In 1935 Henschel developed the parasol-wing Henschel He 122 short-range reconnaissance aircraft as a replacement to the Heinkel He 45 and He 46, but although a few of the 492-kW (660-hp) Siemens SAM 22B- engined aircraft were built, the He 122 was never adopted for use by the Luftwaffe.
Henschel's chief designer Friedrich Nicolaus derived the Henschel Hs 126 from the earlier Henschel Hs 122 which added a new wing, cantilever main landing gear, and a canopy over the pilot's cockpit, the observers position being left open.
During 1937 Henschel built 10 pre-production Hs 126A-0 aircraft based on the third prototype that had been made, and some were used for operational evaluation by the Luftwaffe's Lehrgruppe reconnaissance unit in the spring of 1938. Initial production versio was the Hs 126A-1, generally similar to the pre-production aircraft but powered by the 656-kW (880-hp) BMW 132dc radial engine.
Armament comprised of one forward firing 7.92-mm (0.31-in) MG 17 machine gun, plus one similar weapon on a trainable mounting in the rear cockpit and five 10-kg (22-lb) bombs of a single 50-kg (110-lb) bomb could be carried on an underfuselage rack. A hand-held Rb 12.5/9x7 camera in the rear cockpit was supplemented by a Zeiss instrument in a rear-fuselage bay. Six of this version were used by the Legion Condor in Spain during 1938, being later transferred later to the Spanish air force and 16 were delivered to the Greek air force. An improved but similar Hs 126B-1 was introduced during the summer if 1939, these incorporating FuG 17 radio equipment and either the Bramo 323A-1 or 671-kW (900-hp) 323A-2.
Production aircraft were built in Berlin, at Schönefeld andJohannisthal, from 1938 and entered operational service first with AufklGr. 35. By the outbreak of World War II the re-equipment of the He 45 and He 46 equipped reconnaissance units with Hs 126 was well under way. The type was withdrawn progressively from frontline service during 1942 on replacement by the Focke-Wulf Fw 189. Just over 600 aircraft were built.
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