The Do 217 had a much larger bomb load capacity and had considerably greater range than the Do 17, which it replaced in frontline service from mid to late 1941. Although initially used simply as a bomber, later variants were developed to allow the Do 217 to undertake the precision maritime strike role. In order to perform the latter mission, the Do 217 was modified to launch glide bombs – units employing these pioneering weapons enjoyed some success in the Mediterranean from the autumn of 1943. During the course of these operations the Do 217 became the first aircraft in military aviation history to deploy a precision-guided bomb in combat in the form of the ‘Fritz X’ radio-guided, free-fall weapon, which sank the Italian battleship Roma shortly after Italy capitulated in September 1943. The Do 217 served on all fronts, and was often used on anti-shipping strikes during the Battle of the Atlantic and against the Allied invasion fleet at Normandy. This versatile aircraft was also converted into a night fighter, seeing action in the Defence of the Reich through to war’s end.
This highly illustrated study explores the design and development of the Do 217 and chronicles its use in the frontline as a strategic bomber, launch platform for first generation precision weapons, reconnaissance aircraft and night fighter, among others.