Blohm & Voss BV 238

The Blohm & Voss BV 238 was a German flying boat built during World War II. It was the heaviest aircraft ever built when it first flew in 1944, and was the largest aircraft produced by any of the Axis powers during World War II.[2]

BV 238
The prototype BV 238 V1 in June 1944
Role Flying boat
Manufacturer Blohm & Voss
First flight April 1944[1]
Primary user Germany
Number built 1 (with 2 incomplete prototypes)[1]


Development of the BV 238 giant flying boat began in 1941, following the success of the smaller but still enormous BV 222 Wiking.

An approximately quarter-scale model of the BV 238 was commissioned to test the new, long and slim hull design. Built by the Czechoslovakian Flugtechnische Fertigungsgemeinschaft Prag (FGP), the FGP 227 arrived too late to contribute any data to the program.[1][3]

Although extensive defensive armament was planned the first prototype, the BV 238 V1, had none. Bearing the Stammkennzeichen alphabetic radio code of RO + EZ, it began flight trials in April 1944.[1] It was strafed and partially sunk while moored on Lake Schaal, some miles to the east of Hamburg. One wing remained above water and it was salvaged, but by this time the war had ended and the Allies refused to let it be restored so it was taken out to deeper water and sunk.[4]

One other prototype was effectively completed but never flown and two more were under construction at the end of the war.


The BV 238 was an extremely large flying boat of conventional aerodynamic design, but bearing the usual B&V structural hallmarks of all-metal construction with a tubular steel wing main spar which also acted as the armoured main fuel tank. Of the era, only the earlier Tupolev ANT-20 and the later Hughes H-4 had a bigger wing span. However it would be the heaviest yet flown, at 100 tonnes (220,000 lb) fully loaded.

The hull had an unusually long and slim planing bottom, of essentially two-step design but with a row of smaller auxiliary steps behind the main one. A large nose door opened onto its cavernous interior, with the main crew cabin immediately above and behind it.

The wing was of straight, constant-chord form with tapered outer sections. Auxiliary floats were integrated into underside panels of the outer sections and could be retracted to lie flush with the wing. A catwalk ran internally along the wing in front of the tubular steel main spar, providing access to the engines in flight.[5]

Power was provided by six 1,287 kW (1,750 hp) Daimler-Benz DB 603 liquid-cooled inverted V12 piston engines, arranged in nacelles along the leading edge of the centre section.[1]

BV 250

A landplane version, initially called the BV 238-Land, was proposed, capable of carrying out transport, long-range bombing and transatlantic reconnaissance duties.

The lower hull was replaced by a plain fairing with retractable undercarriage comprising twelve main and two nose wheels. One bomb bay filled the space between the wheel bays, another lay behind the main undercarriage. The wing floats were similarly replaced with retractable outrigger stabilising wheels. The nose wheel could be folded up, making the aircraft "kneel" and allowing vehicles to drive directly on- and off-board via a loading ramp to the nose doorway. Alternatively, passenger seating could be fitted. A further, upper deck behind the crew cockpit accommodated further passengers, bringing the total capacity to 300 troops.[6]

Renamed the BV 250 in 1942, three prototypes were ordered but none was finished by the end of the war.[5]

Specifications (BV 238A-02 (V6))

Data from Aircraft of the Third Reich Vol.1,[1] Blohm & Voss Bv 222 "Wiking" – Bv 238[7]

General characteristics

  • Crew: ca 12
  • Length: 43.35 m (142 ft 3 in)
  • Wingspan: 60.17 m (197 ft 5 in)
  • Height: 12.8 m (42 ft 0 in)
  • Wing area: 360.16 m2 (3,876.7 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 54,780 kg (120,769 lb)
  • Gross weight: 90,000 kg (198,416 lb) for reconnaissance missions
95,000 kg (209,439 lb) for bomber missions
  • Max takeoff weight: 100,000 kg (220,462 lb)
  • Powerplant: 6 × Daimler-Benz DB 603G inverted V-12 liquid-cooled piston engines, 1,417 kW (1,900 hp) each for take-off
    1,163 kW (1,560 hp) at 7,375 m (24,196 ft)
  • Propellers: 3-bladed constant-speed propellers


  • Maximum speed: 350 km/h (220 mph, 190 kn) at 60,000 kg (132,277 lb) weight at sea level
425 km/h (264 mph) at 60,000 kg (132,277 lb) at 6,000 m (19,685 ft)
  • Landing speed: 143 km/h (77 kn, 89 mph)
  • Range: 6,620 km (4,110 mi, 3,570 nmi) at 365 km/h (227 mph) at 92,000 kg (202,825 lb) at 2,000 m (6,562 ft)
  • Service ceiling: 7,300 m (24,000 ft)
  • Wing loading: 261 kg/m2 (53 lb/sq ft)


  • Guns: 8 x 13 mm (0.512 in) MG 131 machine guns with 1,800 rpg; 4 in each nose and tail turret
8 x 13 mm (0.512 in) MG 131 machine guns with 900 rpg; 4 in each wing mounted turret
4 x 13 mm (0.512 in) MG 131 machine guns with 500 rpg; 2 (as a twinned MG 131Z) in each manually aimed beam/waist position
2 x 20 mm (0.787 in) MG 151/20 autocannon with 1,400 rpg in forward dorsal turret
  • Bombs: 20 x 250 kg (551 lb) SC 250 bombs in wing bomb bays
and 4 x 1,000 kg (2,205 lb) SC 1000 bombs on external racks
or 2 x 1,200 kg (2,646 lb) LD 1200 torpedoes on external racks
or 4 x Henschel Hs 293 missiles on external racks, if Bv 238 fitted with FuG 203 Kehl MCLOS guidance transmitter
or 2 x 1,000 kg (2,205 lb) BV 143 glide bombs on external racks

See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


  1. Green, William (2010). Aircraft of the Third Reich (1st ed.). London: Aerospace Publishing Limited. pp. 165–168. ISBN 978-1-900732-06-2.
  2. Luftfahrt History Heft 1: Blohm & Voss BV 238. Lautec Medien GmbH, 57078 Siegen.
  3. Nowarra 1997, p. 42.
  4. Amtmann (1988), p.64.
  5. Green (1970)
  6. Sharp, D.; Luftwaffe:Secret Bombers of the Third Reich, Mortons, 2016, pp.36-39.
  7. Nowarra 1997, p. 47.
  • Green, William (2010). Aircraft of the Third Reich (1st ed.). London: Aerospace Publishing Limited. pp. 165–168. ISBN 978-1-900732-06-2.
  • Green, William (1970). Warplanes of the Third Reich. London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., (4th impression 1979). ISBN 0-356-02382-6.
  • Nowarra, Heinz J. (translated by Don Cox) (1997), Blohm & Voss Bv 222 "Wiking" - Bv 238. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History. ISBN 0-7643-0295-7. (Translation of the German original Luftgiganten über See: BV 222 Viking - BV 238. Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas Verlag GmbH, 1980. ISBN 3-7909-0124-5.)
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