In December 2016 I headed to the outskirts of Madrid in Spain, to visit the Spanish Air Force Museum (Museo de Aeronáutica y Astronáutica de España). The museum was inexpensive to enter (just 3 euros in 2016) but to see such a large collection of aircraft spanning the history of the Spanish Air Force, along with aircraft from other countries such as East Germany and Sweden, the short opening hours of just 4 hours are a bit limiting. Unfortunately as closing time approaches, they are also very quick to kick you out too (I actually ended up going to the museum twice)!
Amongst the large number of aircraft at the museum were of course two famous Spanish Hispano Aviación hybrid versions of the German Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2 fighter made famous during World War Two: the HA-1112-K1L Tripala and HA-1112-M1L Buchón of which 239 of all variants were produced. In 1942 Spain entered an agreement with Germany to licence-build 200 Messerschmitt Bf-109G-2 fighters but the only problem was that due to the ongoing war, Germany could never provide enough airframes or engines to get production going. Given by 1945 inline Daimler Benz DB 605A engines were not forthcoming from Germany, the Hispano Aviación needed to find a replacement power source for the airframes they did have available.
The first Hispano Aviación variants produced were 25 fighter aircraft built from German supplied Bf 109G-2 fighter airframes and components in 1945 but fitted with a Hispano-Suiza 12Z-89 V-12 inline engine (initially tested in a Bf 109E during 1944). They were designated HA-1109-J1L. The first example flew on March 2nd, 1945 fitted with a three-bladed propeller supplied by Vereinigte Deutsche Metallwerke (VDM) from Germany. The next 24 aircraft were fitted with a Escher Wyss & Cie. propeller from Switzerland and test flown from 1947 to 1949. Performance was not great and there were issues with the German and Swiss supplied propellers. The type did not enter operational service.
In 1951 these J1L aircraft were converted to HA-1109-K1L variants fitted with a 1,300 hp Hispano-Suiza 12Z-17 V-12 inline engine and a de Havilland Hydromatic three-bladed propeller that both improved the performance of the aircraft. Armament consisted of 2 x Hispano-Suiza HS-404 20mm wing mounted cannons and up to 8 x 80mm underwing air to ground rockets. In 1951 these aircraft were redesignated HA-1112-K1L Tripala (Three Blades) and 40 more aircraft were produced to become operational fighters with the Spanish Air Force (Ejército del Aire). The K1L variant had a top speed of 600 km/h (373 mph) which was a bit slower than early Messerschmitt Bf 109G variants operated by the Luftwaffe.
Following its first flight on March 29th, 1954 the final production fighter, the Hispano Aviación HA-1112-M1L Buchón (a male dove) was introduced into Spanish service. This variant was fitted with a British Rotol four bladed propeller and a more powerful 1,600 hp Rolls Royce Merlin 500/45 V-12 engine was housed in a modified nose. The new engine increased the maximum speed to 665 km/h (413 mph), which was generally faster than Bf 109G Daimler Benz powered fighters. Armament remained the same and 172 Buchón fighters were produced up to 1958 and flew in Spanish service until December 1965 (the lower level of technology compared to jet fighters meant the type was easier to maintain and operate in Spanish colonies in Africa).
A small number of two-seat trainer variants were also produced and used operationally by the Spanish Air Force – 1 HA-1110-K1L with a Hispano engine that was later converted to HA-1112-M4L two-seat trainer with a Rolls Royce Merlin. A second HA-1112-M4L trainer was also built.
The Spanish Air Force Museum Aircraft (Hangar 3)
Hispano Aviación HA-1112-K1L Tripala (56, C.4J-10, 94th Squadron “94-28”) powered by a Hispano-Suiza 12Z-17 V-12 engine, with a three-bladed prop. The armament of 2 x Hispano 20mm wing mounted cannons have been removed but it is displayed with 8 rockets underwing. This one was operated by the Spanish Air Force from 1952 to 1955 and was donated to the museum in 1971.
Hispano Aviación HA-1112-M1L Buchón (211, C.4K-158, 471st Squadron “471-23”) – the first noticeable difference of this variant apart from the Rotol four bladed propeller, is the different, less streamlined nose structure with a Rolls Royce Merlin underneath. This aircraft was operated by the 47th Wing of the Spanish Air Force at Tablada in Seville from 1960 to 1965. Yes they were operated until a very late period given their original World War Two heritage!
Warbirds & Rebuilt BF 109’s with a HA-1112 Past
A number of HA-1112-M1L Buchón aircraft are still being flown as warbirds retrofitted with three-bladed propellers (presumably to make them look more like Bf 109’s?) and are in private collections or on display in aviation museums around the world. The type was made famous as stand in Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters in movies such as the classic Battle of Britain (1969 – many of the surviving aircraft were used in this movie), Memphis Belle (1990) and more recently Dunkirk (2017).
In an interesting twist in history, there are also a number of flying warbirds and museum aircraft today that have been rebuilt and restored back to German Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109G variants using Spanish HA-1112 airframes with original German Daimler Benz DB 601 and DB 605 engines. The work on these is magnificent and you would not know looking at them, that they did not originate from the Messerschmitt production lines!
CASA 2.111 the Spanish Heinkel
Another familiar looking aircraft you will occasionally see in aviation museums with Spanish origins, is the CASA 2.111 bomber which was a Spanish variant of the German Heinkel He 111 medium bomber operated by the Luftwaffe during World War Two. You would have seen them flying alongside the Buchón fighters in the Battle of Britain movie too! In 1940 Spain was granted permission to licence build 200 He 111H-16 bombers but the progress of the war meant the Spanish did not get enough of the components and engines expected from Germany.
Eventually Spain was able to source enough Junkers Jumo 211F-2 engines to produce 130 aircraft but ultimately only 117 of these aircraft went into service with the rest required for parts to maintain the others. Three versions were produced, the 2.111A bomber, 2.111C reconnaissance bomber and 2.111F transport but the first did not fly until May 23rd, 1945 and soon enough access to such engines and spare parts dried up with the defeat of Germany in the war.
Once again the Spanish needed to look for another engine and again the Rolls Royce Merlin proved the perfect solution (Merlin 500/29 engines in this case). This was some time later though, as 173 Merlin engines were not purchased from the UK until 1956. You will notice the engine nacelle looks very familiar, as it is the same as used on RAF Avro Lancaster bombers with Merlin engines. Existing aircraft had the new engines installed and new aircraft were also produced. The bomber was redesignated 2.111B and the reconnaissance bomber became the 2.111D. A new nine passenger transport version, the 2.111F was also developed (2.111T8).
236 CASA 2.111 variants were produced between 1945 and 1956. The bombers were in service until the late 1960’s and saw combat in 1957 to 1958 during the Ifni War in the then colonial Spanish West Africa against Moroccan insurgents in the Moroccan Army of Liberation. The transport variant flew on until 1973.
The Spanish “Tante Ju“
Another familiar looking Spanish aircraft is the CASA C-352, a licence built German Junkers Ju 52/3M “Tante Ju” (Aunt Ju) tri-motor transport. The type was in production in Spain from 1941 to 1954 with 170 aircraft completed: 106 CASA C-352 and 64 CASA C-352L with EMNA Beta B-4 engines which were licence-built versions of the BMW 132 (both variants are on display at the Spanish Air Force Museum). They were built as paratrooper transports (with a sliding door on the right side of the fuselage), freighter transport, passenger transport and training aircraft.
CASA 352 transports were widely used during the during the Ifni War of 1957 to 1958. The type successfully dropped paratroopers into combat zones, transported supplies and troops and were even used as bombers during the conflict. The last was retired by the Spanish Air Force in 1973. In keeping with the appearances in movies theme, a Spanish CASA 352 was used in the 1968 war movie Where Eagles Dare.
Unfortunately the restoration hangar was closed on both visits I made to the Spanish Air Force Museum and staff simply gave the response they were never sure when it was open! Inside were some rare aircraft including the two main aircraft I wanted to see, a German designed Dornier Do 24T-3 flying boat and an early model Heinkel He 111E-3 bomber from 1938. I believe the museum CASA 2.111F (108) transport was inside there too. It was a major disappointment to not see these aircraft but overall the great collection certainly made it a worthwhile museum to visit!
Museo de Aeronáutica y Astronáutica de España