DFS-230: The Luftwaffe glider used during Operation Merkur, the Battle of Crete

WW2, WW2 in Greece

By Pierre Kosmidis

The main transport glider used by the Luftwaffe (German air force) during the invasion of Crete was the DFS-230.

German paratroopers cramped inside a DFS-230 glider
German paratroopers cramped inside a DFS-230 glider

It was designed to carry 10 fully equipped soldiers (including the pilot, who was expected to fight as an infantryman after landing) or a freight load of about 1200 kg.

Seats were arranged in a single line along the centre of the fuselage, six facing forward and four backward. The rear seats could be detached to make more room for equipment and supplies.

A DFS-230 glider in Crete, May 1941
A DFS-230 glider in Crete, May 1941

With a steel tube body and fabric-covered wings, the 11-m long glider could reach speeds of 160 km per hour at low altitude (300 m). To get it airborne and to the intended landing zone the DFS-230 had to be towed by another aircraft, generally a Junkers Ju 52.

The glider was fixed to a hook in the tail of the aircraft by a rope or a steel cable and deployed via a quick-release mechanism.

During the Second World War DFS-230 gliders were used by the Germans in several high-profile operations, including the assault on Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium, during the Battle for Crete, and during the rescue of Benito Mussolini from prison in Italy.


Length: 11.3 m (37 ft.)

Span: 21.1 m (69 ft. 1 in.)

Wing area: 38.1 sq.m. (410 sq.ft.)

Height: 2.8 m (9 ft. 4 in.)

Empty weight: 770 kg. (1,700 pounds)

Loaded weight: 2,040 kg. (4,500 pounds)

Maximum takeoff weight: 2,100 kg. (4,630 pounds)

Maximum speed: 161 km/h at 300 m. (100 mph at 1000 ft.)

Landing speed: 55-65 km/h (35-40 mph)