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Henschel Flugmotorenwerke /
Henschel Flugzeug-Werke (HFW)

Henschel - not to be confused with Heinkel - moved into aviation from 1933 onwards. The Henschel Flugzeug-Werke A.G. was fundamentally different from aircraft works in Britain. A new plant - it started operations in October, 1935 - it had the opportunity to embody new ideas. The earlier Henschel plant - founded at Johannisthal in 1933 for the purpose of learning how to design and make aeroplanes while the new factory was being planned and built - was later given over to the training of workers and apprentices. For the German aircraft industry appreciates (and this is important) that workers cannot be picked up anywhere and thrown into the aircraft trade without jeopardising both workmanship and output. Henschels, therefore, train men drawn from other trades before passing them to their main factory. That was their method of dealing with the insufficiently skilled labor difficulty when they first began to make aircraft in a country where aircraft had not been built in numbers since 1918.

Opportunity synchronised with the decision to create the Air Force of the Third Reich. The first step was taken early in 1933. As their plans developed the Johannisthal plant became too small. Henschels bought an estate at Schonefeld, to the south-east of Berlin. There they laid out their new factory and aerodrome. The foundation-stone was laid on January 17, 1935. The factory was designed in a series of self-contained, independent buildings with large open spaces of grass between. No two buildings were in line. Hostile aeroplanes, therefore, could not fly over a line of targets. The whole factory is claimed to be as difficult a target for destruction by air bombing as possible. A fire in one building will not affect another. There are no confined areas in which gas could hang about. The destruction of one unit will not affect the efficiency of others.

The aviation branch of Henschel produced the Hs 126 army co-operation aircraft, the armored Hsl29 ground attack aircraft, and the Hs293 guided missile. Henschel's Hs 123 biplane dive-bomber was tested during the Spanish Civil War and, though obsolescent, served with the Luftwaffe until 1942 in close-support roles, particularly on the Russian Front. The Hs 126 parasol-wing, two-seat observation/liaison aircraft first entered Luftwaffe service in 1938. A twin-engined single-seat close-support and ground-attack aircraft, the Hs 129, was produced in some numbers and used to good effect on the Eastern Front, particularly as a tank-buster. The final Hs 129B- 2/R-4 version was armed with a 75 mm cannon. A prototype jet dive-bomber, the Hs 132, was completed but did not fly before the end of the war.

  1. Hs 121 - Exercise single-seater
  2. Hs 122 - Close-reconnaissance aircraft
  3. Hs 123 - Dive bomber
  4. Hs 124 - Destroyer
  5. Hs 125 - Exercise single-seater
  6. Hs 126 - Close-reconnaissance aircraft
  7. Hs 127 - High-speed bomber
  8. Hs 128 - High-altitude research flight
  9. Hs 129 - Battle airplane
  10. Hs 130 - long-range reconnaissance aircraft
  11. Hs 132 - "Fall combat" and battle airplane

The company also experimented with a number of wire-, radio,- and even television-guided missiles. The included the Henschel Hs 117 Schmetterling Surface-to-Air Missile, the Henschel Hs 293 A-1 Air-to-Surface Missile, and the Henschel Hs 298 Air-to-Air Missile.

Germany developed two air-to-ground guided weapons during World War II, both used primarily to stem the tide of Allied shipping crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The first was the Henschel Hs 293-a 1,100-pound bomb with 10-foot wings, a tail, and a liquid rocket engine. The launching aircraft would fire the Hs 293 from outside the target ship's antiaircraft range (possible with the bomb's rocket), then remote control it via radio during its terminal glide to impact. The Hs 293 only impacted at 450 miles per hour, so it had less penetrating power than conventional bombs and was effective only against merchant ships. The Germans overcame the penetration problem with the Fritz X guided bomb. This weapon did not have any propulsion. Rather, the aircraft dropped it as a normal bomb, then the bombardier guided its steep descent by radio remote control. Both the Fritz X and Hs 293 had spectacular success, but Allied defenses overcame these weapons later.

The West German government issued a directive in September 1954 that individual firms should combine into operative groups. Group I ("North") consisted of the following firms: 1, Hamburger Flugzeugbau (Blohm und Voss); 2, Finanz uad Verwaltungsgesellschaft "Weser," Bremen - a post-war name for the former "Weser" Flugzeugbau; 3, Henschel und Sohn, Kassel; 4, Siebel Werke, Munich. This represented quite a concentration of industrial power, for Blohm und Voss and Weser were the aviation branches of the two largest German shipbuilding concerns, which since the war had already put Germany second only to Britain in shipbuilding output. Henschel und Sohn was one of the largest producers of railway locomotives, buses, lorries and machine tools. For aircraft production Blohm und Voss, who made the famous seaplanes of the old Lufthansa (and Luftwaffe), still possessed an intact plant in their Finkenwerder works; while "Weser," who made large quantities of Dornier and Heinkel aircraft as well as Focke-Wulf fighters and Junkers bombers, had factories, at Lemwerder and Eiswarden in Oldenburg.

At a meeting of the Association of West German Aircraft Constructors in Diisseldorf on 25 November 1955, West German aircraft builders, with two exceptions - Dornier and Focke-Wulf - formed themselves into two manufacturing combines. These were Blohm and Voss, Henschel, Siebel, and the Krupp-controlled Weser company in northern Germany; and the Heinkei and Messerschmitt groups in the south. These combines intended to share only production orders for airframes built under licence; development of new types could be undertaken individually.

Flugzeugwerke GmbH. carryied out maintenance, repairs, conversions and basic overhauls helicopter components after merging with the aviation activities of Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen AG now ZF Luftfahrttechnik based in Kassel. In December 1993 ZF Friedrichshafen, a unit of Zeppelin-Stiftung, acquired the remaining shares in its Henschel Flugzengwerke unit from its joint venture partner Eurocopter Deutschland, a unit of Nationale Industrielle Aeropastiale.




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