The Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking was the largest flying boat to reach operational status during the Second World War, although it was produced in tiny numbers, and indeed never really reached full production status.
The Bv 222 was originally designed as a 24 passenger long-range flying boat for Lufthansa, designed in response to a 1937 specification. This was for a flying boat capable of carrying 16 passengers from Berlin to New York or 24 passengers on shorter routes.
The Blohm und Voss design team, headed by Dr Ing Richard Vogt, produced a spacious aircraft. The high-mounted wing was built around a tubular steel wing spar, which also contained the fuel and oil tanks and carried the engines. Power was provided by six 1,000hp BMW Bramo Fafnir 323R radial engines, while the wing floats retracted into the outer wings.
The most notable feature of the Bv 222 (apart from its size) was the lack of internal bulkheads in the main cabin. Instead all of the bulkheads were installed between the keel and the floor, leaving the ten-foot wide main cabin unobstructed.
Lufthansa ordered three aircraft in September 1937, and work began in January 1938. By the time the first prototype was ready for its maiden flight, on 7 September 1940, war had broken out, and so the aircraft was evaluated with military uses in mind. Larger loading doors were installed, and in July 1941 V1 flew its first transport mission, taking supplies to the far north of Norway.
Given the small number aircraft produced, it is possible to give some details of individual aircraft and their fate. The first few prototypes, V1 to V6 and V8, saw service as the Bv 222A. The V7 was the prototype for the C-series, of which five pre-production aircraft were completed. Finally the B-series was to have been powered by Junkers Jumo 208 engines, but none were built.
After its maiden transport mission on 10 July 1941, the V1 was used to fly supplies to the Afrika Korps. At first it was unarmed, but during a refit in the winter of 1941-42 it was given a 7.9mm MG 81 in the bow, two upper turrets each carrying a 13mm MG 131 and four hull waist positions carrying and MG 81. On 10 May 1942 V1 became the first aircraft to be delivered to the newly formed Luft-Transportstaffel (See) 222, or Air-Transport Squadron (Sea). V1 was badly damaged in February 1943 when it hit a buoy while landing at Athens, and partially sank.
The V2 made its maiden flight on 7 August 1942. Unlike the V1 it already carried guns, with two 13mm MG 131 machine guns in gondolas under the wings and 7.9mm MG 81s in the bow, two upper turrets and four hull waist positions. The gondolas were removed after tests showed that they had a negative impact on the aircraft's aerodynamic performance. V2 was delivered to LT Sta (See) 222 on 10 August 1942. Early in 1943 work began on turning it into a long-range reconnaissance aircraft. This involved giving the aircraft three powered turrets on the top of the hull and two mounted above the wings, as well as FuG 200 Hohentwiel search radar and FuG 216R Neptun rear warning radar.
The V3 made its maiden flight on 28 November 1941. It was armed with a single MG 81 in the bow. It was delivered to LT Sta (See) 222 on 9 December 1942, but only served as a transport aircraft for a short period, before in February 1943 work began on turning it into a long-range reconnaissance aircraft. V3 sank at its moorings after being strafed by RAF Mosquitos at Biscarosse on the night of 21-22 June 1943.
V4 was delivered to LT Sta (See) 222 by the end of 1942. Early in 1943 work began on turning it into a long-range reconnaissance aircraft. V4 was destroyed at the end of the war to prevent it falling into Allied hands.
V5 was delivered to LT Sta (See) 222 by the end of 1942. Early in 1943 work began on turning it into a long-range reconnaissance aircraft. V5 sank at its moorings after being strafed by RAF Mosquitos at Biscarosse on the night of 21-22 June 1943.
V6 was delivered to LT Sta (See) 222 by the end of 1942. On 24 November 1942 it became the first Bv 222 to be destroyed, when it was shot down during an unescorted flight to Tripoli.
V8 was delivered to LT Sta (See) 222 by the end of 1942. It was shot down by RAF Beaufighters on 10 December 1942 while flying with V1 and V4.
While most of the early prototypes were used on active service, the V7 became the prototype for the C series. It made its maiden flight on 1 April 1943, powered by six 980hp Junkers Jumo 207C diesel engines. It carried the standard turrets of the reconnaissance machines as well as machine guns in the nose and the sides of the hull. V7 was delivered to 1.(F)/129 on 16 August 1943. This unit survived until the summer of 1944, when it had four Bv 222s on strength, but soon after that was disbanded and its aircraft moved to Stab, 1.(F)/130 and 2.(F)/130. V7 was destroyed at the end of the war to prevent it falling into Allied hands.
The V9 or C-09 was the first pre-production C-series aircraft. Earlier aircraft had suffered from corrosion problems and stiff controls, but both of these problems had been solved on the C-series. C-09 was delivered to 1.(F)/129, the reconnaissance unit operating the older aircraft, on 23 July 1943. THe aircraft was lost when it was strafed by Mustangs at Travemünde.
C-010 to C-013 were delivered to 1.(F)/129 by the end of 1943. The aircraft was short down by RAF night fighters early in 1944.
C-011 saw service with 1.(F)/129. Along with C-013 it was one of only two Bv 222s to survive the war, undergoing trials in the United States.
C-012 saw service with 1.(F)/129
Although C-013 was delivered to 1.(F)/129, it may not have entered service. Originally C-013 was to have been completed as the prototype a planned D-series, using Junkers Jumo 205D engines, but these were never installed. Along with C-11 it was one of only two Bv 222s to survive the war, undergoing trials in the United States and later in the United Kingdom.
C-014 to C-017
Work began on these aircraft, but was abandoned during 1944 when German industry focused on fighter aircraft.
C-020 was to have been the prototype of a possible E-series, using BMW Fafnir 323R engines.
Engine: Six Junkers Jumo 207C diesel engines
Power: 980hp each
Crew: 11 (but could vary)
Wing span: 150ft 11in
Length: 121ft 4 3/4in
Height: 35ft 9in
Empty Weight: 67,572lb
Maximum Take-off Weight: 108,027lb
Max Speed: 242mph at 16,405ft
Cruising Speed: 214mph at 18,210ft
Service Ceiling: 23,950ft
Range: 3,787 miles
Armament (C-09): Three 20mm MG 151 cannons, in dorsal and wing turrets, five 13mm MG 131 machine guns, in bow and four beam hatch positions