Hitler wanted Blitzkrieg from above. As the German military prepared to face off against Russia’s underestimated, yet formidable, tank forces in Operation Barbarossa, Hitler belatedly realized the need for a tank-hunting close-support aircraft. The Henschel Hs 129 was supposed to fill this role as Germany’s Panzerknacker, or tank breaker, however, it proved anything but.
Despite being piloted by record-breaking airman Rudolf-Heinz Ruffer while taking out 80 tanks, the plane struggled to achieve wider success in World War II. Unfortunately for the Luftwaffe, the Hs 129 was rushed to the battlefield saddled with requirements and design choices that doomed its capabilities early on. Development was too slow, production was flawed, and the aircraft was never built in the quantities necessary to impact any significant battles of the war…
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