Henschel Hs 129

Henschel Hs 129

infobox Aircraft
name = Hs 129
type = Ground attack
manufacturer = Henschel

caption = Henschel Hs 129 B-1
designer =
first flight = 25 May 1939
introduced = April 1942
retired = 1945
status =
primary user = "Luftwaffe"
more users = Hungarian Air Force Romanian Air Force
produced = June 1940 - September 1944
number built = 865
unit cost =
developed from =
variants with their own articles =

The Henschel Hs 129 was a World War II ground attack aircraft fielded by the German Luftwaffe. Its nickname, the "Panzerknacker" (tank cracker), is a deliberate pun - in German, it also means "safe cracker". The Hs 129 never really had a chance to prove itself in any way; the plane was produced only in small numbers and deployed during a time when the Luftwaffe was unable to protect them from attack.

Design and development

By the middle of the 1930s the idea of using aircraft against ground targets had been "well understood" to be of little use other than hurting enemy morale. Experiences during World War I had demonstrated that attacking the combatants was generally much more dangerous to the aircraft than the troops on the ground, a problem that was only becoming more acute with the introduction of newer weapons. For much of the 1920s and 1930s the use of aircraft was seen primarily in the strategic and interdiction roles, where their targets were less likely to be able to fight back with any level of coordination. For high-value point targets, the dive bomber was the preferred solution.

The German Condor Legion experience during the Spanish Civil War turned this idea on its head. Although armed with generally unsuitable aircraft such as the Henschel Hs 123 and cannon-armed versions of the Heinkel He 112, their powerful armament and fearless pilots proved that the aircraft was a very effective weapon even without bombs. This led to some support within the Luftwaffe for the creation of an aircraft dedicated to this role, and eventually a contract was tendered for a new "attack aircraft".

Since the main source of damage would be from rifle and machine gun fire from the ground, the plane had to be heavily armored around the cockpit and engines. They also required the same protection in the windscreen, which required 75 mm thick armored glass. Since the aircraft was expected to be attacking its targets directly in low level strafing runs, the cockpit had to be located as close as possible to the nose in order to see the ground. One last requirement, a non-technical one, ended up dooming the designs; the RLM demanded that the aircraft be powered by "unimportant" engines of low power that were not being used in other designs, so the plane's production would not interfere with that of other types deemed more essential to the war effort.

Four companies were asked to respond, and only two of the resulting three entries were considered worthy of consideration; Focke-Wulf's conversion of their earlier Fw 189 reconnaissance plane, and Henschel's all-new Hs 129.


The Hs 129 was designed around a single large "bathtub" of steel sheeting that made up the entire nose area of the plane, completely enclosing the pilot up to head level. Even the canopy was steel, with only tiny windows on the side to see out of and two angled blocks of glass for the windscreen. In order to improve the armor's ability to stop bullets, the fuselage sides were angled in forming a triangular shape, resulting in almost no room to move at shoulder level. There was so little room in the cockpit that the instrument panel ended up under the nose below the windscreen where it was almost invisible, some of the engine instruments were moved outside onto the engine nacelles, as on some models of Messerschmitt's Bf 110 heavy fighter, and the gunsight was mounted outside on the nose.

In the end the plane came in 12% overweight and the engines 8% underpowered, and it understandably flew poorly. The controls proved to be almost inoperable as speed increased, and in testing one plane flew into the ground from a short dive because the stick forces were too high for the pilot to pull out. The Fw design proved to be no better. Both planes were underpowered with their Argus As 410 engines, and very difficult to fly.

The RLM nevertheless felt they should continue with the basic concept. In the end the only real deciding factor between the two was that the Henschel was smaller and cheaper. The Focke-Wulf was put on low priority as a backup, and testing continued with the Hs 129 A-0. A series of improvements resulted in the Hs 129 A-1 series, armed with two 20 mm MG 151/20s and two 7.92 mm MG 17s, along with the ability to carry four 50 kg bombs under the fuselage midline.

Hs 129 B-1

Even before the A-1s were delivered the plane was redesigned with the Gnome-Rhône 14M radial engine, which were captured in some number when France fell. This engine supplied 700 hp (522 kW) for takeoff compared to the Argus at 465 hp (347 kW). The Gnome-Rhone radials were also made in versions with opposite rotation for the propeller, and were installed on the Hs 129 with the port engine rotating clockwise, and the starboard rotating counterclockwise, as seen from nose-on, thus eliminating engine torque problems. The A-1 planes were converted into Hs 129 B-0's for testing (although some claim that some As were sold to Romania) and the pilots were reportedly much happier. Their main complaint was the view from the canopy, so a single larger windscreen and a new canopy with much better vision were added, resulting in the production model Hs 129 B-1.

B-1s started rolling off the lines in December 1941, but they were delivered at a trickle. In preparation for the new plane, I./Sch.G 1 had been formed up in January with Bf 109 E/B's (fighter-bomber version of Bf 109 E) and Hs 123's, and they were delivered B-0s and every B-1 that was completed. Still, it wasn't until April that 12 B-1s were delivered and its 4th staffel (squadron) was ready for action. They moved to the eastern front in the middle of May, and in June they received a new weapon, the 30 mm MK 101 cannon with armor-piercing ammunition in a midline pod.

Hs 129 B-2

By May 1942 after only 50 of the planes had been delivered, they started to deliver the new Hs 129 B-2 model side-by-side with the B-1. The only difference between the two were changes to the fuel system – a host of other minor changes could be found almost at random on either model. As time went on these changes were accumulated into the B-2 production line until you could finally tell them apart at a glance, the main differences being the removal of the mast for the radio antenna, the addition of a direction-finding radio antenna loop, and shorter exhaust stacks on the engines.

In the field the differences seemed to be more pronounced. The R-kits were renumbered and some were dropped, and in general the B-2 planes received the upgraded cannon pack using a MK 103 instead of the earlier MK 101. These guns both fired the same ammunition, but the 103 did so at almost twice the rate.

Hs 129 B-3

Even by late 1942 complaints started about the effectiveness of the MK 103 against newer versions of the Soviet T-34 tanks. One obvious solution would be to use the larger "Bordkanone" BK 3.7 37 mm gun, adapted from an anti-tank gun that had recently been abandoned by the army. These guns had already been converted into underwing pod-mounted weapons for the Ju 87 and found to be a fearsome weapon. When mounted on the Hs 129 the empty area behind the cockpit could be used for ammunition storage, which would address the only problem with the Ju 87's mounting, a limited ammunition supply.

But for some reason the Luftwaffe decided to skip over this gun for the Hs 129, and as had been done with the heavy-gunned Ju 88P-1, they installed a gigantic 75 mm gun from the Panzer IV to produce the "Bordkanone" BK 7.5 model. A huge hydraulic system was used to damp the recoil of the gun, and an auto-loader system with twelve rounds was fitted in the large empty space behind the cockpit. The resulting system was able to knock out any tank in the world, but the weight slowed the already poor performance of the plane to barely flyable in this new Hs 129 B-3 version.

B-3s finally started arriving in June 1944, and only 25 were delivered by the time the lines were shut down in September. A small number were also converted from older B-2 models. In the field they proved deadly weapons, but with only 25 of them they had no effect on the war effort.

Hs 129 C

In order to address the poor performance of the aircraft, plans had been underway for some time to fit the plane with newer versions of the Italian Isotta-Fraschini Delta engine that delivered 850 hp (634 kW). However the engine ran into a number of delays, and was still not ready for production when the plant was overrun by the Allies in 1945.


*Hungarian Air Force;flag|Romania
*Romanian Air Force

pecifications (Hs 129 B-1)

aircraft specifications
plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=prop
ref= Fact|date=March 2008
crew=one, pilot
length main=9.75 m
length alt= 32 ft
span main= 14.2m
span alt= 46 ft 7 in
height main= 3.25 m
height alt= 10 ft 8 in
area main= 28.9 m²
area alt= 312 ft²
empty weight main= 4,060 kg
empty weight alt= 8,932 lb
loaded weight main= 5,110 kg
loaded weight alt= 11,242 lb
useful load main=
useful load alt=
max takeoff weight main=
max takeoff weight alt=
more general=
engine (prop)=Gnome-Rhône 14M
type of prop=14-cylinder radial engine
number of props=2
power main= 522 kW
power alt= 700 hp
power original=
max speed main= 408 km/h
max speed alt= 253 mph
cruise speed main=
cruise speed alt=
stall speed main=
stall speed alt=
never exceed speed main=
never exceed speed alt=
range main= 880 km
range alt= 546 mi
ceiling main= 9,000 m
ceiling alt= 29,525 ft
climb rate main= 7.083 m/s
climb rate alt= 1,394 ft/min
loading main=
loading alt=
power/mass main=
power/mass alt=
more performance=
* (B-1) 2 × 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns
* 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons
* up to 8 × 50 kg (110 lb) fragmentation bombs or a 30 mm MK 101 armor piercing gun externally
* (B-2) as B1, but MG 17 replaced by 13 mm MG 131 machine gun
* "Bordkanone" series, BK 3.7 (37 mm), or BK 7.5 (75 mm), anti-tank gun in under-fuselage pod




* Bernád, Dénes. "Henschel Hs 129 in Action (Aircraft Number 176)". Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 2001. ISBN 0-89747-428-7.
* Bernád, Dénes. "Henschel Hs 129 (Military Aircraft in Detail)". Hinckley, UK: Midland publishing Ltd., 2006. ISBN 1-85780-238-1.
* Chorążykiewicz, Przemysław. "Henschel Hs 129". Sandomierz, Poland/Redbourn, UK: Mushroom Model Publications, 2008. ISBN 83-89450-46-3.
* Green, William. "Warplanes of the Third Reich". London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., 1970 (fourth impression 1979). ISBN 0-356-02382-6.
* Kempski, Benedykt. "Samolot szturmowy Henschel Hs 129 (Typy Broni i Uzbrojenia No.214)" (in Polish). Warszawa, Poland: 2004. ISBN 83-11-10010-1.
* Pegg, Martin; Creek, Eddie; Tullis, Thomas A. and Bentley: "Hs 129: Panzerjäger! (Classic series, No. 2)" West Sussex, UK: Classic Publications, 1997. ISBN 0-9526867-1-6.
* Smith, J.Richard. "The Henschel Hs 129 (Aircraft in Profile No.69)". Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1966.
* Smith, J.Richard and Kay, Anthony. "German Aircraft of the Second World War". London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1972 (third impression 1978). ISBN 0-370-00024-2.
* Stachura, Petr; Bernád, Dénes and Haladej, Dan. "Henschel Hs 129" (in Czech). Prague, Czech Republic: MBI, 1993 (second edition 1996 bilingual Czech/English). ISBN 80-901263-4-0.
* Wood, Tony and Gunston, Bill. "Hitler's Luftwaffe: A pictorial history and technical encyclopedia of Hitler's air power in World War II". London: Salamander Books Ltd., 1977. ISBN 0-86101-005-1.

External links

ee also

Hs 126 -
Hs 127 -
Hs 128 -Hs 129 -
Hs 130 -
Bü 131 -
Hs 132
similar aircraft=
Ilyushin Il-2
lists=List of military aircraft of Germany
see also=

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