwaffe, at the age of 42.

During March and April of 1944, several more kills were scored by the He 219. Interestingly, on 12th April, the crew of one He 219 was forced to activate the ejection seats. Both the pilot and the radio operator survived. This is considered the world’s first successful use of ejection seats in combat operations. On the night of April 22nd, Staffelkapitän Modrow managed to shoot down three British Lancasters and possibly two additional Canadian Halifaxes. By the end of April, some 10 Allied bombers had been shot down by the He 219.

The He 219 would continued to bring down many enemy aircraft, but there were some issues . While having excellent handling and firepower, problems arose with the aircraft’s weight. When fully loaded, the He 219 could not fly any higher than 27,900 ft (8,500 m). Another issue was that the speed of 375 mph (605 km/h) could be achieved only without radio antennas. With antennas and flame dampers, the speed was reduced to 347 mph (560 km/h). While it was faster than the Me-110, it was not enough to fight the British Mosquito.

During May of 1944, the He 219 managed to shoot down over a dozen enemy bombers with few losses. In June, Uhu engagements with British Mosquitos began to intensify. On June 2nd, one Mosquito was shot down with the loss of one He 219. From June 6th to 15th, four Mosquitos were shot down without any losses. On the night of June 15th, He 219 pilots managed to shoot down 10 Allied aircraft for the loss of one of their own. By the end of May, I.NGJ 1 had 56 He 219 in total, divided into two groups (Gruppen), and a command unit (Stab). The Stab had 2, I. Gruppe had 33 and the II.Gruppe 21. Of the 56 aircraft, only 43 were fully operational.

On 4th August 1944, a bizarre accident occurred involving one of three He 219 that were to be sent against an Allied daylight bomber raid. During the flight, the pilot of one He 219 noticed that one of the ground crew was somehow caught on the fuselage, hanging in midair. To save this airman’s life, the pilot landed on a nearby airfield. This decision additionally saved the aircrew’s lives, as both remaining He 219 were shot down by the Allied fighter escorts. In August, He 219 pilots managed to achieve only one victory.

Due to extensive air raids on its airbase at Venlo, Netherlands, I./NJG 1 was repositioned to Münster, Germany in early September 1944. On 9th September, two He 219 were lost to American fighters during a training flight. Also during this month, an additional 28 new He 219 were accepted by the Luftwaffe. At the start of October, during a test flight, I./NJG 1 commander Major Paul Föster was killed in an accident. A few more Uhu were lost in accidents or to enemy fire, with only one achieved victory for October.

Some of the last successful missions by the He 219 were at the beginning of November 1944, when 7 Allied bombers were shot down. By the end of 1944, the He 219 managed to shoot down smaller numbers of Allied aircraft, but the losses due to enemy action or accidents began to rise.

In 1945, the He 219 was plagued with a lack of fuel availability, increasing numbers of Allied air raids, and increasing technical problems with the operational aircraft. On 10th January 1945, I./NJG 1 had 64 He 219, with 45 operational aircraft. The last air victory achieved by the He 219 happened on the 7th of March 1945, when pilot Werner Bakke shot down a British Lancaster bomber over the Netherlands. On March 21st, the airbase at Münster was heavily bombed by the Allies. The raid continued the following day. During these attacks, 7 He 219 were completely destroyed, with 13 more damaged. To avoid future raids, the unit was repositioned to the isle of Sylt in Northern Germany. Due to the general lack of fuel, the combat use of the He 219 was limited. On the 9th of April, the number of He 219 within I./NJG 1 was 51, with 44 fully operational. For I./NJG 1, the war finally ended on the 30th April, when the airbase was captured by the advancing British forces.

Only a few units besides I./NJG 1 were ever supplied with the He 219. Some of these were Nachtjagdgruppe 10, a training and experimental testing unit formed in February 1944, Nachtjagd-Ergänzungsgruppe formed in April 1944, ZG 26 ‘Norwegen’ and NJG 5 which had 34 He 219, with 32 operational.

After the War

Side view of the He 219 with British markings added postwar after capture. [Warbird Photographs]
At the end of the war and the German capitulation, the British ground forces managed to capture around 54 He 219. Most were scrapped, but five were sent back to Britain for further examination by the Royal Air Force, and three were given to the Americans. Soviet forces also managed to capture two in Czechoslovakia. These received the designation LB-79 and were mostly used for testing at the Prague Aviation Institute up to 1952, when they were finally scrapped.

Over 50 He 219 were captured by the advancing British forces, but only one would survive the war. [Warbird Photographs]
Surviving He 219

The only surviving He 219 that is currently under restoration. [Key.Aero]
Today, only one He 219 (American equipment designation FE 164) still exists and is located at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at the National Air and Space Museum. Currently, only the fuselage is on display.

The He 219 Production

There is no precise information on how many Uhus were actually built. Authors Ferenc A. and P. Dancey give a figure of 294 planes, of which 195 were allocated to the Luftwaffe. D. Nešić states that 288 were built. Authors J. Dressel and M. Griehl mention that, from 1943 to March 1945, 268 He 219 were built in total, with the production of 11 in 1943, 195 in 1944, and the last 62 in 1945. Author A. Lüdeke mentions that 284 were built.

The production orders for the He 219 ranged from 100 to 300 per month, but these were never reached and only small monthly production was ever possible. To avoid Allied bombing campaigns, the production was moved to several locations in Rostock, Germany, Vienna-Schwechat, Austria, and factories at Mielec, Poland.

Despite the resources and time invested in the He 219 project, it was under great pressure from its old opponent, Generalfeldmarschall Erhard Milch. Even as the Uhu was shown to have promising flight performance, Generalfeldmarschall Milch urged it to be canceled in favor of the new Ju 88 G. Ernst Heinkel did what he could to see his project continue, but it would all prove to be futile. In May 1944, Hermann Goering ordered a halt to He 219 production. This order was then revoked, mainly at the insistence Karl Sauer, who was responsible for night-fighter development at this stage of war. While the production of the He 219 would continue on, it would never be built in any large numbers during the war due to political tensions, lack of resources, and workforce shortages.

Variants

  • He 219 V1-V12 – First built prototypes
    • V13-V34 – Used to test various equipment and engines,
  • He 219 A-0 – Pre-production version, around 100 built.
    • R1 – Had larger fuselage and armament of two MG 151/20 and two MK 108
    • R2 – Had strengthened undercarriage
    • R3 – Armed with two MG 151/20 and four MK 108
    • R6 – Equipped with Schräge Musik
  • He 219 A-1 – Proposed for mass production, possibly only a few airframes built.
  • He 219 A-2 – First production night-fighter version,
    • R1 – Armed with two MG 151/20 and two MK 103 and the Schräge Musik system.
    • R2 – Same as R1 but with increased fuel capacity.
  • He 219 A-3 – Proposed fast-bomber version, none built.
  • He 219 A-4 – Proposed improved night-fighter version, none built.
  • He 219 A-5 – Mass production series
    • R1 – Was armed with two MG 151/20, two MK 103 and two MK 108 in the Schräge Musik system.
    • R2 – Armed with four MG 151/20 and FuG 220 radio equipment.
    • R3 – Powered by DB 603E engines.
    • R4 – Powered by DB 603E engines, with one more crew member added that operate the rear-mounted machine gun.
  • He 219 A-6 – Anti-Mosquito version, unknown if any were built.
  • He 219 A-7 – Final production version powered by the DB603 G engine and equipped with different weapon loads.
    • R-1 – Armed with two wing root MK 108 and four additional cannons (two MG 151/20 and two MK 103) in the ventral tray.
    • R-2 – Same as previous version with added Schräge Musik system.
    • R-3 – The MK 108 cannons in the wing root were replaced with MG 151/20.
    • R-4 – Armament reduced to only four MG 151/20.
    • R-5 – Powered by Junkers Jumo 213E engine.
    • R-6 – Powered by Jumo 222A engines, and armed with two MG 151/20 and four MK 103.

Proposed Versions

  • He 219 B
    • B-1 Proposed three-seater heavy fighter, possibly few built.
    • B-2 – Proposed high-altitude fighter.
  • He 219 C
    • C-1 – Proposed four-seat heavy fighter.
    • C-2 – Proposed fighter bomber.
  • He 319 – Proposed fast bomber version, none built,
  • He 419 – Proposed high-altitude fighter

Operators

  • Nazi Germany – Produced less than 300 aircraft, but only 195 were ever issued to the Luftwaffe.
  • USA –Used three aircraft for testing after the war, one survived to this day.
  • UK – Five aircraft were transported to the UK for testing after the war.
  • Soviet Union – Captured at least two He 219, these were given to Czechoslovakia and used for testing.

Conclusion

The He 219 A-0 laying derelict at Munster, Germany in May 1945 [Warbirds Photographs]
The He 219 proved to be one of the best German night-fighter designs of the war. Despite the small number of aircraft built, the pilots flying the He 219 managed to shoot down many Allied aircraft. While the He 219 is generally known today as a night-fighter that, if produced in greater numbers, could have stopped the Allied bombing raids, in truth this was not possible. During service, the He 219 proved to have some issues, of which the most serious was the inability to climb when fully loaded to an altitude higher than 27,900 ft (8,500 m) and a combat speed of 347 mph (560 km/h). In addition, it was built too late and in too small numbers  to seriously threaten Allied bomber formations.

Specifications –  Heinkel He 219A-7/R2
Wingspan 60 ft 8.3 in / 18.50 m
Length 50 ft 11 in / 15.5 m
Height 13 ft 5 in / 4.10 m
Wing Area 480 ft² / 44.50 m²
Engine Two 1,900 hp Daimler-Benz DB 603G engines
Empty Weight 24,690 lb / 11.200 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight 33,730 lb / 15,300 kg
Fuel Capacity 687 gallons / 2,600 liters
Maximum Speed 416 mph / 670 km/h
Cruising Speed 391 mph / 630 km/h
Range 1,240 mi / 2,000 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 40,025 ft / 12,200 m
Crew One pilot and one navigator
Armament
  • Two 30 mm MK 103 and a twin 20 mm MG 151/20 Ventral Gun Pod
  • Two 30 mm MK 108 in the wing roots
  • Two 30 mm MK 108 in the Schräge Musik configuration

Gallery

Illustrations by Ed Jackson

Heinkel He 219A-2 Uhu, D5+BL, NJG 3, Captured at Gove, Denmark, May 1945
Heinkel He 219A-7 Uhu, D5+CL, NJG 3, Captured at Gove, Denmark, May 1945
Artist Interpretation of the He 219B Uhu with Jumo 222 Engine and extended wingspan. Note the large ducted spinner and numerous exhaust pipes to accommodate the engine’s 24 cylinders.

The He 219 cockpit. [Warbird Photographs]
The He 219/V3 prototype in flight, seen from below. [Warbirds Resource Group]
The He 219 A-0 lying derelict at Munster, Germany, in May 1945 [Warbirds Photographs]
Color photo taken of an Uhu lineup at an airfield. Note the missing left rudder. [Warbird Photographs]
Side view of the He 219/V3 prototype [Warbird Photographs]
Side view of the He 219 with British markings added postwar, after capture. [Warbird Photographs]
Over 50 He 219 were captured by the advancing British forces, but only one would survive the war. [Warbird Photographs]
A He 219 A-7 in a picture was taken in 1945. The FuG 220 radar antennas are clearly visible here. [Warbird Photographs]
Colorized Photo of an He 219 [Warbird Photographs]
The He 219 was provided with a cockpit which offered its crew an excellent all-around view. On the other hand, it left the crew exposed to enemy fire. [Warbirds Resource Group]
Front view of the He 219 V5 prototype. The He 219 was fitted with an unusual tricycle landing gear. [Warbird Photographs]
Uhu with its radar dipole antennas removed for maintenance or testing [Warbirds Photographs]
The only surviving He 219, that is currently under restoration. [Key.Aero]
Credits

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