ARADO AR 196
When the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, the German Navy’s (the Kriegsmarine) was equipped with the Heinkel He 60 biplane which went onto serve throughout the Spanish Civil War in 1938.
The He 60 had excellent sea handling abilities but it was slow and cumbersome in the air, weakly armed and vulnerable to other fighters.
The Kriegsmarine had already begun a massive and secretive shipbuilding exercise in preparation for war in Europe and were seeking a faster and more heavily armed observation plane that could be easily launched, retrieved and stored aboard their new generation of Cruisers and battleships.
Heinkel responded to the Reich's Air Ministry (RLM) new specifications by trying to modify their existing design with no real success and it eventually fell to the German manufacturer Arado to come up with the winning design, the Arado Ar 196 low-wing mono float plane.
Arado delivered a number or prototypes including twin float and single float versions for extensive testing.
Much like the USN’s, Vought OS2U Kingfisher maritime reconnaissance aircraft, testing showed that the single, large central float design provided a slightly better turn of speed in the air and withstood heavy seas during landing being directly attach to the fuselage airframe rather than the twin-float wing mounted design.
Unfortunately it required small wingtip stabilising floats which had a tendency to dig in making it difficult to taxing and manoeuvre in anything above a choppy sea. The new Kriegsmarine battle cruisers were designed for action out in the middle of the North Atlantic’s massive seas so airspeed was sacrificed for greater landing and water taxiing stability and orders were placed for the twin float design.
The first Arados were put to sea aboard the pocket battleship the 'Admiral Graf Spee’ for its four month cruise in the South Atlantic to sink allied merchant shipping wherever it could.
Launching from two catapults set amidship, the Arado’s became the battleship’s eyes as they patrolled the ocean hundreds of miles away from their parent ship and were instrumental in locating most of the battleship’s 11 British victims.
The floatplanes flew well-armed with one 20 mm MG FF cannon in each wing, a 7.9mm MG 17 forward-firing machine gun in the fuselage nose, and one or two 7.9mm flexible machine guns in the aft cockpit. The Arado could also carry a 50 kg bomb under each wing.
The mission was a great success and Arado’s were loaded aboard all German warships that could mount a catapult including the Scharnhorst, Admiral Hipper, Gneisenau, Deutschland, Admiral Scheer, and Prinz Eugen.
The Arados pilots loved its easy handling both in the air and on water and with the eventual loss of much of the German surface fleet, they were added to coastal squadrons and continued to fly reconnaissance missions and submarine hunts into late 1944.
Whilst no match for most allied fighters, the Arado achieved significant success in downing a number of RAF Whitley bombers which had been attacking German U-boats sailing to and from their U-boat pens on the French coast around the Bay of Biscay.
The two of the most notable missions however, occurred when two Ar 196A-2s from Aalborg, Denmark managed to capture the British submarine, HMS ‘Seal' on May 5 1940.
The submarine had been laying mines in a narrow waterway when it struck one of its own mines attacking attention of the patrolling Arados who attacked the sub with machine gun fire and bombs.
One of the Arados landed alongside the stricken sub which had been severely damaged and unable to submerge or defend itself giving her captain Lt Cdr Rupert Lonsdale no option other than surrendering to the Arado pilot.
The second occurred in the afternoon of Aug 15 1940 during a patrol by Ar 196A T3+Dh piloted by Staffelkaoitan Hauptmann Gerrit Wiegmink and his observer/gunner Lieutenant zur See Dietrich Schlenker over the Straight of Dover.
Looking for survivors from any of the 75 Luftwaffe aircraft lost in action that day, Schlenker spotted a flight of Spitfires approaching low over the sea.
With throttle slammed open, Wiegmink turned and made a dash for the French coast as the Spitfires opened fire, hitting him in the shoulder.
The Spitfires were from No 266 Sqn scrambled from Manston to intercept the seaplane which had been detected on radar some 12 mile of the coast. Closing in on the fleeing seaplane they moved in for the final kill confident in the knowledge that they had little to fear from the slow moving lightly armed German Arado. They were to be sorely mistaken.
In desperation, Wiegmink spun the seaplane around directly into the path of the oncoming fighters, firing at one as it passed barely 3 metres above his shattered cockpit.
The Spitfire broke formation and trailing a long white plume of smoke disappeared towards the English coast as the remaining fighters regrouped and attacked again from behind.
Twice more Wiegmink used the same tactic of turning into the path of the Spitfires and firing his wing guns with his observer opening up from his position in the rear cockpit.
The RAF pilots now realised they were up against a skilled and determined pilot so fell back taking up position on either side as they took turns crossing across the Arados tail and raking it with cannon fire.
With the seaplane now shedding fabric from its damaged wings, an engine faltering and a dead gunner behind, Wiegmink made an abrupt left turn unexpectedly catching a Spitfire turning in the opposite direction. Wiegnmink fired immediately and to his amazement the Spitfire flipped over on its back with black plumes of smoke and crashed into the sea just as Wiegmink’s own aircraft nosed in.
Miraculously he survived the impact and managed to escape the upturned float plane hanging on until he was rescued by a nearby German E boat where his wounds were dressed and he was taken back to the French base.
Schlenker was probably already dead when the seaplane hit the ocean and while there were no definitive records of the first Spitfire damaged, the downed Spitfire N3189 was piloted by Sgt Fredrick Hawley who did not survive the impact.
The Arado’s served Germany well and flew the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the Mediterranean, Baltic, Aegean, Black, and North Seas. They were also operated by its axis partners Italy, Bulgaria Finland and even Japan who used it alongside their Aichi E13A’s as part of joint German/Japanese operations in Malaya.
During 1944-45, Soviet forces captured numerous Arados along the Baltic coast of Poland and Germany including a spare parts depot. As a result, 37 Arado Ar 96 aircraft fitted with Soviet radio equipment were integrated into the aviation element of the Soviet Border Guard where they served in the Baltic, Black Sea and Pacific coastal areas, until 1955.
Another two Arados were captured by allied forces when the German Cruiser the Prinz Eugen surrendered at Copenhagen Denmark and are now on display at the US Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida and the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.
All Arado AR 196 Instruments and collectables listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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ARADO AR 196 FLOAT PLANE WING HATCH
Extremely rare underside wing hatch from the Kreiegsmarine Arado AR...