Messerschmitt Bf 110

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Bf 110
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-377-2801-013, Flugzeug Messerschmitt Me 110.jpg
Bf 110 of Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 (1943)
Designer Willy Messerschmitt
First flight12 May 1936
Retired1945 (Luftwaffe)
Primary users Luftwaffe
Number built6,170 [1]
Developed into Messerschmitt Me 210

The Messerschmitt Bf 110, often known unofficially as the Me 110, [2] is a twin-engine Zerstörer (Destroyer, heavy fighter) and fighter-bomber (Jagdbomber or Jabo) developed in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and used by the Luftwaffe during World War II. Hermann Göring was a proponent of the Bf 110. It was armed with two MG FF 20 mm cannon, four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns, and one 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine gun for defence (in later variants the rear gunner station would be armed with the twin-barreled MG 81Z). Development work on an improved type to replace the Bf 110 - the Messerschmitt Me 210 - began before the war started, but its teething troubles resulted in the Bf 110 soldiering on until the end of the war in various roles, with its replacements: the Me 210 and the significantly improved Me 410 Hornisse.


The Bf 110 served with considerable success in the early campaigns in Poland, Norway and France. The primary weakness of the Bf 110 was its lack of maneuverability, although this could be mitigated with better tactics. This weakness was exploited by the RAF when Bf 110s were flown as close escort to German bombers during the Battle of Britain. When British bombers began targeting German territory with nightly raids, some Bf 110-equipped units were converted to night fighters, a role to which the aircraft was well suited. After the Battle of Britain the Bf 110 enjoyed a successful period as an air superiority fighter and strike aircraft in other theatres and defended Germany from strategic air attack by day against the USAAF's 8th Air Force, until an American change in fighter tactics rendered them increasingly vulnerable to developing American air supremacy over the Reich as 1944 began.

During the Balkans and North African campaigns and on the Eastern Front, it rendered valuable ground support to the German Army as a potent fighter-bomber. Later in the war, it was developed into a formidable radar-equipped night fighter, becoming the main night-fighting aircraft of the Luftwaffe. Most of the German night fighter aces flew the Bf 110 at some point during their combat careers and the top night fighter ace, Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, flew it exclusively and claimed 121 victories in 164 sorties. [3]

Design and development

Genesis and competition

Bf 110s in France in 1942 Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-360-2095-23, Flugzeuge Messerschmitt Me 110.jpg
Bf 110s in France in 1942

Throughout the 1930s, the air forces of the major military powers were engaged in a transition from biplane to monoplane designs. Most concentrated on the single-engine fighter aircraft, but the problem of range arose. The Ministry of Aviation (RLM, for Reichsluftfahrtministerium), pushed by Hermann Göring, issued a request for a new multipurpose fighter called the Kampfzerstörer (battle destroyer) with long range and an internal bomb bay. The request called for a twin-engine, three-seat, all-metal monoplane that was armed with cannon as well as a bomb bay. Of the original seven companies, only Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Messerschmitt), Focke-Wulf and Henschel responded to the request. [4]

Messerschmitt defeated Focke-Wulf, Henschel and Arado, and was given the funds to build several prototype aircraft. The Focke-Wulf design, the Focke-Wulf Fw 57, had a wing span of 25.6 m (84 ft) and was powered by two DB 600 engines. It was armed with two 20 mm MG FF cannons in the nose, while a third was positioned in a dorsal turret. The Fw 57 V1 flew in 1936 but its performance was poor and the machine crashed. [5] The Henschel Hs 124 was similar in construction layout to the Fw 57, [5] equipped with two Jumo 210C for the V1. The V2 used the BMW 132Dc radial engines generating 870 PS compared with the 640 PS Jumo. The armament consisted of a single rearward-firing 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine gun and a single forward-firing 20 mm MG FF cannon. [5]

Messerschmitt omitted the internal bomb load requirement from the Ministry of Aviation directive to increase the armament element of the Ministry of Aviation's specification. The Bf 110 was far superior to its rivals in providing the speed, range and firepower to meet its role requirements. [6] By the end of 1935, the Bf 110 had evolved into an all-metal, low-wing cantilever monoplane of semi-monocoque design featuring twin vertical stabilizers and powered by two DB 600A engines. The design was also fitted with Handley-Page wing slots [6] (actually, leading-edge slats).

Early variants

Bf 110s in flight above Budapest. 1944 Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-669-7340-27, Flugzeuge Me 110 uber Budapest.jpg
Bf 110s in flight above Budapest. 1944

By luck (and pressure by Ernst Udet), the Ministry of Aviation reconsidered the ideas of the Kampfzerstörer and began focusing on the Zerstörer. Due to these changes, the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke design better fitted the Ministry's requests. On 12 May 1936, Rudolf Opitz flew the first Bf 110 out of Augsburg. [7] But, as many pre-war designs found, the engine technologies promised were not up to acceptable reliability standards. Even with the temperamental DB 600 engines, the Ministry of Aviation found that the Bf 110, while not as maneuverable as desired, was rather faster than its original request specified, as well as faster than the then-current front line fighter, the Bf 109 B-1. Thus the order for four pre-production A-0 units was placed. The first of these were delivered in January 1937. During this testing, both the Focke-Wulf Fw 187 and Henschel Hs 124 competitors were rejected and the Bf 110 was ordered into full production.

The initial deliveries of the Bf 110 encountered several delays with delivery of the DB 600 motors, which forced Bayerische Flugzeugwerke to install Junkers Jumo 210B engines, leaving the Bf 110 seriously underpowered and able to reach a top speed of only 431 km/h (268 mph). The armament of the A-0 units was also limited to four nose-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns.

Even without delivery of the DB 600 engines, Bayerische Flugzeugwerke began assembly of the Bf 110 in mid-1937. As the DB 600 engines continued to have problems, Bayerische Flugzeugwerke was forced to keep on using Jumo motors, the 210G, which supplied 515 kW (700 PS) each (versus the 471 kW/640 PS supplied by the 210B). Three distinct versions of the Bf 110B were built: the B-1, which featured four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns and two 20 mm MG FF cannons; the B-2 reconnaissance version, which had a camera in place of the cannons; and the B-3 which was used as a trainer, with the cannons replaced by extra radio equipment. Only 45 Bf 110Bs were built before the Jumo 210G engine production line ended. The major identifier of the -A and -B-series Bf 110s was the very large "mouth" bath radiators located under each engine.

In late 1938, the DB 601 B-1 engines became available. With the new engine, the design teams removed the radiators under the engine nacelles and replaced them with water/glycol radiators for the C-series airframes onwards, placing them under the wing just outboard of each nacelle, otherwise similar in installation, appearance and function to those on the Bf 109E. With the DB 601 engine, the Bf 110's maximum speed increased to 541 km/h (336 mph) with a range of approximately 1,094 km (680 mi). A small oil cooler and air scoop remained under each engine nacelle for the remainder of the Bf 110's production run.

A Bf 110D-0 with an early "dachshund's belly" fuel tank Me 110D-0 with Dackelbauch tank 1940.jpg
A Bf 110D-0 with an early "dachshund's belly" fuel tank

First conceived in the latter half of 1939, the D-series of Bf 110s was targeted to have improvements meant to increase its range. The initial D-series version, the Bf 110D-0 was designed to add a large, streamlined 1,050 litre (277 U.S. gallon) ventral fuel tank built under the fuselage, which required a substantially sized, conformal streamlined ventral fuselage fairing extending from halfway back under the nose to the rear of the cockpit glazing, inspiring the nickname Dackelbauch (dachshund's belly). [8] The D-1 was also set up to accept a pair of fin-equipped 900 litre (238 U.S. gallon) drop tanks, one under each wing, increasing the total fuel capacity to 4,120 litres (1,088 U.S. gallons). The substantial added drag of the early "dachshund's belly" ventral fuselage tank in test flights mandated its omission from production D-1s although they were still prepared to mount an improved, better streamlined, version. D-1s so equipped were known as D-1/R1 whereas the D-1/R2 was equipped with two 900 l drop tanks and a droppable 85 l oil tank. Later D-2 and D-3 versions retained the twin underwing 900 litre drop tank capability, using multipurpose ordnance racks capable of holding either drop tanks or carrying bombs. [9]

Later production variants

FuG 220 and FuG 202 (centre) "Lichtenstein" SN-2 VHF band, and B/C UHF band night fighter radar antennas on the nose of a Bf 110 G-4 being serviced by Luftwaffe ground crew on Grove airfield, Denmark postwar in August 1945, before the aircraft was sent to the UK for research. FuG 220 and FuG 202 radar of Me 110 1945.jpg
FuG 220 and FuG 202 (centre) "Lichtenstein" SN-2 VHF band, and B/C UHF band night fighter radar antennas on the nose of a Bf 110 G-4 being serviced by Luftwaffe ground crew on Grove airfield, Denmark postwar in August 1945, before the aircraft was sent to the UK for research.

The production of the Bf 110 was put on a low priority in 1941 in expectation of its replacement by the Me 210. During this time, two versions of the Bf 110 were developed, the E and F models. The E was designed as a fighter bomber (Zerstörer Jabo), able to carry four 50 kg (110 lb) ETC 50 racks under the wing, along with the centreline ETC 500 bomb rack. The first E, the Bf 110 E-1 was originally powered by the DB 601B engine, but shifted to the DB 601P as they became available in quantity. A total of 856 Bf 110E models were built between August 1940 and January 1942. [10] The E models also had upgraded armour and some fuselage upgrades to support the added weight. Most pilots of the Bf 110E considered the aircraft slow and unresponsive, one former Bf 110 pilot commenting the E was "rigged and a total dog."

The Bf 110F featured the new DB 601F engines which produced 993 kW/1,350 PS (almost double the power the original Jumo engines provided), which allowed for upgraded armour, strengthening, and increased weight with no loss in performance. Three common versions of the F model existed. Pilots typically felt the Bf 110F to be the best of the 110 line, being fully aerobatic and in some respects smoother to fly than the Bf 109, though not as fast. Eventually 512 Bf 110F models were completed between December 1941 and December 1942, when production gave way to the Bf 110G. [10]

Bf 110G production details

An early-model Bf 110G of 9./NJG 3 with Matratze UHF radar antennas for FuG 202/212 use. Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-659-6436-12, Flugzeug Messerschmitt Me 110.jpg
An early-model Bf 110G of 9./NJG 3 with Matratze UHF radar antennas for FuG 202/212 use.

Although the Me 210 entered service in mid-1941, it was plagued with problems and was withdrawn from service for further development. In the wake of the failure of the Me 210, the Bf 110G was designed. [11] The G model was fitted with DB 605B engines, producing 1,085 kW (1,475 PS) at their Notleistung (war emergency) top-level setting, and 997 kW (1,355 PS) at 5.8 km (19,000 ft) altitude. The Bf 110G also had upgraded nose armament, and underwent some changes which improved the aerodynamics of the aircraft. The rear cockpit access was moved forward from the transversely-hinged, "tilt-open" rearmost canopy glazing to a side/top hinged opening section of the main canopy, opening to port, with a new rearmost framed glazing section fixed in place. No Bf 110 G-1 existed, so the Bf 110 G-2 became the baseline Bf 110G. A large number of Rüstsätze field conversion packs were available, making the G subtype the most versatile production version of the Bf 110. The initial batch of six pre-series production G-0 aircraft built in June 1942 were followed by 797 G-2, 172 G-3 and 2,293 of the night fighter-dedicated, three-seater G-4 models; built between December 1942 and April 1945. [10] Pilots reported the Bf 110G to be a "mixed bag" in the air, in part due to all changes between the G and F series. The Bf 110G was considered a superior gun platform with excellent all-around visibility, and considered, until the advent of the Heinkel He 219, to be one of the Luftwaffe's best night fighters.


The Bf 110's main strength was its ability to mount unusually powerful air-to-air weaponry. Early versions had four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns in the upper nose and two 20 mm MG FF/M cannons fitted in the lower part of the nose. Later versions replaced the MG FF/M with the more powerful 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons and many G-series aircraft, especially those which served in the bomber-destroyer role, had two 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannons fitted instead of the MG 17. The defensive armament initially consisted of a single, flexibly mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine gun. Late F-series and prototype G-series were upgraded to a 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 81 machine gun with a higher rate of fire, and the G-series was equipped with the twin-barreled MG 81Z. Many G-series night fighters were retrofitted or factory-built with the Schräge Musik off-bore gun system, which fired upward at an oblique angle for shooting down bombers while passing underneath; it was frequently equipped with two 20 mm MG FF/M, but field installations of the 20 mm MG 151/20 or 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannons were also used. The Schräge Musik weapons were typically mounted immediately in front of the rear cockpit.

The Bf 110 G-2/R1 was also capable of employing armament such as the Bordkanone series 37 mm (1.46 in) BK 3,7 autofed cannon, mounted in a conformal ventral gun pod under the fuselage. A single hit from this weapon was usually enough to destroy any Allied bomber.

The initial Bf 110 C-1/B fighter-bomber could carry two 250 kg (551 lb), two 500 kg (1,102 lb), or two 1,000 kg (2,204 lb) bombs on two ETC 500 racks under the fuselage and, starting with the Bf 110 E-0, could be supplemented by four additional 50 kg (110 lb) bombs on ETC 50 racks under the wing.

Night fighter

After a period of use on bombing and reconnaissance, the type found its niche during the winter of 1940-41 as a night fighter defending Hitler's Reich. At first the three main crew members had no special equipment for night operations and relied on their eyes alone to find enemy aircraft in the dark. Ground-controlled interception began from mid 1941 and the 110 began to take its toll on RAF bombers and was soon an aircraft to be feared. Airborne radar was used experimentally during 1941, effective up to a maximum distance of 3.5 km/ 2.2 miles and capable of bringing the 110 to within 200m/655 ft of a target.

By July 1942, the Bf 110F-4 was the first version to be designed specifically as a night fighter. It was something of a stop gap measure, though armed with four 7.92mm/ 0.31 In machine guns and two 20 mm / 0.78 In cannon.

Operational service

Bf 110 with twin 900 litre drop tanks with vertical fins, from 9.Staffel/ZG 26, on a Regia Aeronautica photo Me110.jpg
Bf 110 with twin 900 litre drop tanks with vertical fins, from 9.Staffel/ZG 26, on a Regia Aeronautica photo


Bf 110 V1

First flown 12 May 1936 using two Daimler-Benz DB 600 engines [12]

Bf 110 V2

Completed on 24 October 1936 using two Daimler-Benz DB 600 engines. It was assigned directly to the Luftwaffe test centre at Rechlin. Test pilots were pleased with its speed but disappointed in its maneuverability [12]

Bf 110 V3

Same airframe as the V1 and V2 but was intended as a weapons test aircraft and had nose changes for armament. Completed and test flown on 24 December 1936 and also assigned to Rechlin. [12]
Bf 110 A
Prototypes with two Junkers Jumo 210 B engines. [13]
Bf 110 A-0
The designation of the first four pre-production aircraft. Armament consisted of four fixed MG 17 7.92 mm machine guns in the nose and one moveable MG 15 7.92 mm machine gun in the rear cockpit canopy. [13]
Bf 110 B

Small-scale production with two Jumo 210 engines.

Bf 110 B-0
First pre-production aircraft, similar to B-1.
Bf 110 B-1
Zerstörer, four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns and two 20 mm MG FF cannons, nose-mounted.
Bf 110 B-2
Reconnaissance, both MG FF cannons removed, and various camera models added.
Bf 110 B-3
Trainer. MG FF cannons removed, and extra radio gear added. Some war weary B-1 were later refitted as B-3s.
Bf 110 C
A captured Bf 110C-5 in the service of No. 1426 Flight RAF Me 110C-5 RAF NAN15Jun43.jpg
A captured Bf 110C-5 in the service of No. 1426 Flight RAF

First major production series, DB 601 engines.

Bf 110 C-0
Ten pre-production aircraft.
Bf 110 C-1
Zerstörer, DB 601 B-1 engines.
Bf 110 C-2
Zerstörer, fitted with FuG 10 radio, upgraded from FuG III.
Bf 110 C-3
Zerstörer, upgraded 20 mm MG FFs to MG FF/M.
Bf 110 C-4
Zerstörer, upgraded crew armour.
Bf 110 C-4/B
Fighter-bomber based on C-4, fitted with a pair of ETC 500 bomb racks and upgraded DB 601 Ba engines.
Bf 110 C-5
Reconnaissance version based on C-4, both MG FF removed, and Rb 50/30 camera installed, uprated DB 601P engines.
Bf 110 C-6
Experimental Zerstörer, additional single 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 101 cannon in underfuselage mount, DB 601P engines.
Bf 110 C-7
Fighter-bomber based on C-4/B, two ETC 500 centreline bomb racks capable of carrying two 250, 500, or 1,000 kg (2,204 lb) bombs, uprated DB 601P engines.
Bf 110 D

Heavy fighter/fighter-bomber, extreme range versions based on C-series, prepared to operate with external fuel tanks. Often stationed in Norway.

Bf 110 D-0
Prototype utilizing C-3 airframes modified with 1,050 L (277 US gal) belly-mounted tank called Dackelbauch ("dachshund's belly" in German).
Bf 110 D-1
Long-range Zerstörer, modified C series airframes with option to carry Dackelbauch belly tank and underwing drop tanks.
Bf 110 D-1/R1
Long-range Zerstörer, Dackelbauch ventral tank, option to carry additional wing mounted 900 L (240 US gal) drop tanks. [14]
Bf 110 D-1/R2
Long-range Zerstörer, droppable 85 L oil tank under the fuselage instead of Dackelbauch ventral tank, two wing mounted 900 L (240 US gal) drop tanks. [14]
Bf 110 D-2
Long-range Zerstörer, two wing-mounted 300 L (80 US gal) drop tanks and centreline mounted bomb racks for two 500 kg (1,100 lb) bombs.
Bf 110 D-3
Long-range Zerstörer, lengthened tail for rescue dinghy. Either two wing-mounted 300 L (80 US gal) or 900 L (240 US gal) drop tanks could be fitted. Optional fitting of ETC 500 bomb racks (impossible with 900 L drop tanks).
Bf 110 D-4
Long-range recon, both MG FF removed, and Rb 50/30 camera installed, two wing-mounted 300 L or 900 L drop tanks.
Bf 110 E
Bf 110 E-1, Erganzungs-Schlachtgruppe, Deblin-Irena (Poland 1942). Bf 110 end.jpg
Bf 110 E-1, Ergänzungs-Schlachtgruppe, Deblin-Irena (Poland 1942).

Mostly fighter bombers, strengthened airframe, up to 1,200 kg (2,650 lb) bombload.

Bf 110 E-0
Pre-production version, Daimler-Benz DB 601B engines, pair of ETC50 bomb racks fitted outboard of engines, armament as C-4.
Bf 110 E-1
Production version of E-0, DB 601P engines.
Bf 110 E-1/U1
Two-crew night fighter conversion, equipped with the Spanner-Anlage infrared homing device.
Bf 110 E-2
DB 601P engines, rear fuselage extension same as for D-3.
Bf 110 E-3
Long-range reconnaissance version, both MG FF removed, and Rb 50/30 camera installed.
Bf 110 F

Same as the E, again strengthened airframe, better armour, two 993 kW (1,350 PS) DB 601F engines.

Bf 110 F-1
Bf 110 F-2
Long-range Zerstörer, often used against Allied heavy bombers.
Bf 110 F-3
Long-range reconnaissance version.
Bf 110 F-4
The first real night fighter (specially designed for this usage, 3-crew).
Bf 110 G
Bf 110 G-4 Me110G4 2.jpg
Bf 110 G-4
A Bf 110 G-4 night fighter at the RAF Museum in London. ME-110G-2 at RAF Hendon.jpg
A Bf 110 G-4 night fighter at the RAF Museum in London.
Bf-110 G-4 cockpit; RAF Museum London. Bf-110 G-4 cockpit RAF Museum London.jpg
Bf-110 G-4 cockpit; RAF Museum London.

Improved F-series, two 1,085 kW (1,475 PS) DB 605B engines, tail rudders increased in size.

Bf 110 G-1
Not built.
Bf 110 G-2
Fighter-bomber, fast bomber, destroyer, often used against Allied heavy bombers. (often equipped with rockets).
Bf 110 G-2/R1
Bf 110 G-2 armed with a BK 3,7 under the fuselage.
Bf 110 G-2/R4
Bf 110 G-2 armed with a BK 3,7 under the fuselage and two MK 108 in the nose
Bf 110 G-3
Long-range reconnaissance version.
Bf 110 G-4
Three-crew night fighter, FuG 202/220 Lichtenstein radar, optional Schräge Musik , usually mounted midway down the cockpit with the cannon muzzles barely protruding above the canopy glazing. Multiple combinations of engine boosts, Schräge Musik, radar arrangements and forward firing armament were available in the form of Rüstsätze and Umrüst-Bausätze kits. [15]
Bf 110 H

The final version, similar to the G, was cancelled before any prototypes were ready after important documents were lost in an air raid on the Waggonbau Gotha factory, which was leading the H-development.[ citation needed ]


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Surviving aircraft

Bf 110 Werk Nr. 5052, Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin. The noseart emblem on this aircraft is the dachshund of 10.(Z)/JG 5. Me 110 G-4.JPG
Bf 110 Werk Nr. 5052, Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin. The noseart emblem on this aircraft is the dachshund of 10.(Z)/JG 5.

Two intact Bf 110s are known to exist:

Messerschmitt Bf 110 G Werk Nr. 730301

This aircraft is displayed as fully assembled at the Royal Air Force Museum's London site at Hendon, North London. A G-series, night fighter, it was likely built in 1944. It served with Nachtjagdgeschwader 3 , the unit responsible for the night air defence of Denmark and North Germany until Germany's surrender in May 1945. It was one of five Bf 110s taken by the British for technical evaluation. In 1946, it was selected for preservation by the Air Historical Branch. It was eventually moved to the RAF Museum in 1978, where it has remained ever since. [18]

Messerschmitt Bf 110 F2 Werk Nr. 5052

Displayed at the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin. [18]

Additionally, the Technik Museum Speyer preserves the wings and other parts from a Bf 110 that were recovered from a lake in Sweden in 1995. During the war, the aircraft landed on the frozen lake after being damaged by Swedish anti-aircraft fire. [19]

Messerschmitt Bf 110 G4 (unknown Werk Nr.)

Using spare parts found all over the world the group called "Gillelejegruppen" managed to assemble an intact example of the Bf 110 night-fighter (G4). BF110 G4 on display in Denmark.jpg
Using spare parts found all over the world the group called "Gillelejegruppen" managed to assemble an intact example of the Bf 110 night-fighter (G4).

This aircraft is made from a wide range of original spare parts found all over the world. It is currently owned and displayed by a private foundation in Denmark. [20]

Specifications (Bf 110 C-1)

Data from The warplanes of the Third Reich, [21] Die Deutsche Luftrüstung 1933–1945 Vol.3 – Flugzeugtypen Henschel-Messerschmitt [22]

General characteristics

820 kW (1,100 hp) at 3,700 m (12,140 ft)


525 km/h (326 mph; 283 kn) at 4,000 m (13,120 ft)
541 km/h (336 mph; 292 kn) at 6,000 m (19,685 ft)
489 km/h (304 mph; 264 kn) maximum continuous at 5,000 m (16,400 ft)
484 km/h (301 mph; 261 kn) maximum continuous at 7,000 m (22,970 ft)
349 km/h (217 mph; 188 kn) economical cruise speed at 4,200 m (13,780 ft)
850 km (530 mi; 460 nmi) at 5,000 m (16,400 ft) at maximum continuous cruise speed
1,094 km (680 mi; 591 nmi) at 4,200 m (13,780 ft) at economical cruise speed


See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists

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The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is a German World War II fighter aircraft that was, along with the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, the backbone of the Luftwaffe's fighter force. The Bf 109 first saw operational service in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War and was still in service at the dawn of the jet age at the end of World War II in 1945. It was one of the most advanced fighters when it first appeared, with an all-metal monocoque construction, a closed canopy, and retractable landing gear. It was powered by a liquid-cooled, inverted-V12 aero engine. From the end of 1941, the Bf 109 was steadily supplanted by the Focke-Wulf Fw 190. It was called the Me 109 by Allied aircrew and some German aces, even though this was not the official German designation.

Focke-Wulf Fw 187 Falke

The Focke-Wulf Fw 187 Falke ("Falcon") was a German aircraft developed in the late 1930s. It was conceived by Kurt Tank as a twin-engine, high-performance fighter, but the Luftwaffe saw no role for the design, perceiving it as intermediate between the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Bf 110. Later prototypes were adapted to two-seats to compete with the Bf 110 in the Zerstörer role, but only nine aircraft were built in total.

Avia S-199 Czechoslovak fighter aircraft

The Avia S-199 is a propeller-driven Messerschmitt Bf 109G-based fighter aircraft built after World War II utilizing the Bf 109G airframe and a Junkers Jumo 211F engine in place of the original and unavailable Daimler-Benz DB 605 engine. It is notable as the first fighter obtained by the Israeli Air Force, and used during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Arado Ar 240 1940 fighter aircraft by Arado

The Arado Ar 240 was a German twin-engine, multi-role heavy fighter aircraft, developed for the Luftwaffe during World War II by Arado Flugzeugwerke. Its first flight was in 1940, but problems with the design hampered development, and it remained only marginally stable throughout the prototype phase. The project was eventually cancelled, with the existing airframes used for a variety of test purposes.

Dornier Do 217 1940 bomber aircraft family by Dornier

The Dornier Do 217 was a bomber used by the German Luftwaffe during World War II as a more powerful development of the Dornier Do 17, known as the Fliegender Bleistift. Designed in 1937 and 1938 as a heavy bomber but not meant to be capable of the longer-range missions envisioned for the larger Heinkel He 177, the Do 217's design was refined during 1939 and production began in late 1940. It entered service in early 1941 and by the beginning of 1942 was available in significant numbers.

Daimler-Benz DB 601 German aircraft engine

The Daimler-Benz DB 601 was a German aircraft engine built during World War II. It was a liquid-cooled inverted V12, and powered the Messerschmitt Bf 109, Messerschmitt Bf 110, and many others. Approximately 19,000 601's were produced before it was replaced by the improved Daimler-Benz DB 605 in 1942.

Messerschmitt Me 209 (1943) German fighter prototype

The Me 209 of 1943 was an attempt to create an enhanced version of the Bf 109, which served as the Luftwaffe's primary fighter aircraft throughout World War II. The Me 209, despite its designation, bore no relationship to the earlier Me 209.

Messerschmitt Me 309 German fighter prototype

The Messerschmitt Me 309 was a prototype German fighter, designed in the early years of World War II to replace the Bf 109. Although it had many advanced features, the Me 309's performance left much to be desired and it had so many problems that the project was cancelled with only four prototypes built. The Me 309 was one of two failed Messerschmitt projects intended to replace the aging Bf 109, the other being the Me 209 of 1943.

Focke-Wulf Fw 57 German fighter-bomber prototypes

The Focke-Wulf Fw 57 was a prototype German fighter-bomber. Prototypes were built in 1936 but never entered production.

Aircraft of the Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain was an effort by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) during the summer and autumn of 1940 to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF) of the United Kingdom in preparation for the planned amphibious and airborne forces invasion of Britain by Operation Sea Lion. Neither the German leader Adolf Hitler nor his High Command of the Armed Forces believed it was possible to carry out a successful amphibious assault on Britain until the RAF had been neutralised. Secondary objectives were to destroy aircraft production and ground infrastructure, to attack areas of political significance, and to terrorise the British people into seeking an armistice or surrender.

Arado Ar 197 Prototype fighter by Arado

The Arado Ar 197 was a German World War II-era biplane, designed for naval operations for the never-completed German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin. Only a few prototypes were built; the project was abandoned in favour of the Messerschmitt Bf 109T and Me 155.

The Messerschmitt Me 265 was a design project for a Zerstörer, produced by leading German aircraft manufacturer Messerschmitt in World War II.

Messerschmitt Bf 109 variants

Due to the Messerschmitt Bf 109's versatility and time in service with the German and foreign air forces, numerous variants were produced in Germany to serve for over eight years with the Luftwaffe. Additional variants were produced abroad totalling in 34,852 Bf 109s built.


  1. Donald 1994, p. 221.
  2. Because it was built before Bayerische Flugzeugwerke became Messerschmitt AG in July 1938, the Bf 110 was never officially given the designation Me 110.
  3. "Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer." Aces of the Luftwaffe. Retrieved: 21 March 2015.
  4. Mackay 2000, pp. 6-7.
  5. 1 2 3 Mackay 2000, p. 7.
  6. 1 2 Mackay 2000, p. 9.
  7. Munson 1983, p. 153.
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  10. 1 2 3 Mankau and Petrick 2001, pp. 323–327.
  11. Munson 1983, p. 154.
  12. 1 2 3 Hirsch & Feist 1967, p. 3.
  13. 1 2 Hirsch & Feist 1967, p. 4.
  14. 1 2 L. Dv. T. 2413/1 Beschreibung und Einbau der Zusatzanlagen für das Flugzeugmuster Bf 110 D . Berlin: Reichsluftfahrtministerium, 1940.
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  16. Dimensione Cielo: Caccia Assalto 3, Aerei Italiani nella 2a Guerra Mondiale 1972, p. 46.
  17. Geust and Petrov 1998
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  22. Nowarra, Heinz J. (1993). Die Deutsche Luftrüstung 1933–1945 Vol.3 – Flugzeugtypen Henschel-Messerschmitt (in German). Koblenz: Bernard & Graefe Verlag. pp. 206–213, 266–267. ISBN   978-3-7637-5467-0.
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Further reading