The Nazi’s Flying Artillery – Henschel HS129

We all know how awesome the A-10 and GAU-8 is in aviation history. It is a flying gun. Well apparently it is not the first plane built around a gun. The Germans made something similar back in 1942. Henschel built the HS129.

According to worldwarwings.com:

Made by a company called Henschel, this ground attack aircraft was introduced in 1942 with the same idea A-10 engineers had in mind. They wanted to protect the pilots when performing low-level attacks. For this reason, they had a “bathtub” design which pushed the pilot as far toward the front of the cockpit as possible to increase visibility but also made it out of steel and very angular to deflect bullets. The canopy itself was made out of 3-inch armored glass.

Although it was also equipped with 2 machine guns, one of the later variant’s main weapon was the 75mm Pak 40 anti-tank cannon. As you can tell by the diagram, the whole feeding mechanism sat behind the cockpit with the barrel sticking out well ahead of it. At over 3,000 lbs, it was the heaviest gun installed in an aircraft until the A-10 Thunderbolt II was built around the GAU-8

Here is live footage of the HS129 firing its massive gun.

 

The 75mm projectiles look like missiles as they fly through the air.



Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at nicholas.c@staff.thefirearmblog.com


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  • Kirk Newsted

    I don’t think there were any 75s in that video. All of the shots were off center and looked like machinegun or light cannon from the wing mounts.

    • B-Sabre

      Exactly. The original Hs129 had a pair of 30mm cannon in the nose, flanking the cockpit.

  • Brett baker

    Good thing we had air superiority!

  • SGT Fish

    Americans had versions of the B-25 with a 75mm cannon in the nose. I knew a guy who was the loader/gunner on one. except he only ever shot blanks at airshows after the war

    • railphilly

      Good guys also tested an A26 Invader variant with a 75mm.

      • Mahks Von Aye

        good guys….america actually committed factually proven warcrimes unlike the third reich which only has the fake photos and lies accepted as truthful testimoniesto prove germany did anything

    • Jim Slade
    • Bumped into a veteran who was a crewmember on one in the Pacific Theater, when I was a kid goggling at the assembled WWII bomber display section of a model shop; he said they could only fire the gun five or six times before the vibration literally started backing the nuts off the bolts holding it in place, and it was so loud that the first time they fired it in action he thought it had blown up and he was dead.

    • 2War Abn Vet

      My high school principal had flown these babies in the Pacific. Of course, that was back in the days before school administrators went Socialist.

    • Dean Seaman

      It’s my understanding that gun was literally impractical in that airplane. The recoil was so great from the gun, only one shot could be made on a pass, so if you missed, you had to come around for another shot.

      • Mahks Von Aye

        what gun and aircraft are you referring to…cause that is false if youre talking about the hs129 with the bordkanone

        • Dean Seaman

          The 75mm cannon installed in the B-25, as seen in the picture Sgt Fish posted.
          If you look next to the person’s name in any post, you’ll see an arrow after their name, pointing to another name (such as yours pointing to my name in your post).
          This shows that the post is a reply and who they’re replying to.

    • Mahks Von Aye

      that was a 57mm gun

  • Hans

    The A10 wasn’t built around the gun. Other way around.

  • mcjagermech

    It was an awful plane though, it was slow, underpowered and unmaneuverable and the cockpit was so cramped that a lot of the instruments were placed in the engine cowlings and the gunsight was mounted externally.

    • Dougscamo

      And only carried 26 rounds from what I have read….

      • mcjagermech

        I understood it to be between 13 and 15 but I may be wrong. In all fairness it was a good gun though

        • Dougscamo

          You may very well be as I understand that the documentation process was breaking down when this is fielded….
          As far as the gun, it was probably one of the few that could consistently penetrate the armor of a tank in the field at the time…. since they weren’t shooting at Peugeot or Hotchkiss tanks….
          And yes, viewers, Dougscamo looked this up before commenting from memory! Until this, I believed Rudel…. 🙂

          • Dean Seaman

            Remember, though, tank armour thickness varies in different parts of the tank. The deck was usually fairly thin because designers figured it wasn’t going to see too much gunfire. Some decks could be penetrated with a 20mm cannon.

    • Mahks Von Aye

      yet it accounted for hundreds of tank kills….

      the p51 was and is garbage

  • Graham Jackson

    Rate of fire in the video looks too high for the cyclic rate of 40 rpm of the Bordkanone 7.5cm in the Hs129 B-3. More likely a B-2 firing a 30mm MK 103 cannon or, possibly, a B-2/R3 equipped with the BK 3.7cm found on the JU 87 in underwing pods which had a rate of 160 rpm.

    There was another larger gun fitted to an aircraft prior to the A-10 package, which was the QF 32-pdr of 94mm bore mounted to a single DH Mosquito FB MkXVIII ‘Tsetse’. Apparently it performed well, but as it wasn’t completed until the end of the war it wasn’t proceeded with.

    • Mahks Von Aye

      prototypes dont count hell the germans installed 88 and 105 mm guns in the ju88 and 290s yet they were prototypes

  • And the US used a 75 mm artillery piece in the nose of the B25.

    • Old Tofu

      I still dream about getting my own red ryder bb gun

  • Phillip Cooper

    Live footage from 70+ years ago? NEAT TRICK!!!

  • Brett baker

    Just remembered. What about the AirCobra with the 37mm, any film of them in action?

    • No one

      A vast majority of P-39s and P-63s were lend leased to the Soviets, check if they have any footage.

    • It was a low pressure 37mm, not the high pressure 37mm AA cannons most people think of; gun camera footage of them firing looks like the pilot is lobbing grapefruit at the target by hand.

  • Full Name

    The Brits had a version of the Mosquito fitted with a 57mm gun

    • No one

      So did the US, they took a slightly modified gun from a Sherman and placed it on the front of a B-25 Bomber along with .4 AN/M2 .50s for ground attacks in the “H” variant of the aircraft.

      The 75mm was manually loaded from inside however memory serve me.

      • The_Champ

        Yes. Both the Mosquito and B-25 cannon armed variants were designed for an anti-shipping role. I recall reading that the Mosquito’s weapon also proved quite effective against other aircraft.

        • Tony Williams

          The Mosquito with the 57mm Molins autoloading gun was originally intended as a tank buster, but the RAF turned it down so the ones built (about three dozen) were handed over to Coastal Command for the anti-submarine role (they fired solid shot able to punch through the pressure hull of a surfaced U-boat).

        • Mahks Von Aye

          the use against other aircraft myth is just another example of the gross over exaggeration the brits americans and russians perfected

    • There were also a slew of test fittings in the 105mm range, many of which used a rotating carousel magazine to keep the beast fed.

      Balancing recoil control, reliability, and still maintaining ballistic efficiency (many of the recoil control ideas were, “Nerf the propellant”) in a semiautomatic howitzer mount proved to be “non-trivial”.

    • mazkact

      And we are told that polymer is the material of the future, I tell you it’s PLYWOOD 😉

      • Dougscamo

        The ORIGINAL stealth material!

    • Samuel Millwright

      Mollins gun, THIS was the tsetse!

      Originally intended for AT work instead wound up used to hunt surfaced U boats and could still pen the upper hull through a fairly impressive depth of water.

  • Old Tofu

    @40 seconds that’s one hell of a ricochet

  • 22winmag

    How inappropriate can an article possibly be for The *Firearms* Blog and the “NFA / Suppressors / Class III” category?

    Exhibit A

    • SGT Fish

      it includes firearms and NFA firearms. how does it not fit?

      • Paul Rain

        As I understand it the FAA is super f*ggy about civilians flying planes with mounted guns, so one could argue that you can’t really have a Class 3 HS129.

        Seems like it’d be fun to shoot the gun from the shoulder though, with the right sling of course.

        • SGT Fish

          FAA doesn’t have any rules against it. And many people do it. Starting with an old man strapping cable actuated 12ga shotguns to his bushplane to take out wolves with buckshot, all the way to Mike Dillon (owner of Dillon prescision, RIP) having a complement of M2 50 cals in the wings of his T-28 Trojan and using them in the desert. Theres also a P-51 with live guns flying, and many helicopters with mounted guns out there. Its legal, most people just ASSume it isnt

      • Samuel Millwright

        Especially since these are DD’s that are also machine guns lol

    • No one

      How dense and idiotic can a post from 22winmag really be?

      Exhibit……we ran out of letter combinations far too long ago.

    • autofull– kevin horning

      yup, i have read the b25 stories, hydro buffer lines blowing out. thank god they were single shot. what i think about with this one is watching all the attachment points breaking and the weapon tearing ass outta the rear of the plane. recoil must have still been wild . just my two. kevin.

  • tony

    T-34 can opener

  • Foma Klimov

    We had 37 mm cannon pods on our IL-2s, but the most effective anti-tank weapon for an IL-2, was a little 2 kilo HEAT bomblet. Each IL-2 could carry dozens and blanket the area with with them. The HEAT principle allowed those tiny, parachuting bombs to penetrate the top armor of all German tanks. Very cheap and effective. IL-2s would typically attack in packs of dozens.

    • Mahks Von Aye

      yet very few panzers were destroyed by bombs

  • Marcus Hickman

    The Italians also fit a 102mm gun on a P.108A which was intended for anti ship use.

    • Mahks Von Aye

      it was 90mm rebored and not forward facing

  • Mitlov

    Anyone interested in this aircraft should know that it’s going to be a flyable aircraft in the flight simulator IL-2: Battle of Kuban, which is the next expansion pack in the incredibly-well-done reboot of the IL-2 Sturmovik franchise (currently consisting of IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad and IL-2: Battle of Moscow). Should be arriving later this year according to the developer.

    • Pandaz3

      Thank You, great Game

  • Iblis

    The Japanese had a twin engine aircraft with a 57mm on it. It blew a motor off a B-29 in combat.

  • Pandaz3

    The P-39 was developed starting in1938 and in production in 1941, commonly was armed with a 37 MM cannon firing thru the propeller hub, two .50 calibers, synced to fire thru the prop and two .30 calibers in each wing. They started putting cannon in B-25’s in 1942 also so nothing really remarkable about the HS 129.
    20MM is considered a cannon and Germany had a lot of aircraft with 20MM.

    • Tony Williams

      @Pandaz3: “They started putting cannon in B-25’s in 1942 also so nothing really remarkable about the HS 129.”

      There were at least two remarkable things about the Hs 129 with the BK 7,5: the gun had a magazine-fed autoloader while the B-25’s was manually loaded; and the Hs 129 was a very small plane to take such a very big gun.

      • Pandaz3

        The P-39’s 37MM was auto loading and the plane designed in 1938. It was designed as a Pursuit plane (“P” series), or interceptor, not a Attack plane (“A” series), but as a altitude impaired plane it was often adapted to ground targets. It did have success against Japanese fighters and bombers in the pacific, but there were not many P-39’s in USAAF service and parts were a problem. Most went to the USSR

  • Mel Kimlinger

    “For this reason, they had a “bathtub” design which pushed the pilot as far toward the front of the cockpit as possible to increase visibility but also made it out of steel and very angular to deflect bullets. The canopy itself was made out of 3-inch armored glass”.

    Hmmm. Wonder if the original designers (Fairchild) of the A-10 Warthog looked at this aircraft as they designed the A-10? The Warthog also has a “bathtub” (made of titanium) around the cockpit to protect the pilot.

    • Mahks Von Aye

      this and the junkers ground attack aircraft design were both ripped off by the criminal all-lies

  • jae34

    I’d imagine when the Pak40 variant is fired it wouldn’t have been very pleasant to sit in that aircraft even though it would most likely had a recoil-dampening system for such a impressive gun. Curious how much of the speed and control of the aircraft is affected when the pilot actually presses the trigger on the Pak gun.

  • uisconfruzed

    They were an inventive, engineering masters.
    Too bad they were evil to the bone.

  • Richard Lutz

    Great idea, but lousy execution as the engines were underpowered and unreliable.

  • Mahks Von Aye

    the video was not of a BK7.5cm equipped PanzerKnacker

  • Mahks Von Aye

    lol….the 75 still out did it….

  • Mahks Von Aye

    “Bordkanone 7,5 was the heaviest and most powerful forward-firing weapon fitted to a production military aircraft during World War II. The only other aircraft to be factory-equipped with similar-calibre guns were the 1,420 examples of the North American B-25G and B-25H Mitchell, which mounted either a 75 mm (2.95 in) M4 cannon, or lightweight T13E1 or M5 versions of the same gun. These weapons, however were hand-loaded, had shorter barrels and/or a lower muzzle velocity than the BK 7,5, resulting in lower ballistic performance, accuracy and rate of fire. The BK 7,5 was unsurpassed as a production aircraft-fitted gun until 1971, when the four-engine Lockheed AC-130E Spectre – equipped with a sideways-aimed, hand-loaded 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer of about 1,496 kg (3,298 lb); entered service with the U.S. Air Force. The 1,200 kg (2,600 lb) BK 7,5 cannon installation in the Hs 129B-3 was the heaviest forward-firing autocannon ever made for a series production military aircraft, until the introduction of the Fairchild Republic A-10 “Warthog”, with its General Electric GAU-8 Avenger seven-barrelled 30 mm (1.18 in) anti-tank Gatling cannon main armament coming in at a total weight of up to 1,830 kg (4,030 lb) with an ammunition load of some 1,100 shells included in a drum magazine integral to the weapon system, much like the much smaller 12-round magazine of the BK 7,5″

  • Mahks Von Aye

    by 1943 they had only 10,000 tanks left