Hi! I’m Kamerad Andreas, a new member of TAP team, I will mostly be posting historical articles regarding aircraft and tanks. I can only hope you will enjoy my posts, as they’re made for you, the reader, to read and to enjoy
My ultimate goal is for you to gain a little bit more historical knowledge regarding a certain topic after a good read.
Today we’re going to take a look at a rather unusual aircraft of the Luftwaffe, the Dornier 217 N-2.
The N series of the Do-217 were built as an evolution of the J series, which marked the beginning of the night fighter role for the said aircraft
Just like its predecessor, it had the same offensive armament: four forward firing 2 cm MG FF cannons and four 7.92 mm machine guns, except that there’s a twist:
This model entailed mounting four to six MG 151/20 guns in the centre of the fuselage. At Technisches Amt, two Do 217s, one with four and the other with six MG/151/20 cannon were ready for inspection on 5 August 1942 and testing in September. The idea of the upward firing cannon had originally come from an engineer, Dr. Poppendieck, in June 1942 by the suggestion of Hauptmann Rudolf Schoenert of III./Nachtjagdgeschwader 3 (Night fighter wing).
the bomber could approach from below a British bomber and avoid exposure to its powerful powered turrets guarding its tail, nose and upper fuselage by attacking from behind or head-on. Unlike the B-17 Flying Fortress, the British bombers did not have a Ball turret, and the new Dornier design attempted to take advantage.
After testing was satisfied the two variants, the N-1 and N-2, which had two sub-variants, were fitted with FuG 202 (search radar), which can be seen mounted on the nose of the aircraft, near the offensive armament.To kill the excessive weight that had plagued earlier types, the bomb bay, its doors and the bomb release gears were removed, and changes were made to the control panels. The gaps were replaced by lighter wood parts which reduced weight, thus allowing heavier armour protection for the crew, therefore making it the most heavily armoured of the Dornier variants.
The improvements reduced the total weight from 15,000 kilograms (33,000 lb) down to 12,500 (27,600 lb) kilograms, which allowed the plane to reach a ceiling height of 9,500 metres (31,200 ft) and a max speed of 525 km/h (283kn)
Schräge Musik produced devastating results, with its most successful deployment in the winter of 1943–1944. This was a time when Bomber Command losses became unsupportable: the RAF lost 78 of 823 bombers that attacked Leipzig on 19 February, and 96 of the 795 bombers that attacked Nuremberg on 30-31 March 1944. RAF Bomber Command was slow to react to the threat from Schräge Musik, with no reports from shot-down crews reporting the new tactic; the sudden increase in bomber losses had often been attributed to flak. Reports from air gunners, of German night fighters stalking their prey from below had appeared as early as 1943 but had been discounted. A myth developed among RAF Bomber Command crews that “scarecrow shells” were encountered over Germany. The phenomenon was thought to be “AA shells simulating an exploding four-engined bomber and designed to damage morale. In many cases these were actual ‘kills’ by Luftwaffe night fighters… It was not for many months that evidence of these deadly attacks was accepted.”
“We had dropped our bombs on a synthetic-oil plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany the night of June 12/13, 1944 and were headed for base. In the tail gun turret I was searching in the dark for any enemy fighters who might be following us out of the target area. Suddenly I heard cannons barking loudly and saw lights flashing directly below. What the hell was that? I didn’t see the fighter – just the flashing. We took evasive action and that was it. ~Air Gunner Leonard J. Isaacson.
As a bonus, here’s a video of a Do-217 taking off, followed by a routine flight: