Messerschmitt Bf 109B-1

Messerschmitt Bf 109B-1

Messerschmitt Bf 109: Pt. 1, John R. Beaman, Jr. This work provides a good technical history of the 109, tracing the development of the fighter from the early prototypes up to the 109E, the model used during the Battle of Britain. [see more]

Messerschmitt Bf 109B-1 - History

This article is part of a continuing series by Bob Hart on the Best Fighter Aircraft of WWII. Feedback and discussion is welcome.

If Erhard Milch had his way, the Messerschmitt Bf-109 would have never been produced as Nazi Germany's first single engine fighter. That accolade would have instead gone to the Heinkel He-112. If that decision had occurred, the air war would have taken a different course. But it must be remembered the still limiting factor of German aircraft production, the slow and troubled development of aero engines would have also plagued the Heinkel fighter.

The animosity between Milch and Messerschmitt was well known, stemming from two disastourous crashes of Messerschmitt produced M-20b mail planes which cost Lufthansa dearly. However the bad blood between the two men would greatly alter the development and introduction of service of other Messerschmitt designs rather than the Bf-109.

Design of the Messerschmitt fighter began in early 1934 when Messerschmitt was joined by Chief engineer Walter Rethel - a man with considerable experience in high speed aircraft design with the Arado company. Progress was rapid despite the complexity of the design and the introduction of new technology, the most controversial at the time being the automatic Handley Page leading-edge slots and fully enclosed cockpit.

The Messerschmitt Bf-109 was an all metal, low wing, cantilever monoplane with flush riveted stressed skinning. The fuselage was an oval section, light metal alloy monocoque construction. The basic design concept of the new fighter was simple - to employ the largest, most powerful engine in the lightest airframe possible. Strangely, this design concept would both make the Bf-109 a formidable opponent and enforce limitations that would disadvantage the aircraft late in its career. But it must be stressed that Willy Messerschmitt was designing an aircraft that was to be in frontline service until 1941 at the latest, not as it turned out-1945.

The fact the Messerschmitt Bf-109 was produced in greater number than any other fighter, some 33,000 being produced from 1935 to 1945, is a testament to the soundness of the original design. In the hands of an experienced pilot the Messerschmitt fighter was still competitive with the latest Allied fighters in the last months of the war, defying many ill founded conclusions about the aircraft. Finally it the Messerschmitt Bf-109 shot down more enemy aircraft, than any other fighter.

The three highest scoring aces in the Luftwaffe, Eric Hartmann, Gerd Barkhorn and Gunther Rall, favoured the Messerschmitt over any other fighter and between them claimed nearly one thousand enemy aircraft in the type.

The Bf-109a appeared in August 1935 and after strengthening of the undercarriage began taxiing trials and first flew in the following month. A hint of the future problems with German aero engines became evident with the non availability of the Junkers Jumo 210 engines, and the prototype flew with power provided by a Rolls Royce V 12 cylinder upright vee engine. Though underpowered, it was obvious the new fighter possessed enormous potential, which was further confirmed with the January flying trials of the Jumo powered V2 prototype.

It soon became apparent that the Bf-109 was superior to the Luftwaffe's principal fighter, the bi-plane Heinkel He-51 and test pilots after initial misgivings spoke glowingly of the performance of the new fighter. Although the He-112 had its share of supporters, official interest was beginning to lean towards the Bf-109. This support grew dramatically with the first flight of the Supermarine Spitfire in April 1936 and the granting of a production contract in June placed further pressure on the Fighter Acceptance Commission to make a decision.

The Heinkel contender was still in an early stage of its development and an impressive flying display by the Messerschmitt at evaluation trials at Travenmunde impressed the Commission's representatives and a contract for production was handed down in August after another awe inspiring display by a Bf-109 over the Olympic stadium in Berlin.

Soon after the Bf-109's impressive capabilities were demonstrated at Rechlin where the new fighter easily outclassed four He-51 fighters in mock combat in front of Goering and other high ranking officials. The future of the Messerschmitt fighter was secured and in November pre-production, Bf-109 fighters were sent to Spain for service evaluation trials.

As the production flow of the new Messerschmitt fighter increased samples were sent to serve in the Condor Legion where under the guidance of Werner Molders suitable tactics were developed.

The early versions of the Bf-109 were never intended to be 'major production' models due to the continuing development of the type. The Bf-109B-1 first appeared in February 1937, was powered by the Jumo 210Da engine and was armed with three MG 17 machine guns.

This was followed by the Bf-109C-1 variant in the spring 1938. This more powerful version was equipped with the Jumo 210Ga power plant and was armed with four MG 17 machine guns, two weapons in the nose and two in the wings. A prototype at the time was fitted with the harder hitting MG FF 20mm cannon in the wings, but due to development problems this weapon would not be introduced until the production of the Bf-109E.

There were production difficulties largely due to the length of time it took sub contracted companies to enter full production. Another factor which led to the tardy production levels of all German aircraft at this time was many factories only worked one shift per day. As of 1st August 1938 Luftwaffe fighter strength was 643 machines with less than half Bf-109 fighters. Due to more factories coming on line this figure was lifted to 583 machines by the end of September.

In late spring the first Daimler powered Bf-109D-1 came off the production line. The DB-600Aa was not a reliable engine and when the Bf-109E-1 entered service in February 1939 it was powered by the more reliable DB-601.

1,056 Bf-109 fighters of all types were in service at the time of the Polish invasion, but only two hundred of the Messerschmitts were used in the attack, the remainder formed a shield in the west in the event of attack from Britain or France. Losses of the Bf-109 were not heavy in Poland, but there were causes for concern, principally the light firepower of the MG 17s, poor rearward visibility, short range, and some losses incurred in take off and landing accidents. This last problem has often been stated as a major weakness of the design and I will deal with this later.

The improved Bf-109E-3 entered service in late 1939. The cannon armed E-4 version was available in the spring of 1940 and this version formed the bulk of the fighter force that would later participate in the Battle of Britain. With this version Luftwaffe pilots often recalled how the heavy cannon armament would often 'shatter' enemy fighters. By May 10, 1,016 Messerschmitts were available for the attack in the West. While the Bf-109 did sweep the skies clear of opposition, the short range was becoming an inhibiting factor. The drop tank equipped Bf-109E-7 saw service in the late stages of the Battle of Britain though it must be said problems of leakage prevented their widespread use.

With Germany largely on the defence in the west after the conclusion of the daylight bombing offensive, the first Bf-109F's appeared in March 1941 before the new Spitfire MkV established superiority over the older Messerschmitts. The F model was the first major cleanup of the basic design and many German pilots claimed it to be the best model of the 109. The removal of the tail struts caused some early problems in high G manoeuvres. Also, some vibration was experienced at a certain rev range, a high-frequency oscillation set up in the tailplane spar was overlapped by the engine, causing sympathetic vibrations resulting in structural failure. The installation of external reinforcing plates soon solved the problem. The one criticism of the F variant was its lighter armament, which was partially brought about by the tortured development of the MG 151 cannon. The lower velocity MG FF 20mm cannon firing through the spinner was introduced and with the two nose mounted MG 17 machine guns the armament was seen as adequate as long as the cannon did not jam.

More Improvements Meant more Difficulties

To compensate for the lack of fire power, field conversion sets were introduced to mount two 20mm cannon beneath the wings. By this time the Messerschmitt was being offered in a Jabo version. As the war spread and the demands on the Luftwaffe grew it was to be the single engine fighter that would plug the gaps and a bewildering array of variants would appear.

The Messerschmitt had reached such a stage of development that for every improvement there was a penalty. An example was the demand for greater firepower, which meant more guns, more weight, bigger engine, more weight, and loss of agility. It became a vicious cycle and was made worse for the Messerschmitt since its planned replacement the Fw-190 had failed to deliver good high altitude performance.

The introduction of the DB601E-1 powered Bf 109F-4 with the high velocity MG 151 is seen by many pilots as the definitive version of the fighter. However the demands for a faster, more heavily armed fighter would result in what some would think as a retrograde step - the Bf-109G. The G versions were the most prolific and well known version of the 109 and they were destined to fight till the end of the war. Development of this high speed, high altitude fighter began in the middle of 1941. The centrepiece of the new version was the more powerful DB 605 engine and cockpit pressurization, the latter improvement a direct result of the changing nature of the air war.

The obvious penalty of the larger DB 605A engine was the change in appearance of the upper cowling and the enlarged oil cooler. The first variants, Bf 109G-1 powered by DB 605A-1 engines and fitted with nitrous oxide (GM 1) injection appeared early in the Spring of 1942, along with the non pressurized version the Bf 109G-2. In May 1942 the RAF first encountered the G-3 and G-4 versions which were equipped with the FuG 16z R/T.

The new G versions were an unpleasant surprise to the RAF, with their decided speed advantage over the Spitfire V. The next major version and the most numerous was the G-6, which began coming off the production lines in autumn of 1942. This was the first variant to accept the multitude of Field Conversion Sets and could be equipped with several variants of DB 605A engines and from early 1944 the DB 605D engine. Methanol water (M50) fuel injection was now available allowing ten minutes of boost pressure. Of course this application of water methanol injection played havoc with spark plug life.

Another significant improvement with the G-6 was the introduction of the MK 108 30mm cannon firing through the airscrew hub. A single hit from one of these shells was usually enough to bring down a fighter and three or four hits could knock out a four engine bomber. Fortunately for the Allied air forces, deliveries of this weapon were slow and the MG 151 20mm cannon was retained.

By late summer 1942, the G variant made up two thirds of the frontline Bf 109 strength. During 1943, under the firm hand of Erhard Milch and German fighter production rose dramatically with July seeing Luftwaffe acceptance of no less than 725 G model 109 fighters. Total production of Bf-109G fighters was over 6,300 aircraft in 1943. In 1944 this would rise to nearly 14,000 aircraft.

In spring 1944, the G-10 version entered service. Several versions of the DB 605 engine with different grades of fuels and types of injection were now the standard engine. The DB 605 DC powered G-10 was the fastest of all the g variants and speeds of 426 mph were attained at 25,000 feet. Standard armament was either the 30mm or 20mm cannon with a pair of nose mounted MG 131 13mm machine guns.

What proved to be a drawback for the G-10 were the number of Field Conversion Sets, all of which had detrimental effects on performance. Also, many alterations introduced on the production lines, most notably the so called Galland hood, and tail plane modifications. All this greatly complicated the flow of spare parts to the frontline units, disrupted the transport system and further led to the low serviceability returns of the frontline units.

These were but a few of the problems which forced the Fighter Staff to introduce changes which would culminate in the Bf 109K. Before this version entered service the final G variant - the G-14. The major modifications to this model were to the control surfaces in an effort to lighten the controls. The 109 always felt heavy or stiff at the higher end of the speed range and the continuing weight spiral associated with new models only exacerbated the problem. The DB 605AM or DB 605AS engines were now standard.

The final major production model was the Bf 10K-2 and K-4, non-pressurized and pressurized fighters. Now standard was either a 30mm MK 108 or MK 103 cannon and two MG 151 15mm machine guns. The Galland hood was standard as was a new enlarged, wooden tail assembly and semi retractable tail wheel. Other versions developed were the K-6 and the K-14, the latter capable of 452 mph at 37,700 feet a truly amazing performance, but of little consequence in the last weeks of the war.

The story of the Bf 109 did not end with the war, as several nations still flew variants well into the 1950's. However this is a story better left for another time. Part II of this article will deal with operations and the pilots' assessment of the Messerschmitt and also discussion of the myth and legend surrounding this remarkable fighter.

Discuss the Messerschmitt Bf-109

Agree with the approach of this article? Disapprove? Got something to say? Come talk to us about it.


"The 109 was a dream, the non plus ultra. Of course, everyone wanted to fly it as soon as possible."

The Bf 109A was the first version of the Bf 109. Armament was initially planned to be just two cowl-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns. However, possibly due to the introduction of the Hurricane and Spitfire, each with eight 7.7 mm (.303 in) machine guns, experiments were carried out with a third machine gun firing through the propeller shaft. [2] V4 and some A-0 were powered by a 640 PS (631 hp, 471 kW) Junkers Jumo 210B engine driving a two-blade fixed-pitch propeller, but production was changed to the 670 PS (661 hp, 493 kW) Jumo 210D as soon as it became available. The A-0 was not of a uniform type there were several changes in their appearance. Visible changes included engine, cockpit and machine gun ventilation holes/slats, and the location of the oil cooler was changed several times to prevent overheating. Many of these Bf 109 A-0 served with the Legion Condor and were often misidentified as B-series aircraft, and probably served in Spain with the tactical markings 6-1 to 6–16. One A-0, marked as 6–15, ran out of fuel and was forced to land behind enemy lines. It was captured by Republican troops on 11 November 1937 and later transferred to the Soviet Union for a closer inspection. [3] 6–15 incorporated several improvements from the Bf 109B production program and had been prepared to use a variable-pitch propeller although it had not been installed.

According to RLM documentation 22 aircraft were ordered and delivered with V4 as the A-series prototype. [4] [5]

The first Bf 109 in serial production, the Bf 109 B-1, was fitted with the 670 PS (661 hp, 493 kW) Jumo 210D engine driving a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller. During the production run a variable-pitch propeller was introduced and often retrofitted to older aircraft these were then unofficially known as B-2s. The Bf 109B saw combat with the Legion Condor during the Spanish Civil War, although it was apparent that the armament was still inadequate. Several aircraft were produced with an engine-mounted machine gun but it was very unreliable, most likely because of engine vibrations and overheating. Thus the Bf 109 V8 was constructed to test the fitting of two more machine guns in the wings however, results showed that the wing needed strengthening. [6] In the following V9 prototype, both wing guns were replaced by 20 mm MG FF cannons. [7]

A total of 341 Bf 109 B-1s were built by Messerschmitt, Fieseler, and the Erla Maschinenwerke. [8] [9]

Production of the short-lived Bf 109C began in the spring of 1938. [10] The 109C was powered by a 700 PS (690 hp, 515 kW) Jumo 210G engine with direct fuel injection. Another important change was a strengthened wing, now carrying two more machine guns, giving four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s in total. The C-0s were pre-production aircraft, the C-1 was the production version, and the C-2 was an experimental version with an engine-mounted machine gun. The C-3 was planned with 20 mm MG FF cannons replacing the two MG 17s in the wings, but it is not known how many C-3s (if any) were built or converted. The C-4 was planned to have an engine-mounted Motorkanone MG FF, but this variant was not produced. [11]

A total of 58 Bf 109Cs of all versions were built by Messerschmitt. [8] [9]

The next model, the V10 prototype, was identical to the V8, except for its Jumo 210G engine. The V10, V11, V12 and V13 prototypes were built using Bf 109B airframes, and tested the DB 600A engine with the hope of increasing the performance of the aircraft. The DB 600A was dropped as the improved DB601A with direct fuel injection was soon to become available.

Developed from the V10 and V13 prototypes, the Bf 109D was the standard version of the Bf 109 in service with the Luftwaffe just before the start of World War II. Despite this, the type saw only limited service during the war, as all of the 235 Bf 109Ds still in Luftwaffe service at the beginning of the Poland Campaign were rapidly taken out of service and replaced by the Bf 109E, except in some night fighter units where some examples were used into early 1940. Variants included the D-0 and D-1 models, both having a Junkers Jumo 210D engine and armed with two wing-mounted and two nose-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s. The D-2 was an experimental version with an engine-mounted machine gun, but as previously tried, this installation failed. The D-3 was similar to the C-3 but with two 20 mm MG FFs in the wings.

A total of 647 Bf 109Ds of all versions were built by Focke-Wulf, Erla, Fieseler, Arado and AGO. [12] [13] Messerschmitt is listed as having produced only four Bf 109Ds, probably the D-0 preproduction series with the serial production transferred to the licensed manufacturers. Several Bf 109Ds were sold to Hungary. Switzerland bought 10 109D-1s (Serial Numbers from 2301 until 2310) which had been built by the Arado-Flugzeugwerke GmbH factory located in Warnemünde.

In late 1938, the Bf 109E entered production. To improve on the performance afforded by the 441–515 kW (600–700 PS) Jumo 210, the larger, longer Daimler-Benz DB 601A engine was used, yielding an extra 223 kW (300 PS) at the cost of an additional 181 kg (400 lb). A much bigger cooling area was needed to disperse the extra heat generated by the DB 601, and this led to the first major redesign of the basic airframe. Enlarging the existing nose-mounted radiator sufficiently to cool the engine would have created extra weight and drag, negating some of the performance gains afforded by the increased power, so it was decided to move the main radiators to the undersurfaces of the wings immediately outboard of the junction of the wing root and wing panel, just forward of the trailing edges' inner ends, leaving the oil cooler under the nose in a small, streamlined duct. The new radiator position also had the effect of counterbalancing the extra weight and length of the DB 601, which drove a heavier three-bladed Vereinigte Deutsche Metallwerke (VDM)-made propeller. [14]

To incorporate the new radiators, the wings were almost completely redesigned and reinforced, with several inboard ribs behind the spar being cut down to make room for the radiator ducting. Because the radiators were mounted near the trailing edge of the wing, coinciding with the increased speed of the airflow accelerating around the wing camber, cooling was more effective than that of the Jumo engined 109s, albeit at the cost of extra ducting and piping, which was vulnerable to damage. The lowered undercarriage could throw up mud and debris on wet airfields, potentially clogging the radiators. [15] To test the new 1,100 PS (1,085 hp, 809 kW) DB 601A engine, two more prototypes (V14 and V15) were built, each differing in their armament. While the V14 was armed with two 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s above the engine and one 20 mm MG FF in each wing, the V15 was just fitted with the two MG 17s mounted above the engine. [16] After test fights, the V14 was considered more promising and a pre-production batch of 10 E-0 was ordered. Batches of both E-1 and E-3 variants were shipped to Spain for evaluation, and first saw combat during the final phases of the Spanish Civil War.

E-1 Edit

The E-1 production version kept two 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s above the engine and two more in the wings. Later, many were modified to the E-3 armament standard. The E-1B was a small batch of E-1s that became the first operational Bf 109 fighter bomber, or Jagdbomber (usually abbreviated to Jabo). These were fitted with either an ETC 500 bomb rack, carrying one 250 kg (550 lb) bomb, or four 50 kg (110 lb) bombs. The E-1 was also fitted with the Reflexvisier "Revi" gunsight. Communications equipment was the FuG 7 Funkgerät 7 (radio set) short-range radio apparatus, effective to ranges of 48–56 km (30–35 mi). A total of 1,183 E-1 were built, 110 of them were E-1/B. [12] [13]

E-2 Edit

Only very limited numbers of the E-2 variant were built, for which the V20 prototype served as basis. It was armed with two wing-mounted, and one engine-mounted Motorkanone MG FF cannon, which gave considerable trouble in service, as well as two synchronized MG 17s cowl machine guns. In August 1940, II./JG 27 was operating this type. [17] [18]

E-3 Edit

To improve the performance of the Bf 109E, the last two real prototypes (V16 and V17) were constructed. These received some structural improvements and more powerful armament. Both were the basis of the Bf 109 E-3 version. The E-3 was armed with the two MG 17s above the engine and one MG FF cannon in each wing. [19] [20] A total of 1,276 E-3 were built, including 83 E-3a export versions. [12] [13]

E-4 Edit

The E-3 was replaced by the E-4 (with many airframes being upgraded to E-4 standards starting at the beginning of the Battle of Britain), which was different in some small details, most notably by using the modified 20 mm MG-FF/M wing cannon and having improved head armour for the pilot. With the MG FF/M, it was possible to fire a new and improved type of explosive shell, called Minengeschoß (or 'mine-shell'), which was made using drawn steel (the same way brass cartridges are made) instead of being cast as was the usual practice. This resulted in a shell with a thin but strong wall, which had a larger cavity in which to pack a much larger explosive charge than was otherwise possible. The new shell required modifications to the MG FF's mechanism due to the different recoil characteristics, hence the MG FF/M designation.

The cockpit canopy was also revised to an easier-to-produce, "squared-off" design, which also helped improve the pilot's field of view. This canopy, which was also retrofitted to many E-1s and E-3s, was largely unchanged until the introduction of a welded, heavy-framed canopy on the G series in the autumn of 1942. The E-4 would be the basis for all further Bf 109E developments. Some E-4 and later models received a further improved 1,175 PS (1,159 hp, 864 kW) DB601N high-altitude engine known as the E-4/N owing to priority being given to equipping Bf 110s with this engine, one fighter gruppe was converted to this version, starting in July 1940. [21] The E-4 was also available as a fighter-bomber with equipment very similar to the previous E-1/B. It was known as E-4/B (DB 601Aa engine) and E-4/BN (DB 601N engine). A total of 561 of all E-4 versions were built, [13] including 496 E-4s built as such: 250 E-4, 211 E-4/B, 15 E-4/N and 20 E-4/BN. [12]

E-5, E-6 Edit

The E-5 and E-6 were both reconnaissance variants with a camera installation behind the cockpit. The E-5 was a reconnaissance variant of the E-3, the E-6 was a reconnaissance variant of the E-4/N. Twenty-nine E-5s were built and nine E-6s were ordered. [12]

E-7 Edit

The E-7 was the next major production variant, entering service and seeing combat at the end of August 1940. [22] One of the limitations of the earlier Bf 109Es was their short range of 660 km (410 mi) and limited endurance, as the design was originally conceived as a short-range interceptor. [23] The E-7 rectified this problem as it was the first Bf 109 subtype to be able to carry a drop tank, usually the standardized Luftwaffe 300 L (80 US gal) capacity unit mounted on a centre-line rack under the fuselage, which increased its range to 1,325 km (820 mi). Fuel from the drop tank was pumped to the internal fuel tank via a large fuel line that ran up and along the inside starboard wall of the cockpit, with a clear sight glass located in the fuel line's main span so the pilot could easily see the flow of fuel and know when the tank was empty. Alternatively, a bomb could be fitted and the E-7 could be used as a Jabo fighter-bomber. Previous Emil subtypes were progressively retrofitted with the necessary fittings for carrying a drop tank from October 1940. [24] Early E-7s were fitted with the 1,100 PS DB 601A or 1,175 PS DB 601Aa engine, while late-production ones received 1,175 PS DB 601N engines with improved altitude performance – the latter was designated as E-7/N. [25] A total of 438 E-7s of all variants were built. [26]

Bf 109E variants and sub-variants

  • E-0 (Pre-production aircraft with 4 × 7.92 mm/.312 in MG 17 machine guns)
  • E-1 (Similar to E-0)
    • E-1/B (Fighter-bomber version of E-1, usually with DB 601Aa)
    • E-4/B (Fighter-bomber version of E-4, 1 × 250 kg/550 lb bomb, usually with DB 601Aa)
    • E-4 trop (Version of E-4 modified to serve in tropical regions)
    • E-4/N (E-4 with DB601N engine)
    • E-4/BN (Fighter-bomber version of E-4/N, 1 × 250 kg/550 lb bomb)
    • E-7/N (Similar to E-4/N but with optional 300 L tank)
    • E-7/NZ (also known as E-7/Z, an E-7/N with additional GM-1 nitrous oxide injection system)
    • E-7/U2 (Ground attack variant of E-7 with additional armour)

    Prior to the war, the Kriegsmarine had become fascinated with the idea of the aircraft carrier. Borrowing ideas from the British and Japanese (mainly Akagi), they started the construction of Graf Zeppelin as part of the rebuilding of the navy. The air group for the carrier was settled on Messerschmitt Bf 109T fighters and Ju 87C dive bombers. The suffix 'T' denotes Träger (carrier) in German use. [27]

    Despite references to a Bf 109 T-0 version, [27] this version never existed. Seven earlier versions (Bf 109 B, Bf 109 C, Bf 109 E) were converted to test carrier equipment. This included adding a tail-hook, catapult fittings and increasing the wingspan to 11.08 m (36.35 ft). The ailerons were increased in span, as were the slats, and flap travel was increased. The wings were not modified to be folding since the ship Graf Zeppelin was designed around the intended aircraft, so the lifts could accommodate the Bf 109T with its 11 m (36 ft) wingspan. The wings could, however, be detached from the fuselage for transport purposes, as in every version of the Bf 109. [28] [29] [30]

    Following flight tests, especially the catapult tests, 70 T-1 with DB601Ns were to be produced at Fieseler in Kassel, but after seven T-1s were built, the carrier project was cancelled. The remaining 63 of 70 T-1s were built as T-2s without carrier equipment and some of the T-1s may have been "upgraded" to T-2 standard. It was found that the performance of the T-2 was closely comparable to the E-4/N and, because of its ability to take off and land in shorter distances, these fighters were assigned to I/JG.77, deployed in Norway on landing strips which were both short and subject to frequent, powerful cross-winds. [31] At the end of 1941 the unit was ordered to return their aircraft to Germany and received E-3s as replacements. [32] The armament of the Bf 109T consisted of two 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s above the engine and one 20 mm MG FF/M cannon in each wing. [27]

    Interest in Graf Zeppelin revived when the value of aircraft carriers became obvious, and in 1942 the ship was back in the yards for completion. By this time, the Bf 109T was hopelessly outdated and a new fighter would be needed. Messerschmitt responded with the updated Me 155A series, but work on the ship was again canceled and the Me 155 was later re-purposed as a high-altitude interceptor. Design work was transferred to Blohm & Voss and the aircraft was then known as the BV 155.

    The Bf 109Ts were issued to several training units in 1943. Then, in April 1943, the Jagdstaffel Helgoland was formed [33] and operated from Düne until late 1943, when the unit transferred to Lista in south Norway. The unit was renamed as 11./JG 11 as of 30 November 1943 [34] and the Bf 109Ts remained in operation until the summer of 1944, after which some were used in training units in Germany.

    Prototypes Edit

    Development of the new Bf 109 F airframe had begun in 1939. After February 1940, an improved engine, the Daimler-Benz DB 601E, was developed for use with the Bf 109. The engineers at the Messerschmitt facilities took two Bf 109 E-1 airframes and installed this new powerplant. The first two prototypes, V21 (Werknummer (Works number) or W.Nr 5602) and V22 (W.Nr 1800) kept the trapeziform wing shape from the E-1, but the span was reduced by 61 cm (2 ft) by "clipping" the tips. Otherwise the wings incorporated the cooling system modifications described below. V22 also became the testbed for the pre-production DB 601E. The smaller wings had a detrimental effect on the handling so V23, Stammkennzeichen (factory Code) [Notes 1] CE+BP, W.Nr 5603, was fitted with new, semi-elliptical wingtips, becoming the standard wing planform for all future Bf 109 combat versions. The fourth prototype, V24 VK+AB, W.Nr 5604, flew with the clipped wings but featured a modified, "elbow"-shaped supercharger air-intake, which was eventually adopted for production, and a deeper oil cooler bath beneath the cowling. [35] On all of these prototypes, the fuselage was cleaned up and the engine cowling modified to improve aerodynamics.

    Aerodynamic improvements Edit

    Compared to the earlier Bf 109 E, the Bf 109 F was much improved aerodynamically. The engine cowling was redesigned to be smoother and more rounded. The enlarged propeller spinner, adapted from that of the new Messerschmitt Me 210, now blended smoothly into the new engine cowling. [36] Underneath the cowling was a revised, more streamlined oil cooler radiator and fairing. A new ejector exhaust arrangement was incorporated, and on later aircraft a metal shield was fitted over the left hand banks to deflect exhaust fumes away from the supercharger air-intake. The supercharger air-intake was, from the F-1 -series onwards, a rounded, "elbow"-shaped design that protruded further out into the airstream. A new three-blade, light-alloy VDM propeller unit with a reduced diameter of 3 m (9 ft 8.5 in) was used. Propeller pitch was changed electrically, and was regulated by a constant-speed unit, though a manual override was still provided. Thanks to the improved aerodynamics, more fuel-efficient engines and the introduction of light-alloy versions of the standard Luftwaffe 300-litre drop tank, the Bf 109 F offered a much increased maximum range of 1,700 km (1,060 mi) [37] compared to the Bf 109 E's maximum range figure of only 660 km (410 miles) on internal fuel, [38] and with the E-7's provision for the 300-litre drop tank, a Bf 109E so equipped possessed double the range, to 1,325 km (820 mi).

    The canopy stayed essentially the same as that of the E-4, although the handbook for the 'F' stipulated that the forward, lower triangular panel to starboard was to be replaced by a metal panel with a port for firing signal flares. Many F-1s and F-2s kept this section glazed. A two-piece, all-metal armour plate head shield was added, as on the E-4, to the hinged portion of the canopy, although some lacked the curved top section. A bullet-resistant windscreen could be fitted as an option. [39] The fuel tank was self-sealing, and around 1942 Bf 109Fs were retrofitted with additional armour made from layered light-alloy plate just aft of the pilot and fuel tank. The fuselage aft of the canopy remained essentially unchanged in its externals.

    The tail section of the aircraft was redesigned as well. The rudder was slightly reduced in area and the symmetrical fin section changed to an airfoil shape, producing a sideways lift force that swung the tail slightly to the left. This helped increase the effectiveness of the rudder, and reduced the need for application of right rudder on takeoff to counteract torque effects from the engine and propeller. The conspicuous bracing struts were removed from the horizontal tailplanes which were relocated to slightly below and forward of their original positions. A semi-retractable tailwheel was fitted and the main undercarriage legs were raked forward by six degrees to improve the ground handling. An unexpected structural flaw of the wing and tail section was revealed when the first F-1s were rushed into service some aircraft crashed or nearly crashed, with either the wing surface wrinkling or fracturing, or by the tail structure failing. In one such accident, the commander of JG 2 "Richthofen", Wilhelm Balthasar, lost his life when he was attacked by a Spitfire during a test flight. While making an evasive manoeuvre, the wings broke away and Balthasar was killed when his aircraft hit the ground. Slightly thicker wing skins and reinforced spars dealt with the wing problems. Tests were also carried out to find out why the tails had failed, and it was found that at certain engine settings a high-frequency oscillation in the tailplane spar was overlapped by harmonic vibrations from the engine the combined effect being enough to cause structural failure at the rear fuselage/fin attachment point. Initially, two external stiffening plates were screwed onto the outer fuselage on each side, and later the entire structure was reinforced. [35]

    The entire wing was redesigned, the most obvious change being the new quasi-elliptical wingtips, and the slight reduction of the aerodynamic area to 16.05 m 2 (172.76 ft²). Other features of the redesigned wings included new leading edge slats, which were slightly shorter but had a slightly increased chord and new rounded, removable wingtips which changed the planview of the wings and increased the span slightly over that of the E-series. Frise-type ailerons replaced the plain ailerons of the previous models. The 2R1 profile was used with a thickness-to-chord ratio of 14.2% at the root reducing to 11.35% at the last rib. As before, dihedral was 6.53°. [36]

    The wing radiators were shallower and set farther back on the wing. A new cooling system was introduced this system was automatically regulated by a thermostat with interconnected variable position inlet and outlet flaps that would balance the lowest drag possible with the most efficient cooling. A new radiator, shallower but wider than that fitted to the E was developed. A boundary layer duct allowed continual airflow to pass through the airfoil above the radiator ducting and exit from the trailing edge of the upper split flap. The lower split flap was mechanically linked to the central "main" flap, while the upper split flap and forward bath lip position were regulated via a thermostatic valve which automatically positioned the flaps for maximum cooling effectiveness. [40] In 1941 "cutoff" valves were introduced which allowed the pilot to shut down either wing radiator in the event of one being damaged this allowed the remaining coolant to be preserved and the damaged aircraft returned to base. However, these valves were delivered to frontline units as kits, the number of which, for unknown reasons, was limited. [41] These cutoff valves were later factory standard fitting for Bf 109 G [42] and K series. [43] [44]

    Armament Edit

    The armament of the Bf 109 F was revised and now consisted of the two synchronized 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s with 500 rpg above the engine plus a Motorkanone cannon firing through the propeller hub. The pilots' opinion on the new armament was mixed: Oberst Adolf Galland criticised the light armament as inadequate for the average pilot, while Major Walter Oesau preferred to fly a Bf 109 E, and Oberst Werner Mölders saw the single centreline Motorkanone gun as an improvement.

    With the early tail unit problems out of the way, pilots generally agreed that the F series was the best-handling of all the Bf 109 series. [45] Mölders flew one of the first operational Bf 109 F-1s over England from early October 1940 he may well have been credited with shooting down eight Hurricanes and four Spitfires while flying W.No 5628, Stammkennzeichen SG+GW between 11 and 29 October 1940. [46] [47]

    Bf 109 F sub-variants Edit

    F-0, F-1, F-2 Edit

    As the DB 601 E was not yet available in numbers, the pre-production F-0 (the only F variant to have a rectangular supercharger intake) and the first production series F-1/F-2 received the 1,175 PS (1,159 hp, 864 kW) DB 601N engine driving a VDM 9-11207 propeller. [36] The F-0/F-1 and F-2 only differed in their armament the F-1 being fitted with one 20 mm MG FF/M Motorkanone firing through the propeller hub, with 60 rounds. The F-1 first saw action in the Battle of Britain in October 1940 with JG 51. [48] The most experienced fighter aces like Werner Mölders were the first ones to fly Bf 109 F-1s in combat in October 1940. [46] A total of 208 F-1s were built between August 1940 and February 1941 by Messerschmitt Regensburg and the Wiener Neustädter Flugzeugwerke (WNF). [49]

    The F-2 introduced the 15 mm Mauser MG 151 cannon with 200 rounds. [50] As the harder-hitting 20 mm Mauser MG 151/20 version became available, a number of F-2s were retrofitted with it in the field. About 1,230 F-2s were built between October 1940 and August 1941 by AGO, Arado, Erla, Messerschmitt Regensburg and WNF(Wiener Neustädter Flugzeugwerke). [49] No tropical version was built, although F-2s were fitted with sand filters in the field. [51] The maximum speed of the F-1 and F-2 was 615 km/h (382 mph) at rated altitude.

    Icons of Aviation History: Messerschmitt Bf-109

    Although it became one of the most famous aircraft of the Second World War, the Messerchmitt Bf-109 (also referred to as the Me-109) was almost not built at all.

    Messerschmitt Bf-109G on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

    In 1933, the new Hitler regime was already planning for a war in Europe, and the secretly-rebuilding Luftwaffe was already seeking new high-performance aircraft–in violation of the Versailles Treaty. The Bayerische Flugzeug Werke (BFW), run by Willy Messerschmitt, was anxious to get in on the action, but Messerschmitt didn’t get along with the Nazi official in charge of procurement, Erhard Milch, and was blocked from bidding on military contracts. Desperate to keep the company financially afloat, BFW accepted an order to build cargo craft for Romania. This irked the hyper-nationalist Nazis, and when Messerschmitt complained that he had no choice but to accept foreign contracts unless he was allowed to bid on German orders, Herman Goering intervened and Milch relented.

    As it happened, the Air Ministry had just issued a set of requirements for a modern mono-wing all-metal fighter with two machine guns, to use the new V-12 engine being secretly developed by Daimler and Jumo. (To hide the project from the Allies, the Germans designated it as a “courier aircraft”.) Messerschmitt’s proposal was designated the Bf-109. The first prototype was tested in September 1935, with two .30-caliber machine guns in the nose. Because the Daimler V-12 was not ready yet, the prototype flew with the smaller Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine from Britain. In 1936, the British began work on the Hurricane and Spitfire fighters, which would carry at least four machine guns in the wings. The Bf-109A had been designed with a thin wing which had no room for guns, so to keep up with the British a third machine gun was added to the Messerschmitt, firing through the propeller hub, and in later prototypes this was upgraded to a 20mm cannon. The new version was dubbed the Bf-109B (“Bertha”). In November 1937 a modified 109B set a new speed record of 379.38mph.

    In April 1937, the first batch of production Messerschmitts were sent to Spain, where Germany was backing the regime of Francisco Franco in the Civil War. At first, biplane pilots found the new monoplane difficult to fly. The Bf-109’s strong engine torque, combined with the narrow landing gear, made takeoffs and landings difficult, and several pilots died in wrecks. But once this transition was made, the new fighters proved themselves to be superior to the Soviet-made Polikarpov I-16’s flown by the Spanish Republicans. The Messerschmitt’s first air combat victories came on July 8, when two Bf-109’s shot down two Tupolev bombers.

    Messerschmitt Bf-109G on display at the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah GA

    In the fighting that followed over the next two years, Messerschmitt ace Werner Molders developed new tactics that took advantage of the plane’s speed and maneuverability. At this time, most fighter forces were using a flight formation called a “vic”, which was a V-shaped pattern of three aircraft. The theory was that the lead plane would search for and shoot down the enemy while the two wingmen would protect the leader. In reality, however, the vic formation was difficult to maintain and required a lot of attention, which made the whole flight vulnerable. Molder instead organized his formations into two pairs, with each wingman covering his partner and the flight set into a loose formation he called a “finger four”. Molders would go on to score 115 air victories in Spain, France, and England before being killed in a transport crash in 1941.

    Messerschmitt, meanwhile, was also learning the lessons from the Spanish Civil War. The 109B model was followed in quick succession by the 109C (“Clara”) and the 109D (“Dora”), each with better armament and more powerful engines.

    By 1939, the Messerschmitt was undergoing more radical improvements. Daimler had a new fuel-injected V-12 DB601 engine, producing 1,050 horsepower, and this was fitted to the 109’s airframe to push the speed to 350mph. The bigger engine required additional radiators, and these were placed in new redesigned thicker wings–which were also adapted to hold two 20mm cannons. The plane also got a name change, as the “Bayerische Flugzeug Werke” was renamed “Messerschmitt AG”. The new version was designated the Me-109E “Emil”. It began entering service in 1939. Almost 1,000 of them were produced, with a number being sold to Switzerland and Yugoslavia. Three were sent to Japan for testing, but the Japanese ultimately decided to go with their own Zero and Oscar designs instead.

    When World War II broke out, the Emil was Germany’s frontline fighter. In Poland, it quickly cleared the skies of obsolete Polish PZ fighters. In France, it proved itself more than a match for the French MS.406 and the British Hurricane. And by August 1940 it was poised to take on England’s best fighter, the Spitfire.

    On paper, the Messerschmitt and the Spitfire were a pretty even match, with each having both advantages and disadvantages over the other. But in the end the Me-109E was severely crippled by its limited fuel supply and its short range. Flying across the English Channel from bases in France and tied to the slow bombers they were escorting, the Emils had only 10-15 minutes to engage the British Spitfires before they ran low on fuel and had to turn and fly for home. Many Messerschmitt pilots waited too long, ran out of gas on the way back, and had to ditch in the Channel.

    Even as the Germans were losing the Battle of Britain, however, Messerschmitt was working on a new version. The Bf-109’s short range, he decided, made it more suited for the role of defensive fighter, and the next version, the Me-109F “Friedrich”, was optimized for that task. The engine was a larger 1200 horsepower, the airframe was streamlined for more speed, and the armament was reduced to two .30-cal machine guns in the cowling and one 20mm cannon in the propeller hub. Although the pilots were unhappy with the reduced armament, the Me-109F regained the parity that the Emil had lost to the latest-model Spitfire, the Mk V. In North Africa, “Trop” versions of the Friedrich, with filters and screens to protect against sand, were fitted with bomb racks and used for ground attack.

    In the summer of 1942, the best variant of the Messerschmitt was introduced, the Me-109G “Gustav”. The 1475-horsepower DB 605A engine could drive it at almost 390mph, and a methanol injector was added which gave a temporary boost of power over 420mph. The two .30-cal machine guns were replaced by .50-cals, giving it greater punch. In 1943 there were 6,500 109G’s produced, followed by 14,000 in 1944. To help with production, the Messerschmitt was also produced by the Fieseler company under license. Although the Gustav was outclassed by later Allied fighters like the Spitfire Mk XIV, the P-51D, and the Yak-9, it remained in production till the end of the war. Some 109G’s were fitted with unguided 210mm rockets to attack Allied bombers.

    In 1945, a new Me-109K “Konrad” version was fitted with two 20mm cannons in the cowling and one 30mm cannon in the propeller hub, but by this time Germany was already near defeat and few of them were built.

    In total, the Nazis produced over 33,000 Messerschmitts in various models, making it the second most-produced airplane in history (behind the Soviet Ilyushin-2). Me-109’s shot down more aircraft than any other fighter, and most of the top aces of the war, some with more than 300 air victories, flew Messerschmitts.

    After Germany’s surrender in 1945, the Messerschmitt flew on for a few decades. License-built versions of the Konrad were produced in Spain and in Czechoslovakia in the 1950’s and flew until 1967. (When the classic movie “The Battle of Britain” was filmed in 1969, it was Spanish-made Messerschmitts that were used by the production crew as stand-ins for Me-109E’s.) Around two dozen of the Czech Messerschmitts made their way to Israel in 1948, where they flew for a few years before being replaced by British Spitfires.

    Today, around two dozen wartime Messerschmitts still survive, including E, F and G models.

    In July 1944, a Frenchman named Rene Darbois climbed into his German Bf-109G fighter on his first combat mission–and promptly flew to Italy and landed at an Allied airfield to defect, claiming that the Nazis had forced him to fly for the Luftwaffe. His plane was sent to the US for evaluation, and was donated to the Smithsonian in 1948. It remains on display.

    Messerschmitt Bf 109D-1

    The Messerschmitt Bf 109 arrived in time to change the course of the air war during the Spanish Civil War and continually improved to become a top-notch German fighter during World War II.

    Illustration by Adam Tooby. From "Air Vanguard No. 18 Messerschmitt Bf 109 A–D Series," by Robert Jackson © Osprey Publishing, Ltd.

    Length: 28 feet 6.5 inches
    Wingspan: 32 feet 4.5 inches
    Height: 11 feet 2 inches
    Empty weight: 3,872 pounds
    Loaded weight: 5,340 pounds
    Power plant: Junkers Jumo 210D (640 hp)
    Max speed: 360 mph
    Service ceiling: 32,800 feet
    Armament: Four 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns

    German fighter pilots of the Condor Legion, flying Heinkel He 51s in support of Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War, were initially shocked to encounter Soviet pilots on the Republican side flying two superior Soviet designs—the Polikarpov I-15 biplane and the I-16, the world’s first low-wing monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear. Help soon arrived, however, in the form of the Messerschmitt Bf 109B.

    In September 1935 Wilhelm Emil “Willy” Messerschmitt, chief designer and co-director of Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW), rolled out the prototype of a monoplane fighter with a narrow monocoque fuselage, hydraulically retractable undercarriage, enclosed cockpit, leading-edge slats and trailing-edge slotted flaps in the wings. Despite its high wing loading—which handicapped maneuverability at low speeds—the Bf 109V1’s outstanding performance earned it a production contract, an urgent decision prompted by the concurrent appearance of Britain’s Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire and the July 1936 outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. In March 1937 the first production Bf 109Bs entered service in Spain, and on April 6 1st Lt. Günther Lützow shot down an I-15, scoring the 109’s first victory.

    The Bf 109Bs became a Condor Legion mainstay, their pilots developing tactics that would become standard during World War II. The aircraft also saw continual improvement with rollout of the Bf 109C and Bf 109D. By 1939 Messerschmitt had acquired a controlling share of BFW, and he replaced the Bf 109D’s Junkers Jumo 210D engine with the fuel-injected Daimler-Benz DB 601A to produce the Me 109E—a change of power plant that turned a good fighter into a truly great one. MH

    Messerschmitt Bf 109B-1 - History

    The Messerschmitt Me 109T was the projected carrier version of the Me 109E model. About 70 planes of this version were build by Fieseler, several modifications had to be made to adapt these single seat fighters for the use on aircraft carriers:

    • T-0: 10 Me 109E-3 modified by Fieseler in 1939/40, Span enhanced to 11.06 meters, arrestor hook and catapult mountings. Those aircraft were planed to be used on the Graf Zeppelin and were later used by I/JG 77.
    • T-1: like T-0, 60 build by Fieseler and delivered to JG 5. Since the carrier was not completed, all planes were modified to T-2
    • T-2: All equipment for carrier operations removed.

    The first 10 aircraft were of the pre production Series (T-0), followed by 60 production aircraft of the T-1 series. When construction of the Graf Zeppelin was halted in 1940, further development of the Me 109 T was stopped, too. In late 1940 Fiesler was ordered to complete the 60 T-1 models but to remove all all carrier-equipment. The result were 60 aircraft of the now called T-2 series which were able to operate from short land airstrips.

    The first aircraft were delivered in the beginning of 1941 and were used in Norway until the summer of 1942. The surviving aircraft were then transferred to the Helgoland, a small island in the North Sea, where they were used for point defense up to late 1944.

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    The Greatest Fighter Plane of WW2: Messerschmitt’s Killing Machine BF109

    [I was unaware that this plane shot down more aircraft than any other plane that has ever flown. I can't find accurate statistics, but it runs into the tens of thousands of planes. The top 100 German aces alone shot down 15,000 enemy aircraft. In total, 33,000 BF109's were produced. Jan]

    The notoriety that it gained as the backbone of the Luftwaffe’s fighter force is barely half the story of Willy Messerschmitt’s ubiquitous creation.

    Few arguments are more futile–yet more perennially enticing–than the question of which was the greatest fighter of World War II. What criterion does one use to define “great?” Performance? Versatility? Combat record? Don’t ask veteran fighter pilots to settle the matter. They have their own opinions, best expressed by the late Soviet ace of aces Ivan Kozhedub’s answer to the question: “The La-7. I hope you understand why.” The Lavochkin La-7 was indisputably a great fighter. More important, it was his fighter.

    One mark of a great fighter was the loyalty it earned from its pilots, and aircraft such as the Hawker Hurricane, Grumman F6F Hellcat, Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, North American P-51 Mustang, Yakovlev Yak-3 and Mitsubishi A6M Zero still have their die-hard partisans. Aviation enthusiasts’ attachment to some planes, like the Supermarine Spitfire, transcends loyalty and can best be described as outright affection.

    To that list must inevitably be added the Messerschmitt Me-109. Perhaps it was not the best performer of the war, and even its pilots would admit that it was not the safest or most comfortable plane to fly. But its combat record, from beginning to end, was monumental, and it was the weapon of choice for the greatest fighter pilots in history. Comparing the Me-109G with the Brewster B-239 that he had flown previously, Finnish ace of aces Eino Ilmari Juutilainen said that “while the Brewster was a gentleman’s airplane, the Messerschmitt was a killing machine.”

    That impression was echoed by Eric Brown, a Royal Navy pilot who test-flew an Me-109G in 1944: “The Bf-109 always brought to my mind the adjective ‘sinister.’ It has been suggested that it evinced the characteristics of the nation that conceived it, and to me it always looked lethal from any angle, on the ground or in the air once I had climbed into its claustrophobic cockpit, it felt lethal!”

    Anyone who flew the Me-109, and anyone who faced it in battle, would be inclined to agree. The P-47 inspired awe. The Zero earned loyalty. The Spitfire gained devotion. The Me-109 commanded respect.

    The man behind the machine, Wilhelm Emil Messerschmitt, was born on June 26, 1898, in Frankfurt-am-Main, the son of a wine merchant. By 1931, he was co-manager of the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke Allgemeine Gesellschaft (BFW), which underwent bankruptcy proceedings on June 1 of that year. BFW was eventually revived on May 1, 1933, but by then one of Messerschmitt’s chief detractors, Erhard Milch, had become the newly empowered Nazi Party’s undersecretary of aviation.

    In mid-1933, Messerschmitt began work on a four-passenger light transport of cantilever low-wing monoplane design, with retractable landing gear. Completed in the spring of 1934, the BFW M.37, later redesignated Bf-108 Taifun (“typhoon”), was entered in the fourth Challenge de Tourisme Internationale. Although the Bf-108 did not win any of the events, its performance was impressive, and it earned a production contract.

    Even before the Bf-108 had made its first flight, Messerschmitt learned that the RLM (Reichsluftfahrtministerium, or air ministry) was about to issue a specification for a fighter, to be powered by the Junkers Jumo 210 engine and to be capable of at least 280 mph. Officially, most German airplane manufacturers were invited to submit designs unofficially, only the established firms like Arado, Heinkel, Fieseler and Focke Wulf could expect serious consideration. Milch did not even inform BFW of the competition, but unknown to him, his superior, Aviation Minister Hermann Göring, had forwarded a confidential message to Messerschmitt, asking him to develop “a lighting-fast courier plane which needs only to be a single-seater.” It was obvious to Messerschmitt that Göring was actually alluding to a fighter.

    Messerschmitt and the design team at BFW’s Augsburg factory–principally Robert Lusser, Richard Bauer and Hubert Bauer–set about incorporating the Bf-108’s features into a low-wing monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear, an enclosed cockpit, leading-edge slots and trailing-edge flaps in the wings. While work proceeded on the Versuchs (prototype) Bf-109 fighter, Germany officially established the Luftwaffe on March 1, 1935, and Adolf Hitler publicly renounced the Treaty of Versailles restrictions on German rearmament on March 16.

    The first prototype, the Bf-109V-1, flew for the first time on May 29, 1935, a mere three months from the official establishment of the Luftwaffe. (National Archives)

    The prototype Bf-109V-1 was completed in August 1935, and evaluation flights began at the RLM’s test center at Rechlin, initially using a 675-hp Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine in place of the Jumo. The Bf-109V-2, completed in October, introduced the 610-hp Jumo 210A as well as a strengthened undercarriage, and the Bf-109V-3, delivered in June 1936, was the first to be armed with an engine-mounted 7.92mm MG 17 machine gun.

    In spite of its high wing loading, which limited its maneuverability at low speeds, the Bf-109 yielded such outstanding performance that the RLM quickly eliminated the Arado Ar-80 and Focke Wulf Fw-159 from consideration. That left only the Heinkel He-112 as a possible competitor. Ten preproduction Bf-109B-0s were ordered, but then two events occurred that would affect the Bf-109’s fate.

    June 1936 saw the issuance by Britain’s Royal Air Force of production contracts for 600 Hawker Hurricane fighters and 310 Supermarine Spitfires. The latter, first flown on March 5, had characteristics similar to the Bf-109V-1’s. The potential threat posed by those new British fighters added urgency to Germany’s fighter development efforts, and armament on the Bf-109V-4, introduced in November, was increased to three MG 17s.

    The other pivotal event was the revolt of Spain’s conservative elements under General Francisco Franco y Bahamonde against the Republican government, followed by the dispatch of German aircraft to Franco’s aid, all of which occurred in July 1936. The following November, eager Luftwaffe volunteers were formed into the Condor Legion to fight for Franco’s Nationalists. By then the Soviet Union had sent aircraft and pilots to aid the Spanish Republic, including the Polikarpov I-15 biplane and the I-16, the world’s first low-wing monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear and an enclosed canopy. To the Germans’ alarm, both Soviet fighters completely outclassed their Heinkel He-51 biplanes. In consequence, the Germans rushed the Bf-109V-4 to Spain in December, to be followed by Bf-109B-1s (aka “Berthas”), the first of which left the production line in February 1937. Spain would provide a combat environment in which to refine the Bf-109 as a fighter–and the tactics to use it to best effect.

    The first operational unit in Spain, 2. Staffel of Jagdgruppe 88 (2.J/88) under Oberleutnant Günther Lützow, began receiving its new fighters in March. Operations were initially plagued by accidents, but its pilots soon overcame the challenge of taking off and landing on a narrow-track undercarriage in an airplane that tended to drop its left wing, by applying plenty of compensation with the rudder. Once they had overcome the Bf-109B’s eccentricities, they commenced operations over the Brunete salient on July 10, 1937.

    The Bf-109B and its principal rival, the I-16, were at first closely matched. The Bf-109B was faster in level flight and in a dive, while the I-16 had a superior climb rate and maneuverability. Republican ace and fighter squadron leader Andres Garcia Lacalle commented in his memoirs that the I-16 was superior to the Messerschmitt up to 3,000 meters (9,840 feet), but from that altitude upward, the Bf-109B’s performance achieved complete mastery over that of the I-16.

    The Spanish Civil War provided a nearly ideal testing ground for the new fighter, and its pilots. (Museo del Aire-Madrid)

    The Messerschmitt drew first blood in the air on July 8, when Leutnant Rolf Pingel and Unteroffizier Guido Höness were credited with two Tupolev SB-2 bombers, although the Republicans attributed only one of those two losses to a Bf-109, the other having fallen victim to a Fiat C.R.32. A series of air battles fought on July 12 resulted in the downing of two Aero A-101s by Höness, an SB-2 by Pingel and three I-16s by Pingel, Feldwebel Peter Boddem and Feldwebel Adolf Buhl. Höness was shot down and killed while attacking another SB-2 that same day–the first of thousands of Messerschmitt pilots to die in combat.

    During the second Ebro campaign, between July and October 1938, Oberleutnant Werner Mölders of 3.J/88 developed a significant fighter tactic. By combining two Rotte, the basic two-man elements within a Staffel, into a loose but mutually supportive team, he created an infinitely flexible offensive and defensive unit that he called the Vierfingerschwarm (“four-finger formation”). That fundamental concept would become the basis for numerous variations. Mölders himself was the leading ace of the Condor Legion, with 14 victories, and on July 15, 1941, he became the first fighter pilot to pass the 100-kill mark. When he died in a transport plane crash on November 22, 1941, his score stood at 115.

    While the Bf-109 was being blooded over Spain, its capabilities were also being demonstrated to the world in Switzerland. At the Fourth International Flying Meeting, held at Zürich in July and August 1937, Bf-109Bs won four first prizes. Back in Germany, the Bf-109V-13, using a boosted 1,650-hp version of the Daimler-Benz DB 601 engine and flown by Hermann Wurster, set a landplane speed record of 379.8 mph on November 11. Ernst Heinkel, whose He-112 was rapidly losing ground to the Messerschmitt, responded with a sleeker design, the He-100. With German fighter-inspector Ernst Udet at the controls, an He-100V-3 achieved a speed of 394.4 mph on June 6, 1938, and an He-100V-8, flown by Hans Dieterle, reached 463.92 mph on March 30, 1939.

    Not to be outdone, Messerschmitt undertook a major redesign of his basic fighter, producing the Me-209V-1, with a special DB 601ARJ engine that could boost its power from 1,500 hp to 2,300 hp for about one minute, bringing the maximum speed up to 469.22 mph on April 29. At that point the Bf-109 was in full production, and the Nazi Propaganda Ministry falsely designated the record-making plane the “Bf-109R” (to make it seem like a less-radical variant on an existing fighter type), while the RLM barred Heinkel from trying to outdo the Messerschmitt. As a result, that official piston-engine speed record would stand for the next 30 years.

    Guided by lessons learned in Spain, Messerschmitt produced a rapid succession of improved fighters. The Bf-109C-1 (“Clara”), with a fuel-injected Jumo 210Ga engine and four machine guns, arrived in Spain in the spring of 1938, followed by the Bf-109C-2, with a fifth machine gun mounted in the engine. The Bf-109D (“Dora”), five of which joined 3./J88 in August, combined the Bf-109C-1’s four-gun armament with the Bf-109B-1’s carburetor-equipped Jumo 210Da engine. Meanwhile, Messerschmitt’s experiments with the fuel-injected Daimler-Benz DB 600 and DB 601 engines, which were hampered by cooling problems, ultimately resulted in burying two radiators in the plane’s wings, leaving only an oil cooler under the fuselage. In addition, the DB 601A-powered Bf-109V-14’s armament increased to two MG 17 machine guns in the nose and two 20mm MG FF cannons in the wings, along with a three-bladed controllable-pitch VDM airscrew. The result was put into production in early 1939 as the Me-109E-1, soon to be nicknamed “Emil” by its pilots.

    The fighter’s revised designation, which has caused confusion and controversy among aviation historians for decades, reflected the complete acquisition of BFW stock by Willy Messerschmitt in late 1938. According to the Luftwaffe’s own historical records, the old “Bf” reference was retained for the Bf-108, the Bf-109B through D, and the Bf-110A and B Zerstörer twin-engine fighters. All other Messerschmitt products, starting with the Me-109E and Me-110C, officially used the “Me” prefix, although the issue would continue to be confused in the years to come by the appearance of the “Bf” prefix on stamped plates on various Me-109 components as late as 1945.

    Soon after the Me-109E-1 entered production, Messerschmitt designed a naval version with an extended wingspan, a strengthened airframe and an arrestor hook. Designated the Me-109T (for Träger, or carrier), it was intended for use aboard the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin. The project was dropped when construction on Graf Zeppelin was halted in 1940, but some production Me-109T-1s and a fighter-bomber variant, the Me-109T-2, saw operational use with land-based units up to the summer of 1942.

    The Luftwaffe had 946 operational Me-109s when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. In addition, some 300 Me-109Es were exported to Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Romania and Spain between April 1939 and April 1940. Three Me-109E-3s were also shipped to Japan for evaluation early in 1941. The Japanese soon abandoned the idea of producing Emils under license, but the Allies took the possibility seriously enough to give the “Japanese Me-109” the code name “Mike.”

    Two of the export orders were to cause some embarrassment later. In May 1940, three Heinkel He-111s that had strayed into Swiss airspace were shot down by Swiss-flown Me-109Es. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring reacted by deliberately sending France-bound bomber formations over Switzerland with an escort of Me-110s. The clashes that ensued resulted in the loss of seven more German and three Swiss aircraft, after which Göring prudently relented. When the Germans invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941, the Luftwaffe again had to deal with opposition from its own Me-109Es, fiercely flown by Yugoslav pilots.

    The Emil spearheaded German air offensives against Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and France in 1940, overwhelming such opponents as the Fokker D.XXI, Morane-Saulnier MS.406 and Hawker Hurricane. The German Experten (aces with 10 or more victories) finally met their match over Dunkirk in May 1940, when they first encountered the Supermarine Spitfire. The rivalry between those two classic fighters would continue throughout the Battle of Britain. The Messerschmitt had the advantage in high-altitude performance, as well as in the ability of its fuel-injected engine to function even while inverted, when a Spitfire’s Rolls-Royce Merlin power plant would be starved for fuel. The Spitfire’s lower wing loading endowed it with superior maneuverability, but the Messerschmitt’s principal disadvantage lay in its limited range. After 20 to 30 minutes over the average British target, a Messerschmitt pilot would have to break off his engagement or he would run out of fuel before he could return to base across the English Channel.

    After rolling over the opposition in the early stages of the war the fighter met its equal over Britain in the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane. (IWM HU 1245)

    Even before the Me-109Es commenced their ultimately unsuccessful struggle for aerial mastery over Britain, work had begun on a new, aerodynamically refined model in the spring of 1940. One Me-109E was fitted with a 1,300-hp DB 601E-1 engine in a new symmetrical cowling, with the supercharger air intake set farther back to increase the ram effect. A larger, rounded spinner was fitted to the propeller, shallower radiators with boundary layer bypasses were incorporated under the wing and a cantilever tail plane replaced the strut-braced version. After being test-flown on July 10, 1940, the new type was further refined by the addition of new wings with rounded tips, a smaller rudder and a fully retractable tail wheel.

    Designated the Me-109F-0, the new Messerschmitt was tested late in 1940 and accepted. The production Me-109F-1, powered by a 1,200-hp DB 601N, with an engine-mounted 20mm MG FF cannon and two cowl-mounted 7.9mm MG 17 machine guns, began to reach operational units in January 1941. The Me-109F-2 version of “Franz,” as its pilots called it, replaced the MG FF with a higher velocity 15mm MG 151 cannon, while the Me-109F-3 returned to the DB 601E engine in early 1942.

    Franz appeared as the Spitfire Mk.V was getting the better of the Me-109E in the cross-Channel duels that followed the Battle of Britain, and re-established ascendancy over the British fighter, especially at high altitudes. Me-109F-4/Bs, equipped with fuselage racks for a single 551-pound SC 250 bomb, frequently darted across the Channel on hit-and-run Jagdbomber, or “Jabo,” missions. In the first year of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the veteran Me-109E and Me-109F pilots ran up astronomical scores against the outdated I-16s, as well as newer Lavochkin-Gorbunov-Gudkov LaGG-3s and Yakovlev Yak-1s flown by less experienced Soviet pilots. Me-109F-4/Trop variants, with tropical filters to guard their engines against sand and dust, took an equally heavy toll on British aircraft over North Africa and the Mediterranean. Among the desert Messerschmitt pilots of Jagdgeschwader 27 “Afrika” was the top-scoring German ace in the West, Hans-Joachim Marseille, who piled up 158 victories, including 17 in one day, before his death on September 30, 1942.

    The next improvement in the series involved the introduction of the 1,475-hp DB 605A engine in the Me-109G-1, which entered service in the late summer of 1942. The first “Gustav,” as the G model was nicknamed, had a basic armament of one 20mm MG 151 cannon and two 7.9mm MG 17 machine guns, but the Me-109G-5 introduced two 13mm MG 131 machine guns in place of the MG 17s. The cowlings of that and subsequent Me-109G models required enlarged fairings over the breechlocks and ammunition feeds that earned them the alternate sobriquet of Beule (“bump”).

    The Me-109G was the most numerous of the Messerschmitts, with production reaching 725 a month by July 1943, and that year’s total reaching 6,418 aircraft. In spite of Allied bombing raids against German industry, Me-109 production for 1944 reached 14,212. In addition to the Messerschmitts produced in Germany, Hungary built about 700 Me-109Gs under license at Budapest and Györ until September 1944. Romania also began licensed production in the IAR plant at Brasov, but completed only 16 Me-109G-6s and assembled 30 others from German-delivered components before its facilities were destroyed by bombers of the U.S. Fifteenth Air Force on May 6, 1944.

    Neutral Switzerland acquired 12 Me-109G-6s as part of a deal for destroying an Me-110G-4/R7 equipped with the latest Liechtenstein SN-2 radar and oblique-firing Schräge-Musik 20mm cannons, after the night fighter had accidentally landed at spy-infested Dübendorf on April 28, 1944. The Gustavs, and two other Me-109Gs that were interned after straying into Swiss airspace, were assigned to Fliegerkompagnie 7, but they were unreliable due to deteriorating German production standards at that point in the war, and saw little use.

    Although somewhat past its prime as a first-line fighter, the Me-109G remained a foe to be reckoned with right to the end of the fighting, due in part to its fuel-injected DB 605A engine, but primarily due to the expertise and ingenuity of its pilots. The Gustavs were flown at one time or another by all the greatest aces of the Axis powers, including Finland’s Eino Ilmari Juutilainen (94 victories), Alexandru Serbanescu of Romania (45), Mato Dukovac of Croatia (40), Dezsö Szent-Györgyi of Hungary (32), Ján Reznak of Slovakia (32), Stoyan Stoyanov of Bulgaria (6) and Spanish volunteer Gonzalo Hevia Alvarez Quiñones (12). A squadron of anti-Stalinist Russians who had allied themselves with the Germans was also equipped with Me-109E-1s several of its pilots scored 15 or more victories, and one, Leonidas Maximciuc, claimed 52. Some Italian aces added to their scores flying Me-109Gs in 1943 and 1945. The only noteworthy Axis aces who did not put in some flying hours in Me-109s were Japanese.

    301-victory ace Gerhard Barkhorn had high praise for the Messerschmitt, as would many a Luftwaffe fighter pilot. (Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-649-5355-04A Bild Heinz))

    Leading them all, of course, were the Germans themselves. The all-time ace of aces, Erich Hartmann, scored all of his 352 victories in the Me-109, preferring to stay with it rather than take the time to familiarize himself with more advanced types. Gerhard Barkhorn, the Luftwaffe’s second-ranking ace with 301 victories, considered the Me-109F his favorite fighter. Günther Rall, the third-ranking German ace with 275 victories, flew all variants of the Me-109 from E to K, as well as putting in a brief stint in the Focke Wulf Fw-109D. Rall echoed Hartmann’s sentiments: “I liked the 109 most because I was familiar with it.”

    Not everyone who flew the Me-109 liked it. Walter Nowotny, the leading Austrian ace, scored his first successes in Me-109Es but soon moved on to the Fw-190A, in which he gained most of his 258 victories. For every German who preferred the familiarity of the Me-109 there was another who was happier flying the Fw-190, the Me-262 jet or anything else.

    By mid-1943, the Allies were fielding a new generation of fighters equal or superior to the Me-109G, such as the Spitfire Mk.IX and XIV, P-51B Mustang, P-47D Thunderbolt and Yak-9D. British Captain Eric Brown said that the captured Me-109G-6/U2 he test-flew in 1944 was “delightful to fly” at its cruising speed of 240 mph, but in a 400-mph dive, “the controls felt as though they had seized!” On the whole, he concluded that “providing the Gustav was kept where it was meant to be (i.e., above 25,000 feet/7,620 meters), it performed efficiently both in dogfighting and as an attacker of bomber formations.”

    Even when outclassed, the Messerschmitt could surprise its adversaries. Thomas L. Hayes, Jr., a P-51 ace of the 357th Fighter Group with 8 1/2 victories, recalled diving after a fleeing Me-109G until both aircraft neared the sound barrier and their controls locked. Both pilots took measures to slow down, but to Hayes’ astonishment, the Me-109 was the first to pull out of its dive. As he belatedly regained control of his Mustang, Hayes was grateful that the German pilot chose to quit while he was ahead and fly home instead of taking advantage of Hayes’ momentary helplessness. Hayes also stated that while he saw several Fw-190s stall and even crash during dogfights, he never saw an Me-109 go out of control.

    Allied pilots who had the opportunity to sit in the Me-109’s cockpit claimed it to be so narrow that they could barely work the control column between their knees. “The windscreen supports were slender and did not produce serious blind spots,” said Eric Brown, “but space was so confined that movement of the head was difficult for even a pilot of my limited stature.” The British and their American colleagues were also appalled at its minimal instrumentation. Soviet ace Vitali I. Popkov, who scored 41 victories in LaGG-3s and La-5FNs, flew a captured Me-109 and, like his Western colleagues, came away amazed that its pilots had been able to perform as well as they did.

    It has been said, however, that where you sit is where you stand, and German Me-109 pilots saw things from a decidedly different perspective. Franz Stigler, a 28-victory Experte, test-flew captured American fighters and commented: “I didn’t like the Thunderbolt. It was too big. The cockpit was immense and unfamiliar. After so many hours in the snug confines of the [Me-109], everything felt out of reach and too far away from the pilot. Although the P-51 was a fine airplane to fly…it too was disconcerting. With all those levers, controls and switches in the cockpit, I’m surprised [American] pilots could find the time to fight.”

    As the war turned against Germany, Me-109Gs carried a variety of armament to counter the growing armadas of Allied bombers. One such weapon was the 210mm Nebelwerfer 42 rocket, two of which were mounted in Wfr.Gr.21 Dodel launchers under the wings of Me-109G-6/R2 Pulk Zerstörer (“formation destroyers”). Although inaccurate, the rockets were capable of throwing bomber groups into disarray. The Germans added two 20mm MG 151 cannons in Rüstsatz 6 underwing-mounted gondolas on the Me-109G-6/R6, and 30mm MG 108s on the Me-109G-6/U4. Although devastating against American bombers, the Kanonenboote (“gunboats”), as their pilots called them, were unable to outmaneuver or outrun the Allied fighter escorts.

    Constant upgrades, heavier armament and more powerful engines kept the Me-109 in the fight till the bitter end. (National Archives)

    In 1943, JG.1’s Me-109G pilots began dropping 551-pound bombs on American bomber formations in hopes of dispersing them. The Me-109G-6/N, equipped with a variety of navigation equipment, including an FuG 350 Naxos Z receiver in a small glass dome aft of the cockpit for homing in on the H2S radar of RAF Pathfinders, was briefly employed by JG.300 early in 1944 for lone Wilde Sau (“wild pig”) attacks on British bombers at night. A spate of landing accidents at night and in bad weather led to the abandonment of the night-fighting Gustavs. In the Mistel (“mistletoe”) project, Me-109Fs and Fw-190As were mounted on the backs of unmanned Ju-88s packed with explosives. When they neared a target, the manned fighters would separate from the Ju-88s, and the pilots would guide the flying bombs to the targets by radio.

    In the fall of 1944, a series of boosted DB 605 engines gave the Me-109 another new lease on life. The DB 605D featured a GM1 nitrous oxide injection system, while the DB 605ASM, ASB, ASC, DB and DC variants had MW 50 methanol injection systems that briefly boosted its power from 1,550 to 2,000 hp. The engines were installed in the Me-109G-6AS, G-10 and G-14. The Me-106G-10, which also eliminated the Beule by covering the machine-gun breechlocks under a more carefully streamlined cowling, was the fastest of the Gustavs, with a speed of 428 mph at 25,000 feet.

    Late-model Me-109G-6s, G-10s and G-14s featured a new, taller, unbalanced wooden tail and rudder assembly, as well as a modified canopy offering better pilot visibility, known as the Galland hood. Training versions of the Me-109 were considered as early as 1940, but serious work on such an airplane did not begin until 1942, resulting in the Me-109G-12, essentially a lengthened, two-seat conversion from Me-109G-1, G-5 and G-6 fighters. A twin of a different and more literal sort was the Me-109Z Zwilling, a pair of Me-109Fs joined by a central wing and tail plane extension, with the right cockpit faired over to carry extra fuel. A production version, based on the Me-109G, would have carried five 30mm MG 108 cannons or up to 1,102 pounds of bombs. The Me-109Z prototype was completed in 1943 but was damaged in an Allied air attack before it could be flight tested. The project was dropped in 1944, before the prototype could be repaired, but by a curious coincidence, the Zwilling concept was successfully applied by the Americans to their North American P-51, leading to the development of the P-82 Twin Mustang in April 1945.

    A small number of Me-109H-0 and Me-109H-1 high-altitude interceptors, featuring an enlarged wingspan of 39 feet 1 1/4 inches and a DB 601E-1 engine with GM 1 power boost, were tested in the spring of 1944. The H model could reach an altitude of 47,000 feet but displayed serious flutter in dives, and development was canceled in favor of the Focke Wulf Ta-152. There was no Me-109I, and the Me-109J was a proposed Spanish version to be licensed out to Hispano-Suiza. The experimental Me-109L was to use a 1,750-hp Junkers Jumo 201E engine. The Me-109S would have featured blown flaps to improve its low-speed handling characteristics. The Me-109TL project envisioned jet power, but so many modifications were necessary that it was dropped in favor of the Me-262A.

    The final production wartime variant was the Me-109K, powered by a 1,550-hp DB 605 ASCM/DCM engine with MW 50 methanol injection. Standard armament consisted of one engine-mounted 30mm MK 103 or MK 108 cannon and two 15mm MG 151 cannons in the cowling. Its maximum speed reached 452 mph at 19,685 feet. The Me-109K-2 and Me-109K-4 made their combat debuts during Operation Bodenplatte, a last desperate mass Jabo strike against British and American air bases in France on January 1, 1945. By then, they were too few and too late to have any more effect on the war’s outcome than the more advanced fighters that had been developed by a desperate Nazi war machine.

    May 8, 1945, marked the end of Hitler’s Reich but, curiously, not the end of the Me-109 story. Between 1939 and 1945, 45 Bf-109Bs, 15 Me-109Es, 10 Me-109Fs and 25 Me-109Gs were delivered to Spain. After the war, Hispano Aviación installed 1,300-hp Hispano Suiza 12-Z-89 engines in the Me-109G airframes, the first of which, designated the HA-1109JIL, debuted on March 2, 1945. The company subsequently produced its own version of the Messerschmitt, powered by a Hispano-Suiza 122-17 engine. The HA-1109-KIL first flew in March 1951, and 200 were eventually built. A two-seat trainer version, the HA-1110-KIL, was added in October 1953, and the HA-1112-KIL had a combination of two wing-mounted cannons and underwing rockets. A final version, the HA-1112-MIL Buchon (“Pigeon”), used a 1,400-hp Rolls-Royce Merlin 500/45 engine driving a Rotol four-bladed propeller. Ironically, the Spanish-built Me-109, which used the same engine as its old enemy, the Spitfire, represented its German forebear in the 1969 film The Battle of Britain.

    The story of the Czechoslovakian-built version of the Messerschmitt involves yet another twist of fate. The Avia factory at Prague-Cakovice was to have built the Me-109G-14 under license but had not begun production before the fall of the Reich. With the resurrection of the Czechoslovakian Republic, Avia proceeded with production of that same design, calling it the C-10, along with a two-seat trainer, the C-110, which were respectively designated S-99 and CS-99 by the Czechoslovakian air force.

    As supplies of DB 605 engines dried up, Avia was compelled to use another German engine that it was already producing, the 1,350-hp Junkers Jumo 211F, thus reverting to the Me-109’s original power plant. Unfortunately, the Jumo 211F was heavier, yet less powerful, than the DB 605. Using a broad, paddle-bladed propeller, the C-210 displayed mediocre performance in the air, but its takeoff and landing characteristics were positively vicious. Pressed into military service as the S-199 fighter and CS-199 trainer, the Jumo-engine Avia became known as the Mezec (“mule”) to its unhappy pilots, although it served with the Czech National Security Guard until as late as 1957.

    In 1948, with the Jews of Palestine about to declare statehood in the face of their hostile Arab neighbors, the Czechoslovakians found an outlet for their unloved Mezecs. Ignoring the United Nations-mandated embargo on arms to the Middle East, Czechoslovakia made a deal in early April to sell 10 S-199s to the Jews at the exorbitant rate of $44,600 per fighter, plus $6,890 for equipment, $120,229 for ammunition and a $10,000 ferrying charge. By the time Israel’s statehood was declared on May 14, a mixed bag of foreign volunteers and indigenous Jews, the latter including Mordechai “Modi” Allon and Ezer Weizmann, were hastily striving to master the new fighter.

    Ironically, the Cezch-built version of the Messerschmitt became the backbone of the nascent Israeli Air Force during its fight for independence in 1948. (IAF Museum)

    The Israelis dubbed their first fighter the Sakin (“knife”), but most of the pilots regarded its unofficial Czech sobriquet as more appropriate. Lou Lenart, a former U.S. Marine Vought F4U Corsair veteran of the Pacific War, described the S-199 as “probably the worst airplane that I have ever had the misfortune to fly…you had that monstrous propeller and you had a torque and no rudder trim.”

    Nevertheless, the Sakins were rushed to Tel-Nof Air Base near Tel Aviv, and on May 29, Lenart led Allon, Weizmann and South African volunteer Edward Cohen on a bombing and strafing attack against some 10,000 Egyptian troops advancing on Tel Aviv. The Sakins inflicted some damage, but Eddie Cohen was shot down.

    When two converted Douglas C-47s of the Royal Egyptian Air Force (REAF) tried to bomb Israeli headquarters at Ramat-Gan outside Tel Aviv on June 3, Allon scrambled up to intercept and shot down both. Ironically, the first recorded aerial victories for the Chel Ha’Avir (Israel Defense Force/Air Force, or IDF/AF) were scored in a postwar variation of a German fighter design. A total of seven victories were claimed in S-199s, including one of the Me-109’s traditional adversaries, a Spitfire, by Allon on July 18. The last ace to fly a Messerschmitt variant was Rudolf Augarten, a Jewish American who had scored his first two victories–both Me-109s–in World War II while flying P-47Ds with the 406th Fighter Squadron. Augarten was flying S-199 serial No. D-121 when he downed an REAF Spitfire on October 16, on the same day that Modi Allon, the most successful Sakin pilot, fatally crashed near Hertzeliya. Rudy Augarten later downed three more Egyptian aircraft while flying Spitfires and P-51Ds.

    A total of 25 S-199s served in the IDF/AF, of which three were destroyed by groundfire and eight wrecked or damaged in crashes. By May 1949, Israel had acquired enough Spitfires to render the Sakins unnecessary, and by the end of the year all but one of them had been relegated to the scrap heap. The survivor served as a “gate guardian” at Hatzerim Air Base until April 1988, when it was rescued for restoration and given the status it deserved as an historical relic of the IDF/AF’s desperate formative years.

    The Me-109’s long operational career ended where it had begun–in Spain. The last HA-1112-MIL emerged from Hispano’s Seville plant in late 1956, and the Spanish Messerschmitts soldiered on into the 1960s.

    Although Allied bombing made it difficult to calculate an exact figure, it has been estimated that as many as 33,000 Me-109s of all models were built, making it second only to the Soviet Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik as the most mass-produced warplane in history. Moreover, the ubiquitous Me-109 was credited with shooting down more enemy aircraft and producing more aces than any single fighter in the annals of aerial warfare. Although not the most aesthetically pleasing airplane ever built, the Messerschmitt earned its place among the aviation classics–and, if not affection, at least respect.

    Bf 109F series

    In early 1940, the Augsburg plant began a design improvement program with the intent of incorporating not only structural and aerodynamic modifications to the basic Bf 109 airframe, but also the installation of the higher performing powerplants that were then under development at Daimler-Benz Daimler-Benz AG was a German manufacturer of motor vehicles and internal combustion engines, which was founded in 1926. An Agreement of Mutual Interest – which was valid until 2000 – was signed on 1 May 1924 between Karl Benz's Benz & Cie. and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, which had been founded by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach. Daimler had died in 1900, and Maybach had left in 1907.

    Both companies continued to manufacture their separate automobile and internal combustion engine marques until 28 June 1926, when Benz & Cie. and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft formally merged - becoming Daimler-Benz AG (Aktiengesellschaft) - and agreed that thereafter, all of the factories would use the brand name of "Mercedes-Benz" on their automobiles. The inclusion of the name Mercedes in the new brand name honored the most important model series of DMG automobiles, the Mercedes series, which were designed and built by Wilhelm Maybach. They derived their name from a 1900 engine named after the daughter of Emil Jellinek. Jellinek became one of DMG's directors in 1900, ordered a small number of motor racing cars built to his specifications by Maybach, stipulated that the engine must be named Daimler-Mercedes, and made the new automobile famous through motorsports. That race car later became known as the Mercedes 35 hp. The first of the series of production models bearing the name Mercedes had been produced by DMG in 1902. Jellinek left the DMG board of directors in 1909.

    Although Daimler-Benz is best known for its Mercedes-Benz automobile brand, during World War II, it also created a notable series of aircraft, tank, and submarine engines. Daimler also produced parts for German arms, most notably barrels for the Mauser rifle. During World War II, Daimler-Benz employed slave labour. . The result of this program was the Bf 109F.

    The airframe changes were numerous and resulted in an external configuration that was to remain essentially unchanged through the remainder of the Bf 109 variants. The wing, which had remained the same since the inİtial prototypes of the basic Bf 109, maintained the primary contours and spar structure, but incorporated a pair of significant modifications to reduce drag and improve lifting characteristics. First, the underwing radiators, which were a large contributor to the aircraft's drag, were decreased in height and recessed deeper into the wing through the use of a unique system of flaps and ducts which reduced the turbulence normally associated with the radiator protrusion into the airstream. The installation of this system also resulted in a change in the length and span of both the leading and trailing edge control flaps and the elimination of interconnecting linkage between the flaps and ailerons fitted previously.

    A deeper, more streamlined cowling was also designed which tapered directly from the forward windscreen to the propeller hub and the air intake for the supercharger was moved farther into the airstream to increase the ram-effect of the scooped in air. The propeller hub, or spinner, was enlarged and lengthened to fit the new symmetrical cowling and contoured to reduce turbulent drag factors. In addition, the overall airscrew diameter was reduced by 10 cm (4 inch) through the use of wider blades.

    Major modifications also were incorporated into the tail assembly section where the rudder area was slightly reduced and the tail-plane bracing struts, which had become an identifying feature of earlier Bf 109s, were removed. With the removal of the struts, the new cantilevered tail-plane was moved slightly forward and below the original positioning and the chord thickness increased for structural rigidity.

    Planned for installation of the DB 601E engine which provided 1,350 hp for take-off, the four Bf 109F prototypes and ten pre-production aircraft were initiated in May, 1940. However, service testing and acceptance of the DB 601E had not yet been completed and, as a consequence, powerplant substitutions had to be made.

    The first prototype, Bf 109 V21 utilized the DB 601Aa which had powered the later E-series while the last three prototypes all had early development DB 601E's installed. The Bf 109 V22 was to be utilized primarily for testing of the powerplant while the V23 and V24 aircraft were scheduled to be used for minor modifications to the new design in the area of structural and flight handling characteristics. The most significant change from the initial Bf 109F configuration was incorporated into V23, when elliptically shaped detachable wingtips were added to increase the wing surface area (reducing wing loading) and to restore overall wingspan dimensions that had been reduced with the incorporation of the improved underwing radiator system. Armament for the Bf 109F was standardized with the retention of the cowling-mounted 7.9-mm MG 17 machine-guns and the addition of a 20-mm MG 151 cannon firing through the hollow propeller shaft. The reduction in armament from the Bf 109E, which had either a pair of MG 17 machine-guns or MG FF cannon mounted in the wings, was the result of several operational pilots' reports which maintained that the concentrated firepower of the center located weapons was more effective than the converging fire of the wing mounted weapons and that, in addition, the elimination of the wing armament added to the aircraft's handling characteristics.

    Due to the continued delay in delivery of the planned DB 601E, the ten pre-production of Bf 109F-0s, which began rolling off the assembly lines in October 1940, were powered by the DB 601N engine with its flattened piston heads. The F-0s also were fitted with the older MG FF cannon in the nose as deliveries of the proposed electronically armed MG 151 and MG 151/20 (15-mm and 20-mm) were delayed.

    Deliveries of the initial Bf 109F-1 variant, very similar to its predecessor, the Bf 109F-0, began in November. The only real discernible difference in appearance was in the installation of the new extended supercharger air intake. This replaced the rectangular flush-mounted air in-take from the E-series that had been used on the early pre-production aircraft until tests of the optimum contour and inlet size were completed on the improved design.

    Within a few weeks of the initial deliveries of the Bf 109F-1s to Luftwaffe service evaluation units a number of them were lost, with the only clue as to the cause being a few pilot's messages reporting violent vibrations just prior to complete loss of control and crash. The Bf 109Fs were grounded and the cause of the vibration problem was investigated, with concentration in the powerplant attach interfaces and structural supports. Finding no irregularities, the investigation centered on the tail assembly, and it was discovered that the removal of the bracing sluts had resulted in a high frequency vibration being set up in the fuselage at certain engine rpm levels. The aircraft were retrofitted with reinforcing plates in the tail-plane to fuselage attachment area and production was resumed.

    In February and March, 1941, deliveries of the Bf 109F-1 gave way to the production of the Bf 109F-2 which varied from the F-1 only in that it replaced the nose-mounted MG FF cannon with the long awaited MG 151. The F-2 variant also was modified through the incorporation of a fuselage-mounted ETC 250 bomb rack or the addition of the GM 1 Nitrous Oxide Power Boost System GM-1 (Göring Mischung 1) was a system for injecting nitrous oxide (laughing gas) into aircraft engines that was used by the Luftwaffe in World War II. This increased the amount of oxygen in the fuel mixture, and thereby improved high-altitude performance. GM-1 was used on a number of modifications of existing fighter designs in order to counter the increasing performance of Allied fighters at higher altitudes.

    A different system for low-altitude boost known as MW 50 was also used, although GM-1 and MW 50 were rarely used on the same engine. MW-50 was a methanol-water injection system, which injected a mixture of methanol and water into the cylinders to cool the mix. Cooling causes the air to become denser, therefore allowing more air into each cylinder for a given volume. This is the same principle that intercoolers use.

    GM-1 was developed in 1940 by Otto Lutz to improve high-altitude performance. It could be used by fighters, destroyers, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft, though its first use was in the Bf 109E/Z fighter. Originally, it was liquified under high pressure and stored in several high-pressure vessels until it was found that low-temperature liquefied nitrous oxide gave better performance due to improved charge cooling. It could also be stored and handled more conveniently and was less vulnerable to enemy fire.

    GM-1 was typically sprayed in liquid form directly into the supercharger intake from two jets of different bore while at the same time, the fuel flow was increased to take advantage of the additional oxygen from the nitrous oxide. The jets could be operated individually or in combination, yielding three steps of power increase, for example 120/240/360 HP at different GM-1 flow rates (60, 100 and 150 grams/sec). The development of a continuously variable injection system was considered, but apparently it never saw operational use.

    Initially intended as standard equipment for the Luftwaffe, in operational service it was found that GM-1 had some drawbacks. The additional weight of the equipment reduced performance on all missions, while the system was only used in the cases where the aircraft went to very high altitudes. GM-1 also became less attractive than originally imagined when in 1943, the previous trend towards ever increasing combat altitudes ended.

    While GM-1 saw little use in the second half of the war, the Focke-Wulf Ta 152H, which had been developed as a dedicated high-altitude interceptor, also received a GM-1 system to provide it with superior performance at high altitude. The Ta 152H was one of the few designs to support both GM-1 and MW 50. on a number of aircraft. As the Luftwaffe had not standardized either the Umruest-Bausatze (factory installed modifications which intended to increase performance or to utilize non-strategic materials) or the Ruestsaetze (bolt-on modifications that were added to the Bf 109 airframe for specific mission capabilities such as extended range and increased armament, and which could be incorporated either at the assembly line or in the field), the above noted modifications to the F-2 variant resulted in the designations of Bf 109F-2/Z (addition of GM 1 boost system) and the Bf 109F-2/B (addition of the ETC 250 ventral bomb rack) fighter-bomber. One further designation was allocated to the F-2 series, the Bf 109F-2/Trop, which was the tropicalized version. Like the previous Bf 109E-4/Trop, this sub-type was fitted with a dust filter over the supercharger air intake for use in the North African theater of operations.

    The Bf 109F-3 and Bf 109F-4, which were produced simultaneously, replaced the F-2 variant on the assembly lines in early 1942 and differed from the F-2 in that they incorporated the long awaited DB 601E as the basic powerplant. The powerplant change was the only difference between the F-2 and F-3 however, the F-4 incorporated a number of additional modifications that were not externally discernible. These included an increase in the calibre of the MG 151 from 15-mm to 20-mm, the use of new self sealing fuel tanks, and an increase in the armor protection for the pilot. This protection included a thick steel plate behind the pilot's neck and upper back, and a similar plate mounted over his head under the bullet-resistant canopy glass. Both the F-3 and F-4 utilized the FuG 7a radio transmitter/receiver and Revi C/12D reflector gunsight that were standard on the earlier F-series.

    A number of Bf 109F-4s were also modified like the F-2 variant with the incorporation of the GM 1 nitrous oxide boost system (Bf 109F-4/Z). In addition, two further sub-type conversions were produced under the Bf 109F-4 designation. The first of these was the Bf 109F-4/R6 which was fitted with an extra pair of 20-mm MG 151 cannon in underwing gondolas. The increase in firepower was made at the request of General Adolf Galland and other top Luftwaffe fighter aces. The additional armament of the F-4/R6 was well received. The increased weight and added drag had a detrimental effect on the aircraft's handling qualities, however, reducing its capability as a "dogfighter", and the aircraft were used strictly as bomber-interceptors.

    Bf 109F-4/B with ETC 250 bomb

    The second conversion was similar to that of the earlier fighter-bomber modifications to the Bf 109E-4/B and included attachment of the ventrally-mounted ETC 250 bomb rack capable of carrying a 250 kg (550 lb) bomb, a 300 lt (66 Imp gal) jettisonable fuel tank, or with an ER 4 adapter, four 50 kg (110 lb) SC 50 bombs.

    The final two variants of the Bf 109F series were reconnaissance derivatives of the Bf 109F-4. The Bf 109F-5 eliminated the nose mounted cannon (for reduced weight and, thus, higher speed) and had a Rb 50/30 camera mounted in the aft fuselage. The Bf 109F-6 eliminated all armament and was fitted with a special camera bay in the underside of the fuselage just aft of the cockpit which was capable of utilizing Rb 20/30, Rb 50/30 or Rb 75/30 cameras. Both the F-5 and F-6 were fitted with a fuselage rack (R3 modification) for the 300 lt (66 Imp gal) auxiliary fuel tank.

    Bf 109F-4 Specifications

    Bf 109F Illustrations

    Bf 109F-1 (Wk-Nr 5628) flown by Major Werner Molders, Geschwaderkommodore JG 51, November 1940 Bf 109F-1 'Black Double Chevron and Bars' flown by Major Werner Molders, Geschwaderkommodore JG 51, November 1940 Bf 109F-2 'Black 12' flown by Oberfeldwebel Heinrich Klopper, 11./JG 51 'Molders', September 1942 Bf 109F-2 'Black 13' flown by Oberleutnant Gustav Sprick, Staffelkapitan 8./JG 26 'Schlageter', June 1941 Bf 109F-2 'Black 13' flown by Oberleutnant Gustav Sprick, Staffelkapitan 8./JG 26 'Schlageter', June 1941 Bf 109F-2 (Wk-Nr 6683) 'Black Chevron and Bars' flown by Major Gunther von Maltzahn, Geschwaderkommodore JG 53 'Pik-As,, May 1941 Bf 109F-2 WkNr 8326 'Black Chevron and Bars' flown by Major Gunther Frelherr von Maltzahn, Geschwaderkommodore JG 53, July 1941 Bf 109F-2 'Black Chevron and Bars' flown by Hauptmann Hans Philipp, Gruppenkommandeur l./JG 54, March 1942 Bf 109F-2 (Wk-Nr 6714) 'Black Chevron and Bars' flown by Oberstleutnant Adolf Galland, Geschwaderkommodore JG 26, April 1941 Bf 109F-2 'Black Chevron and Circle' flown by Leutnant Detlev Rohwer, Gruppen-TO l./JG 3, August 1941 Bf 109F-2 'Black Chevron and Circle/Bar' flown by Leutnant Jurgen Harder, Gruppenstab III./JG 53, June 1941 Bf 109F-2 'Black Chevron and Triangle' flown by Hauptmann Hans von Hahn, Gruppenkommandeur l./JG 3, July 1941 Bf 109F-2 'Black Chevron and Triangle' flown by Hauptmann Hans von Hahn, Gruppenkommandeur l./JG 3, July 1941 Bf 109F-2 'Black Double Chevron and Bars' flown by Oberstleutnant Guenther Luetzow, Geschwaderkommodore JG 51, September 1940 Bf 109F-2 (Wk-Nr 6683) 'Black Chevron and Bars' flown by Major Gunther von Maltzahn, Geschwaderkommodore JG 53 'Pik-As', May 1941 Bf 109F-2 (Wk-Nr 12764) 'Black Double Chevron' flown by Hauptmann Rolf Pingel, Gruppenkommandeur I./JG 26 'Schlageter' July 1941 Bf 109F-2 'Black Double Chevron' flown by Hauptmann Gerhard Schopfel, Gruppenkommandeur III./JG 26 'Schlageter', Summer 1941 Bf 109F-2 (Wk-Nr 8165) 'Black Double Chevron' flown by Hauptmann Karl-Heinz Leesmann, Gruppenkommandeur I./JG 52, Summer 1941 Bf 109F-2 (Wk-Nr 6674) 'Black Double Chevron' flown by Hauptmann Heinz Bretnutz, Gruppenkommandeurof Il./JG 53 'Pik-As', May 1941 Bf 109F-2 'Black Double Chevron' flown by Hauptmann Wolf-Dietrich Wilcke, Gruppenkommandeur lll./JG 53 'Pik-As, May 1941 Bf 109F-2 'Brown 7' flown by Oberleutnant Heinrich Krafft, Staffelkapitan 8./JG 51 'Molders', March 1942 Bf 109F-2 'Brown 7' flown by Oberleutnant Heinrich Krafft, Staffelkapitan 8./JG 51 'Molders', March 1942 Bf 109F-2/R3 'White Double Chevron' flown by Hauptmann Hans Hahn, Gruppenkommandeur lll/JG 2 'Richthofen', November 1941 Bf 109F-2/R3 'White Double Chevron' flown by Hauptmann Hans Hahn, Gruppenkommandeur lll/JG 2 'Richthofen', November 1941 Bf 109F-2/Trop 'Black Chevron/Triangle', flown by Hauptmann Eduard Neumann, Gruppenkommandeur l./JG 27, December 1941 Bf 109F-2/Trop 'White 3', flown by Unteroffizier Horst Schlick, 1./JG 77, November 1942 Bf 109F-2/Trop 'White 11', flown by Oberfeldwebel Albert Espenlaub, 1./JG 27, December 1941 Bf 109F-2/Trop 'Yellow 1', flown by Oberleutnant Gerhard Homuth, Staffelkapitan 3./JG 27, February 1942 Bf 109F-2/U 'Black Chevron and Bars' flown by Oberstleutnant Adolf Galland, Geschwaderkommodore JG 26, November 1941 Bf 109F-2 (Wk-Nr 6720) 'White l' flown by Oberleutnant Egon Mayer, Staffelkapitan 7./JG 2 'Richthofen', Summer 1941 Bf 109F-2 WkNr 6702 'White 2' flown by Feldwebel Hermann Neuhoff, 7/JG 53, July 1941 Bf 109F-2 'White 9' flown by Oberleutnant Hans Philipp II./JG 54, Summer 1942 Bf 109F-2 'White Chevron and Bars' flown by Major Hannes Trautloft, Geschwaderkommodore JG 54, Spring 1942 Bf 109F-2 (Wk-Nr 5749) 'White Double Chevron' flown by Hauptmann Hans Hahn, Gruppenkommandeur lll/JG 2 'Richthofen', Summer 1941 Bf 109F-2 'White Triple Chevron' flown by Major Gunther Lutzow, Geschwaderkommodore JG 3, June 1941 Bf 109F-2 (Wk-Nr 8117) 'White Triple Chevron' flown by Major Gunther Lutzow, Geschwaderkommodore JG 3, May 1941 Bf 109F-2 W.Nr 9207 'Yellow 1' flown by Oberleutnant Hans-Ekkehard Bob 9./JG 54, June 26, 1941 Bf 109F-2 W.Nr 9207 'Yellow 1' flown by Oberleutnant Hans-Ekkehard Bob 9./JG 54, June 26, 1941 Bf 109F-2 (Wk-Nr 12753) 'Yellow 1' flown by Unteroffizier Eugen-Ludwig Zweigart 9./JG 54, July 1941 Bf 109F-2 (Wk-Nr 12753) 'Yellow 1' flown by Unteroffizier Eugen-Ludwig Zweigart 9./JG 54, July 1941 Bf 109F-2 (Wk-Nr 9538) 'Yellow 4' flown by Leutnant Hans Beißwenger II./JG 54, July 1941 Bf 109F-2 'Yellow 9' flown by Oberleutnant Hans-Ekkehard Bob 9./JG 54, Winter, 1942 Bf 109F-2 'Yellow 9' flown by Oberleutnant Hans-Ekkehard Bob 9./JG 54, Winter, 1942 Bf 109F-4/B (Wk-Nr 7629) 'Blue 1 Chevron/Bar' flown by Oberleutnant Frank Liesendahl, Staffelkapitan 10.(Jabo)/JG 2 'Richthofen', April 1942 Bf 109F-4 (Wk-Nr 13114) 'Black 1' flown by Oberleutnant Max-Hellmuth Osterman, 8./JG 54, May 1942 Bf 109F-4 'Black 2', flown by Oberfeldwebel Herbert Rollwage, 5./JG 53, August 1942 Bf 109F-4 'Black 2', flown by Oberfeldwebel Herbert Rollwage, 5./JG 53, August 1942 Bf 109F-4 'Black 5' flown by Oberleutnant Anton Hackl, Staffelkapitan 5./JG 77, September 1942 Bf 109F-4 'Black 8' flown by Feldwebel Otto Kittel, 2./JG 54, May 1942 Bf 109F-4 'Black Bars and Dot' flown by Oberleutnant Rudolf Pflanz, Geschwader-TO, JG 2 'Richthofen', Autumn 1941 Bf 109F-4 (Wk-Nr 7558) 'Black Chevron and Bars' flown by Major Walter Oesau, Geschwaderkommodore JG 2 'Richthofen', Autumn 1941 Bf 109F-4 'Black Chevron and Crossed Bars' flown by Oberleutnant Erich Leie Geschwader-Adjutant JG 2 'Richthofen', Autumn 1941 Bf 109F-4 'Black Chevron/Triangle/Bars', flown by Oberstleutnant Gunther Freiherr von Maltzahn, Geschwaderkommodore JG 53, 1942 Bf 109F-4 'Black Double Chevron', flown by Leutnant Heinz Bar, Gruppenkommandeur I./JG 77, July 1942 Bf 109F-4 'Black Double Chevron' flown by Hauptmann Josef Fozo, Gruppenkommandeur of Il./JG 51, July 1941 Bf 109F-4 'Black Double Chevron' flown by Hauptmann Anton Mader, Gruppenkommandeur Il./JG 77, September 1942 Bf-109F-4/Trop 'Black Chevron', flown by Oberleutnant Ernst Dullberg, Gruppen-Adjutant Il./JG 27, May 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop 'Black Chevron T', flown by Oberleutnant Rudolf Sinner, Technical Officer JG 27, April 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop 'Black Double Chevron', flown by Hauptmann Wolfgang Lippert, Gruppenkommandeur Il./JG 27, November 1941 Bf 109F-4/Trop 'White 2', flown by Oberfeldwebel Otto Schulz, 6./JG 27, May 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop 'White 5', flown by Leutnant Jurgen Harder, 7./JG 53, June 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop 'White 12', flown by Oberfeldwebel Franz Stiegler, 4./JG 27, August 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop 'White Chevron/Triangle', flown by Hauptmann Karl-Heinz Krahl, Gruppenkommandeur Il./JG 3, April 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop 'Yellow 1', flown by Oberleutnant Rudolf Sinner, Staffelkapitan 6./JG 27, June 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop 'Yellow 1', flown by Oberleutnant Hans Goetz Staffelkapitan 9./JG 53, June 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop 'Yellow 3', flown by Unteroffizier Franz Schwaiger, 6./JG 3, February 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop 'Yellow 3', flown by Unteroffizier Franz Schwaiger, 6./JG 3, February 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop Wk.Nr.8693 'Yellow 14', flown by Leutnant Hans-Joachim Marseille, 3./JG 27, February 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop Wk.Nr.10 059 'Yellow 14', flown by Leutnant Hans-Joachim Marseille, 3./JG 27, May 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop Wk.Nr.10 137 'Yellow 14', flown by Oberleutnant Hans-Joachim Marseille, Staffelkapitan 3./JG 27, June 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop Wk.Nr.8673 'Yellow 14', flown by Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Marseille, Staffelkapitan 3./JG 27, September 1942 Bf 109F-4/Trop Wk.Nr.8673 'Yellow 14', flown by Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Marseille, Staffelkapitan 3./JG 27, September 1942 Bf 109F-4 'White 1', flown by Oberleutnant Gerhard Michalski, Staffelkapitan 4./JG 53, July 1942 Bf 109F-4 'White 1' flown by Oberleutnant Wolfdieter Huy, Staffelkapitan 7./JG 77, August 1941 Bf 109F-4 'White 2', flown by Leutnant Hermann Neuhoff, 7./JG 53, March 1942 Bf 109F-4 'White 8' flown by Leutnant Walter Nowotny, 1./JG 54, Summer 1943 Bf 109F-4 'White 10' flown by Leutnant Rudolf Rademacher, 1./JG 54, Summer 1943 Bf 109F-4 'White Double Chevron' flown by Hauptmann Kurt Brandle, Gruppenkommandeuril./JG 3 'Udet', August 1942 Bf 109F-4 (Wk-Nr 7059) 'White Double Chevron' flown by Major Dr Erich Mix, Gruppenkommandeur l./JG 1, Summer 1941 Bf 109F-4 'White Triple Chevron' flown by Hauptmann Franz Hahn, Gruppenkommandeur l./JG 4, January 1943 Bf 109F-4 'Yellow 1' flown by Oberleutnant Hermann Graf, Staffelkapitan 9./JG 52, July 1942 Bf 109F-4 'Yellow 3' flown by Feldwebel Rudolf Muller, 6./ll./JG 5, September 1942 Bf 109F-4 'Yellow 4' flown by Oberfeldwebel Eberhard von Boremski, 9./JG 3 'Udet', May 1942 Bf 109F-4 'Yellow 7' flown by Oberleutnant Viktor Bauer, Staffelkapifan 9./JG 3 'Udet', March 1942 Bf 109F-4 (Wk-Nr 7650) 'Yellow 9' flown by Oberleutnant Erich Rudorffer, Staffelkapitan 6./JG 2 'Richthofen', Winter 1941-42 Bf 109F-4 'Yellow 9' flown by Major Siegfreid Schnell Staffelkapitan 9./JG 2 'Richthofen' July 1941 Bf 109F-4/Z 'Black 1', flown by Hauptmann Kurt Brandle, Staffelkapitan 5./JG 53, February 1942 Bf 109F-4/Z 'Black 1', flown by Hauptmann Kurt Brandle, Staffelkapitan 5./JG 53, February 1942

    Messerschmitt Bf-109 that was found in a Russian lake & recovered by Jim Pearce

    Renowned as one of the most experienced warbird recovery specialists in the world, Jim Pearce and his team have recovered over 50 of the most historic aircraft in museums and private collections throughout the world today.

    Many of these aircraft have been restored and rebuilt to flying condition, whilst many others sit as proud museum centerpieces. If you are a travelled collector or enthusiast you will have no doubt come across one of the aircraft we have recovered.

    This aircraft was built in 1939 and known to have flown in the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain. In early 1942 it was delivered to the Eastern Front by Arthur Mendl whereupon it was flown by the highly decorated German Pilot Wulf-Dietrich Widowitz (36 victories).

    On April 4th of 1942 Widowitz was shot down by a Soviet lend-lease (rather, in reality “lend-keep”) Hurricane whilst on an escort mission. Hits to his engine were observed followed by a forced, near perfect, wheels-up landing on the ice of a frozen lake. The aircraft then sank through the ice and came to rest on the lakebed where it remained untouched until the recovery in 2003. Widowitz died more than a year later during another crash landing.

    Warbird preservation plays a vital role in keeping history alive once this limited resource runs dry it will end there and then. Therefore recovering these aircraft in the best possible way and finding suitable homes is key to facilitating the market’s demand.

    Watch the video: P-51 Mustang vs. Messerschmitt Bf 109 - A Comparision