The Messerschmitt bf109 was a single engined monoplane fighter used by the German Luftwaffe throughout the Second World War and by other nations after it. The type holds the record for the most ever produced fighter plane in history.
German Messerschmitt bf109 Fighter
1 x Daimler-Benz DB601E-1 fuel injected liquid cooled V12, rated at 1,300 hp
9.87m (32ft 4in)
8.64m (28ft 4in)
2.50m (8ft 2in)
Empty - 1,970kg (4,334lbs) - Loaded - 2,750kg (6,050lbs)
630 kph (391 mph)
12,000m (39,360 ft)
710km (440 miles)
1 x 20mm MG151/20 canon firing through the spinner (150 rounds) and 2 x 7.92mm MG17 machine guns in engine cowling (500 rounds each)
In 1934 a specification was issued by the German Air Ministry (Reichs Luftsfahrt Ministerium / RLM) for a replacement for the Heinkel He 51 and Arado 68 biplanes. The specification called for a fighter with a top speed of 250 mph (400kph) at 19,690 ft (6,000 m) and powered by the new Junkers Jumo 210 V12 liquid cooled engine. It was also to be designed to fit the Daimler-Benz DB600 V12 then in development. Four companies: Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Messerschmitt), Arado, Focke-Wulf and Heinkel were invited to submit three prototypes each for a competition to test which would be the best suited to fulfil the specification.
Prototypes were ready by May 1935 but there were no engines available, so the RLM provided four Rolls-Royce Kestrel VI engines, two of which went to Messerschmitt. The first Messerschmitt prototype was fitted with the Kestrel engine, the second prototype was fitted with a Junkers Jumo 210 engine when one became available, the third prototype had to wait until 1936 when another Jumo 210 engine became available.
The competition took place at Travemunde in March 1936. The Arado and Focke-Wulf designs were soon discounted: the Focke-Wulf 159 having a relatively inefficient Parasol wing, compared to a low wing monoplane, and an unreliable undercarriage design; the Arado Ar80, being a gull wing with fixed undercarriage, was too heavy and slow. The competition became focussed on the Messerschmitt bf109 and the Heinkel He112. Despite the pilots viewing some of the bf109's features as being suspect it was 20 mph (30 kph) faster than the He112, was more manoeuvrable and less complicated.
At this time the British announced that the Supermarine Spitfire was to go into production. On 12th March the RLM issued the results of the competition; Heinkel was instructed to make changes to their prototype and Bayerische Flugzeugwerke was ordered to go into production with the bf109.
(The flash content will not display on mobiles)
The production models were identified using a letter the first being A, B, C and D series, which were produced in limited numbers. The type bf109E (Emil) was the first model produced in any quantity, the main differences between the Emil and earlier versions being the Daimler-Benz DB601 V12 engine rated at 1,159 hp (865 kW ), a heavier armament of two machine guns mounted in the engine cowling plus two 20 mm canon mounted in the wings, and a bigger fuel tank. Some Emil's took part in the Spanish Civil War as part of the Condor Legion.
The Emil was the primary Luftwaffe fighter until around the middle of 1941 when it was replaced as the primary fighter by the bf109F (Friedrich). the F series featured a re-designed fuselage and wing; the wing mounted canon being removed in favour of a single 20 mm canon firing through the propeller hub.
In mid 1942 the G series (Gustav) was introduced. This version was similar to the F but used the more powerful DB605 engine and had two distinct bulges on the engine cowling of later G variants. The G series could mount a variety of modular armament kits under the wings including rockets and canon.
The final version was the bf109K (Kurfrst), introduced late in 1944. It used the Daimler-Benz DB605D for the powerplant. The type was very similar to the G series but incorporated many detailed changes that improved its performance to keep it competitive with contemporary Soviet and Allied fighters.
Post war the bf109 was built in Czechoslovakiafont size="2" and Spain, and was used by a number of other nations including Rumania, Switzerland and Finland.
The first four production versions were powered by the Jumo 210 engine. The bf109 A was armed with two MG 17 7.92mm machine guns mounted in the engine cowling and a single MG17 firing through the propeller boss. The bf109C had a strengthened wing that mounted two MG17's as well as two in the cowl. The final model of the bf109D was armed with two MG17's in the engine cowl and two MG FF 20 mm canon in the wings.
There were around 235 bf109D's available during the beginning of the Polish campaign, most of which were withdrawn and replaced by the bf109E.
The E type entered production in 1938 the main difference being the Daimler-Benz DB601 engine rated at 300hp (223kW). The armament consisted of two MG17's in the cowl and two 20mm MG FF canon in the wings. The 'Emil' was the main single seat fighter used by the Luftwaffe in the Battle Of Britain. The early models suffered from a short range but by August 1940 the E-7 was entering service, which could mount an external 80 (30l) galleon drop-tank on a rack under the fuselage that extended the range from 410 miles (660km) to 820 miles (1,320km). Alternatively a bomb could be mounted for ground attack operations.
(The flash content will not display on mobiles)
Development on the bf109F started during 1939. The aircraft had a new look incorporating significant changes to improve aerodynamic efficiency. The wings were altered and featured rounded tips in place of the squared off ones on the E. The engine was the more powerful Daimler-Benz DB601E. Pilots considered the bf109F to be the best handling of the series, though some thought the new armament of two cowl mounted MG17's and one 20 mm MG FF/M firing through the propeller hub to be too light.
The bf109F entered service around October 1940 at the end of the Battle of Britain.
The bf109G was produced from around February 1942. Outwardly it looked very similar to the F series and differed only in detail. Later variants had two blisters on the cowl to facilitate installation of 0.51" (13mm) MG131 machine guns in the cowl. Improvements to the undercarriage resulted in two teardrop blisters on the upper wing. Towards the end of 1943 a new clear-view canopy replace the heavy welded two piece canopy.
The final variant were capable of a top speed of 353 mph (568 kph) at sea level, and 413 mph (665 kph ) at 16,400 ft (5,000 m) using a water injection power boost.
The bf109K was an attempt at rationalising the design to reduce complexity and cost. Armament consisted of a 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 engine-mounted cannon, and two 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131s in the cowl. The engine was a Daimler-Benz DB 605D that gave a top speed of 445 mph (715 kph) at 24,610 ft (7,500 m). Aircraft entered squadron service at the end of 1944 and by the end of March 1945 almost 1,600 had been delivered.
Organisation Luftwaffe fighters were organised into JagdGeschwader (JG) each made up of three Gruppen. A Gruppe could be comprised of three or four Staffeln, each of 12 to 16 aircraft and up to 25 pilots. A Staffel operated as groups of four aircraft called a "Shwarm" made up of two "Rotte" of two aircraft. At full strength a JagdGeshwader could have 150 or so aircraft.
The Shwarm formation
Luftwaffe fighter tactics were based around the two aircraft Rotte formation. The Lead pilot would monitor the airspace in front, whilst the wing man would monitor the airspace behind. Both aircraft would adopt a position so both pilots had an unobstructed view of the sun, which was the place most likely that an attack would come from. The Shwarm formation was based on a pair of Rotte.
These tactics were devised in Spain by Condor Legion pilots such as Werner Moelders and Adolf Galland using the bf109. Radio was an important tool. It meant that the wingman didn't have to fly in very close formation to the lead aircraft to see the leaders hand signals. This led to a loose formation, which is much harder to see than a group of aircraft flying close together.