The Messerschmitt 109 was Nazi Germany’s primary fighter plane in the Battle of Britain. The Messerschmitt 109 was a worthy adversary to the Spitfire and Hurricane but fought in the Battle of Britain with one major advantage and one major disadvantage.
By far the most-produced fighter ever (over 33,000 estimated), the Bf 109 served actively in various air forces around the world from the mid-1930s until the mid-1950s. Small, agile, and well-armed, it proved a serious weapon in the hands of an experienced pilot.
Perhaps the most noteworthy of the many versions of the Bf 109 was the Bf 109E, which ruled the skies over Europe until mid-1940 when it first encountered the Supermarine Spitfire.
(Video)Luftwaffe March (German Airforce March).
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The Messerschmitt Bf 109, like the North American P-51 might have been the plane that never was. 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.
By the mid-1930’s, Willy Messerschmitt was well advanced in his plan for a monoplane fighter. His award winning 108 developed into the 109. The first trials of the 109 took place in October 1935 and led to the Luftwaffe placing orders for ten prototypes of the 109 and its rival, the Heinkel He 112. In an interesting piece of irony, the first 109 prototypes were powered by British Rolls-Royce Kestrel engines!
(Video) The Story behind the Messerschmitt Bf 109
The 109 entered service with the Luftwaffe in spring of 1937. The plane was used in the Spanish Civil War but this was not publicised by the Germans at the time.
Instead, the Germans attempted to impress the aviation world with displays of the 109 at international air shows where the plane won many awards. Numerous variants of the 109 were built prior to the war and in 1939 alone, 1,400 Messerschmitt 109’s were built. At the start of the war, the Luftwaffe had 1,000 Me 109’s available for the Blitzkrieg attack on Poland.
By the time of the Battle of Britain, the Me 109 that faced Fighter Command had one major advantage over its rivals.
Its engine had a fuel injection system that allowed a constant fuel flow even in conditions of negative-g. This meant that a pilot could dive away at a much faster pace than his opponents could do and escape trouble. However, it also had one major disadvantage.
The one major disadvantage of the 109 was that it had a limited range (see below) and it could not spend too much time over Britain protecting bombers that carried more fuel than they did. As such, their fighting time was limited. Whereas Spitfires and Hurricanes could land and re-fuel, such an option was not open to a 109.
Some variants of the 109 had a cannon placed in the hollowed out nose cone. However, vibrations caused from its firing meant that the idea was dropped from the early 109’s but it was taken up in later ones when the vibration issue had been sorted out. Most 109’s were fitted with two wing-mounted cannon and two machine guns mounted on the top of the nose cone that fired through the propeller arc.
Maximum speed: 385 mph (620 km/h) at 22,640 feet (6900 metres)
Ceiling: 37,895 feet (11550 metres)
Range: 373 miles (600 km)
|Manufacturer||Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW)
|Designer||Willy Messerschmitt, Robert Lusser|
|First flight||29 May 1935|
|Retired||9 May 1945, Luftwaffe
27 December 1965, Spanish Air Force
Hungarian Air Force
Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana
Royal Romanian Air Force
+603 Avia S-199
Hispano Aviacion Ha 1112
(Video) The War File : Messerschmitt Bf-109
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 Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring German fighter aces of World War II, who claimed 928 victories among them while flying with Jagdgeschwader 52, mainly on the Eastern Front. The highest scoring fighter ace of all time, Erich Hartmannof Germany, flew the Bf 109 and was credited with 352 kills (and also survived the war). The plane was also flown by Hans-Joachim Marseille, the highest scoring German ace in the North African Campaign, who scored 158 kills.
It was also flown by several other aces from Germany’s allies, notably Finn Ilmari Juutilainen, the highest scoring non-German ace on the typewith 58 kills flying the Bf 109G, and pilots from Italy, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria and Hungary.
Through constant development, the Bf 109 remained competitive with the latest Allied fighter aircraft until the end of the war. A german legend for sure…and when it came to putting both the Supermarine Spitfire and the Messerschmitt Bf 109 together in combat, there was very little between them.
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.
As I have found out, it always ended up to who was the more talented pilot and whether “angel” luck was on his side. Both very fine aircraft. Here ends the second segment in our “Warbird Series”. If you havent read the first segment of this series, please click here.
Cheers for now!