The Messerschmitt Bf 109
Designed by Professor Willy Messerschmitt, the Bf (Bayerische Flugzeugwerke, the Bavarian Aircraft Works) type 109 was designed as a fighter aircraft for the German Luftwaffe. The first prototype flew in 1935 and by the start of the Second World War the 109 formed virtually the whole of Germany's single engined fighter strength. Previously battle-tested during the Spanish Civil War, in 1939 it was the Bf109 that enabled the Luftwaffe to push aside Polish air resistance to the German invasion. The following year it was the 109 that provided the air umbrella over the German's blitzkrieg advances.
During the Battle of Britain it fell to the Bf 109 to lead the attack against the RAF and clear the way for the bombers. The 109 had a better performance than the British Hurricane and was evenly matched with the Spitfire. There is little doubt that the 109 pilots shot down more British fighters than they lost themselves to RAF pilots, but they did not stop the RAF taking a heavy toll of the German bombers. When the fighting switched to attacks on London the German fighter pilots found themselves operating at the limit of their range, they often had to break off combat for lack of fuel. The success of the RAF in the Battle of Britain was the first frustration of German plans in the war.
The 109 fought in Russia and the Mediterranean, as the tide of war turned against the Germans the 109 had to fight in defence of the Fatherland against British and American bomber attack.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was one of the most outstanding aircraft of all time, many would argue it was the finest and most influential aircraft design ever. If success is measured in production figures the 109 is the best single seat aircraft ever with between 33,000 and 35,000 produced, only the Russian IL-2 two seat ground attack aircraft was produced in greater numbers (36,163 produced). The 109 was the first aircraft to combine metal construction, retracting undercarriage, leading edge slats, and an enclosed cockpit. It set the standards that others were to follow.
In Spain it was units equipped with the Bf 109 that evolved the tactics of fighter combat that are still used throughout the world.
The Bf109 was used for dark deeds at the hands of an evil regime, it was nevertheless one of the bright signposts on the road of man's mastery of the air.
|MAX SPEED (mph)||279||348||397 (with GM1 injection)|
|RANGE (miles)||428||410||528 (with drop tank)|
|ENGINE||Jumo 210||DB 601A||DB 605A|
|ARMAMENT||3 x 7.9mm||2 x 7.9mm+2 X 20mm||2 x 13mm+3 x 20mm|
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