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Like the Stuka, the Dornier Do 17 'Flying Pencil' fared well in the opening stages of World War II, but quickly became obsolete by the war's midpoint.

The Do 17 began its inauspicious career as a civilian transport designed to satisfy a 1933 Lufthansa tender for a passenger/mail transport. The plane that the Dornier engineers completed in 1934 didn't impress the people at Lufthansa, as its fuselage was too narrow for use as a practical passenger craft. Not wanting to abandon their project, the designers shortened the fuselage and modified the tail section in an attempt to find a military buyer. The first bomber prototypes flew in mid-1935, and the Reich Air Ministry quickly placed orders for several hundred of the light bomber and reconnaissance variants.

At first glance, the Do 17 did not appear to be a legitimate bomber. In fact, it looked rather ungainly: long, narrow fuselage; bulbous cockpit and crew area and wide, awkward looking wings. The unique profile of the early Do 17s earned the plane the nicknames "Flying Pencil" and "Eversharp". Most variants carried a crew of four -- pilot, radio operator, navigator/bombardier and rear gunner. Armament included 2-4 7.92mm machine guns and up to 2,200 lbs (1000 kg) of bombs.

Freed by Hitler's rejection of the Treaty of Versailles, the Luftwaffe entered into a period of rapid armament and expansion. By 1937, the first Do 17s were reaching Luftwaffe squadrons in small numbers, but it wasn't until the introduction of the BMW-Bramo Fafnir engine that the plane came into its own. Of the early variants -- Do 17E (light bomber), Do 17F (long range reconnaissance), Do 17M (medium bomber) and Do 17P (light bomber) -- totalled 565 aircraft. Another 70 Do 17Ks were built on license in Yugoslavia.

The most widely-used variant of the aircraft was the Do 17Z, which entered service in 1938. Over 500 Do 17Zs were produced between 1938 and 1940, supplying many of the Luftwaffe's front-line bomber squadrons (and replacing many of the earlier versions) until 1942. The plane fared well in North Africa and during the blitzkrieg campaigns in Poland, France, the Low Countries and the Soviet Union (up until 1942, that is), but proved to be nearing obsolescence at the outbreak of the Battle of Britain. In contested skies, Do 17s were shot down at woefully high rates, leading to the withdrawl of most of the remaining planes to safer theatres. The plane served the remainder of World War II in secondary roles: pathfinders, night fighters, glider tugs and reconnaissance planes.

In total, over 1,700 Do 17s were manufactured. Countries to utilize the Do 17 include Germany, Finland, Yugoslavia, Italy, Croatia, Spain and the Soviet Union (pre-Operation Barbarossa).

Even though the Do 17 saw comparatively little combat after 1942, its legacy did live on through its progeny. Dornier engineers used the Do 17 as a template for the updated Do 215 and highly-successful Do 217.


Specifications (for Do 17Z-2):
Weight (empty): 13,000 lbs (5,715 kg)
Weight (maxmimum): 19,500 lbs (8,850 kg)
Powerplant: 2 BMW-Bramo 323P Fafnir radial piston engines (1024 hp each)
Maximum speed: 255 mph (410 km/h)
Ceiling: 27,900 ft (8,200 m)
Maximum range: 932 miles (1500 km)
Wingspan: 59' .5" (18.00 m)
Length: 51' 10" (15.80 m)
Armament: (see above)


Sources:
Chant, Chris; German Warplanes of World War II (2001); Barnes & Noble Books; 176 pp.
Third Reich Factbook, Dornier Do 17 - http://www.skalman.nu/third-reich/equipment-air-dornier-17.htm
Dornier Do 17 - http://www.214th.com/ww2/germany/do17/

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