The Heinkel He 59 was a large twin-engined biplane floatplane that had been designed in 1930 to serve as either a bomber or reconnaissance aircraft, and that saw some limited service at the start of the Second World War.
The He 59 was designed in 1930 by Reinhold Mewes. It was a large twin-engined biplane with a quite old-fashioned appearance, mostly because her twin engines were carried in nacelles mounted between the wings. Two prototypes were built, the 59a (V1), equipped with floats, and the 59b (V2), which had a fixed wheeled undercarriage. Both prototypes were powered by two 660hp BMW VI twelve-cylinder liquid cooled engines.
The second prototype made the type's maiden flight, in September 1931. It was followed by the first prototype in January 1932. After undergoing a series of tests the aircraft was ordered into production in 1933, and was built by Heinkel and under licence by Arado.
A small batch of A series evaluation aircraft were produced during 1932.
Sixteen B-1s were built, with a redesigned nose that housed an open gun position carrying a 7.92mm MG 15, an open dorsal position, and glazed panels in the ventral step. The B-1 was later redesignated as the B-0.
The B-2 was the first major production. It had an all-metal nose, with a glazed bomb aimer's position. Three MG 15s were carried, in the nose, ventral and dorsal positions. The B-2 was produced by Heinkel and Arado, and saw service in the Spanish Civil War.
The B-3 was a long range reconnaissance version, with extra fuel tanks in fuselage added to the standard tanks in the floats, and one of the MG 15s removed.
The C-1 was originally produced as a stripped-down long range reconnaissance version, but was used as a training and air sea rescue aircraft.
The C-2 was a dedicated air-sea rescue aircraft. The glazed nose panels, bomb aiming equipment and guns were removed, and replaced with six inflatable dinghies and a folding ladder.
The D-1 combined the functions of the C-1 and C-2. It was similar to the C-2, but with a rounded nose section. It was used to train pilots, navigators and radio operators, and for air-sea rescue.
The E-1 was a torpedo bomber trainer similar to the D-1
The E-2 was a long range reconnaissance aircraft and trainer, with three camera positions. Only six were produced.
The He 59N was a dedicated navigation trainer produced by fitting more advanced radio equipment in a D-1 trainer.
The He 59's combat debut came in Spain in 1936, where they were used on anti-shipping patrols and as bombers. At the start of the Second World War the He 59 still equipped the third Staffel of four coastal reconnaissance groups (3./ Kü.Fl.Gr.106, 3./ Kü.Fl.Gr.406, 3./ Kü.Fl.Gr.506 and 3./ Kü.Fl.Gr.706). They were used for reconnaissance, and to drop mines in the Thames estuary.
The He 59s most dramatic operation came during the 1940 invasion of Holland, when twelve He 59s from Staffel Schwilben and loaded with troops took off from the Zwischenahner See (a lake in the north west of Germany), before landing on the Maas in Rotterdam, where they disembarked 120 troops who captured a key bridge over the river.
A number of He 59s were painted white and used as air-sea rescue aircraft, especially during the Battle of Britain. As active units of the Luftwaffe these aircraft were still valid targets, and the British also believed that the white painted aircraft were laying mines and landing German agents, and it seems certain that they were radioing information to German bombers to guide them to their targets. After the British shot down a number of the white painted aircraft they were repainted in their military colour schemes, and continued to rescue downed Luftwaffe aircrew, before being replaced by the Dornier Do 18 and Do 24.
By 1943 all surviving He 59s had been moved to training units.
Engine: BMW V1 ZU liquid cooled 12 cylinder
Crew: 4 - pilot, radio-operator, bombardier, gunner
Wing span: 77ft 9in
Length: 57ft 1in
Height: 23ft 3in
Fully loaded weight: 19,845lb
Max Speed: 137mph
Cruising Speed: 133mph
Service Ceiling: 11,480ft
Range: 950 miles
Armament: Two 7.92mm MG15 machine guns, one in nose, one in ventral position
Bomb-load: Twenty 110lb bombs or four 550lb bombs or two 1,100lb bombs or one 2,200lb bomb or one torpedo