The Messerschmitt Me 323 was manufactured by the German company Messerschmitt as a heavy military transport aircraft during the Second World War. It first flew in January 1942 and entered service in 1943. The aircraft was majorly used by the Luftwaffe and was a powered version of the cargo glider Me 321 Gigant. Me 323 was the biggest land-based transport aircraft during World War II. It was produced from 1942 to 1944 with a total number of 213 aircraft built.
The Messerschmitt Me 323 was developed out of a German requirement in 1940 to build a large assault glider to be used for the Operation Sea Lion. On January 20, 1942, the aircraft took to the air for the first time. The Me 323 V1 was the first prototype fitted with four Gnome-Rhone engines.
The Me 323D-6 version can accommodate five crew members and 130 troops or 10,000 to 12,000 kg of payload. It has an external length of 28.2 meters, an external height of 6.5 meters, and a fuselage diameter of 3.7 meters. It has a tail height of 10.15 meters, and high-mounted wings with a wingspan of 55.2 meters, and a wing area of 300 square meters. The empty weight is 27,330 kg, the gross weight is 29,500 kg, and the maximum takeoff weight is 43,000 kg. It has a fuel tank capacity of 2,837 US gal.
The aircraft is powered by three Gnome-Rhone 14N-48 and three 14N-49 engines. It is a fourteen-cylinder two-row air-cooled piston engine with two inlet and two exhaust overhead valves per cylinder, a single-stage single-speed centrifugal-type supercharger, a Stromberg carburetor fuel system, a pressure fed oil system, an air-cooling system, and a planetary reduction gearing.
The 14N-48 produces a 1,164 hp of thrust for take-off RH rotation fitted to starboard and the 14N-49 produces a 1,164 hp of thrust for take-off LH rotation fitted to port. The engine also drives three-bladed Chauviere variable-pitch propellers on LH and RH rotation.
The Me 323 has a maximum speed of 154 knots and a cruise speed of 118 knots. It has a standard range of 430 nautical miles and a ferry range of 590 nautical miles. It can fly up to 13,000 feet and can climb at a rate of 710 feet per minute. The aircraft could also be loaded with multiple 7.92 mm MG 15, MG 82, or 13 mm MG 131 machine guns.