Heinkel He 111B

The Heinkel He 111B was the first version of the aircraft to be ordered by the Luftwaffe. The most significant change made for this version was the replacement of the underpowered BMW VI engines with Daimler Benz DB 600C engines. This change increased the top speed and overall performance of the aircraft markedly. Like many bombers of the late 1930s, the He 111 was faster than contemporary fighter aircraft when it was developed, encouraging the belief that the bomber would always get through. In the case of the He 111 it also resulted in the adoption of utterly inadequate defensive armament.


Seven pre-production He 111B-0s were constructed in early 1936, first flying in March 1936. In many ways these aircraft set the pattern for all early models of the He 111B. Defensive firepower was limited to three 7.92mm Rheinmetall MG 15 machine guns, one in the nose, one in an open dorsal position and one in a retractable ventral “dustbin” position. When the ventral gun was lowered the top speed of the aircraft was reduced to 192 mph, the same speed as the unacceptably slow He 111A.

A major flaw with the design of the He 111 was the layout of the bomb bay. This featured eight compartments into which the bombs were stowed vertically (nose up). The largest bomb that could fit into one of these bays was the SC 250, a 551.1lb bomb. The He 111B-0 could only carry a maximum bomb load of 1500kg (3306.9lbs), the equivalent of six of these bombs, so the bomb bay design did not cause immediate problems, but when larger bombs became standard the Heinkel had to be equipped with external bomb racks that reduced performance.

The He 111B carried a crew of four - pilot, navigator/bombardier, radio operator/dorsal gunner and ventral gunner.


The B-1 was the first full production version of the He 111. It was initially powered by two 950hp DB 600A engine, later replaced by the 850hp DB 600C. It was in production during the first part of 1937, and was phased out in favour of the B-2 in May-June 1937.


The B-2 saw the engine changed again, to the 950hp DB 600CG engine. The new engine featured individual exhaust pipes and was given extra radiators, fitted to the wing leading edge on either side of the engine nacelles. One remarkable feature of the B-2 was that its cruising speed of 229.3 mph was only fractionally lower than its maximum speed of 229.9 mph, meaning that the aircraft was normally operating at virtually top speed, very rare for any combat aircraft. The nose of the B-2 was modified, partly to improve visibility for the bombardier and partly to install a better mounting for the front machine gun.

Thirty He 111Bs served with the Legion Condor, supporting Franco in the Spanish Civil War. From March 1939 the remaining aircraft were moved to training units. Two hundred and ten were still intact in 1941 when they were converted into dual-control bomber trainers.


Engine: Two Daimler Benz DB 600CG engines
Horsepower: 950
Max Speed: 229.9 mph at 4000M
Cruising Speed: 229.3 mph
Range: 661.8 miles
Ceiling: 22,965 feet
Bomb load: 3,306.9 lbs
Wingspan: 74 feet 1.8 inches
Length: 57 feet 5 inches
Empty Weight: 12,786.6 lbs
Full Weight: 18,959.4 lbs

Heinkel He 111, Ron Mackay (Crowood Aviation). A comprehensive look at one of the most famous German aircraft of the Second World War, taking us through its pre-war development, its time as the Luftwaffe's most important bomber early in the war, to its long decline and the eventual collapse of the German bomber force.[see more]
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Development - Combat - He 111A - He 111B - He 111C - He 111D - He 111E - He 111F - He 111G - He 111H - He 111J - He 111P - He 111R - He 111Z

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (22 June 2007), Heinkel He 111B, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_he111B.html

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