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Blohm & Voss BV 138B
A drawing of a BV 138 published in a British Aircraft guide.
Role Long-Range Reconnaissance
Manufacturer Blohm & Voss
Designer Dr.-Ing Richard Vogt
First flight 15 July, 1937
Introduction October, 1940
Primary user Luftwaffe
Produced 1938–1943
Number built 297

The Blohm & Voss BV 138 Seedrache (Sea Dragon, but nicknamed Der Fliegende Holzschuh ("flying clog",[1] from the side-view shape of its fuselage) was a World War II German trimotor flying boat that functioned as the Luftwaffe's main long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

Design and development

A total of 297 BV 138s were built between 1938 and 1943. The aircraft was unusually powered by three engines, with one mounted high above the centerline driving a four-blade propeller, and one on each wing driving three-blade propellers. The pre-production prototypes and the BV 138 A-01 to BV 138 A-06, were powered by various makes of engines ranging from 485–746 kW (650–1,000 hp). The first standardized version, BV 138 B-1, was powered by three 880 PS (868 hp, 647 kW) Junkers Jumo 205D aircraft diesel engines. Unusual were the aircraft's twin boom tail unit, and gun turrets at the bow and the stern of the fuselage, as well as behind the central engine. These features together produced the aircraft's ungainly appearance.

The first of the 227 standard service variant, BV 138 C-1, began service in March 1941. Although various versions of the aircraft carried a variety of armament, the standard included two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons, one in a power-operated bow turret and one in a power-operated stern turret, up to three 7.92 mm MG 15 machine guns, and a 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine gun in the aft center engine nacelle. It could carry 500 kg (1,100 lb) of bombs or depth charges or, in place of these, up to 10 passengers. Several were later fitted with FuG 200 Hohentwiel low-UHF band search radar for anti-shipping duties. Some were converted for minesweeper role. The BV 138 MS variant, with the "MS", signifying Minensuch (German for mine-clearing, literally mine-search), carried a degaussing device, a hoop with the same diameter as the length of the fuselage and field-generating equipment, instead of weapons.


Blohm & Voss BV 138 at anchor on Lake Siutghiol, near Constanta, Romania in 1943.

  • developed under Hamburger Flugzeugbau designation
  • Ha 138 V1 (D-ARAK) – First flight on 15 July 1937
  • Ha 138 V2 (D-AMOR) – First flight in August 1937
  • Ha 138 V3 – Construction abandoned due to redesign.
  • BV 138 A-01 to 06 – Operational testbeds
  • BV 138 A-1 – Flew reconnaissance during invasion of Norway
  • BV 138 B-0 – Officially entered service in October 1940
  • BV 138 B-1 – Entered service in November 1940
    • BV 138 B-1/U1
  • BV 138 C-1, also had minesweeper variant
    • BV 138 C-1/U
  • BV 138 MS – Minesweeping version.


The wreck of a Blohm & Voss BV 138 at display at the National Museum of Science and Technology (Danmarks Tekniske Museum) in Elsinore, Denmark. The wing spar is poised over the aircraft in the same position as it was, when the wreck was discovered in The Sound, off Copenhagen.

No complete BV 138s remain in existence. However, the wreck of one aircraft, sunk after the war in a British air show, was raised from the seabed of the Øresund Sound in 2000, and is on display at the Danish Technical Museum in Helsingør.

On 27 June 2012, two divers (Pascale Roibu and Iulian Rusu) found a Heinkel He 114 seaplane in Siutghiol Lake near Mamaia, Constanta, Romania.[citation needed] Recently[when?] near this Heinkel 114 the two divers also found pieces of a Blohm & Voss BV 138 seaplane. In June 2013, a vessel from the Norwegian Geological Survey filmed a Blohm & Voss BV 138 at a depth of 35 m in Porsangerfjorden, Norway, not far from the WW2 German seaplane harbour in Indre Billefjord.[2]

Specifications (BV 138 C-1)

Data from Wagner, Ray and Nowarra, Heinz. German Combat Planes: A Comprehensive Survey and History of the Development of German Military Aircraft from 1914 to 1945. New York: Doubleday, 1971, pg. 358

General characteristics

  • Crew: 6, pilot, navigator, radio operator, nose gunner, rear gunner, upper rear gunner + up to 10 passengers
  • Length: 19.85 m (65 ft 1½ in)
  • Wingspan: 26.94 m (88 ft 4½ in)
  • Height: 5.90 m (19 ft 4 in)
  • Wing area: 112 m² (1,205.5 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 11,770 kg (25,950 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 14,500 kg (31,970 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 17,500 kg (38,590 lb)
  • Powerplant: 3 × Junkers Jumo 205D 6-cyl. opposed piston diesel engine, 647 kW (868 hp) 880 PS each


  • Maximum speed: 285 km/h @ 6,000 m (177 mph @ 19,700 ft)
  • Cruise speed: 200 km/h (124 mph)
  • Range: 4,300 km (2,670 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 5,000 m (16,400 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 220 m/min (729 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 114.2 kg/m² (23.4 lb/ft²)
  • Power/mass: 0.106 kW/kg (0.064 hp/lb)


  • 2 × 20 mm MG 151 cannon, one in a nose turret and one in the rear fuselage firing rearwards
  • 1 × 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine gun behid the central engine, covering the top rear area
  • 1-3 × 7.92 mm MG 15 machine guns (optional)
  • See also



    1. Nowarra 1997, original German title of the Schiffer book.
    2. NRK Nordnytt 14 June 2013


    • Green, William. Warplanes of the Second World War, Volume Five: Flying Boats. London: Macdonald & Co.(Publishers) Ltd., 5th impression 1972. ISBN 0-356-01449-5.
    • Green, William. Warplanes of the Third Reich. London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., 4th impression 1979. ISBN 0-356-02382-6.
    • Ledwoch, Janusz. Bv 138 (Wydawnictwo Militaria 64) (in Polish). Warszaw, Poland: Wydawnictwo Militaria, 1998. ISBN 83-7219-015-1.
    • Nowarra, Heinz J. and Don Cox, (transl.) Blohm & Voss Bv 138 (Schiffer Military History). Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1997. ISBN 0-7643-0296-5.
    • Smith J. Richard and Anthony Kay. German Aircraft of the Second World War. London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1972 (3rd impression 1978). ISBN 0-370-00024-2.
    • Wagner, Ray and Nowarra, Heinz. German Combat Planes: A Comprehensive Survey and History of the Development of German Military Aircraft from 1914 to 1945. New York: Doubleday, 1971.

    External links

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