Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant

One of the largest aircrafl to fly in World War II, the aptly-named Gigant (“Giant”) was a lumbering beast of ungainly appearance, but it gave the German Army the heavy-lift transport it desperately needed.
The aircraft was derived from an assault glider, the massive Me 321, designed by Messerschmitt for the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. There were so many accidents towing the heavy-lift glider that
Messerschmitt decided to develop a powered version, the Me 323.
Initially the Gigant was fitted with four engines, but this proved inadequate to power the monster, which required six – and even
then sometimes had to resort to rocket-assisted take-off. Loads were taken aboard through enormous clamshell nose doors and a ten-wheel bogie-type undercarriage allowed the aircraft to land even on rough airstrips.
The first operational Me 323 unit was formed in the Middle East in November 1942, in time to ferry retreating German forces from Tunisia to Sicily. It also served extensively on the Eastern Front. However, the Gigant proved extremely vulnerable to enemy fighters. Successive models bristled with ever more guns – mounted in the nose, on the wings, and at the rear of the engine nacelles, as well as poking out from every available point on the fuselage. Yet, whole fleets of Me 323s were nonetheless shot down.

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