Fire Power Details of Nazi Planes

Arrangement and areas of protective fire screen show vulnerable points.

As is pointed out by Maj Nathaniel Silsbee elsewhere in this issue, no airplane is better than its armament.

On these pages are shown some of the reasons why quantity alone could not entirely compensate for quality in the Luftwaffe's attempts to wipe out the RAF and Red Air Forces. It should be noted that in the vast majority of cases the Nazi planes depend on 7.9-mm machine guns — about the same size as .30 calibre — and the only shell guns used are 20 mm. While the British still rely largely on .30 calibre for their machine guns, they have long had a policy of mounting more guns than the Germans. It should also be noted that the Luftwaffe still relies heavily on the planes shown here. American practice has long called for nothing smaller than .50 calibre, half again as large as either the 7.9 mm or .30 calibre, but with approximately three times the impact force.

Bombers Have Vulnerable Spots

The Ju-88 (Figs 1 and 2) is used for long-range level bombing, dive bombing, photographic and reconnaissance work, carrying a crew of three or four, depending on the mission. and mounting up to six guns. Forward tire power depends on one or two 7.9-mm machine guns or, occasionally, one 20-mm shell gun, operated by a navigator-bombardier. This gun can be swung 35° to either side; 45° up and 20° down. Lower rear protection depends on a 7.9 operated by a crew member who lies facing backward. It can be swung 45°. to either side and, normally, 60° below horizontal. This depression can, however, be extended to 90°. Protection from above and behind depends on one crewman — who is also radio operator — firing two 7.9s with a 45° swing to either side and an elevation of 45°. This crewman also operates either of two side 7.9s, swinging from 30° to 75° off center, and 45° above horizontal.


The Heinkel He 111 (Figs 3, 4 and 5), a long-range bomber, torpedo carrier or reconnaissance plane, is one of the "workhorses" of the Luftwaffe. Protection from the rear depends on one 7.9 which has a quarter-sphere arc: from horizontal to vertical and 90°. to each side. This operator also handles either of two 7.9 side guns, swinging from 15° to 85°. off the center line and 35°. above and below horizontal. Protection from below is afforded by one or two 7.9s or one 7.9 and one 20-mm shell gun, operated by a prone crewman facing backward. This installation has a 45°. swing to each side and down as much as 90°. Occasionally the plane is fitted with a 7.9 firing down and a little forward through an aperture in the compartment which juts out below the fuselage. Forward fire power is furnished by one or two 7.9s in the fuselage nose, operated by the bombardier, who lies beneath the pilot’s seat. Forward fire screen is 35° to each side, 15° above horizontal and 35° below. Occasionally another 7.9 is mounted, swinging from vertical to 20°. above horizontal and 35° to either side. Recently some Heinkels have been equipped with either a 7.9 or a grenade tube, fitted into the tail and operated by re- mote control. (See Aviation, October, 1942, page 157.)

Fighter Fire Concentrated

The Messerschmitt Me-110 (Figs 6 and 7) twin-engine fighter is well armed forward, but is light in both rear and lower tire power and armor. Forward fire power consists of four 7.9 machine guns and two 20-mm shell guns, all firing from fixed positions. (Also see page 98.) Sole protection from the rear is from one 7.9, which can be swung but 40° to either side, up 60° above horizontal and to 10° below. With a service ceiling of 32,000 ft, the plane has a top speed of 340 mph at 22,000 ft, and cruises at 285 mph at 16,500 ft.

Stuka Lightly Armed

The Ju-87b (Fig 8), the still widely used Stuka, has been proved to be extremely vulnerable without over-powering local air superiority. Its forward fire power consists of two 7.9-mm machine guns in the wings, firing outside the propeller arc. Protection from the rear depends on one 7.9 which can be swung only 30° to either side, 45°. above horizontal and a little less below horizontal.

All the guns shown — the 20-mm shell guns as well as the 7.9s — must be swung by hand, for the Germans have done almost nothing with power turrets. (For other armament and armor details see Aviation, August, 1942, page 196.)

This article was originally published in the November, 1942, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 41, no 11, pp 200-201.