The Heinkel He 60 was a sturdy single-engined twin-float biplane that was used as coastal and marine reconnaissance aircraft, as well as operating from German battleships and cruisers.
It was designed in 1931-32 by Reinhold Mewes in response to a Ministry of Transportation and Navy request for a seaworthy marine reconnaissance and shipboard aircraft capable of being launched by catapult.
The first prototype, He 60a/ V1, made its maiden flight early in 1933. Flight tests proved that it was as robust as hoped, and was capable of operating from rough seas, but its 660hp BMW VI inline engine meant that is was underpowered. The second prototype, He 60b, was given a 750hp BMW engine, but without any marked improvement in performance, and so the third prototype, He 60c, reverted to the original engine. This third prototype was used for catapult trials during 1933, and the type was then ordered into production.
The He 60 was a single-engined twin-float biplane. It had a welded steel tube fuselage, with a wooden frame that gave it an oval cross-section, and that was covered with fabric from the firewall aft. The single-bay unstressed wings were in a staggered configuration. The upper wings had a slightly wide span than the lower wings. The floats were single-step models, built from light metal with vee-shaped bottoms, and attached to the fuselage and lower wings by network of struts.
Fourteen pre-production A-0 series aircraft were built, and were delivered to the naval training schools during 1933. These were unarmed training aircraft, and were soon replaced by the He 60B.
A small number of He 60Bs were produced. They were genally similar to the A-1, but with the ability to carry an MG 15 machine gun in the observer's position. One of these aircraft was given a 900hp DB 600A engine during 1935, and reached a top speed of 184mph.
Deliveries of the He 60C began in the autumn of 1934. A shortage of DB engines meant that it was still powered by the BMW engine, and it was generally similar to the He 60B, although with a circular track mount for the observer's gun. From 1935 the He 60C was built by Arado and Weserflug, freeing up the Heinkel production lines for new designs.
Sources differ as to the nature of the He 60D. Some describe it as an improved version of the He 60C, with a fixed forward firing MG 17 and a better radio, and that entered production at Weserflug in June 1936. Others suggest it was a designation given to the He 60C when used as a training aircraft. The first alternative seems most likely.
The He 60E was the designation given to six aircraft that went to Spain during the Civil War, and may have been D-series aircraft. Two were lost during the Civil War, but the remaining aircraft were only retired in 1948.
The He 60 made its combat debut during the Spanish Civil War, when the six He 60Es were used for coastal reconnaissance.
In Luftwaffe service the He 60 was used by the coastal reconnaissance units (Küstenaufklärungsgruppen, abbreviated to Kü.Fl.Grps or KAGr), the marine reconnaissance units (Seeaufklärungsgruppen or SAGr) and the shipboard units (Bordfleigerstaffel).
In the years between its introduction and the outbreak of the Second World War the He 60 equipped the first Staffeln of a large number of the marine reconnaissance units. It had been used by 1./ and 5./ Bordfliegerstaffel 196, and served onboard most German battleships and cruisers, including the Admiral Scheer, the Admiral Graf Spee and the cruisers Königsberg, Leipzig and Nürnberg, although by the start of the war it had been replaced in this role by the He 114 and the more successful Arado Ar 196. The coastal reconnaissance groups also phased the type out early in the war.
The He 60 was reintroduced to front line service with the marine reconnaissance groups during 1940. The first to get it was 1./SAGr 125, which had nine in September 1940, operating them alongside the Heinkel He 114 and Arado Ar 95 floatplanes. These aircraft were sued for coastal reconnaissance off the Baltic coast during the early stages in the invasion of the Soviet Union.
SAGr 126 was the next to get the type, using it alongside the Arado Ar 95, Henschel Hs 126 and Fokker T.VIII-W from bases in Crete and Greece, flying reconnaissance missions over the Mediterranean and Aegean. The obsolete aircraft were replaced by the Arado Ar 196 during 1942.
The last unit to operate the He 60 was SAGr 127, which used the type in the Baltic until the late summer of 1943.
Engine: BMW V1 Zu liquid cooled 12 cylinder
Crew: 2 - pilot, gunner-observer
Wing span: 42ft 4in
Length: 37ft 8 3/4in
Height: 17ft 4 5/8in
Weight (without armament): 7,552lb
Full loaded weight: 7,840lb
Max Speed: 149mph
Cruising Speed: 134mph
Service Ceiling: 16,400ft
Range: 480 miles
Armament: One 7.92mm MG 15 machine gun on flexible rear mount