The Henschel Fleugzeugwerke AG designed the Hs 123 as a stop-gap
until a more advanced dive-bomber type should emerge, what ultimately
became the Junkers Ju 87. Henschels first aircraft for the German
forces was designed by a team led by chief constructor Dipl.-Ing. F.
Nicolaus, the Hs 123 V1 D-ILUA, W.Nr.265 (V = Versuchsflugzeug,
test aircraft; W.Nr.: Werknummer = construction number, c/n) flew for the
first time at Johannisthal near Berlin May 8, 1935.
Six more prototypes followed, testing several engines, propellers,
armament, refinements and even an enclosed cockpit; two were rebuilt
to yet another configuration. Despite several mishaps, it was better
than the rival Fieseler Fi 98 and a pre-series of 16 Hs 123 A-0 was
ordered in June 1935, the first was ready in July 1936. A further 229
production Hs 123 A-1 and B-1 aircraft were built by Henschel and AGO
Flugzeugwerke, the latter building 129, production ended April 1937.
The Hs 123 shed first blood in 1936 as five aircraft were used by the
Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil war. Later these and 11 more were
sold to the Spanish AF, and 12 were exported to China. The outcome of
a 1938 exercise led the Führungsstab of the Luftwaffe to believe
that an aircraft of this configuration could play no roll in a future
war and withdrew the aircraft from the frontline service, these being
than allocated to dive-bomber trainings units. Henschel and Ago were
instructed to scrap all jigs, models and tools for production.
With the outbreak of WW II the Hs 123 was used in all theatres,
Poland, France, the Balkan and finally Russia and the aircraft was
used up to its limits. It was a big surprise that this aircraft was
such a tremendous success in tactical and aircraft sturdiness
aspects, being also used in the ground-attack configuration. It was
among the very few aircraft that always had operational readiness
during the Russian winter of 1941/1942. The Hs 123 soldiered on until mid-1944.
The Hs 123 was of sesqui-plane planform and foremost metal
construction with fabric-covered parts of the wing and tail unit, the
B-1 was of all-metal construction.