The one and only German carrier-borne naval fighter
The Messerschmitt Me 109 was one of the two attempts of the Luftwaffe to design a naval fighter, the after the Arado Ar 197. They were part of the Kriegsmarine Plan Z approved by Hitler in 1936, which planned the construction of four fleet aircraft carriers. Of these, only one was nearly-completed, KMS Graf Zeppelin. Construction dragged on because of a walz of priority and Goering’s Luftwaffe not in best terms with the Kriegsmarine. The naval fighter programme was eventually relaunched in 1941 on the basis of a heavily modified Mersserchmitt Bf.109 with navalized features. Only 17 were built and evaluated in the end, never used for their intended purpose.
⚠ Note: This post is in writing. Completion expected in 2024.
The never was aircraft carrier
Flugzeugträger “A” keel just laid in Kiel AG, 28.12.1936
Graf Zeppelin, designed in 1935 as “A” and awarded by contract on 16 November 1935 to Deutsche Werke shipyard in Kiel. However the latter was still busy constructing KMS Gneisenau and thus, she had to wait, with the blueprints being further refined. Meanwhile, the specifications for a full naval aviation park were setup. It planned a trio comprising at first the fight Arado 197, Fi 167 torpedo bomber and Junkers 87C dive bomber. While construction dragged on, despite a launch on 8 December 1938, when the war broke out the next September 1939, construction was again suspended.
This led to a redesign of her air park, mostly swapping the Messerschmitt 109T for the Arado 197, a modern monoplane for a biplane.
Predecessor: Arado 197
Developed from the successful early Arado 68, well tested with the legion condor over Spain, the Ar 197 had its origin in the requirement for a fighter opeating on KMS Graf Zeppelin and Peter Strasser in 1936. The Ar 68H was the most modern sub-version with a fully enclosed cockpit, selected as a base for “navalization” for a new model denominated Arado Ar 197, designed by Walter Blume.
The first prototype V1 had a Daimler-Benz DB 600A inline engine coupled with with a three-blade propeller, but had no navalized features: Still straight, non folding wings no hook, not reinforcement of its fixed undercarriage. It first flew in the Spring of 1937.
The second prototype V2 had a more powerful radial BMW 132Dc and was properly navalized, testing an arrester hook, catapult spools, but still non-folding wings. By the summer of 1937 V3 had a more powerful BMW radial 132Dc 9-cyl. air-cooled rated for 656 kW (880 hp) at take-off. It was also the first armed, with two 7.92 mm (.312 in) forward wing machine guns and an engine shaft axle 20 mm Rheinmetall cannon, but also belly racks to carry four 50 kg (110 lb) bombs and an auxiliary fuel tank plus a smoke-laying canister for naval concealement.
The Ar 197 V3 was selected for a full evaluation in 1938 but not chosen for production as indeed construction of the Zeppeling dragging on, when the time the carrier would enter service, the Arado 197 would have hopelessly outclassed by new monoplanes. In 1939 it was decided to swap it for the new Bf 109T, navalized version of the now standard (and secret) Bf 109, itself later replaced by the Me 155.
Development of the Messerschmitt 109
The Messerschmitt me 109 was cutting-edge in 1939, not devoid of defaults, but efficient, easy to built. It became eventually the #1 fighter of the Luftwaffe. This fampus model, built in around 20,000 units until 1945 fought on all fronts, declined into hundreds of variants, and despite the arrival of new fighters, never replaced.
1933 Technisches Amt report
During 1933, the Technisches Amt (C-Amt), the technical department of the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) (“Reich Aviation Ministry”), 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-seat medium bomber
- Rüstungsflugzeug II for a tactical bomber
- Rüstungsflugzeug III for a single-seat fighter
- Rüstungsflugzeug IV for a two-seat heavy fighter
The Rüstungsflugzeug III was to be short range, replacing Arado 64 and Heinkel He 51 biplanes. Late March 1933, the RLM published tactical requirements for a single-seat fighter (L.A. 1432/33)
1934 RLM specifications
Specifications included a top speed of 400 km/h (250 mph) at 6,000 m (19,690 ft), (at least for 20 minutes), and total flight duration of 90 minutes. Operational ceiling was to be 6,000 metres, reachable in 17 minutes. Maximal ceiling was to be over 10,000 metres. The new Junkers Jumo 210 engine was designated to be its engine. It developed 522 kW (700 hp).
Planned armament combinations :
-1x 20 mm MG C/30 engine-mounted cannon firing through the propeller hub as a Motorkanone
-2x engine cowl-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s
-1x lightweight engine-mounted 20 mm MG FF cannon + 2x 7.92 mm MG 17s.
The MG C/30 was an airborne adaption of the 2 cm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft gun, firing the very powerful “Long Solothurn” ammunition. But the gun was heavy and cumbersome and had a low rate of fire. For wings armaments, choices were limited as wing loading should be kept below 100 kg/m2. Tests would be level speed, rate of climb, and maneuverability.
1934-35 V Prototypes
Design work on P.1034 began in March 1934 (3 weeks after the signed development contract). The basic mock-up was completed by May. A second, more detailed was shown by January 1935. The RLM designated it the “Bf 109,” after the next available block of numbers (by BFW).
V1 prototype (1935)
The Versuchsflugzeug 1 completed by May 1935 had civilian registration D-IABI. But the new German engines were not yet ready therefore ironically the RLM acquired four Rolls-Royce Kestrel VI engines by trading Rolls-Royce a Heinkel He 70 Blitz for used as an engine test-bed. Messerschmitt received two of these, quickly adapted to the V1. Maiden flight occurred at the end of May 1935 south of Haunstetten, piloted by Hans-Dietrich “Bubi” Knoetzsch. After four months of testings, the aircraft was delivered in September 1935 to the Luftwaffe’s central test centre at the Erprobungsstelle Rechlin, soon to be part of the design competition.
V2, V3 prototypes (1936)
The V2 was completed in October with the planned 449 kW (600 hp) Jumo 210A engine. The V3 followed, this time armed with guns, had to wait until May 1936 to receive another Jumo 210 engine.
After Luftwaffe acceptance’s trials has been completed at E-Stelle, the RLM’s military aviation test and development facility at Rechlin, prototypes were sent to E-Stelle Baltic, on the seacoast facility at Travemünde for the manufacturers competition. The other contenders were the Arado Ar 80 V3, Focke-Wulf Fw 159 V3, Heinkel He 112 V4 and Bf 109 V2. The He 112 arrived as early as February 1936 followed by the others the end of the month.
First impressions, first critics
Because most fighter pilots were used to biplanes with open cockpits and low wing loading, light g-forces and easy handling, they were at first very critical of the Bf 109. But it emerged as one of the frontrunners in the contest. Indeed the Arado and Focke-Wulf, which intended as “backup” programs and were completely outclassed. The Arado Ar 80 indeed had gull wings (later straight on the V3), a fixed spatted undercarriage and the design was soon abandoned.
Me 109V-1 – 3 Views Tech drawing
The Fw 159 was a parasol, potentially inspired by the earlier Focke-Wulf Fw 56, and considered by the E-Stelle like a technical compromise. It used a brand new retractable main undercarriage which was unreliable.
Bf 109 tests showed other shortcomings for the pilots like a steep ground angle (poor forward visibility when taxiing) a cockpit canopy that could not be opened in flight, trigger-happy automatic leading edge slats on the wings (later the design proved to be right). Also leading edge slats and ailerons would flutter rapidly in hard turns, possibly leading into a stall condition, and the high wing loading because of their relatively small size.
Me 109V-6 B1
The initial winner: He 112
The Heinkel He 112, was a scaled-down Blitz, a record plane and favorite by Luftwaffe leaders, included Goering. It was also cheaper than the Me 109, looked more gracious and less cramped. Moreover it had wide track and robust undercarriage opened outwards from mid wing. The Me109 at the contrary was famously plagued by inwards opening undercarriage that rendered landings and taxiing somewhat more hazardous.
The He 112 had better visibility from the cockpit, and lower wing loading, therefore landing more safely and slowly than its rival. The V4 had a single-piece, clear-view sliding cockpit canopy that was not cluttered and could be opened in flight, and its Jumo 210Da with a modified exhaust system was more powerful. In the end, Heinkel always has been the favorite in the industry, while Messerschmitt was somewhat of an underdog, producing its first fighter and somewhat ugly duck of the competition…
But the situation changed as the He 112 was structurally complicated, was 18% heavier than the Bf 109 and its thick wing, was a disadvantage for a fast fighter, as it makes it more stable and therefore decreased the aircraft’s rate of roll and maneuverability. The He 112 V4 was therefore given new shorter wings. But improvements had not been fully tested and the V4 could not be demonstrated in time to the Acceptance Commission.
The Messerschmitt V4 wins
As a smaller, lighter fighter, the Bf 109 was 30 km/h (20 mph) faster in level flight, superior in climbing and diving. The Commission therefore ultimately ruled in favour of the Bf 109, notably after a convincing display from Messerschmitt test pilot’s in a series of spins, dives, flick rolls and tight turns.
In March, the RLM wasinformed that the British Supermarine Spitfire had been ordered into production. Therefore a quick decision was needed to get the winning design into production asap. On March, 12 March, the RLM announced the results in the Bf 109 Priority Procurement, with a firm production order.
Me 109V-7 (wikipedia)
The Heinkel 112 is exported
At the same time, Heinkel was ordered to radically re-design the He 112, leaving hope for the company it can stay as a backup fighter. The Me 109 V1 made its public debut during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. But paradoxically, doubts were left as it was a new fighter or an acrobatic plane. In fact 54 B-0 and B-1 were to be built only, 17 included in the Legion Condor and later left to the Nationalist, 12 were given to the Japanese, 24 to Romania, wile a single one stayed in the Luftwaffe. The He 112 led to a completely revised He 100.
The Heinkel 100 as part of a deception plan
Not loosing any hope, Heinkel came back with a completely revised design, somewhat influenced by the Me 109 as it was much smaller, had reduced straight wings, a more powerful engine, the DB-601 inverted V12 (1175 hp), and a simplifed airframe. It was way faster also, reaching 670 kph on flight trials. The prototype flew on January, 22, 1938, already taking the world record at 638 kph with Udet. In March 1939, the V3 would reached a whooping 746 kph with Hans Dieterle. But the RLM don’t see the necessity of a second fighter and the development is topped. Six prototypes V1 to V8 would be sent to USSR, three to Japan while the 12 He-100D-1 were included in the Heinkel own’s defense unit at Rostock. They were abundantly filmed, and photographed to participate in a deception plan, making the allies believe it was the main Luftawffe’s fighter by German Propaganda.
Other Me 190 Variants
Genesis of Prewar Messerschmitt Me 109s
Although production was approved by the RML, the new fighter made an name for itself. In July 1937 already, three Bf 109Bs took part in the Flugmeeting airshow in Zürich (under the command of Major Seidemann), winning the First prize in a 202 km speed race and class A category in the international Alpenrundflug for military aircraft, and the international Patrouillenflug category. On 11 November 1937, the V13 flown by Messerschmitt’s chief pilot Dr. Hermann Wurster set a new world air speed record. Thanks to a 1,230 kW (1,650 hp) DB 601R racing engine, it reached 610.95 km/h (379.62 mph). The V13 was a Bf 109D conversion.
Heinkel, eventually gave up the He 112 and turned to the He 100, and on 6 June 1938 the V3 (Ernst Udet) broke the record at 634.7 km/h (394.4 mph). Hans Dieterle reached 746.61 km/h (463.92 mph) with the V8 on 30 March 1939, but Willy Messerschmitt regained the lead on 26 April 1939 with Flugkapitän Fritz Wendel. This time flying the 209 V1 (planned replacement for the Me 109 and called 109R for propaganda purposes) at 755.14 km/h (469.22 mph). It was powered by the DB 601ARJ (1,156 kW or 1,550 hp with a supercharger to reach 1,715 kW (2,300 hp). This world record for piston-engines stood until 1969 (Grumman F8F Bearcat Conquest I at 777 km/h (483 mph))
The Me 109A
Despite these racing trophies, Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser designed initial production models of the A, B, C and D series with relatively low-powered, 670–700 PS (660-690 HP) Junkers Jumo 210 series engines. Later some prototypes were converted to use the more powerful DB 600.
The Bf 109A was the very first version of the Bf 109. It was considered as a pre-serie. Armament initially planned of only two cowl-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns but with intelligence about the Hurricane and Spitfire, experiments were carried out with a third machine gun firing through the propeller shaft. The prototype V4 and some A-0 were also given the 640 PS (631 hp, 471 kW) Junkers Jumo 210B engine. The propelled was a two-blade fixed-pitch one, later changed to a 670 PS (661 hp, 493 kW) Jumo 210D when available.
The A-0 serie got production changes on the flow and diverged in their appearance. Outside the engine, cockpit and machine gun ventilation holes/slats were revised, and location of the oil cooler. These Bf 109 A-0 served with the Legion Condor, assimilated by B-series aircrafts (tactical markings 6-1 to 6–16). The 6–15 ran out of fuel and was forced to land behind enemy line, captured by Republicans on 11 November 1937 and transferred to the Soviet Union. It incorporated several improvements from the Bf 109B production program included a planned variable-pitch propeller. According to RLM archives only 22 aircraft were delivered A-series prototypes.
The Me 109B
The Bf 109 B-1 was the first large-scale production fighter, fitted with the 670 PS (661 hp, 493 kW) Jumo 210D engine, and still two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller. A more modern variable-pitch propeller was later introduced and retrofitted, these modied planes being unofficially known as B-2s. The Bf 109B saw combat with the Legion Condor during the Spanish Civil War. They only had two machines guns, but tests with an engine-mounted machine gun failed because of engine vibrations and overheating. Therefore fitting of two more machine guns in the wings followed showing they needed strengthening. The V9 prototype tested wing 20 mm MG FF cannons. 341 Bf 109 B-1s were built by Messerschmitt, Fieseler, and the Erla Maschinenwerke total.
The Me 109C
The Bf 109C arrive in the production lines in the spring of 1938. It was powered by a 700 PS (690 hp, 515 kW) Jumo 210G engine, with direct fuel injection. The wings were strengthened to carrying two machine guns, for a total of four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s. C-0s were pre-production models, C-1s were production models, and the C-2 was a prototype to test yet another engine-mounted machine gun. The C-3 had 20 mm MG FF wings cannons but either production or conversions to this model remains unknown. The planned C-4 had tested an engine-mounted Motorkanone MG FF and remained as a prototype. 58 Bf 109Cs according to the RLM (versions) has been delivered to the Luftwaffe.
The Me 109D “Dora”
The “Dora” was the second production batch of the early series, twice as much being delivered than Mark Bs. The V10 prototype, differed little from the V8, except for its Jumo 210G engine. The following V10, V11, V12 and V13 prototypes used Bf 109B airframes but with the DB 600A engine, with performances in mind. The DB 600A was quickly replaced by the DB601A with direct fuel injection. Developed from the V10 and V13 prototypes, the Bf 109D became the standard Bf 109 in service with the Luftwaffe, just before the start of World War II.
The type saw limited service as all of the 235 Bf 109Ds available at the beginning of the Poland Campaign were replaced by the Bf 109E, for a few night fighter units that kept these into early 1940. Variants of the D-series included the D-0 and D-1 models, both fitted with a Junkers Jumo 210D engine, armed with two wing-mounted and two nose-mounted 7.92 mm MG 17s. The D-2 experimented an engine-mounted machine gun agains, but without much success. In addition the next D-3 received 20 mm MG FFs in the wings.
A total of 647 Bf 109Ds of all versions were built by Focke-Wulf, Erla, Fieseler, Arado and AGO. While only four Bf 109Ds, possibly D-0 preproduction series has been originally manufactured by Messerschmitt, the others being licenced. Some Bf 109Ds were sold to Hungary, and 10 to Switzerland (built by Arado-Flugzeugwerke GmbH, Warnemünde).
Messerschmitt Me 109E (“Emil”)
Studies began of the E early on in 1937. Meanwhile a total of 647 Bf 109Ds (Dora) of all sub-versions were turned by Focke-Wulf, Erla, Fieseler, Arado and AGO. Almost none were manufactured by Messerschmitt, but licenced instead, leaving the master company free to concentrate on the Emil. At that time the only engine available was the 441–515 kW (600–700 PS) Jumo 210. It was reliable, but still lacked power to allow more payloads on the Me 109 cell. In fact, the Daimler-Benz DB 601A engine was procured. This heavier and longer power unit (181 kg (400 lb) more) packed indeed an impressive extra 223 kW (300 PS). This forced to design a quite larger cooling area, and forced the adoption of a brand new airframe, riddled with massive air intakes. In all, about 3546 Messerschmitt me 109 E or “Emil” were built, and about 12 variants and sub-variants were made, with many retrofits of surviving planes in summer of 1940.
Decision to modify the wings rather than simply enlarging the engine nose mounted radiator was dictated by considerations of drag and top speed only. These new radiators were placed in between the wing root and wing panels. This need to modify the trailing edges inner ends and confine the oil cooler under the nose inside a smaller streamlined duct. The counterbalancing effect of these radiator had another advantage, which was to allow the fitting of a larger three-bladed propeller made by Vereinigte Deutsche Metallwerke (VDM). The wings has been reinforced, integrating several inboard ribs and large radiator ducting. Another inducted effect was that the radiators ends met the trailing edge of the wing’s camber. Therefore the airflow was faster and the overall cooling more efficient, although with the trade-off of additional, fragile extra ducting and piping. Also, when landing, the deployed undercarriage could deflect mud and debris right into the radiators.
Me 110 E-4 “Trop”
Me109 Emil Variants
10 Me109 V14 and V15
The serie was tried by the protoypes V14 and V15. Both flew proficiently with the 1,100 PS (1,085 hp, 809 kW) DB 601A engine to test all the new plane’s flight perimeter. Both prototypes were armed with 1,100 PS (1,085 hp, 809 kW) DB 601A engine two 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s above the engine but V14 in addition had two 20 mm MG FF in the wings. The latter proved the new airframe cell could well carry this weight, and it was adopted later for production by the RLM, that ordered first ten E-0 to be delivered in 1938 for further evaluations, with 4 × 7.92 mm/.312 in MG 17.
1,183 Me109 E-1
Transitional production models, armed with two 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s above the engine and two more in the wings. Many would be later modified to the E3 standard. In all, 1,183 E-1 would be delivered by Messerschmitt, and 110 E-1/B. The latter were the first fighter-bombers, later identified by the prefix “Bf” for Jagdbomber , or simply “Jabo”. The belly and underwings were modified to carry either a central ETC 500 bomb rack (single 250 kg (550 lb) bomb) or four 50 kg (110 lb) bombs under the wings. In addition they received an improved Reflexvisier “Revi” gunsight and FuG 7 Funkgerät 7 short-range radio set.
ca 30 Me109 E-2
A few E-2 were cranked up, closely based on the V20 prototype. The Me109 E had one Motorkanone MG FF cannon in the nose and two in the wings. However the latter gave considerable trouble in service. The two synchronized MG 17s cowl machine guns also proved unreliable. The only E-2 produced were in service in August 1940 with the II./JG 27 squadron.
1276 Me109 E-3
The E-3 could be summed up as an upgrade in performance with two prototypes V16 and V17 constructed to tests structural improvements and a more powerful armament. They served as a basis for the Bf 109 E-3, armed with the hood-mounted MG 17s above the engine, and a single MG FF cannon in each wing. Total production: 1,276 E-3 including 83 E-3a export versions, which made it the most common of all Emil types.
561 Me109 E-4
The E-4 marked a new era, with many more E-3 airframes upgraded to this new standards at the start of the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940. The Me 109 E-4 only differed in some details like the modified 20 mm MG-FF/M wing cannon, and improved neck armour above the pilot’s seat. The MG FF/M could fire an improved explosive shell called Minengeschoß using drawn steel (like brass cartridges) rather than cast as usual. This resulted in a thin, light but strong cartridge able to store more explosive charge, enhancing muzzle velocity quite a bit. This shell imposed a revision of the MG FF’s mechanism due to the recoil, hence the FF/M. The cockpit canopy was simplified for production, squared-off, also improving the pilot’s vision. It was later retrofitted to E-1s and E-3s, and remained in production until the introduction of the welded heavy model of the new G type in mid to late 1942. Some E-4 would received an improved DB601N high-altitude engine rated at 1,175 PS (1,159 hp, 864 kW). This E-4/N was given to just one fighter gruppe from July 1940. Me109 E-4s were also abundantly used as fighter-bombers, under the designation of E-4/B. They were fitted with the DB 601Aa engine and E-4/BN engine. Total production: 561 (496 E-4s, 250 E-4, 211 E-4/B, 15 E-4/N, 20 E-4/BN).
48 Me109 E-5/6
Both E-5 and E-6 were reconnaissance planes. A camera was installed behind the cockpit, and they were based respectively on the E-3 and E-4/N, with 29 E-5s and 9 E-6s ordered and delivered by Messerschmitt.
438 Me109 E-7
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-7 entered service and saw combat at the end of August 1940, and was marked by a net improvement in range: It was previously 660 km (410 mi) together with limited cruises performances. With the E-7 carrying a drop tank, standardized Luftwaffe 300 L (80 US gal) model mounted on a centre-line rack under the fuselage, it was now up to 1,325 km (820 mi). The same rack could also mount a bomb for Jabo fighter-bomber squadron operations. Retrofits of previous types were made with this belly fittings from October 1940. Standard engine was the 1,100 PS DB 601A or in alternative the 1,175 PS DB 601Aa engine. Late-production engines were 1,175 PS DB 601N with better in high altitude. This second serie was designated as E-7/N.
The Me 109 Emil was introduced before the war started and made the bulk of the Luftwaffe at the eve of the summer of 1940. So this was the most common version of the Me 109 throughout the western campaign, duelling with Dutch, Belgian, French planes and the RAF, from May to September 1940 at the end of the air war over Britain (The battle of Britain), where its only true rival was the Spitfire, which unfortunately was armed with a rather light -if numerous- array of standard 3 inch machine-guns. Performances of both planes has been extensively detailed during the battle and abundantly debated ever since.
The “Spit” was slightly slower in some areas, but also more agile, while the “brutish little hun” was not the fastest, but perhaps the deadliest when close enough to deliver the punch of its combined machine guns and cannon, better suite to very fast engagements rather than the British “spray and prey”. It should be remembered however that statistically the main opponent of the me-109 (also credited with most victories) was the Hawker Hurricane. In raw engine power, the Merlin proved superior to the DB, with room to spare, still around 800 hp at 24,000 m while the Me 109 could climb higher but only developed 700 hp passed 25,000m. In terms if agility, the Me 109 roll rate proved superior, but was similar about 300 mph at 45°. According to Olivier Lefebvre (a noted authority on the Me 109), only a few E-4 received the DB601N (as E-4/N), considered quite troublesome. The bulk of the production and licences went to the DB601A.
Me 109F “Friedrich”: The Luftwaffe workhorse in Africa and Russia.
Background of the Messerschmitt Me 109F
Development of a new airframe began in 1939 and from February 1940, an improved engine called the Daimler-Benz DB 601E was also developed to be coupled with this airframe. Messerschmitt engineers used both the engine and airframe on Bf 109 E-1 cells, the first two prototypes being named V21 (W.Nr 5602) and V22 (W.Nr 1800). They kept the trapeziform wing shape but with a reduced span (61 cm or 2 ft shorter). They in essence “clipped” the tips, which were no longer rounded and the most preeminent feature of the F-type. Also these wings incorporated a modified cooling system. V22 was thoroughly tested and became the testbed for the pre-production DB 601E serie. At first, the clipped wings had negative effect on the handling. So a third prototype, the V23 (W.Nr 5603), used reworked semi-elliptical wingtips. This soon became the new standard for all future Bf 109 airframes. The fourth prototype V24 (W.Nr 5604) still had the clipped wings but with a new “elbow”-like supercharger air-intake. This too, went into production. There was also a deeper oil cooler bath beneath the cowling while aerodynamic studies led the fuselage to be cleaned up and the engine cowling modified.
About the nickname: “Friedrich” was not widely used, to say the least not recognized officially in any documentation. It seemed to have been used “by default”. Only “Dora” saw wide use for the “langnase” version of the FW-190, the D-9. The Bf 109D never stick enough to gain it. it was a very different story with the Emil and Gustav, perhaps due to their wide use. The former was also much more popular than the latter, considered too heavy and lacking many amenities of the former ones. Albert Speer came in between and “total war” imposed drastic change in production with simplifications of design and widespread omissions.
Bf 109 F modifications, in detail
The Bf 109 F had many aerodynamic improvements, like the engine cowling smoother and more rounded, enlarged propeller spinner (borrowed from the Me-210) well-blended in the cowling. Underneath the nose was a more streamlined oil cooler radiator, and surrounding fairing, plus a new ejector exhaust arrangement. Late production models would have a metal shield placed over the left hand banks helping chase the fumes away from the supercharger air-intake. The latter was well-rounded, “elbow”-shaped. It helped it protruding in fact more out to gush more cold air for the more powerful engine. The three-blade VDM propeller made in light alloy had an overall reduced diameter (3 m or 9 ft 8.5 in) and the pitch was now electrically set, regulated by a constant-speed unit, but with a manual override backup. In addition the standard 300 liter drop tank made its apparition. For all these changes, the Bf 109 F overall range was now set to 1,700 km (1,060 mi) (previously 660 km (410 miles) and 1,325 km (820 mi) with the drop tank).
The canopy had its forward lower triangular panel replaced by a metal panel, fitted with a port to fire signal flares, well needed in case of a crash. Nevertheless this was a gradual introduction and the F-1s and F-2s essentially never had this modification. Also, the pilot head was better protected b the addition of a two-piece armour plate (same as E-4). It was placed on the hinged portion of the canopy, and on top of that, a bullet-resistant windscreen was optional. More so, from 1942 onwards, pilots had retrofitted on these models a layered light-alloy plate aft of the pilot and fuel tank. To further enhance the pilot’s safety, the fuel tank was self-sealing. These were cosmetic changes hardly seen from the exterior.
The tail section was redesigned, the rudder slightly reduced and the fin section took an airfoil shape, creating a sideways lift force swinging the tail slightly to the left, helping its effectiveness, and making the right rudder use on takeoff less useful to counteract torque effects from the engine. The old bracing struts were relocated below and forward, but not removed. The tail-wheel was now retractable and the main undercarriage legs were raked forward by six degrees, which helped greatly ground handling, for the pilot’s great relief. It seems at the beginning the wing and tail section broke easily, so much so that JG 2 “Richthofen”, Wilhelm Balthasar, was killed when trying the new fighter when his wings broke away. Improvements following during production, with thicker wing skins, reinforced spars and for the tails failure it was shown they occurred because of high-frequency oscillations added to by vibrations from the engine, they resonated incrementally enough to cause a structural failure on the attachment point. Stiffening plates were added both sides, but the entire structure was soon reinforced, and later the entire wing was redesigned. Quasi-elliptical wingtips were adopted with a slight aerodynamic area reduction, but also new leading edge slats, shorter with an increased chord. Removable wingtips also slightly increased the span. They recovered also the plain ailerons of the previous models, for a 2R1 profile with a 14.2% ratio down to 11.35% and a dihedral 6.53°.
Always on the wings, radiators became shallower and moved back on the wing and in general cooling was redesigned, regulated by a thermostat making use of inlet and outlet flaps to procure the most efficient cooling depending on the speed. The new radiator was shallower and wider and fitted with a boundary layer duct for a better airflow. A link was established between the central flap to the lower split flap while the upper one lip position was regulated by an automated thermostatic valve (these valves were delivered as kits to the front). In additions, cutoff valves permitted the the pilot to shut down the wing radiator in case of damage, preserving the remaining coolant. They would eventually became standard on the Bf 109 G and K.
On the Bf 109 F there were two synchronized 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s capable of a rate of fire up to 500 rpg blended inside the engine cowling and the mandatory 20 mm Motorkanone cannon which fired through the propeller hub, probably its most deadly bite. However Adolf Galland criticized it as too light and Major Walter Oesau preferred his Bf 109 E, but on the same time, Werner Mölders saw the 20 mm centerline centerline Motorkanone as a real improvement, and the end, with its teething tail problems fixed, pilots started to lean more favorably towards the F series. For many it appeared as the best-handling so far, Mölders (plane SG+GW) flying one of the first operational Bf 109 F-1 in early October 1940 over UK possibly shoot down no less than eight Hurricanes and four Spitfires in about a week and clearly showed its potential if well-used.
Me109 F Variants
Me109 F-0/F-1/F-2 (?+208+1230=1448)
The pre-production F-0 were recognizable for their rectangular supercharger intake and had the 1,175 PS (1,159 hp, 864 kW) DB 601N engine, mated to a VDM 9-11207 propeller for a top speed of 615 km/h (382 mph). F-0, F-1, F-2 shared this early engine. The first had a centerline 20 mm MG FF/M Motorkanone with 60 rounds and flew in October 1940 (JG 51) over UK. Production of the F1 started in August 1940 and ended in February 1941. They had the same cannon and two 7.92 mm/.312 in MG 17 nose machine guns. The F-2 was armed with the 15 mm Mauser MG 151 cannon (200 rounds) and same nose MGs but some were retrofitted later with the new 20 mm cannon in the field. Production was 1,230 F-2s until August 1941. None were tropicalized although some F-2s received sand filters in the field later (F-2 trop). Another variant (canceled) was the F-2/Z high-altitude fighter fitted with a GM-1 boost, adopted for the F-4.
Me Bf-109F replica in Germany.
Me109 F-3 (15)
On the F-3 and F-4 the engine was now the planned 1,350 PS (1,332 hp, 993 kW) DB 601 E mated with a VDM 9-12010 propeller with broader blades for altitude, the engine being initially restricted but later cleared for service use from February 1942 onwards. This engine oddly used the 87 octane “B-4” aviation fuel while the previous F0/F1/F2 ran on more effective 100 octane “C-3” fuel, perhaps a signe of Germany’s dwindling reserves already. The F-3 armament was the same centerline 20 mm cannon of the F-2 and usual pair of 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s on the nose, but only 15 were ever produced. The sereie quickly swapped to the much more successful F-4.
Me109 F-4 (1941)
In addition to the new engine, the F-4 (Frontline June 1941) used the new Motorkanone 20 mm Mauser MG 151/20 (200 rounds), with a total production spanning just a year, between May 1941 and May 1942, and several sub-variants, some using additional 20 mm MG 151/20 wing cannons in faired gondolas. This option became available in field kits as the war progressed for the Me-190G and K in frontline service. These f-4 incorporated many of the above described wngs and tails, cooling later modifications. This was the last production version of the F-type, the rather less known of the whole serie. Indeed, the F-5, F-6 and F-8 were planned but never built as production swapped onto a much better G-type. Variants built were as follows:
Bf-109F evaluated by the South African Air Force
- F-4/R1 (240) with additional 20 mm wings gondola cannons
- F-4/R2 (5) recon version
- F-4/R3 (35) recon version
- F-4/Z (544)high altitude fighter with GM-1 boost
- F-4/Trop (576) Tropicalized version used by the Afrika Korps until 1943.
Me 109G “Gustav”: The Messer strikes Back.
Design of the Messerschmitt Me 109G
The Bf 109 G series was in a nutshell, an F-serie keeping the same airframebut varying in detail with reinforced wing structure, a bullet-proof windscreen, coskpit canopy welded framing, and light armour on the fuel tank. Engineers at one point wanted to add small doors for the wheel wells (outer portion) and the bays were squared off. Also tne engine cowling received two small inlet scoops on spark plugs. Also, barely noticeable, the boundary layer bypass outlets on the upper radiator flaps. The new G-type or “Gustav” could be converted as a long range fighter bomber of reconnaissance plane (“Rüststand” or -R) in kits of pre-packaged parts (Umrüst-Bausätze) or (-U) and Field kits (Rüstsätze). Perhaps the less standard version was the special high-altitude interceptor using GM-1 nitrous oxide injection boost, pressurized cockpits and other modifications like the DB 605AS or D-series engine.
Perhaps the most important change in this G-Type was the new Daimler-Benz DB 605A engine. it was derived from the previous F-type DB 601E but with augmented compression ratio and many mass production simplification. So it was more powerful with a max output of 1,475 PS (1,455 hp, 1,085 kW) at 2,800 rpm when taking off. However the new engine had recurring teething issues by 1942, and the output was artificially capped by the bureau to 1,310 PS (1,292 hp, 964 kW) at 2,600 rpm only to emerge again on 8 June 1943 uncapped by a factory directive when all these problems were solved. This power unit was mated to a pre-1944 three-blade VDM 9-12087A variable-pitch propeller, 3 m (9.8 ft) large. It had broader blades and an electro-mechanical or manual-electric pitch. When 1944 began, a new propeller with even broader blades was introduced, fit for high-altitude interceptions, called VDM 9-12159.
There was quite an evolution during production, stepped up until 1944:
Early versions: Bf 109 F-4 with modified airframe
Spring 1943 (also nicknamed “The Bulge”) production: Bulges in the cowling fitting of 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns and on wings (larger tyres).
Late 1943: New clear-view cockpit, 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannon, new larger supercharger (DB 605AS) vertical stabilizer (G-5)
The G5 introduced also an enlarged wooden tail unit, and morticed balance tab, which required a counterweight at the front but improved ground handling a lot.
Early 1944: MW 50 engine power boost.
When introduced in numbers, the “Gustav” made quite an impression. Erich Hartmann, the 352 victories ace of aces only flew Bf 109G.
“It was very maneuverable, and it was easy to handle. It speeded up very fast, if you dived a little. And in the acrobatics manoeuver, you could spin with the 109, and go very easy out of the spin. The only problems occurred during takeoff. It had a strong engine, and a small, narrow-tread undercarriage. If you took off too fast it would roll ninety degrees away. We lost a lot of pilots in takeoffs”
Specific versions were:
-Long-range fighter-reconnaissance plane
-High-altitude interceptor. Both carried two jettisonable 300 L (80 US gal) drop tanks under the wing, pressurized cockpits and GM-1 nitrous oxide “boost” which raised the output by 223 kW (300 hp).
G1 February-June 1942 (167):
The first batch arrived in February 1942, already with a pressurized cockpit, and had a small, horn-shaped air intake above the supercharger intake, pilot’s neck angled armour plate and small triangular armour-glass panels. Silica was added also to absorb moisture. The
G1 February-June 1942 (167):
last G1 batch of 80 G-1s were lightweight G-1/R2 with the GM-1 nitrous oxide ‘boost’ no neck armour and drop tanks fittings.
Me 109 G2 profile
G2 May 1942 – February 1943 (1,586)
The production started in May 1942. No cabin pressurization or GM-1 boost. Canopy back to the F-4 canopy armour. Top speed 660 km/h (410 mph) at 7,000 m (22,970 ft). Two Rüstsätze kits available, assigned at the factory, the G-2/R1 Long-range fighter-bomber (500 kg (1,100 lb) bely bomb) and jettisonable auxiliary undercarriage, modified fuel system and 300 L (80 US gal) drop tank. The G-2/R1 Long-range Fighter-bomber or JaboRei, was apparently only a prototype. The second, G-2/R2 reconnaissance aircraft with GM-1 and camera equipment, capable of 12,000 m (39,370 ft), and a ceiling of 13,800 m (45,275 ft).
Late production of the G2 included:
-Modified rack and internal fuel lines for 300 L (80 US gal) drop-tank
-Underwing 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon gondolas.
-ETC 500 bomb rack (250 kg (550 lb) bomb)
The African version called G-2 trop had a sand-filter forward of the supercharger intake and small fuselage metal brackets below the cockpit sill used as mounts for… sun umbrellas to shade the cockpit.
G3 September 1942 (50)
This was a pressurized version, similar to the G-1 but fitted with the same G-4 FuG 16 VHF radio set
G4 January – February 1943 (1242)
This model inaugurated the new FuG 16 VHF radio set (better clarity, three times the range), fuselage antenna lead-in moved further aft, larger 660 × 160 mm (26 × 6.3 in) mainwheels, more fuselage frames, altered fuselage legs nearly upright on the wheeltrain, new teardrop-shaped fairings over the wheel-wells, larger 350 × 135 mm (14 × 5 in) tailwheel with no recess. Sub-variants included the G-4/R2 Reconnaissance fighter, G-4/R3 Long-range reconnaissance fighter, G-4 trop Tropicalized fighter, G-4/U3 Reconnaissance fighter and the rare G-4y Command fighter.
Me 109 G6 profile
G6 February 1943 – ??mid 1944 (12,000)
The G-6 was fitted with nose 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131s, making the famous “Beule” or gun breeches bulges. The drag costed about 9 km/h (6 mph). Armament tests and modifications included the Werfer-Granate 21 BR 21 (Bordrakete 21 cm) heavy calibre rocket system, consisting of a jettisonable tube under each wing firing a 40.8 kg (90 lbs) warhead rocket coupled with the Revi reflector sights, spin-stabilized, 1,200 meters range, used against Allied bomber formations. The G-6/U4 used the 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 Motorkanone. Many armament kits were also available, underwing gondolas fo MGs, or fittings for bombs, drop tank, rockets. Sub-variants included the G-6/R2 Reconnaissance fighter, with MW 50, G-6/R3 Long-range reconnaissance fighter (tow 300 L underwing droptanks), G-6 trop, G-6/U2 (GM-1 booster), G-6/U3 Reconnaissance fighter, G-6/U4 with the 30 mm/1.18 in MK 108 Motorkanone cannon, G-6y Command fighter, G-6/AS High-altitude fighter with the DB 605AS engine, G-6/ASy high-altitude command fighter, G-6N night fighter (Rüstsatz VI: 2x underwing MG 151/20 cannons, optional FuG 350Z Naxos, G-6/U4 N with the 30 mm/1.18 in MK 108 Motorkanone.
G5 May 1943 – August 1944 (476)
This was a pressurized cockpit variant of the G-6. Its AS sub-variant was the high-altitude boosted DB 605AS engine with GM-1 fitted version being called “/U2” and aerodynamically cleaner engine cowl.
G14 July 1944 (5,500)
The very late G-6 had a taller wooden tail unit, redesigned rudder with an inset improving stability, WGr. 21 cm (8 in) under-wing rockets and 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannon. Aileron Flettner tabs radio-navigation Y-Verführung (Y-Guidance) associated with the FuG 16ZY also made an apparition. By early in 1944 engines like the DB 605AS had superchargers or the MW-50 water injection with the DB 605AM which combined both features. Top speed jump from 530 km/h (320 mph), sea level to 640 km/h (391 mph) at 6,600 m (21,650 ft) at high altitude. When the Normandy Landings occurred in June 1944, the G14 arrived as an attempt to design a standard with all modifications brought up since the introduction of the G-6, together with a variants fest also complicated by decentralized mass production as organized by Albert Speer. Metal was replaced by plywood wherever possible however. Standardization did not worked (it as realized fully with the K type) but this Me 109 offered a whole range of improvements from the MW 50 power boosting water injection, Erla Haube 665 km/h (413 mph) high-altitude speed. The G-14/AS which had the DB 605ASM went even further with a 680 km/h (422 mph) at 7.5 km (24,600 ft) top speed high up. This model was also declined into the G-14y command fighter and U4 featuring the new 30 mm/1.18 in MK 108 Motorkanone.
Me 109 G-14 profile
G10 December 1944 (2,600)
Also nicknamed the “Erla Bastard”, this decentralized Me 109G combined a regular G-type airframe with the DB 605 D-2 engine just to maintain production until the K-series kicked out of factories in numbers. Therefore airframes had to follow. The G10 apparently made its debuts in November 1944, right from Erla, WNF and Messerschmitt Regensburg factories. But their airframes could be traced thanks to two data plates, as G-14s diverted to a G-10 assembly line.
Modifications included the three-panel Erla-Haube, a new clear-view canopy eliminating the older rear fixed canopy section. Outside a 2,000 W generator, DB 605 D-2 power unit of the 109K, there was a standardised streamlined engine cowlings as well as standard MW-50 booster, larger Fo 987 oil cooler sunk unto a deeper fairing, enlarged crankcase, modified oil lines, small exhaust blister fairings (lower engine cowlings). Erla-built planes however had still the little bulges cowling, most distinguishing feature between G-10 factory planes. Also the radio antenna mast gave way to a swept-forward antenna (from the Me 163B Komet). Variants included the R2 Reconnaissance fighter, R6 Bad-weather fighter (PKS 12 autopilot), and U4 with the 30 mm/1.18 in MK 108 Motorkanone.
G-8/G-12 December 1944 (400?)
The G-8 was a special reconnaissance version was armed with the sole Motorkanone or alternatively the cowling machine guns to save weight, and was degraded further into short and long-range versions and several sets of cameras and radios depending on the mission. The G-12 was a small production two-seat trainer, a late conversion of wear out G-4/G-6 airframes, and by reducing the internal fuel capacity to 240 L with a drop tank in standard to save a seat. Two cowling machine guns, some times only one were the norm and the rear cockpit canopy was bulging out to leverage the instructor’s seat behind the student pilot, both having the same basic instrument panel and all flight controls.
Rüstsatz Kits & Umrüst-Bausatz
Next, there are the Rüstsatz Kits like the R I which had an underbelly ETC 501/IX b bomb capable of carrying a SC 250 or SD 250 type 250 kg (550 lb) bomb. The R II or ETC 50/VIII d bomb rack was capble of handling four SC 50 type 50 kg (110 lb) bombs while the R III (Schloß 503A-1 rack) hold a belly drop tank of 300 L. Next the R IV had two 30 mm (1.18 in) Rheinmetall-Borsig MK 108 underwing gunpods and the R VI 20 mm Mauser MG 151/20 pods.
The Umrüst-Bausatz (Umbau) numbers included the U1 prototypes featuring a reversible-pitch propeller air brake, coversions to the U2 standard with a GM-1 boost and MW-50 boost, U3 Reconnaissance conversion giving later the G-8 production variant and the U4 featuring a 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 Motorkanone.
Me 109 G10 profile
The G was probably the most famous and prolific version of all, with about 24,000 made in all (although RLM exact figure stays ellusive to say the least on these series) and cumulated more aerial kills than any other aircraft of World War II or in history so far. The bulk of these occurred against poorly trained, organized and equipped Soviet Air forces in 1941, with 21,200 kills in the span of the summer with E and F types, half in the air, the others on the ground. In the latter part of the war, daily bombing raids supplied the G with many easy targets for the Luftwaffe, driving the move towards high altitude capabilities. And losses accumulated steadily until the USAAF deployed the P51 Mustang and found the right tactics. Thirteen pilots scored more than 200 kills altogether and the same group was credited with a total of nearly 15,000 kills during the war, all aces head and shoulders well above all allied or axis equivalents. In fact some aces that became aces during the Spanish civil war managed to survive the war, like Adolf Galland, which had quite a nice career with NATO. No official “ace” status existed in the Luftwaffe but rather “Experte” for veterans and more than 2,500 Luftwaffe fighter pilots were aces according to the classic ww1 definition, more than 5 confirmed kills. The Finnish Bf 109Gs victory ratio rose as high as 25:1. The Italians too flown the Bf 109 with success, as well as Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria. The huge availability of the plane made them suitable for all sorts of combat mission, from regular patrols at mid-altitude to high altitude bomber interception, ground attacks or reconnaissance. The G version was probably the most preferred among pilots, flying it until the very last day of the war, as the new Type K sacrificed a lot to mass production and was less refined, also with often more inexperienced pilots.
Me 109K “Kürfurst”
The last Me 109.
Specifics of the Bf 109K
The type K was the last version of the Me-109. Indeed, postwar models like the Avia S199 and Spanish Buchon were so different that they are in no way related to the M109 line, with band new engines and tons of modifications.
The Bf 109K was multiplication of kits and sub-variants of past F and G series, factory and field conversions which eventually made production and maintenance not only overly complicated but also costly, a real problem for production management Germany ill-afford late in the war. The RLM, under Alber Speer orders, summoned Messerschmitt to rationalise its production and take all improvements to produce a standard model interchangeable parts and equipments, making the production cheaper and faster.
Messerschmitt Me-109 G-10 Eskorte
The RLM also pointed out the flaws in the airframe design and ordered these to be fixed for good. This process started in the spring of 1943, the prototype bing ready by autumn. Production started in August 1944, from the K-4 model (only mass production version, until the end of the war), the former pre-series nit equipped yet with the new Mercedes DB 605D engine. Deliveries from October 1944 reached 534 planes by main Messerschmitt A.G. plant at Regensburg (November), 856 in the end of 1944, for a total of 1,593 by the end of March 1945. This was a high rate of production despite allied bombings and continuous fighting. In fact only 314 K-4s were listed on active duty by the end of January 1945. Not all units would receive the Bf 109K.
Modifications of the Bf 109 “Kürfurst”
Externally, there were changes on the fuselage:
-Radio equipment hatch, moved forward and higher and D/F loop moved aft of the frames three and four.
-The filler point for the fuselage fuel tank replaced between frames two and three.
-Small circular plate above the footstep deleted
-Rudder fitted with the Flettner tab and fixed tabs.
-Long retractable tail wheel with two small clamshell doors was added.
Also there were changes in the airframe:
-Large rectangular fairings for the new larger main wheels.
-Small wheel well doors (outer ends of the wheel bays
-Radio equipment FuG 16ZY and relocated main swept-forward radio antenna
-FuG 25a Erstling IFF system
-FuG 125 Hermine D/F equipment
-Oxygen bottles relocated from the rear fuselage to the right wing.
-Flettner tabs for the ailerons (for some)
Messerschmitt Me-109K-4 blueprint
The K-4 had the now accepted 30 mm (1.2 in) MK 108 Motorkanone (MG 151/20 as the Motorkanone for some), fed by 65 rounds. Unfortunately it often jammed while manoeuvring in battle. There were still however the use of the two 13 mm (0.51 in) MG 131s (nose) rated for 300 rpg. The coscpit was fitted with Revi 16C reflector sight. The EZ 42 Gyro gunsight planned was never installed. Also, additional Rüstsätze or kits still existed:
-300 L (80 US gal) drop tank rack RIII
-500 kg (1,100 lb) bomb rack RI
-BSK 16 gun-camera, left wing. RIV
-Underwing 20 mm Mauser MG 151/20 cannon gondola pods RVI
-21 cm (8.3 in) Wfr.Gr. 21 rockets (mostly used by III./JG 26)
The Daimler-Benz DB 605 DB/DC engine was introduced with the K-4, although the very first batch was still given the the earlier DM. This new engine had an adjusting screw, for using either B4 + MW 50 Methanol Water injection equipment or C3 fuel (DB 605 DB) with an optional MW 50 (DB 605 DC) booster. By combining the moderately high-octane B4 fuel with the MW 50, an emergency power rat of 1,600 PS at 6,000 m was reached, also traduced by a take-off power of 1,850 PS. The DB could run on higher octane C3 fuel but in that case, without the MW 50 booster. With that C3 fuel and booster however the engine can potentially rate as high as 2,000 PS, but it was restricted or forbidden.
Nevertheless, using the MW 50 at maximum boost power, the Bf 109 K-4 became the fastest of the serie, reaching 710 km/h (440 mph) at 7,500 m (24,600 ft).
Messerschmitt Me-109K squadron in 1945 (Bundesarchiv)
Standard speed was 670 km/h (416 mph) at 9,000 m (30,000 ft) with an initial Rate of climb of 850 m/min without MW 50.
This engine was mated to a wide-chord, three-bladed 3 m (9.8 ft) wide VDM 9-12159A propeller, the same as the previous G-6/AS, G-14/AS and G-10. Despite its excellent performances however, the 109 K-4 did not fare as well as previous G types which still had the privilege of veteran pilots, a rare occurrence in 1944-45. But the excellent performances of the 19 K did compensated a little for thes inexperienced rookies that were the former Hitler’s youth that were trained on gliders and came of age. This was this abundance of novice, pitted against now largely allied veterans that caused such losses, just like for Japan.
Most stayed as paper projects, up to experimentation is subjected to debate. The K-6 had on paper a completely revised armament, two 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 above the engine hood, 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 Motorkanone but also an wings-mounted MK 108, substituted by 20 mm MG 151/20s. Armour weight was also increased to 90 kg (200 lb). Apparently prototypes tested at the Erprobungstelle Tarnewitz centre (Baltic coast). Perhaps the most advanced was the K-14, high-altitude heavy fighter with reinforced airframes (some delivered to II./JG52, Major Wilhelm Batz, late spring 1945). They only retained their 30 mm (1.18 in) motorkanon was to be fitted with a two-stage supercharged DB 605L engine and a four-bladed propeller. Top speed was to be 760 km/h (470 mph) at 12,000 m (39,000 ft).
- K-0 Pre-production, with the DB 605DM engine
- K-2 proposed with no pressurized cockpit version
- K-4: Serial production version – Pressurized cockpit, DB 605DM/DB/DC engine
- K-6 proposed heavy fighter version: reinforced wings,2x 30 mm MK 108 cannons, armour
- K-8 proposed reconnaissance version (like G-8)
- K-10 proposed version as K-6 but with MK 103M motorkannone
- K-12 proposed version, two-seat trainer
- K-14 proposed version, K-6, powered by a DB 605L engine
Development of the Messerschmitt Me 109T
Operational History (or lack thereof)
The other messerschmitts
Me 108 Taifun (1934)
Messerschmitt Me Bf.108 B1 as Rimensberger pre-war company demonstrator D-IBFW
The Messerschmitt name started in 1925 when Willy designed the M.25, a sports plane that became very popular and gained many prizes, helping him finding a manufacturer at Bamberg. It was followed by the M.19, while two passenger planes were also built. His first trainer was the M21 in 1928. It was followed by the M22, a prototype medium bomber that won some attention from the German ministry of Transport, as a cover for the future Luftwaffe. It was built by Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW) but secured no orders. Other civilian models followed until 1934, mostly sports aircrafts, small passenger plane, racers and one trainer, that became Willy’s first great success.
Messerschmitt Me Bf 108 B in regular Luftwaffe livery
The Me 108 was a single-engine sport and touring aircraft, an all-metal twin-seats side by side monoplane developed by Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Bavarian Aircraft Works) but designed by Willy Messerschmitt. It was named initially M 37, and under that first name participated in the Polish-held 4th Challenge International de Tourisme in 1934. It was then propelled by an air-cooled inverted V8 Hirth HM 8U 8.0 litre engine rated for 250 PS (247 hp, 184 kW) and a three-blade propeller. Having superb characteristics it was quickly the preferred plane for record flights and competitions. The Bf 108B appeared in 1935, with a larger Argus As air-cooled inverted V8 of 112.67 litre displacement. It was soon named by a celebrity, Elly Beinhorn, Taifun (“typhoon”). The first batches delivered at the Augsburg plant for the civilian market were followed by the Luftwaffe that adopted it as its main personnel transport and liaison aircraft.
Swiss air force Messerschmitt Me-108B.
-Bf 108A (7), 1934 compeition plane, with a Hirth HM 8U then Argus As17B and later Siemens Sh14A radial.
-Bf 108B (878) 1935 main production variant, with initially a Siemens Sh14A radial, then 240 PS Argus 10C or 270 PS Argus 10E. It had a quadrant-shaped rear window, tailwheel, new empennnage and no tailplane upper bracing. Used by 25 countries.
-Bf 108C (0) Proposed high-performance version with a 400 PS Hirth HM 512 engine.
-Bf 208 (2) prototypes derived from the SNCASO production in occupied France with a retractable tricycle landing gear. The French will continued its production as the Nord Noralpha, and later derived from it the Nord 1000/1001/1002 Pingouin
The me 108 was not armed, but was used for advanced training and sometimes for reconnaissance. It was easy to fly, reliable, fast and agile enough to be used in many featured films like The Longest Day, The Great Escape, 633 Squadron, Mosquito Squadron, Von Ryan’s Express, and even Spielberg’s the last crusade adventure movie.
Me 110 Zestörer (1935)
Messerschmitt Me-110, Google colorized photo, unknown origin or date
Cantilever single-engine planes were fast, light and agile, perfect combination for fighters. However already in the 1920s, there was a concept of long range bombing missions that required the escort of a fighter. However having just one engine, most fighters of the time were way below the required range to perform these missions. The problem was well known for years and resurfaced with allied bombers over Germany, until the P51 Mustang came out. Until the, the logic to reach the desired range was to create a twin-engine fighter. Thus, such plane would also carry substantial bomb loads and therefore carry many missions outside escort. The concept became one of Hermann Göring preferred topics, of a “Zestörer” or “destroyer”, popular in the late 1930s with most countries. The RLM had a 1935 specification for such models and several manufacturers answered the call.
Messerschmitt Me-110 G4/1 Captured
The Messerschmitt Me-110 was designed as a twin-engine heavy fighter also declined as a fighter-bomber (Jagdbomber or Jabo). Because of its twin engines which allowed a greater range, light aiframe and narrow fuselage, the Me 110 had a nose available to concentrate almost a modest firepower at the beginning: Two MG FF 20 mm cannon, four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns. The rear gunner in defensive position handled one 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine gun and later a twin-barrel MG 81Z with a limited traverse due the cockpit enclosed ball mount. Although the development of its successor, the Messerschmitt Me 210 started early one, before the war, endless teething troubles ensured it was never ready until later into the war, as the Me 410. Meanwhile, the mass-produced Bf 110 soldiered on all fronts until the end of the war as almost a jack of all trades, mostly night fighter at the end.
Messerschmitt Me 110 ZG-26 KBK LW4 France 1940
Messerschmitt Me-110 Coscpit interior, France 1940
Messerschmitt Me-110 Zerstörer Geschwader 26, Italy 1943
Messerschmitt Me-110 G-4 in a Museum
Confronted to a relatively weak opposition, the Bf 110 was often as fast or faster than most fighters of the time, and has many initial success in the early war, in the skies of Poland, Norway and France. But with the summer of 1940 and the first encounters with more modern fighters like the Bloch and Dewoitine, or those of the RAF, the Bf 110 primary weakness, its lack in agility, came into light quite blatantly. Although tactics were incriminated, this never compensated for the absence of dogfighting capabilities, especially in the Battle of Britain. Later on in the Balkans Africa and Russia, the Me 110 regained some utility when the sky was relatively safe from good fighters, it rendered excellent ground support to the German Army, complementary to the Stukas. But past 1943, the majority of surviving Bf 110 were withdrawn and redeployed in Germany, as night fighters, with state of the art radar equipped. The Me 110 almost then regained all its potential and was found quite efficient against the large formations of British Bombers. Other units also protected the skies over Germany by day, against strategic air attack of the USAAF’s 8th Air Force, but only before the arrival of long-range escorts like the Mustang and Thunderbolt in mid-1944. Among those Luftwaffe aces that “shined” in night hunting on the Bf 110 was probably the ace of aces on this plane Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, which claimed 121 victories in 164 combat missions.
Bf 110 A, pre-prod prototypes, two Junkers Jumo 210 engines: A-0 (4 built)
Bf 110 B, first production batch with two Jumo 210 engines, B-0 and B-1, 4x MG 17, 2x 20 mm MG FF cannons, B-2 Recce version, 2 canons removed, cameras added. B-3: Trainer, cannons removed, extra radio
Bf 110 C, Main early production version, with the DB 601 engines, witn ten C-0 pre-prod, C-1 with DB 601 B-1, C-2 with FuG 10 radio. C-3 upgraded MG FF/M cannons. C-4 upgraded crew armor, C-4/B Fighter-bomber with ETC 500 bomb racks, DB 601 Ba engines. C-5 reconnaissance version with Rb 50/30 camera (MG FF removed) and DB 601P engines. C-6 was experimental with a 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 101 cannon in belly mount and DB 601P engines. C-7 Fighter-bomber variant with ETC 500 centreline bomb racks and DB 601P engines.
Bf 110 D: Heavy variant, long range versions with external fuel tanks (Norway). D-0 prototype with belly-mounted tank Dackelbauch. D-1 Long-range with optional Dackelbauch plus underwing drop tanks. D-1/R1 Longer-range with Dackelbauch and larger 900 L (240 US gal) drop tanks. D-1/R2 with droppable 85L oil tank in place of Dackelbauch, two wing-mounted 900 L (240 US gal) drop tanks. D-2 two wing-mounted 300 L belly bomb racks (2x 500 kg bombs). D-3 had lengthened tail (rescue dinghy), wing-mounted 300 L/900 L drop tanks, optional ETC 500 bombracks. D-4 had MG FF removed, Rb 50/30 camera, 2x 300/900 L drop tanks.
Bf 110 E: Strengthened airframe, to carry up to 1,200 kg bombs. Bf 110 E-0 pre-prod with DB 601B engines, ETC50 bomb racks. E-1 main production version with DB 601P engines. E-1/U1 night fighter conversion (Spanner-Anlage infrared homing device). E-2 had DB 601P engines and rear fuselage extension (D3). E-3 long range recce with MG FF removed, Rb 50/30 camera.
Bf 110 F: Strengthened airframe and additional armour, and 1,350 PS DB 601F engines. F-1 standard fighter-bomber, F-2 Long-range variant (for day air raids), F-3 longe range recce, F-4 Night fighter
Bf 110 G: Improved with two 1,475 PS DB 605B engines, increased tail rudders. G-2 main version used Allied heavy bombers, often equipped with rockets. G-2/R1 had BK 3,7 under the fuselage. G-2/R4 had BK 3,7 under the fuselage plus two MK 108 in the nose. G-3 ws the long range recce version, G-4 the dedicated night fighter with FuG 202/220 Lichtenstein radar, optional Schräge Musik (oblique cannons) various engine boostsand existing Rüstsätze/Umrüst-Bausätze kits.
Bf 110 H: Last cancelled version (paper only) as documens were lost during an air bombing. One source (Bill Gunston) argues at least some H-2 and H-4 were produced around February 1944.
Messerschmitt Me-110 Night Fighter, Budapest 1944
Messerschmitt Me-110 Russia
Messerschmitt Me-110 Illustration Deblin, Irena, Poland, by Björn Huber
Messerschmitt Me 110 Staffel Kapitan Oberleutnant Hans Karl KampfNachtjagdgeschwader 4 Flug KBKL w3
Messerschmitt Me-110 E1 Björn Huber 2006
Overall, about 6,170 aircrafts of thus type were built, which is more than the Junkers 87 Stuka (5,700) but less than the Junkers 88 (15,200), but still far than its ill-fated successor the Me 210 and me 410 Hornisse (1121). It was used of course by the Luftwaffe, but als by the Royal Hungarian Air Force, Regia Aeronautica (only three Bf 110 Cs), the Royal Romanian Air Force, Croatian Air Force, and some were captured and rused or studied by the Soviet Air Force and the Royal Air Force: One, with 1426 Flight. There are three known surviving aircrafts, one in UK, one in Germany and another in Denmark, none in flying condition.
Messerschmitt Me-110G2 at RAF Hendon
Dimensions: 16,3 m x 12,1 m x 3,3 m, aera 38,5 m2
Weight: 5 200 kg empty, 6 750 kg loaded
Power: 2x Daimler Benz DB 601 B-1, V12 1 100 ch
Performances: Top speed 560 km/h, radius 1 100 km
Armament: 2 x 20 mm, 5 x 7,92 mm, including one defense ring.
Messerschmitt Me-110 Bundesarchiv
Messerschmitt Me-110 FuG 202 radar 1945
Messerschmitt Me-110 Colorized, Eastern front 1941
Me 210/410 Hornisse
Messerschmitt Me-410 A-1/U2, RAF Museum Cosford, 1985 – Colorized photos
Other competitors, arguably better
The Me 110 being reconverted as a night fighter, its replacement in the first intended role, a destroyer and escort fighter, became even more urgent. Development of the Me 110 successor started early on, but this program was plagued by so many problems it impacted badly Willy Messerschmitt’s own reputation. It is strange, as contemporary to the Me 110 were qite successful, such as the Focke-Wulf model tested with success, named Fw-187 Falke (“Falcon”) back in 1937. When it first flew, the V1 exceeded the Me 109B top speed by some 80 kmh. It was given a pair of similar engines as the me 109B but was twice heavier, and had twice its range. It could have been the perfect multirole heavy fighter, but the RLM only ordered three pre-production planes A-0 before dropping the program. These three operational planes were used by Goebbels for propaganda purposes (to replace the Me 110 in the medias, for disinformation, like for the Heinkel 110/112). But they also served in 1940-41 to defend Bremen, and was dispatched for some time in Norway. Pilots there find it much more capable than the Me 110.
The twin-engine destroyer resurfaced again by the same manufacturer, this time under the name of its designer, Kurt Tank. This was the Ta-154 which was a German copy of the British Mosquito, all in wooden composites. However in 1944, Germany was short of everything and the structure would not be assembled with Tego Film, the factory being destroyed by allied bombing. In its place, a cold glue, an acidic “ersatz” that could not match the requirements, attacking the wood. The second production A-1 dislocated in flight, followed by many other accidents of the same type. Nevertheless, the TA-154 was capable of 650 kph and armed with the Schräge Music system, with two 30 mm and two 20 mm firing in oblique position and improved radars. After 15 prototypes, A and C series, the last converted as Pulk-zestörer to blow up bomber formations, the TA-154 never officially entered service and was considered a failure. This picture would not be complete without mentioning the 1942 Heinkel He-219 Uhu, a deadly night fighter. It was given two DB 603G, 1900 hp engines and was capable of 670 kph, armed with nose machine-guns and back oblique cannons. Production would reach 286 planes in 1943 but ultimately it was stopped by Albert Speer.
Messerschmitt Me-410 Colorized, from Pinterest
The Hornet in Messerschmitt’s shoe: The plane that almost cost Willy his chair…
Meanwhile, the Me 210 own development started in 1937. But it was to last longer than any other Luftwaffe model. By 1941, at last, all the major sever issues of flight stability and land carriage problems were solved. Production took place then to fulfill the order for 1000 placed by the RLM in 1939 already. But accidents multiplied to such an extent the RLM decided to ground all aircraft and cancel the order after the 352th place was received. There was such backlash that it was asked to the company to fire Willy Messerschmitt.
But the engineers fortunately had their hands on the latest Daimler-Benz engine, the DB 603, and started again after a major redesign around this pair. The Me 410 was it was named resembled in many points to the Me 210. They shared the same cell, but longer, the same wings base followed by outer wings which had a different profile, same nose, cockpit and tandem seats, same tail unit, and same defensive armament, two barbette-style 13 mm MG-131 in the rear fuselage section and two MG-151/20 and two MG 17 7.92 mm in the nose. The intermediate model is called Messerschmitt Me 310 and had a pressurized cockpit, but its is soon dropped in favor of the simplified Me 410, which is defined as a fighter. The Me 310 armament was to be the same as the Me 210 A-1: Two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons, two 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns, and two barbette 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns. The only prototype that flew was a modified Me 210 powered by two 1,380 kW (1,850 hp) Daimler-Benz DB 603A inline engines which took off on 11 September 1943. It showed hardly any aerodynamic improvement over the Me 210, was costlier and more complex, and it was therefore cancelled. The Me 410 prototype however showed much more improvement in aerodynamics and motivated some production.
Messerschmitt Me-410 Hornisse 50 mm cannon
Back in the race with the Me 410
In a general way, the Me 410 indeed is more powerful and smaller, lighter than the Me 110 and performances should match its new role, with a top speed of 620 kph. Later on, with a small-scale production going on, many armament modifications occurred:
-Two cameras, no MG17 (recce version)
-Four MG-151/20, 20 mm cannons in the nose (plus the two 13 mm in barbettes)
-Two MG 151/20 and one 50 mm BK 5 (Heavy fighter/ground attack aircraft)
-Two MG 151/20, two Mk 18 30 mm cannons (heavy night fighter)
-Additional kits: Gondolas Machine-gun pods, MG 151/20, MK 103 or MK 108 guns, 210 mm rocket launchers, and belly variant with eight tubes (barillet).
Despite its short production of only 1121 planes until 1944, the Me 210/410 was possibly the most modified plane of the Luftwaffe, with about 140 modifications, as many potential sub-variants. It never filled its progenitors expectations but served anyway in Italy, France, and the Eastern front as heavy fighter and Schnellbomber.
Me 163 Komet
The deadly rocket, more so for the pilot than potential targets… That was the Me-163. The idea of building a simple, reusable rocket fighter was an answer to the need of a quick interceptor, able to reach bomber formations in much less time than usual piston-engine fighters like the Me 109 or FW-190. The whole program was “nuts” to take a contemporary expression. When discovering these scattered and abandoned relics, that’s GIs probably thought “what these jerries were thinking” ?.
The whole concept was as crude and desperate as it was well in advanced. The core idea could be found in the 1950s Lockheed Starfighter, in a much more refined and polished manner. The idea was to produce and interceptor that can catch American bomber formations in no time, literally when they passed overhead. Until that moment, the bulk of day interceptors were average me 109 and some rarer high speed, high altitude variants, and Me 110s by night. None were fast enough to climb rapidly, this took a while to get to the required altitude and planning thanks to radar coverage. When the allies started to use radar countermeasures like aluminium foils and other tactics, or even making fake or diversion raids, entire formations went almost unharmed. So the need for a very fast interceptor, able to climb almost on the spot when a formation was on its way, even from areas out of known air bases and airfields, seemed obvious.
At a time where rockets and jets were in full swing in the Luftwaffe, designing basically a rocket fighter seemed the obvious move. Development by Alexander Lippisch in fact, started well before the war. It was the result of extensive tests by the engineer and designer that was Germany’s top pioneer of aerodynamics, studying and testing the delta wings, tailless configurations, ground effect, and other interesting concept after the war. He went to work with the US Air Force and for Convair and its Delta lineage and B-58 Hustler. In Federal Germany, he invented the Dornier Aerodyne in 1972. But in 1930 already he designed the first flyable tailless delta wing aircraft and went to test others until 1939, the last one, the large DFS 40 was basically a flying wing in a pusher configuration.
He went to work for Messerschmitt at the beginning of the war by order of the RLM and gathered his team around the project of a rocket-propelled tailless aircraft, as a potential high speed fighter. His DFS 194 was the first to fly with a rocket in 1940. But as a weapon the prototype did not met military requirements and frictions with Willy Messerschmitt led him leave the company for Vienna’s Aeronautical Research Institute, trying to solve high-speed flight problems. He started work also on a supersonic, ramjet-powered fighter, the revolutionary Lippisch P.13a, never completed by 1945. But he started working on the Me 163 in 1941 already. This very secret project became later in 1944 the only operational rocket-powered fighter aircraft of the war and first piloted aircraft to exceed 1000 km/h (621 mph) in level flight.
Messerschmitt Me-163, with the early Walter HWK 109-509A-1 rocket motor, possibly used for instructional purposes, mockup cockpit, Shuttleworth Collection.
The Me 163A was the first preserie. By the way the number was chosen to deceive intelligence services, as it did not fit the chronological and factory order. The prototype was tested at Peenemünde with the HWK RII-203 engine, setting a new world speed record at the end of the year. Test pilot Heini Dittmar became the fastest man on earth in the attempt. The record held until the Douglas Skystreak broke it in 1947. The plane was launched from a ramp, like a V2 flying bomb. Its relatively small size authorized it to be carried at any point by a wheeled truck, thus negating the use of an airfield. However the problem came later as the plane turned glider when its rocket fuel was extinguished, tried to land on a flat and even surface. It was to be spotted in advance. It will appear indeed that a bumpy landing, due to the volatile nature of the T-stoff and Z-stoff that produced, when mixed, the energy required, was often fatal; In fact more fatalities occurred in this post-attack phase than any action in the air. The Me-163 was indeed far too quick for any gunner to attempt anything. However when the fuel tank were dry, the plane became an easy prey for any escort fighter when gliding slowly to its airfield. There was no landing gear by default, only a skid.
Messerschmitt Me-163A USAF.
To dispense of the launching ramp another solution was tried. The rocket plane was to take off by itself, mated to a jettisonable main gear, “dolly” unit. The problem was, that this gear had inflated, rubber wheels that bumped quite well, enough in some cases to see the whole gear coming back to hit the plane when bouncing, breaking its trajectory or damaging the tanks (which ended with an explosion). Landing flaps were also used once to somewhat having a more controlled approach. But in any case, the return was a dangerous affair by all standard. But at the same time, performances were such, that a second serie was ordered, for production, the Me 193B.
This one had a simplified fuselage, wing panel, retractable landing skid and modified tailwheel design all for mass production as well as a new one-piece conical nose which incorporated a turbine (hence the small nose propeller) that procured electrical power for instruments and armament. This was also the version famously designed by Walter with the notoriously dangerous HWK 109-509 bipropellant hot engine which had the advantage of simplifying production. Nevertheless refuelling was a very hazardous enterprise also, with great quantities of water needed to clean up everything of any trace of the Z-stoff or T-stoff, by the way given to different teams.
One small mistake in the process could result in an immediate reaction. One reason the development took such time was among other the RLM (Reichsluftfahrtministerium) requirement for throttling the engine. In any cases, leakages after landing, Metal fuel lines and fittings failing, sometimes in unpredictable ways, and lack of training, care, fatigue or just plain haste led to many explosions on the tarmac.
Messerschmitt 163 with its landing skid extended.
By 1942 thirty Me 163 B-0 pre-production models armed with two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon were ordered and delivered, and the RLM also planned 400 Me 163 B-1 production aircraft with two 30 mm (1.18 inch) MK 108 cannons. The B-1a became the export variant, the Japan received after an U-boat transport and developed its own version, the Sushui. This production version had fortunately very docile landing characteristics, which made it more survivable. Its excellent gliding qualities was also a benefit of its shape, but also a curse when landing, as it can but uplifted by a sudden gust of wind or draft; or skimmed for too long because of ground effect.
The plane generally took off at 320 km/h (200 mph) the aircraft in a so-called “scharfer Start”, jettisoned its dolly at 676 km/h (420 mph) retract the skid and pull up into a 70° angle, reaching the desired 12,000 m (39,000 ft) in just three minutes, way beyond the capabilities of any plane at that time, Me 262 comprised. Tests went on and at some point, Dittmar reached 1,130 km/h (702 mph), a record that held even with Yeager’s X1 1947 flight. It was beaten by an Hawker Hunter F Mk3 in 1953. But it was made after a special preparation. Production models were not usually pushed that fast.
Messerschmitt 163C model
Next came the Me 163C: It was Waldemar Voigt of Messerschmitt’s Oberammergau project, as he tried to implement the new twin-chamber Walter rocket engine, and fix other problems. It was also improved in many ways, with a wing root extension, longer fuselage with extra tank capacity, pressurized cockpit, bubble canopy for a better visbility and no longer tailfin, which allowed to reach 15,850 m (52,000 ft), well above the bomber’s altitude, so to allow the Komet to plunge over the bombers, in a perfect attack position. The two 30 mm canons were amazingly destructive at these speeds, even with only a few hits.
Engines exploded, wings were cut in two fuselages were split open. However by that time general situation in Germany was in shambles, and apparently only one Me 163 C-1a was tested, without its engine. The project was then moved to Junkers, under the direction of Heinrich Hertel at Dessau. He focused on the retractable landing gear, which resulted in the Junkers Ju 248, using the latest Walter rocket in a three-section fuselage to ease construction. The V1 prototype was completed for testing in August 1944, was flown, launched by a Ju 88, but the project was once again reassigned to Messerschmitt. Meanwhile the factory created to mass-producing it was overrun by Soviet Forces and the project went briefly under the hands of Mikoyan-Gurevitch.
Meanwhile the Komet went into service, nearly after three years of development. The model A was operationally tested by Erprobungskommando 16 in late 1942. In the summer of 1943 it was moved to Peenemünde-West field. Then it was moved to the base at Anklam, near the Baltic coast, and again at Bad Zwischenahn from August 1943 to August 1944. Attacks started with the Me 163B in May 1944. The planes operated usually in pairs. During the initial climb at high altitude and dive the pilots had to breath oxygen from a mask during the attack. The initial velocity allowed two passes, firing a few rounds before gliding back to the airfield.
Pilots were trained to endure the thin air of the stratosphere without a pressure suit in pressure chambers and had a special low fiber diets. The first successes came on 28 July 1944 from I./JG 400’s based at Brandis, which crippled a B-17 formation. But these were nine confirmed kills for 14 Me 163s lost. Siegfried Schubert became the only pilot with three confirmed kills. Usually allied pilots soon discovered the Komet weakness, just waiting for its rocket was silent to attack when the plane could only gently glide, although it still could maneuver with agility. Komets were also easy preys on their airfield, before and after attacks.
This was remedied by systematically allocate a dense pack of anti-aircraft guns on the area. By the fall of 1944 JG 400 received 91 aircraft, but they were grounded because of the lack of fuel. By early 1945 six Komets has been lost due to enemy action; nine to other causes. But in March 1945 already, the Me 262 received high priority, and the Komet program was sidelined. JG 400 was disbanded in May, and pilots were reallocated to Me 262 units. The Komet meanwhile had inspired another radical concept, the Bachem Ba 349 Natter, which was even more simplified, but never operational. By V-day about 370 Komets had been delivered, and captured both by amazed Americans GIs and Soviet troops. Nothing comparable has been done anywhere.
Me 262 Schwalbe, the flying shark
Messerschmitt 262 model at the National Museum of th USAF
Legacy of the Me 262
Better known than the Komet, probably even more futuristic by some aspects but still operations in numbers, this potential replacement for the Me 109 could have been a game changer, if produced in numbers right fro the start as a fighter. But thanks for the allies, Hitler’s bullying over its conversion as a fast bomber proved its undoing. By the time the Me 262 was available in operational units the tide had already turned for Germany.
This was perhaps the best remembered jet fighter of WW2, the only other one being the British Meteor. Both never met in the skies of Northern Europe, as the “Schwalbe” was defending the German Reich interior, meeting only Mustangs and Thunderbolts most of the time, while the Meteor was basically a “V2 buster”, dealing with flying bombs over UK until the ground troops had captured all the launching sites near the coast.
Messerschmitt 262 A-1a/R7 on display at the Deutsches Museum, flown by Hans Guido Mutke
Technically, the Me 262 could rightly be called a “wunderwaffe”, a secret “wonder weapon”. It was indeed in 1944 probably the most advanced fighter in the world, 200 kph faster than any other allied plane. And speed was a crucial factor (and still is) in aerial combat. You strike first and get away unharmed. With its delta wings, front tricycle, and powerful armament, the 262 was more related to the late 1950s than WW2.
Only engines betrayed its early nature. It needed a pair of feeble and troublesome Jumo engines to propel it. But plans and paper project later shown larger, more powerful engines and new air flow design, which ended with planes that truly resembled the second generation jets of the 1950s. Operation Paperclip indeed allowed the allies to recover German engineers which worked -also on the other side of the iron curtain- to this generation of fighters. Both the F86 Sabre and Mig-15/17 were the result of these forced collaborations. Perhaps the “purest” form of post-1945 paper project turned reality was the Argentinian Pulqi II, a creation of Kurt Tank, father of the Fw 190 and many other models.
Messerschmitt Me-262 Schwalbe 3-views Blueprint
Genesis of the Me 262
Originally the idea came from Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain 1936 tests with jet engines, showing the potential of such tech. His worked went into the creation of the world’s first jet aircraft, the Heinkel He 178 which first flew in 1939. In fact the Me 262 started development as Projekt 1065 (P.1065) even before the start of the war, driven by an official RLM specification for a 850 km/h (530 mph; 460 kn) capable fighter with one hour of autonomy.
Only a jet engine could do any good in that quest. Design team was headed by Waldemar Voigt under supervision by Robert Lusser from Messerschmitt. First drawn up in April 1939 amazingly shown root-mounted engines, rather than the later pod-mounted solution adopted later. This final design was submitted in June 1939, and the change to underwing pods allowed easier access and maintenance, as the engines were always in early development stage. BMW 003 jets proved heavier than anticipated, imposing the wings to be further swept back to balance the center of gravity.
Messerschmitt 262 A-1a on display at RAF Cosford.
Development of the Me 262
Initial engine development was hampered by an official lack of support. Hermann Göring for example curtailed the engines development team. Also Willy Messerschmitt himself was concerned to let mass production of his Me 109 go and preferred to favor its successor the projected Me 209. Adolf Galland however as a general flew the Me 262 himself on 22 April 1943, after many delays caused by engine development problems.
One of these has been the lack of a thermal resistant alloy, which remained unsolved in 1945. Because of this, engines life was pretty short. After a failure in 1941, the first successful flight occurred in 18 July 1942, powered by a pair of Jumo 004 engines. Meanwhile design of the wings, ailerons and tail, as the fuselage were led by Ludwig Bölkow (which will work in the cold war in the Bölkow-blohm group that led to a successful lined of helicopters).
He designed in particular AVL derivatives of NACA airfoils and single-spar cantilever wings with stressed skins. To save time and materials in production the inner sections were never painted. Despite Galland’s strong support, the Me 262 program hit a wall when in mid-1943, when the production was about to start, Adolf Hitler suddenly decided to convert it to a fighter-bomber, a Schnellbomber (“fast bomber”) to hit back the expected allied forces in France after a probable invasion. This led to the development of the the Sturmvogel variant, but historians still argues today about how much this decision delayed the main program.
Given the reaction of Galland and other Luftwaffe officials over this decision there is little doubt they feared the delays caused by this change anyway. On the other hand, it was recoignised that engine vibration issues cost much delays too. But there are arguments, based on Albert Speer memories, over Hitler blocking any mass production of the plane or any use as a fighter, preferring to use its speed in a straight line as “untouchable bomber”, a bit like the Mosquito.
Me 262 and Junkers cutout Jumo 004
From tests flight to operational service
Test flights started on 18 April 1941, but were plagued by acute engine problems. Only by 1944 production started at slow pace. It was to reach 1,430 ultimately at V-day. So in the meantime, a “volksjäger” project was launched, which ended with the oversimplified Heinkel He 162. The “schwalbe” (after the shape of its fuselage) was a costly and complex plane, the airframe needed 6,400 man-hours alone. Another aspects was the engine which almost slowly “melt itself” in use because of the lack of thermal resistant materials. Operational life of these was about 125 hours, about 60 flights. The British were at an advantage on this.
The first operational unit became in 19 April 1944 the Erprobungskommando 262 based at Lechfeld south of Augsburg. This training unit was led by Hauptmann Werner Thierfelder. On 26 July 1944 at last, Leutnant Alfred Schreiber flying a 262 A-1a damaged a Mosquito reconnaissance aircraft. Thierfelder was killed in action and replaced by Major Walter Nowotny. From then on, the Kommando Nowotny became the world’s first operational unit to use jets in combat, engaging in actions again allied planes on a daily basis.
Messerschmitt Me-262 at ILA 2006 about to start engines
By August 1944, they claimed for 19 Allied aircraft down for the loss of six Me 262s. On 8 November 1944 he disobeyed order to stay put and flown to encounter a USAF bomber formation, shooting two Mustangs in the process. However due to engine failures, restarted at much lower altitude he was attacked by several mustangs and forced to bail out (and died afterwards). From then on the Kommando was withdrawn back to flight training. By November, many Sturmvogel fighter bombers were shot down over the Netherlands. In fact the first true fighter wing was the Jagdgeschwader 7 (JG 7) formed in January 1945 while at the same time, I Gruppe, Kampfgeschwader 54 (KG 54) was created. later on Jagdverband 44 (JV 44) was able to gain on the experience of Adolf Galland himself. Sorties became rarer, losses were heavy, and planes were usually grounded by lack of fuel. The maelstrom of allied bombers, day and night was not stopped by the Me 262, but they impacted its production itself and operations. The bulk of the fighting was still done by more economical and safer piston-engines.
b-24 shot down by a Me 262
The breakneck speed of the 262 imposed a brand new sets of tactics: Against bombers, head-on attack was eliminated because of the closing speed prevented any accurate fire. Attacks from astern were also difficult. In fact a “rollercoaster” type of attacks was used: Approach from astern about 1,800 m higher (5,900 ft), and from 5 km behind (3.1 mi), dive into the escort fighter formation, pulling up sharply to reduce speed, levelling off 1,000 m astern at about 150 kph faster than the bombers in a perfect firg position. The 30mm MK 108 cannon were both short barrel and had low velocity at 540 m/s (1,800 ft/s) so pilots starting firing at 500 m and below. But one British test pilot recalled that the 262 would have been a much better bomber-buster with dive brakes. Due to this tactic, the window of opportunity to fire was about two seconds. Aiming was nearly impossible so that pilots had to “spray and prey”.
Later by 1945, tactic changed again when the 262 received underwings racks for 24 unguided folding-fin R4M rockets. Each of these rockets had strongly brisant Hexogen-filled warheads, capable of downing a B-17. BR 21 large-calibre rockets were also used to disrupt formations. Bu it came too late to have a real effect on the war, only a handful of Me 262s ever used with this system in the last days of the war.
Messerschmitt Me-262 of Nowotny Commando
Also it was discovered the Schwalbe was not a born-dogfighter. It was difficult to intercept by allied planes because of high speed and rate of climb. But it was also discovered some vulnerabilities. At low air speeds, the engines did not provided sufficient thrust for evasive maneuvers. The plane became a heavy sitting duck, contrary to the Komet that still can be quite agile when gliding. Also of the pilot was too brutish on the throttle, there was the risk of compressor stall, and excessive jet pipe temperatures. High wing loading meant the plane were difficult to land and needed a large airfield to take off. The 262s also had high-speed convergence, which left little time to aim and fire, compensated a bit by the hitting power of the 30 mm cannons. With time, German pilots learned how to master its effective maneuvering speeds, helped by Messerschmitt’s trademark full span automatic leading-edge slats.
In fact the Schwalbe clean design allowed even tighter turns than piston engines. So with experienced pilots they could be formidable dogfighters, and when attacking bombers, were invulnerable to escort fighters. In fact the allies soon learned that the only way to destroy them was to attack them on the ground or during takeoff and landing, that the Germans countered by installing “flak alleys” near airfields. They were also escorted when possible by Focke-Wulf Fw 190D and Ta 152Hs in these delicate phases of flight. Although th Mustang was the most effective “killer” of the German jet fighter (Chuck Yeager was allegedly the first to shot down one), the very fast British Hawker Tempest was the perhaps the best jet killer in operation, as recognized by Luftwaffe pilots themselves. Some of their “Rat Scramble” tactics on the Hopsten air base which also operated the Arado 234, proved very efficient until the German covered the surroundings with Flakvierling mounts.
Messerschmitt 262 in a tight turn, just being shot down, showing the jettisoned canopy and empty cockpit, as seen by an USAAF P-51 Mustang gun camera.
Only in March 1945, there were sufficient numbers of units and trained pilots for massive attacks on bombers. On 18 March 1945 no less than 37 Me 262s of JG 7 fell over a force of 1,221 bombers and 632 escorting fighters. despite the odds they shot down 12 bombers for the loss of three of their own fighters. Although the 4:1 ratio answered the Luftwaffe objective, numerically this was a pinprick, with 1% losses for the allies. Priorities changed however. In late april and May in the battle of Berlin, Me 262s from JG 7 and other units were used as fast bombers, south of Berlin, halfway between Spremberg and the German capital, in support of the remnants of the 12 Army and 4th Panzer Army.
Later on, 31 Me 262s were deployed in the Cottbus-Bautzen area. On 27 April, 36 Me 262s intervened north-east of Baruth, destroying dozens of lorries and Sturmoviks for a few losses. More losses ocurred during the 28 April and 1 May operations, by soviet ground fire and fighters. Apparently the last victory claimed by the Luftwaffe in this war, was Oblt. Fritz Stehle of 2./JG 7 on May 8, shooting down a Yak 9 but apparently shot down himself by an Airacobra. Luftwaffe top aces on the 262 were Hauptmann Franz Schall, with 27 victories and Oberleutnant Kurt Welter, a proficient night fighter and “mosquito killer”. Oberstleutnant Heinrich Bär also claimed 16 enemy aircraft on the 262, but this added to his already impressive 240 victories on piston-engine fighters.
Another important model, rarer, was the trainer variant of the Me 262, the Me 262 B-1a. This twin-seat plane was found to be an ideal night fighter, with a seat reserved to the radar operator. Conversion was performed by the Umrüst-Bausatz 1 and consisting in fitting a FuG 218 Neptun high-VHF band radar in the nose. In 1945 they accounted for most of the 13 Mosquitoes lost over Berlin, using Wilde Sau tactics. However because of these requisitions, many pilots made their first jet flight in single-seater versions without instructor. After the war, a small number were operated by the Czechoslovak Air Force until 1951. Many others were captured by the allies, and carefully reverse-engineered and tested. Postwar jets owe a great deal in technology to these. There are many 262s in static display today and 2-3 in flying condition with modern engine, including one re-created by Germany with the help of sponsors like Airbus.
Messerschmitt Bf 161
The Bf 161 was a reconnaissance aircraft based on the Bf 110 similar to the Bf 162, a light bomber. The V1 was given two Junkers Jumo 210 engines and flew on 9 March 1938, followed by the V2 powered by two Daimler-Benz DB 600a engines (first flight 30 August 1938).
The Bf 161 never entered production,the RLM realizing they did not eventually need this model as variants of the Bf 110 had excellent kits to perform this duty perfectly well. Nevertheless, the two prototypes went through additional R&D. V2 was used later to tow the Me 163A Komet, later relocated to Peenemünde. The V1 Crew was three,Deimsnions: 12.85 m (42 ft 2 in) x 16.69 m (54 ft 9 in) x 3.64 m (11 ft 11 in), Wing area: 38.5 m2 (414 ft2), Weight: 4,890 kg (10,781 lb), two Junkers Jumo 210G, 730 kW (979 hp) each, for 440 km/h (274 mph) top speed, and 8,100 m (26,568 ft) ceiling.
Messerschmitt Bf 162 Jaguar
The Messerschmitt Bf 162 “Jaguar” was a light bomber designed in response to a 1935 RLM specification for a tactical schnellbomber (“fast bomber”). This was a modified Bf 110, with a glazed nose for a bomber crew (“bombardier”) which flew in 1937, and three prototypes were built and flown in 1937. They were compared against the Junkers Ju 88 and Henschel Hs 127, and it was decided to select the Ju 88 eventually.
However for disinformation purpose towards the West, German medias spread images of the Bf 162 in the German press under operational livery and dubbed “Messerschmitt Jaguar”. Specs: Crew: three, pilot, gunner, and bombardier/navigator, Dimensions: 12.75 m (41 ft 10 in) x 17.16 m (56 ft 3½ in) x 3.58 m (11 ft 9 in), weight 5,810 kg (12,782 lb), tow Daimler-Benz DB 600Aa liquid-cooled inverted V12 engines rated for 986 hp (736 kW), top speed: 480 km/h (259 knots, 298 mph), Cruise: 425 km/h (230 knots, 264 mph), Range 782 km (423 nmi, 486 mi), climb rate 9.0 m/s (1,770 ft/min). The Bf 162 was armed with a single 7.92 mm MG 15 rear defensive machine gun and carried ten 50 kg (110 lb) bombs (internal bay) and two 250 kg (550 lb) bombs externally under wing pods.
Messerschmitt Bf 165
The Messerschmitt Bf 165 was a German long-range bomber project which never past the full-scale mockup stage. The latter was made for display to the Reichsführer in 1937. It had four defensive MG 34s: one between the two fins, one in the observer’s glass cockpit, one in the fuselage bottom and one in the upper glass turret. The four engines had a wide radiator and the landing gear was retractable. The access door was located in the left of the fuselage. It could carry 1000 kgs of bombs in the internal bay, which was weak for a four-engine bomber.
Given the age of the Bf 109 and usual replacement policy, work on its replacement started early on. This was the Me 209 development line. It was first designed as single-engine racing aircraft made to break speed records. A completely new aircraft designated so to fool the Western intelligence by Messerschmitt it was also hoped internally to associated its name in German medias to the Bf 109 already in combat service. The Me 209 designation indeed was a propaganda one, causing confusion with the Bf 109 and later reused for the actual proposed successor to the Bf 109.
The first prototype (V1) -Picture above- was only made to break speed records, no consideration was given to fit an armament or military equipments. The second one (V2) however was a Me109 successor proposal. The V1 was a completely different aircraft from the 109, only sharing its Daimler-Benz DB 601 engine, but fitted with a proper steam cooling radiator. It was quite small, with a cockpit placed far on the fuselage, forwards its cross-shaped tail section and featured a wide track, with an inwardly-retracting undercarriage which allowed for much better landing characteristics.
The reduced weight, better aerodynamics, better cooled engine, were supposed to procure the needed record speeds. The Me 209 indeed broke existing records in the hands of its first test pilot Fritz Wendel at 756 km/h (469 mph) on 26 April 1939 (D-INJR designation). The record held until 16 August 1969, broken by Darryl Greenamyer’s on a widely modified Conquest I F8F Bearcat. The V1 record was broken in Germany by Heini Dittmar on a Me 163A V4 at 1,004 km/h (624 mph) in October 1941. Messerschmitt saw the potential of the Me 209 racer as a fighter especially after reports came from the Battle of Britain.
The Bf 109 indeed was often taken in default by the Supermarine Spitfire in some speed areas. The converting the Me 209 for military use was an arduous task: The wings were occupied by the engine’s liquid cooling system, so no armament could be fit here, it was difficult to fly and still hard to control on the ground. The V2 was given longer wings, a taller vertical stabilizer, and two synchronized 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns on the nose, but its weight went up in the process, making it slower than the Bf 109E, which stopped all development.
Me 209 V4 in fictitious military livery.
The Me 209’s designation was hoped by Messerschmitt to be associated to the Bf 109 in service and cause some confusion to Western intelligence. Also its speed record was used when associated with the fake designation Me 109R. It was to give an aura of invincibility to the Bf 109, later shattered by the Battle of Britain. The 209 was further developed into the V3 and V4. The surviving V1, in military livery was part of the Hermann Goering personal collection, but ended in the the Polish Aviation Museum in Kraków.
Me 209 v1 specs
Length: 7.24 m (23 ft 9 in), Wingspan: 7.8 m (25 ft 7 in), Height: 3.2 m (10 ft 6 in), powered by a Daimler-Benz DB 601ARJ inverted V-12 liquid-cooled piston engine, 1,324 kW (1,775 hp), reaching 755 km/h (469 mph; 408 kn) in straight line at about 3000m.
The Me 209-II was a completely new animal which had more to do with the regular Me-109 than the previous Me 209 V1-V4. It was a wartime attempt to replace the Me 109 by designing an all-out improved version. The RLM’s 8-209 airframe number was assigned for two designation Me 209 airframes to be used for two projects. Past the first project seen above, the second one was made in 1943, to compete against the high performance Fw 190 D-9 and Ta 152 fighters.
The new Me 209 would share most of its airframe and parts with the Bf 109G as possible to make it cheaper and faster to produce. However the design team first engine choice, the DB 603A engine was in short supply. They had to be redirected to use the Junkers Jumo 213A engine. Despite it was rated for 35 litre in displacement this engine was designed to be pushed up to 44.52L displacement, like the DB 603. It was at that time Germany’s largest-displacement inverted V12 aircraft engine. This design changed forced the team to rethink the engine cowling and cooling system and the air intake location, on the starboard side versus portside location for DB’s inverted V12.
To go with it, a new, taller tail section was designed, as well as new wings and wingtips, a wide-track landing gear and an annular radiator, giving it like its Ta-152 and Fw 189 Dora the appearance of radial-engine planes. However all these modifications undermined the original purpose of a much superior version of the Me 109G. The Me 209 V5 armament comprised a Motorkanone engine-mounted 30 mm MK 108 cannon and two 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns in the wing roots. The next V6 was converted to use the Jumo 213 engine, with a pair of 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons instead of the MG 131s and the Me 209H V1 was a high-altitude variant with extended wings and DB 603 engine which never past the blueprints stage.
Dimensions 9.74 a (31 ft 11 in) x 10.95 a (35 ft 11 in) x 4.00 a (13 ft 1 in), Wing area: 17.2 ve (185 fit„), Weight: 3,339 kg (7,346 Ib)/4,085 kg (8,987 Ib), DB 603G, 1,397 kW (1,900 PS – 1,874 hp) engine. Top speed: 678 km/h (423 mph), ceiling: 11,000 a (36,080 ft), Power to mass ratio 0.36 kW/kg (0.22 hp/Ib), 30 mm (1.18 in) Mg 108, two 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131.
Messerschmitt Bf 261 Adolfine
The Adolfine (after Hitler’s personal commitment in the project) was a long-range reconnaissance aircraft design of 1938, enlarged version of the Bf 110, never put into production. The three Me 261s built were used for for testing and R&D.
This project went back to 1937 the P. 1064, study for a long-range reconnaissance aircraft based on the Me 110 but with a much higher range. It was characterized by a long, slim fuselage, and was also an attempt to create a twin-engine record-breaking aircraft, especially for long-range records. This interested the RIM, which granted the project the designation 8-261. The first prototype was designed to carry the Olympic flame from Garmisch-Parten-Kirchen to Tokyo, Japan for the 1940 Summer Olympics in one go (9445 km). Hitler adored the concept and he personally patronized it, so the plane was named “Adolfine” in return.
The Bf 261 combined many innovations for 1938: Single-spar all-metal wings usable as fuel tanks with a wing root depth slightly less than the height of the fuselage, which was of virtually rectangular section and housed five crew members. There were two pilots seated side-by-side, a radio operator behind, a navigator and flight engineer in the rear section, seeing through a stepped glazed station. Also completely new and unheard of was the solution of a four-engine plane, where two Daimler-Benz DB 601 engines on each wing were coupled on a single shaft, driving four-blade massive propellers.
So it was still a twin-engine in appearance. The system was further developed for the wad, He 119 high-speed reconnaissance aircraft and Wan. He 177 strategic bomber. But in the 261, the DB 606 “power systems” in nacelles afforded a better access for maintenance and ventilation.
They were also intended to drive counter-rotating propellers.
The prototypes were manufactured in the spring of 1939 When the war broke out their original purpose was no longer a priority as the Olympic games were likely to be cancelled. Nevertheless it was thought at the origin they could be used as very fast, very long range reconnaissance aircraft at the time when the Bf 162 looked more limited but by August 1939 all work stopped and the VI, V2 and V3 which differed in some details, went to R&D during the war.
The V1 indeed first flew on 23 December 1940 with test pilot Karl Baur and was used by the RLM to test twin-engine and long range solutions. The V2 long-range maritime aircraft flew in early 1941 with a predicted range of 20,000 km and was thought to fly across the Atlantic and drop drop propaganda leaflets over New York City with the V1. The V3 flew in early 1943 with paired DB 610 “power system” engines, and flew over 4,500 km (2,800 mi) but its hydraulics failed and after repairs were completed it was sent to Oranienburg and flew numerous reconnaissance missions but its fate is unknown. The V1 and V2 were both destroyed in an allied bombing in 1944.
Crew 7, 16.68 m (54 ft 8¾ in) x 26.86 m (88 ft 1¾ in) x 4.71 m (15 ft 5¾ in), wing area 76 m² (817.76 ft²), two Daimler-Benz DB 610A/B 24-cylinder (coupled DB 605), 2,133 kW (2,900 PS) each, top speed 620 km/h (385 mph) at 3,000 m (9,840 ft), range: 11,024 km (6,850 mi) and ceiling: 8,260 m (27,100 ft). No armament.
Messerschmitt Me 263
The Me 263 was the successor of the famous rocket-powered fighter Me 163. Called Scholle (plaice), three prototypes were built but never flown as they lacked their definitive rocket and the program was cancelled with the dire situation of Germany in 1945. The whole program was dropped eventually.
At the origin, the Me 163 very short endurance was even shorter at the beginning. After modifying the default engine setting thrust “full on”, leding to the addition of a throttle for some pilot dosage which lade a tremendous difference, on the Me 163C. it was using the HWK 509B or C dual chamber rocket engine fitted with a 400 kgf max for economic cruise. Powered endurance rose to about 12 minutes, 50% more. However the RLM was still not happy with this model, and decided to transfer this development to Heinrich Hertel at Junkers. They developed the 163C into the Ju 248. It had a new pressurized cockpit and bubble canopy, more fuel tankage, and crucially a also a new retractable landing gear.
A mockup was shown on 25 September 1944 and the BMW 109-708 rocket engine was planned. However in the meantime, V18, of the Me 163c type was rebuiltand flown by Heini Dittmar at 1,130 km/h (702 mph) on July 6, 1944. Back at Heinkel, Hertel also planned the Lorin ramjet engines, but fitted his plane with the more conventient Zusatztreibstoffbehälter (auxiliary fuel tank), leading to a 10% speed decrease while the wing was modified to hold more C-Stoff.
In November 1944, the Me 263 Scholle (Plaice) appeared aside the Ju 248 Flunder. By early 1945, Junkers proposed the EF 127 Walli rocket fighter. After an unpowered flight of the Me 263 V1 in February 1945 it was revealed modifications of the center of gravity were needed with counterweights. This also led to massive redesigns, like repositioning the engine, the landing gear which was also still non-retractable. Test flights were stopped because of fuel shortages for the Bf 110 towplanes. The V2 and V3 were never ready on time for allowing mass production. The last would have the retractable landing gear and armament mounted. But in April, the Americans occupied the plant and captured the three prototypes. A part was handed over to the Russians, giving the Mikoyan-Gurevich I-270 interceptor.
Messerschmitt Me 264 Amerika
This long-range aircraft was intended to be Germany’s main strategic bomber. Messerschmitt’s competitor design project selected in the Reichsluftfahrtministerium’s “Amerika Bomber” programme, aimed at bombing New York City from bases in France and the Azores. Three prototypes were built, but production was abandoned as fighter became the utmost priority while the Junkers Ju 390 maritime reconnaissance aircraft was eventually selected instead. The Me 264 innovated as being the very world’s first aircraft with integrated wing fuel tanks, now a standard for long range aircrafts.
The 264 was derived from the prewar P.1061. A variant called the P.1062 swa three prototypes were built, powered with two twin “engines”, Daimler-Benz DB 606 made of a pair of DB 601 inverted V-12. They helped the long-range Messerschmitt Me 261 derived from the P.1064 1937 design. These engines also made their appearance on the small-scale production Heinkel He 177A, a concept hard-pushed by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring in August 1942. But by early 1941 already six P.1061 prototypes were ordered by the RLM to Messerschmitt, called Me 264, later reduced to three. Design process was slow, but became more urgent after December 1941 with the war declared on the United States.
The program was rebranded by the RLM in the spring of 1942, as a very long range bomber. The new design included a larger airframe for six-engines and a greater bomb load. There was compeition however, from the Junkers Ju 390, Focke-Wulf Ta 400, and short-lived redesigned Heinkel He 277. The latter only received by February 1943 some RLM clearance, time for Heinkel to design his very high-power 2000 hp engines to enter the Amerika Bomber program. The 6-engine Messerschmitt Me 264B was also a recoignition of the inability for Germany to design more powerful engines. The Junkers Ju 390 borrowed many parts for the Ju 290 and was eventually chosen by the RLM, but the Me 264 founded some interested from the the Kriegsmarine to get rid of its converted civilian Fw 200 Condor. Two pending prototypes were eventually completed as the Me 264A ultra long-range reconnaissance planes.
In a nutshell, the Me 263 was an all-metal, high-wing, four-engine bomber with a cylindric fuselage, and had a cabin with a glazed nose and “stepless cockpit” which reminded of the later American B29 design. The wing was slightly swept, with a straight trailing edge and the empennage was of the double tail ofr “H” configuration. The tricycle undercarriage comprised the usual very large retractable wheels monnted on the wing-borne main gear. The planned armament (never mounted or tested) would have comprised remotely operated turrets and side gun ports. Very little armour was carried and the defensive armament was limited in order to maximize fuel capacity and range. In the end after several engines tried four unitized 1,700 PS (1,250 kW) BMW 801G engines were chosen. For the first time, apat from the wings-mounted fuel tanks, the Me 264 featured bunk beds and a hot plates for meals in a galley intended as a crew’s recreation and rest quarter, ideal for these long missions.
The Me 264 V1 RE+EN flew on 23 December 1942 with four Jumo 211J inline engines rated for 990 kW (1,340 hp) and later BMW 801G radials rated for 1,290 kW (1,750 hp). It showed a high 356 kg/m2 (73 lb/sq ft) wing loading, superior to the B29 (337 kg/m2 (69 lb/sq ft)). In addition to this the Me 263 V1 was plagued with many other issues: Bad climber, poor maneuverability, in-flight instability and requiring high take-off and landing speeds, therefore only customized very long tracks. The next Me 264 V2 was still unarmed but had engines armour, as well as crew and gun positions protections. But in 1943, the Kriegsmarine eventually went back to the existing and better-performing Ju 290. The program was buried and the Me 264 V2 was destroyed in a bombing attack, and during another raid, both the V1 and the uncompleted V3 were destroyed in the same raid.
This fighter was yet another replacement project for the Me 109. The whole project started in mid-1940 during the Battle of Britain and an anticipation wanted by Messerschmitt and sanctioned by The Reich Air Ministry, which gave it low priority. The first draft was ready however in the end of 1941. This new fighter had a tricycle landing gear (with nosegear) and a pressurized cockpit. It also gradually incorporated new features tested on a some Bf 109F airframes, like the V23, V31 and V30. However the RLM was still cold on this project, and the first prototype was delayed until 1942, July. After its first flight, the 309 showed it was about 50 km/h (30 mph) faster than the Bf 109G, but still the latter could out-turn it.
And this was without armament. In that case, performances dropped to an unacceptable level. Then compared to the more promising Focke-Wulf Fw 190D, the Me 309 program was canceled. It bounced with the Me 609, an attempt to revive the project with a new Zerstörer (destroyer) to replace the Bf 110. The Me 609 consisted in two joined Me 309 fuselages with a new centre wing section and an unusual four-wheel arrangement while the cockpit was located in the port fuselage. A heavy fighter (4-6x 30 mm MK 108 cannons) and a Schnellbomber (2x 30 mm MK 108 cannons, 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) bomb load). But meanwhile the most promising Me 262 turbojet has been developed, and made the 609 obsolete. The Me 209-II was last attempt to replace the Me 109, using the same airframe. But it never passed the prototype stage.
Me 321/323 Gigant
The Me 109 was relatively small, even for fighter standards of the time, but Messerschmitt also produced amazingly large aircrafts, which proved its ability and scope to solve a whole range of aircraft related problems at any scale. The 321/323 was a family of cargo planes that had o equivalent in the world. They prefigurated the tactical and even strategic transport planes of the cold war, being the only ones able to carry troops but also light armoured vehicles in such quantities. This was at first a very large cargo glider (Me 321), to support large scale invasions. About 200 were manufactured but they were rarely used mostly due to the lack of suitable towing aircrafts. It was also highly vulnerable in flight, slow and agile as a brick, and difficult to handle on the ground. The Me 321 was developed later into the six-engined Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant, which only solved part of the problems.
The model was requested for a possible invasion of Britain (Operation Sea Lion) where it was shown the Ju-52 was not able to carry more than infantry. Plans for Operation Sea Lion were eventually shelved in December 1940. The most cost-effective solution was then to use gliders and the technical Bureau of the Luftwaffe planned the Grossraumlastensegler (“large-capacity transport glider”). Copies were sent to Junkers and Messerschmitt. The initial specification called for carrying a 88 mm, tractor, or a medium tank. This became Projekt Warschau codenamed Warschau-Süd forMesserschmitt. The rival Ju 322 Mammut used all-wood construction, a risky proposition. Messerschmitt’s design secured the prototype order, called Me 263by the RLM and later switched to Me 321.
The Me 261 had a framework of steel tubing from Mannesmann, wooden spars covered by doped fabric, ideal for quick construction, repair and weight. It was nicknamed Gigant due to its huge size, as its command bridge stood over 6 m (20 ft) high, with clamshell doors for easy access and exit and ramps for vehicles. The load area was eqivalent to six Ju 52, about 100 m2 (1,100 sq ft) and 23 t (23 long tons). This cargo space was also modelled on the standard German railway flatcar for a better transit from rail to plane. When modified with a passenger bay, it could carry 120 to 130 fully equipped troops and equipments. As a glider it was fitted with a jettisonable undercarriage made with standard Bf 109 mainwheels (front) and Junkers Ju 90 main wheels (rear) and four extendable skids to land.
The first flight of the prototype Me 321 V1 took place on 25 February 1941, piloted by Messerschmitt test pilot Karl Baur. Its towing plane was a Ju 90. It was also carrying 3 tonnes (3 tons) of ballast but the report stated the controls were heavy and responses sluggish. Also the cockpit sould be enlarged to include a co-pilot and radio operator plus dual controls, four arms being a better proposition than two. The massive trailing edge flaps propelled by Electric servo motors and a braking parachute were added. But further tests showed more takeoff difficulties, due to the Junkers Ju 90 being too weak, and three Bf 110 were used (the “Troikaschlepp”) in a V formation. Heinkel proposed the Heinkel He 111Z Zwilling which had a fifth engine on the new interwing plus liquid monopropellant Walter for HWK 109-500 Starthilfe rocket-assisted takeoff booster units. All in all, it was less dangerous than the provisory “troika” but time was needed to complete the first planes.
The me321 became operational in May 1941, deployed at Leipheim for advanced tests, but an early takeoff failure led to a collision of the towing Me 110 planes and the ultimate loss of the 129 occupants, the deadliest in flight history. The next Me 321 B-1 had a crew of three and was armed with four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine guns in the fuselage and wings. But in the eastern front, efficiencly was limited due to its inability to perform a second or third approach move on the ground without heavy tractors, and the dangerous “Troikaschlepp” provided a range of only 400 km (250 mi). All Me 321s were therefore retired in early 1942 and concentrated for the planned Operation Herkules (invasion of Malta) with the new He 111Zs, but the whole operation was abandoned precisely because of the lack of towing aircraft. They were sent in place, in a desperate operation to relieve the besieged Sixth Army at Stalingrad, but arrived too late and were returned to Germany. They were mothballed or scrapped, and converted into the powered Me 323, which had with six 895 kW (1,200 hp) engines. Another operation was considered, surprise reinforcements in Sicily, also abandoned because of the lack of suitable airfields.
Messerschmitt Me-410 colorized from Pinterest – Unknown origin
Messerschmitt Me-210/410 comparison
Messerschmitt Me-410 W.Nr.420430, RAF Museum Cosford (2009)
Messerschmitt Me-410 W.Nr.10018, (FE499) after being sent to the United States
Messerschmitt Me-410 410 A-1/U2, RAF Cosford
Messerschmitt Me-410 A-3 (Wk.Nr. 10259, RAF serial TF209) at No. 1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight at Collyweston, Northamptonshire (UK).
Messerschmitt Me-210/410 in North Africa – rear barbettes, Bundesarchiv
Messerschmitt Me-163A V4 prototype, in 1941
Messerschmitt Me-163 HWK 109-509A rocket engine
Messerschmitt Me-163 at Melbourne
Messerschmitt Me-163B 1a Komet glider replica
Messerschmitt Me-163 blueprint
Me-262 V3 Silhouette
Messerschmitt Me-262A Flugplatz
Messerschmitt Me-262 B1a Nigh Fighter – Wilde sau
Messerschmitt Me-262 showing R4M racks underwing
Captured Me 262 Wrknr 111711, first allied tested after defection of a German pilot defection
Messerschmitt Me-262 HG III model
Me-262, German reproduction flying at Ila 2006
Another view of the same
Avia S-92, Czech built Me 262A here at Prague museum
Messerschmitt Me-262 at the Collins Foundation
Messerschmitt Me-262 Variants
Australian Me-262A-2a at AirMin 91
Messerschmitt Me-262 B-1a in static display
Messerschmitt Me-262 A Schwalbe in a Museum
Me-262 B1 A-4
Me-262 replica at Ila Berlin 2012
B1-A D IMTT replica at Ila Berlin 2016
Messerschmitt Me-262 A-13 of ace pilot Bär Links Klein
Me-262 at the Deutsches Museum Munich
Messerschmitt Me-262 at the Smithsonian Institute
Messerschmitt Me-262 163 V2
Me-262 Deutsch Museum
Me-262 tested by the allies
Junkers Jumo 004 assembly
Junkers Jumo 004 closeup
Nakajima J9Y Kikka, the Japanese copy, summer 1945
Sukhoi Su-9 BK2 Soviet postwar copy
Sukhoi Su-11 LK1 Soviet postwar copy
Messerschmitt Me-161 V2
Messerschmitt Me-161 blueprint
Messerschmitt Me-161 D-AABA on trials, 1937
Me-161 V2 internal arrangement
Me-162 in flight
Me-209 V4 in a fictitious operational livery. This was to be the Me 109 successor, based on the record-breaking Me 209 V1, but development was abandoned as the military converted version was way too heavy for practical service (the Me 109 E was faster anyway). It also had poor handling and bad visibility.
Messerschmitt Me-209 fuselage in Krakow
Me-209 V4 model
Messerschmitt Me-309 V4 – Author’s illustration
Me-264 V1 “Amerika Bomber” being flight tested. The program was started in 1937, interred, then reactivated after December 1941, changed in 1942 and 1943, then suspended and cancelled for good on 23 September 1944, well after the He 277 program in April 1944.
Paper projects – Luftwaffe 1946
Me 265 Zestorer
Messerschmitt Me-265 Zestorer – This advanced pusher flying wing was designed in 1942, to replace the ill-fated Me 210. Known as the Lippisch Li P 10, since it was derived from one his numerous flying wing, tailess designs, the Messerschmitt 265 was aerodynamically advanced with a delta wing and two rear propellers. The crew of two sat back-to-back in the cockpit, the rear one being given a defensive pair of MG42s. Propulsion consisted in Daimler-Benz DB 603 liquid-cooled, 12-cylinder piston engines, 1,750 hp each. However the Me 265/Li P 10 was rejected and the conventional Me 410 was adopted instead, using far more components from the Me 210, therefore able to reach mass production a lot quicker and for less ressources. It was 10 m (32.8 ft) long, with a Wingspan of 17.40 m (57.1 ft) 45 m² (484 ft²) in wing area total, for a 6,300 kg (13,889 lb) empty weight, 11,000 kg (24,250 lb) loaded at takeoff, capable of 675 km/h at 5,400 m (419 mph at 17,717 ft) and on a 2,000 km (1,243 mi) range, at 9,500 m (31,168 ft). The planned armament was to comprised tow nose-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 and two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons and as stated above two 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 MGs firing backwards. It was on paper able to carry a 1,000 kg (2,205 lb) payload;
Me 328 parasite
Me-328 Parasite with additional jets.
This unusual Messerschmitt was originally designed as a parasite aircraft, to protect Luftwaffe bomber formations during the war. The idea was the bombers carried these in droves for their close protection. The concept of “parasite” was not new: Indeed, airships were the first to carry their own escort fighters in flight during the Great War. In the interwar, the US Navy Acron and Macon became in effect the first airships aircraft carriers but they both were lost and the general concept of airship was dropped after the Lakehurst catastrophy. However planes were getting bigger, and soon by the mid-1930s, the Soviet Air Force tried the first “aircraft carrier plane”, a Tupolev TB-2 loaded with I-15/153 or I-16 fighters, over the wings or under the fuselage, attached by trapeze devices and hooks.
The idea was extensively tested but was deemed dangerous and never developed. Meanwhile, the idea resurfaced for some time with the allies, and the Luftwaffe. The latter, with pulse jets had a way to develop fighters small enough to be carried by bombers. In fact when the idea appeared too far-fetch,
a wide variety of other roles were suggested. Eventually the Me 328 ended as a Selbstopfer (suicide weapon) aircraft, but the experimental pulsejets proved unreliable and unsuitable and doomed the Me 328 concept.
The project P.1073 of 1941 was originated in a concept of a cheap, “expendable”, simple escort fighter, towed using a semi-rigid bar (Deichselschlepp) or later, carried in a Mistel type fashion. Eventually three were developed, an unpowered glider, an Argus pulsejets version, and a Jumo 004 turbojet version. Construction was to be mainly of wood to spare strategic materials, and supervised by the German Research Institute for Sailplane Flight. The Me 328A was designed as a fighter and the Me 328B as a bomber and the cost of four Me 328s was estimated equal to one Focke Wulf Fw 190 or Bf 109.
However right from the start, the pulse jets were mediocre at medium altitudes due to the lower air pressure as well as generating a huge amount of noise (Same as the “buzzbomb”, the V1). Hanna Reitsch tested the two prototypes of the glider version, towed at high altitude and dropped. After many ground and air tests, the RLM enthusiastically planned 1,000 for use as disposable bombers by volunteers from 5/KG200 “Leonidas Squadron”. Seven prototypes powered by two Argus As 014 pulsejets were also tested. Built by Jacob Schweyer of Darmstadt they were intended as fighters, armed with two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons. But excessive vibration literally destroyed the planes in flights and the project was cancelled in 1944. Interest resurfaces in later 1944 for various role and testing either Argus pulsejets, Jumo 004 turbojet, even the Porsche 109-005 single-use turbojet. But the vibration problem was never solved and the Me 328 was eventually cancelled for good.
Me328 by Encore model Kits.
Me 329 Bomber
The Messerschmitt Me-329 was a design project heavy fighter (see above, me 265) but also ground-attack aircraft first drawn in late 1944. A possible replacement to the Me 410 it shared many similarities with the Me 265, but used an advanced wing. The pilot and navigator sat in tandem in a large bubble canopy. There was also a remote-controlled tail gun. However general performances were not that much improved over the Me 410 therefore the whole program received a low priority by the RLM. Only a full-scale glider mockup was built and tested in the winter of 1944/45 before the program was eventually cancelled.
The Me 329 was 7.715 m (25.312 ft) long, 17.50 m (57.41) wide and 4.74 m (15.55) high, with a flying emty weight of 6,950 kg (15,322 lb) and 12,150 kg (26,786 lb) at max takeoff, propelled by two Daimler-Benz DB 603G 1,397 kW (1,874 hp) engines, allowing a top speed of 685 km/h at 7,000 m (426 mph at 22,966 ft), for a Range 2,520 km (1,566 mi) long, and ceiling 12,500 m (41,000 ft). Each Me 329 should have been armed with two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons, four 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannons and a single MK 114 in the nose, and a 20 mm MG 151/20 tail gun. It was designed t carry a payload of 1,000 kg bombs (2,205 lb).
Me 334 Fighter
The Me-334 was a project derived from Alexander Lippisch works already noted for designing tailless aircraft. Relatively similar to the rocket-powered Me 163, this new tailless fighter was to be powered by a new Heinkel turbojet. However development of a reliable turbojet forced Lippisch to redesign the Messerschmitt Me 329 to be powered by a Daimler-Benz DB 605 V-12 engine (inverted) in the nose but driving a pusher propeller at the tailthrough a long shaft. Also the wings were mid-mounted and were swept swept back 23.4°. The wings also housed a large retractable main landing gear. Wings had the elevons inboard and ailerons outboard on the trailing edge. The latter outboard leading edges slots were designed to improve slow speed performance and manoeuvrability. Planned armament was two wing mounted 13 mm (0.512 in) MG 131 machine guns only. Me 334 was the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) official denomination but development was eventually abandoned as Lippisch with concentrated on the P.20 instead. Summary Blueprints survived (offical three-view) but we only have modern reconstructions to see what it would have looked like. This was by any standard a small interceptor, playing its micro-size and swept wings at an advantage to reach blazing speeds, (Length: 7 m of 23 ft, Wingspan: 9.3 m of 30 ft, height 3.72 m or 12 ft and wing area 17.3 m2, for a gross weight of 3,000 kg (6,614 lb) and 1,085 kW (1,455 hp). Top speed in altitude would have been in the order of 430 mph (700 kph), leaving behind the Mustang. But the armament was not a match for it, as the latter had four more 12.7 mm machine guns to bear.
Me 155/409 fighter
The high altitude killer
Messerschmitt Me-155 was in fact a Messerschmitt project of an ill-fated but well inspired project later took over by Blohm & Voss as the BV-155. An high altitude interceptor was badly needed by the RLM in 1942 to face the onsaught of allied bombing raids over Germany. But it was a fighter designed to counter a threat that never materialized there, but on the other part of the globe instead, for the sake of larger distances. First estimates of the American B-29 Superfortress indeed already reached German authorities as early as 1942. And after the speed, the record altitude was quite a concern for the german Luftwaffe that had nothing coming close in terms of capabilities in these realms.
Messerschmitt was naturally approached by the RLM to create an high altitude version of its Me 109. It was in fact born from the short-lived carrier-based single-seat fighter project intended for aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin. It was a navalized aircraft with somewhat larger wings, stronger undercarriage and other characteristics like folding wings, catapult spools, and arrester gear, called then the Me 155. It was very similar to the 109 G and used the DB 605A-1 liquid-cooled engine of 1,475 PS (1,455 hp, 1,085 kW), armd with three 20 mm MG151 guns and two 13 mm MGs. Despite the additional weight, the prototype speed was estimated to to be 649 km/h (403 mph).
However when the carrier was abandoned, the prototype, ready by Sept 1942 and the whole project, already shelved, was abandoned for good. But rather than discarding the programme, Messerschmitt chosed instead to redesign it to fit a recent RLM query, a November 1942 Luftwaffe requirement for a fast single seat bomber. This gave the Me 155A. However by 1943, allied bombing raids and intelligence about the B-29 urged the RLM to ask for a suitable interceptor. It was the result of a merging between an in-house study called Me 409, and later Bf 109ST and the modified 155. It became the Me 155B, propelled by the two-stage supercharged, induction cooler-fitted DB 628, and for the first time a pressuried cabin. It also had a ventral trough aft of the wing, and long-span untapered wings for high altitude while borrowed parts from other projects like the Me 209 tail and Me 109 landing gear. However it was the RLM decision to passe on the project to Blohm and Voss, as Messerschmitt had to be committed in more important/urgent projects at the time.
Under the new name of B&V BV 155 the Luftwaffe’s high altitude interceptor went through a wave of additional modifications and developments. In fact after seeing the prototype they decided to rebuild and redesign it from scratch. In fact by September 1943 the order for five prototypes was under condition that B&V had all latitude and freedom in the design of the plane. Much larger and heavier, the new interceptor had a new laminar flow wing and tail unit, and took the Ju-87 landing gear. The design BV 155 A failed tests in the wind tunnel considering cooling problems. So for the B type, new massive radiators had to be constructed to cope with the problem. These tests and modifications went on for a full year: It’s only by September 1944, that the first BV 155 V1, took off for its maiden flight, and confirmed the outboard radiators inadequate cooling.
The V 155 V2 flew on February 8, 1945 with modified, larger wing radiators, a pilot’s cabin moved forward with a new sliding canopy, new rudder and ventral radiator. Soon the V2 received the DB 603U engine which delivered 1,238 kW (1,660 hp) at take-off altitude (V-3). The Technische Amt accepted it as the BV 155 C. This model a pre-production one, with an estimated speed of 690 km/h (430 mph) at 15,999 m (52,490 ft) and max ceiling of 16,950 m (55,610 ft), comfortably in the area of evolution of all allied bombers. Standard armament would have been a Motorkanone 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 and two wing-mounted 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons. The project evolved into the Project 205 which was on paper faster as the new radiators reduced drag. It also had a new annular frontal radiator and its main landing gear leg attachment points were moved forward. But by that time, the war has ended and no production model ever flew.
Me 509 Fighter
Few information survived about this project. It shared most components with Me 309 but the engine was located behind the pressurized cockpit. In many way ot was the German version of the Soviet-manned US Bell P-39 Airacobra. It was propelled by a Daimler-Benz DB 605B, which drive a standard three-blade propeller. Armament comprised two 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns plus two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons. There was of course a new tricycle landing gear, even better suited du to mass repartition than on the 309. The smaller nose also much improved visibility but the project was cancelled alongside Me 309. However plans and blueprints were passed on to the Japanese. They created in 1945 the Yokosuka R2Y Keiun, which was apparently tested but showed engine overheating. This is the only known photo of such aircraft, the German one left nothing, model or blueprints tio be seen.
Specifications included dimensions of 9.94 m (32 ft 7 in), 11.27 m (37 ft) ingspan and 3.98 m (13 ft 1 in) in height, 1,085 kW (1,455 hp)for a top speed of 760 km/h (472 mph). It could have been like a Dornier “Pfeil” in reduction, faster than the Mosquito and mpst allied planes of the time, a suitable, long range alternative to the Me 262.
Yokosuka-R2Y1 Keiun, the Japanese copy of the Me 509.
Other prototypes/Paper projects
Me 609 fighter
Me P.1079 bomber
Me P.1092 Family