The Heinkel He 46 was a short-range reconnaissance and army co-operation aircraft that was designed as a biplane but entered service as a parasol wing monoplane. It was one of a number of Heinkel aircraft designed in the early 1930s, before Hitler came to power, before becoming important in the newly public Luftwaffe.
The first prototype, the He 46a, was an unequal-span single-bay biplane with a small lower wing. It was otherwise a conventional biplane, with a metal framework and fabric covering, and a slightly swept back upper wing, powered by a 450hp Siemens-built Bristol Jupiter radial engine.
The He 46a made its maiden flight late in 1931, and was followed early in 1932 by the He 46b. The aircraft handled well, but the small lower wing restricted the downward view, a major handicap in a reconnaissance aircraft, and so it was decided to change the aircraft into a parasol monoplane. The lower wing was removed, and the upper wing was increased in length by 8ft 2 ½ in, and attached to the fuselage with strut-braces. The He 46a was also given a more powerful engine, the 660hp Siemens SAM 22B (later Bramo 322B) nine-cylinder radial.
A third prototype followed in 1932, the He 46c, with the more powerful Seimens engine, the monoplane configuration, normal operational equipment and a single 7.9mm MG 15 machine gun mounted in the rear cockpit.
Production began with the He 46C-1. This was similar to the 46c, but with the ability to carry either a camera or 440lb of small bombs under the rear cockpit. This was followed by six pre-production He 46D-0s, with a number of minor changes, and by the He 46E-1, which introduced a NACA engine cowling that increased maximum speed by 16mph but that made maintenance rather more difficult and was often removed. A small number of He 46Fs were built, powered by the 560hp Armstrong Siddeley Panther, and were used by training units.
A small number of aircraft were produced for export. Eighteen He 46C-2s (C-1s but with engine cowling) went to Bulgaria, while Hungary received a number of He 47E-2s.
A total of 478 He 46s were built, 200 by Heinkel, 83 by MIAG, 24 by Gotha and 12 by Fieseler. Production ran from 1933 until 1936.
By the time production finished in 1936 the He 46 was the main equipment of the Luftwaffe's Auflärungsstaffeln (H), but early in 1938 it began to be replaced by the Henschel Hs 126A-1. A few were still in use in September 1939, and saw service in Poland. A final period of front-line service came in 1943, when a shortage of more suitable aircraft meant that the Luftwaffe was forced to use a number of He 46s on night harassment missions on the Eastern Front.
The He 46 also saw service in Spain, twenty He 46C-1s being sent there in September 1938. The Hungarian aircraft took part in the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, equipping the 1st Short-Range Reconnaissance Squadron, and with the 3/2 Short-Range Reconnaissance Squadron in 1942. The Hungarian aircraft were also used as bombers, before being replaced with the Focke-Wulfe 189 during 1943.
Engine: Siemens SAM 22B
Wing span: 45ft 11 1/4in
Length: 31ft 2in
Empty weight: 3,892lb
Loaded weight: 5,071lb
Max Speed: 155mph
Cruising Speed: 130mph at sea level
Service Ceiling: 19,680ft
Range: 621 miles
Climb to 3,280ft: 2.6 minutes
Armament: One 7.92mm MG 15 machine-gun
Bomb-load: Twenty 22lb/ 10kg bombs carried internally.