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Messerschmitt Bf 109


By Sakhal

Until the 1960s the Spanish military aviation had in production a piston engine fighter built by Hispano Aviation; that one was the last descendant of one of the best fighters used in the Second World War: the Messerschmitt Bf 109. And however, when it was born in 1935, a high officer of the Luftwaffe pointed that such a monoplane aircraft should be fragile and poorly maneuverable; and what to say about that cockpit closed by a canopy? The hunting pilot should feel in his face the wind to calibrate adequately the speed. Without a doubt that prototype would achieve nothing good! This would be an example of the short-sighted estimations that many made in those years in which the technology was advancing so rapidly. In fact, about 35000 units of this aircraft would be built in eight basic versions and it would be used by all the nations of the Axis and also by another ones, before, during and after the Second World War. The Me Bf 109 was a monoplane fitted with low wings of trapezoidal shape, coated with sheets of light alloys in the fixed surfaces and fabric in the movable surfaces; the fuselage was of totally metallic construction. The engine in the version E (depicted in the perspective illustration) was a Daimler-Benz 601 with 12 cylinders in inverted V, able of 1000 horsepower. The pilot was protected by some 8 millimeters steel plates and the 65 millimeters armored windshield. The landing gear, fully retractable with exception of the tail wheel, resulted somewhat fragile and relatively unstable due to the rather short span between the main wheels.

In its baptism of fire in Spain, the Me Bf 109 was confronted with clearly inferior adversaries, as it would happen again in the invasion of France. During the Battle of Britain, however, things changed when this aircraft found a worthy antagonist in the Supermarine Spitfire. It was a harsh fight, for both were aircraft of a superior class. Maybe the Messerschmitt was slightly faster, but the Spitfire was more maneuverable at high speeds; but also this one fought in its homeland, while the pilots of the Messerschmitt had to calculate the fuel necessary to return to their bases, which allowed only for a stay of about half a hour in the English skies, given the limited operational range, a weak trait of this aircraft. After the "Adlertag", which as is well known ended with the victory of the Royal Air Force, the Me Bf 109 continued operating in all the European skies as diurnal and nocturnal fighter, fotographic recognizer, stratosferic fighter, interceptor and fighter-bomber, fighting to the limit of its strenght. Ended the Second World War, it would have the occasion to fight again in 1948 when, as irony of destiny, one of its postwar models served with the Israeli Air Force, along with the Spitfires, against the Arab aircraft.

Messerschmitt Bf 109


Messerschmitt Bf 109


Early models

The Messerschmitt Bf 109, which was the most famous German fighter of the Second World War, took part in the fights in every front, from the first day to the last day of the conflict. The first prototype flew in September 1935, being sent to the Condor Legion in Spain the prototypes V4/6 for being evaluated, in the early 1937, being followed by 40 initial series models B-1/2 and twelve C-1. Curiously, the first prototype (V1) of the Me Bf 109 was fitted with a British engine, the Rolls-Royce Kestrel V of 697 horsepower. In the preseries model B-0 were tested powerful Daimler-Benz engines DB 600/600A/601 and different dispositions of armament with cannons and machine guns. However, the first series models were very conservative in their equipment; the version B-1 had installed the engine Junkers Jumo 210Da of 680 horsepower and two MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns. The version B-2 had installed a metallic propeller of variable pitch and the engine Junkers Jumo 210G of 700 horsepower. The version C-1 was fitted with the engine Junkers Jumo 210Ga, a larger air intake and two additional MG 17 machine guns in the wings. The version C-2 added an MG 17 machine gun firing through the propeller axis. The preseries model D-0 was fitted with the engine DB 600A of 960 horsepower, two MG 17 machine guns and one MG FF 20-millimeter cannon firing through the propeller axis. The series model D-1 was structurally reinforced and fitted with a reduced and more aerodynamic radiator; it also had increased fuel capacity. These early versions were manufactured by Messerschmitt, Focke-Wulf, Fieseler, Erla and Arado. Despite of the intensive conversion process to the version E-1 during the spring and summer of 1939, still some early models remained in the first line units in the outbreak of the world war. These took part in the campaign in Poland and served as provisional night fighters in northern Germany, until the spring 1940, when they were assigned to training units.

Specifications for Me Bf 109B-1

Entry in service: 1937

Wingspan: 9.85 meters

Wing area: 16.17 square meters

Lenght: 8.55 meters

Height: 2.45 meters

Weight (empty): 1505 kilograms

Weight (full load): 2150 kilograms

Engine: Junkers Jumo 210Da of 680 horsepower

Time to reach 6000 meters of altitude: 9 minutes 48 seconds

Service ceiling: 8200 meters

Maximum speed: 460 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 690 kilometers

Armament: Two MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns installed above the engine



Specifications for Me Bf 109D-1

Entry in service: 1938

Wingspan: 9.87 meters

Wing area: 16.40 square meters

Lenght: 8.60 meters

Height: 2.56 meters

Weight (empty): 1800 kilograms

Weight (full load): 2420 kilograms

Engine: Daimler-Benz DB 600Aa of 986 horsepower

Initial rate of climb: 910 meters/second

Service ceiling: 10000 meters

Maximum speed at sea level: 480 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 600 kilometers

Armament: One MG FF 20-millimeter cannon firing through the propeller axis and two MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns installed above the engine



Bf 109E

The prototypes (V14/15) were fitted with the engine DB 601A-1 of 1050 horsepower. The preseries model E-0 was armed with four MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns but the series model E-1 had only two MG 17, being replaced the other by two MG FF 20-millimeter cannons installed in the wings. The fighter-bomber version E-1/B was prepared to carry up to 250 kilograms of bombs. The model E-3 had different engine, an additional MG FF cannon firing through the propeller axis - which was usually not installed - and an improved cockpit protected with armor plates. The models E-4 and E-4/B were similar to the E-1 and E-1/B respectively, with the cannon firing through the propeller axis being suppressed. The model E-4/N was fitted with the engine DB 601N of 1200 horsepower. The reconnaissance version E-5 was fitted with an Rb 50/30 camera and had the wing cannons removed. Of the models E-4 and E-5 were made tropicalized versions intended for the African theater. The reconnaissance version E-6 was similar to the E-5 but it was fitted with the engine DB 601N. The version E-7 was similar to the E-4 but it was fitted with attachments for up to 250 kilograms of bombs or fuel tanks; some were tropicalized, others had additional armor (variant E-7/U2) or the overpower system GM 1 (variant E-7/Z) installed. The version E-8 improved on the E-7 by adopting the engine DB 601E of 1350 horsepower. The reconnaissance version E-9 was based in the E-8; it was equipped with one Rb 50/30 or two Rb 32/7 cameras and no cannons were installed in the wings. All these versions were manufactured by Messerschmitt, AGO, Fieseler, Erla and WNF in Austria. The version T-0 was the preseries model for a navalized version intended to operate in aircraft carriers; it was fitted with anchor points for catapult launching, arresting hook and foldable wings; ten E-1 were reconverted for this purpose. But these plans ended in nothing and the series model T-2 was instead a land-based fighter-bomber, fitted with the engine DB 601N and capable of carrying up to 250 kilograms of bombs or fuel tanks; Fieseler built 60 units of this model.

The Bf 109E, which entered service in the late 1938, quickly replaced the majority of the earlier models, constituting roughly a 75 percent of the 1100 Messerschmitt fighters that the Luftwaffe had in service at the outbreak of the war. This model took part in the campaigns of Poland, Norway, Netherlands and France, but it is better known for its struggle against the fighters of the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain. Equal, if not superior in some aspects, to the Spitfire and Hurricanes (610 Messerschmitt downed during the Battle versus 1043 of those), they were limited because of their mission of close escort for the bombers and their partial conversion into fighter-bombers. Later they operated in the Balkans (against the Me Bf 109 of Yugoslavia), in North Africa and during the first stages of the invasion of the Soviet Union, before being withdrawn from first line units. Still, the Bf 109E continued equipping some squadrons of volunteers in other countries adhered to the Axis, in the East Front until 1942. The Bf 109T which was designed as carrier-borne fighter was used only in Norway in 1941-42.

Specifications for Me Bf 109E-3

Entry in service: Late 1938

Wingspan: 9.87 meters

Wing area: 16.17 square meters

Lenght: 8.64 meters

Height: 2.50 meters

Weight (empty): 1900 kilograms

Weight (full load): 2665 kilograms

Engine: Daimler-Benz DB 601Aa of 1175 horsepower

Time to reach 1000 meters of altitude: 1 minute 6 seconds

Time to reach 6000 meters of altitude: 7 minutes 45 seconds

Service ceiling: 10500 meters

Maximum speed at sea level: 467 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed at an altitude of 4500 meters: 560 kilometers/hour

Cruising speed: 485 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 660 kilometers

Armament: Two MG FF 20-millimeter cannons installed in the wings, one MG FF/M 20-millimeter cannon firing through the propeller axis and two MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns installed above the engine



Bf 109F

The prototypes (V21/24) were fitted with the engine DB 601Aa of 1175 horsepower (V21) or the DB 601E of 1350 horsepower, and the cover of the engine was modified and made symmetric; the tips of the wings were rounded (V23) and the tail plane struts were removed. The preseries model F-0 was fitted with the engine DB 601N of 1200 horsepower and armed with one MG FF/M 20-millimeter cannon and two MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns. The series model F-1 had a modification in the intake of the supercharger. The model F-2 had the MG FF/M cannon replaced by the MG 151/15 15 millimeters machine gun. The model F-3 introduced the engine DB 601E of 1350 horsepower, which added not only power but also weight to the aircraft. The model F-4 was a modification of the F-3, with the MG 151/15 machine gun replaced by the MG 151/20 20-millimeter cannon and increased armor. The F-2/Z and F-4/Z were versions of the respective basic models fitted with the overpower system GM 1. Of the models F-2 and F-4 were made as well tropicalized versions. The version F-4/B was a fighter-bomber capable of carrying up to 250 kilograms of bombs. The versions F-4/R1 to F-4/R6 were airframes prepared for diverse "extras", such as additional artillery, bombs or fuel tanks. The reconnaissance version F-5 had the MG 151 cannon suppressed; it was equipped with a camera and prepared for carrying an additional fuel tank. The F-6 was the unarmed reconnaissance version, fitted with a receptacle to house interchangeable cameras (Rb 20/30, Rb 50/30, Rb 75/30). All these versions were manufactured by Messerschmitt, Erla and WNF in Austria. The variant Bf 109Z or "Zwilling" was an experimental heavy fighter/fighter-bomber made with two Bf 109F cells attached by a central rect wing of parallel edges, reaching a wingspan of 13.27 meters and being propelled by two engines DB 601E-1 of 1350 horsepower; it never entered production.

The Bf 109F, with new engine and refined aerodynamics, entered service in the region of the English Channel in the spring 1941, balancing to a certain extent the superiority that the Royal Air Force had achieved with the introduction of the Spitfire Mk V. When the invasion of the Soviet Union started, this model equipped two thirds of the fighter forces of the Luftwaffe, being used as well in North Africa. Despite of its proven validity, its career was relatively brief, for in the mid 1942 it started to be replaced by the Bf 109G, but remaining in service with the Hungarian and Spanish Air Forces (the first one in the East Front, along with the units of Spanish and Croatian volunteers). The only one prototype Bf 109Z was damaged during an Allied air attack before it could fly for the first time.

Specifications for Me Bf 109F-2

Entry in service: Spring 1941

Wingspan: 9.90 meters

Wing area: 16.20 square meters

Lenght: 8.85 meters

Height: 2.59 meters

Weight (empty): 2353 kilograms

Weight (full load): 2800 kilograms

Engine: Daimler-Benz DB 601N of 1200 horsepower

Time to reach 5000 meters of altitude: 5 minutes 12 seconds

Service ceiling: 11000 meters

Maximum speed at an altitude of 6000 meters: 600 kilometers/hour

Cruising speed: 530 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 650 kilometers

Armament: One MG 151/15 15-millimeter machine gun firing through the propeller axis and two MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns installed above the engine



Bf 109G

The preseries model G-0 was fitted with the engine DB 601E of 1350 horsepower, a revised engine cover, an enlarged air intake in the oil cooler and a pressurized cockpit. The series model G-1 was fitted with the engine DB 605A of 1475 horsepower and the overpower system GM 1, and it was armed with one MG 151/20 20-millimeter cannon and two MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns; the tropicalized version had the MG 17 replaced by two MG 131 13-millimeter machine guns. The model G-2 lacked pressurization; one of them was reconverted as fighter-bomber with reinforced landing gear and capability to carry a 500-kilogram bomb. The models G-3 and G-4 were similar to the G-1 and G-2 respectively but they had revised radio equipment. The model G-5 was fitted with the engines DB 605A or 605AS, with overpower system GM 1 or additional supercharger, and armed with one MG 151/20 cannon and two MG 131 machine guns. The variant G-5/U2 had a modified tail plane made in wood. The G-6 was a standard model without pressurization and different engines DB 605A or 605D; the last exemplars had an MK 108 30-millimeter cannon instead of the MG 151. The variants G-6/R1 to G- 6/R6 were fitted with different armaments under the wings or the fuselage. The variant G-6/U2 had a modified tail plane made in wood, and in some exemplars, of enlarged size. The variant G-6/U4 had a semi-retractable tail wheel. The G-6/N was the night fighter variant, fitted with FuG 350 Naxos Z radar warning receiver and armed with two MG 151/20 cannons installed in gondolas under the wings. The model G-7 was a projected standardization of the versions G-6/R2 and R4.

The reconnaissance version G-8 was a modification from the G-6, fitted with a photographic camera, engine DB 605A-1 or 605AS and one cannon Mk 108 or MG 151/20. The model G-10 was an improvement from the G-6, propelled by the engine DB 605D of 1850 horsepower and armed with one cannon Mk 108 or MG 151/20 and two MG 131 machine guns in the fuselage. The variants G-10/R1 to G-10/R6 were fitted with photographic cameras, different armaments under the wings, and bombs or fuel tanks under the fuselage. The variant G-10/U2 had a modified tail plane made in wood and the G-10/U4 had an enlarged tail plane made in wood as well. The G-12 was the two-seater training version. The model G-14 was a modification from the G-6 fitted with engine DB 605AM or 605AS, improved canopy, fixed and taller tail wheel, and armed with one MG 151/20 cannon and two MG 131 machine guns, with capability for additional armament under the wings and bombs under the fuselage; some of them (variant G-14/U4) were built with wooden tail plane. The model G-16 was an improvement of the G-14, fitted with engine DB 605D and additional armor, and prepared for carrying two MG 151/20 cannons in gondolas under the wings and an ETC bomb carrier under the fuselage. All these models mentioned were manufactured by Messerschmitt, Erla, WNF in Austria, MAVAG in Hungary and Brasov in Romania, exceeding a number of 23500 of the more than 30500 exemplars built of all the versions (not counting the ones built in other countries).

The Bf 109G was numerically the most important of all the models built, entering service in the early summer of 1942 with the units based in the English Channel. Since then until the end of the war it took part in every front, being also submitted to an extensive variety of modifications for being used as interceptor, bomber destroyer, ground-attack aircraft, etc... In the last months of the war it suffered important losses, specially in the last operation in which it took part in large number (the 7th April 1945, constituting a Rammkommando, suffering a 90 percent of losses from the 120 partakers). It was also used by another satellite countries of the Axis in the Eastern Front, mainly Romania, Hungary and Finland (particularly the ones from the first and latter of these countries were later used against the Germans). Finland continued using them until the mid 1950s. After the war additional versions were built in Czechoslovakia (S 99 and 199) and in Spain (HA-1109 and 1112).

Messerschmitt Bf 109

Messerschmitt Bf 109G-14/U4 of Major Friedrich-Karl Muller, Kommandeur of the 1./NJG 11, Bonn Hangelar, February 1945; this Gruppe of night fight was equipped with these single-seaters to fight specifically against the Mosquito of the Royal Air Force. Note the unusual mottled camouflage, the lack of tactical distinctives in the fuselage and the installation of an MG 151/20 20 millimeters cannon in dorsal position (Schrage Musik).

Specifications for Me Bf 109G-2

Entry in service: Summer 1942

Wingspan: 9.92 meters

Wing area: 16.10 square meters

Lenght: 8.85 meters

Height: 2.50 meters

Weight (empty): 2253 kilograms

Weight (full load): 3200 kilograms

Engine: Daimler-Benz DB 605A of 1475 horsepower

Time to reach 2000 meters of altitude: 1 minute 30 seconds

Service ceiling: 12000 meters

Maximum speed at sea level: 510 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed at an altitude of 9000 meters: 655 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 850 kilometers

Armament: One MG 151/20 20-millimeter cannon firing through the propeller axis and two MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns installed above the engine



Bf 109H/K

The Bf 109 V49/50 and Bf 109H V54/55 were prototypes for a fighter able to operate at high altitudes. They were based in an enlarged cell of the Bf 109G and propelled by the engine DB 628A of 1490 horsepower or DB 605B of 1600 horsepower in the V55. The preseries model H-0 was based in the cell of the F-4, built with an additional section in the wings of constant width and fitted with the engine DB 603E-1 of 1350 horsepower and the overpower system GM 1, and armed with one MG 151/20 20-millimeter cannon and two MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns. The H-1 was a test model made from the modified cell of the G-5; it was fitted with pressurized cockpit, engine DB 605A of 1475 horsepower and overpower system GM 1; it was armed like the H-0 and prepared for the installation of a photographic camera. The variants H-2/3/4 were respectively for a heavy fighter, a light fighter for high altitudes and an unarmed reconnaissance aircraft. The preseries model K-0 was an improvement on the G-10, fitted with engine DB 605D(B) of 1850 horsepower and overpower system GM 1, with improved deflectors and engine cover, enlarged tail plane made in wood with modified rudders, improved vision from the cockpit, semi-retractable tail wheel and three cannons. The models K-2 and K-4 were fitted with the engines DB 605ASCM or 605DCM of 2000 horsepower; the K-4 was fitted as well with pressurized cockpit and the last exemplars were armed with one MK 103 30-millimeter cannon. The version K-6 was like the K-4 but with two additional MK 103 cannons in gondolas under the wings and the MG 151/15 replaced by MG 131 13-millimeter machine guns. The version K-14 was fitted with the engine DB 605L of 1725 horsepower and armed with two MG 131 machine guns and one MK 108 or MK 103 cannon.

The development program of the Bf 109H was abandoned in favor of the Focke-Wulf Ta 152H, being used some exemplars during a brief time, in a Staffeln of long-distance reconnaissance in the English Channel, in the spring 1944. The last version of this family was the K, which represented an attempt of standardization after the large multiplicity of variants of the Bf 109G. It entered service in the late 1944, taking part in the Operation Bodenplatte (attack against the Allied airfields in Netherlands and France, the 1st January 1945). Since then until the end of the war it shared the fate of the other German fighters against the overwhelming air superiority of the Allies.

Messerschmitt Bf 109

Messerschmitt Bf 109K-4 (Red 10) from the 1./JG 300, used by the Fw. Wolfgang Hunsdorfer, Borkheide (vicinity of Berlin), January 1945. Note the personal ensign under the canopy and the colored bands of the Defense of the Reich in the rear part of the fuselage.

Specifications for Me Bf 109K-4

Entry in service: Late 1944

Wingspan: 9.97 meters

Wing area: 16.10 square meters

Lenght: 8.85 meters

Height: 2.50 meters

Weight (empty): 2380 kilograms

Weight (full load): 3600 kilograms

Engine: Daimler-Benz DB 605ASCM of 2000 horsepower

Time to reach 10000 meters of altitude: 6 minutes 42 seconds

Service ceiling: 12500 meters

Maximum speed at sea level: 610 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed at an altitude of 6000 meters: 727 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 590 kilometers

Armament: One MK 103 or MK 108 30-millimeter cannon firing through the propeller axis and two MG 151/15 15-millimeter machine guns installed above the engine





Article updated: 2015-07-10

Categories: Aircraft - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]

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Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-03-15


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