He 51 A-1
|This page is about the German biplane He 51 A-1. For other versions, see He 51 (Family).|
The He 51 A-1 is a rank I German fighter with a battle rating of 1.0 (AB/RB/SB). It has been in the game since the start of the Open Beta Test prior to Update 1.27.
The Heinkel He 51 was one of the first aircraft which the German Luftwaffe (still operating in secrecy) tasked to be built. Brothers and talented aircraft designers Walter and Siegfried Günter were working for Heinkel Flugzeugwerke in 1931 when they developed the design for an advanced trainer biplane which was designated He 49. Though touted as a trainer, the aircraft had been designed as a fighter and with a few minor conversions, could be an operational fighter aircraft. After several iterations, the Luftwaffe ordered this aircraft into production as the He 51 in 1933.
Currently in service with Germany was the older Arado Ar 65 biplane which the He 51 was slated to replace, unfortunately by the time the He 51 A rolled off the production lines, it was already outdated, however, it wasn't until after 150 were built that important modifications were made which resulted in the upgraded He 51 B. Of the 450 B variants built, 46 of them were modified by replacing the fixed landing gear with floats to allow the fighter to land on water. Later another 100 were built as the He 51 C variant which was configured as a light ground-attack aircraft.
Used initially in the Spanish Civil War, the He 51 showed to dominate over older biplanes, however, the advantage was short-lived as modern Soviet fighters and bombers arrived and the He 51 could no longer keep up with them. Operations for the He 51 converted to night fighting, however not long after that it was designated solely for ground attack operations. Though not seen as a fantastic aircraft, behind the scenes it had set the stage for the Luftwaffe years later when close support tactics were developed by Field Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen while flying a He 51.
When paired up against other reserve fighters in the game, the He 51 can hold its own, though it will not win any speed records, nor will its machine guns out fire some of the early Soviet fighters, however, there is a place for the He 51 A-1. The He 51 is extremely manoeuvrable with a turn time of 14.9 seconds, so the He 51 is a plane that can be most difficult to outmanoeuvre. Diving straight into a cluster of fighters rolling around with each other is not the best tactic, it is better to pick a target and go after it, however, if cornered, the slower speed and manoeuvrability of the He 51 can get it out of tight spaces and potentially down a few enemy aircraft in the process. With two 7 mm machine guns, tracer rounds work best against early aircraft, especially those which are fabric covered and have non-sealing fuel tanks. Though the pilot may find themselves up-tiered against mono-wing aircraft of faster speeds, the He 51 A-1 can quickly turn the tables and put the faster enemy fighter on the receiving end of a stream of bullets, and only a few hits are enough to hobble the enemy aircraft allowing the Heinkel to catch up and finish the job.
|Characteristics|| Max Speed
(km/h at 4,000 m)
| Max altitude
| Turn time
| Rate of climb
| Take-off run|
|Combat flaps||Take-off flaps||Landing flaps||Air brakes||Arrestor gear|
|Wings (km/h)||Gear (km/h)||Flaps (km/h)||Max Static G|
|Optimal velocities (km/h)|
|< 180||< 300||< 300||> 190|
|Optimal altitude||100% Engine power||WEP Engine power|
|0 m||750 hp||N/A|
Survivability and armour
- No armour plating
- No armour glazing
- All critical components located in front of aircraft (fuel, pilot, engine, controls)
Like many biplanes before and contemporaries of the He 51 A-1, armour was not an option, survival was based on the pilot's grit. Armour added weight, weight the early biplanes could not afford to carry and still be a viable fighter. Flying in open cockpit and fabric-covered aircraft, the only protection the pilot had was to place his engine between him and his enemy, otherwise, the pilot was vulnerable. Typically aircraft like this have the engine at the nose of the aircraft, followed by the fuel tank and then the cockpit, all three critical components relatively crammed together. The pilot's toolbox had to contain situational awareness as he needed to know where the enemy was around him. Tracer rounds could easily ignite the fabric-covered aircraft or large fuel tanks, so it was imperative the pilot was the attacker, not the one being attacked and knowing where the enemies are at can help avoid getting shot at.
Modifications and economy
The He 51 A-1 is armed with:
- 2 x 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns, nose-mounted (500 rpg = 1,000 total)
When comparing offensive armament between reserve aircraft, the He 51 A-1 is on par with most nations, however, it lacks when compared to aircraft from France, Great Britain or the Soviet Union and to some extent the United States and their use of a heavy machine gun. The He 51 found itself between two great wars and to some extent was a fossil in regards to its armament. For a light biplane fighter, the He 51 A-1 only sported two 7.92 mm machine guns with a few options of ammunition types available for use.
Some of the reserve aircraft the He 51 A-1 will face utilise a heavy machine gun, up to 4 x 7 mm machine guns and a couple of premium versions even pack on a massive (massive for a reserve aircraft) 20 mm autocannon. Though coming in at a severe weapons disadvantage in some instances, the He 51 A-1 can still dominate a match and come out the king of the hill. While the two 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns may seem insufficient, they do a job and they do it well, though it may take a bit of practice to land the bullets where they will do the most damage.
Default ammunition what every pilot starts out with, though not the best it will cause critical hits and down enemy aircraft, though it may take a bit more patience and a few more rounds. When available to upgrade the ammunition belt modules, two other choices come into play which will allow the pilot to change tactics and fight more on their terms. Tracer ammunition is a fantastic choice for use against early biplane and monoplane fighters, especially since most of these aircraft are covered in fabric (as opposed to later aircraft covered in metal skin) and most if not all of the early fuel tanks are not self-sealing or do not vent exhaust gasses into the fuel tanks to stave off potential fireballs.
Tracer rounds, though do little impact damage, their powerful punch comes from igniting aircraft on fire causing the enemy to fall to the earth in a flaming heap. One huge disadvantage to the tracer rounds is that it lets everyone know where you are with the bright coloured rounds flying through the air. To combat this, some pilots will switch stealth rounds, which just means that this belt is without any tracer rounds. Two advantages here are first, the removal of the tracer round adds in another damage round and secondly, there are no tracer rounds to give away your position, especially if your first shots don't land where you want them to, enemy pilots will need to spend precious seconds looking around to find where the shots came from before reacting or they may react blindly and to your advantage. One challenge with stealth rounds is they are more difficult to tell where they are landing especially with distance shots and will take practice to know where they are hitting, though when used in close, they are easier to track and pack in a surprise for the enemy pilot they may not be able to recover from.
Usage in battles
In Simulator, the He 51 is overall not an ideal plane to fly. Its advantages include the pair of fast-firing 7.92 mm MGs, allowing you to put enough bullets into the opponent when led correctly. It also has very stable handling (will not spin out as much) and great side and rear views with nothing at all to obstruct your view. You can even see your whole tail. At last, the He 51 has good rate of climb in comparison to most other equivalent battle rating aircraft allowing it to play the energy tactic well. This is good because the He 51 is a slow bird and has trouble catching virtually any other plane in level flight, but given its slow speed, it also sports an exceptional turn radius allowing it to turn a death-spiral into a turkey shoot. However, its disadvantages are that the front view offers an extremely restricted panorama and it is difficult to anticipate targets with a thick wing in your face, which will very often cause you to lose track of your target. As with all biplanes, this characteristic tends to dissuade its use in SB. Its good manoeuvrability is also countered by every other reserve aircraft as they can turn equally well. In addition it can get quite wobbly when manoeuvring at low speeds which can cause you to miss the shot. The MGs also have a really low one second burst mass, so to effectively damage an opponent you need to constantly lead correctly, which is not always possible. Therefore, the He 51 can only perform dogfights with other biplanes, and ground pounding.
Bring at least 30 minutes of fuel for prolonged patrolling and fighting, and set the convergence to around 300 m. When taking off, the He 51 will shift severely to the left so you need to set separate keybind for left and right brakes to counter the torque. Be careful when the plane is just lifting off and you want to cancel the roll caused by the torque, the He 51 responds very sensitively in the roll axis, thus too much aileron deflection will over-roll, striking a wing into the ground.
For dogfighting, it is crucial to know what the target is. If the opponent is a biplane, combine your turn rate, combat/takeoff flaps and decent climb rate to gradually get an advantage and get onto its tail. Now you want to be more careful to not lose track of it as your upper wing is very annoying. Smooth the aim to extend your firing window as much as possible, to utilise the great rate of fire and avoid the low burst mass. Most biplanes cannot survive too many hits. However if it is a monoplane, try to lure it into a turnfight. If an energy fighter (e.g. Yak-1) uses BnZ tactic on you, do what you do in Arcade/Realistic: roll to one side and pull under it to avoid the dive and to dodge under its belly. Now average Sim players tend to struggle to trace you, if not immediately losing track of you. Repeat this until they lose patience and start to turn with you. However, if you see a plane with an I-15's short and fat fuselage, a flat radial engine and triangular stabilisers located right after the low-mounted mono wings, consider disengaging. The I-16 is faster than you, turns equally well and can cripple your fragile He 51 even with 2 x MGs. If an I-16 is on your tail, a tactic to counter it is to utilise your stableness. Deflect both your ailerons and elevators for around 70% to get into a barrel roll. If the I-16 is to follow and cut inside your roll, it is super likely to enter a flatspin due to its instability in manoeuvres. Perform the barrel roll tighter and tighter until the I-16 loses control and spins, then turn around and shoot. Or, do simple flat turns but turn tightly, a tight-turning I-16 is also prone to enter flatspins, however this is at risk of getting shot before it loses control.
For ground pounding, your targets are trucks, AAA and howitzers. First you need some separation between you and the target so you have enough time to stabilise the plane. The He 51 can get quite wobbly. Dive at it and first stabilise the plane so the gunsight stays overall still at the target. Then, once the target fills out around 1/6 of the gunsight, open fire. If your aim is accurate you can destroy one target in a single pass. However, each MG only has 500 rounds and their rate of fire is pretty fast, so control the trigger to save some ammo for any unexpected dogfights.
Landing is easy thanks to the low stall speed and lovely handling. Line up and approach the airstrip at treetop, decrease speed to at most 200 km/h and deploy combat, takeoff and landing flaps in order. The touchdown speed should be no more than 140 km/h to avoid bouncing up. Release brakes immediately as soon as the nose starts dipping down to avoid propeller strike.
Enemies worth noting:
- Su-2: given your weak firepower, even an average attacker will appear to be super robust. The Su-2 has tough airframes that will not easily get damaged by your MGs and a rear facing, rapid-firing ShKAS that can easily cripple you. Think twice before engaging. Its appearance is quite common, the most noticeable features can be the cockpit & turret that roughly resemble a TBF's, a protruding chin, olive green camo and a large and tipped spinner.
Manual Engine Control
|Controllable|| Not controllable
Not auto controlled
| Not controllable
Not auto controlled
Not auto controlled
|Combined|| Not controllable
Pros and cons
- Very manoeuvrable
- Weaponry is good enough for most uses
- Often underestimated by enemy pilots, allowing you to take them by surprise
- Improved fuel capacity over predecessors
- Good speed by biplane standards
- Susceptible to tracer fire, fabric-covered and non-sealing fuel tanks
- Slow in comparison to other reserve aircraft
- No armour or protection at all
- Open exposed cockpit
- Smallest calibre machine guns to work with
- Poor forward visibility (Simulator battles)
In the early 1930s, the most advanced biplane aircraft in Germany was the Arado Ar 65, though it was quickly becoming obsolete. The German Luftwaffe, operating in secrecy against resolutions set after World War I, did not want to fall behind in technology. Though military aircraft and vehicles could not be built, trainer and transport aircraft were designed and built but had a hidden dual purpose which would allow them to easily be converted into fighters and bombers. Heinkel Flugzeugwerke was one such aircraft manufacturer which was designing what was to be the Ar 65's replacement. Günter brothers, Walter and Siegfried were the lead designers on a new biplane design in 1931 which labelled as an "advanced trainer", would easily be converted into a fighter when necessary. Early prototypes were designated He 49 with several variants resultant of modifications and upgrades performed to address shortcomings found during testing.
In 1933, the Luftwaffe ordered the He 49 (now designated He 51) into pre-production. The design of the aircraft is relatively simple, all-metal frame construction with a fabric covering. Like many early aircraft, it was powered by a v-12 engine, this one a glycol-cooled (ram air radiator) BMW VI engine and two 7.92 mm machine guns mounted in the upper fuselage/cowl of the aircraft allowing the pilot to point the aircraft where he wanted to shoot and then fire without having to make any considerations for convergence, with the exception of bullet drop over longer distances, however, when fired up close, the guns did considerable damage.
By the time the aircraft was rolling off the production lines in 1935, the He 51 A was already considered outdated which goes to show how fast technology was developing during these years. Modifications were made to the aircraft and the next in line production variant the He 51 B was produced in greater numbers and enjoyed early air superiority in the Spanish Civil War, only until modern Soviet fighters and bombers showed up.
Seeing that the He 51 B was no longer a capable fighter even as a short stint as a night fighter, it was quickly modified and the final production variant, the He 51 C rolled out as a dedicated ground-attack variant. The He 51 C was a very capable ground-attack fighter, coupled with its extreme manoeuvrability and slow loiter speed, the aircraft could attack a ground target and within a few seconds could have the plane turned around and be attacking again before any ground defences had the chance to regroup and retaliate. Towards the end of the Spanish Civil War, losses of the He 51 were starting to mount up as anti-air technology was catching up and more and more of the slower biplane were picked off from ground weapons.
It was during this time when World War I ace pilot Wolfram von Richthofen flew the He 51 in a ground attack role, through this process, he refined and honed his skills as a close support fighter. The tactics he learned through trial and error became invaluable later on during World War II when as a Field Marshal, he passed on these tactics and how to effectively dive bomb with aircraft. Though only 55 aircraft survived front-line service through 1938, they continued to be of use through the first few years of World War II as the aircraft they were originally designed to be, advanced trainers.
Heinkel He 51 A-1 single-engine fighter
A single-seat biplane of composite structure with fixed landing gear. This aircraft was designed by Heinkel Flugzeugwerke AG under the guidance of the brothers Siegfried and Walter Günter. The He 51 fighter was a serious upgrade of the single-seat He 49 fighter, which had flown for the first time in November 1932.
The He 49 was a single-strut biplane of composite structure with a BMW liquid-cooled engine. Among German planes of that period, it was set apart by its fuselage, which had extremely clean aerodynamic contours and a retractable radiator.
The designers themselves were not very satisfied with their creation, believing that its characteristics could be significantly improved. A fourth prototype was built, with a new designation: He 51a.
The dimensions and the design of the aircraft remained almost unchanged, but the He 51a was noticeably different from its predecessor in various details. The vertical empennage was completely redesigned. The retractable radiator was replaced with a ducted one. The new ailerons had balance and trim tabs, and the wing pylon's parallel struts were replaced with N-type struts. The pyramidal landing gear with a common axle was replaced with individual V struts featuring hydromechanical shock-absorbers. The struts and the wheels now had fairings, and a tail skid was used instead of a tail wheel. As a whole, the He 51 turned out to be noticeably more elegant, which significantly improved its flight characteristics.
The plane's power unit was a 500 hp Bayerische Motoren Werke BMW VI twelve-cylinder liquid-cooled engine that could provide a power of up to 750 hp during short-term uprating.
The He 51 was armed with two fuselage-mounted synchronous 7.92 mm Rheinmetall-Borsig MG 17 machine guns with 500 rounds each.
The leadership of the German Ministry of Aviation saw the He 51 as an aircraft of extreme importance for the reviving Luftwaffe. In April 1935, the production of He 51 A-1 fighters began. The production aircraft differed from the prototype: it had a cut-down fuselage spine fairing behind the cockpit, a slightly changed tail skid design, and extended engine exhaust pipes.
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
|Heinkel Aircraft Company (Heinkel Flugzeugwerke)|
|Fighters||He 51 A-1 · He 51 B-1 · He 51 B-2/H · He 51 C-1 · He 51 C-1/L|
|He 100 D-1|
|He 112 A-0 · He 112 B-0 · He 112 V-5|
|Jet fighters||He 162 A-1 · He 162 A-2|
|Twin-engine fighters||He 219 A-7|
|Bombers||He 111 H-3 · He 111 H-6 · He 111 H-16|
|He 115 C-1|
|He 177 A-5|
|Export||He 112 B-1/U2(Hungary) · He 112 B-1/U2(Romania) · He 112 B-2/U2 · A7He1|
|He 51||He 51 A-1 · He 51 B-1 · He 51 B-2/H · He 51 C-1 · He 51 C-1/L|
|He 100||He 100 D-1|
|He 112||He 112 A-0 · He 112 B-0 · He 112 B-1/U2 · He 112 B-2/U2 · He 112 V-5|
|Bf 109 (Jumo)||Flegel's Bf 109 A · Bf 109 B-1|
|Bf 109 (DB-601)||Bf 109 E-1 · Bf 109 E-3 · Bf 109 E-4 · Bf 109 E-7/U2 · Bf 109 F-1 · Bf 109 F-2 · Bf 109 F-4 · Bf 109 F-4/trop|
|Bf 109 (DB-605)||Bf 109 G-2/trop · Bf 109 G-2 · Bf 109 G-6 · Bf 109 G-10 · Bf 109 G-14 · Bf 109 K-4|
|Fw 190 (early)||Fw 190 A-1 · Fw 190 A-4 · Fw 190 A-5 · Fw 190 A-5 · Fw 190 A-5/U2 · Fw 190 A-5/U14 · Fw 190 A-8 · Fw 190 C|
|Fw 190 (late)||Fw 190 D-9 · Fw 190 D-12 · Fw 190 D-13|
|Ta 152||Ta 152 C-3 · Ta 152 H-1|
|Blohm & Voss|
|BV 155||BV 155 B-1|
|USA||▀P-47D-16-RE · ▀P-47D|
|USSR||▀La-5FN · ▀Yak-1B|
|Britain||▀Tempest Mk V|
|Italy||▀CR.42 · ▀Marcolin's C.R.42 CN · ▀G.50 serie 2 · ▀G.50 AS serie 7 · ▀C. 200 serie 3 · ▀C. 200 serie 7 · ▀C. 202|