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Messerschmitt Bf 109

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Bf 109
Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2/Trop
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Bayerische Flugzeugwerke
Designed by Willy Messerschmitt
Maiden flight 28 May 1935
Introduced 1937
Retired 1945, Luftwaffe
1965, Spain
Status Retired
Primary users Luftwaffe
Hungarian Air Force
Italian Social Republic
Romanian Air Force
Number built more than 33,000
Variants Avia S-99/S-199
Hispano Aviacion Ha 1112
A photo of German airfield, France, 1941, Bf 109 fighters on the tarmac

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt in the early 1930s. It was one of the first true modern fighters of the era, including such features as an all-metal monocoque construction, a closed canopy, and retractable landing gear. The Bf 109 was produced in greater quantities than any other fighter aircraft in history, with a wartime production (September 1939 to May 1945) of 30,573 units. Fighter production totalled 47% of all German aircraft production, and the Bf 109 accounted for 57% of all fighter types produced.[1] 2,193 Bf 109 A-E were built prewar, from 1936 to August 1939, with additional 1,000 or so postwar as licence built Avia S-99/S-199 and Ha 1112 Buchon

The Bf 109 was the backbone of the Luftwaffe fighter force in World War II, although it began to be partially replaced by the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 from 1941. The Bf 109 scored more aircraft kills in World War II than any other aircraft. At various times it served as an air superiority fighter, a bomber escort, an interceptor, a ground-attack aircraft, and a reconnaissance aircraft. Although the Bf 109 had weaknesses, including a short range, and especially a sometimes difficult to handle narrow, outward-retracting undercarriage, it stayed competitive with Allied fighter aircraft until the end of the war.

The Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring fighter aces of World War II: Erich Hartmann, the top scoring fighter ace of all time with 352 official victories, Gerhard Barkhorn with 301 victories, and Günther Rall with 275 victories. All of them flew with Jagdgeschwader 52, a unit which exclusively flew the Bf 109 and was credited with over 10,000 victories, chiefly on the Eastern Front. Hartmann refused to fly any other aircraft in combat throughout the war. Hans-Joachim Marseille, the highest scoring German ace in the North African Campaign, also scored all of his 158 official victories in the Bf 109, against Western Allied pilots. The Bf 109 was also used with good result by non-German pilots, including Finnish fighter ace Ilmari Juutilainen with 94 victories — the highest scoring non-German fighter ace in history.[citation needed]


Bf 109 was the official Reichsluftfahrtministerium (German Aviation Ministry, RLM) designation, since the design was sent in by the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke company, and used exclusively in all official German documents dealing with this aircraft family. The company was renamed Messerschmitt AG after July 1938[2]when Erhard Milch finally allowed Willy Messerschmitt to acquire the company; from that date forward, all Messerschmitt aircraft were to carry the "Me" designation except those already assigned a Bf prefix. Wartime documents from Messerschmitt AG, RLM, and others continued to use both designations[3], sometimes even on the same page but there were several RLM orders to deny acceptance of documents carrying the Me prefix for the Bf 109. Me 109 is known to have been the name used in print by Luftwaffe propaganda publications as well as by the Messerschmitt company itself after July 1938, and Luftwaffe personnel, who pronounced it may hundert-neun. The Me 109 ("emm ee one-oh-nine") designation was usually used in the English-speaking world. However, in both wartime and contemporary literature, both the "Bf" and "Me" as well as "ME" prefixes are used.[4] All extant airframes are described as "Bf 109" on identification plates, including the final K-4 models.[5]

Contest history

During 1933 the Technisches Amt (the technical department, or T-Amt, of RLM) concluded a series of research projects into the future of air combat. The result of the studies was four broad outlines for future aircraft:

  • Rüstungsflugzeug I for a multi-place medium bomber
  • Rüstungsflugzeug II for a tactical bomber
  • Rüstungsflugzeug III for a two-seat heavy fighter
  • Rüstungsflugzeug IV for a single-seat fighter
File:Me109 clip.ogg
Bf 109 in flight

Rüstungsflugzeug IV was intended to be an interceptor, replacing the Arado Ar 64 and Heinkel He 60 biplanes then in service. While it was intended the R-IV aircraft would best all others then flying, the requirements were nevertheless not terribly hard to meet.

The fighter needed to have a top speed of 400 km/h at 6,000 m (250 mph at 19,500 ft) which it could maintain for 20 minutes, while staying in the air for a total of 90 minutes. It was to be powered by the new Junkers Jumo 210 engine of about 700 hp (522 kW). It also needed to be armed with at least three 7.9 mm machine guns with 1,000 rounds each, or one 20 mm cannon with 200 rounds. One other interesting specification was that the aircraft needed to keep wing loading below 100 kg/m², which is a way of defining the aircraft's ability to turn and climb. The priorities for the fighter design were level speed, climb speed, and manoeuvrability, in that order.

In fact the R-IV specifications were not actually thought up inside the T-Amt at all. In early 1933 both Heinkel and Arado had sent in privately-funded designs for a monoplane fighter, and the T-Amt simply collected the best features from both and sent them back out again, adding Focke-Wulf to the tender. In May 1934 the R-IV request was sent out and made official. Each was asked to deliver three prototypes to be delivered for head-to-head testing in late 1934.

Willy Messerschmitt was originally not invited to participate in the competition. This was mainly due to personal animosity between Messerschmitt and RLM director Erhard Milch (Hans Hackman, a close friend of Milch, was killed testing the prototype Messerschmitt M20 light transport aircraft), after the M20 proved a disaster in Lufthansa use. Nevertheless, Messerschmitt was on very good terms with many high ranking Luftwaffe officers based on the success of the Messerschmitt Bf 108 Taifun sports plane. After a delay of several months, Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Bavarian Aircraft Manufacturers, or BFW) for which Messerschmitt was head designer, was invited to take part in early 1935, although Milch let it be known they would never win the contract.

Design features

Messerschmitt had already designed much of the Bf 109 by this point. As with the Bf 108, the new design was based on Messerschmitt's "lightweight construction", which essentially aimed to reduce the total number of strong parts in the aircraft as much as possible. One of the more notable examples of this was the mounting of all structural points to a strong firewall at the front of the cockpit, including the wing spars, engine mounts and landing gear. In more conventional designs these would be mounted to different points on the aircraft, with a framework distributing the load among them.

Another notable advantage of this design was that, since the landing gear was attached to the fuselage itself, it was possible to completely remove the wings of the aircraft for major servicing, if necessary, leaving the fuselage intact sitting on the landing gear. However, this had one major drawback — this landing gear arrangement ensured a narrow track and hence made the aircraft unstable in terms of balance while on the ground. The Bf 109 was notoriously difficult to take off and land, and many fighters simply veered off or tipped over to one side during a seemingly perfect run. To make things worse, the landing gear struts were comparatively long. This left the nose pointing up at quite a steep angle with respect to the ground, making forward visibility during taxiing near zero.

The Bf 109 suffered from ground accidents due to "swing" on takeoff and landings throughout its life. It has been suggested that 5% of all 109s were lost this way, or even one third; the Luftwaffe's loss records on the other hand show that approximately 1% of the Bf 109s had suffered landing incidents or accidents at the beginning of its career, a figure comparable to the other monoplane fighters introduced at the time. This feature was, however, more of a problem with rookie pilots, especially during later stages of the war.[6] The Spitfire had a similar, narrow landing gear arrangement, but there has not been widespread talk about operational losses due to this, and it has been speculated that the swing was due to the toe-in of the main landing gear wheels. Most Finnish pilots report that the swing was easy to control, but some of the less experienced pilots lost fighters on startup.[6]

Reflecting Messerschmitt's belief in low-weight, low-drag, simple monoplanes, the armament was placed in the fuselage; two machine guns were mounted in the cowl, while a third could be fired through the airscrew hub,[citation needed] with the engine buffering the recoil. Fitting with Willy's ethos, this kept his gun-free wings very thin and lightweight. When it was discovered the RAF was producing eight-gun monoplanes, it became clear the Bf 109 would need to carry more weaponry; a new wing was designed to carry machine guns, and later, 20 mm MG FF cannon configurations.

In 1938 the "Emil" entered production. To improve on the performance allowed by the rather small 600 to 700 hp Jumo, the larger Daimler Benz DB 601A engine was used, yielding an extra 300 hp at the cost of an additional 400 lb.

Another aspect of this construction technique was the use of a single, I-section main spar in the wing, mounted closer to the leading edge, forming a stiff D-shaped torsion box with it. Most aircraft of the era used two spars, near the front and rear, but the D-box was much stiffer torsionally, and eliminated the need for the rear spar.

Another major difference was the much higher wing loading than the other designs. While the R-IV contract called for a wing loading of less than 100 kg/m², Messerschmitt felt this was unreasonable; with the engines available to them, the fighter would end up slower than the bombers it was tasked with catching.

A wing generates two forms of drag, parasitic drag due to its form, and induced drag which is a side effect of generating lift. The former dominates at high speeds, when the airflow hitting the wing causes drag that rises with the square of the aircraft's speed. The latter dominates at lower speeds, where the lack of airflow requires the wing to be angled into the airflow at a higher angle of attack. Since the fighter was being designed primarily for high speed flight, a smaller wing would be optimised for high speed use.

The downside of such a trade-off is that low-speed flight would suffer, as the smaller wing would require more airflow to generate enough lift to stay flying. In order to address this, the Bf 109 included advanced high-lift devices on the wings, including automatically opening slats on the leading edge, and fairly large camber-changing flaps on the trailing edge. Messerschmitt also included ailerons that "drooped" when the flaps were lowered thereby increasing the effective flap area when the flaps were deployed. When deployed, these devices effectively increased the coefficient of lift, making it better at low speeds and high angles of attack.

Another drawback of the high wing loading is that the fighter would require more energy to manoeuvre. Given the limited amount of power available, this effectively meant the Bf 109 could not turn as tightly as other designs with larger wings. The high lift devices would offset this to some degree, but they also increased drag and so slowed the aircraft further. Given that manoeuvrability was last on the RLM's wish list, Messerschmitt was certain the benefits outweighed the drawbacks.


File:Bf109V1 3Seiten neu.jpg
Messerschmitt Bf 109 V1

The first prototype (Versuchsflugzeug 1 or V1), with civilian registration D-IABI, was completed by May 1935, but the German engines were not yet ready. In order to get the designs into the air, the RLM acquired four Rolls-Royce Kestrel VI engines by trading Rolls-Royce a Heinkel He 70 Blitz to test their engines on. Messerschmitt received two of these engines, and started work on adapting V1 to mount it. This work was completed in August, and V1 completed flight tests in September 1935. It was then sent to the Luftwaffe Test Center at Rechlin to take part in the contest.

By the late summer, the Jumo engines were starting to become available, and V2 was completed with the 602 hp (449 kW) Jumo 210A in October 1935. V3 followed, being the first to actually mount guns, but another 210 was not available and it ended up delaying the flight of V3 until May 1936. Like V1, V2 and V3 were sent to Rechlin after acceptance tests at the factory.

The flight data of these three aircraft were very nearly identical. The maximum airspeed was about 470 km/h at 4,000 m altitude, and the service ceiling was about 8,300 m.

The contest

After Luftwaffe acceptance trials were completed at Rechlin, the prototypes were moved to Travemünde for the head-to-head portion of the contest. The Heinkel design arrived first, in early February 1936, and the rest of the V1s had all arrived by the beginning of March.

Because most of the fighter pilots of the Luftwaffe were used to good-natured biplanes with open cockpits, light g-forces and easy handling, they were very critical about the Bf 109 at first. However it was soon a front-runner in the contest, as the Arado and Focke-Wulf entries proved to be hopelessly outdated. Perhaps this was not surprising, considering those entries had actually been designed two years earlier, and given the rate of change in aircraft design at the time, they really had little chance against the much more modern Bf 109.

The only serious competition to the Bf 109 was the Heinkel entry. Based on a scaled down Blitz, the He 112 proved to be similar but different. Positive aspects of the He 112 included the wide track and robustness of the landing gear, considerably better visibility from the cockpit, and a lower wing loading that led to easier landings and better maneuverability. By contrast, the Bf 109 was 30 km/h faster than the He 112 in level flight, and superior in climbing and diving. It was also cheaper.[7] Still, the He 112 was the favourite of the Luftwaffe leaders.

On 11 November 1937 Messerschmitt regained some favour with Erhard Milch with the Bf 109 V13 increasing the world's air speed record to Template:Convert. The "V13" had been fitted with a special racing version of the DB 601 engine, as a result the power of the engine could reach 1,650 hp for short periods[8].

Heinkel, having had the He 112 rejected began work on the He 100. On 6 June 1938 the He 100 V3, flown by Ernst Udet, established a new record of Template:Convert, and later on 30 March 1939 test pilot Hans Dieterle surpassed that record reaching Template:Convert with the He 100 V8. Messerschmitt soon regained the lead in this race. On 26 April 1939 Flugkapitän Fritz Wendel, flying the Bf 209 V1 a racing aircraft bearing little in common with the Bf 109, powered by the DB 601ARJ, producing 1,550 hp but capable of reaching 2,300 hp, raised the figure to Template:Convert. This world record for a propeller driven aircraft was to stand until 1969[9].

Orders for a further ten examples of both types were placed, and they started trickling in over the next few months. However by this point the Jumo-powered examples of both designs had arrived for testing, and the Bf 109's better streamlining and lower drag meant that it was considerably faster given the lower-power engine.

Even before the pre-production models arrived the contest was basically over. In March the RLM received news that the Spitfire had been ordered into production, and a form of mass panic broke out. On 12 March, they released a document that basically contained the outcome of the contest, Bf 109 Priority Procurement. Nothing occurred over the summer to change their minds, and the RLM instructed Heinkel to re-design the He 112 radically, while ordering the Bf 109 into production.


Bf 109 A/B/C

The Bf 109A ("Anton") was the first version of the Bf 109. The armament, planned to be only two cowl-mounted 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns, was found to be inadequate; experiments with a third machine gun firing through the propeller shaft[citation needed] were unsatisfactory. V4 and some A-0 were powered by a 640 PS Jumo 210B engine driving a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller. As soon as the 670 PS Jumo 210D became available production was changed to this engine. The A-0 were not of a uniform type but saw several changes in their appearance. Visible changes include engine, cockpit and machine gun ventilation holes/slats as well as the oil cooler, changing its location several times to prevent overheating. Many of those Bf 109A-0 served with the Condor Legion and were often misidentified as B-series aircraft, they probably served in Spain with 6-1 to 6-16 tactical markings. One A-0, marked as 6-15, ran out of fuel and was forced to land behind enemy lines. It was captured by Republican troops on 11 November 1937 and later transferred to the Soviet Union for a closer inspection [10]. 6-15 showed several improvements from the Bf 109B production program and was prepared to receive the variable-pitch propeller.

According to RLM documentation [11] 22 aircraft were ordered and delivered with V4 as the A-series prototype.

The first Bf 109 in serial production, the Bf 109B ("Bruno"), was fitted with the 670 PS (660 hp, 493 kW) Jumo 210D engine driving a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller. During the B-1 production run. a variable pitch propeller was introduced and often retrofitted to older aircraft, these then unofficially known as B-2s. Both versions saw combat with the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War, in the process demonstrating the armament was still inadequate. Several aircraft were produced with an engine-mounted machine gun but it was very unreliable again, most probably due to engine vibrations and overheating. Thus the Bf 109 V8 was constructed to test the fitting of two more machine guns in the wings. In the following V9 prototype both wing guns were replaced by 20 mm MG FF cannons.

A total of 341 Bf 109B of all versions were built by Messerschmitt, Fieseler, and Erla. [12]

The short-lived Bf 109C ("Caesar") was powered by a 700 PS Jumo 210G engine with direct fuel injection. Another important change was a strengthened wing, now carrying two more machine guns giving four MG 17 in total. The C-0 were pre-production aircraft, the C-1 was the production version, the C-2 an experimental version with an engine-mounted machine gun. The C-3 was planned with 20 mm MG FF cannons replacing the two MG 17 machine guns in the wings but its not known how many C-3 (if any) were built. The C-4 was planned to have an engine mounted MG FF.

A total of 58 Bf 109C of all versions were built by Messerschmitt. [12]

The next model, the V10 prototype, was identical to the V8, except for its Jumo 210G engine. The V10, V11, V12 and V13 prototypes were built using Bf 109B airframes, and tested the DB600A engine with the hope of increasing the performance of the aircraft. However the DB600A was found to be unreliable, and as the improved DB601A was to become available soon, the DB600A was dropped.

Bf 109D "Dora"

Developed from the V10 and V13 prototypes, the "Dora" was the standard version of the Bf 109 in service with the Luftwaffe during the period just before World War II. Despite this, the type saw only limited service during the war, as all of the 235 Doras still in service at the beginning of the Polish campaign were rapidly taken out of service and replaced by the Bf 109E, except in some night fighter units, where some examples were used into early 1940. Variants included D-0 and D-1 Models, both with a Junkers Jumo 210D engine and armed with two wing-mounted and two nose-mounted 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns. The D-2 was an experimental version with an engine mounted machine gun but this installation failed again. The D-3 was similar to the C-3 with two 20mm MG FF cannon in the wings.

A total of 647 Bf 109D of all versions were built by Focke-Wulf, Erla, Fieseler, Arado and AGO. [12] Messerschmitt is listed as having only four Bf 109D produced, probably the D-0 preproduction series with the serial production transferred to license manufacturers. Several Bf 109D were sold to Hungary and Switzerland.

Bf 109E "Emil"

To test the new DB601A engine, with its 1,100 PS (1,085 hp, 809 kW), two more prototypes, the V14 and V15, were built, that differed in their armament. While the V14 was armed with the two MG 17 above the engine and one 20 mm MG FF cannon in each wing, the V15 got the two MG 17s above the engine and a MG FF Motorkanone firing through the propeller hub.[citation needed] After test fights the V14 was considered more promising and a pre-production batch of 10 E-0 was ordered. Batches of both E-1 and E-3 variants were shipped to Spain for evaluation, and received their baptism of fire in the final phases of the Spanish Civil War.

The production version E-1 kept the two 7.92 mm MG 17s above the engine and had two MG 17s in the wings. Later many were modified to the E-3 armament standard. The E-1B was a small batch of E-1s produced to be the first operational use of a Bf 109 as fighter bomber, or Jagdbomber in German, usually abbreviated to Jabo. They were fitted with either a ETC 250 bomb rack, carrying one 250 kg bomb or two ETC 50 bomb racks, carrying a 50 kg bomb under each wing. The E-1 was also fitted with the Reflexvisier "Revi" gunsight. The E-1 also carried the FuG 7 Funkgerät 7 (radio set) short-range radio equipment, effective at ranges of 30-35 miles.

A total of 1,183 E-1 were built, 110 of them were E-1/B.[12]

The E-2 was not built for unknown reasons, probably another failed attempt to install an engine mounted machine gun or Motorkanone cannon.

To improve the performance of the Bf 109E, the last two real prototypes were constructed, the V16 and V17. They got some structural improvements and stronger armament. These prototypes were the basis of the Bf 109 E-3 version. They were armed with the two MG 17s above the engine and one MG FF cannon in each wing. [6] The E-3 also received additional armor, often self sealing fuel tanks and an optional, improved DB601Aa with 1,175 PS (1,159 hp, 864 kW) respectively.

A total of 1,276 E-3 were built, 75 of them were E-3a export versions without equipment classified as secret.[13]

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

The canopy was also revised to an easier-to-produce, "squared-off" design, and stayed fairly unchanged until the introduction of the 'Erla' canopy on the G-6 in the autumn of 1943. The E-4 would be the base for all further Bf 109 E developments. Some E-4 and later models got a further improved 1,175 PS DB601N high-altitude engine resulting in a slightly changed model number like E-4/N, first appearing in July 1940. The E-4 was also available as fighter-bomber with equipment very similar to the previous E-1/B. It was known as E-4/B (DB 601Aa engine) and E-4/BN (DB 601N engine).

496 E-4 of all versions were built - 250 E-4, 20 E-4/N, 211 E-4/B and 15 E-4/BN.[13]

The E-5 and E-6 were both reconnaissance variant with a camera installation behind the cockpit. The E-5 was a reconnaissance variant of the E-3, the E-6 was a reconnaissance variant of the E-4/N.

29 E-5 built and 9 E-6 were ordered. [13]

The E-7 was the next major production variant. It was based on the E-4/B and was able to carry drop tank, which greatly increased their range, or a bomb to be used as fighter-bomber. As the DB 601N was still not available in large numbers many E-7 used a mix of DB 601A, Aa or N engines with the latter designated as E-7/N.

The E-1 and E-4 saw the most heavy action during the Battle of Britain — most of the E-3s were already converted to E-4 standard. The fuel-injected DB601 proved most useful against the British Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane, as the British fighters used gravity-fed carburetted engines, which would cut out under negative g forces whereas the DB601 did not. The Bf 109s thus had the initial advantage in dives, either during attack or to escape. The Spitfire proved a formidable opponent, being approximately as fast and allegedly able to out-turn the 109 at medium to high speeds, due to the Bf 109's high wing loading. On the question of comparative turning circles in combat, Spitfires and Hurricanes benefited from their lower wing loading compared with the Bf109; 22 to 24 pounds per square foot on the RAF machines against 32 pounds per square foot for the Bf 109. Royal Aircraft Establishment tests with a captured Bf 109 showed the Spitfire's turning circle — without height loss — was 696 feet (212 m) in radius (the Hurricane's would be slightly tighter) while the 109's was 885 feet (270 m) radius according to British calculations using assumed values as basis. According to the German manuals however, the smallest turning circle was 170 m, and fighter pilots on both sides claim they would out-turn their opponents in combat. In roll rates the Bf 109 enjoyed an advantage at dogfight speeds, though at high speeds the maneuverability of all three fighters, especially the Spitfire, was severely limited in this regard. The Bf 109 enjoyed good handling near stalling speeds as it was particularly forgiving then. Firepower between the antagonists was comparable, with the Spitfire and Hurricane having eight .303 inch (7.7mm) machineguns versus the Bf 109's two 7.92mm MG17s and two 20mm MG FF cannon. However, the MG FF occasionally jammed and had a small (60-round) ammunition capacity. To be fair, when the Spitfires were later upgraded to two 20 mm Hispano-Suiza cannon, the British initially had serious jamming problems of their own with the new weapon. RAF pilots who tested captured Bf 109s liked the engine and throttle response but criticised the high speed handling characteristics, poorer turning circle, greater force required on the control column at speed, and the thick framing of the cockpit glazing which they felt created blindspots in the pilot's field of vision.

Bf 109E variants and sub-variants

  • E-0 (Pre-Production Aircraft with four MG 17 7.92 mm machine guns)
  • E-1 (Similar to E-0)
    • E-1/B (Fighter-bomber version of E-1, usually with DB 601Aa)
  • E-2 (Not built)
  • E-3 (Armament; 2x MG 17s in the cowl, 2x MG FFs in the wing roots. Modified canopy)[6]
  • E-4 (Armor and structural improvements, change of MG FF cannons to MG FF/M. Return to 'normal' canopy)
    • E-4/B (Fighter-bomber version of E-4, one 250 kg bomb, usually with DB 601Aa)
    • E-4/Trop (Version of E-4 modified to serve in tropical regions)
    • E-4/N (E-4 with DB601N engine)
    • E-4/BN (Fighter-bomber version of E-4/N, one 250 kg bomb)
  • E-5 (Recon version of E-3, camera equipment, two MG 17)
  • E-6 (Recon version of E-4/N, camera equipment, two MG 17)
  • E-7 (Similar to E-4 but with optional external fuel tank)
    • E-7/N (Similar to E-4/N but with optional external fuel tank)
    • E-7/NZ (also E-7/Z) E-7/N with additional GM-1 injection system
    • E-7/U2 (Ground attack variant of E-7)
  • E-8 (long range version of E-1 using drop tank installation of E-7, four MG 17)
  • E-9 (Recon version of E-7/N, drop tank, camera equipment, two MG 17)

Bf 109F "Friedrich"

File:Bf109F 3Seiten neu.jpg
Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-2

After February 1940 an improved engine, the Daimler-Benz DB601E, was developed for use with the Bf 109. The engineers at the Messerschmitt facilities took a Bf 109E-1 airframe and installed this new powerplant, Luftwaffe marking VK+AB, its production number was 5604. The fuselage was cleaned up and the engine cowling modified to provide improved aerodynamics. The relationship to the standard E-1 version was obvious, because the trapeziform wings were taken from the E-1, although this was later changed in the production models of the F version. This adaptation became the prototype for the Bf 109F series. As the DB601E was not yet available in numbers the pre-production F-0 (the only F variant to have a rectangular supercharger intake) and the first production series F-1/F-2 received the 1,175 hp (875 kW) DB601N engine. The 1,350 hp (1,005 kW) DB601E was first used in the F-3 model together with an enlarged propeller for improved performance.

Externally the Bf 109F differed from the E-series, resulting from many aerodynamic improvements. The stabilizer struts were removed, the cowling was shaped to be more streamlined, the big underwing radiators were much smaller, the opening for the supercharger was improved to a round, more protruding "snorkel" like form, from the F-1 variants on, the flaps were completely changed, the wingspan was increased to 9.92 m, and the wing tips now were formed elliptically, which supposedly caused some confusions with the Spitfire. The redesigned wing made the internal mounting of guns impractical, so armament was revised. The armament of the Bf 109F consisted of the two MG 17 above the engine plus a Motorkanone cannon firing through the propeller hub: The early F versions were equipped with the MG FF/M cannon, the F-2 got the 15 mm MG 151, and from F-4 on the 20 mm MG 151/20 was used. Several aces, particularly Oberst Adolf Galland, criticised the light armament as inadequate for the average pilot. Major Walter Oesau even refused to fly an F as long as Emil's were still available. Only after a lack of spare parts, did he accept an F. Later on, an attachment of underwing 20 mm cannons addressed the issue of fire-power, but at a price to performance. Werner Mölders on the other hand was very much pleased and saw the single centerline gun as an improvement. It is possible that the criticism of the Bf 109F's armament is based on the early F-2 version with the 15 mm MG 151/15 cannon, which was later replaced by the 20 mm version of the same weapon and was seen highly effective by aces like Günther Rall.

The first Bf 109F examples were not well tested, consequently, some aircraft crashed or nearly crashed, due to vibrations which caused either the wing surface to curve or break, or caused the stabilizer to break away. In one such accident, the commander of JG 2 "Richthofen", Wilhelm Balthasar lost his life when he was attacked by a Spitfire during a test flight. Making an evasive maneuver, his wings broke away and Balthasar was killed when his aircraft hit the ground. When the wreck was investigated, not a single bullet hole was found. However, the teething problems were subsequently solved, and pilots generally agreed that the F series were the best-handling of all the Bf 109 series.

Bf 109F variants and sub-variants

  • F-0 (Pre-Production Aircraft built from E series airframes, Adolf Galland was one of the few to fly one operationally)
  • F-1 (Armed with one MG FF/M 20 mm Motorkanone cannon and two MG 17 7.92 mm machine guns)
  • F-2 (Armed with one MG 151 15 mm cannon and two MG 17)
    • F-2/trop tropicalized version
  • F-3 (F-2 with 601E engine, small production and most upgraded to F-4 standard)
  • F-4 (Armed with one MG 151/20 20 mm cannon and two MG 17)
    • F-4 R1 (Two 20 mm cannon in underwing packs, special purpose variant, only in small numbers)
    • F-4/Z additional GM-1 injection system
  • F-5 (Recon version of F-4, only two MG 17)
  • F-6 (Recon version of F-4, improved camera equipment)

Bf 109G "Gustav"

The Bf 109 G-series was developed from the F-series airframe although there were several differences. This series used the 1,475 PS Daimler-Benz DB 605. Modifications included reinforced wing structure, an internal bullet-proof windscreen, the use of heavier, welded framing for the cockpit transparencies, and additional light-alloy armour for the fuel tank and armouring of the radiators. It was originally intended that the wheel wells would incorporate small doors to cover the outer portion of the wheels when retracted. To incorporate these the outer wheel bays were squared off. Two small inlet scoops for additional cooling of the spark plugs were added on both sides of the forward engine cowlings. A less obvious difference was the omission of the boundary layer bypass outlets, which had been a feature of the F series, on the upper radiator flaps.[14][15]

The G-series was designed to adapt to different operational tasks with greater versatility, using field kits known as Rüstsätze. Special high-altitude interceptors with GM 1 high-altitude boost and pressurized cockpits were also produced.

The "new" Daimler-Benz DB 605a series was a development of the DB 601E engine utilised by the preceding Bf 109F-4. This was achieved through increasing the displacement and the compression ratio, as well as other detail improvements. The DB605 suffered from reliability problems during the first year of operation, forcing Luftwaffe units to limit maximum power output to 1,310 PS (975 kW) at 2,600 rpm and 1.3ata manifold pressure, until October 1943, when the full 1475 PS rating at 2800 rpm, 1.42ata manifold pressure was cleared for service use.

The early versions of the Bf 109G closely resembled the Bf 109F-4 and carried the same basic armament - however, as the basic airframe was modified to keep pace with different operational requirements, the basically clean design began to change. From the spring of 1943, the G-series saw the appearance of bulges in the cowling when the 7.92 mm MG 17 was replaced with the 13 mm MG 131 heavy machine guns (G-5 onwards) due to the latter's much larger breechblock, and on the wings (due to larger tyres), leading to the Bf 109G-6s nickname "Die Beule" ("The Bulge"). The Gustav continued to be improved constantly: cockpit visibility, firepower in the form of the 3cm MK 108 cannon was added to the basic design in 1943, and a new, enlarged supercharger for the DB605, an enlarged vertical stabilizer (G-5 onwards), MW-50 power boost in 1944. It has been suggested the added weight of the new engines and heavier armament adversely affected the handling characteristics of the Bf 109, especially since it already had a high wing loading. While technically the statement is true, it is somewhat unfair as analysis show only a modest increase in weight as a result of development, fairly comparable to the development trend with Western Allied fighters.

From the Bf 109G-5 on an enlarged wooden tail unit (identifiable by a taller fin and rudder with a morticed balance tab, rather than the angled shape) was often fitted. This tail unit was standardised on G-10s and K-4s. Although the enlarged tail unit improved handling, especially on the ground, it weighed more than the standard metal tail unit, and required that a counterweight was fitted in the nose, increasing the variant's overall weight.[16].

With the Gustav, a number of special versions were introduced to cope with special mission profiles. Here, long range fighter-reconnaissance and high-altitude interceptors can be mentioned. The former were capable of carrying two 300 litre (66 Imp gal) droptanks, one under each wing, the latter received pressurized cockpits for pilot comfort and GM-1 nitrous oxide "boost" for high altitudes. The latter system was capable of increasing engine output for limited periods by 300 horsepower above the rated altitude and high altitude performance above of that of any Allied fighter in service in 1942-43.

File:Bf 109 Gustav Rödel.JPG
Gustav Rödel Bf 109-G2 remake in the Luftwaffenmuseum in Berlin

The G-1 was the first of the G-series, starting production in February 1942. This was the first production Bf 109 with a pressurized cockpit and could be identified by the small, horn-shaped air intake for the cockpit compressor just above the supercharger intake on the left upper cowling. In addition the angled armour plate for the pilot's head was replaced by a vertical piece which sealed-off the rear of the side hinged cockpit canopy. Small, triangular armour-glass panels were fitted into the upper corners of this armour, although there were aircraft in which the plate was solid steel. Silica gel capsules were placed in each pane of the windscreen and opening canopy to absorb any moisture which may have been trapped in the double glazing. The last 80 G-1s built were lightweight G-1/R2s. In these GM-1 nitrous oxide 'boost' was used, and the pilot's back armour was removed, as were all fittings for the long range drop tank. A few G-1s flown by I./JG 1 are known to have carried the underwing, MG 151/20E 20mm cannon gondolas.[17].

The G-2, which started production in May 1942 lacked the pressurization and GM-1 installation . The canopy reverted to one layer of glazing and incorporated the angled head armour used on the F-4, although several G-2s had the vertical type of the G-1. Several Rüstsätze could be fitted, although installing these did not change the designation of the aircraft. Instead the /R suffix referred to the G-2s Rüstzustand or equipment condition of the airframe, which was assigned at the factory, rather than in the feild. There were two Rüstzustand planned for G-2s:

  • G-2/R1: had one 300 litre drop tank beneath each wing, plus an ETC bomb rack under the fuselage, capable of carrying a 500 kg bomb and an auxiliary undercarriage unit beneath the fuselage.
  • G-2/R2: a reconnaissance aircraft with GM-1 and camera equipment.

The rack and internal fuel lines for carrying a 300 litre drop-tank were widely used on G-2s, as were the underwing MG 151/20 cannon gondolas. Several G-2s were fitted with the ETC 500 bomb rack, capable of carrying one 250 kg bomb. The final G-2 production batches built by Erla and Messerschmitt Regensburg were equipped as tropical aircraft (often referred to as G-2 trop), equipped with a sand-filter on the front of the supercharger intake and two small, teardrop shaped metal brackets on the left side of the fuselage, below the cockpit sill. These were used as mounts for specially designed sun umbrellas (called Sonderwerkzeug or Special tool), which were used to shade the cockpit.[18]

167 G-1s were built between February and June 1942, and 1586 G-2s between May 1942 and February 1943; one further G-2 was built in Győr, Hungary, in 1943.[14] Maximum speed of the G-2 was 537 km/h at sea level and 660 km/h at 7,000 m rated altitude with the initial – reduced – 1.3ata rating. Performance of the G-1 was similar, but above rated altitude the GM-1 system could be used for additional performance: 680 km/h could be achieved at 12,000 meters.

In September 1942 the G-4 appeared. It was identical to the G-2 in all respects, including performance, except that the much improved FuG 16 V.H.F. radio set was fitted. Up to July 1943, 1,242 G-4s were produced, and an additional 4 were produced in Győr and WNF factories in the second half of 1943. A pressurized version, G-3 was also produced, being identical to the G-1 in all except its V.H.F. radio set FuG 16. Only 50 were produced between January-February 1943.

File:Bf109G 3Seiten neu.jpg
Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-5

In February 1943 the G-6 was introduced with the 13 mm MG 131s, replacing the smaller 7.92 mm MG 17 - externally this resulted in two sizeable blisters over the guns. These bulges reduced speed by 9 km/h.

Over 12,000 examples were built well into 1944; the exact number being impossible to ascertain due to numerous variants and rebuilds. The G-5 was identical to the G-6 with pressurized cockpit, and of which 475 examples were built between May 1943 and August 1944. The G-5/AS was the first to be equipped with a DB 605AS engine for high altitude missions. GM-1-boosted G-5 and G-6 variants received the additional designation of /U2.

File:Me109g cracow aviation museum.jpg
Bf 109G-6 on display in the Polish Aviation Museum in Kraków

The G-6/U4 variant was armed with a 30 mm MK 108 cannon mounted as a Motorkanone shooting through the propeller hub instead of the 20 mm MG 151/20. The G-6 was very often seen during 1943 fitted with assembly sets, used to carry bombs or a drop tank, for use as night-fighter, or to increase fire power by adding rockets or extra gondola guns. During 1943, a number of improvements were gradually introduced for the type's benefit: armoured glass head-rest ("Galland Panzer") (early 1943), and the introduction of the clear-view "Erla Haube" canopy (autumn 1943) improved visibility, especially to the rear, and a taller tail unit improved stability at high speeds. The introduction of the WGr. 21 cm under-wing mortar/rockets and the 30 mm MK 108 cannon increased firepower. Certain production batches of the Gustav were fitted with aileron Flettner tabs to decrease stick forces at high speeds. Advanced radio/navigational equipment was also introduced. Subsequent Bf 109G versions were basically modified versions of the G-6. Early in 1944, new engines with larger superchargers for improved high-altitude performance (DB 605AS), or with MW-50 water injection for improved low/medium altitude performance (DB 605AM), or these two features combined (DB 605ASM) were introduced into Bf 109 G-6. Maximum speed of the G-5/G-6 was 500-510 km/h at sea level, 625-630 km/h at 6,600 m-rated altitude using the restricted 1.3ata boost, and when using the full 1.42ata boost 530 and 640 km/h respectively. Figures are without MW-50 or GM-1 boost.

The G-8 was a dedicated recon version based on the G-6. The G-8 had often only the Motorkanone engine cannon or the cowling machine guns installed and there were several subversions for short or long range recon missions with a wide variety of recon cameras and radios available for use.

The G-14, appearing in mid-1944 was basically a late-war Bf 109 G-6 with the aforementioned improvements standardized, and with MW 50 methanol/water injection increasing output to 1800 hp being a standard fitting. High-altitude models of the G-14 received the DB 605ASM engine and were named G-14/AS. There was increasing tendency to use wood on some less vital parts (e.g. on a taller tailfin/rudder unit, pilot seat or instrument panel) - not because of the shortage of strategic materials like aluminium as often suggested, but as it allowed freeing up metalworking capacity by involving of the woodworking industry of more parts.

The G-10 was an attempt to match the proven Bf 109 G-6/G-14 airframe with the new and more powerful DB 605D engine with minimal disruption of the production lines. Despite what the designation would suggest, it appeared in service after the G-14 and somewhat the K-4 in November 1944. Early production G-10s used fuselages taken from the G-14 production lines, this was probably a source of confusion as many authors still believe many G-10 were based on recycled G-series fuselages. The most recognizable change was the standardized use of the "Erla-Haube" canopy, sometimes referred to (incorrectly) as the "Galland" hood. This canopy improved the pilot's view by reducing the number of support struts, which was often criticized before. The G-10 was produced in very substantial numbers, with some 2,600 G-10s produced until the war's end. The Bf 109 G-10, AS-engined G-5s, G-6s and G-14s as well as the K-4 saw a refinement of the bulges covering the breeches of the cowl mounted MG 131, these taking on a more elongated and streamlined form, barely discernible on the upper sides of the cowl panels, as the large engine supercharger required a redesign of the cowling.

A similar varying product was the Bf 109 G-12. This was a two-seat trainer version of the Bf 109 and was rarely armed with anything more than the two cowling machine guns. The space needed for the second cockpit was gained by reducing the internal fuel capacity to only 240 l thus they nearly always used the 300 l drop tank as standard equipment. The G-12 was built using a wide variety of G-series fuselages, many were G-2 based but several were built of rebuilt/repaired G-1, G-4 and G-6.

Bf 109G subtypes and variants The base subtypes could be equipped with a Rüstsatz add-on standard field kits, in practice this meant hanging on some sort of additional equipment like droptanks, bombs or cannons to standard attachment points, present on all production aircraft. Aircraft could be modified in the factory with Umrüst-bausatz (Umbau) conversion kits or by adding extra equipment, designated as Rüstzustand, to convert standard airframes for special roles - a reconnaissance fighter or bad-weather fighter, for example.

The Rüstsatz-kits were designated by the letter R and a Roman number. Rüstsatz-kits did not alter the aircraft's designation, so a Bf 109G-6 with Rüstsatz II (50 kg bombs) remained designated as Bf 109G-6, and not 'G-6/R2' - the G-6/R2 was a reconnaissance fighter with MW 50 - as suggested by most of the publications. The Umrüst-bausatz, Umbau. or Rüstzustand were identified with either an /R or /U suffix and an Arab number, i.e. Bf 109 G-10/U4

Common Rüstsatz kits, Bf 109G

  • R I belly bomb rack for 250 kg bomb
  • R II belly bomb rack for 4 x 50 kg bombs
  • R III belly drop tank (300 l/79 US gallons)
  • R IV two 30 mm MK 108 underwing gunpods (not in operational use)
  • R VI two 20 mm MG151/20 underwing gunpods

Common Umrüst-Bausatz [Umbau] numbers

  • U1 Messerschmitt P6 reversible pitch propeller to be used as air brake, only prototypes
  • U2 GM-1 boost, during 1944 several hundred converted to MW-50 boost
  • U3 Reconnaissance conversion, in autumn 1943 G-6/U3 adopted as G-8 production variant
  • U4 30 mm MK 108 Motorkanone engine-mounted cannon

Known Variants

  • G-0 (Pre-production aircraft, powered by a DB 601E engine)
  • G-1 (Pressurized fighter, w. GM 1)
    • G-1/R2 (Reconnaissance fighter)
    • G-1/U2 (High altitude fighter with GM-1)
  • G-2 (Light fighter)
    • G-2/R1 (Long-range Fighter-bomber or JaboRei- 2x 300 liter underwing drop tanks, one 500 kg bomb under fuselage, extended second tail wheel for large bombs)
    • G-2/R2 (Reconnaissance fighter)
    • G-2/trop (Tropicalized fighter)
  • G-3 (Pressurized fighter, as G-1 with FuG 16 V.H.F. radio; only 50 built)
  • G-4 (Fighter)
    • G-4/R2 (Reconnaissance fighter)
    • G-4/R3 (Long-range Reconnaissance fighter, with 2 x 300 liter underwing droptanks)
    • G-4/trop (Tropicalized fighter)
    • G-4/U3 (Reconnaissance fighter)
    • G-4y (Command fighter)
  • G-5 (Pressurized fighter)
    • G-5/U2 (High altitude fighter with GM1 boost)
    • G-5/U2/R2 (High altitude Reconnaissance fighter with GM1 boost)
    • G-5/AS (High altitude fighter with DB605AS)
    • G-5y (Command fighter)
  • G-6 (Light fighter)
    • G-6/R2 (Reconnaissance fighter, with MW 50)
    • G-6/R3 (Long-range Reconnaissance fighter, with 2 x 300 liter underwing droptanks)
    • G-6/trop (Tropicalized fighter)
    • G-6/U2 (Fitted with GM-1)
    • G-6/U3 ((Reconnaissance fighter)
    • G-6/U4 (MK108 Motorkanone 30 mm engine cannon)
    • G-6y (Command fighter)
    • G-6/AS (High altitude fighter with DB605AS)
    • G-6/ASy (High altitude command fighter)
    • G-6N (Night fighter, usually with R6 and FuG 350Z Naxos)
    • G-6/U4 N (as G-6N but with 30 mm MK 108 Motorkanone engine cannon)
  • G-8 (Reconnaissance fighter as G-6/U3, camera installation behind cockpit)
  • G-10 (Light fighter with DB605D/DM/DBM engine)
    • G-10/R2 (Bad-weather fighter with PKS 12 autopilot)
    • G-10/R5 (Reconnaissance fighter)
    • G-10/U4 (Fighter, with MK 108 Motorkanone 30 mm engine cannon)
  • G-12 (Two-seat trainer, built from various older G-1 to G-6)
  • G-14 (Fighter; standardized late production G-6; MW 50 boost serial standard)
    • G-14/AS (High altitude fighter with DB605ASM);
    • G-14/ASy (High altitude command fighter);
    • G-14y (command fighter);
    • G-14/U4 (Fitted with MK 108 30 mm Motorkanone engine cannon)

Fictional Variants

  • G-1/trop (fictional tropicalised variant with 13mm MG 131)
  • G-16 (fictional Ground Attack variant, claimed to be based on the G-14 with additional armor)

Bf 109H

The Bf 109H was intended to be a high-altitude fighter, developed from the F-series. The wingspan was increased to 11.92 m, the stabilizer again received a strut leading to the fuselage, and it was also widened. Maximum speed was 750 km/h at 10,100 m. A small number of Bf 109H-1s were built, flying several sorties in France. Bf 109 H-2 and H-5 developments were also planned, before the entire H-series was scrapped because of wing flutter problems.

  • H-0 Pre-production aircraft, rebuilt from F-4/Z, powered by a DB 601E engine with GM-1 boost
  • H-1 Production version, based on G-5 airframes, powered by a DB 605A engine with GM-1 boost

Bf 109K "Kurfürst"

File:Bf109K 3Seiten neu.jpg
Messerschmitt Bf 109 K-4

Most of the Bf 109K "Kurfürst" series saw duty. This series was the last evolution of the Bf 109. The K series was a response to the bewildering array of series, models, modification kits and factory conversions for the Bf 109, which made production and maintenance complicated and costly — something Germany could ill-afford late in the war. The RLM ordered Messerschmitt to rationalise production of the Bf 109, consolidating parts, types, and so on, to produce a uniform, standard model with better interchangeability of parts and equipment. This was to have started in the later models of the G series, but things went in quite the opposite direction. The RLM told Messerschmitt, in effect, to try harder, and the K series was born. Work on the new version began in 1943, and the prototype was ready by the autumn of that year. Series production started in August 1944 due to delays with continuous changes and the new DB605D powerplant. Operational service began in October 1944, and approximately 200 were delivered to frontline units by the end of the month. By the end of January 1945, despite continuous heavy fighting, over 300 K-4s — about every fourth 109 — were listed on hand with the 1st line Luftwaffe units.

In the proposed K-6, K-8, K-10 and the K-14 the armament would have seen some changes. They retained the two MG 131 above its engine and added a built-in MK 108 in each wing and a MK 108 Motorkanone engine mounted cannon. The K-14 would have had the special performance DB605L and four bladed propeller.

Only the K-4 saw action in numbers, with approximately 1,700 being delivered by factories before the end of hostilities. K-4s with quasi-DB605Ls, a DB605 with the two-stage super-charger but not other improvements, and the standard three-bladed propellers, were assembled. Armament of the K-4 consisted of a 30 mm MK 108 engine-mounted cannon with 65 rounds and two 13 mm MG 131s in the nose with 300 rounds each, and there was the capacity to carry additional equipment such as a droptank, bombs up to 500 kg, underwing 20 mm cannon gondola pods or 210 mm Wfr.Gr. 21 rockets (as on the Gustav models); the latter two however were rarely used due to marauding Allied fighters necessitating maintaining high speed capability.

Some sources point to limited use of the K-14, but the type was never actually built. The K-14 it is believed, would have been powered by the DB 605L, reached 460mph and achieved an operational altitude of 38,000 ft. The armament would not have been as powerful as the K-10 (intended as a bomber-destroyer) and included only two wing-mounted 15mm MG 151s, two fuselage-mounted MG 131s and the MK 103 cannon fired through the propeller shaft[19].

The Bf 109 K-4 was the fastest 109 of world War II, reaching about 715 km/h (445 mph) at 7,500 m altitude; improved propellers were being developed when the war ended which would boost the speed to 727 km/h (452 mph), or even 741 km/h (460 mph).[citation needed] Rate of climb was outstanding, up to Template:Convert/min at 1.98 ata, and Template:Convert/min at 1.8 ata. With such improvements in performance, the Bf 109 remained comparable to the highest performance opposing fighters until the end of the war. However, the deteriorating ability of the thousands of novice Luftwaffe pilots by this stage of the war meant the 109's strengths were of little value against the numerous and well-trained Allied fighter pilots.

  • K-0 Pre-production aircraft, powered by a DB 605DM engine
  • K-2 proposed version without pressurized cockpit
  • K-4 serial production version with pressurized cockpit, powered by a DB 605DC engine
  • K-6 proposed version, a K-4 with reinforced wings holding two additional 30 mm MK 108 cannons
  • K-8 proposed reconnaissance version, equipment similar to G-8
  • K-10 proposed version, similar to K-6, MK 103 engine cannon instead of MK 108
  • K-12 proposed version, dual-seat trainer similar to G-12
  • K-14 proposed version, similar to K-6, powered by a DB 605L engine

Bf 109T "Trägerflugzeug" (carrier aircraft)

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

Initially 10 Bf 109E-3s were ordered to be modified to a Bf 109T-0 standard. This included, adding a tail-hook, catapult fittings, structural strengthening, manually folding wings and increased wingspan (to 11.08 m). Also the landing gear track was a little wider.

Following flight tests, especially the catapult tests, a series of 70 T-1s with DB601Ns was to be produced at Fieseler in Kassel, but after seven T-1s were built, the carrier project was canceled. The remaining 63 of 70 T-1s were built as T-2s without carrier equipment and some of the T-0 and T-1s may have been "upgraded" to T-2 standard. These fighters were assigned to I/JG.77, deployed in Norway. The decision to base them in Norway was made primarily by the conditions on the Norwegian landing strips. These landing strips were both short and subject to frequent, powerful cross-winds. Some time after the unit was ordered to turn over their aircraft to a test unit that was training on the Drontheim-Fjorde strip and received E-3s as replacements. The armament of the Bf 109T consisted of two MG 17 above the engine and one MG FF/M cannon in each wing.

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

Bf 109Z "Zwilling"

This experimental aircraft was essentially two Bf 109F airframes (together with outer wing panels) joined together by means of a new wing, and new tail section, in a manner paralleled by the F-82 Twin Mustang. Two variants of this aircraft were proposed, one an interceptor armed with five 30 mm cannons, the other a fighter-bomber with a 1,000 kg bomb load. Only one Bf 109Z was built, and it was never flown, having been destroyed in an Allied bombing raid while in hangar.

Combat service with Finland

In 1943, the Finnish Air Force received its first Bf 109s. A total of 162 aircraft of this type were to be purchased and the first aircraft landed in Finland on 13 March 1943. In total, 159 aircraft were taken into service, as two G-6s and one G-8 were destroyed en route to Finland. Of these, 48 were G-2s, 109 were G-6s and 2 were G-8s. Bf 109 is still the aircraft that has served in the largest numbers in the Finnish Air Force. The aircraft was called "Mersu" in popular speech (the same as the nickname for Mercedes-Benz cars, whose parent company Daimler-Benz produced the Bf 109 engine) and carried the designation MT and a 3-digit identification number. With the arrival of the 109s, the fight was more equal, as they could match the latest Soviet fighters. The last of the purchased aircraft arrived in Finland on 20 August 1944, just before the armistice with the Soviet Union.

During the Continuation War, Bf 109s were in service with fighter squadrons 24, 28, 30 and 34:

Finnish Bf 109G tally:[20]
HLeLv 24 HLeLv 28 HLeLv 30 HLeLv 34
Victories 304 15 3 345
Losses in combat 14 0 2 18

The Finns scored 667 confirmed victories with the type, losing 34 Bf 109s to enemy fighters or antiaircraft fire. A further 16 were lost in accidents and 8 aircraft were destroyed on the ground. 23 pilots were killed. [20]

102 Bf 109s survived the war and the aircraft was to be the main fighter of the Finnish Air Force for almost a decade after the end of the Second World War. Despite the aircraft's expected short life span (it was built as a wartime aircraft and was calculated to last about 100-200 flight hours), it was not taken out of service until spring 1954 when the FAF entered the jet age. The last flight was on 13 March 1954 by Major Erkki Heinilä in the aircraft MT-507.

Museum aircraft in Finland

Several Bf 109s are preserved in Finland. MT-452 is on display at the airfield in Utti[21], and the Central Finland Aviation Museum displays the MT-507, which was the last flying Bf 109 of the FAF.[22] The Finnish airplane constructor Valtion Lentokonetehdas also manufactured a fighter, called VL Pyörremyrsky, whose appearance greatly resembled the Bf 109 but which also features some significant improvements, such as significantly easier handling, different wing construction, and re-designed landing gear. One single aircraft was produced before the end of the war; it is today displayed at the Central Finland Aviation Museum. Further, the doctoral thesis by the productive Finnish aircraft expert Hannu Valtonen is called "Tavallisesta kuriositeetiksi - Kahden Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseon Messerschmitt Bf 109 -lentokoneen museoarvo" (From regular to a curiosity - The museal value of two Messerschmitt Bf 109s at the Central Finland Aviation Museum).

Combat service with Switzerland


File:Swiss Messerschmitt Bf 109-E3 top left view.jpg
A Bf 109-E3 of the Swiss Air Force.

Switzerland took delivery of its first Bf 109s in 1938 when ten Bf 109Ds were delivered. After this, 80 109E-3s were purchased which arrived from April 1939 until just before the German invasion of France in summer 1940. During the war, a further four 109s (two Fs and two Gs) were acquired by the Swiss Air Force through internment. The 109Es were supplemented by eight aircraft licence manufactured from spare parts by Doflug at Altenrhein, delivered in 1944.

In April 1944, 12 further G-6s were acquired in exchange for the destruction of a highly secret Messerschmitt Bf 110G nightfighter which made an emergency landing in Switzerland. The new 109Gs suffered from numerous manufacturing defects and after problematic service were withdrawn from use by May 1948. The 109Es continued in service until December 1949. [23]

On 10 May 1940, air combat between Switzerland and Germany was initiated. Several Swiss Bf 109s engaged a German Dornier Do 17 near the border at Bütschwil; in the ensuing exchange of fire, the Dornier was hit and eventually forced to land near Altenrhein.

On 1 June the Flugwaffe dispatched 12 Bf 109 E-1s to engage 36 unescorted German Heinkel He 111s of Kampfgeschwader 53 that were crossing Swiss airspace to attack the Lyon - Marseilles railway system. The Swiss Air force sustained its first casualty in the engagement when Sub Lieutenant Rudolf Rickenbacher was killed when the fuel tank of his Bf 109 exploded after being hit by the Heinkel's return fire. However the Swiss Emils shot down six He 111s.[24]

On 8 June, a C-35 observation aircraft, an antiquated biplane, was attacked over the Jura Mountains by two German Bf 110s; the pilot and observer were killed. Later on the same day, Swiss Captain Lindecker led about 15 Swiss Emils to intercept a formation of German He 111s escorted by II./Zerstörergeschwader 1's Bf 110s. The engagement resulted in five Bf 110s being shot down (including the Staffelkapitän Gerhard Kadow) for the loss of one Swiss Bf 109.[24] During the war, the Swiss aircraft were painted with red and white striped "neutrality markings" around the fuselage and main wings to avoid confusion with German 109s.

Combat service with Yugoslavia

Bf 109 E-3 from 6th fighter regiment of Royal Yugoslav Air Force, April 1941

In 1939, Yugoslavia received 73 Bf 109E-3s in exchange for iron, copper and chromium ore. However, the aircraft were grounded most of the time due to a lack of spares. The Yugoslav pilots were not happy with their new fighters as there were a lot of landing accidents due to the Messerschmitt's narrow landing gear. When the Germans invaded in April 1941, the Royal Yugoslav Air Force put up a fight but could do little to repel the invaders.

By the end of the war, 17 Bf 109s were left. These were stored until 1949 while more were acquired from Bulgaria. The new Yugoslav Air Force used a mix of G-2, G-6, G-10 and G-12 aircraft until mid-1952.

Developments after World War II

File:Hispano Aviación Ha 1112 Buchon.jpeg
Hispano Aviacion Ha 1112 Buchon, the second and last Spanish version built by Hispano Aviacion
Bf 109 G-2 in the Wings of Dream Museum in São Carlos, Brazil

Czechoslovak production

After the war, some Bf 109s were produced in Czechoslovakia as the Avia S-99 and Avia S-199. These were modified Bf 109G-14s, the latter with the inferior Junkers Jumo 211F engine, which resulted in an aircraft with remarkably poor handling characteristics and a tendency to crash during landings. As noted above, Czech pilots who had previously flown Spitfires for the RAF nicknamed the aircraft Mezek ("Mule").

Several of the S-199s were sold to Israel, forming the basis of the nascent Israeli Air Force.[25]. These aircraft were used by Israel in its War of Independence till the end of 1948 under the Hebrew designation Sakin ("knife"), some flying in combat against Egyptian Spitfires.[26] It was replaced by a mixture of P-51 Mustang and Spitfires.

Spanish production

In Spain, two versions of the Bf 109G-2, the Hispano Aviacion Ha 1112 "Tripala" and "Buchon", [1] were built under license, the former with the Hispano-Suiza engine, and later with the same Rolls-Royce Merlin engines which had powered Spitfires. Many of these aircraft have been used for theatrical purposes, posing (rather unconvincingly, given their very distinctive air intakes) as Emils and Gustavs in Battle of Britain and Tuskegee Airmen, respectively. These modifications were carried out in the Hispano Aviacion factory in Seville. Germany had agreed to let Spain have 25 un-assembled Bf 109G-2s to help familiarize the Spanish with the Messerschmitt plane. The wings and airframes arrived but not the engines, so the Spanish installed the French Hispano-Suiza engine and later a Rolls-Royce Merlin. The Ha 1112 was produced until 1958.

The end of the Bf 109 era

The original Bf 109, produced before 1945, remained in service for many years after the war. The former German ally Romania used its Bf 109s until 1955. The Finnish Air Force did not retire their Bf 109Gs until March 1954. Hungarian 109s, conversely, were destroyed in Germany by their own crews on 6 May 1945. The Spanish Hispanos, however, flew longer. Some were still in service into the late 1960s. They appeared in films (notably The Battle of Britain) playing the role of the Bf 109. Some Hispano airframes were sold to museums, which rebuilt them as Bf 109s. The Swiss used their Bf 109Gs well into the 1950s.


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  • Spanish Air Force operated some D-1s, E-3s and 15× F-4s, may have received several older B-types.
  • Swiss Air Force operated ten D-1s, 80 E-3a variants, 12 G-6s and some others.
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Specifications (Bf 109 G-6)

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  1. Feist 1993, p. 45.
  2. Brief history of MBB Retrieved: 23 February 2008.
  3. Messerschmitt AG documents Retrieved: 23 February 2008.
  4. Me 109 G Flight test reports Retrieved: 23 February 2008.
  5. Prien and Rodeike 1995, p. 167–176.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Hannu Valtonen — Messerschmitt Bf 109 ja saksan sotatalous
  7. Caidin, Martin. Me-109. Ballantine.
  8. Feist 1993, p. 21.
  9. Feist 1993, p. 22.
  10. Bf 109B
  11. RLM Flugzeugbeschaffungs-Programm Nr. 7a, 01.04.1938 (Deliveries up to 30.11.1937)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 RLM Flugzeugbeschaffungs-Programm Nr. 10 von 01.01.1939 (Deliveries up to 31.12.1938) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "RLM Nr.10" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "RLM Nr.10" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "RLM Nr.10" defined multiple times with different content
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 RLM Lieferplan Nr. 18 Ausgabe 3, 01.11.1940 (Deliveries up to 31.10.1940)
  14. 14.0 14.1 Prien and Rodieke, 1995
  15. Bf 109F, G and K radiator designRetrieved 23 February 2008
  16. Feist 1993, p. 37.
  17. Prien and Rodieke, 1995. p. 57 to 62.
  18. Prien and Rodieke, 1995. p. 62 to 79.
  19. Feist 1993, p.45.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Stenman and Keskinen 1998, p. 86-88.
  21. MT-452, photo from the airfield in Utti
  22. MT-507, photo, from
  23. Osché, Philippe (translated by Laureau, Patrick) 1996.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Hooton 2007, p. 82.
  25. Avia S.199
  26. IAF


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  • Wagner, Ray and Nowarra, Heinz. German Combat Planes: A Comprehensive Survey and History of the Development of German Military Aircraft from 1914 to 1945. New York: Doubleday, 1971.
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External links and sources

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists
List of military aircraft of Germany

Template:RLM aircraft designations

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