Saturday, 12 September 2015

Messerschmitt Bf109 - The Legend story by Luis German Dzib Aguilar




Screenshot_2015-09-12-15-08-25.jpg        The Messerschmitt Bf 109, sometimes  incorrectly called the Me 109 (most often by Allied pilots and aircrew),  like  the North  American P-51, might  have  been  the  plane  that never  was.  Originally conceived   as  an interceptor,   later  models   were  developed   to  fulfill   multiple   tasks,  serving as bomber, escort, fighter-bomber, day-night-all-weather fighter, ground-attack aircraft, and as reconnaissance  aircraft. It was  supplied to  and operated  by several  states during  World War  II, and served with  several countries for  many years after  the war. The  Bf 109 was  the most  produced fighter aircraft in history, with a  total of 33,984 airframes produced  from 1936 up to April  1945.
The Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Bavarian Aircraft  Company or BFW) was initially blocked from  being sent contracts  due to  a long  running  feud between  Willy  Messerschmitt  and  the Secretary  of  State  for Aviation,  Erhard Milch.   In order  to save  BFW from liquidation,   Messerschmitt and  his joint  manager Herr  Kokothanki, obtained  a contract from  a Romanian  cartel, to  develop the  M-37 light transport. Protests  were made against Messerschmitt's  acceptance of a  foreign contract, but Willy  Messerschmitt argued that due  to a lack  of home  support,  he was  forced  to seek  contracts  outside  of Germany. Consequently,  BFW was awarded a contract for fighter development. In 1934,  the German Ministry of Aviation (Reichsluftfahrtministerium,  or RLM) issued  specifications for a new fighter monoplane to replace the  Heinkel He51 and Arado68 biplanes.   It was to be equipped with at least  two  MG-17  7.9 millimeter  machine  guns, and  to  have  the capability  of  utilizing the  new  12-cylinder, liquid-cooled,  vee-engines under development  by Junkers and  Daimler-Benz. The  request was sent  to   Focke-Wulf,  Arado,  Heinkel   and  BFW.  Focke-Wulf   submitted  the Fw  159V1,  Arado   the  Ar80V1 and Heinkel  the He  112. The  Bf  109 was  the  winner in  the trials, exceeding  its nearest  rival, the Heinkel He 112, by  17 mph.  Only  the He 112 provided any other serious  competition besides the Bf  109 in the trials and ten preproduction prototypes were ordered for the  Heinkel He 112 and Bf 109. Bearing  in mind  that the  Bf  109 was  to become  one  of the  Royal  Air Force's  major opponents  in  the Second World  War, it is ironic that the  prototype had a 695 hp  British Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine,  when it made  its debut in September  1935, as development  of light weight  aircraft military-type  engines wasprohibited under  the Treaty Of  Versailles. In any case,  Rolls-Royce was using a German  built Heinkel He70 to flight test some of its latest engines at about the same  time.The  Bf-109V4, first  flown in November  1936, powered  by a  Jumo 210A engine  was  the first version  to carry three machine guns in the nose.  The third gun fired through the propeller spinner, but this gun was later  replaced  with  a  20 mm,  MG  FF/M  cannon.  The  Bf  109V5,  Bf  109V6 and  Bf  109V7  production prototypes  flew early in  1937 powered  by the  Jumo 210B,  paralleled the  development of  the Bf 109B.The Jumo  210B had the  same power  rating as the  210A for takeoff,  but allowed greater  power at high altitude, and increased the service ceiling. When  first  'blooded'  in  the  Spanish  Civil   War,  it  became  clear  to  the  German  Condor  Legion  that their Heinkel  He 51 biplanes were  inferior to Italian  built fighters,  and the Soviet  Union Polikarpov 16s. Although not  used in continuous service since  they were prototypes,  Bf-109V4, V5 and V6  were sent to Spain,    and  valuable  front-line  experience was  gained  to  enhance further  development.  Meanwhile, Willy  Messerschmitt was  already  preparing the  first  production Bf  109s for  dispatch  to  Spain. The  Bf109B-1  was  supplied  to  two Gruppen (groups),  the  JG  132,  the  "Richthofen"Jagdgeschwader   (fighter wing) and  the 2nd Staffel (squadron) of Jagdgruppe  (fighter group) 88.  Bf 109B-1s arrived  in April 1937, and  B-2s were  supplied  to the  1st Staffel  of  J/88 in  August.  The  B-1 featured  a  680 hp  Jumo  210Da engine,  a Reflexvisier gunsight,  and a  short-range FuG  7 radio.   Approximately 30  B-1s were  produced before they  were replaced with B-2s. The  main difference was the  change from a fixed wooden  prop to a VDM two blade  variable-pitch prop.    The 3rd  Staffel was supplied with Bf 109Cs  and Ds in April  1938. It wasn't long before  the Republican forces found out their  Polikarpov I-15s and I-16s were no match for the Bf 109. A total of  136 Bf 109s had been sent to Spain, including the latest E model. Approximately  50C-series, and 650 D-series were  built. The  Bf 109E  was the  first  true mass  production model  and was  able to  outfight or  outrun virtually  all opposition. Like  the Spitfire, the Bf  109 saw action  throughout the war. This  version was often  referred to  as   the   Me  109,   but  official   German   documentation   referred  to   as  the   Bf  109,   referring   to the Bayerische  Flugzeugwerke, although  the  company was  reorganized  as Messerschmitt  A.G. in  July, 1938. Bf 109V14 and  V15, using the  1,050 hp (783 kW) DB  601 engine, served  as development aircraft for  the Bf 109E.  The additional  heat generated by  the DB 601  engine, required  a major redesign,  so additional radiators were installed in  the wings, and an oil  cooler was installed beneath the engine. Some  E models were equipped  with four MG  17s, and the  remai nder were equipped with  two MG 17s  in the  fuselage and two MG  FF cannons in the wing roots.  Also produced was a  bomber version, the Bf  109E-1/B, fitted with racks  for four 50 kg (110  lb) or  one 250 kg (550  lb) bombs.  Additional equipment included  a VDMthree blade  variable-pitch prop, Revi reflector gun  sight, heavier armor for pilot  protection   , and  a FuG7 radio set. Like the Bf 109V7, fitted with a Jumo  210G fuel injected engine, the DB 601 installed on the E model  was also  fuel  injected. This  provided  a greater advantage  which  maintained positive  fuel flowduring  negative-g maneuvers,  as opposed  to  float-carbureted type  engines,  which often  sputtered  orcut-out.    The  Bf 109E-3  had a  provision  for a  20-mm MG  FF cannon  firing  through the  prop  spinner,however the cannon had proved unreliable, due to overheating, and was seldom used operationally.The fact  that the Bf  109 had too limited  a range to be  fully effective as a  bomber escort, persuaded the German authorities to  consider the type most useful  as a defensive fighter in Europe.  This was reflectedin the  more refined, but relatively lightly-armed  version of  the fighter, the  Bf 109F. Bf  109V21 and V24,using the 1,050 hp (783 kW) DB 601N engine,  served as development aircraft for the Bf 109F. Gone werethe wing  root guns,  prompting many  pilot complaints.  After Helmut Wick  was  killed on November  28,1940, Major Walter  Oesau refused to fly  a Bf 109F as  long as spare parts  were available to  keep his E-4flying.  Another  German veteran  who  disliked the  reduction  in  armament  was Major Adolph  Galland,who  became   a  General  at  the  age   of  thirty,  and  rose   to  be  the  Inspector-General   of  the  Fighter arm. Slightly more  than 2,000 Bf 109Fs were  built before being replaced  by the more heavily armed  Bf109G. Not until the  arrival of the Bf 109G  was faith in the type fully restored, and this version was  built in huge numbers  for  a  variety  of  roles.  It was  in  a  Bf  109G-14  that Major  Erich  Hartmann of  the  Luftwaffe reached his unrivalled total  of 352 confirmed  victories, although these were  gained on the Eastern Frontwhere German fighters easily outclassed the early Soviet fighters. From  the summer of 1942 the Bf 109Gpowered  by a Daimler-Benz  DB 605D  producing  1,800 hp  with  water-methanol  injection and  giving  aspeed of 685 km/h (428 mph),  entered service in Russia and North Africa before being deployed in everyother theater.  With its  standard armament of  a cannon  and two machine  guns the  Bf 109G,  remainedthe major version  right up to the end  of hostilities in May 1945.  The G model  served with all forces Axison the Eastern and Italian fronts, and was exported to Switzerland and Spain.Approximately  35,000  Bf  109s  of   all  versions  were  produced,   (nearly  as  many  as  the  Ilyushin  Il-2Shturmovik) but  the true number cannot  be determined, as  parts from damaged airplanes, of  bombed-out factories, were  used to build other airplanes.     Others were built in  Czechoslovakia, and many wentinto Czech  Air Force  service after  the war.  Another post-war  operator was  Israel, and  Bf 109s  built  by Hispano in Spain,  as HA-1109s and  HA-1112s, were still  active into the  seventies. With the last  of them,the wheel  turned  full circle.  Like  the original  prototype, they  were powered  by a  Rolls-Royce  engine -this time the Merlin.On  April 26,1939,    a  specially  prepared  version, the  Me 209 was  fitted  with greatly  boosted engines,gained  a  series  of world  speed  records,  some  of  which  were  to  remain  unbeaten  for  30 years.  Its purpose was solely to break speed records and bore no  resemblance to the Bf 109, other than the  use of the Daimler Benz DB 601 engine.  It flew to a new speed record of 470 mph (756 km/h) on April 26, 1939.This record was not broken until August 16 1969, with a specially  modified Grumman F8F Bearcat.




The Spanish Civil War.


While sources vary  on the number and  type, most agree that  130-140 Messerschmitt  Bf 109’s served  in Spain: approximately  4 prototypes, 40+ Berthas,  5 Claras,  35 Doras, and 44  Emils. By  early 1939, when the  109E’s arrived,  the Republican  opposition  had nearly  collapsed; twenty of  these models  were  left behind for Spain’s air force. Read more at The Messerschmitt Bf  109 in Spain Bf  109   pilots  like   Werner  Moelders  and  Wolfgang   Schellmann  distinguished  themselves   in  Spain. Moelders is  credited  with developing  the “finger  four” formation,  which became  the standard  fighter
formation for  decades. Moelders scored 14 kills in  Spain, the  top German ace of  that conflict. Over 200 German pilots flew  with the Condor Legion,  gaining precious combat experience that would serve  them well in WW2. See the full list at Luftwaffe Aces of  the Spanish Civil War.




Battle of Britain


For three  months, the Bf  109 engaged the  Hurricanes and Spitfires of  the RAF in a momentous  struggle for air superiority over the Great Britain. The   airplane   performed  as   required,   but   the   distances  from   bases   and   the   need   to  use   the Messerschmitt in  a bomber  escort role  took their toll.  Early  on the  Bf 109  ranged freely  while the  Me110's shepherded  the bombers,  but when  the "shepherds" were  mauled  as badly  as their  flock by the RAF  wolves, the  Bf 109's  were  called on.  Downed German  pilots who  parachuted safely,  nonetheless, were lost for the duration as POWs; British pilots who hit the silk promptly returned. By  the end  of  October  1940,  the  British had  lost  1,149 airplanes,   mostly fighters.  The  Luftwaffe lost almost  1,800 aircraft, one  third of them  Bf 109s. For  the first  time, Hitler had  been checked and  a few
months later he turned East, with devastating consequences.


Variants



Prototype


  • Messerschmitt  Bf  109 V1 : Design  work on  Messerschmitt  Project Number  P.1034 began  in  March 1934,  just  three weeks after the  development contract was awarded.  The basic mock-up  was completed by  May, and a more  detailed design  mock-up was  ready by  January  1935. The  RLM designated  the  design as type "Bf 109”, the next  available from a block of numbers assigned to BFW. The prototype  Bf 109V-1 was  ready in August, 1935,  Like its predecessor,  the Bf 108,  it was  a low wing, all metal  construction monoplane, with flush  rivets, leading edge slats,  and retractable landing  gear. Its single-seat cockpit  had a fully enclosed  canopy. While  none of the  developments were revolutionary  in 1935, Messerschmitt  first put  them all  together  in the  Bf  109. Powered  by  a 695  HP twelve  cylinder Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine, the Bf 109V-1 first flew in September of that year. At  first,   the  Luftwaffe  pilots,  from Ernst  Udet on  down, distrusted  the  aircraft.  It  seemed  frail;   its enclosed  canopy was disconcerting;  it had  a very  high wing  loading; and its  narrow  track landing gear was  prone  to  failure (On  this  last  point,  their  concerns  were  well  founded.  Landing  gear  troubles plagued the 109 its entire career). But its speed and  agility impressed the Luftwaffe skeptics;  even Udet came around to support the plane. Even before  the results of the  competition were known,  Messerschmitt pushed on with  the second and third models.  The Bf 109V-2 was  powered by a 610 HP  Junkers Jumo 210A but  was otherwise similar  to the V-1. The V-3, the  third prototype, was the first Bf 109 to  be armed, carrying two 7.9mm MG17 machine  guns and  1000 rounds   of  ammunition,  as called  for  in  the  RLM  spec.  Otherwise  similar  to  the  first  two examples,  its first  flight  was delayed  until  May 1936,  due  to  teething problems  with  the Jumo  210A engine.
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       Meanwhile,  the Arado  and Focke-Wulfe  entries had  foundered  on poor  performance and  mechanical problems, and Heinkel’s He 112 could  not match Messerschmitt’s entrant. Reports of the technologically advanced British  Spitfire development added to the  Bf 109's favor.  Throughout the 1936 trials,  the BFW fighter looked better  and better, prompting the RLM to  order ten Bf 109s. Udet's  stunning performance in a  Bf 109 at the  Rechlin air show confirmed the  decision. In front of  Generalfeldmarschall Goering and other  Luftwaffe brass,  Udet intercepted  four He  51s in  a mock  air battle,  "destroyed" them, and  then turned on a force of bombers and "destroyed"  them as well. In  November  1936,  the  Bf  109V-4 flew.  It  mounted  a third  machine  gun in  the  nose  and  otherwise resembled the V-3. With production now  guaranteed, BFW finished the prototyping with two more  airplanes: the Bf 109V-5 and the Bf 109V-6, both equipped with an improved  Jumo 210B engine. With Nazi Germany  committed to the Fascist forces in  the Spanish Civil  War, the Germans rushed these last three  pre-production aircraft to  Seville in December,  1936. Essentially,  the final field-testing  of the Bf  109 took   place in  actual  combat,  as  the  German “volunteers”  of  the   Condor Legion  immediately began flying missions.


  • Bf 109B – Bertha : The RLM had  ordered 30  production aircraft,  designated the Bf  109B. Carrying the  latest 680 HP  Jumo 210D  engine,  a wooden  two-bladed  prop, and  only two  cowling-mounted  guns (the  engine-mounted gun  had  caused   overheating),  the  109B  began   to  be  delivered  in  February  1937.   These  too  were promptly  shipped  to  Spain.   At  low  altitudes,  the  maneuverable  Russian  Polikarpov  I-15s   and  I-16s danced around the 109s; the Condor  Legion pilots quickly learned to stay at high altitudes. Back in  Germany,  both production  and  development of  the  design moved  ahead. To  augment  BFW’s factories,  the  Fieseler  Company  began  license-production  at  the  end  of  1937. An   improved,  metal, variable  pitch propeller, licensed  by Hamilton  Standard, was used  in the later  Bertha’s,  as the  Bf 109B was nicknamed. 700 HP Jumo 210G and  210Ga engines with fuel injection  and two stage superchargers, powered the  next development prototypes, the  Bf 109V-7  and Bf 109V-8,  respectively. Significantly, the V-8 carried four 7.9mm machine guns. While still equipped with the  relatively light rifle-caliber weapons, at this  point  the Bf  109 began  to  resemble  the heavily  armed fighters  of  WW2. A  V-9  variant carried 20mm cannons in the wings, but they  proved unreliable. The Daimler Benz powerhouse engine, the  DB 600, powered four later  developmental models: the V -10, V-11,  V-12, and  V-13.  The V-13  (equipped with  the  DB601)  set the  world  speed record  in November 1937, at 379.38 MPH.
  • Bf 109C - Clara : From March 1938, as soon as the first  Claras rolled off the Augsburg assembly lines, they were rushed to Spain. Capable  of 290 MPH at altitude,  the Bf 109C overmatched  its Soviet adversaries in Spain.  The C-1 added  a pair of  wing-mounted 7.9mm guns,  included  a FuG 7  radio, and  visibly increased  the radiator intake. Three more experimental models the C-2,  C-3, and C-4 tested other, heavier gun configurations.


  • Bf 109D - Dora Daimler  Benz’ state-of-the-art  DB 600  series  promised to be the ideal  engine for  the  Bf 109.  Not  only was it  powerful, but its  fuel injection  would not stall  out during  sharp aerial maneuvers,  as carburetor systems could.  With other programs, notably  the He 111 also  demanding the 600 series  engines, the  Bf109D, “Dora,” was an interim  solution, equipped with the Jumo 210 powerplant. About 200 Doras were built, with sub  variants identified with different armaments: D-1 tried the engine-mounted  20mm cannon  with no  more success  than earlier  models.  D-2  reverted to  four 7.9mm  guns (two in the wings, two in the cowling). D-3 substituted 20mm cannon  in the wings.


  • Bf 109E – Emil : The  first  major redesign  came  with the E  series,  including  the  naval variant,  the  Bf  109T  (T standing for Träger,  or carrier). The  Bf  109E, or "Emil",   introduced a  number of  structural  changes in  order  to accommodate   the  heavier,   but  significantly   more  powerful  1,100  PS   (1,085  HP)   Daimler-Benz DB601 engine, heavier armament and increased fuel capacity. Later  variants of the Es introduced a fuselage bomb rack  or provision for  a long-range,  standardized 300 litre  (79 US gallon)  drop-tank, and  used the DB 601N engine  of higher  power output. The  last  phase of  the  Spanish  Civil War and  was  the  main  variant from   the  beginning of  World  War II until  mid-1941 when  the  109F  replaced  it  in  the pure  fighter  role.      (Eight 109Es  were  assembled in Switzerland in   1946  by  the   Dornier-Werke,   using  license  built   airframes;  a   ninth  airframe   was assembled using spare parts). The 109E first  saw service  with the "Condor  Legion" during Willy Messerschmitt’s promising  fighter finally achieved  its potential with  the Bf 109E  variant, powered by  the cutting  edge DB 601A.  The  Emil progressed  through  numerous sub variants. The prototypes  Bf109V-13 through Bf 109V-20 were considered as “E-0” types.The  Bf  109E-1,  delivered  in early  1939,  introduced  a  three-bladed,  variable pitch  propeller  and  twin underwing radiator  intakes. It was  very fast and  arguably the  best fighter in the  world at that  time. By later WWII  standards, it was  still lightly armed,  with four rifle  caliber machine guns, two in  the cowling and two in the wings. By September 1939, when  Germany attacked Poland, the Luftwaffe had almost 1,000 Bf 109’s in service, mostly “E” models. 200 took part in the Polish campaign, a third of them lost, mainly to ground fire. During the  ensuing “Phony War”  on the  Western Front, a hapless  Luftwaffe pilot set his  109E down on the wrong  side of  the lines.  The  Brits rushed  the  plane back  to Britain  for a  complete evaluation;  the aircraft  was  startlingly   superior  to  the  Hawker  Hurricane  under  all   conditions  and  superior  to  the Supermarine  Spitfire   at lower   altitudes.  Today  this  aircraft  sits on display  at  the  RAF  Museum  at Herndon. With  a top  speed of  350 miles  per  hour at  altitude, the  Bf  109E-3 took  good  advantage of  the latest Daimler  Benz  motor,  the  1200 horsepower   DB  601Aa.  It  incorporated  a stronger  canopy  and  more cockpit  armor.  It  upgraded  the  E-1’s  weaponry by  replacing  the  wing  machine  guns  with  MG-FF 20 millimeter cannons.  Interestingly, the E-3  weighed under 6,000  pounds, less  than half the  weight of an American P-47. (Note: the Bf 109E-2 never  reached production.) With  an improved,  softer recoil  mechanism,  the  MG-FF/M cannon  which  appeared on  the  Bf 109E-4 distinguished the E-4 from the earlier E-3. The MG-FF/M could also fire highly effective explosive shells. The “Me  109” outclassed its  opponents in the blitzkrieg  against France of  May 1940. Needing  a fighter-bomber, Jagdbomber or  Jabo,  the  Luftwaffe  fitted  some  Emils  with  bomb racks  and  they  effectively struck Channel shipping  and land targets. Jabo modifications to  the 109 were denoted with a “/B” suffix, for example, Bf 109E-1/B and Bf 109E-3/B.
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  • Later Bf 109E's: Several more variations  of the Emil followed. The  DB 601N delivered 1,200 HP at take-off and permitted a  one  minute burst  of  1,250  HP  at 15,000  feet.  The  Bf  109E-4/N incorporated  the  new  engine. Two fighter-reconnaissance variants,  the 109E-5 and  the 109E-6,  reduced  their armament (and  weight) and added a Rb 21/18 camera. A Jabo variant, the E-7, was the E-4/N  with a center mounted bomb rack. The  Bf  109E-8  and  the  Bf  109E-9  appeared  late  in  1940.  Intended  as  a  long-range  fighter,  the  E-8 resembled  the  basic E-1  with  a  rack added  for  a drop  tank.  The  E-9,  another fighter-reconnaissance variant,  incorporated many  previous enhancements,  notably the  DB 601N  engine.  Both of  these were built in small quantities, the last of 4,000 Emils. With the  Luftwaffe committed to the North  African campaign, "tropicalized" versions  of the Bf  109E-4, -5,  and  -7  were  introduced, with   the suffix  "/Trop."  These modifications  for  desert  warfare  included filters over the air intakes and a desert survival kit.
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  • Bf 109F – Friedrich:  The  second major  redesign during  1939–40 gave  birth  to the F  series. The  "Friedrich" saw a  complete redesign of  the wings, the cooling system and fuselage  aerodynamics, and was powered by the  1,175 PS (1,159 HP) DB  601N (F-1,  F-2) or the 1,350 PS  (1,332 HP) DB 601E (F-3,  F-4).  Considered by many  as the high-water mark of  Bf 109 development,  the F  series abandoned the  wing cannon and  concentrated all armament  in the forward  fuselage with  a pair of  synchronized machine  guns above and  a single  15 or 20 mm Motorkanone-mount cannon  behind the engine, the latter firing between  the cylinder banks and through the  propeller hub. This configuration was used by all subsequent variants.  A handful of Bf 109Fs were used late in  the Battle of Britain in  1940, but the variant  only came into wide use in the first  half of 1941. Early in  1940, Messerschmitt  designed a major improvement to  the Bf 109.  The "F" model was planned to  include   structural  and   aerodynamic  changes   and  a  higher   performance  powerplant,   the  1350 horsepower DB  601E. By tucking  the radiators  more tightly  into the wings,  the designers  reduced drag and improved lift. The cowling was  streamlined, the spinner enlarged, the  propeller blades widened and shortened, the wingtips rounded, and the tail plane  bracing struts removed. The prototype models V -21, V-22, V-23, and V-24 tested early versions of the  DB 601E engine, the new wings, and other changes. Armament  for  the  109F  standardized  on  two  cowling  mounted  7.9mm machine   guns and  a  20mm cannon firing through  the propeller shaft. The wing  guns were eliminated based on combat reports that  the concentrated firepower  of the fuselage guns was  more effective than  the converging bullet streams from the wings. As a bonus, the airplane's handling characteristics improved. Deliveries of  the Bf 109F-1,  still powered by the  DB 601N due to  delays in the 601E, began  in November 1940. Shortly  the  Luftwaffe test  units reported  losses, following  violent vibrations  and loss  of control. The removal  of the  tail bracing struts  had caused the problem,  remedied by fitting  reinforcing plates in the tail plane. The  Bf 109F-2, introduced in  February 1941 differed from  the F-1 only in an improved MG 151  15  millimeter  cannon.  When  Operation  Barbarossa  began  in  June  1941,  the  Friedrich  was  the Luftwaffe's frontline fighter; it had a field day against obsolete Soviet planes like the  Polikarpov I-16. Finally  in  1942,  the  DB  601E  was  installed  in  the  Bf  109F-3  and  the  Bf  109F-4.  While  the  F-3 was otherwise like  the F-2, the F-4 carried a larger caliber  MG 151 20mm cannon, self-sealing  fuel tanks, and better  pilot  armor.  The F-4  was  the  ultimate Friedrich;  it  weighed  6,880 pounds,  made   390  MPH at altitude,  with  a service  ceiling  of 39,400  feet.  Several  sub variants  and modifications  of  the  F-4  were built, notably the F-4/R6 which (at the insistence of  Adolph Galland, fitted an extra pair of 20mm cannon in underwing  gondolas. The  plane's handling  was adversely  affected and  they were  limited to  bomber interceptor roles. Another notable  modification was the Bf  109F-4/Trop, which Hans Joachim Marseilles used to achieve most of his 158 victories in North Africa. About 2,200 Friedrichs were built.  The concentrated firepower  of the fuselage guns was  more effective than  the converging bullet streams from the wings. As a bonus, the airplane's handling characteristics improved. Deliveries of  the Bf 109F-1,  still powered by the  DB 601N due to  delays in the 601E, began  in November 1940. Shortly  the  Luftwaffe test  units reported  losses, following  violent vibrations  and loss  of control. The removal  of the  tail bracing struts  had caused the problem,  remedied by fitting  reinforcing plates in the tail plane. The  Bf 109F-2, introduced in  February 1941 differed from  the F-1 only in an improved MG 151  15  millimeter  cannon.  When  Operation  Barbarossa  began  in  June  1941,  the  Friedrich  was  the Luftwaffe's frontline fighter; it had a field day against obsolete Soviet planes like the  Polikarpov I-16. Finally  in  1942,  the  DB  601E  was  installed  in  the  Bf  109F-3  and  the  Bf  109F-4.  While  the  F-3 was otherwise like  the F-2, the F-4 carried a larger caliber  MG 151 20mm cannon, self-sealing  fuel tanks, and better  pilot  armor.  The F-4  was  the  ultimate Friedrich;  it  weighed  6,880 pounds,  made  390  MPH at altitude,  with  a service  ceiling  of 39,400  feet.  Several  subvariants  and modifications  of  the  F-4  were built, notably the F-4/R6 which (at the insistence of  Adolph Galland, fitted an extra pair of 20mm cannon in underwing  gondolas. The  plane's handling  was adversely  affected and  they were  limited to  bomber interceptor roles. Another notable  modification was the Bf  109F-4/Trop, which Hans Joachim Marseilles used to achieve most of his 158 victories in North Africa.About 2,200 Friedrichs were built.Bf-109 F.jpg


  • Bf 109G Gustav : The G series, or "Gustav", was introduced in mid-1942. Its initial  variants (G-1 through G-4) differed only in minor details from the Bf 109F, most  notably in the more powerful 1475  PS (1,455 HP) DB 605 engine. Odd numbered  variants were built  as high-altitude fighters  with a pressurized  cockpit and GM-1 boost, while even numbered variants were  non-pressurized, air superiority fighters and fighter-bombers.  Long-range photo-reconnaissance variants also existed.  The later G series (G-5 through G-14) was produced in a multitude  of  variants, with  uprated  armament and  provision for  a  number of  kits  of pre-packaged, generally factory- installed parts known as Umrüst-Bausätze  (usually contracted to Umbau) and adding a "/U" suffix  to the  aircraft designation when  installed. Field  kits known  as Rüstsätze were  also available for the  G-series but those  did not  change the aircraft  designation.) By early  1944 tactical requirements resulted in  the addition of MW-50 water  injection boost and  high-performance superchargers, boosting engine output to 1,800–2,000  PS (1,775-1,973 HP). From early  1944 a number of G-2s,  G-3s, G-4s and G-6s were  converted  to two seat  trainers, known  as the  G-12. An  instructor's cockpit  was added  behind the    original cockpit    and    both   were    covered    by    an    elongated,    glazed    canopy.     The    so called Rüstsätze field   modification  kits   and Umrüst-Bausätzefactory  conversion   kits  were   part  of   a system  promulgated by  the  RLM as  a whole,  throughout  the  German military  aviation industry,  with each  airframe  type  number  having its  own  set of  "/R"  and/or  "/U"  numbered  designations for  such upgrade packages. Bf 109 was  getting long in  the tooth;  the Fw 190 would  equip  the Luftwaffe top  fighter squadrons. But there weren't enough  Fw 190's, and  the Messerschmitt  factories were tooled up for  Bf 109 production. As  a stopgap,  the Gustav  was designed  around  the latest  Daimler Benz engine,  in  this case,  the 1450 horsepower DB  605A. bf109g2black6.jpgIt also featured a pressurized cockpit for  high altitude flight. The  increased power and  weight came  at a  price. The  Bf 109,  never easy  to handle, in  the  "G" variant, became  difficult for experts and hazardous for neophytes. The  Bf 109G-1,  which first  rolled off  the lines in  March 1942,  was  fitted with  a pressurized cockpit,  an engine-mounted  20mm  Mauser MG  151  cannon,  a pair  of cowling-mounted   7.9mm MG  17  machine guns,  and a  pair of  small  air scoops just  aft of  the propeller.  These  directly cooled  the DB605  engine, which was prone to overheating. (Overheating the DB605 caused oil  to seep out and over the hot engine block, and catch fire. If in the air, the  pilot had to bail out.) With   24,000   Gustavs   produced,   the   number   of  variants   is   truly   bewildering,   and   complicated by Umruest-Bausatze (factory) and Ruestsaetze (field) modification kits. Various  suffixes  distinguished  Gustavs  equipped  as  long-range  fighters,  recon  fighters,  and bomber destroyers.  The  Luftwaffe  armed  them  with  ever  larger,  more  numerous  weapons:  extra 20mm  or 30mm cannon  in under-wing  pods, 21  cm Dodel rocket launchers,  and a short-barreled  MK-108 30mm cannon that fired a low-velocity, but devastating, mine shell. In  the details  of the  Gustav variants,  we can  see  the resource  limitations of  the Reich  in 1944.  The  Bf109G-2 differed from the G-1 only  in its unpressurized cockpit. Tellingly, many more of them than the G-1 were built. Other modification kits substituted wood in  the tail assembly for scarce aluminum. Such  an array of  pods,  scoops, and  bulges disfigured  the  Gustav that  it  also earned  the nickname  “Beule,”  or “Bump.”  Even the  awkward efforts to  cram  oversize rockets  and cannon  into the  small fighter,  rather than  developing an  appropriate airframe  for  such big  weapons, betrayed  the  desperation of  German aviation late in the war. The Bf  109G-6, the most numerous of  the Gustavs, was the first  to mount large caliber (13mm) machine guns,  comparable  to  the 50  caliber  Brownings found  in  most  U.S. fighters.  It  also  carried an  engine-mounted  20mm cannon.  Throughout the  development of  the Bf  109, Messerschmitt,  unlike  American designers,  retained  guns  in  the  fuselage   that fired  through   the  propeller  arc  and  were  necessarily synchronized.  U.S. fighter  planes  typically  had  guns in  their  wings,  thus avoiding  the  extra  hassle  of synchronization gear.  Like the G-2  and G-1, the  G-6 and G-5  were nearly  identical, except that  the G-6 and  G-2   omitted  cockpit  pressurization,   and  were  built  in   larger  numbers   than  their  pressurized counterparts. GustavG   6 As  further adaptations  to the  “G” version  proliferated, the  Bf 109G-10  was an  attempt to  standardize Gustav  production and  also introduce  the latest  DB 605D  engine,  a powerhouse  that permitted  a top speed of 429 MPH at altitude.


  • Bf 109K – Konrad : The final  production version  of the Bf  109 was the K  series, or "Kurfürst",  introduced in the  autumn of 1944, powered by the DB 605D engine  with up to 2,000 PS (1,973 HP). Though externally akin to the late production  Bf 109G  series,  a large  number of  internal  changes and  aerodynamic improvements  were incorporated that  improved  its effectiveness  and remedied  existing flaws,  keeping it  competitive with the latest Allied and Soviet fighters.31a  29a The  Bf 109's outstanding  rate of climb was superior to all Allied adversaries including the P-51D Mustang, Spitfire Mk. XIV and Hawker Tempest  Mk. V. Based on  the G-10, the  Bf 109K was  another attempt to bring some  order to the chaos  of variants, sub-variants,  and modification  kits which was  disrupting supply  and maintenance.  The Konrad wielded  the same weapons as its  forerunner, two 13mm  machine guns and a  20mm cannon, and only  offered some minor changes to the canopy, tailwheel, tail plane, cowling, and spinner. The first production  models, the K-2 and K-4  (a pressurized version), arrived in  October 1944. The  K-6, a bomber  destroyer,  carried  three  30mm  cannon  and  two  13mm machine  guns,  a  remarkably  heavy armament. By this time the Reich was near collapse and very few K-6s  or later Konrads were built. The first production  models, the K-2 and K-4  (a pressurized version), arrived in  October 1944. The  K-6, a bomber  destroyer,  carried  three  30mm  cannon  and  two  13mm machine  guns,  a  remarkably  heavy armament. By this time the Reich was near collapse and very few K-6s  or later Konrads were built.

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  •  Experimental Bf 109s: In its long life, the  Bf 109 served as a platform for numerous experimental  and radical ideas, from skis  to a twin  fuselage  to  the bizarre  “Mistel”  arrangement. A  carrier version,  the  Bf 109T,  actually  reached production,   40  being  built.   After  the   cancellation  of   the  German   carriers, Peter  Strasser and  Graf Zeppelin, the  Bf 109T’s were  assigned to Norway  and Heligoland, where  their short take-off  capabilities were  useful.  The  Bf  109H  was  a  high  altitude  fighter  based  on  the  Friedrich,  adding  a pressurized cockpit, extended wings, and a modified engine. The “H” did not progress  beyond the prototype stage. A jet  version, the  Bf  109TL,  was  considered,  as  was a  twin  fuselage  design,  the Bf  109Z.  The  “Mistel” scheme  mated   a  Bf   109  to  a   worn-out,  pilotless   Ju  88,  which   was  packed  with   explosives.  The Messerschmitt  pilot  flew  the joined  aircraft  to  the  target  and released  the  Ju  88,  a  primitive  cruise missile.  The  Germans  actually  used this  scheme  in  combat,  against Scapa  Flow  and  some  Leningrad bridges.
  

Bf 109 or Me 109? What is right: Bf 109, Bf-109, BF-109, Bf109, Me  109, Me-109, ME 109, or ME109? In  1938, during  the  production  of the  C  version, Messerschmitt's  global  reputation has  grown to  the where    the     Air    Ministry    suggested     changing    his     company's    name    from   Bayerische Flugzeugwerke to Messerschmitt  A.G.  Subsequent  aircraft  would  be  identified  with  the  "Me"  prefix; those already in production, the 109, would  retain the "Bf" designator. Nonetheless, many people began referring  to  the   "Me  109,"  including  the   USAAF;  contemporary  air  combat  reports   are  filled  with references to the "Me 109." Point In German usage  at the time, "Bf 109" was  correct. No dash, lower case "f," not "Me 109,"  and including a space between  "Bf" and "109." But confusion persists to  this day. Try a web search on  "Messerschmitt Me 109." You'll get almost as many  hits as with the proper abbreviation.


Specifications

Armament and gondola cannons 



Reflecting  Messerschmitt's belief in low-weight,  low-drag, simple monoplanes, the  armament was placed  in the  fuselage. This  kept the  wings very  thin and  light.  Two synchronized machine  guns were mounted in  the cowling, firing over the  top of the engine  and through the propeller  arc. An alternative  arrangement  was  also  designed,  consisting  of a  single  cannon firing through  a  blast  tube between the cylinder banks of the engine,  known as a Motorkanone mount in German. This was also the choice  of armament layout  on some  contemporary monoplane  fighters, such  as the  French  Dewoitine D.520, or  the  American Bell  P-39  Airacobra, and  dated  back  to World War  I's small  run  of SPAD  S.XII moteur-canon, 37 mm caliber cannon-armed fighters in France.
When  it  was  discovered in  1937  that  the  RAF  was  planning  eight-gun  batteries  for  its  new  Hawker Hurricane and  Supermarine  Spitfire fighters,  it  was  decided  that  the  Bf  109 should   be more  heavily armed. The problem was  that the only place available  to mount additional guns was  in the wings. There was only one spot available in each wing, between the wheel well and slats, and  there was room for only one gun, either a 7.92 mm MG 17 machine gun, or a 20 mm MG FF or MG FF/M cannon. The first version of  the 109 to have wing  guns was the C-1, which had one  MG 17 in each wing. To  avoid redesigning   the  wing   to  accommodate   large  ammunition   boxes  and   access   hatches,  an  unusual ammunition feed  was devised whereby  a continuous belt holding  500 rounds was  fed along chutes  out to the wing  tip, around a  roller and then  back along the  wing, forward and beneath  the gun breech,  to the wing root where it coursed around another roller and back to the weapon. The gun barrel was placed in a long, large-diameter tube located  between the spar and the leading edge. The tube  channeled cooling air around the barrel  and breech, exhausting out of  a slot at the  rear of the wing.  The installation was  so cramped  that  parts of the  MG 17's  breech  mechanism extended  into  an opening created in the flap structure. The much  longer and heavier MG FF  had to be  mounted farther along the  wing in an outer  bay. A large hole was cut through the spar allowing the cannon to be  fitted with the ammunition feed forward of the spar,  while the  breech block  projected rearward  through the  spar. A  60-round  ammunition drum  was placed  in   a  space  closer   to  the  wing   root  causing  a  bulge   in  the  underside.   A  small  hatch   was incorporated in  the bulge to  allow access for  changing the drum.  The entire weapon  could be removed for servicing by removing a leading edge panel. Luftwaffe   ground-crew   ("black   men")   positioning  a   Bf   109   G-6   "Kanonenvogel"   equipped   with the Rüstsatz VI underwing  gondola cannon kit. Note the slats on  the leading edge of the port  wing. JG 2, France, autumn of 1943. From  the 109F-series onwards,  guns were  no longer  carried inside the wings.  (A noteworthy  exception was Adolf Galland's  field-modified Bf 109 F-2,  which had  a 20 mm MG FF/M  installed internally  in each wing.)  Only some of  the projected 109K-series  models, such  as the K-6,  were designed  to carry 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannons in the  wings. In  place of  internal  wing armament,  additional  firepower was  provided  through a  pair  of 20 mm  MG 151/20 cannons installed  in  conformal gun  pods under  the wings.  Although  the  additional  armament increased the fighter's potency as a bomber destroyer, it had an adverse effect on the  handling qualities, reducing its  performance in fighter-versus-fighter  combat and accentuating  the tendency of  the fighter to  swing  pendulum-fashion  in  flight. The  conformal  gun  pods,  exclusive  of  ammunition, weighed 135 kg (298 lb);    and 135 to 145 rounds were  provided per gun. The  total weight,  including  ammunition, was  215 kg. Installation  of the  under-wing  gun  pods was  a simple  task  that  could  be  quickly performed  by  the  unit's  armourers,  and  the  gun  pods imposed  a reduction of speed  of only 8 km/h (5 mph).    By comparison, the  installed weight of a  similar armament of  two 20 mm  MG 151/20 cannon  inside  the wings of  the FW  190A-4/U8 was  130 kg (287 lb),  without ammunition.


POWERPLANT

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Production


Total  Bf 109  production was  33,984  units; Wartime  production (September  1939 to  May  1945) was  30,573 units.  Fighter production  totaled 47% of  all German  aircraft  production, and  the Bf 109 accounted  for 57%  of all  German fighter types  produced. Built prewar, from 1936 to August 1939. A total  of 2,193 Bf  109 A–E were Some 865 Bf 109G derivatives were manufactured postwar under license as Czechoslovak-built  Avia S-99 and S-199s,  with  the production  ending in  1948.     Production of  the Spanish-built Hispano  Aviación HA-1109 and HA-1112 Buchons ended in 1958. New production Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, 1936–1945.
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Operational History


The first  Bf 109As saw  service in the Spanish  Civil War. By  September 1939, the  Bf 109 had become  the main  fighter   of  the  Luftwaffe,  replacing   the  biplane  fighters,  and   was  instrumental   in  gaining  air superiority for  the Wehrmacht during the Blitzkrieg.  During the Battle of Britain,  it was pressed  into the role  of escort  fighter,  a role  for which  it  was not  originally  designed, and  it was  widely employed  as a fighter-bomber as  well as  a photo-reconnaissance platform.  Despite mixed  results  over Britain,  with the introduction of the  improved Bf 109F in  the spring of 1941,  the type  again proved to be  an effective fighter  during  the Invasion  of  Yugoslavia,  the  Battle  of  Crete, Operation  Barbarossa,  the  invasion  of the USSR and the Siege of Malta. In  1942, it  began to  be partially  replaced in Western  Europe by  a new German  fighter, the  Focke Wulf Fw 190,  but it continued  to serve in a multitude  of roles on the  Eastern Front and in  the Defense of  the Reich,  as well  as in  the Mediterranean  Theatre of  Operations and  with Erwin Rommel's  Afrikakorps. It was also  supplied to several of Germany's allies,  including Finland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia. More aerial kills were  made with the Bf  109 than any other aircraft of  World War II. Victories   were   accomplished  against  poorly   trained   and  badly   organized   Soviet   forces  in   1941 during Operation Barbarossa.  The Soviets lost 21,200 aircraft  at this time, about half to  combat.   If shot Many of the aerial down, the Luftwaffe pilots might land or parachute to friendly territory and return to fight again. Later  in the  War, when  Allied victories  began to bring  the fight  closer, and  then to  German territory, bombing raids supplied plenty  of targets for  the Luftwaffe. This unique  combination of events led  to the highest-ever  individual pilot  victory scores. Destruction of  100 or more enemy aircraft. Thirteen of  these men scored more  than 200 kills, while  two scored more  than 300. Altogether, this group  of pilots were credited with a  total of nearly 15,000 kills. One  hundred and  five  Bf 109  pilots were  each  credited with  the Though  there  was  no  official "ace" status  in  theLuftwaffe (unofficially,  the  term Experte (expert)  was used for an experienced pilot irrespective  of his number of kills), using the Allied definition of  pilots who scored five  or more  kills,  there were  more than 2,500 Luftwaffe  fighter aces  in World  War II.    Against the Soviets, Finnish-flown Bf 109Gs claimed  a victory ratio of 25:1. Bf  109s remained  in foreign  service for  many years after  World  War II. The  Swiss used  their Bf  109Gs well into  the 1950s. The  Finnish Air Force  did not retire their Bf  109Gs until March  1954. Romania  used its  Bf  109s  until  1955.  The Spanish  Hispanos  flew even  longer.  Some  were still  in  service in  the  late 1960s.  They  appeared in  films  (notably Battle of  Britain)  playing  the  role of  Bf  109Es.  Some  Hispano airframes were sold to museums, which rebuilt them as Bf 109s.

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References/Bibliography

1. Dutch Kindelberger of North American refused to give "kick-backs,"  to USAAF procurement officers in order to secure a contract for the P-51 Mustang. Enzo Angelucci and Peter M Bowers.  The American Fighter. (Mila, Italy; Haynes Publishing Group., 1987.) 330.
2. In 1928, the M 20 prototype,  designed by Willy Messerschmitt, was involved in a crash during testing. This crash and others, caused
Lufthansa to cancel future orders  for the type, which led to the bankruptcy of BFW in 1931. Killed in the crash was Hans  Hackman, a close friend
of then Lufthansa President, Erhard Milch.
3. Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW) was reorganized in  1933. Uwe Feist, Norman E. Harms, & Mike Dario. The Fighting 109. (Garden City,  New
York; Doubleday & Company, 1987.) 3.
4. Martin C. Windrow. Aircraft In Profile. The Messerschmitt Bf 109E. (Surrey, England; Profile Publications  Ltd., 1965.) 1.
5. William Green. Famous Fighters of the Second World War. (Garden  City, New York; Doubleday & Company,1987.) 9-10.
6. Uwe Feist, Norman E. Harms,  & Mike Dario. 7.
7. The Bf-108A was a  four-seat, low-wing, monoplane with dual controls; a flush-riveted fuselage; retractable landing main gear and  had an
enclosed cockpit. The engine was a  Hirth HM-8V inverted-vee engine with 186 kW (250 HP),  driving a three-blade propeller. It could fly at 200
mph (320 kph) and was extremely agile.
8. Uwe Feist, Norman E. Harms, & Mike Dario. 5.
9. Ibid.
10. Michael J.  Taylor & John W.R. Taylor. Encyclopedia of Aircraft. (New York, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1978. 156.)
11. Uwe Feist, Norman E. Harms, & Mike Dario. 10.
12. Ibid.
13. The VDM variable-pitch propeller was  license-built from American Hamilton Standard.
14. William Green. 16.
15. John R. Beaman, Jr. & Jerry L. Campbell. Messerschmitt Bf 109 in  Action. (Carrollton Texas, Squadron Signal Publications Inc., 1980.) 33.
(Armor protection was actually introduced on later Bf 109E-3s, and retrofitted on  earlier E-3s and E-1s.)
16. David Mondey. The Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II.  (New York, Smithmark Publishers, 1984.) 166.
17. Joachim Dressel and Manfred Griehl. 45.
18. Martin C. Windrow. 9.
19. Bf 109 Production numbers vary widely from different sources.  Numbers listedare  30,500, 33,000 and 35,000 aircraft produced.
20. Wikipedia. Messerschmitt Me 209.
21. Ibid.
21a. Joachim Dressel and Manfred Griehl. The Luftwaffe Album.  (London, The Cassell Group, 1994.) 37-38.
21b. William Green & Gordon SwanBorough. The Complete  Book of Fighters. (New York, Smithmark Publishers Inc., 1994.) 376-378.
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1980. ISBN 0-7106-0005-4. pp. 41–45,  63–64, 76–81,  82–83.
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1980. ISBN 0-7106-0005-4. pp. 38–39,  80.
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1980. ISBN 0-7106-0005-4.p. 78.
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28. Cross, Roy and Gerald Scarborough. Messerschmitt  Bf 109, Versions B-E. London: Patrick Stevens, 1976. ISBN 0-85059-106-6 p. 15.
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1995. ISBN 0-88740-424-3. p.177
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1999. ISBN 0-7643-1023-2  pp. 35–37
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33a. http://www.virtualpilots.fi/hist/WW2History-Stigler.html
33b.  http://www.virtualpilots.fi/hist/WW2History-KyostiKarhilaEnglish.html
33c.  http://www.virtualpilots.fi/hist/WW2History-MaunoFrantila2English.html
33d. Hannu Valtonen, "Me 109 ja Saksan sotatalous" (Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the German war economy),  ISBN 951 -95688-7-5.
34.  http://spartacus-educational.com/GERbf109.htm
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47. https://www.youtube.com/w atch?v=aAobKbzxn50