Messerschmitt Bf-109

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser during the early to mid 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, a retractable landing gear, and was powered by liquid-cooled, inverted-V12 aero engines. The 109 first saw operational service during the Spanish Civil War and was still in service at the dawn of the jet age at the end of World War II, during which time it was the backbone of the Luftwaffe's fighter force. From the end of 1941 the Bf 109 was supplemented, but never completely replaced in service, by the radial engined Focke-Wulf Fw 190.

Originally conceived as an interceptor, later models were developed to fulfill multiple tasks, serving as bomber escort, fighter bomber, day-, night- all-weather fighter, bomber destroyer, ground-attack aircraft, and as reconnaissance aircraft. It was supplied to and operated by several states during World War II, and served with several countries for many years after the war. The Bf 109 was the most produced warplane during World War II, with 30,573 examples built during the war, and the most produced fighter aircraft in history, with a total of 33,984 units produced up to April 1945.

The Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring German fighter aces of World War II, who claimed 928 victories between them while flying with Jagdgeschwader 52, chiefly on the Eastern Front, as well as by the highest scoring German ace in the North African Campaign. It was also flown by several other successful aces from Germany's allies, notably Finland, including the highest high-scoring non-German ace Ilmari Juutilainen, and pilots from Romania, Croatia and Hungary. Through constant development, the Bf 109 remained competitive with the latest Allied fighter aircraft until the end of the war.

Originally the aircraft was designated as Bf 109 by Reichsluftfahrtministerium (German Aviation Ministry, RLM), since the design was submitted by the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (literally "Bavarian Aircraft Factory") company. However, the company was renamed Messerschmitt AG after 11 July 1938 when Erhard Milch finally allowed Willy Messerschmitt to acquire the company. Subsequently, all Messerschmitt aircraft that originated after that date, such as the Me 210, were to carry the "Me" designation. Despite regulations by the RLM, wartime documents from Messerschmitt AG, RLM and Luftwaffe loss and strength reports continued to use both designations, sometimes even on the same page. All extant airframes are described as "Bf 109" on identification plates, including the final K-4 models, with the noted exception of aircraft either initially built or re-fitted by Erla Flugzeugwerke, which sometimes bore the Me 109 stamping. "Me-109" is usually pronounced in German as may hundert-neun ("hundred-nine") while English-speakers usually say "emm ee one-oh-nine".

The aircraft was given several nicknames by its operators and opponents, generally derived from the name of the manufacturer (Messer, Mersu, Messzer etc.), or the external appearance of the aircraft the G-6 variant was nicknamed by Luftwaffe personnel as Die Beule ("the bump/bulge") because of the cowling's characteristic covers for the breeches of the later Bf 109G's synchronized 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns, while Soviet aviators nicknamed it as "the skinny one" for its sleek appearance. The names "Anton", "Berta", "Caesar", "Dora", "Emil", "Friedrich", "Gustav" and "Kurfürst" were derived from the variant's official letter designation (e.g. Bf 109G – "Gustav"), based on the German phonetic alphabet of World War II, a practice that was also used for other German aircraft designs.

Soon after the public debut of the new fighter, in July 1937 three Bf 109Bs took part in the Flugmeeting in Zürich. Under the command of Major Seidemann, they won in several categories First Prize in a 202 km speed race, First prize in the Class A category in the international Alpenrundflug for military aircraft, and also victory in the international Patrouillenflug. On 11 November 1937 the Bf 109 V13 flown by Messerschmitt's chief pilot Dr. Hermann Wurster, and powered by an 1650 1,650 hp (1,230 kW) DB 601R racing engine set a new world air speed record for landplanes with piston engines to 610.55 km/h (379.38 mph) and won the title for Germany for the first time. Converted from a Bf 109D, the "V13" had been fitted with a special racing DB 601R engine that could deliver 1,650 hp (1,230 kW) for short periods. 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 634.7 km/h (394.4 mph), and later, on 30 March 1939, test pilot Hans Dieterle surpassed that record, reaching 746.61 km/h (463.92 mph) with the He 100 V8. Messerschmitt soon regained the lead in this race. On 26 April 1939, Flugkapitan Fritz Wendel, flying the Me 209 V1, raised the figure to 755.14 km/h (469.22 mph). This was a racing aircraft having little in common with the Bf 109, powered by the DB 601ARJ, producing 1,156 kW (1,550 hp) but capable of reaching 1,715 kW (2,300 hp). For propaganda purposes, the machine was called the Bf 109R, suggesting it was just another version of the standard fighter. This world record for a propeller-driven aircraft was to stand until 1969.

When the Bf 109 was first designed in 1934, by a team led by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser, its primary role was that of a high-speed, short range bomber interceptor. The 109 was also designed to take advantage of the most advanced aerodynamics of the time and embodied structural techniques which were an advance on its contemporaries. In the years of the Blitzkrieg, the Bf 109 was the only single engined fighter operated by the Luftwaffe, until the appearance of the Fw 190.

The 109 remained in production from 1937 through to 1945 embodying many different variants and sub-variants; the primary engines were Daimler-Benz DB 601 and DB 605, with the Junkers Jumo 210 powering the most of the pre-war variants. The most produced Bf 109 model was the 109G series; more than a third of all 109s built were the G-6 series, with some 12,000 units being manufactured from March 1943.

The Bf 109 was credited with more aerial kills than any other aircraft. One hundred and five (possibly 109) Bf 109 pilots were credited with the destruction of 100 or more enemy aircraft. Thirteen of these men scored more than 200 kills, while two scored more than 300. Altogether this group were credited with nearly 15,000 kills between them. Official ace status was granted to any pilot who scored five or more kills. Applying this to Luftwaffe fighter pilots and their records reveals that "Ace" status belonged to more than 2,500 German pilots. Against Soviets, the Finnish-flown Bf 109Gs claimed a victory ratio of 25:1 in favour of the Finns.

Some Bf 109s remained in service for many years after the war. Hungarian 109s were destroyed in Germany by their own crews on 6 May 1945, Romania used its Bf 109s until 1955. The Finnish Air Force did not retire their Bf 109Gs until March 1954. 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.

General characteristics
  • Crew: One
  • Length: 8.95 m (29 ft 7 in)
  • Wingspan: 9.925 m (32 ft 6 in)
  • Height: 2.60 m (8 ft 2 in)
  • Wing area: 16.05 m² (173.3 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 2,247 kg (5,893 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 3148 kg (6,940 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 3,400 kg (7,495 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1× Daimler-Benz DB 605A-1 liquid-cooled inverted V12, 1,475 PS (1,455 hp, 1,085 kW)
  • Propellers: VDM 9-12087 three-bladed light-alloy propeller

  • Maximum speed: 640 km/h (398 mph) at 6,300 m (20,669 ft)
  • Cruise speed: 590 km/h (365 mph) at 6,000 m (19,680 ft)
  • Range: 850 km (528 mi) 1,000 km (621 mi) with droptank
  • Service ceiling: 12,000 m (39,370 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 17.0 m/s (3,345 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 196 kg/m² (40 lb/ft²)
  • Power/mass: 344 W/kg (0.21 hp/lb)

  • 2 × 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns with 300 rounds per gun
  • 1 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon as Motorkanone with 200 rpg. G-6/U4 variant: 1 × 30 mm
  • 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 underwing cannon pods with 135 rpg
  • 2 × 21 cm (8 in) Wfr. Gr. 21 rockets
  • 1 × 250 kg (551 lb) bomb or 4 × 50 kg (110 lb) bombs

** Messerschmitt Bf-109 - Warbird Fare

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