IAR-37 reconnaissance / light bomber
IAR-38 reconnaissance / light bomber
IAR-39 reconnaissance / light bomber
Dornier Do-17
Junkers Ju-88 D1
Potez Po-633B2
Bristol Blenheim Mark I

The Dornier Do-17 reconnaissance aircraft

In the early 1930's the German Lufthansa company was rapidly expanding, and its managers desired to buy only state of the art planes. Many German aircraft conceived initially for the Lufthansa would later see service with the still secret Luftwaffe. Some were truly excellent designs, like the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor long-range passenger / mail airplane, who went on to become the only long-range, four-engine German bomber of WW2. In 1933, the Dornier company decided to enter the competition for a new six-passenger / mail aircraft. This would later become the Dornier Do-17 light bomber.
Lufthansa had one major requirement : any plane that entered the competition had to be really fast. To meet this demand, all three prototypes were built with a very small cross-section, in order to reduce drag as much as possible. By 1935, the three prototypes begun their test flights, but the passenger space was so cramped and uncomfortable that it was clear the plane had no future as an airliner.
Luck, however, was on Dornier's side. At that moment the RLM ( the German Air Ministry ) was looking for a plane capable of illustrating its schnellbomber concept ( a bomber faster than any existing fighters ). A former Dornier pilot, now a Flugkapitan in the young Luftwaffe, flew one of the prototypes and reported that although better stability was needed, the Do-17 was a serious candidate for this part. The twin-rudder was redesigned and seven more prototypes were built before the aircraft was finally accepted into service, as the first schnellbomber of the Luftwaffe. By this stage the Do-17's had already acquired the famous nickname of "flying pencil" because of its small cross-section. RLM's idea of a schnellbomber seemed to be paying off when the Do-17M prototype present at the Zurich International Military Aircraft Competition in 1937 probed capable of outrunning any fighter present there.

 

 
  A Dornier Do-17 light bomber  
By the start of the war, over 600 different versions of the Do-17 (M, P, L and Z - the final one ) were in service with the Luftwaffe. During the battles over Poland and France, they performed well although trouble signs had begun to emerge. However, it was during the Battle of Britain that disaster struck. Both British fighters ( Spitfire and Hurricane ) were much faster and since the Do-17's were not carrying much defensive firepower, they got slaughtered.
 
After the battle, the Luftwaffe realized that with the Junkers Ju-88 entering mass-production, the Do-17 was not needed any more. Production ended in June 1940 and all surviving aircraft were sold ( or simply handed over ) to Germany's allies by 1942.
The ARR received ten Dornier Do-17M in early 1942. Previously they had been used as bombers, but ARR already had better aircraft for this job. Instead, the planes were fitted with internal extra fuel tanks in order to give them a longer range and employed as long-range reconnaissance aircraft. The 2nd Long Range Reconnaissance Squadron of the 1st Long Range Reconnaissance Group was equipped with the Do-17M's and saw a lot of action throughout the Stalingrad campaign. The squadron remained on the front until mid 1943, when all Do-17M's left were replaced by Junkers Ju-88D1's.

Technical data of the Dornier Do-17M

Wingspan
18 meters
Length
15.8 meters
Height
4.55 meters
Weight (empty)
5210 kg
Weight (loaded)
8590 kg
Maximum speed
427 km/h
Maximum operational ceiling
8200 meters
Range
1700 km
Engine
Two BMW Bramo 323A-1 Fafnir rated at 900 HP
Armament
Three MG15 7.92 mm machine guns
Payload
Up to 1000 kg
Crew
5
Numbers received
10
Serial numbers
1-10

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