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Dornier Do 217


By Sakhal

The origins of the Do 217 date back to 1937, when it was presented, to take part in the aeronautical competition in the Alps Circuit, a bomber obtained from the transformation of a civilian aircraft. Built by Dornier, the Do 17 was soon nicknamed "Flying Pencil" due to its slender silhouette. The aircraft gave so good result that it was immediately ordered by a notable number of countries interested in acquiring a light bomber. Meanwhile the civil war had started in Spain, and the Do 17, as so many other German aircraft, was sent to support the nationalist army led by General Franco, in the ranks of the Condor Legion. In occasion of this conflict, the bomber started to show its defects. It was still fast enough (in Zurich it had surpassed regarding speed almost all of the other aircraft), but it demonstrated to have numerous blind spots on which it could be attacked. Because of this its nose was modified and its armament enhanced, being improved so its characteristics. But in those frenetic years the time ran very fast for the armaments, causing a premature aging. A bomber that until few years before could have continued in active service for a certain time, saw its operative life reduced to a third part, because of the continuous innovations in the aeronautical technics. The Luftwaffe soon asked from the technicians at Dornier an aircraft of the same type than the Do 17 but of improved characteristics.

The company thought rightly of reusing the structure of the Do 17 to obtain a new one by adding radical modifications. So it was born the Do 217, which would be used in every war front in the most diverse roles: altitude bomber, dive bomber, torpedo bomber, night fighter and aircraft for reconnaissance, liaison and transport. Briefly describing one of the first models, it was a two-engined high-winged bomber of totally metallic construction; of enlarged dimensions in respect of its antecessor, it had a more spacious cockpit and the armament, both drop and defensive, had been enhanced. A characteristic caudal appendage hid an aerodynamic brake of the type "parasol" to be used in dive bombing, but soon it would be suppressed because it was so effective in its purpose that it caused severe accidents. In some versions, as the K-2, when removing the brake were placed in the tail four 7.92-millimeter machine guns firing backwards. In the version used as night fighter the armament comprised four 20-millimeter cannons and four machine guns and there was provision of a radar FuG 202 Lichtenstein. Some exemplars were fitted with "Schrage Musik", twin cannons installed in the fuselage that fired obliquely upwards. Returning to the version K, this one had a notably increased wingspan (from 19 to 24.5 meters), and it was destined to launch the guided bombs FX 1400 (Fritz X) and Henschel Hs 293. Of this version was the last Do 217 that entered combat, attacking the bridges on the Oder with Hs 293 missiles the 12th April 1945.

Series A, C and E

The Do 217, which was a development from the Do 17, flew for the first time in 1938, being used the first models A-0 in clandestine reconnaissance missions in the Soviet Union, in the early 1940. The bomber version served mainly in West Europe, between 1941 and 1943, taking part in the so called attacks "Baedeker" against Great Britain in the spring and summer of 1942, with targets such as Bath, York, Exeter and Canterbury. It was also used against the Allied navigation units in the North Sea and the Biscay Gulf. In August 1943 it appeared the model Do 217E-5, armed with two remote- controlled bombs Hs 293A, achieving only to damage two Allied ships in the Biscay Gulf.

The prototypes of the Do 217 (V1 to V14) had different propulsion plants, and some of them a special dive brake in the tail cone. The preseries model Do 217A-0 was a long-range reconnaissance version, fitted with two cameras, with redesigned fuselage and three MG 15 7.92-millimeter machine guns; 8 units built. The Do 217C V1 was a prototype for a bomber, with engines Daimler-Benz DB 601A of 1075 horsepower. The Do 217C-0 was the bomber version of the Do 217A-0, with fuselage as in the prototypes V1 to V8; two additional MG 15 7.92-millimeter machine guns and one MG 151 15 -millimeter cannon; maximum bombs load of 3000 kilograms; four units built. The Do 217E-0 was the preseries model of a new bomber version; engine BMW 801MA of 1550 horsepower and fuselage of increased height. The Do 217E-1 was the initial series model of the new version for bombing and naval strike; five MG 15 7.92-millimeter machine guns and one MG 151 15-millimeter cannon; maximum bombs load of 2000 kilograms; two photographic cameras. The model Do 217E-2 was an improvement on the Do 217E-1, with engines BMW 801ML of 1580 horsepower, revised armament and dorsal turret; some with dive brakes in the tail. Total production for the versions Do 217E-0, Do 217E-1 and Do 217E-2 reached 200 units approximately.

The model Do 217E-3 was a modification of the Do 217E-1, with added armor and armed with seven 7.92-millimeter machine guns and one MG FF 20-millimeter cannon; 100 units built. The model Do 217E-4 was similar to the Do 217E-3, with engines BMW 801C of 1550 horsepower and devices in the wings to cut the cables of those captive balloons used to form barriers against aircraft; more than 500 units built. The model Do 217E-5 was a conversion from the Do 217E-4, prepared to launch the missile Hs 293A. The suffixes /R1 to /R25 (applicable to the largest part of the models of the Do 217) indicate the utilization of diverse conversion equipment (Rustsatze), such as additional armament (torpedoes, bombs or missiles), photographic equipment, auxiliary fuel tanks or braking parachute in the tail.

Specifications for Do 217E-2

Type: Heavy bomber

Wingspan: 19 meters

Length: 18.20 meters

Height: 5.03 meters

Wing area: 57 square meters

Weight (empty): 8855 kilograms

Weight (full load): 15000 kilograms

Crew: 4

Engines: Two BMW 801ML of 1580 horsepower

Service ceiling: 9000 meters

Maximum speed at sea level: 440 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed at 5200 meters of altitude: 515 kilometers/hour

Cruising speed: 395 kilometers/hour

Maximum operational range: 2800 kilometers

Armament: One MG 151 20-millimeter cannon at prow; two MG 131 13-millimeter machine guns (one in dorsal turret and other in ventral position); three mobile MG 15 7.92-millimeter machine guns (one firing forwards and two in the sides of the cockpit); two remote-controlled MG 81 7.92-millimeter machine guns in the tail cone, firing backwards

Offensive load: Up to 4000 kilograms of bombs



Series K, L, M, P and R

The new version Do 217K was a variant of the Do 217E with the fore part of the fuselage completely redesigned and glazed; it entered service in the autumn of 1942. The models K and M took part in attacks against Great Britain, culminating these with the Operation Steinbock against London in the early 1944. The Do 217K-2 armed with remote-controlled bombs sank the Italian battleship Roma in waters nearby to Corsica, the 9th September 1943, the day after the Italian Armistice; subsequently they operated against the beachhead in Salerno and Anzio, sinking a cruiser and a destroyer and damaging a battleship and two cruisers. During the summer of 1944 they took part in the fight at Normandy, attacking the docks and bridges held by the Allies. Their last action took place during the last weeks of the war against the bridges in the Oder, in a desperate attempt to stop the Soviet advance towards Berlin.

Three prototypes (V1 to V3) were made of the Do 217K. The Do 217K-1 was a night bomber version, with the fore part of the fuselage completely redesigned and glazed; engines BMW 801D of 1700 horsepower and revised armament (some of them capable of carrying four torpedoes L5); 15 units built. The Do 217K-2 was a modification of the Do 217K-1, with larger wingspan and capacity for two rocket bombs FX 1400 under the wings; transmitter FuG 203a; four MG 81 7.92-millimeter machine guns in the tail cone, firing backwards. The model Do 217K-3 was like the Do 217K-2, with bombs Hs 293 or FX 1400 and transmitters FuG 203c or FuG 207d. The Do 217L were two prototypes (V1 and V2) for a modified Do 217K, with revised cockpit and armament and engines BMW 801D of 1700 horsepower. The model Do 217M-1 was like the Do 217K-1 but with engines Daimler-Benz DB 603A of 1750 horsepower. The models Do 217M-5 and Do 217M-11 were missile carrier versions armed with a Hs 293 under the fuselage and a FX 1400, respectively.

The Do 217P were three prototypes (V1 to V3) of versions for reconnaissance and high-altitude bombing; two engines DB 603 of 1750 horsepower and one DB 605T of 1475 horsepower in the fuselage to drive the supercharger; pressurized cockpit; the V2 and V3 with increased wingspan. The Do 217P-0 was the preseries model, with a crew of three; three units built. The Do 217R were prototypes of missile carrier versions with two Hs 293 under the wings; revised armament (one MG 151 15-millimeter cannon at prow and one additional MG 131 13-millimeter machine gun in dorsal position; five conversions from the Do 317 [1]. Total production for all the versions of the Do 217 reached 1750 exemplars.

[1] This one was a development of the Do 217 which was originally realized following the Luftwaffe's specification from 1939 regarding the "B Bomber". The project of the Do 317 was resurrected in 1941, being flown the first prototype two years later. The improvement in relation with the existent Do 217P-0 was just marginal, so the project was discontinued, being completed the five remaining prototypes as missile carriers Do 217R, which were assigned to a Kampfgruppe in France in the summer of 1944.

Dornier Do 217

Dornier Do 217K-2 and remote-controlled bomb FX 1400.

Dornier Do 217

Blueprints of the Dornier Do 217K-2.

Specifications for Do 217K-2

Type: Heavy night bomber

Wingspan: 24.50 meters

Length: 17 meters

Height: 5 meters

Wing area: 67 square meters

Weight (empty): 8900 kilograms

Weight (full load): 16580 kilograms

Crew: 4

Engines: Two BMW 801D of 1700 horsepower

Time to reach 1000 meters of altitude: 3 minutes 30 seconds

Service ceiling: 8200 meters

Maximum speed: 515 kilometers/hour

Cruising speed: 460 kilometers/hour

Maximum operational range: 2300 kilometers

Armament: Two MG 131 13-millimeter machine guns and eight-ten MG 81 7.92-millimeter machine guns

Offensive load: Up to 4000 kilograms of bombs or two guided bombs under the wings



Specifications for Do 217M-1

Type: Heavy night bomber

Wingspan: 19 meters

Length: 17 meters

Height: 4.96 meters

Wing area: 57 square meters

Weight (empty): 9065 kilograms

Weight (full load): 16700 kilograms

Crew: 4

Engines: Two Daimler-Benz DB 603A of 1750 horsepower

Initial rate of climb: 210 meters/minute

Service ceiling: 9500 meters

Maximum speed at sea level: 475 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed at 5700 meters of altitude: 600 kilometers/hour

Cruising speed: 400 kilometers/hour

Maximum operational range: 2500 kilometers

Armament: Two MG 81 7.92-millimeter machine guns at prow; two MG 131 13-millimeter machine guns (one in dorsal turret and other in ventral position); two (later four) MG 81 7.92 millimeters machine guns in side position in the rear part of the cockpit

Offensive load: Up to 4000 kilograms of bombs



Series H, J and N

The Do 217J and Do 217N, night fighter and incursion versions, entered service in the early and late 1942, respectively, being the non-radarized version Do 217J-1 quickly relegated to training missions. The Do 217J-2 and Do 217N-2, with radar and later with "Schrage Musik" mountings of oblique artillery, were used during 1943 and retired in the early 1944. Albeit they never equipped an entire unit, operating along with other types of night fighters (the Me Bf 110G and the Ju 88C), they were used by about fifteen Nachtjagdgruppen (Night Fighter Wings), serving in the defense of the Reich, in the Eastern Front and in the Mediterranean. In the spring and summer of 1943 they were supplied to Italy for the defense of the industrial northern area (Milan, Turin and Genoa).

The Do 217H was a conversion for high altitude of the Do 217E, with supercharged engines DB 601; one unit built. The model Do 217J-1 was a night and incursion fighter derived from the Do 217E-2, with engines BMW 801ML of 1580 horsepower and redesigned prow with four MG FF 20-millimeter cannons and four MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns; additional fuel tanks in the fore bombs compartment. The Do 217J-2 was a night fighter with radar FuG 202 Lichtenstein and without the rear bombs compartment. Total production for Do 217J-1 and Do 217J-2 reached 157 exemplars. The Do 217N-1 was a night and incursion fighter derived from the Do 217M-1 and armed like the Do 217J-1 and Do 217J-2; engines DB 603A and radar FuG 202 or FuG 212. The Do 217N-1/U1 was a modification from the Do 217N-1, without dorsal turret, with faired ventral turret and with the MG FF 20-millimeter cannons replaced by four MG 151 20-millimeter cannons. The Do 217N-1/U3 was like the Do 217N-1/U1, with two or four MG 151 20-millimeter cannons in the fuselage firing upwards obliquely ("Schrage Musik"); three units reconverted. The Do 217N-2 was like the Do 217N-1/U1, with radar FuG 202 or FuG 212 and FuG 220, and later FuG 227 and FuG 350. The Do 217N-2/R22 was a conversion from the Do 217N-2, with four MG 151 20-millimeter cannons in dorsal "Schrage Musik" configuration. Total production for Do 217N-1 and Do 217N-2 reached 207 exemplars. Total production for all the versions of the Do 217 reached 1750 exemplars.

Dornier Do 217

Dornier Do 217J-2 from the 253rd Squadriglia, 60th Gruppo Autonomo Caccia Notturni (Independent Night Fight Wing) of the Regia Aeronautica, Lonate Pozzolo, August-September 1943; this was one of the eight night fighters Do 217 that served with the 253rd Squadriglia immediately before the Armistice. Note the finish in matte black and the absence of national ensigns in the wing surfaces.

Dornier Do 217

In production from the spring of 1943 to the end of that year, the Do 217N-2 included as standard all the developments from the Do 217N-1. The aircraft depicted in the illustration is one of those modified as the variant Do 217N-2/R22, with four "Schrage Musik" cannons in the center of the fuselage. Besides being equipped with the radar Lichtenstein SN-2, the Do 217N-2 later carried as well the receivers FuG 227 Flensburg, which detected the emissions from the alert radar Monica that the bombers of the Royal Air Force had in the tail, and Naxos FuG 350, which detected the frequencies of the bombing radar H2S.

Specifications for Do 217N-2

Type: Night fighter

Wingspan: 19 meters

Length: 18.90 meters (including the antennas)

Height: 5 meters

Wing area: 57 square meters

Weight (empty): 10280 kilograms

Weight (full load): 13200 kilograms

Crew: 4

Engines: Two Daimler-Benz DB 603A of 1800 horsepower

Time to reach 6000 meters of altitude: 15 minutes

Service ceiling: 8400 meters

Maximum speed at sea level: 430 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed at 6000 meters of altitude: 515 kilometers/hour

Cruising speed: 425 kilometers/hour

Normal operational range: 1750 kilometers

Armament: Four MG 151 20-millimeter cannons and four MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns at prow; optionally, four MG 151 20 millimeters "Schrage Musik" cannons in dorsal position, firing upwards with an inclination of 70 degrees

Offensive load: N/A



Categories: Aircraft - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]

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Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-07-04


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