|Dornier Do 215 in flight|
|Role||Light bomber/Night fighter|
|Developed from||Dornier Do 17|
The Dornier Do 215 was a light bomber, aerial reconnaissance aircraft and later a night fighter, produced by Dornier originally for export, but in the event most served in the Luftwaffe. Like its predecessor, the Dornier Do 17, it inherited the title "The Flying Pencil" because of its slim fuselage. The successor of the Do 215 was the Do 217.
The Do 17 fast bomber elicited renewed interest from foreign air forces (after the initial Do 17K series production). In July 1937, Dornier therefore prepared a pre-series Do 17 Z-0 as a demonstrator for export customers. It was given the civil registration D-AAIV. While this aircraft was essentially identical to the production Do 17Z, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium assigned the designation Do 215 to the export version. However, in spite of the Do 215 being designated as an export version, many Do 215s were used by the Luftwaffe.
The first prototype, Do 215 V1, retained the nine-cylinder Bramo 323 Fafnir radial engine of the Do 17Z. It crashed during testing. The second prototype, Do 215 V2, was equipped with the Gnome-Rhône 14-NO radial engine. It safely completed testing, but did not attract export orders because it did not offer a notable performance increase over the Do 17Z. The third prototype, Do 215 V3, used a 1,175 PS (1,159 hp) Daimler-Benz DB 601 Ba inline engine. In 1937, Dornier had used the earlier Daimler-Benz DB 600 powerplants in the Do 17L and Do 17M subtypes. The Do 215 V3, which first flew in the spring of 1939, demonstrated a noticeable improvement in flight performance compared to the earlier prototypes.
Series production of the Do 215 A-1 began in 1939. The order, intended for the Swedish Air Force, was stopped in August 1939, due to the political situation. The 18 extant aircraft were embargoed and pressed into Luftwaffe service upon the outbreak of World War II.
Some modifications were made and the resulting aircraft were redesignated as Do 215 B-0 through Do 215 B-5. This was the standard production version. According to official figures, 105 Do 215s were produced between 1939 and 1941 by Dornier in its factory at Oberpfaffenhofen.
The Luftwaffe initially operated the Do 215 as a bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. Aircraft equipped with Rb 20/30 and Rb 50/30 cameras were used for long-range reconnaissance missions, primarily at the Ob.d.L (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe). Later aircraft operated as night fighters. The last of the Do 215s were retired in late 1944.
Of the versions of the Do 215 that existed, the A-1 bomber with DB 601 engines, and the B-0 and B-1 export machines were both re-equipped with FuG 10 navigation devices for the Luftwaffe. The Do 215 B-5 was the first night fighter to be equipped with the FuG 202 Lichtenstein B/C navigation device. These aircraft saw action from January 1941 to May 1944 with I. and IV./NJG 1 and II./NJG 2.
Until recently, none of the Dornier twin-engined bomber variants were thought to have survived. In September 2007, a Dornier Do 215 B was found largely intact in the shallow waters of the Waddenzee, the Netherlands. This aircraft was flown by a Luftwaffe fighter ace Helmut Woltersdorf. On the night of 6/7 July 1941, Woltersdorf shot down a Vickers Wellington, but his Dornier was damaged by return fire and crash-landed off the Dutch Coast. The area where the Dornier came down was named as a seal sanctuary and thus it escaped the attentions of scrap merchants and souvenir hunters. At low tide the aircraft becomes visible.
The Aircraft Recovery Group from the Airwar Museum at Fort Veldhuisin Heemskerk received permission to partially recover the Do 215. The only missing part of the aircraft is the tail section which lies 70 ft (21 m) to the rear of the main wreckage. The Daimler-Benz DB 601 engines were recovered along with the starboard portion of the cockpit.
Data from Aircraft of the Third Reich Volume one, German Aircraft of the Second World War.