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Schnellbomber: Wikis


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de Havilland Mosquito

A Schnellbomber (German, literally fast bomber) is the concept of a high-speed bomber aircraft developed in the 1930s when it was believed that a very fast bomber could simply outrun its enemies.

The first aircraft adopted for the Schnellbomber role was the Heinkel He 70, but it soon was replaced by the Dornier Do 17 in that role. In the 1937 air races in Switzerland the Do 17 won a number of speed records, apparently demonstrating the value of the concept. However, experience in the Spanish Civil War demonstrated that the Do 17's speed when loaded down with military equipment was insufficient to escape interception, and armament had to be added to give it some defensive fighting capability. While bomber development had temporarily outpaced fighter development in the 1930s, at the end of the decade fighters like the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire entered service that had the performance to catch up with the Schnellbomber, and dramatically outgunning it by eight to one (only one gun would normally be able to fire back). The Do 17 suffered at the hands of the RAF, and production ended in 1940.

The Germans nevertheless persisted in their attempts to create newer Schnellbombers, as opposed to large bombers with heavy defensive armaments which was favored by the RAF and USAAF. Other aircraft recognized as "Schnellbombers" by the Luftwaffe were the Junkers Ju 88, the first to be custom designed for the role, the Messerschmitt Me 410 and the jet-engined Arado Ar 234 (which also was called "Schnellstbomber" - fastest bomber). Several other Luftwaffe aircraft were originally designed as Schnellbombers, including the Heinkel He 219 and the Dornier Do 335, but entered service in other roles.

Ironically the most successful Schnellbomber of the war was the bomber version of the de Havilland Mosquito. It retained a speed advantage over its enemies for much of the war, and was only able to be effectively countered by specialist versions of various night fighter designs. The Mosquito ended the war with the lowest loss rate among any aircraft in RAF Bomber Command. The Germans considered the Mosquito a superior implementation of their own Schnellbomber concept.

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