Me 323 Gigant file photo [6015]

Me 323 Gigant

CountryGermany
ManufacturerMesserschmitt AG
Primary RoleGlider
Maiden Flight1 November 1941

Contributor:

ww2dbaseOn 18 Oct 1940, German aircraft manufacturers Junkers and Messerschmitt were given two weeks to submit a proposal for a large transport glider, which would be used to remedy the lack of heavy equipment during the initial stages of airborne offensives. The requirement called for each of them to have the capacity for an 88-millimeter gun plus a half-track tractor, or a Panzer IV medium tank. The Messerschmitt Me 261w design, later renamed Me 263 and then Me 321, was put into production and the aircraft saw considerable service.

ww2dbaseIn early 1941, a decision was made to produce a powered variant of Me 321 glider transports. A few Me 321 glider transports were taken as prototypes for this new project. They had their wings strengthened to take on six engines, permanent landing gears were installed, among other modifications. When the design entered production, they were designated Me 323 Gigant ("Giant") heavy transports. They would become the biggest land-based cargo transports of WW2.

ww2dbaseThe production variants of Me 323 Gigant aircraft (as opposed to those converted from Me 321 gliders) had high-mounted wings made of plywood and fabric. Their fuselages were made of composite metal, wood, and fabric. Wood and fabric were chosen as much for weight savings as for cost savings. Their engines were Gnome-Rhone GR14N radial engines made in occupied France, selected to avoid placing any additional demand to German aircraft engine industry charged with manufacturing engines for combat aircraft. Their cargo capacity, rated at 15 tons, was great; in terms of heavy equipment, they were each capable of carrying either two four-ton trucks or an 88-millimeter Flak gun with its entire compliment of equipment, ammunition, and gun crew. The heavy cargo capacity sometimes strained the six engines, thus they were sometimes equipped with four rockets to assist with takeoffs.

ww2dbaseMe 323 Gigant heavy transports were introduced into military service in 1943. They were first used to ferry men and equipment from Italy to North Africa. On 22 Apr 1943, a flight of 14 Me 323 Gigant transports escorted by 7 Bf 109 fighters were intercepted by a flight of P-40 Warhawk fighters; despite the presence of escorts, the transports were so vulnerable that glancing shots from the attacking fighters were enough to down all 14 of them. This by no means suggested their structures were weak, however. Contrastingly, they were actually known to absorb a great deal of damage when encountering hostile fire, although that characteristic was greatly affected by the flammability of the cargo they were transporting at the time.

ww2dbaseProduction of Me 323 Gigant heavy transports lasted from mid-1941 until Apr 1944, with a total of 213 built. Although most of them saw very heavy use, it was generally believed that none of them served beyond mid-1944.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

SPECIFICATIONS

D-6
MachinerySix Gnome et Rhône 14N 48/49 14-cylinder air cooled radial engines rated at 950hp each
Armament18x7.92mm MG 81 machine guns
Crew5
Span55.20 m
Length28.20 m
Height10.15 m
Wing Area300.00 m²
Weight, Empty27,330 kg
Weight, Loaded29,500 kg
Weight, Maximum43,000 kg
Speed, Maximum285 km/h
Speed, Cruising218 km/h
Rate of Climb3.60 m/s
Service Ceiling4,000 m
Range, Normal800 km
Range, Maximum1,100 km

Photographs

A German armored halftrack vehicle being loaded into the nose doors of a six-engine Luftwaffe Me 323 Gigant transport, date unknownGerman soldiers being reviewed in front of a Me 323 Gigant aircraft, date unknownGerman soldiers loading a 10.5 cm leFH 18 field gun into the cargo bay of a Me 323 Gigant aircraft, date unknownGerman soldiers simulating an airborne assault from a Me 323 Gigant aircraft, date unknown
See all 7 photographs of Me 323 Gigant Glider



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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
1 Jul 2010 04:06:24 PM

|length main 28.2 m |length alt 92 ft 4 in |span main 55.2 m |span alt 181 ft 0 in |height main 10.15 m |height alt 33 ft 3.5 in
2. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
7 Aug 2010 04:54:07 PM

Did you know... After World War II Messerschmitt wasn't allowed to build aircraft, so the company designed and built three and four wheeled vehicles, one was the KR 200 top speed was 97 Km/h or 56 mph and got 87 mpg! OPEC eat your heart out! The body was almost fuselage like with tandem seating, and a bubble canopy hinged to open to the right, just like the famous Bf 109 single-engine fighter. Some of these cars are still owned and others in collections. Some collectors will pay as much as 10,000 euros for a well-maintained "Schmitt". BMW also built a small three wheeled car, called the Isetta 300. To learn more, click to the Fw 190 fighter here in the ww2db.
3. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
8 Aug 2010 11:56:56 AM

"All that Remains" A salvaged wing section is all that remains of a Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant, and it is used as a bridge over a creak, located in Eastern Poland. Another wing section is in storage in Germany
4. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
26 Dec 2010 11:17:58 AM

During tests a Messerschmitt Me 323 carrying 120 troops on board, was towed by three Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine fighters. The Me 323 equipped with booster rockets, to help on takeoff, were located under the wings, as the aircraft lifted off one rocket failed to start the Me 323 swerved causing the three tow planes to collide, and crash killing the crews of the tow planes, and everyone aboard the Me 323.
5. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
26 Dec 2010 03:42:26 PM

GOTTA MAKE MY CORRECTIONS: AIRBORNE ODDITIES: The Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant was powered by six radial engines. The Messerschmitt Me 321 was the glider variant how could I make this mistake in my ww2db comments. BORN OUT OF NECCESSITY: Zwilling is twin in German the Luftwaffe had no heavy four engine bombers like the RAF and USAAF, the Junkers Ju 90 lacked the power to tow the Me 321. General Ernst Udet came up with the idea to use two He 111 bombers with a common wing powered by five engines, this would generate 6750 hp enough power needed to tow the glider. POWER TO GET IT AIRBORNE: Assisted Rocket Power for takeoff, two 1100lb /500Kgp thrust rockets, under the wings and two 3307lb/1500Kgp thrust rockets under the center section. Production started in 1942 the He 111Z was a demanding aircraft to fly, but was liked by its crews. It took three months between prototype and delivery to the Luftwaffe. Twelve aircraft were built two prototypes and ten-production aircraft. If anyone has more information post it on the ww2db, or contact me wdenomie@yahoo.com

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Me 323 Gigant Glider Photo Gallery
A German armored halftrack vehicle being loaded into the nose doors of a six-engine Luftwaffe Me 323 Gigant transport, date unknown
See all 7 photographs of Me 323 Gigant Glider




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