Nazi Germany (1940)
Prototype Passenger/Transport Plane – 2 Built
Born out of Deutsche Lufthansa’ vision of an advanced airliner to replace the aging Ju 52 after the war, the BV 144 is arguably one of the rather unique looking passenger airliner planes of the 20th century. Although designed by Blohm & Voss in 1940, the first flying prototype wouldn’t take to the air until 1944, when the development of the BV 144 was no longer relevant to its original purpose and the Germans were in full retreat.
With rapid advances in Western Europe throughout 1940, Nazi Germany was confident that the war would be over soon. With such conditions in mind, it was very reasonable for Deutsche Lufthansa to start drafting up plans for their commercial airliner services after the war. Looking for a new aircraft to replace their aging Junkers Ju 52 transport, Deutsche Lufthansa turned to Blohm & Voss in 1940 in hopes of an advanced airliner. The design was finalized in early 1941, and was ready to be constructed. With France recently defeated, the Germans decided to take advantage of the French industry and ordered two prototypes to be constructed at the Louis-Breguet Aircraft Company factory in Anglet, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine province of France.
Although construction started in 1941, the first prototype would not be completed until sometime between July and August of 1944. By this point, the war situation for Germany had became alarmingly worse and the BV 144 was no longer seen as important. Another factor which may have been the cause of the slow construction was the deliberate low effort put into construction by the French workers, as they didn’t wish to help Germany progress. Finally, in August of 1944, the first prototype of the BV 144 would take to the sky. Unfortunately for the Germans however, the Allied forces were moving rapidly through France after Operation Overlord. This meant the Germans were forced to abandon the BV 144 prototype due to their retreat.
After the Liberation of France, the Louis-Breguet Aircraft Company factory fell back into French hands, as well as the completed BV 144 prototype and the second unfinished prototype. Both were transported to Toulouse via road and received French registration numbers. Intrigued by the relatively advanced design, the French would continue testing the BV 144 post war. The second unfinished prototype was also completed by the French post war, but it is unknown whether or not this prototype flew before the termination of the BV 144 project once and for all. Both prototypes were scrapped.
The BV 144 was an all metal monoplane with a distinguishing high wing design and a tricycle landing gear configuration. It would have been powered by two BMW 801 MA 18-cylinder engines generating 1600 horsepower. The wings were located at the shoulder position of the fuselage, giving the engines a large ground clearance. Combined with the relatively short tricycle landing gear, the design would be advantageous to passengers as the fuselage would be close to the ground, allowing much easier boarding and disembarking.
The cockpit consisted of a pilot and a co-pilot in a stepped cabin, as well as a compartment for a radio operator. Following this compartment, there would have been a cargo storage, a passenger compartment, a toilet and another cargo storage. At the cost of some cargo and a less spacious passenger compartment, the passenger count could have been raised to 23 from the original 18.
Foreseeing problems with takeoff and landing, Blohm & Voss designed the plane with variable incidence wings, which meant there were electric-mechanical systems fitted into the BV 144 that allowed the wing to rotate 9 degrees around its tubular main spar within the plane. Such a system was previously tested in 1940 on the Blohm & Voss Ha 140V-3 hydroplane with success. This interesting system would have allowed the pilot to change the sweep angle of the wings during low speed landing and takeoffs without having to shift altitudes. It would also allow the pilot to have a slightly better view during landing. Along with that, long slotted flaps were also provided to aid in landing.
Another interesting feature of the BV 144 was the aforementioned tubular main spar, which was patented by Richard Vogt, the chief designer for Blohm & Voss. Although quite light in terms of weight, the spar would have been able to provide excellent load carrying characteristics. On top of this, as a surprising feature, the spar could also have been used to carry extra fuel. The last notable feature of the BV 144 was the defrosting system located at both wingtips and the tail section. The system would have allowed the tips and tail to stay warm using heated air provided through an oil burner.
Nazi Germany – The BV 144 was intended to be used by the Deutsche Lufthansa, and possibly even the Luftwaffe as an advanced airliner meant for short-medium distance routes.
France – The French took over both prototypes of the BV 144 once the Germans retreated out of France and continue development of the plane postwar for a while before ultimately scrapping the project in the end.
The Messerschmitt (Me) Bf 109 is one of the most notable fighters of the Axis countries and a clear symbol of its air power during World War II. Its performance gave Germany the upper hand in the early stages of the war while also taking part in every front until the very end of the conflict in Europe. The Bf 109 was the main fighter of the Luftwaffe, later complemented by the Focke Wulf Fw 190. The Spanish Civil War was the Bf 109 saw its first combat action. It flew also with other nations such as Finland, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Hungary. After the war, it was in service with the Israelis, serving also in the Yugoslavian, Romanian and Czechoslovakian Air Forces. The versatility of the fighter was one of the main factors that allowed it to serve until 1965, with numerous variants.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is single seat, single engine fighter tasked also with the roles of air superiority, interception, escort and attacking capable of all-weather operations in day or night. It was a light all-metal monocoque design with the rudder being covered with cloth. The wing was a low cantilever design fitted with flaps, while the canopy was enclosed, featuring retractable landing gear and a tailwheel, armed with machine guns and cannons. As a result, the Bf 109 was an advanced design at the time it was introduced. Its development began back in 1934, following a 1933 Reichsluftfarhtministerium study which considered that a single-seat fighter was needed to replace the Arado Ar 64 and Heinkel He 51 biplanes that were the German first-line fighters. Furthermore, it was required for the fighter to develop speeds of up to 400 km/h (250 mph) at 6000m (19,690 ft) for 20 minutes, having an range of 90 minutes. The power plant was intended to be the Junkers Jumo 210 engine of 700 hp, while the armament was intended to be comprised of a mixture of a 20 mm gun and two 7.92 mm guns, or be armed by either the cannon or the two machine guns only. In addition, as Willy Messerschmitt was not authorized by the Reichsluftfarhtministerium to build small passenger planes for Romania, the request of building a fighter came also as a sort of compensation.
Bayerische FlugWerke began its work as it was awarded with the development contract in 1934, with the prototype flying for the first time in 1935, receiving the designation of Bf 109 by the aviation ministry and powered with a Rolls-Royce Kestrel IV engine, as new German-made engines were not yet available. Willy Messerschmitt was the designer behind the Messerschmitt Bf 109, hence the name of the aircraft, and the ‘Bf’ denomination. The development of the new fighter began, initially powered with the Rolls Royce Kestrel engine. The following two prototypes were powered with the Jumo 210A 600hp engines, and the last one was fitted with guns. Reportedly, 10 more prototypes followed in order to test the model. The result was a cantilever low-wing single engine fighter capable of speeds of up to 470 Km/h (Bf 109B) with its Junkers Jumo 210Ga engine. Further models received inverted Daimler Benz V-12 engines or racing engines. These engines yielded speeds of 380 mph (611 kmh) and 464 mph (755 kmh) respectively. Remaining the last a speed record for piston-engine aircraft until 1969. The fighter was very advanced, matching to any fighter in service at the time in combat. The earlier versions were armed with an array of two 7.92 mm machine guns in the forward cowl above the engine in the Bf 109B, while later C models were armed with two additional 7.92 mm machine guns in the wings and a 20 mm gun in the nose.
Presented to the public during the 1936 Berlin Olympics for propaganda purposes, it saw action for the first time during the Spanish Civil War with the German Condor Legion, where it quickly gained air superiority over its Soviet-made rivals Polikarkov I-15 and I-16 fighters with Werner Mölders, a future WWII ace, scoring 14 victories. This conflict also served to test the new fighter in combat and to detect the shortcomings and needed improvements, as well as to test the Luftwaffe’s tactics and doctrines that would be implemented in WWII. When the conflict came to an end, 40 fighters were gifted to Spain following the withdrawal of the Condor Legion.
The Bf 109 was considered sufficient for the operational needs of Germany until 1941, the year when it would have fulfilled its objectives. However, as the conflict progressed, the high command realized that the Bf 109 needed further upgrades. As a result, the versions Bf 109E, Bf 109F, Bf 109G, and the lesser known Bf 109K were created. Even so, the model’s many shortcomings persisted, putting it at a disadvantage to its rivals.
The Bf 109 had many advantages such as its good range and the powerful engine along with its reasonable size, agility, high speed, climb rate, dive speed, turn rate, maneuverability, and low cost. But there were other problems that prevailed during its service. The struts of the landing gear were rather fragile and narrow, retracting outwards and not beneath the fuselage. Second, Blitzkrieg hindered the fighter’s success as it had to accommodate for the tactic at the expense of autonomy, which would play an important role in the Battle of Britain. This problem was solved after the battle with the addition of extra drop tanks. Third, it tended to swing sideways during landing and takeoff. Fourth, it had a poor lateral control at high speed. Fifth, during combat when executing very close turning, the wings grooves tended to open, preventing stalling but often acting against the ailerons. And sixth, the length and ground angle of the landing gear ‘legs’ was so that it restricted forward visibility while on ground, forcing pilots to taxi in such a way that the undercarriage was put into heavy stress. This posed a problem for rookie pilots. The narrow wheel track also made the fighter unstable while on ground. The solution for this problem was to transfer the load up through the legs while taking off and landing maneuvers.
Approximately 34,000 Bf 109s were built in Germany from 1936 to 1945, in addition to the 239 made by Hispano Aviacion, 75 built in Romania by IAR and 603 made by Avia, with production lasting until 1958. Some 20 Bf 109s remain now as museum displays.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is a very interesting fighter with equally interesting design characteristics. Being lightweight was the main concept of its design, development, and construction. It was also a single engine, single seat fighter with a low cantilever wing, whose sleek monocoque fuselage was entirely made out of light-weight metal. Easy access to the powerplant, weaponry at the fuselage, and other systems was considered also as important during design process, and especially when operating from forward airfields. As a result, the engine cowling was made up of large and easily removable panels, with specific panels allowing access to devices such as the fuel tank, the cooling system, and electrical equipment. The devices containing and holding the engine made it easy to remove or replace it as a unit. The power plant tended to differ from version to version: the early versions were powered by a Junkers Jumo 210g inverted V-12 700 hp, with following versions being powered by a Daimler Benz DB 600A with 986 hp and other – more powerful – Daimler Benz engines (for further information, please see the variants). As the engine was inverted, it was reportedly hard to knock out from below. And it also featured an electrical regulator.
The wing was also full of remarkable details. One of them was the main I-beam spar, placed rather aft than usually placed, with the idea of opening space for the retracted wheel, and creating a D-shaped torsion box. This box had more torsional rigidity and also removed the need for a second spar. In addition, the thickness of the wing was slightly varied, with a cord ratio of 14.2% at the root, and a cord ratio of 11.35% at the tip. The wing was also high-loading. Another feature was the introduction of advanced high-lift devices, with automatic leading edge slats and large camber-changing flaps on the trailing edge. These slats increased the lift of the wing, improving horizontal manoeuvrability. Ailerons that drooped slightly when the flaps were lowered were also fitted in the wings, increasing the effective flap area, especially on the F series. The result was an increase on the wings’ lift. As the armament was placed in the fuselage in the earlier versions, the wing was kept very thin and light.
Another remarkable feature, which was standard in the F, G and K versions, were the introduction of two coolant radiators with a cut-off system so to reduce vulnerability of the cooling system after receiving a hit. For instance, if one radiator leaked as a consequence of an impact, the other still made it possible to fly. Even a 5-minute flight was possible with both radiators inoperable.
The canopy of the Bf 109 was a closed bird-cage design, opening sideways and having armour protection plates in the back. These armored plates also protected the main fuel tanks as it was partially placed under the cockpit floor and behind the rear cockpit bulkhead, having an L-shape. Some variants of the G version even featured pressurized cockpits.
In regards to the armament, it tended to vary from version to version in weaponry, caliber, and location. The early versions normally featured an array of two machine guns mounted in the cowling with a 20mm cannon firing through a blast tube between the cylinders. This display was to be changed after the Luftwaffe got a word about the RAF’s plans to equip its new fighters with a battery of 8 guns. This made the additional guns to be installed at the wings, either 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns or a 20mm MG FF or MG FF/M cannon in between the wheel well and slats. The C version featured the additional two 7.92mm machineguns, where a continuous belt was installed to avoid redesigning the wing and ammunition boxes and access hatches. The gun barrel was placed in a tube between the spar and leading edge.
When cannons were installed on the wings, being longer and heavier, they were placed at a farther area in an outer bay, forcing the spar to be cut with holes so to allow feeding the weapon. A small hatch was incorporated to allow access to the gun, which was able to be removed through a removable leading edge panel. The F version and the following versions had the gun changed from the wings to the nose cone, firing through the propeller shaft. Additional 20mm MG 151/20 cannons were installed in pods under the wings, which were easy to install but also forced a reduction of speed by 8 km/h (5 mph). The last version (Bf 109K) was armed with a MK 108 30mm cannon in each wing.
The additional armament, while increasing the Messerschmitt Bf 109’s firepower, also reduced its performance. Handling qualities and dogfighting capabilities were severely affected, with the tendency to swing like a pendulum while flying.
The Reich’s Warrior of the Skies
When the war started in 1939 with the invasion of Poland, around 320 Bf 109s took part in the invasion under two units (I/JG 21 and I/ZG 2). During that operation, the Bf 109s gained air superiority by destroying the Polish air and ground forces, providing escort to ground attack planes and dive bombers, such as the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka. When the invasion of Norway took place, they faced considerable resistance from the outdated Gloster Gladiators of the Norwegian Air Force, which were reinforced by British fighters from HMS Glorious and two more aircraft carriers. During the Battle of France and the invasion of the Netherlands and Belgium, the Messerschmitt Bf 109s encountered weak adversaries. In France, an ill prepared Armee de l’air was unable to face the force of the Luftwaffe while the German fighters gained air supremacy rather quickly and controlled the French skies. Battle of Dunkirk however began to highlight the limitations of the Bf 109, especially in regards to autonomy, as many were coming from bases within Germany and facing strong opposition from the Royal Air Force.
The Battle of Britain was the first battle where the Bf 109 began to show its limitations, especially that of autonomy, having little time to provide effective escort and air supremacy over the British skies. It also found a fitting rival in the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane, which were able to face the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and even were able to overpower it. The radar installations the RAF also played a role in defeating the Bf 109. Moreover, the attrition suffered during the Battle of France took its toll on the Bf 109 that took part in the campaign. As a result, the Luftwaffe – and namely the Bf 109 – was unable to achieve air supremacy and control the skies of Britain, let alone to defeat the RAF, despite the numerical superiority the Luftwaffe had over the RAF (3000 vs. 700 airplanes).
Russia would be a scenario where the fighter would have some redemption, at least in the first stages. As the Soviet Air Force had inferior assets, quality, organization, and training, the Bf 109 achieved an impressive rate of aerial victories (approximately 9200 in total), creating many aces. In addition, the pilots on-board the Bf 109 had already accumulated experience from the previous campaigns – Spain, Poland, Norway, France and England to name a few – while the Bf 109 was comparatively superior to its Soviet-made rivals. However, the superiority in numbers of the Soviet Air Force began to pay its toll on the fighters. It was during this campaign when the fighter was gradually replaced by the more advanced and robust Focke Wulf FW 190 by Summer 1942.
They also took part in the bombing of Malta, with the mission of countering the Spitfires and Fulmar fighters the British managed to sneak onto the island. Although they managed to reduce the losses on the bombers by increasing the attrition of the adversary’s fighters and ground services, the campaign had a considerable cost for the Bf 109 with 400 lost in action. At the same time, the Bf 109 was seeing action in North Africa, achieving air supremacy in the beginning, but facing adverse conditions later on, such as fuel shortages and a superior number of adversaries, alongside attrition imposed by the Luftwaffe’s own organization and training systems.
The Bf 109 also performed as one of the main air defence assets when the Allies began to wage air and bombing campaigns over Germany, targeting mainly the bombers and being benefited by dispersed ammunition and fuel storages all around Germany. The German air industry did not update its models in time or was simply unable to produce fighters enough to tackle the Allies’ air power. As a result, by 1944 the Bf 109 and other fighters were simply unable to counter the Allies’ air campaign. The Bf 109’s career with the Luftwaffe came to an end in 1945, when Germany was defeated.
During and after WWII, the Bf 109 was used by other nations, achieving considerable feats while piloting this aircraft and remaining in service for a long period of time. Finland used the Bf 109 during the Continuation War, claiming a victory ratio of 25:1 and operating with them until 1954. Switzerland received a batch of Bf 109s during the war, using them until 1955. The Bf 109 was donated by Germany and built under license by Spanish air company Hispano Aviacion during and after the war, remaining in service until 1965. Many took part in the film Battle of England. Israel also used Czech-made Bf 109s that fought during the Independence War, scoring 8 victories.
Bf 109V1 – Powered with a Rolls Royce Kestrel and with a two-blade Härzel propeller, awarding the fighter contest. Unarmed.
Bf 109V2 – Powered with a Junkers Jumo 210A of 610 hp, armed with two 7.92 machine guns over the engine cowling.
Bf 109V3 – Similar to the Bf 109V2, becoming the Bf 109B-0
Bf 109A –The A was powered by a Junkers Jumo 210D 661 hp engine, armed with two 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns in the engine cowling, with a third added experimentally in the propeller shaft. Many saw action in the Spanish Civil War with the Condor Legion.
Bf 109B – This constitutes the first series version, delivered on February 1937, featuring a shortened nose cone. Powered by a Junkers Jumo 210D inverted V-12 cylinder of 635 hp, liquid refrigerated and capable of reaching a speed of 467 km/h with two propellers. It was fitted with a variable-pitch propeller. Its armament consisted of two 7.92mm Rheinmetal-Borsig MG 17 machine guns above the engine. They saw action in the Spanish Civil War.
Bf 109C – The second series version. Powered by a Junkers Jumo 210G 690 hp engine, reaching similar speeds as well. The armament consisted of two 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns with two installed over the engine and two at the wings (thanks to the reinforced wing), having the 20mm MG FF cannon added for the first time on the C-2 at the propeller shaft. They also saw action in the Spanish Civil War.
Bf 109D – The third series had a Daimler Benz DB 600Aa of 986 hp, being the first series in having this engine as a powerplant, yielding a speed of 516 km/h. however, D-0 and D-1 were powered by a Junkers Jumo 210D engine. It was the standard fighter prior the war. The armament was the same as the C series. Initially transferred to night fighter units, it was assigned to training tasks.
Bf 109E – The fourth series of the Bf 109, of which more than 4000 units built were built. The E-1 was powered by a Daimler Benz DB 601A-1 of 1075 hp with three propellers, which required movement of the main radiators beneath the wingroots. The E-3 was powered with a Daimler Benz DB 601A of 1100 hp. The E4 had a Daimler Benz DB 601Aa inverted V-12 of 1175 hp, receiving a Daimler Benz BD601N engine later for high especially altitudes. As a result, this series could reach speeds of 560 -570 km/h. The Bf 109E-5 and E-6 were powered by a Daimler Benz 601N of 1200 hp. The E-7 received Daimler Benz DB 601A, DB 601Aa and DB 601N engines. The E-8 had had a Daimler Benz DB 601E of 1350 hp. The armament consisted of four 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns and 4 X 50kg bombs or one 250kg normally on the earlier E variants (E-1 to E-4), the E-2 having the 20mm engine-mounted cannon. The E-4, however lacked the engine gun, armed instead with the two 7.92mm machine guns in the engine cowling and two 20mm guns at the wings. The following Bf 109Es (E-5 to E-9) were normally used as fighter bombers, carrying a 250 kg bomb. The E-5 and E-6 were reconnaissance fighters lacking the 20mm guns and having the cameras behind the cockpit. The E-7 was armed with two 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns on the engine cowling and two 20mm MG FF guns on the wings. The E-8 was armed with 4 X 7.92mm machineguns, while the E-9 had only the two 7.92mm machineguns in the engine cowling, being a reconnaissance fighter. Noteworthy to point out, the E-4 had four important sub-variants: E-4/B with a 250 kg (550 lb) bomb, as it was a fighter bomber; E-4 trop, fitted for tropical service; the E-4/N with the Daimler Benz 601N engine; and the E-4/BN, with the 250 kg (550 lb) bomb and the same engine as of the E-4/N. The E-7 also had as remarkable sub-variants: E-7/Trop, fitted for service in the tropics; E-7/U2, fitted for ground attack and with more armour; and the E-7/Z, with nitrous oxide injection system.
Bf 109F – The F series were powered by the Daimler Benz DB 601N of 1159 hp (F-1 and F-2), and a DB601E of 1300 hp (F-3 and F-4), with the F-3 reaching speeds of 620 km/h. The F-1 was armed with two 7.92 mm MG 17 machineguns and a slow firing 20mm gun firing through the nose and propeller cone. The F-2 as armed with rapid firing two 15mm MG 151s and a 20mm MG FF at the nose. The F-3 was powered with a Daimler Benz DB 601E of 1350 hp, with a rapid firing 20mm gun of and enhanced armour. The F-4 was armed with two 13mm MG 151, a 20mm MG FF, and 15mm MG 151s each on pods under the wing, featuring enhanced armour. The F-5 was lacking the 20mm gun, as it was a reconnaissance fighter. The F-6 had the same mission while having no weapons whatsoever, but reportedly never came to service. The F series normally featured a drop air fuel tank. It was the most advanced in terms of manoeuvrability and aerodynamics.
The F-4 had two important sub-variants: F-4/R1, armed with two 20mm MG 151 cannons in underwing gondolas; F-4/Z with a GM-1 boost. There was also a F-4 trop, fitted for service in the tropics.
Bf 109G – The most important version with 23,500 fighters built by the end of the war. It was powered by a Daimler Benz DB 605A-1 of 1475 hp, a Daimler Benz DB 605D of 1800 hp with a MW50 injection. It could reach speeds of 469 km/h to 690 km/h. The armament consisted of two 7.92mm MG 17 or two 13mm MG 131 over the engine cowling and a 15mm MG 151 on the G-1 series. The G-2 was powered by the same engine and a similar armament, except that it was armed with the 20mm MG FF cannon. The G-3 and G-4 had the same powerplant anda different radio, the G-3 also having a pressurized cockpit. The G-5 (pressurized fighter) and G-6 were armed with a 20 or 30mm MK 108 at the nose cone, two 15mm MG 151 in the wings. They had a rudder made out of wood. The G-8 was a reconnaissance fighter, the G-10 powered with a Daimler Benz DB 605D of 1850 hp, the G-12 a training version with double controls, two-seat with a tandem cockpit, and the G-15 and G-16, which were enhanced versions of the G-6 and the G-14 respectively. The G-14 was a version armed a 20 mm MG 151 cannon, and two 13 mm MG 131 machineguns, capable of receiving two extra underwing 20mm MG 151 cannons or rocket launcher tubes. Of the G series, many were armed with two 210mm rocket launchpads under the wings or bombs.
The G-1 had the G-1/R2 and G-1/U2 sub-variants, a reconnaissance fighter and a high altitude fighter, respectively.
The G-2 had the G-2/R1 (A long-range fighter-bomber with a 500 kg [1100 lb] bomb), the G-2/R2 (reconnaissance fighter), and the G-2 trop (for the tropics). The G-4 also had the G-2/R2 (reconnaissance), G-2/R3 (long range reconnaissance fighter), G4 trop (tropicalized), G-4/U3 (reconnaissance) and G-4y (command fighter).
The G-5 had the G-5/U2 (high altitude fighter with a GM-1 boost), G-5/U2/R2 (high altitude reconnaissance fighter with the GM-1 boost), G-5/AS (high altitude fighter with a Daimler Benz DB 605AS engine, and G-5y (command fighter) sub-variants. The G-6 had, in turn, the G-6/R2 (reconnaissance fighter), G-6/R-3 high-altitude reconnaissance fighter with GM-1 boost), G-6 trop (tropicalized), G-6/U2 (with a GM-1 boost), G-6/U3 (reconnaissance fighter), G-6/U4 (light fighter with a 30mm cannon at the propeller shaft), G-6y (command fighter), G-6/AS (high-altitude fighter with Daimler Benz DB 605AS engine), G-6/ASy (high-altitude command fighter), G-6N (night fighter with two underwing 20mm MG 151 cannons), and G-6/4U N (night fighter with a 30mm cannon at the propeller shaft) sub-variants.
The G-10 and G-14 each has also their own sub-variants. The G-10 had the G-10/R2 (reconnaissance), G-10/R6 (bad-weather fighter with a PKS 12 autopilot) and G-10/U4 (with a 30 mm cannon in the engine) sub-variants. The G-14 had the G-14/AS (High altitude with a Daimler Benz DB 605ASM engine), G-14/ASy (high-altitude command fighter), G-14y (command fighter), and G-14/U4 (with a 30mm engine-mounted cannon).
Bf 109H –This version was powered with a Daimler Benz DB 601E and DB 605A, reaching speeds of 620 km/h. Discarded after operational problems.
Bf 109K – Powered with a Daimler Benz DB 605 ACM/DCM of 1550 hp stabilized at 2000 hp with a MW 50 injection. The armament consisted of two 15mm MG 151 on the engine cowling, and a 30 mm MK 108 or 103 cannon. Many were armed with two 210mm rocket launchpads under the wings or bombs. Other proposed versions never came to service.
Bf 109T – Attempted version for use in aircraft carrier, made out from modified existing versions and equipped with a tail-hook and catapult-devices, increased ailerons, slats and flaps. The armament consisted of two 7.92 machine guns mounted above the engine and two 20mm guns in the wings. Never operated in the carrier, and were reassigned to training missions.
Bf 109X – Experimental aircraft.
The Bf 109 was also built in other countries, such as Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and Czechoslovakia, having different powerplants and armament.
S-199 – Built by Avia for the Czech and Israeli air forces and powered by a Junkers Jumo 21 1F of 1350 hp and armed with two 13mm MG 131 machine guns on the engine cowling and two 20mm MG 151 machineguns under the wings.
The Spanish Series
HA-1109 and HA-1112 Buchon – The Spanish made versions of the Bf 109. The HA-1109 (also denominated HS-1109-J1L) was powered by a Hispano-Suiza 12Z-89 V-12 of 1300 hp engine, armed with two 12,7mm machineguns at the wings or 20mm Hispano 404 guns. The HA-1109-K1 had a De Havilland Hydromatic propeller, armed with two 20mm cannons and underwing rockets, followed by the HA-1109-K1L. The HA-1112-K1L seemingly featured a three-bladed propeller, powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin engine.
HA-1112-M1L Buchon – Powered with a Rolls Royce Merlin 500-45 of 1400 hp engine.
Germany – The main builder and user of the Bf 109, being its standard fighter up to 1942, when the Focke Wulf began to steadily replace it as main fighter of the Luftwaffe, mainly in the Russian Front. It served in basically all of the German campaigns during the war, as well as in the defence of Germany against the Allied incursions and the Spanish Civil War. Many famous German aces, such as Werner Mölders, Adolf Galland, and others fought with the Bf 109, scoring most of their victories. Its most excruciating test was at the Battle of Britain, where its limitations became evident, thus being unable to fully control the skies over Britain. On the Russian Front, it scored the largest amount of air and land kills against their Soviet counterparts.
Finland – The Scandinavian nation operated 159 Bf 109s after it ordered initially 162 fighters: 48 G – 2s, 11 G-6s and 3 G-8s). Three were destroyed en-route. They were used during the Continuation War, achieving notable feats. The Bf 109s were intended to replace the Fokker D.XXI, Brewster Buffalo and Morane MS-406 fighter Finland had inthose days. Remained in service until 1954.
Switzerland – The Swiss Air Force operated 10 D-1s, 83 E-3a variants, 2 F-4s and 14 G-6s, using them to safeguard its neutrality and to fight off many German and Allied airplanes that violated the Swiss air space.
Spain – Spain operated D-1s, E-3s, 15 F-4s and possibly B versions of the Bf – 109. A Spanish volunteer detachment – Escuadrilla Azul – operated in Russia in assistance to Germany and operating under German units and command, using E-4, E-7, E-7/B, F-2, F-4, G-4 and G-6 variants. The Hispano Aviacion HA-1112 is the Spanish-built version of the Messerschmitt Bf 109. In service after the war until the mid-Sixties, many Spanish Bf 109s were featured in some WWII movies, such as The Battle of England.
Israel – The recently formed Israel Air Force operated the Avia-built version of the Messerschmitt Bf 109, as it bought some fighters from Czech Republic. Operated during the Independence War, it scored 8 kills.
Italy – By 1943, a considerable amount of Bf 109s were operated by the Regia Aeronautica, while the established Italian Social Republic after the fall of the fascist government operated 300 G-6s, G-10s, G-14s, 2 G-12s, and three K-4s.
Bulgaria – Being an ally of Germany, it received 19 E-3s and 145 fighters of the G-2, G-6 and G-10 versions were operated by the Bulgarian Air Force.
Romania – The Royal Romanian Air Force operated with 50 E-3s and E-4s, 19 E-7s, 2 F-2s, and 5 F-4s. In addition, it operated with around 235 G-2s, G-4s, G-6s, G-8s and 75 locally built IAR 109-6as. The Bf 109 were used after the war until 1953.
Hungary – Being an ally of Germany, the Royal Hungarian Air Force co-operated with the Luftwaffe using around 500 Bf 109Gs.
Croatia – The Independent State of Croatia operated with 50 Bf 109s of the E-4, F-2, G-2, G-6, G-10 and K versions. Initially operating on the Eastern Front, they were re-deployed to defend their national territory against allied fighters.
Czechoslovakia – Operated license-built Avia S-99/S-199. 603 were built and after the war, the Junkers Jumo 211F engine was used as powerplant. Reportedly, the Czechoslovakian made versions had a tendency to suffer accidents while landing.
Slovak Republic – Two air forces within the nation operated with the Bf 109: The Slovak Air Force, loyal to the Axis, operated 16 E-3s, 14 E-7s, and 30 G-6s. The Slovak Insurgent Air Force, loyal to the Allies, operated 3 G-6s.
Yugoslavia – The Royal Serbian Air Force operated 73 E-3s, and the post-war Yugoslav Air Force operated many Bf 109s that belonged to the Independent State of Croatia and Bulgaria.
Japan – 5 E-7 were purchased in 1941, used mainly for trials and tests.
United States – Some captured Bf 109 served with the US.
United Kingdom – Some captured Bf 109s operated with the RAF.
Soviet Union – Bf 109s that were captured operated with the Soviet Air Force.
Specifications (Bf 109 G-6)
9,92 m / 32 ft 6 in
8,95 m / 29 ft 7 in
2,60 m / 8 ft 2 in
16,05 m² / 173,3 ft²
3 m/ 9 ft 10 in
1 Daimler Benz DB 605A-1 liquid-cooled inverted V-12 of 1,455 hp
Maximum Take-Off Weight
3400 Kg / 7,495 lb
2247 kg / 5,893 lb
3148 kg / 6,940 lb
17 m/s ; 3,345 ft/min
640 km/h / 398 mph
850 Km / 528 miles; 1000 Km / 621 miles with a droptank
Maximum Service Ceiling
12000 m /39,370 ft
2 X 13mm (0.51 caliber) MG 131 machine guns
1 X 20mm MG 151/20 cannon at the nose cone of the engine
1 X 30mm MK 108 cannon at the nose cone of the engine
2 X 20mm MG 151/20 cannons at pod installed on the wings (optional)
2 X 210mm Wfr. Gr. 21 rockets
1 X 250 kg (550 lb) or 4 X 50 (110 lb). 1 X 300 litre (79 gallons) fuel drop tank
The Spandau LMG 08 was the air cooled aircraft version of the German Army’s MG 08 machine gun. The infantry version of the MG 08, like the Vickers Machine Gun, was water cooled and based on the design of Hiram Maxim’s famed Maxim Gun.
After the success of the MG 08 in infantry use, Spandau set about lightening the weapon and adding large slots to the water jacket for aircraft use. The first letter in lMG 08 is actually a lowercase L which stands for luftgekühlt meaning air cooled. From the beginning the lMG was designed to fire in a fixed position from an aircraft.
Early designs had so many cooling slots that the weapon was considered “over-lightened” and the rigidity of the cooling jacket was considered “fragile.” Various slot patterns were experimented with until the final design of the LMG 08/15, a refined version of the weapon with many improvements as well as a lighter weight. The final weight for the refined lMG 08/15 came out to 26 lbs compared with 57 lbs for the original iteration of the MG 08. The various versions of the lMG were all designed to be interchangeable so aircraft could be easily upgraded to newer versions. Like the Vickers, the closed bolt design lent itself to easy synchronization with the propellers, with most German fighters appearing with twin LMGs by late 1916 with the introduction of the Albatros D.I and D.II.
The ammunition belt of the lMG 08 utilized the design of the Parabellum MG14 for its light weight, rather than that of the infantry version of the MG 08. After a cartridge was fired the belt was fed into a side chute on the side of the breech block. The chute would guide the empty belt into a storage compartment to prevent the empty belts from interfering with any aircraft mechanisms. Empty cartridge cases however were expended out of a round hole on the receiver just under the barrel on all version of the MG 08. In most aircraft the empty cases were guided out of the aircraft.
Use of the Spandau lMG 08
The lMG 08 was used on almost all German fighter aircraft of the WWI period. After its introduction in 1915, synchronization technology was rapidly being developed. On the Fokker E.I the introduction of the synchronizer system with a single mounted lMG 08 led to a period of German air superiority over the Western Front known as the Fokker Scourge. Later aircraft almost universally used a twin synchronized setup, including Germany’s most famous ace, Baron von Richthofen ‘The Red Baron.’
There were various styles of cocking handles in use, seemingly dependent upon pilot preference. Safety interlocks were also introduced to ensure the safety of the ground crew who at times could be in the line of fire. Another modification seen in aircraft use was a countdown style rounds counter.