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German leaders were reluctant to supply the Royal Hungarian Air Force (Magyar Királyi Honvéd Légierő), MKHL, which was seen to be focused on home defence and the possibility of conflict with Romania. Adolf Hitler expressed this in early 1942 when Hungary requested German-built fighters. "They would not use the single-seaters against the enemy but just for pleasure flights!... What the Hungarians have achieved in the aviation field to date is more than paltry. If I am going to give some aircraft, then rather to the Croats, who have proved they have an offensive spirit. To date, we have experienced only fiascos with the Hungarians."
The MKHL consequently became a significant purchaser of Italian aircraft and was the main operator of the Re.2000. December 27, 1939 representatives of the company Reggiane and Head of the Air Force of the Hungarian Ministry of Defence signed a contract for delivery of 70 Re.2000 and agreed preconditions for the licensed production of the aircraft in Hungary producing a total of 200 aircraft, known as MÁVAG Héja ("Hawk") II built between 1940 and 1942. According to other sources,170–203 aircraft were built.
In December 1939 seventy Reggiane Re.2000 fighters, purchased from Italy, were delivered to the Magyar Királyi Állami Vas-, Acél- és Gépgyárak, ("Royal Hungarian State Iron, Steel and Machine Works"), where they were modified into MÁVAG Héja I ("Goshawk I") fighters.
The original Piaggio P.XI engines were replaced by the Hungarian-built Manfred Weiss WM K-14 driving Hamilton Standard three-bladed, constant-speed propellers. Using the WMK-14 allowed less dependence on spare parts from Italy. The WM K-14 was a licensed copy of the French Gnome-Rhône 14K engine that necessitated a 1-foot 3-inch (350 mm) lengthening of the fighters’ forward fuselage, to restore the center of gravity to a safe position. The Piaggio engine was itself also a copy of the Gnome-Rhône 14K, but less reliable than the original. On January 5, 1940 the Hungarians sent one WMK-14 to Italy to study, however, Reggiane did not want to make Re.2000 for Hungary with other than the original power plant.
In early 1940 the Hungarian delegation headed by engineer Tibor Takatsi was sent to Italy for the acquisition of the technical documentation for the license production of Re.2000. The Italians have provided all the necessary drawings by 11 October 1940.
The Hungarians at the same time held talks with Germany on the subject of joint construction of the Bf. 109. The interstate agreement to this effect was signed on June 6, 1941 however, the Hungarians could only count on 1943 to receive the Messerschmitt fighter for its air force. The Ministry of Defense was considering a draft MAVAG Hejja II as a transition to the 109.
Breda-Safat 12.7 mm machine guns were replaced by Hungarian Gebauer machine guns of the same calibre, with a rate of 1000 rounds per minute. Ammunition was a 300 round drum cartridge, under the hood. The modified Re.2000s had were named Hejja - Hungarian translation of the word Falco.
A decision was soon made to produce more Héja fighters under license in Hungary as the MÁVAG Héja II (Goshawk II). The new Héja II was entirely Hungarian with locally produced airframes, engines and armament. The new fighter differed from the Reggiane fighter in a number of ways. Armament was changed to twin 0.50 inch (12.7 mm) Gebauer fixed forward-firing guns in the upper nose with 300 rounds each. Length was 27 ft 6.25 inch (8.39 m), and maximum level speed was 301 mph (485 km/h) at 13,780 ft (4,200 m). Endurance was 2 hours and 30 minutes. Manfred Weiss originally planned to build 329 WMK-14B - 247 engines and 82 Hejja replacements. The project was completed by June 1941, and the first fighter Hejja II with the new motor was raised in the air the pilot Tasilo Seshenem (Taszilo Szechenyi). The first Re.2000, received new motor (V401), was successfully tested, and the Ministry of Defence ordered 100 aircraft, denoting them Hejja II. MAVAG planned to build two sets of 25, in the first (V4 + 71 - V4 + 95) and 75 in the second (V4 + 96 - V5 + 70).
The first MÁVAG Héja II took to the air on 30 October 1942, and in total MÁVAG built a further 203 Héjas for the Royal Hungarian Air Force. The last aircraft was completed on 1 August 1944 when production ceased. 98 were completed in 1943 and 72 in 1944 although the variant was regarded as no longer suitable for combat against the latest Soviet fighters. Hungary requested an additional 50–100 Re.2000 airframes made in Italy, as suitable engines and armament could be locally manufactured and other countries expressed interest, including Finland (100 examples), Portugal (50), Spain, Switzerland and Yugoslavia. However, no airframes were available.
After the first combat experience on the eastern front the Re.2000s were modernized. From August 1941 an 8 mm pilot armour was istalled, and an additional 100-liter self-sealing fuel tank istalled in the fuselage. The rear cabin windows were covered by sheet metal. The Ministry of Defence has also expressed the wish "... to MAVAG Hejja II was able to carry 250 or 500 kg bombs under the fuselage." To do this it was necessary to completely revise the power circuit of the aircraft.
The first aircraft received from Italy were sent to Debrecen to strengthen home defences, as there was danger that the growing crisis over Transylvania could lead to a conflict with Romania. Conflict was avoided and the Hungarian Reggianes were used on the Eastern Front, in the war against the Soviet Union. The first seven Re.2000 were sent to the front on an experimental basis in autumn 1941. Flying alongside the Fiat CR.32s of 1/3 Fighter Company, the Reggiane pilots claimed eight kills, for one loss, during three months of combat, against Soviet Air Force.
The first series of 25 aircraft was started in November 1941. Engine WMK-14B was fitted with a three-blade propeller Hungarian variable pitch. The engine had a slightly larger diameter (3.2 m) than the Italian Piaggio.
MAVAG finished the first series Hejja II at the beginning of July 1942. In the production it was found that the Italian glued fuel tanks had a large percentage of leaks. Chief Engineer Takatsi urgently developed smaller fuel tanks for replacement. Now the plane had 22 tanks in the central part of the wing, each with a capacity of 20 to 25 liters. After minor modifications of aircraft of the first series ended in October 1942, the Hungarian Ministry of Defence had ordered 100 more Hejja II on September 29 before starting the laying of the second series of 75 aircraft. The third series began with the construction in September 1943. Aircraft of the second series was completed March 7, 1944, the latter two have been modified in a dive bomber. They got the brake bars on the wings and the ability to carry up to 500 kg bombs. Later this version was rebuilt on another aircraft (V6 + 60).
By April 1944, the MKHL still deployed four Héja IIs in 1/1 Fighter squadron and four Hejas II in 1/2, all of them based in Szolnok for home defence duties, along with about 40 Bf 109s and Messerschmitt Me 210s. The last sortie for the licence-built Reggiane Re.2000 occurred on 2 April 1944. That day, 180 bombers from the USAAF 15th Air Force, escorted by 170 fighters, bombed the Danube Aircraft Works and other targets in Budapest. The Hungarian fighter control centre in the Géllert hill, near Budapest, scrambled one wing of Hejas from 1/1 Fighter squadron, along with 12 Bf 109G-4/G-6S and a couple of Messerschmitt Me 210Cas-1s from the Experimental Air Force Institute (RK1). The Hungarians reported 11 aerial victories, of which six were confirmed, while USAAF pilots claimed 27 MKHL aircraft shot down. However, later records showed only two Honvéd pilots were killed.
By March 1944, imports of various parts and tools from foreign contractors began to fade. British bombers on the night of 3 to 4 April 1944 destroyed plants for the production of aircraft and engines, burned most of the warehouses and the end of April production stopped. Manfred Weiss were bombed on 27 July completely disabling the motor plant, assembly plant, and warehouses. In a fire 25-30 still unfinished third series of aircraft were destroyed.
The last Hejja II (V6 + 87) flew on 11 October 1944. Four or five aircraft remained on the factory airfield waiting flight in late December 1944 when Soviet troops were in the vicinity. Hungarian engineers blasted them with hand grenades. Total produced 203 fighter Hejja II.
The Royal Hungarian Air Force (RHAP) did not use MAVAG Hejja II on the Eastern Front. Most of these fighters was used as a trainer aircraft, even though quite a few Hejja II took part in the defense of the airspace of Hungary by the Allied bombers.
In late 1942, it was planned to arm the night fighter squadron 5/1 eight Hejja II. These aircraft were to have a German radio equipment; however, it remained in the plans.
On March 19, 1944 German armed forces entered into Hungary to prevent the collapse of the Axis. The Germans forbade test flights of aircraft built. This ban remained in force until April 1, when the 15th US Army Air started regular bombing Hungarian goals. Despite the attacks, and a critical shortage of spare parts, the Hungarians had commissioned 30 MAVAG Hejja II during April. The lack of parts has reached a critical stage, many built aircraft could not get off the ground.
On April 13, 1944 Budapest was attacked by American bombers, accompanied by P-38s from the 1st Fighter Group, led by Lieutenant Alford (Alford). Pilots of the R-38s reported the downing of two Re.2001 to the west of Lake Balaton, which were actually MAVAG Hejja II. The Americans will only hit one of them.
Air Defense Forces raised eight Hejja II 1/2. squadron from Szolnok to cover the south of Budapest. Four Hejja bombers attacked the 454th Group, but was interrupted by the attack, stumbled upon a dense barrage fighters. Two Hejja were damaged, and one was forced to belly land. The remaining four Hungarian fighter bombers were unable to catch up, faced with a P-47 325th Fighter Group. American pilots had reported a downed Re.2001 and one damaged. Again there is an error in the identification. Lieutenant Eugene Emmons won the victory, and the lieutenant. George Novotny content damage the second fighter. These losses are confirmed by the Hungarian side.
In September, many of the half-Hejja II were still expecting different units and parts, compasses, variometers, and machine guns. Twenty fighters had no propellers, ten - without engines.
During the last months of 1944, 101/6 Training Squadron "Puma" has had six flying MAVAG Hejja II. The last official report, mentioning Hejja II was dated to February 22, 1945. It stated that Hejja II (V6 + 09) crashed during a training flight.
Royal Hungarian Air Force
2 Vadászszázad based at Szolnok
Század Héja
1/2.Század 'Keresztes pók
2/1.Század 'Keresztes pók
1/1.Század Dongó,Önálló Vadász Osztály (OVO)
Héja II
Engine: 1 × Manfred-Weiss 14kfs Mistral-Major, 694 kW (1030 hp)
Wingspan: 11.00 m (36 feet 1 inch)
Wing area: 20.40 sq.m
Length: 8.39 m (27 feet 6 inches)
Height: 3.10 m (10 feet 2 inches)
Empty weight: 2,070 kg (4,563 pounds)
Loaded weight: 2,520 kg (5,555 pounds)
Maximum speed: 485 km/h at 4,200 m (301 mph at 13,780 feet)
Range: 900 km (560 miles)
Service ceiling: 8,138 m (26,700 feet)
Max ceiling: 9400 m
Maximum rate of climb: 750 m / min
Endurance: 2 hr 30 min
Armament: Two fixed forward-firing 12.7 mm (0.50 inch) Gebauer machine guns
Crew: 1
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