Airborne Awesomosity

Heinkel HE-111 Versus the Douglas B-18 Bolo

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-317-0043-17A, Flugzeug Heinkel He 111.jpg

Heinkel HE-111

File:Douglas B-18A airplane in flight (00910460 121).jpg

Douglas B-18 Bolo














It’s the beginning of World War II and the two primary medium bombers of the US and Germany


File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-385-0587-07, Flugzeug Heinkel He 111 H-Z.jpg

Heinkel HE-111


At the beginning of 1941 the primary German bomber had been on the battlefield since 1935


File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-641-4548-24, Russland, He 111.jpg

Heinkel HE-111

Developed in the open as an airliner but in secret as a bomber. Powered by two Jumo 211 liquid cooled V12’s,  the HE-111 proved it’s worth in Spain. The performance of the HE-111 was better then any other bomber of it’s time thanks to it’s low drag shape.  Able to drop 4,000 pounds of bombs the HE-111 carried a large portion of the blitzkrieg bomb runs early in the war.  The HE-111 would stay in production until the end of the war when it would spawn it’s oddest  variant. This  was a a five engined aircraft combining two He-111’s on a common wing to tow very large aircraft. It was the only aircraft capable of towing some of the largest German gliders.

It would also live on as a Spanish variant  known as the CAS 2.111 which would stay in service into 1956. Thanks the Spanish variant there are quite a few HE-111 survivors to be seen in museums around the world. Total production by the Germans would near 6,000 copies

Heinkel HE-111 Zwilling

[image credit –]

  • Performance
  • Maximum speed: 440 km/h (273 mph)
  • Range: 2,300 km (1,429 mi) with maximum fuel
  • Service ceiling: 6,500 m (21,330 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 20 minutes to 5,185 m [88] (17,000 ft [88])
  • Wing loading: 137 kg/m² [88] (28.1 lb/ft² [88])
  • Power/mass: .082 kW/kg [88] (.049 hp/lb [88])
  • Armament
  • Guns: ** up to 7 × 7.92 mm MG 15 or MG 81 machine guns, some of them replaced or augmented by
    • 1 × 20 mm MG FF cannon (central nose mount or forward ventral position)
    • 1 × 13 mm MG 131 machine gun (mounted dorsal and/or ventral rear positions)
  • Bombs:
    • 2,000 kilograms (4,400 lb) in the main internal bomb bay.
    • Up to 3,600 kilograms (7,900 lb) could be carried externally. External bomb racks blocked the internal bomb bay. Carrying bombs externally increased weight and drag and impaired the aircraft’s performance significantly. Carrying the maximum load usually required rocket-assisted take-off.[43]


Now what does the US have up against it at this point?

File:StateLibQld 1 163023 B-18 Digby flying above the Brisbane River near Eagle Farm, Queensland.jpg

Douglas B-18 Bolo

Relatively unknown to Americans is the Douglas DC-3 variant known as the B-18 Bolo. This aircraft won the contest against the Lockheed B-17 prototype on a technicality.  That technicality being the destruction of the B-17 prototype.  Armed with minimal machine gun protection and a small bomb load, the aircraft was the right bomber for the prewar years

File:Douglas B-18 sits on airfield in Panama (00910460 139).jpg

Douglas B-18 Bolo


The Bolo would start production in 1936 with 350 copies made. By the start of the war the US Air Force would label long range bombing missions using the Bolo as near suicidal thanks it’s minimal defensive argument of 3 machine guns. It’s history does including the sinking of two submarines after it found a second life as a patrol bomber. Unfortunately it was also stationed in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack where most of them were destroyed on the ground.



  • Guns: 3 × .30 in (7.62 mm) machine guns
  • Bombs: 4,400 lb (2,000 kg)
File:Douglas B-18 Castle.jpg

Douglas B-18 Bolo


So strictly from a technical standpoint which of these two bombers are superior? Don’t automatically give this one to the HE-111. Remember that the HE-111 had a very restricted interior and would rely on external hardpoints later in it’s life. The B-18 Bolo would offer far more conversion capabilities along the same lines as the B-24. It was used as a long range bomber, a patrol bomber and a transport.


[all images, unless otherwise noted, are from]

  • Number_Six

    "Unfortunately it was also stationed in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack where most of them were destroyed on the ground."

    One fun fact about the He-111 was the engines weren't synchronized, so formations of them made a weird and distinctive noise. The Spanish He-111s get supercool status because they ran Rolls Royce Merlin engines.

    <img src="; width=500>

  • The Spanish built transport versions stayed in service until the early 1970s. I remember a friend talking about seeing those in Spain when he was stationed there with the USAF in the 1970s.

    • thomasmac

      You can see them and some Spanish Buchons in "The Battle of Britain". I always thought they were unique air frames in their own right..Its a bit of a shame so many represent their Luftwaffe cousins

  • Rich

    The B-18 was based on the DC-2, not the DC-3. The most numerically significant bomber prewar, she was relegated to ASW and training, where she did great work. At Pearl Harbor, 11 destroyed and 11 damaged. The story of the B-18 is not as simple as portrayed here

  • thomasmac

    I have many fond memories blasting formations of HE-111Z playing IL2 1946

    • fodder650

      What were they doing in the game? They were primarily tow tugs unless they added them because of how odd they were

      • thomasmac

        I was usually just set up a quick fight with a formation of 4 and attack, cant remember if you could load them with ordnance or not, I may report back!

  • craigsu

    I imagine there was quite a bit of "development work" done by the Nazis during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-37.

    • fodder650

      They developed a lot of tactics using that aircraft during the Spanish civil war. If they had done a heavy weapon program they would have been on equal terms with the Brits and Americans in long range warfare with that knowledge