Dornier Do 215

The Dornier Do 215 was a light bomber, aerial reconnaissance aircraft and later a night fighter, produced by Dornier originally for export, but in the event most served in the Luftwaffe. Like its predecessor, the Dornier Do 17, it inherited the title "The Flying Pencil" because of its slim fuselage. The successor of the Do 215 was the Do 217.

Do 215
Dornier Do 215 in flight
Role Light bomber/Night fighter
National origin Germany
Manufacturer Dornier Flugzeugwerke
Designer Claude Dornier
First flight 1938
Introduction 1939
Retired 1944
Primary user Luftwaffe
Produced 1939–1941
Number built 105[1]
Developed from Dornier Do 17

Design and development

The Do 17 fast bomber elicited renewed interest from foreign air forces (after the initial Do 17K series production). In July 1937, Dornier therefore prepared a pre-series Do 17 Z-0 as a demonstrator for export customers. It was given the civil registration D-AAIV. While this aircraft was essentially identical to the production Do 17Z, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium assigned the designation Do 215 to the export version. However, in spite of the Do 215 being designated as an export version, many Do 215s were used by the Luftwaffe.

The first prototype, Do 215 V1, retained the nine-cylinder Bramo 323 Fafnir radial engine of the Do 17Z. It crashed during testing. The second prototype, Do 215 V2, was equipped with the Gnome-Rhône 14-NO radial engine. It safely completed testing, but did not attract export orders because it did not offer a notable performance increase over the Do 17Z. The third prototype, Do 215 V3, used a 1,175 PS (1,159 hp) Daimler-Benz DB 601 Ba inline engine. In 1937, Dornier had used the earlier Daimler-Benz DB 600 powerplants in the Do 17L and Do 17M subtypes. The Do 215 V3, which first flew in the spring of 1939, demonstrated a noticeable improvement in flight performance compared to the earlier prototypes.

Series production of the Do 215 A-1 began in 1939. The order, intended for the Swedish Air Force, was stopped in August 1939, due to the political situation. The 18 extant aircraft were embargoed and pressed into Luftwaffe service upon the outbreak of World War II.

Some modifications were made and the resulting aircraft were redesignated as Do 215 B-0 through Do 215 B-5. This was the standard production version. According to official figures, 105 Do 215s were produced between 1939 and 1941 by Dornier in its factory at Oberpfaffenhofen.[2]

Operational history

The Luftwaffe initially operated the Do 215 as a bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. Aircraft equipped with Rb 20/30 and Rb 50/30 cameras were used for long-range reconnaissance missions, primarily at the Ob.d.L (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe). Later aircraft operated as night fighters. The last of the Do 215s were retired in late 1944.


Do 215 V1
Dornier Do 17 Z-0 used as first prototype of Do 215 and crashed during trials.
Do 215 V2
Dornier Do 17 Z-0 (D-AIIB) equipped with Gnome-Rhône 14-cylinder radial engines and used as second prototype of Do 215.
Do 215 V3
Third prototype of Do 215, equipped with Daimler-Benz DB 601Ba inline engines.
Do 215 A-1
Designation of original 18 aircraft built for Swedish Air Force order.
Do 215 B-0
Three aircraft of A-1 version re-equipped for Luftwaffe with FuG 10 and operated for bomber/reconnaissance duties.
Do 215 B-1
Renamed remaining 15 aircraft of A-1 version operated by Luftwaffe.
Do 215 B-2
Rebuilt with sliding cover under bomb bay and equipped with three Rb 50/30 cameras in bomb bay used for reconnaissance missions.
Do 215 B-3
Two aircraft similar to B-1 sold to Soviet Union.
Do 215 B-4
Improved reconnaissance version developed from B-2 version and equipped with Rb 20/30 & Rb 50/30 cameras.
Do 215 B-5
Night fighter version called Kauz III. 20 aircraft converted from B-1 and B-4 versions with Do 17 Z-10 "Kauz II" nose-equipped with IR searchlight for the Spanner infrared detection system. Do 215 B-5s were armed with four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns grouped above the IR light and two 20 mm MG FF cannon in the lower nose. The Spanner system proved to be useless and the Lichtenstein 202 B/C radar was installed on some aircraft starting from the middle of 1942.

Of the versions of the Do 215 that existed, the A-1 bomber with DB 601 engines, and the B-0 and B-1 export machines were both re-equipped with FuG 10 navigation devices for the Luftwaffe. The Do 215 B-5 was the first night fighter to be equipped with the FuG 202 Lichtenstein B/C navigation device. These aircraft saw action from January 1941 to May 1944 with I. and IV./NJG 1 and II./NJG 2.[3]


Wartime operators
 Soviet Union
Planned operators
  • Swedish Air Force ordered 18 Do 215 A-1s but the aircraft were embargoed and transferred to the Luftwaffe.
 Kingdom of Yugoslavia
  • In summer 1939 the Luchtvaartafdeeling (Netherlands Army Air Force) planned to buy 24 to replace the Fokker T.V which suffered reliability problems with its engines and propellers.

Surviving aircraft

Until recently, none of the Dornier twin-engined bomber variants were thought to have survived. In September 2007, a Dornier Do 215 B was found largely intact in the shallow waters of the Waddenzee, the Netherlands. This aircraft was flown by a Luftwaffe fighter ace Helmut Woltersdorf. On the night of 6/7 July 1941 Woltersdorf shot down a Vickers Wellington but his Dornier was damaged by return fire and crash-landed off the Dutch Coast.[6] The area where the Dornier came down was named as a seal sanctuary and thus it escaped the attentions of scrap merchants and souvenir hunters. At low tide the aircraft becomes visible. The Aircraft Recovery Group from the Airwar Museum at Fort Veldhuis in Heemskerk received permission to partially recover the Do 215. The only missing part of the aircraft is the tail section which lies 70 ft (21 m) to the rear of the main wreckage. The Daimler-Benz DB 601 engines were recovered along with the starboard portion of the cockpit.[7]

Specifications (Dornier Do 215 B-1)

Data from Aircraft of the Third Reich Volume one[8], German Aircraft of the Second World War[9]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4
  • Length: 15.8 m (51 ft 10 in)
  • Wingspan: 18 m (59 ft 1 in)
  • Height: 4.56 m (15 ft 0 in)
  • Wing area: 55 m2 (590 sq ft)
  • Airfoil: root: NACA 2218; tip: NACA 2209[10]
  • Empty weight: 5,775 kg (12,732 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 6,800 kg (14,991 lb)
  • Fuel capacity: 1,550 l (410 US gal; 340 imp gal) in two wing tanks + optional 875 l (231 US gal; 192 imp gal) auxiliary tank in the bomb bay
  • Powerplant: 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 601Aa V-12 inverted liquid-cooled piston engines
  • Propellers: 3-bladed constant-speed propellers


  • Maximum speed: 385 km/h (239 mph, 208 kn) at sea level
405 km/h (252 mph; 219 kn) at 4,000 m (13,000 ft)
470 km/h (290 mph; 250 kn) at 5,000 m (16,000 ft)
  • Cruise speed: 410 km/h (250 mph, 220 kn) at 4,000 m (13,000 ft)
  • Combat range: 380 km (240 mi, 210 nmi) with standard fuel and 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) bomb-load
  • Ferry range: 2,448 km (1,521 mi, 1,322 nmi) with 875 l (231 US gal; 192 imp gal) auxiliary tank
  • Service ceiling: 9,000 m (30,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 6.067 m/s (1,194.3 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 105.1 kg/m2 (21.5 lb/sq ft)
  • Power/mass: 0.184 kW/kg (0.112 hp/lb)


  • Guns: 4 × 7.92 mm (0.312 in) MG 15 machine guns, (later upgraded to 6)
  • Bombs: 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) bombs carried internally

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


  1. Griehl 2005, p. 10.
  2. Griehl 2005, p. 11.
  3. The Flying Pencil-Dornier Do 17 and Do 215; Heinz J.Nowarra; Schiffer Military History, Vol 25,ISBN 0-88740-236-4
  4. Green 1967, p.10
  5. Nowarra 1990, p. 37.
  6. Flypast, No. 315, October 2007, p. 62
  7. Flypast, No.315, October 2007, p. 63.
  8. Green, William (2010). Aircraft of the Third Reich Volume one. London: Crecy. pp. 255–257. ISBN 9781900732062.
  9. Smith, J.R.; Kay, Antony L. (1972). German Aircraft of the Second World War. London: Putnam. pp. 126–127. ISBN 978-0-85177-836-5.
  10. Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". Retrieved 16 April 2019.


  • Dressel, Joachim; Griehl, Manfred (1994). Bombers of the Luftwaffe. London: Arms and Armour. ISBN 1-85409-140-9.
  • Griehl, Manfred (1991). Dornier Do 17 E-Z, Do 215 B: The Flying Pencil in Luftwaffe Service. Erlangen, Germany: AirDOC. ISBN 3-935687-42-7.
  • Olrog, Mikael (2017). Dornier Do 215: From Reconnaissance Aircraft to Nightfighter. Manchester, UK: Crecy Publishing. ISBN 978-1-90653-752-4.
  • Green, William (1967). Warplanes of the Second World War, Volume Nine, Bombers and Reconnaissance Aircraft. London: Macdonald. ISBN 978-0-356-01491-3.

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