The He 277 was a four engined version of the He 177. The earlier aircraft was the only heavy bomber to see significant combat service with the Luftwaffe, but its twinned DB 606 engines were never reliable, and even the more advanced engines used in later versions were prone to burst into flames.
Early on Heinkel proposed using four separate engines on the He 177, but the RLM was generally opposed to four engined bombers, and refused to support the project. Heinkel continued to work on the project, under the designation He 177B, but initial test results were not promising. The first prototype suffered from instability caused by increased torque from the four engines. The problem was eventually solved by adopting a twin tail fin configuration.
In the summer of 1943 the RLM finally approved the project – Hitler had swung behind the idea of a heavy bomber, at least for the moment – and Heinkel were allowed to use the He 277 designation and were ordered to work towards mass production of the aircraft.
Two prototypes were ready by the winter of 1943/4, with the first taking to the air late in 1943. The third prototype featured the new tail and performed much better. The aircraft was tested at Rechlin in April 1944, and received a good report, but by then bomber production was already winding down. On 3 July 1944 production of the He 277 was cancelled. The existing airframes were to be destroyed. Only eight production aircraft, He 277B-5/R-2s had been completed by this time. Although the aircraft were ordered destroyed in the summer of 1944, several do appear to have survived into 1945.
Like so many German bomber projects, the He 277 had the potential to have been an impressive aircraft, the German version of the B-29. It features a pressurised crew cabin in the nose and remote controlled defensive guns. Like so many of the most advanced German aircraft designs what the He 277 lacked was time.
Engines: Four x Daimler Benz DB 603E (prototypes only, versions were planned with a wide range of different engines)
Span: 131 ft 2.5in
Length: 75ft 5.5in
Full Weight: 96,976 lb