IXO Models IXJP017 German Heinkel He 219A-7 "Uhu" Night Fighter - Gruppenkommandeur Manfred Meurer, I/NJG 1, Eggebeck Airfield, Germany, January 1944 (1:72 Scale)
"Guns before butter. Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat."
- Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, Head of the German Luftwaffe
The He 219 has been described as the best night fighter operated by the Luftwaffe during World War II. In fact, the "Uhu" (Owl) may have been the best night fighter of the war. Only the American Northrop P-61 "Black Widow" shares the He 219's unique status of being designed for night operation. The He 219 was fast, maneuverable, and carried devastating firepower. It was the only piston-engined Luftwaffe night fighter which could meet the British De Havilland Mosquito on equal terms. Advanced features included remote-controlled gun turrets, a pressurized cabin, the first steerable nosewheel on an operational German aircraft, and the world's first ejection seats on an operational aircraft.
Due to political rivalries between Josef Kammhuber, commander of the German night fighter forces, Ernst Heinkel, the constructor and Erhard Milch, responsible for aircraft construction in the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM - the German Aviation Ministry), the development and production of the aircraft was tortuous. Furthermore, the aircraft was complicated and expensive to construct, a factor that further limited the number of planes produced.
When Robert Lusser returned to Heinkel from Messerschmitt, he began work on a new high speed bomber project called P.1055. This was an advanced design with a pressurized cockpit, twin ejection seats (the first to be planned for use in any combat aircraft), nose wheel landing gear and remote control defensive guns similar to those used by the Messerschmitt Me 210. Power was to be provided by two DB 610 "coupled" engines producing 2,950 hp each, delivering excellent performance with a top speed of approximately 750 km/h (465 mph) and a 4,000 km range with a 2,000 kg bombload.
The RLM rejected the design in August 1940 as too complex and risky. Lusser quickly offered four versions of the plane with various wingspans and engines in order to balance the performance and risk. At the same time, he offered the P.1056 dedicated nightfighter with four 20 mm cannons in the wings and fuselage. The RLM rejected all of these on the same grounds in 1941. Heinkel was furious and fired Lusser on the spot.
About the same time as Lusser was designing the P.1055, Kammhuber had started looking for a dedicated aircraft for his rapidly growing night fighter force. Heinkel quickly re-designed P.1055 for this role as the P.1060. This design was similar in layout but somewhat smaller and powered by the smaller and simpler DB 603 engine. This engine wasn't known for its altitude performance, which was a problem for this design with its short wings, but Daimler offered a new "G" version that addressed that issue. Heinkel was sure he had a winner and sent the design off to the RLM in January 1942 while he funded the first prototype out-of-pocket. Nevertheless the RLM again rejected the plane in favour of new Junkers Ju 88 and Messerschmitt Me 210 based designs.
Construction of the prototype started in February but suffered a serious setback in March, when Daimler said that the DB603G would not be ready in time. Instead they would deliver a 603A with a new gear ratio to the props, with the new designation 603C. Even these took until August to arrive, thus the prototype did not fly until November 6th, 1942. When Kammhuber saw the prototype on the 19th he was so impressed he immediately ordered it into production over Milch's objections. Milch, who had rejected the plane in January, was enraged.
Stability problems were noted but Heinkel overcame the problem by offering a cash prize to the engineers who could fix the problem. Further changes were made to the armament; the rear defensive guns - which were found to be ineffective - were removed. The forward firing armament was increased to two 20 mm guns in the wing roots and four more guns or cannons mounted in the ventral tray. Production prototypes were then ordered as the He 219 A-0 (V-series planes) and quickly progressed to the point where V7, 8 and 9 were handed over to operational units in June '43 for testing. Sold Out!
Wingspan: 11 inches
Length: 8.5 inches
Release Date: June 2006
Original Issue Price: $24.99
Historical Account: "Alone with the Owl" - Without doubt the best German night-fighter of the war, the He 219 Uhu (Owl) possessed in abundance all three attributes essential for such combat: high speed, heavy gun armament and an efficient radar. The He 21191/1was flown on November 15th, 1942 and production examples would have followed quickly had an RAF raid on Rostock not destroyed more than three-quarters of the design drawings. Pre-production He 219A-Os were delivered to NJG 1 at Venlo in April 1943, and on the first combat sortie, Major Werner Streib destroyed five Lancasters within 30 minutes during the night of June 11th-12th.
The first version to be produced in quantity was the He 219A-5, which was armed with two 30-mm and two 20-mm cannon. At the end of 1943, the He 219 was officially abandoned on the grounds that the Ju 88G was capable of catching the Lancaster and Halifax but, as the He 219 was the only night-fighter able to deal with the Mosquito, production continued.
The major variant, the He 219A-7,was introduced in 1944. The He 219A-7/Rlwas armed with no fewer than eight cannon, four forward-firing 30mm and two of 20-mm, plus two upward-firing 30mm guns in a schrage Musik (slanting music) installation. Fastest of all the He 219A series versions was the He 219A-7/R6 with 2,500-hp ( 1,865-kW ) Jumo 222A/B engines and a top speed of 435 mph (700 km/h). Most aircraft were equipped with FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN-2 radar. Of all RAF Mosquitoes lost during night operations more than 60 per cent (estimated) fell to He 219s.