The Heinkel He 50 was a biplane dive bomber developed for the Japanese Navy before being taken up by the Luftwaffe. In 1931 Heinkel received an order from the Japanese Navy to produce a two-seat dive bomber, capable of carrying a 550lb bomb load and using either wheels or a flat undercarriage.
The resulting aircraft was a two-bay biplane, of mixed wood and welded steel tube construction with a fabric cover. The first prototype, He 50aW, flew in the summer of 1931, and was powered by a 390hp Junkers L 5 liquid-cooled engine. It soon became clear that this engine wasn't powerful enough, and so the second prototype, the landplane He 50aL, was give a 490hp Siemens Jupiter VI radial engine. The same engine was used in the third prototype, the He 50b.
A small batch of aircraft was completed for the Japanese navy as the Heinkel He 66. The second prototype, with the new designation He 50 V1, was shown to the German Defence Ministry in 1932, and impressed enough for the Ministry to place an order for three development aircraft. These were completed in the summer of 1932, and were powered by un-cowled 600hp Siemans SAM 22B radial engines.
The development aircraft were followed by sixty similar He 50As, which were produced during 1933. The same year also saw twelve aircraft produced for China, as the He 66b. These used the same SAM 22 engine, but with a NACA cowl. They were taken over by the Luftwaffe in 1933 and served as the He 50B.
In1935 the He 50 was used to equip the first dive-bomber unit in the Luftwaffe, Fliegergruppe Schwerin (later I/StG 162). At its peak it equipped or partially equipped nine squadrons, but the He 50 was soon replaced by the Henschel Hs 123 and the Junkers Ju 87, and the aircraft moved to the training schools.
Like many early Heinkel aircraft in the winter of 1943-44 the He 50 was brought out of retirement and used to equip night harassing group, in this case Nachtschlachtgruppe 11 (NSGr 11), a night harassment unit based in Estonia. This unit used the He 50 to fly night harassment raids on the Eastern Front, before a shortage of spares grounded the remaining aircraft in September 1944.
Engine: Bramo 322B nine-cylinder radial piston engine
Wing span: 37ft 8 3/4in
Length: 31ft 6in
Height: 14ft 9 1/4in
Empty weight: 3,528lb
Loaded weight: 5,778lb
Max Speed: 146mph at sea level
Climb to 3,280ft: 3 minutes
Service Ceiling: 20,998ft
Range: 373 miles
Armament: One 7.9mm MG 15 machine gun in observer's cockpit as reconnaissance aircraft, or one fixed forward firing MG 17 as dive bomber
Bomb-load: 250kg/ 551lb