Nazi Transport Planes Soft Targets in Tunis

Before the mopping up in Africa, Allied airmen downed a record number of enemy transport craft. Two late types were among the Nazi planes blasted out of the sky. One, the Blohm & Voss BV-222, has been previously mentioned; the other, advertised as a "power glider," is the Me-323. Quite out of Willy Messerschmitt's usual line, the latter is clumsy in appearance, with a square fuselage, braced wings and tail, an aerodynamically unseemly hinged nose — plus a ten-wheel landing gear.

The undercarriage brings back memories of pre-WWI multi-wheeled monstrosities and seems to be designed for steady landings on rough terrain. The Me-323 is equipped with six Gnome-Rhone 14-cyl radial engines of some 700 hp, about equal to our Twin Wasp Jr. They give a top speed of 155 mph and a 450-mi range with a military load of about 22,000 lb.

One fact definitely established by the appearance of this plane is that the Germans have succeeded in perfecting an assisted takeoff method that enables them to get aircraft of this size and type into the air. While the gross weight of such a "power glider" is lower in relation to the useful load than it would be in a normal aircraft, it still must be around 36,000 lb, giving a takeoff load of around 29 tons.

The only other news about German developments comprises a few more details about the Ju-86P, high altitude version of the obsolescent Ju-86 twin-engine bomber. Main changes seem to be larger wings, reduction of the crew to two or three, no armament, and of course a pressure cabin. Engines are Jumo 207As, turbosupercharged versions of an older commercial type. While the high altitude which this plane can reach will protect it against normal attack, quite a few of these craft have been shot down by the latest Spitfires.

The Heinkel He-177, four-engine, twin-nacelle, long-range heavy bomber, is powered by a double version of the DB-601 engine driving only one propeller through an arrangement closely resembling Vega’s Unitwin setup. Apparently, engineering problems of coaxial propellers are still far from solved in Germany, and the output of two 1,000-hp engines must be absorbed by oversize propellers kept clear of the ground by an abnormally high undercarriage.

This news clip was originally published in the "Aviation Abroad" column of the June, 1943, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 42, no 6 p 309.