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.
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.
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.
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
23 ft 7 in / 7.2 m
24 ft 6 in / 7.48 m
6 ft 10 in / 2.1 m
86.04 ft² / 7.9 m²
One HeS 3b centrifugal-flow turbojet
3,572 lb / 1,620 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight
4,405 lb / 1,998 kg
360 mph / 580 kmh
Estimated (theoretical) maximum possible speed up to 435 mph / 700 km/h
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 ‘Emil’ is the most renowned fighter of the Axis countries, and a clear symbol of its air power during World War II. Its performance gave Germany at the earlier stages of the war the upper hand, and it took part in every front until the very end of the conflict in Europe: The Polish campaign, The Invasion of Norway, the Battle of France, The Battle of Britain, Operation Barbarossa (Invasion of Russia), the North African Theatre, Italy, D-Day, defending the German skies against the Allies’ bombing raids and the ’44 winter Luftwaffe’s Last Offensive. The Bf 109 was the main fighter of the Luftwaffe in every aspect, being latter on complemented by the Focke Wulf Fw 190. Yet the Bf 109 did not served only under German flag, and not only during WWII: The Spanish Civil War was the first conflict where this fighter saw its first combat action, and it flew also with other nations: Finland, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary. And after the war, it kept fighting specially under Israeli flag, serving also in the Yugoslavian, Romanian and Czechoslovakian air forces. Interestingly, the adaptability of the fighter was one of the main factors that allowed it to serve until 1965, having many variants.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is single-seat and single engine fighter, tasked also with air superiority, interceptor, escort fighter and fighter-bomber capable of all-weather and day- and night-fighter. It was entirely 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 an enclosed one, featuring a retractable landing gear and a tailwheel, armed with machine guns and guns. As a result, the Me – 109 was a pretty modern design by the time it was introduced. Its development began back in 1934, following a 1933 Reichsluftfarhtministerium study in which it was 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 autonomy 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 2 X 7,92mm 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 Messerchmit Bf 109, hence the name of the aircraft, and the ‘Bf’ denomination. Taking as a basis the 4-seat light passenger Bf – 108, 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 reaching speeds of up to 470 Km/h (Bf 109B) thanks to it Junkers Jumo 210Ga engine. Further models received a Daimler Benz inverted V-12 engine Models fitted with racing engines even yielded speeds of 610.95 Km/h (379,62 mph) and of 755.14 Km/h (463,92 mph), being the last a speed record for piston-engine aircraft until 1969. The fighter was very modern and advanced, equal to any fighter in service at the times at tactical point, even being over the Supermarine Spitfire, its most renown rival at the Battle of England. The earlier versions were armed with an array of 2 X 7,92mm machine guns in the forward cowl above the engine (Bf 109B), and later models armed with two additional 7,92mm machine guns at the wings (Bf 109C), and a 20 mm gun at the nose of the plane instead of the machine guns placed previously at the same place (Bf 109D).
Presented in public during the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a propagandistic act, it debuted for the first time during the Spanish Civil War with the German Condor Legion, where it gained quickly air superiority over its Soviet-made rival Polikarkov I-15 and Polikarkov I-16 fighters, with Werner Mölders, a future WWII ace scoring 14 victories. This conflict also served to test in combat the new fighter 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 it came to an end, 40 fighters were gifted to Spain following the withdrawal of the Condor Legion.
But the Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a victim of its own success and the Luftwaffe’s own overestimate. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was considered enough for the operational needs of Germany until 1941, 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 less known Bf 109K. Yet the model kept many shortcomings that would affect its performance during the conflict, putting it in disadvantage to its rivals.
The Bf 109 had many advantages: Its good initial autonomy – for tactical purposes; which was the type of war it was prepared for – and the powerful engine alongside a small structure (and size); its agility; high speed; climbing angle and rate; diving speed; good turning rate; good manoeuvrability; and cheap price. But there were also other problems that prevailed during its service: First, the ‘legs’ of the landing gear were rather fragile and narrow, retracting outwards and not beneath the fuselage. Second, the same Blitzkrieg tactics made the fighter to fight for such scenario at the expense of greater autonomy, playing against it during the Battle of Britain. This problem was solved after the Battle with the addition of extra drop fuel oil tanks. Third, it tended to swing sideways during landing or taking off. Fourth, it had a poor lateral controlling 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 to be unstable while on ground, with the solution for this problem resulted in transferring load up through the legs while taking off and landing manoeuvres.
A total of c.a. 34000 Bf 109 were built in Germany from 1936 to 1945, in addition to the 239 made by Hispano Aviacion, 75 built in Romania by IAR and the 603 made by Avia, increasing the production time until 1958. Some 20 Bf 109 remain now as museum displays.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is a very interesting fighter with equally interesting design characteristics. A light weight 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 monocoque sleek 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 easy to remove or replace it as a unit. The powerplant tended to differ from version to version: the early versions were powered by a Junkers Jumo 210g inverted V-12 700 hp, the following versions were powered by a Daimler Benz DB 600A of 986 hp and other – more powerful – Daimler Benz engines (for further information, please see the variants). As the engine was of an inverted type, it was reportedly hard to knock out from below. And it also featured an electrical pith regulator.
The wing was also full of remarkable details. One of them was the I-beam main 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 stiffness of torsion 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 a high-loading one. 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 a standard one 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 made possible to fly, and even a 5-minute flight was possible with both radiators closed.
The canopy of the Bf 109 was a closed, bird-cage design, opening sideways, and having armour protection plates from the back, protecting also the main fuel tanks as it was partially placed under the cockpit floor and partially 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 type of weaponry, caliber and location. The earlier versions normally featured an array of two machine guns mounted in the cowling, and also 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 a 7,92mm MG 17 machine guns or a 20mm MG FF or MG FF/M cannon, at the space between the wheel well and slats. The C version began to feature the additional two 7,92mm machineguns, where a device – 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 at the wings, being longer and heavier, made them to be placed at a farther area in an outer bay, and forcing the spar to be cut with holes so to allow feeding the weapon. Also, 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 nosecone, 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.
And, noteworthy to remark, the additional armament, while increasing the Messerschmitt Bf 109’s firepower, it also reduced its performance. Handling qualities and dogfighting capabilities were severely affected, while a tendency to swing on a pendulum-fashion way while flying emerged.
The Reich’s Warrior of the Skies
When the war started in 1939 with the invasion of Poland by Germany, around 320 Bf 109 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 either on the ground or on air combats the Polish air force, providing also escort to ground attack airplanes 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 Gladiatiors 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 and an ill prepared Armee de l’air, which was unable to face the force of the Luftwaffe and the Bf 109, while the German fighters gained air supremacy rather quickly and controlled the French skies. But the Battle of Dunkirk began to highlight the limitations of the Bf 109, especially in regards to autonomy, as many were coming from bases within Germany, facing also a strong opposition from the Royal Air Force.
The Battle of Britain was the first battle where the Bf 109 began to show their limits, especially that of autonomy, having little time to provide effective escort and air supremacy over the British skies. It also found fitting rival in the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane, which were able to face the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and even were able to overweight it. And the radar installations the RAF had, also played its role in defeating the Bf 109. Moreover, the attrition suffered during the Battle of France paid its toll over 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 for 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), breeding many aces. In addition, the pilots on-board the Bf 109 were already having 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 it 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 into 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: 400 were lost in action. At the same time, the Bf 109 was seeing action in North Africa, achieving air supremacy at the beginning but facing adverse conditions later on, 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. Yet the defence imposed high attrition to the fighter units, reaching a staggering 141%, as well as the fact that the German air industry did not updated its models on time or it 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 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 use the Bf 109 during the Continuation War, claiming a victory ratio of 25:1, operating with them until 1954. Switzerland received a batch of Bf 109 during the war, using them until 1955. The Bf 109 donated by Germany or built under license by Spanish air company Hispano Aviacion during and after the war, remained in service until 1965. Many took part in the film Battle of England. Israel also used Czech-made Bf 109 that fought during the Independence War, scoring 8 victories.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 featured quite a few variants and sub-variants, thanks to the fighter’s capacity to receive updates and any other needed modifications during its career. Such modifications were normally about the engine, some structural features – like air intakes – and the array and type of weaponry the fighters would feature. Noteworthy to remark, those modifications were mostly the product of operational needs and field experiences the Luftwaffe had throughout the conflict and even in Spain, during the German intervention in such conflict. Even the size among the versions tended to differ.
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 2 X 7.92 machineguns over the engine cowling.
Bf 109V3 – Similar to the Bf 109V2, becoming the Bf 109B-0
Bf 109A –The A-0 was powered by a Junkers Jumo 210D 661 hp engine, armed with 2 X 7,92 MG 17 machine guns at the engine cowling, with a third added experimentally at 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 machineguns Rheinmetal-Borsig MG 17 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 2 X 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 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 of the C series. Initially transferred to nigh 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 to move 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 latter a Daimbler Benz BD601N engine especial for high altitudes. As a result, this series could reach speeds of 560 km/h or 570 km/h. The Bf 109E5 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 of 250kg, normally on the earlier E variants (E-1 to E-4), yet the E-2 had the 20mm engine-mounted cannon. The E-4, however lacked the engine gun, armed instead with the 2 X 7,92mm machine guns at the engine cowling and two 20mm guns at the wings. The following Bf 109E (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 2 X 7,92mm MG 17 machine guns on the engine cowling and 2 X 20mm MG FF guns at the wings. The E-8 was armed with 4 X 7,92mm machineguns, while the E-9 had only the two 7,92mm machineguns at 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 fifth 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 2 X 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 2 X 15mm MG 151 and the 20mm MG FF at the nose. The F-3 was powered with a Daimler Benz DB 601E of 1350 hp, with a 20mm gun of rapid firing and with enhanced armour. The F-4 was armed with 2 X 13mm MG 151, and a 20mm MG FF and a 15mm MG 151 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 having the same mission and 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 2 X 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 23500 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 2 X 7,92mm MG 17 or 2 X 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 were having the same powerplant, having a different radio, and the G-3 a pressurized cockpit. The G-5 (pressurized fighter) and G-6 were armed with a 20 or 30mm MK 108 at the nose cone, 2 X 15mm MG 151 at the wings. They had a rudder made out of wood. The G-8 was a reconnaissance fighter, the G-10 was powered with a Daimler Benz DB 605D of 1850 hp, the G-12 was 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 2 X 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 at 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 2 X 15mm MG 151 on the engine cowling, and a 30 mm MK 108 or 103 cannon. Many were armed with 2 X 210mm rocket launchpads under the wings or bombs. Other proposed version 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 2 X 7,92 machine guns mounted above the engine and 2 X 20mm guns at 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 also different powerplants and armament.
S-199 – Powered with a Junkers Jumo 21 1F of 1350 hp and armed with 2 X 13mm MG 131 machine guns on the engine cowling and 2 X 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 2 X 12,7mm machineguns at the wings or 20mm Hispano 404 guns. The HA-1109-K1 had a De Havilland Hydromatic propeller, armed with 2 X 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, were its limitations became evident thus being unable to fully control the skies over Britain. At the Russian Front, it scored the largest amount of air and land kills against their Soviet counterparts.
Finland – The Scandinavian nation operated with 159 Bf 109, after it ordered initially 162 fighters: 48 G – 2s, 11 G-6s and 3 G-8s). Three were destroyed on-route. They were used during the Continuation War, achieving notable feats. The Bf 109 were intended to replace the Fokker D.XXI, Brewster Buffalo and Morane MS-406 fighter it had by those 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 109 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 109 were operated by the Regia Aeronautica, while the established Italian Social Republic after the fall of the fascist government operated with 300 G-6, G-10, G-14, 2 G-12 and three K-4.
Bulgaria – Being an ally of Germany, it received 19 E-3 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-3 and E-4, 19 E-7, 2 F-2 and 5 F-4. In addition, it operated with around 235 G-2, G-4, G-6, G-8 and 75 locally built IAR 109-6a. 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 109G.
Croatia – The Independent State of Croatia operated with 50 Bf 109 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 with captured and built by Avia (S-99/S-199), unable to produce it any longer following an explosion at the warehouse were many Daimler Benz DB 605 engines were storage, destroyed at the incident. 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-3, 14 E-7 and 30 G-6. The Slovak Insurgent Air Force, loyal to the Allies, operated 3 G-6s.
Yugoslavia – The Royal Serbian Air Force operated 73 E-3, and the post-war Yugoslav Air Force operated many Bf 109 that belonged to the Independent State of Croatia, and many from 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 Bf 109 captured operated with the RAF.
Soviet Union – Bf 109 that met a similar fate (capture) 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