Tag Archives: Luftwaffe

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

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.

me109-400f-s

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.

Development

bf109-straight-on

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.

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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.

Design

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Variants

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.

Prototypes

  • 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

Production Versions

  • Bf 109AThe 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 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 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.
  • Licensed-built versions
  • 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.

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, 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)

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

bf109-straight-on bf109-engine-bay bf-109-underside-flight bf-109-hispano-built bf-109-crashed-exhibit

Sources

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