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He 51 B-1
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Aircraft Data
Nation Germany
Classification Light Fighter / Biplane
Era I
Economic Data
Research Needed N/A (Reserve)
Researchpoint
Purchase Price N/A (Reserve)
Lion
Training Price N/A (Reserve)
Lion
Aircraft Progression
Previous He 51 A-1
Next in Series He 51 C-1
Next in Tree None

The Heinkel He 51 was a German single-seat which was produced in a number of different versions. It was initially developed as a fighter, and a seaplane variant and a ground-attack version were also developed. It was a development of the earlier He 49.

The He 51 was a conventional single-bay biplane, with all-metal construction and fabric covering. It was powered by a glycol-cooled BMW VI engine, with an armament of two 7.92 mm machine guns mounted above the engine.

SpecificationsEdit

PerformanceEdit

  • Maximum Speed: 311 km/h
  • Maximum Altitude: 7700 m
  • Turn Time: 13.3 sec
  • Rate of Climb: 13.8 m/s
  • Takeoff Run: 294 m

ArmamentEdit

Primary Weapons

Secondary Weapons

  • None

Defensive Armament

  • None

Utilization and TacticsEdit

Piloting the AircraftEdit

This section should be used to describe tactics and techniques specific to the aircraft - general strategies such as "boom and zoom" should be limited to a sentence or two, with a link to the appropriate page.

Flying AgainstEdit

Discuss the best techniques for defeating this aircraft.  Be sure to preface strategies appropriately - "When flying Spitfires against this plane...", "If your bomber is engaged by this aircraft..." and so on.  General techniques can be discussed as well, such as vulnerable parts of the aircraft or gunner dead zones.

Variant ModelsEdit

He 51 A-1Edit

Reserve aircraft.  Negligible difference between other He 51 models.

He 51 B-1Edit

Reserve aircraft.  Negligible difference between other He 51 models.

He 51 C-1Edit

Reserve aircraft.  Negligible difference between other He 51 models.

Operational HistoryEdit

The Heinkel He 51 was a German single-seat which was produced in a number of different versions. It was initially developed as a fighter, and a seaplane variant and a ground-attack version were also developed. It was a development of the earlier He 49.

On 6 August 1936, six of the He 51s were delivered to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War along with the fraction of the army in revolt. Initial operations were successful, with the Heinkels meeting and defeating a number of older biplane of the Spanish Republican Air Force, with two Nieuport Ni-52 fighters, a Breguet 19 and a Potez 54 destroyed on 18 August 1936, the first day of operations by Spanish-flown He 51s. Deliveries continued as the hostilities increased, with two Nationalist squadrons equipped by November, and the Legion Condor forming three squadrons of 12 aircraft each manned by German "volunteers".

This time of superiority was short lived, with the arrival of large numbers of modern aircraft from the Soviet Union, including the Polikarpov I-15 biplane and new Polikarpov I-16 monoplane, together with the Tupolev SB bomber, which was 110 km/h (70 mph) faster. The He 51 proved unable to protect the Legion Condor's bombers, forcing it to switch to night operations, while also unable to intercept the much faster SB. The He 51 was therefore withdrawn from fighter duty and relegated to the ground-attack role by both the Legion Condor and the Spanish rebels. It was replaced in the fighter role by the Fiat CR.32 in the rebel Nationalist Air Force, with the Legion Condor receiving Messerschmitt Bf 109s from April 1937 to allow it to operate successfully in fighter operations.

While a failure as a fighter, the Heinkel proved successful as a ground-attack aircraft, being used by Wolfram von Richthofen to develop the close support tactics which were used by the Luftwaffe in World War II. It continued in use as a ground attack aircraft for the remainder of the Civil War, although losses were heavy. After the war the 46 surviving aircraft would be joined by another 15 new builds, and serve in the utility role in Spain until 1952.

The experiences in Spain would prove once and for all that the days of the biplane fighter were over. Although the later model Fiat biplanes were superior to the He 51 and continued to soldier on in Nationalist service, the I-16s were basically untouchable because of their speed. If the conditions were right, they could use their heavy armament in a quick pass and then leave; if things weren't so favorable, they simply flew away. The lesson learned by all of the participants was that speed was far more important in combat than maneuverability.

The He 51 continued in front-line service with the Luftwaffe until 1938, with it remaining in service as an advanced trainer for the first few years of World War II.

Image GalleryEdit

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