Tag Archives: Luftwaffe

Focke Wulf Ta 154 Moskito

Nazi flag Nazi Germany (1943)
Heavy Fighter – 52 ~ 97 Built

V1 being piloted by Kurt Tank. (Monogram Close-up 22)

Designed as a stopgap to combat the ever-growing numbers of Royal Air Force bombers and de Havilland Mosquitos, the Focke-Wulf Ta 154 was a project plagued with problems, from the glue used for its wooden construction to the unreliable landing gear. After the construction of dozens of prototypes and variants the project was eventually canceled due to inadequate performance and the lack of skilled workers available able to handle the plane’s specialized wooden construction process.

Development

Until the large RAF (Royal Air Force) bomber offensive on Cologne (Köln), Essen, and Bremen in mid-1942, the Luftwaffe had focused on developing offensive aircraft. Shortly after these raids, Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal) Erhard Milch, the Minister of Air Armaments, held a development conference to spark ideas for possible uses of the Jumo 211 engine. Afterward, Milch made it clear that using “homogenous wood” was a viable option for producing light airplane airframes. The term ‘homogeneous’ refers to the fact that the construction material was all of the same type of plywood. Coincidentally, Milch was also very interested in the creation of a new light, high-speed night bomber.

Blueprint of the Ta 154 before receiving its final designation. (Monogram Close-up 22)

In September of 1942, Focke-Wulf presented the concept of developing a plane equivalent to the De Havilland Mosquito to the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM, the Nazi Ministry of Aviation). It was detailed as being a high-speed, dual-engined, and unarmed bomber. Focke-Wulf’s proposal would be constructed of 50% wood, 39% steel, and 11% fabric (it is not specified whether this was by weight or volume). The RLM immediately gave Focke-Wulf a high-priority contract. The design continued to be refined as a high-speed bomber until 16 October 1942, when Generalfeldmarschall Milch decided to voice the importance of the aircraft’s secondary role as a night fighter. At the time, Germany was in dire need of twin-engine fighters with a large operational range in order to combat the growing waves of Allied bombers, which carried out their missions day and night. In order to satisfy Milch’s requirements, the aircraft was now to be equipped with a FuG 212 search radar and a fixed armament of two MK 103 and two MG 151 cannons.

Cutaway of the Ta 154’s wing spar. (National Air and Space Museum Archives)

With the Ta 154 being constructed mostly of plywood and having promising performance estimates, the Technische Amt (Technical Research Office) was highly interested. They believed they had finally found a second generation night fighter that could adapt to the material shortages facing the Reich at that point and capable of replacing the aging Bf 110. Consequently, Erhard Milch focused his attention even more on the Ta 154’s night fighter capabilities and decided to stop pursuing high-speed bomber research. On 13 November 1942, the Technical Research Office continued their support for the project, then known as the “Ta 211” or the “Focke-Wulf Night Fighter,” and urged Focke-Wulf to continue developing the aircraft. Shortly after, the aircraft received the designation “Ta 154,” which it would keep for the duration of its existence.

On 8 January 1943, just days after Focke-Wulf was told to construct ten prototypes of the Ta 154, the “Ta 154 Startup Conference” took place. At the conference, it was made clear that while the project was promising, there were not enough skilled woodworkers to produce the aircraft. In addition, it was correctly theorized that the Jumo 211 wouldn’t produce enough horsepower at altitude to match the enemy’s aircraft development. The Technische Amt requested an armament of four MK 103 cannons, but in March of the same year, an analysis of the plane revealed that the nearly eight foot long cannons would not be able to fit. It was decided in June 1943 that production of the Ta 154 would be separated into three areas, Silesia, Thuringia, and the Warthe District, with the Warthe District being responsible for the most variants.

Kurt Tank at the controls of the V1 shortly before takeoff. (Tank Power No.304: Focke-Wulf Ta 154)

After only 9 months in the making, the first prototype took flight in early July 1943, flown by Hans Sander. It is often publicized that Kurt Tank, designer of the plane, piloted the Ta 154 on its maiden flight, but this is incorrect, as he was too important to risk in such a potentially dangerous test. Sander later described the plane as being easier to control than the Heinkel 219, which he had flown prior. However, performance was not up to par with the estimates Focke-Wulf started with. Problems continued when it was speculated that installing the FuG 212 radar, flame dampers, and drop tanks requested by the Technische Amt would slow the Ta 154 down to an estimated 360 mph (580 km/h) at altitude. Not only would it slow the aircraft significantly, but it would also lower the service ceiling from 34,100 ft (10,400 m) to 30,800 ft (9,400 m). Due to this, Focke-Wulf demanded the delivery of the more powerful Jumo 213 engines the aircraft desperately needed. Focke-Wulf was promptly declined and were told the engines would be ready in mid-1944.

Kurt Tank taxiing the V1. (Monogram Close-up 22)

On 29 October 1943, a very successful Luftwaffe pilot by the name of Thierfelder test flew the Ta 154. Although he praised the Ta 154, RLM’s head of planning, Oberst Diesing, criticized the plane just months later, stating that any ordinary pilot would not have the same positive experience. The Oberst’s critiques didn’t stop there, however, as he alleged that pieces of the aircraft fuselage fell off when firing the guns and airframe vibrations would discourage pilots from flying the aircraft.

During another conference on 17 March 1944, a date for the start of production could not be set due to the lack of trained workers experienced with handling the plane’s bonding materials and insufficient bonding resin. In addition, the delivery of the Jumo 213 engines was set back further, and it was decided to complete the first production model in the coming months. On 12 April 1944, flight captain Hans Sander, who test flew both the Fw 187 and Ta 154, presented a prototype to Hermann Göring. Göring already had a massive interest in the development of the Ta 154, and the demonstration only fortified his overinflated view of the plane. Soon afterward, the prototype construction program called for prototypes V1 through V9 to be fitted with new metal control surfaces. Unfortunately, the V3 had recently crashed, and the V4 was being repaired after it had crashed.

V1 being towed prior to taking off. (National Air and Space Museum Archives) [Colorized by Michael Jucan]
In mid-1944, trials at Langenhagen uncovered more problems, including the weakness of the landing gear and its hydraulics. Focke-Wulf released a report soon after detailing the total number of crashes so far. V1, V3, V4, V5, V8, and V9 had all crashed from 1943 to May 1944. The crash of the V8 had been caused by an engine fire, resulting in both the pilot and radio operator dying in the crash. Had the cockpit been made of metal, the crew would have survived. This motivated all those working on the Ta 154 to produce a metal fuselage or continue working on the C model, which possessed a metal nose and cockpit.

On May 29, 1944, RAF bombers bombed the factory in the Posen province, as well as destroying the glue manufacturing facility owned by the Goldschmitt Company (Tegofilm). There was also an attempt by Allied fighters to strafe the Langenhagen airfield where the Ta 154 was being tested. This was planned by the Allies to stop the planned production of the Ta 154, as it was believed that it could prove a worthy opponent to their air superiority. In the end this, along with shifting priorities, contributed to the termination of the Ta 154 program.

The V7 at Langenhagen shortly before takeoff. (Monogram Close-up 22)

More problems continued to arise in late-1944, as the mounts for the MK 108 cannons could not handle the recoil of the large caliber gun. Consequently, any Ta 154’s that did see combat were only fitted with the remaining two MG 151/20 cannons and did not have a metal fuselage. Those aircraft were deployed in Northern Germany. Furthermore, finding a suitable source for resin was proving ever more difficult. More prototypes had been planned under the names V1a, V11, V14a, and V24, with the last two being planned for static testing of the C variant. During another meeting on May 24th between Kurt Tank, Milch, Galland, Heinkel, Vogt, Frydag, Saur, and Göring, Tank finally admitted that the project was stalled because of the lack of the necessary resin. Moreover, Göring was becoming disappointed in the engine’s performance affecting the entire aircraft and feared that upgrading to the Jumo 213 would still leave much to be desired. Göring continued to voice his concerns with the wooden underside of the aircraft which made belly landings impossible. Tank’s Ta 154 was now on the chopping block. On 6th July, 1944, GFM Milch notified Focke-Wulf that the Ta 154 and Ta 254 programs would be terminated immediately.

All the remaining aircraft were left to sit at airfields. This resulted in most being destroyed in air raids and strafing attacks by Allied planes. Of the few remaining Ta 154’s used by separate night-fighter groups, many were destroyed to prevent capture by Allied troops. Of the 50-100 complete aircraft and many incomplete airframes, the Allies found a single Ta 154 A-1 intact, formerly used by NJG 3 (Nachtjagdgeschwader 3 / Night Hunter Squadron 3) at Lechfeld. The Ta 154 was placed behind a stack of jet engines waiting to be scrapped. It is likely that any captured Ta 154’s were scrapped, as none survive today. There is, however, a replica of the forward sections of the V3 at the Luftfahrttechnisches Museum in Rechlin, placed there in 2006. Many replicas exist at the museum, including the Me 262 HG I, He 162, and Ju 388.

Variants

V1 after it has received its designation. (Monogram Close-up 22)

There were many different variants of the Ta 154 built or proposed despite its relatively short lifespan. The first prototype was completed in July 1943, with prototype numbers ranging from V1 to V23. V1 through V10 were the first batch of prototypes ordered by the RLM. V11 through V14 were static airframes meant for destructive tests, with the former three resembling A models, and V14 resembling the C variant. V15 was a prototype of the A-2 variant. The use of V16 through V21 is not clear, but V20 is thought to have been the prototype for the C-1 variant, which was never produced. V22 was particularly special because of its lengthened fuselage, and there exists a photo of its wreckage. V23 is less known, but both the V22 and V23 were test beds for the Jumo 213 A. There is close to no information detailing prototypes past V10. Only brief explanations of their purpose is available.

The A-0 model was the pre-production version, of which a total of about twenty-two were constructed. They were equipped with FuG 220 radar, but had their flame dampers removed. The A-1 was the first production variant, very similar to the A-0, of which six were built. The A-2 variant was almost identical to the A-1 in all aspects, and four were built. The A-4 variant featured the addition of upturned wing tips to aid in lateral stability. Only two A-4s are known to have been built.

After the first A model Moskitos were tested, the B model was drawn up. It was based on the A-4, but incorporated a bubble canopy and a metal nose section to protect the pilot in case of belly landings. In early December 1943, however, Technische Amt decided to abandon the Ta 154 B model, and instead focus on the production of the C model, which also had a bulbous canopy, but now had an extended fuselage. It was during this time that the D variant was also realized, but was soon renamed the Ta 254. It would be equipped with Jumo 213 engines, MW 50 injection, and larger wings. No B, C, or Ta 254 models were built.

Production

The backside of the A-1. (Tank Power No.304: Focke-Wulf Ta 154)

The process to build the Ta 154 was not expensive in regards to the amount or costs of the necessary materials, but was pricey in terms of the manpower required for its careful assembly. The fuselage of the Ta 154 alone took four hundred hours to complete. All kinds of jigs and presses were constructed to aid in the process of molding the wood to the correct shape. The key to making so many Ta 154s was having as many workers as possible, but the curing process for the glue resin that was used took up to a full day to cure, which meant lots of time was spent waiting rather than working. Unfortunately for Focke-Wulf, the amount of workers that were experienced in working with these materials were few and far between. This meant the quality of the planes came down to the craftsmanship of each individual worker. Compared to the quality of the RAF Mosquito, the Ta 154 was inferior. The German wood workers were not used to the pressures of wartime production that the British were accustomed to.

The Ta 154 was trialed in some unorthodox ways. To test the strength of the components, a mockup missing both engines and a large portion of its wings was built specifically to be dragged underwater by a towing unit. This was done in 1943 at Lake Alatsee in Füssen, Bavaria. The towing unit was an “FGZ”, a trio of pontoon boats with a large crane in the center of the three. The mockup was dragged underwater at speeds up to 8.45 m/s (16 knots, 30 km/h) to simulate the pressure of flying. There were a total of six of these tests, and on the sixth test, the damage to the mockup became extensive. The nose cone became deformed, each end of the cut-off wing sections were mangled, and the canopy was broken.

Role

The Ta 154, although originally intended to be a high-speed bomber, was fully realized as a night fighter. The purpose of a night fighter is to counter aircraft, specifically bombers in this case, at night or in low visibility conditions. Such an aircraft was highly valued by the Luftwaffe in their efforts to counter the nightly RAF bombing raids targeting German industrialized zones.

Operational Service

Very limited information is available on the actions of the Moskitos assigned to 3.NJGr 10 and NJG 3, however, on March 22, 1945, four Ta 154s were spotted at Stade Airfield. They were observed next to Ju 88 and He 219 night fighters, as well as one undergoing armament tests at a range on the base. Three of the four Ta 154s were covered in light-colored paint, while the last was in a spotted camouflage. To back up the evidence that several were in operational service, a document from Junkers on March 16, 1945, details several Ta 154s being assigned to III./NJG 3. The document proceeds to tell of the experience of the Ta 154s against De Havilland Mosquitos, a fight during which the British plane usually came out on top. Another document from the British, ATI 2nd TAF Report A 685, was made on May 10, 1945. This report detailed the discovery of a crashed Ta 154 in operation as a night fighter on May 6, 1945. The camouflage pattern was a light blue on the majority of the aircraft, with gray spots decorating the top half of the plane. The crew of the aircraft was nowhere to be found, and the aircraft was looted by locals. In addition, the horizontal stabilizer was completely metal, and an angled wing tip device was fitted to improve stability. This points to one of two A-4s produced.

Design

V1 in its original paint scheme. Note the absence of flame dampers. (Monogram Close-up 22)

The Ta 154 “Moskito” was a twin-engined heavy fighter with shoulder-mounted wings, fuselage-mounted horizontal stabilizers, a tricycle landing gear arrangement, while being composed almost entirely out of wood. Perhaps the least noticeable characteristic of the Ta 154 that gave it major problems was its wings. They had no dihedral, which resulted in instability in turns. This problem was fixed in the A-4 variant that took advantage of upturned wingtips. The problem that affected the Ta 154 the most was failure of the front landing gear assembly. Because of the tricycle landing gear arrangement, the front gear had to be long enough to allow clearance for the propellers on the ground. The length of the front landing gear and the lack of thick supports meant failures happened often. The crew of the Ta 154 almost exclusively consisted of a single pilot and a radio operator. The Ta 154 was equipped with a multitude of different radio and radar instruments. This includes the FuG 212 or FuG 220 search radar, FuG 17 VHF Transceiver, PeilG VI direction-finding set, FuBL 2F, FuG 101 altimeter, FuG 25 IFF set, and FuG 28a transponder.

The Ta 154 was often equipped with flame dampers, which are fitted to the exhaust of the engines. The purpose of flame dampers is to dampen engine noise and decrease the visibility of flames exiting the exhaust. The Ta 154, with the exception of very few variants, was equipped with two Jumo 211 F/N/R engines. The variants that did not have those specific engines were provided with Jumo 213 A/E engines that marginally improved the Ta 154’s performance. The A-1 and A-2 variants were equipped with MW 50 injection, which was a combination of water and methanol that both increased boost pressure substantially and allowed the engine to suck in more air. This injection could result in up to hundreds more horsepower than the engine would normally run, but could only be used in short bursts. GM 1, a nitrous-oxide injection system, was also proposed for the A-2 variant. Concerning armament, the Ta 154 was armed with two 20 mm MG 151/20 and two 30 mm MK 108 cannons, although field modifications were made to individual planes. Some modifications included replacing the original armament with two or four MG 151/20’s, or, in rare cases, four MK 108 cannons. The typical ammo count for an armed Ta 154 was 300 rounds total for the MG 151s, and 200 round total for the MK 108 cannons. A bomb load of a single 500kg bomb was proposed for the A-2 variant, but it is unknown whether or not this was attempted. More than one Ta 154 is alleged to have been converted to A-2/U4s, which were equipped with Schräge Musik. Schräge Musik was the German name for upward firing guns that allowed an aircraft to fire on enemies without facing directly at them. This allowed night fighters like the Bf 110 and Do 217 J to catch enemy bombers unaware with gunfire from below them.

At the end of the Ta 154 program, a radical idea to rig up an Fw 190 on a superstructure above spare Ta 154s was realized. The interior of the Moskito would be filled with explosives, as well as replacing unneeded fuel tanks with more explosives. The Ta 154 fly unmanned, and the pilot of the Fw 190 would maneuver both planes on a course into an enemy bomber formation, where the pilot would detach from the Moskito fully laden with explosives. Once the Moskito reached the middle of the formation, it would be remotely detonated by the pilot of the Fw 190. Just like many variants of the Ta 154, this was also never completed.

Variants

Prototypes

  • Ta 154 V1 – First prototype, designated TE+FE, not fitted with armament or flame dampers and equipped with Jumo 211F engines powering three-bladed VS 11 propellers, later retrofitted with Jumo 211N engines. Its first flight took place on July 1, 1943, and it crashed during testing on 31 July 1943 due to landing gear legs collapsing upon landing.
  • Ta 154 V2 – Second prototype, designated TE+FF, fitted with flame dampers and FuG 212 C-1 radar but unarmed. Later retrofitted with Jumo 211N engines. Destroyed in an air raid on August 5, 1944.
  • Ta 154 V3 – Third prototype, designated TE+FG, identical to V2 except for a larger vertical stabilizer. Crashed on 28 February 1944 due to the nose wheel buckling and destroying the nose section. Later damaged beyond repair in an air raid in mid-1944.
  • Ta 154 V4 – Fourth prototype, designated TE+FH, first flight took place on 19 January 1944. Later retrofitted with a raised canopy and an MG 81 in the dorsal position behind the pilot. Crashed on 18 February 1944 due to landing gear experiencing an uncommanded retraction upon landing.
  • Ta 154 V5 – Fifth prototype, designated TE+FI, crashed on 7 April 1944 due to landing gear failure on landing.
  • Ta 154 V6 – Sixth prototype, designated TE+FJ. Possibly captured by Soviet troops at Rechlin.
  • Ta 154 V7 – Seventh prototype, designated TE+FK, painted in RLM 75/76 camouflage pattern, fate unknown.
  • Ta 154 V8 – Eighth prototype, designated TE+FL, first Ta 154 equipped with Jumo 213 engines and VS 111 propellers. Crashed on 6 May 1944 due to an engine fire, both crew members, Otto and Rettig, were killed on impact.
  • Ta 154 V9 – Ninth prototype, designated TE+FM, crashed on 18 April 1944 due to the right wingtip striking the ground, killing H. Meyer on the ground.
  • Ta 154 V10 – Tenth prototype, designated TE+FN, equipped with Jumo 213A engines, fate unknown.

Production Variants

  • Ta 154 A-0 – Pre-production variant fitted with FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN-2 radar and flame dampers removed.
  • Ta 154 A-1 – Production variant, fitted with Jumo 211F, N or R engines
    • Ta 154 A-1/R1 – equipped with GM 1 and an MG 81 in a new dorsal position.
  • Ta 154 A-2 – Fitted with two MG 151/20s and two MK 108 cannons, proposed to equip GM 1 NOS injection and one 500 kg bomb.
    • Ta 154 A-2/U4 – Night fighter variant, same armament as A-2, with the addition of two diagonally placed MK 108 cannons in the rear fuselage. (Schräge Musik)
  • Ta 154 A-4 – Fitted with two MG 151/20 (200 rpg) and two MK 108 (110 rpg) cannons and FuG 218 radar. The most interesting part of the A-4 was the addition of upturned wingtips.
  • Ta 154 B-1 – Proposed two-seat night fighter variant with a raised canopy, metal nose section, drop tanks, and Jumo 211N engines. Research discontinued in favor of the C variant with Jumo 213 engines.
  • Ta 154 C – Proposed variants to be fitted with Jumo 213A engines and incorporating a metal nose section as well as a raised canopy.
    • 5 cm B.K. armed Ta 154 C – A concept of a Ta 154 C variant armed with a 5 cm B.K. 5 cannon conceived in early 1944. None were produced.
  • Ta 254 A – Proposed variant family with Jumo 213E engines, MW 50, four broad-blade VS 9 airscrew assembly and longer wings, enlarging the wing area to 452 ft2 (42 m2)
  • Ta 254 B-1 – Proposed two-person night fighter variant with metal nose section, powered by two DB 603L engines driving VDM propellers.
  • Ta 254 B-2 – Proposed three-person day fighter variant with metal nose section, powered by two Jumo 213F or G engines equipped with three-bladed VDM propellers.
  • Ta 254 B-3 – Proposed one-person all-weather fighter, powered by two DB 603L engines and to be fitted with MW 50 field modification.
  • Ta 154 Mistel – A proposed variant of an unmanned Ta 154 A-4/U3 filled with explosives with an Fw 190A attached above via a detachable superstructure. The 190 pilot would fly the two planes into an enemy bomber formation, detach the superstructure, and detonate the Ta 154’s explosives.

Operators

  • Nazi Germany – A-1 variants were used by the 3rd Staffel of the Nachtjagdgruppe 10 (3.NJGr 10) and Nachtjagdgeschwader 3 (NJG 3). It is not known whether they were lost in combat or achieved any air victories.

Focke-Wulf Ta 154 A-0 Specifications

Wingspan 52 ft 6 in / 16 m
Length 41 ft 4 in / 12.6 m
Height 11 ft 10 in / 3.6 m
Wing Area 348¾ ft² / 32.4 m²
Wing Loading 56.58 lbs/ft2 / 276.23 kg/m2
Engine 2x 1,410 hp (1036 kW) Jumo 211F/2 liquid-cooled inverted V12 piston engine
Propeller 2x 3-blade VS 9 broad-blade airscrew assembly
Powerplant Ratings
Horsepower output Revolutions per minute (rpm) Altitude
Take Off 1,340 hp 2,600 rpm Sea Level
Normal

(Approx. 84% Throttle)

1,006 hp 2,050 rpm 7,200 ft / 2,200 m
853 hp 2,100 rpm 12,500 ft / 3,820 m
907 hp 2,240 rpm 19,400 ft / 5,900 m
670 hp 2,340 rpm 27,900 ft / 8,500 m
Military

(100% Throttle)

1,198 hp 2,270 rpm 6,200 ft / 1,900 m
1,004 hp 2,450 rpm 11,500 ft / 3,500 m
1,046 hp 2,420 rpm 17,400 ft / 5,300 m
865 hp 2,470 rpm 23,000 ft / 7,000 m
Fuel Grade 87 Octane Leaded Gasoline
Fuel Capacity 422 US Gal / 1,600 L
Oil Capacity 42⅓ US Gal / 160 L
Weights
Empty 13,580 lbs / 6,160 kg
Combat 17,840 lbs / 8,090 kg
Maximum Take Off 19,730 lbs / 8,950 kg
Maximum Landing 15,490 lbs / 7,025 kg
Climb Rate 1,770 ft / 540 m per minute
Maximum Speed 385 mph / 620 km/h at 19,700 ft / 6,000 m
Cruising Speed 332 mph / 534 km/h at 9,800 ft / 3,000 m
Landing Speed 115 mph / 185 kmh
Range 990 mi / 1,600 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 31,200 ft / 9,500 m
Crew 1 pilot + 1 radar operator
Armament
  • 2x MK 108 (100 rpg)
  • 2x MG 151 (150 rpg)

Gallery

Focke-Wulf Ta-154 V1 TE+FE – July 1943
Focke-Wulf Ta-154 V3 TE+FG – March 1943
Focke-Wulf Ta-154 V7 TE+FK – March 1944

Focke-Wulf Ta 154 Replica, Luftfahrt Technisches Museum, Rechlin
Ta 154 V3 replica at Luftfahrttechnisches Museum Rechlin by Peter Cook / CC BY-SA 2.0

Videos

Sources

Primary:

  • D.(Luft) T.3803 Junkers Verstelluftschrauben-Anlage Jumo 211 F und J. (1943)
  • Jumo 211 F und J – Baureihe 1 – Leistungsschaubild. (1941)
  • Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau GmbH Nr.26a-Mistel Ta 154 A – Fw 190 A-8 “Beethoven”. (18 July 1944)

Secondary:

Focke Wulf Fw 187

Nazi flag Nazi Germany (1937)
Twin Engined Fighter – 9 Built

The Fw 187 Falke was a twin engine fighter that was built by Focke-Wulf in 1936, at a time when the newly-formed Luftwaffe did not consider such an airplane type necessary. Despite receiving significant negative feedback, several prototypes were built and three pre-production versions were also constructed. The three pre-production types saw limited service defending the Focke-Wulf factory in Bremen against Allied bombing in 1940. Aside from that, they saw no other combat.

History

The first Fw 187 V1 shortly after being completed.

The twin-engined fighter was a concept few countries pursued in the early days of flight. The type only started serious development in the years directly preceding the outbreak of the Second World War, with planes such as the American Lockheed P-38 Lightning entering service. Most officials across the globe agreed that two-engine fighter aircraft would be rendered unnecessary by cheaper and lighter single-engine designs. In the early 1930s, Germany had no plans to develop such an aircraft either.

However, an aeronautical engineer by the name of Kurt Tank showed an interest. Kurt Tank was the main aircraft designer of the Focke-Wulf company, who developed most of the company’s most famous aircraft. During WWII, he would go on to create the iconic Fw 190 and would later have an aircraft designation named after him, with the Ta 152 and Ta 154. He began work on the new twin-engine project, despite there being no current requirement for such an aircraft. Tank had his first chance to reveal his design at a weapons exhibition held at a Henschel plant in 1936. Tank showed off his innovative design, claiming the twin-engine layout would offer a great speed of 348 mph (560 km/h) if the aircraft mounted the newly developed Daimler Benz DB 600 engines. One of the attendants of the event was Adolf Hitler himself, who found the design particularly interesting.

The Fw 187 on jackstands. This photo was taken during testing of the double-wheeled landing gear.

But to the Technischen Amt (Technical Research Office), the design was unnecessary, as it was believed single-engine designs could perform just as well as the twin-engined concept. Another pre-war doctrine was that the current bombers would be fast enough to outrun the fighters of the enemy, and escort fighters wouldn’t be needed. Tank, not happy with this response, took his design to Oberst (Colonel) Wolfram von Richthofen, the head of the Development section of the Technischen Amt. Tank persuaded him that technological advances would eventually allow the construction of more powerful fighters that would be able to catch up with the bombers which would thus require an escort fighter. Convinced by his claim, Richthofen agreed that it would be better to have a countermeasure now rather than later. Richthofen’s term as chief was short, but in this time he authorized three prototypes of Tank’s twin-engine design. The design was officially given the name of Fw 187.

Work began on the Fw 187 soon after, but, to Tank’s dismay, the requests for the DB 600 engine were turned down. Instead, he had to work with Junkers Jumo 210 engines, as DB 600s were only allocated to projects which were viewed as being highly important. The design work was handed over to Oberingenieur (Chief Engineer) Rudi Blaser, who was the one of the most experienced members onboard Focke-Wulf. Blaser had previously headed the design of the failed Fw 159 monoplane fighter, but he was ready to continue work and move on from his failure. Blaser wanted to achieve only one thing with this design: maximum speed.

The Fw 187 V2 on a test flight.

The first prototype Fw 187 was completed in early 1937. The Fw 187 V1 (designated D-AANA) was first flown by test pilot Hans Sander. In the initial flights, the aircraft reached speeds of up to 326 mph (524 km/h). The Luftwaffe was surprised to learn that despite weighing twice as much as the Bf 109, the Fw 187 was still able to go 50 mph (80 km/h) faster. They accused the team of having faulty instruments. Blaser was determined to prove them wrong and had a Pitot tube (a device that measures air speed using the total air pressure) installed on the nose of the V1, which would accurately tell the performance. Sander once again flew and confirmed the aircraft indeed had attained such a speed. Further flight trials showed the aircraft had superb maneuverability, climbing and diving. These great characteristics led Kurt Tank to name the aircraft his “Falke” or Falcon. This name became official as well, and wasn’t just a nickname the creator gave to his creation.

In the summer of 1937, the airframe had an impressive wing loading of 30.72 Ibs/sq ft (147.7 kg/m2), something no other fighter could equal at that point. Further tests by Sander put the airframe to the extremes to try the limitations of the aircraft in diving. The rudder, during dives, was predicted to begin fluttering after 620 mph (1000 km/h), but Blaser was more cautious, and thought it would start at a lower speed. To counteract this, a balance weight was attached to the rudder. Blaser assured Sander that the aircraft would perform better in dives as long as he didn’t exceed 460 mph (740 km/h). With the new weight attached, Sander took off to begin trials. Hitting 455 mph (730 km/h), Sander noticed the tail had begun violently shaking. With the tail not responding, Sander had started to bail when he reported a loud noise came from the rear. Sander’s control over the aircraft had returned and all vibrations had ceased. Upon landing, it was found that the weight itself had been the culprit of the vibrations and the sound Sander heard was the weight breaking off the rudder.

An aft view of the V6. The surface cooling system is visible in this shot.

Several modifications were made to the V1 during testing. The frontal landing gear was switched out for a dual wheeled design at some point, but was found it offered no benefit over the single wheel and thus was reverted. The propellers were also changed from Junkers-Hamilton to VDM built ones. Weapons were eventually added as well, but these were just two 7.92mm MG 17s. The 2nd prototype arrived in the summer of 1937. Visually, the V2 was identical to the V1, but had a smaller tailwheel, modified control surfaces, and Jumo 210G engines with enhanced fixed radiators.

However, in 1936, there was a change of leadership in the Technischen Amt. The supportive Richthofen was replaced by Ernst Udet. Udet was a fighter pilot, and his experience reflected upon his decisions. He made sure no more biplane designs were being built and all designs were now of monoplane construction. He had a major focus on fighters, and believed them to be the future. The modern fighter had to be efficient, with speed and maneuverability being the utmost importance. And, from this viewpoint, he saw twin engine fighters as not being as capable as single engine fighters. With this mindset, the Luftwaffe now saw no real reason to continue developing the Fw 187 as a single seat interceptor, but it could be developed as a Zerstörer (“Destroyer” heavy fighter), the same role the Bf 110 occupied. This required a crew of more than one and much heavier armament. Tank was reluctant, and felt his design was still as capable as single engine designs were, but he knew continuing to go against the Technischen Amt would result in his aircraft being terminated, so he regretfully obliged.

The V3 was in the middle of construction and changes had to be made as a result of this. The V1 and V2 had already been produced, and any drastic changes would further affect development, so no attempt to convert the two initial planes into two-seaters ever occured. To accommodate a radioman, the cockpit had to be lengthened. This worried Blaser, who was concerned these changes would affect the size and overall performance of the aircraft. Thus, he tried making the changes that affected the aircraft’s performance as little as possible. The fuselage was increased lengthwise, the tailfin was shortened, and increased cockpit volume demanded the fuel tank be moved farther back. Engine nacelles were also shortened to allow installation of landing flaps for when the aircraft carried larger ordnance. The 7.92mms were now complemented with two 20mm MG FF cannons, although V3 never mounted any actual weapons, only mock-ups.

The Fw 187 had good luck up until this point, but this good fortune ran out shortly after the V3 was produced. A few weeks after it was finished in early 1938, the V3 was doing a test flight when one of its engines caught on fire. The aircraft was able to safely land and the fire was extinguished, but the airframe had taken some damage and needed repairs. Tragedy struck once again not too long after, on May 14th. The V1 was lost and its pilot, Bauer, was killed during a landing accident. These two events happening so close together made the already negatively viewed Falke seem not only an unnecessary weapon, but now an unreliable one as well. Two more prototypes were built late in 1938, the V4 (D-OSNP) and V5 (D-OTGN). These two were mostly identical to the V3, but had several slight modifications, such as a modified windshield. Judging by photos, one obvious trait V4 and V5 had over V3 is the lack of the radio mast mounted on the cockpit of the V3. V4 and V5 were sent to the Echlin Erprobungsstelle, a major aircraft development and testing airfield for the RLM (Reichsluftfahrtministerium, German Ministry of Aviation). The trials at this site yielded favorable evaluations of the aircraft and three pre-production examples were ordered.

One of the A-0s flying overhead.

While all of this was going on, Tank was finally able to acquire two DB 600A engines for his Falke. The plane that mounted these engines would be the V6. Before the V6 was built, Tank had shown interest in surface evaporation cooling, a drag reducing novelty which had been researched and developed by Heinkel and was soon to be worked on by Messerschmitt. With the V6 now under construction, Tank drew plans to apply the feature into the prototype to give it peak performance. V6 (CI+NY) first flew in early 1939 and showed how well the new engines and surface cooling made the aircraft perform. On takeoff, the V6 had 1,000 HP from each engine, a 43% boost over the previously used Jumo 210s. During one test flight, the V6 was flying 395 mph (635 km/h) in level flight.

The three pre-production examples previously mentioned were designated Fw 197A-0. These were were fully armed. The A-0s added armored glass to the windshield and carried two more MG 17s. The A-0 planes also returned to using the Jumo 210 engines. Due to the additional weight, the performance of the A-0s was a bit lower than the prototypes. However, the RLM continued to argue against the Falke, claiming that, because it had no defensive armament, the Fw wouldn’t be as effective as the Bf 110 in the same role (despite it being able to outperform the 110 performance-wise). The final decision related to the Falke was an idea to turn it into a night-fighter in 1943. Nothing ever came out of this proposal.

The Factory Defender

Although the Bf 110 seemingly took the Falke’s place, its story continued. As the Royal Air Force (RAF) began its attacks over mainland Germany in 1940, aircraft firms scrambled to defend their valuable factories. Several firms formed a “Industrie Schutzstaffel”, which was an aerial defence program which would have aircraft company’s factories and testing sites be defended by aircraft piloted by test pilots and to be managed by on-site personnel. Focke-Wulf was one such firm and, luckily for them, three fully operational Fw187A-0s were ready and waiting to be used in combat. These examples were sent to the Focke-Wulf factory at Bremen and were sent on numerous missions to defend the plant from Allied bombing. Allegedly, Dipl.-Ing (Engineer’s degree) Melhorn claimed several kills while flying one of these aircraft. After the stint in Bremen, the three were put back into armament and equipment testing. In the winter of 1940 to early 1941, the three were sent to a Jagdstaffel unit in Norway, where they were evaluated by pilots. One of the three was sent to Værløse, Denmark in the summer of 1942 and temporarily assigned to Luftschiess-Schule. It is likely the remaining 3 and prototypes were either scrapped or destroyed by Allied bombing, as no examples are known to have survived the war. Some sources claim the aircraft Melhorn flew was the V6 converted into a single seater and armed for combat, but no proof supports this.

The Fw 187 was no secret weapon. After the fighting in France died down, the Propaganda Ministry began producing film and photos of the Fw 187 in 1940-1941 to persuade the Allies into thinking the Falke was fully operational and replacing the Bf 110 as the Luftwaffe’s all new Zerstörer. In reality, the latter was taking over the role of the former. The campaign sort of worked, as the Fw 187 was now a part of the rogue’s gallery that the Allies expected to fight. Identification cards, models and even movies were made to train pilots in the event they should encounter the two engine terror in combat. One such film denotes that the Fw 187 is “a rare bird” and that they should comically “make it extinct”. This shows that the Allies didn’t completely fall for the propaganda that claimed it was being produced in mass quantity.

Design

The Fw 187 had a twin engine design. The airframe was of all light metal construction. To reduce drag, the airframe was actually narrower at its widest point than other fighters of the time. The wings were of metal construction and divided into three sections. The connected segments carried the fuel and the outer segments had the flaps installed. The first and second prototypes had a single seat cockpit. The cockpit was covered by a canopy that slid aft. The cockpit itself wasn’t built for comfort, as it was built for an average sized pilot. The cramped cockpit lacked the necessary space to mount certain instruments and had these mounted outside on the engine cowlings. V1 had tail sitting landing gear, with all three wheels being able to retract into the hull. V2 was similar to V1, but had modified control surfaces. Beginning after the first two, all examples of the Fw 187 had an extended greenhouse cockpit to accommodate the radioman. The cockpit now opened up in two sections, one to the front and one to the rear. The fuselage was lengthened to some degree as well. The extended cockpit required the fuel tank to be moved down the fuselage. The engine nacelles were shortened to allow landing flaps to be added. V3 also had a radio mast mounted on the rear part of the cockpit. V4 and V5 had this removed.

For engines, the majority of the Falke’s used the Jumo 210 engine. V1 mounted the 210Da, V2-V5 using the 210G, V6 using the powerful DB 600A engines and the A-0 reverting back to 210Gs. The aircraft performance stayed the same overall, with the V6 having peak performance speedwise.

For armament, V1 mounted two MG 17 machine guns. V3 had accommodations for two more MG FF cannons but only mockups were added. When the A-0s were rolled out, an additional two MG 17s were added to fill the Zerstorer role. The extra two had their ammunition mounted in front of the radioman’s seat.

Variants

  • Fw 187 V1 – First prototype. Mounted two Junkers Jumo 210Da engines. Originally mounted Junkers-Hamilton propellers but was changed to VDM airscrews. Originally had two wheeled forward landing gear which was switched to single during development. Fitted with two MG 17 machine guns.
  • Fw 187 V2 – Second prototype, had different rudders and a semi-retractable tail-wheel. Had fuel-injection Jumo 210G engines.
  • Fw 187 V3 – Third prototype. Two seat version, the cockpit was lengthened to accommodate the radioman. The engine nacelles were shortened some degree to allow new landing flaps.V-3 also mounted two MG 17 machine guns and two MG FF cannons.
  • Fw 187 V4/Fw 187 V5 – Fourth and fifth prototypes. Nearly identical to V-3, aside from several small modifications, such as having different windscreens.
  • Fw 187 V-6 – Sixth prototype. High speed version that mounted Daimler Benz DB 600A engines.
  • Fw 187A-0 – Pre-production version. Three were constructed. Armed with two MG FF cannons and four MG 17 machine guns. Frontal armored windshields were added. These three were tested and sent to various locations for trial and defensive purposes.

Operators

  • Nazi Germany – The sole operator was Nazi Germany, which reportedly used the Falke during the air defense of Bremen in 1940.

Focke Wulf Fw 187A-0 Specifications

Wingspan 50 ft 2 in / 15.3 m
Length 36 ft 6 in / 11.1 m
Height 12 ft 7 in / 3.8 m
Wing Area 327.2 ft² / 99.7 m²
Engine 2x 700 hp (522 kW) Junkers Jumo 210Ga 12-cylinder liquid cooled inline engines
Propeller 2x 3-blade VDM airscrews
Powerplant Ratings
Horsepower output Altitude
Take Off 700 hp Sea Level
Normal 730 hp 3,280 ft
Weights
Empty 8,150 lbs / 3,700 kg
Loaded 11,000 lbs / 5,000 kg
Climb Rate
Rate of Climb at Sea Level 3,450 ft / 1050 m per minute
Time to 6,560 ft / 1999.4 m 1.9 minutes
Time to 19,700 ft / 6000 m 5.8 minutes
Speed 329 mph / 530 km/h at 13,780 ft / 4,200 m

322 mph / 518 km/h at Sea Level

Range 560 mi / 900 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 32,810 ft / 10940 m
Crew 1 Pilot

1 Radio Operator

Armament
  • 2x 20mm MG FF cannons
  • 4x 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns

Gallery

llustrations by Haryo Panji https://www.deviantart.com/haryopanji

Focke-Wulf Fw 187 V1- Prototype
Focke-Wulf Fw 187 Night Fighter
Focke-Wulf Fw 187 A-0
The V5 on standby. A visual difference between the V3 and the V4/V5 is the absence of a radio mast mounted on the cockpit.
Side view of the V6.
A period 3-way illustration of the Fw 187 A-0
The Fw 187 V3 after it’s engine fire. Notice it’s greenhouse cockpit and the way it opens.
A cockpit view of one of the A-0s. Note the glass floor.
The V4 taking off. The V4 and V5 were slightly modified versions of the V3.
Three pre-production Fw 187 A-0s on standby.
An aft view of the V6. The surface cooling system is visible in this shot.

Sources

He 178

Heinkel He 178

nazi flag Nazi Germany (1939)
Experimental Jet Plane – 2 Built

On the 27th of August 1939, test pilot Erich Warsitz made the first test flight above the Rostock-Marienehe factory airfield with the new Heinkel He 178. With this flight, the He 178 went in to history as the world’s first fully operational jet-powered aircraft.

History

In March 1936 Dr Hans Pabs von Ohain, a pioneer of the gas-turbine engine, and Max Hahn were hired by aircraft designer and manufacturer Ernst Heinkel, founder of Heinkel Flugzeugwerke. Their objective at Heinkel was to design and build a working turbojet engine. The concept of a jet turbine engine was not something new at the time, but no one had applied it efficiently or used its potential for the development of the future of aviation.

Other German firms also showed interest in the radical and revolutionary idea of new jet engine technology, especially Junkers Flugzeugwerke. Junkers engineers would eventually develop the first operational combat jet fighter in the world, the Me-262. Heinkel hoped to achieve building the first operational and functional jet engine before all other firms, as quickly as possible.

In September of 1937, the first prototype of the new turbo-jet engine, named HeS 1 was demonstrated. It could achieve a thrust of 551 lbf (250 kgf). The next version, the HeS 2, was deemed a complete failure, with only some 198 lbf (90 kgf) of thrust and subsequent work on this design was abandoned.

The next developmental model, the HeS 3 was ready and tested in 1938. The HeS 3 reached 970 lbf (440 kgf) of thrust, weighing 793 lbs (360 kg) and had a diameter of 3 ft 11 in (1.2 m). Heinkel used one modified He 118 plane and equipped it with this test jet engine slung under its fuselage. This was however not the first operational jet aircraft, as the testbed took off and landed under its own piston engine’s power. This flight is generally considered to be a success.

A new upgraded HeS 3b, upgraded from the earlier 3a version, with some 1,100 lbf (500 kgf) of thrust, was ready to be tested in 1939 in a specially designed aircraft, the He 178 which had been completed earlier that year.

The He 178 was a shoulder wing aircraft, made mostly of wood with a semi-monocoque metal fuselage.  The He 178 was equipped with retractable landing gear. The pilot’s cabin was located well forward of the wing’s leading edge. The jet engine drew in air from the front nose inlet, with the jet exhaust emerging from a long narrow pipe at the rear of the aircraft, in the tail. Later a new HeS 6 engine was installed, with 1,300 lbf (590 kgf) of thrust.

The characteristics of the He 178 were as such: maximum speed with the HeS 3b was 580 km/h (360mph). The theoretical estimated maximum speed was much higher, up to 700 km/h (435 mph), but the question of whether it could have been successfully achieved lingers. Service ceiling was 7000m and the effective range was some 200 km.

Operational Service

On its first test flight the engine ingested a bird which caused some minor internal engine damage, but the pilot managed to safely land the plane. Despite this incident this first test flight was considered a success. After several more test flights were accomplished, the first He 178 (V1) was placed in the air museum in Berlin, where it would eventually be destroyed in a 1943 bombing raid. Soon after, the assembly and production of the second plane was ready with some modifications, most importantly larger wings. The second  prototype (V2) never flew, and it is not known if it was ever completely built. It’s fate is unknown.

Luftwaffe officials showed little interest in jet aircraft with fuselage mounted engines, due to the increased complications involved in their design and maintenance. Fuselage mounted engines required more rigorous technical inspections, presented production complications, and were overall seen as less efficient designs. Officials instead preferred fighter aircraft with wing mounted turbojet engines, such as the later Me 262 and He 280.  In the end the He 178 project as a fighter aircraft was abandoned.

Versions

The first airframe was designated V1, with the second unfinished airframe with larger wings designated the V2.

  • He 178 V1 – Experimental jet-aircraft
  • He 178 V2 – Second prototype jet-aircraft

 

Heinkel He 178 Specifications

 

Wingspan 23 ft 7 in / 7.2 m
Length 24 ft 6 in / 7.48 m
Height 6 ft 10 in / 2.1 m
Wing Area 86.04 ft² / 7.9 m²
Engine One HeS 3b centrifugal-flow turbojet
Empty Weight 3,572 lb / 1,620 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight 4,405 lb / 1,998 kg
Maximum Speed 360 mph / 580 kmh

Estimated (theoretical) maximum possible speed up to  435 mph / 700 km/h

Range 124 mi / 200 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 22,965 ft / 7,000 m
Crew 1 pilot
Armament
  • None

Gallery

He 178 V1 Profile View
He 178 V2 Profile View

Source:

Nešić, D. (2007). Nemačka : ratno vazduhoplovstvo. Beograd: Tampoprint Vojnoizdavački zavod, Direkcija za izdavačku i bibliotečko-informacionu delatnost., Bishop, C. (2002). The encyclopedia of weapons of World War II. New York: MetroBooks., Kuipers, L. (2010). No. 9919. Heinkel He 178 V1., Heinkel He 178 in Luftwaffe Resource Center. Sharpe, M. (1999). Attack and interceptor jets. New York: Barnes & Noble., He.178 in Airwar.ru Images: Side Profile Views by Escodrion – https://escodrion.deviantart.com

 

Blohm & Voss BV 144

nazi flag 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.

History

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.

BV.144 in its assembly stage. Note the large forward lamp assembly in the nose.

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.

Design

BV.144 seen with French markings

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.

BV.144-1
Forward view of the BV.144

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.

Side view of the BV.144 with French markings

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.

Operators

  • 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.

Blohm & Voss BV 144

Wingspan 88 ft 7 in / 27 m
Length 71 ft 6 ¼ in / 21.8 m
Height 16 ft 5 ¼ in / 5.01 m
Wing Area 947 ft² / 88 m²
Engine 2x BMW 801 MA (1600 hp)
Fuel Load 1900 L (Gasoline)
Minimum Weight 17416 lb / 7900 kg
Maximum Weight 28660 lb / 13000 kg
Cruising Speed 255 mph / 410 kmh at 13123 ft / 4000 m
Maximum Speed 292 mph / 470 kmh
Service Ceiling 29848 ft / 9100 m
Range 963 mi / 1550 km
Crew 1x Pilot

1x Co-Pilot

1x Radio Operator

Payload Regular:

18x Passengers

Maximum:

23x Passengers

Gallery

The prototype BV 144 seen in a side profile illustration
A “What-if” paint scheme depicting the prototype BV 144 if it had seen service with Lufthansa during the mid forties.

Sources

Gunston, B. (1980). The illustrated encyclopedia of propeller airliners. New York: Exeter Books. , Kay, A. L., & Smith, J. R. (2002). German aircraft of the Second World War: Including helicopters and missiles. London: Putnam. , Lepage, J. (2009). Aircraft of the Luftwaffe: 1939-1945: An illustrated guide. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. , Images: Side Profile Views by Ed Jackson – Artbyedo.com

 

messerschmitt bf109_e3_neu2_eingezogen

Messerschmitt Bf 109

Nazi flag Nazi Germany (1937)
Fighter Plane – 33,984 Built

Restored Bf 109G-10 in flight [luftwaffephotos.com]
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.

History

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.

Development

Bf 109G flying straight on [gertimga.pw]
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.

me109-413f-s
Bf 109G-2 ‘Gustav’ – One of the best preserved 109s

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.

Design

bf109-engine-bay
Bf 109G-2 ‘Gustav’ photographed at an airshow in the 90s

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.

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Bf 109G-4 – Operated and preserved by the Messerschmitt Foundation

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.

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Bf 109F2 with ace General Adolf Galland in 1942 France

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

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Bf 109G-2 ‘Black 2’ now of the Messerschmitt Museum

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.

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Bf 109E-3 on display at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, England

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.

Prototypes

  • Bf 109V1Powered 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

Production Versions

  • Bf 109AThe 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 109BThis 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 109CThe 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 109EThe 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 109GThe 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 109HThis 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 109TAttempted 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 109XExperimental aircraft.

Licensed-built versions

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 BuchonThe 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 BuchonPowered with a Rolls Royce Merlin 500-45 of 1400 hp engine.

Operators

  • 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)

Wingspan  9,92 m / 32 ft 6 in
Length  8,95 m / 29 ft 7 in
Height  2,60 m / 8 ft 2 in
Wing Area  16,05 m² / 173,3 ft²
Propeller Diameter  3 m/ 9 ft 10 in
Engine  1 Daimler Benz DB 605A-1 liquid-cooled inverted V-12 of 1,455 hp
Maximum Take-Off Weight  3400 Kg / 7,495 lb
Empty Weight  2247 kg / 5,893 lb
Loaded Weight  3148 kg / 6,940 lb
Climb Rate  17 m/s ; 3,345 ft/min
Maximum Speed  640 km/h / 398 mph
Range  850 Km / 528 miles; 1000 Km / 621 miles with a droptank
Maximum Service Ceiling  12000 m /39,370 ft
Crew  1 (pilot)
Armament  

  • 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

Gallery

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Bf 109 B-2, II/JG 132 “Richthofen”
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Bf 109 E-7/B, Zerstörergeschwader 1
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Bf 109 G-10, JG 3 “Udet”, Eskortflugzeug für Sturmbockstaffeln
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Bf 109 E-3
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Bf 109 E-3, III./JG 2, Frankreich 1940
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Bf 109 E-1
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Bf 109 E-3, III./JG 27, France 1940
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Bf 109 E-3, III/JG 26

bf-109-underside-flight

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