The Blohm und Voss Bv 141 was an asymmetric reconnaissance aircraft designed in response to the same specification that led to the Focke-Wulf 189.
The most original feature of the Bv 141 was its lack of symmetry. Most previous short-range reconnaissance aircraft had been high-winged monoplanes, with the crew carried below the wing in a glazed cabin (as in the Fieseler Storch), but these had generally been smaller aircraft. The new specifications would have been hard to achieve with such an aircraft, and none of the three designs submitted would follow the same layout.
Arado produced the most conventional aircraft, the shoulder-winged single-engined monoplane Arado Ar 198, with a glazed belly below the wing. This was the initial favourite, but suffered from poor handling. Blohm and Voss and Focke-Wulf responded to the problem by separating the crew compartment from the rest of the aircraft. Focke-Wulf's Fw 189 was actually quite a conventional twin-boom aircraft, made to look more radical by its heavily glazed crew compartment.
The Blohm und Voss design was the most radical, and was designed by Dr Ing Richard Vogt. The original specification had called for a single engined design, so Blohm und Voss produced an aircraft in which the engine occupied the main fuselage, while the crew were carried in a glazed pod effectively mounted on the right wing and connected to the engine by a short central wing section. The crew had a largely unobstructed view in most directions (apart from directly to the left).
The lack of symmetry extended to just about every detail of the aircraft. The left wing was longer than the right wing. On the tail the fin was mounted on the main engine boom, with the horizontal surfaces all on the left-hand side. The main landing wheels retracted outwards into the wings, with the right wheel closer to the crew cabin than the left wheel was to the engine. Even so the rear wheel was nearer to the left wheel than the right.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the German Air Ministry was not interested in such a radical design. Arado and Focke-Wulf were given funds to construct prototypes of their designs, but Blohm und Voss were not. Undaunted by this the company decided to built a single prototype using their own funds. This aircraft, originally designated the Ha 141-0 (at this point Blohm und Voss aircraft used the Ha prefix as they were produced by the giant shipbuilder's Hamburger Flugzeugbau subsidiary), made its maiden flight on 25 February 1938.
The new aircraft flew surprisingly well. It was tested by Ernst Udet, then head of the technical department of the German Air Ministry, and Blohm und Voss were awarded a contract to produce three prototypes, including the Ha 141-0 which became the V2.
The second prototype, V1, made its maiden flight in September 1938. It was a larger aircraft than the V2, and the first to have the fully glazed crew compartment. The V3 followed soon afterwards, and was once again slightly larger, as well as having a wider undercarriage track. The V3 was armed with four 7.9mm MG 15 machine guns - two forward mounted and two rear mounted, including one in the rear glazed cone of the nacelle. It also carried automatic cameras and could carry four 50kg (110lb) bombs.
The V3 was successful enough to win Blohm und Voss a further development order, this time for five A-0 aircraft, A-01 (V4) to A-05 (V8). These aircraft had a larger wing span than V3. V4 was ready early in 1939 but was damaged in a crash, leaving V4 (A-02) to carry out the tests. Although the A-0 series aircraft performed well, in April 1940 production plans were cancelled because of a lack of engine power.
This was not the end of the line for the Bv 141. Five B-0 series aircraft were ordered (V9 to V13), using the more powerful 1,560hp BMW 801A fourteen-cylinder radial engines. The B-0 aircraft were also the first to include the asymmetrical tail plane.
The V9 made its maiden flight on 9 January 1941, and was something of a disappointment. It didn't handle as well as the A-0 series aircraft, and work on the B-0 aircraft progressed slowly. B-05 (V13) wasn't delivered until 15 May 1943. Late in 1941 B-01 (V10) had been tested by Aufklärungsschule 1 at Grossenhain, and it had been decided to create a special test unit operating the type on the Eastern Front, but the endless delays meant that this order was cancelled in the spring of 1942. By this point the Fw 189 had been in service for over a year, and further work on the Bv 141 was cancelled.
Blohm und Voss continued to work on asymmetrical aircraft, even receiving a production order for the Bv 237 dive-bomber, although this was cancelled due to a shortage of suitable engines.
Engine: BMW 801A radial engine
Wing span: 57ft 3.5in
Length: 45ft 9.25in
Height: 11ft 9.75in
Empty Weight: 10,362lb
Maximum Take-off Weight: 12,566lb
Max Speed: 230mph at sea level
Service Ceiling: 32,801ft
Range: 746 miles
Armament: Two fixed forward firing 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns and two aft-firing flexibly mounted 7.92mm MG 15 machine guns
Bomb-load: Four 50kg/ 110lb bombs