The Heinkel He 45 was a biplane developed as a bomber in the period before Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, but that entered service as a reconnaissance aircraft in the newly public Luftwaffe.
Work on the He 45 began in 1930. Heinkel produced a conventional single bay biplane, with a welded tubular steel frame for the fuselage and all-wooden wings. Metal panels covered the upper fuselage decking and the engine, and everything else was fabric covered.
Three prototypes were produced during 1932. The He 45a was an unarmed two-seater, powered by a 750hp BMW VI 7-3Z twelve-cylinder vee liquid cooled engine. The He 45b was given a four bladed propeller. The He 45c was the first to be armed, carrying a fixed forward firing MG 17 and a movable MG 15.
A production order was placed for 418 unarmed He 45As and 90 He 45Bs, carrying the same machine guns as the He 45c, but most (if not all) of the production aircraft were built as the He 45C, which was similar to the He 45c. A shortage of capacity at Heinkel's own factories meant that the aircraft were built under licence by Focke-Wulf, BFW and Gotha.
By the time the He 45C entered service in 1934 better bombers were available, and so it was instead used as a reconnaissance aircraft, with each Staffel in the reconnaissance units receiving three. By 1936 the He 45 was probably the most numerous aircraft in the Luftwaffe, equipping long range reconnaissance units, serving as an advanced pilot trainer, and at gunnery and photographic schools. It was also used as a flying test bed for the Daimler-Benz DB600 engine, and for the BMW 116.
The He 45 had a short front-line career. In November 1936 six were sent to Spain, where they equipped a Kette of A/88, operating alongside A/88's Heinkel He 70s. They remained in use in Spain until late 1938, when they were replaced by the Henschel Hs 126.
By the start of the Second World War only 21 He 45s remained with operational units, and they were soon moved to training units. The aircraft saw a short return to the front line between late 1942 and late 1943, flying night harassment raids on the Eastern Front, an early sign of the increasing weakness of the Luftwaffe.
Engine: He 45a unarmed two-seater, powered by 750hp BMW VI 7-3Z twelve-cylinder vee liquid cooled engine
Wing span: 38ft 8 3/4in
Length: 32ft 9 3/4in
Height: 11ft 9 3/4in
Empty weight: 4,642lb
Loaded weight: 6,053lb
Max Speed: 180mph at sea level
Cruising Speed: 137mph
Service Ceiling: 18,046ft
Climb to 3,280ft: 2.4 minutes
Range: 746 miles
Armament: Two 7.92mm machine guns