Of all the war planes of WW2, the HE-115, a twin-engine three-seater float plane, did not make a huge contribution. In total only 138 were ever built of which 6 were sold to the Norwegians before the Germans invaded them and twelve were sold to the Swedish. Nonetheless I am extremely critical of the decision that most surviving planes which were deemed obsolete, were merely sold as scrap rather than trying to preserve a large number of copies of them. Even the venerable Lancaster bomber suffered this ignominious fate resulting in there being only one copy still in flying condition today.
After finding another wrecked HE-115 in 2013, that makes a total of three available for restoration and perhaps flight? What is the prognosis of at least one HE-115 flying again?
Main picture: HE-115 recovered from Hafrsfjord in Norway on 12th June 2012
Swedish H-115 A2 recovered in Russia
A2 was the designation that Heinkel gave to the H-115’s that were exported. It is suspected that its Werknr is 3043(?) and its Registration Number is F.60(?), nothing is known of the origins of this plane. This Heinkel might be the example that was captured by German troops and later used in Russia. It was recovered from Russia by an unknown private owner in France. It is available for exchange for a flyable DB605 for use in a conversion project of an unknown Spanish ME-109. One engine is missing and the cockpit is severely damaged.
This example has never been on display.
Luftwaffe HE-115 recovered from a Norwegian Fjord
This plane was originally lost on the 28th December 1942. International headlines were made when this plane was recovered on 12th June 2012 from Hafrsfjord which is near the original Luftflotte 5 airbase at Stavager during the war. It is now being stored at the Sola Flymuseum awaiting the necessary funds to restore it.
As it is now classified as a HE-115 B-C implies that it could either be a B or a C variant which were only operated by the Luftflotte. The differences between the B and the C variants are minor and relate mainly to avionics. That being said, this plane could be registration number F.60 which had been captured by the Germans at Sola.
Initially the HE-115s were used to attack Allied convoys en route to the Soviet Union for armaments. Apparently this plane was lost in December 1942 after a bad landing ripped off the left float. None of the crew was killed, and the Germans were even able to recover the starboard engine and the remaining floats before the bomber sank.
It remained on the bottom of the fjord for almost 70 years.
In 2005, the airplane was found by Norwegian mappers using sonar equipment and after a large fundraising effort by the Sola Aircraft Museum in June 2012 they were able to raise it from the bottom of the fjord, suspending it below the surface from a barge.
The seaplane was towed to the shore where a crane lifted it out of the water. Miraculously the plane was in remarkable condition, mostly due to the fact it came to rest in low-oxygen silt in a part of the fjord with minimal currents. The recovered He 115 sits in a tank of fresh water at the Flyhistorisk Museum, Sola, Norway to leach out the ocean salts.
It may yet be restored, with flying capabilities but that would require the sourcing of another engine. No decision has yet been made as to whether to restore it or simply display it as it is.
Luftwaffe HE-115 in Lake Limingen in Nord-Trondelag, Norway
A HE-115 which sank in Lake Limingen in Nord-Trøndelag county, Norway in 1940, has now been located. Enthusiasts have spent eight years searching for the wreck, which sank 73 years ago, and have now secured video footage of the wreck lying on the bottom of the lake.
The wrecked He 115 still rests at the bottom of the Lake Limingen until and unless someone has the inclination and, more importantly, the money to recover it, it will remain there. The condition of the plane is unknown at this stage.
The prognosis for restoration to flying condition
Anything is possible but having said that with three wrecked HE-115s now available some compromise can be reached to create one flyable HE-115.
The world might yet witness the flight of the HE-115 after 70 years.
Wouldn’t that be amazing!
A brief operational history
At the beginning of the war, the He-115 was used for dropping parachute mines in British waters, normally aiming for narrow passages in the vicinity of busy ports on the southern English coast. The River Thames was also a prime target.
However, the aircraft had its finest moment when operating in the anti-shipping role against the Arctic convoys from bases in Northern Norway. Because these convoys initially lacked air cover, the low speed and comparatively light armament of the He-115 was not such a big problem as it had been over the heavily defended English coastline.
Later on, with the appearance of carriers and escort carriers, coupled with new Soviet heavy fighters like the Petlyakov Pe-3bis, the air superiority over the convoys was challenged. As a result, the torpedo bomber losses increased.
The destiny of Norway’s HE-115’s
The Norwegians purchased six and captured two. This is the fate of all eight planes.
F.50 Flown by Norwegian crew to Finland, and entered service with the Finnish Air Force.
F.52 Flown to England and received new serial number: BV186.
F.54 Lost during flight to England.
F.56 Flown to England and received new serial number: BV184.
F.58 Flown to England and received new serial number: BV185.
F.60 Captured by German forces at Sola.
F.62 Abandoned at Skattora.
F.64 Flown to England and received new serial number: BV187.
Shortly before the cease-fire on June 7th 1940, the Norwegian He 115s in airworthy condition escaped the country, four being flown to England and one to Finland.
The basic design of the aircraft remained remarkably unchanged during the type’s long career. The main differences, with a few notable exceptions, were changes in armament and avionics. Also to note is that the ‘new’ ‘E’ version, launched when production restarted in 1941, is in fact similar to the ‘C’-series, again with the exception of armament changes.
- He 115 A-010 pre-production examples, armed with a single machine gun.
- He 115 A-1added a nose-mounted machine gun.
- He 115 A-2similar to the A-1 but exported to Norway and Sweden.
- He 115 A-3modified weapons bay and changes to the radio equipment.
- He 115 B-0the ‘B’-series introduced the ability to trade fuel and bomb load, as well as the possibility to carry a 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) magnetic mine.
- He 115 B-1added increased fuel capacity.
- He 115 B-1/R1
- He 115 B-1/R2
- He 115 B-1/R3
- He 115 B-2had reinforced floats for operation from ice or snow.
- He 115 C-1introduced additional armament.
- He 11 5C-1/R1
- He 115 C-1/R2
- He 115 C-1/R3
- He 115 C-1/R4
- He 115 C-2reinforced floats in same manner as B-2.
- He 115 C-3minelayer version.
- He 115 C-4torpedo bomber version.
- He 115 Done aircraft fitted with BMW 801C engines rated at 1,147 kW (1,560 PS) each.
- He 115 E-1similar to the ‘C’-series, but with revised armament.