Messerschmitt Bf 109: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Messerschmitt Bf 109

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bf 109
Restored Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6
Role Fighter
Manufacturer Bayerische Flugzeugwerke
Designed by Willy Messerschmitt
First flight 29 May 1935
Introduced 1937
Retired 1945, Luftwaffe
1952, Yugoslavian Air Force
1954, Finnish Air Force
1965, Spanish Air Force
Primary users Luftwaffe
Hungarian Air Force
Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana
Forţele Aeriene Regale ale României
Number built 33,984[1]
Unit cost 42,900,- RM
(G-6, Erla-Werke, 1943)
Variants Avia S-99/S-199
Hispano Aviacion Ha 1112

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt in the early 1930s. It was one of the first true modern fighters of the era, including such features as an all-metal monocoque construction, a closed canopy, and retractable landing gear. Having gone through its baptism of fire in the Spanish Civil War, the Bf 109 was still in service at the dawn of the jet age at the end of World War II, during which it was the backbone of the German Luftwaffe fighter force.[2] An inverted Vee-piston engined fighter, the Bf 109 was supplemented, but never completely replaced in service, by the radial engined Focke-Wulf Fw 190 from the end of 1941.

Originally conceived as an interceptor, later models were developed to fulfill multiple tasks, serving as bomber escort, fighter bomber, day-, night- all-weather fighter, bomber destroyer, ground-attack aircraft, and as reconnaissance aircraft. It was supplied to and operated by several minor Axis states during World War II, and served with several countries for many years after the war. The Bf 109 was the most produced warplane during World War II, with 30,573 examples built during the war, and the most produced fighter aircraft in history, with a total of 33,984 units produced up to April 1945.[1][2]

The Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring German fighter aces of World War II, who claimed 928 victories between them while flying with Jagdgeschwader 52, chiefly on the Eastern Front, as well as by the highest scoring German ace in the North African Campaign.[3] It was also flown by the highest high-scoring non-German ace Ilmari Juutilainen, and several other successful ones, notably from Finland, Romania, Croatia and Hungary. Through constant development, it remained competitive with the latest Allied fighter aircraft until the end of the war, and at the same time, showed the limits of what could be achieved with piston-engined fighters.[4]

Design and Development

During 1933, the Technisches Amt (C-Amt), the technical department of the RLM, concluded a series of research projects into the future of air combat. The result of the studies was four broad outlines for future aircraft:[5]

  • 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
Me109 clip.ogg
Bf 109 in flight

Rüstungsflugzeug III was intended to be an interceptor, replacing the Arado Ar 64 and Heinkel He 51 biplanes then in service. Two months after the newly elected national socialist government were sworn to power on the 30 January 1933, the RLM published the tactical requirements for a single-seat fighter in the document L.A. 1432/33.[6]

The fighter needed to have a top speed of 400 km/h (250 mph) at 6,000 m (19,690 ft) which it could maintain for 20 minutes, while staying in the air for a total of 90 minutes. The critical altitude of 6,000 metres was to be reached in no more than 17 minutes, and the fighter was to have an operational ceiling of 10,000 metres.[6] Power was to be provided by the new Junkers Jumo 210 engine of about 522 kW (700 hp). It was to be armed with either a single high-performance 20 mm MG C 30 cannon firing through the engine shaft or, alternatively, either two engine cowl-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns, or one lightweight, engine-mounted 20 mm MG FF cannon with two 7.92 mm MG 17s.[7] One other specification was that the aircraft needed to keep wing loading below 100 kg/m2. The performance was to be evaluated based on the fighter's level speed, rate of climb, and manoeuvrability, in that order.[6]

In fact, the R-III specifications were not actually devised by the T-Amt: in early-1933, both Heinkel and Arado had sent in privately funded designs for a monoplane fighter, and the T-Amt simply collected the best features from both and sent them back out again, adding Focke-Wulf to the invitation to tender.

It has been suggested that Willy Messerschmitt was originally not invited to participate in the competition due to personal animosity between Messerschmitt and RLM director Erhard Milch;[nb 1] however, recent research by Willy Radinger and Walter Shick indicates that this may not have been the case, as all three competing companies – Arado, Heinkel and the BFW – received the development contract for the L.A. 1432/33 requirements at the same time in February 1934.[6] A fourth company, Focke Wulf received a copy of the development contract only in September 1939.[6] The powerplant was to be the Junkers Jumo 210, but the proviso was made that it would be interchangeable with the more powerful, but less developed Daimler-Benz DB 600 powerplant.[8] Each was asked to deliver three prototypes to be delivered for head-to-head testing in late 1934.



Messerschmitt Bf 109 V1

Design work on what was to become the Bf 109 began in March 1934, just three weeks after the development contract was awarded, under Messerschmitt Project number P.1034. The basic mock-up was completed by May 1934, and a more detailed design mock-up was prepared by January 1935. The design was issued with the RLM's designation of "Bf 109", with the 109 next in line from a batch of type numbers assigned to BFW.[6]

The first prototype (Versuchsflugzeug 1 or V1), with the civilian registration D-IABI, was completed by May 1935, but the German engines were not yet ready. In order to get the 'RIII' designs into the air, the RLM acquired four Rolls-Royce Kestrel VI engines by trading Rolls-Royce a Heinkel He 70 Blitz as an engine test-bed.[nb 2] Messerschmitt received two of these engines and started adapting the engine mounts of V1 to take the V-12 engine upright. This work was completed in August, and V1 completed flight tests in September 1935. The aircraft was then sent to the Luftwaffe test centre at Rechlin to take part in the design contest.

By late-summer, the Jumo engines were starting to become available, and V2 was completed with the 449 kW (600 hp) Jumo 210A in October 1935. V3 followed, being the first to actually mount guns, but another Jumo 210 was not available and it ended up delaying the flight of V3 until May 1936.

The contest

After Luftwaffe acceptance trials were completed at Rechlin, the prototypes were moved to Travemünde for the head-to-head portion of the contest. The aircraft which participated in the trials were the Arado Ar 80 V3, the Focke-Wulf Fw 159 V3, the Heinkel He 112 V4 and the Bf 109 V2. The He 112 arrived first, in early February 1936, and the rest of the prototypes had all arrived by the beginning of March.

Because most of the fighter pilots of the Luftwaffe were used to biplanes with open cockpits, low wing loading, light g-forces and easy handling, they were very critical of the Bf 109 at first. However, it soon became one of the front runners in the contest, as the Arado and Focke-Wulf entries, which were intended as "back-up" programmes to safeguard against failure of the two favourites, proved to be completely outclassed. The Arado Ar 80, with its gull wing (replaced with a straight, tapered wing on the V3) and fixed, spatted undercarriage was overweight and underpowered and the design was abandoned after three prototypes had been built. The parasol winged Fw 159 was always considered by the Erprobungsstelle (E-Stelle) staff at Travemünde to be a compromise between the biplane and the aerodynamically more efficient low-wing monoplane. Although it had some advanced features, it used a novel undercarriage design which was never truly reliable.[9]

JG 53 Bf 109 E-3, c. 1939/1940

Initially, the Bf 109 was regarded with suspicion by the E-Stelle test pilots because of its steep ground angle, resulting in poor forward view on the ground; the sideways-hinged cockpit canopy, which could not be opened in flight; and the automatic wing leading edge slots which, it was thought, would inadvertently open during aerobatics, possibly leading to crashes. They were also concerned about the high wing loading.[10]

The Heinkel He 112, based on a scaled-down Blitz was the favourite of the Luftwaffe leaders. Compared with the Bf 109, it was also cheaper.[11] Positive aspects of the He 112 included the wide track and robustness of the undercarriage, considerably better visibility from the cockpit, and a lower wing loading that led to easier landings. However, the He 112 was also structurally complicated, being some 18% heavier than the Bf 109, and it soon became clear that the thick wing, which spanned 12.6 m (41 ft 4 in) with an area of 23.2 m2 (249.7 ft2) on the first prototype (V1), was a disadvantage for a light fighter, decreasing the aircraft's rate of roll and manoeuvrability. Because of its smaller, lighter airframe, the Bf 109 was 30 km/h (20 mph) faster than the He 112 in level flight, and superior in climbing and diving. As a result, the He 112 V4 which was used for the trials had new wings, spanning 11.5 m (37 ft 8.75 in) with an area of 21.6 m2 (232.5 ft2). In addition, the V4 had a single-piece, clear-view, sliding cockpit canopy and a more powerful Jumo 210Da engine with a modified exhaust system. However, the improvements had not been fully tested and the He 112 V4 could not be demonstrated in accordance with the rules laid down by the Acceptance Commission, giving a distinct advantage to the Bf 109. The Commission ruled in favour of the Bf 109 because of the Messerschmitt test pilot's demonstration of the 109's capabilities during a series of spins, dives, flick rolls and tight turns, throughout which the pilot was in complete control of the aircraft.[12]

In March, the RLM received news that the British Spitfire had been ordered into production; with this information, a quick result to the contest was needed in order to get the winning design into production. On 12 March, they released a document that outlined the results of the contest, Bf 109 Priority Procurement, as a result of which the RLM instructed Heinkel to radically re-design the He 112, while ordering the Bf 109 into production.[13] The Messerschmitt 109 made its public debut during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, when the V1 prototype was flown.[14]

Design features

As with the earlier Bf 108, the new design was based on Messerschmitt's "lightweight construction", which was essentially aimed at reducing the total number of parts in the aircraft as much as possible. Examples of this could be found in the use of two large, complicated brackets which were fitted to the main engine firewall; these brackets incorporated the lower engine mounts and landing gear pivot points. A large forging attached to the firewall carried the main-spar pick up points, and carried most of the wing loads. Contemporary design practice was usually to have these main load-bearing structures mounted on different parts of the airframe, with the loads being distributed through the main structure via a series of strong-points. By centralising the loads on the main bulkhead, the main structure of the Bf 109 was able to be made relatively light and uncomplicated.[15]

An advantage of this design was that because the outboard-retracting main landing gear, retracting through roughly an 85º angle, was attached to the fuselage, it was possible to completely remove the wings of the aircraft for servicing without the need for additional equipment to support the fuselage. It also meant that the wing structure was able to be simplified through not having to carry the weight of the aircraft and not having to bear the loads imposed during takeoff or landing. However, this had one major drawback — this landing gear arrangement had a narrow wheel track making the aircraft unstable while on the ground. To increase stability the legs had to be splayed out, creating another problem in that the loads imposed during takeoff and landings were transferred at an angle up through the legs. The small rudder of the Bf 109 was relatively ineffective at controlling the strong swing created by the powerful slipstream of the propeller, and this sideways drift created disproportionate loads on the wheel opposite to the swing. If the forces imposed were large enough, the pivot points often broke and the landing gear leg would be forced sideways into its bay.[16] Because of the large ground angle caused by the long legs, visibility for the pilot, especially straight ahead, was very poor, a problem exacerbated by the sideways-opening canopy. This meant that the pilots often had to "snake" the aircraft during taxiing manoeuvres, which again imposed stresses on the splayed undercarriage legs. Ground accidents were, however, more of a problem with rookie pilots, especially during the later stages of the war.[17] Even experienced pilots, especially those who were tired, were caught out. Most Finnish pilots reported that the swing was easy to control, but some of the less-experienced pilots lost fighters on startup.[17] At least 10% of all Bf 109s were lost in takeoff and landing accidents, 1,500 of which occurred between 1939 and 1941.[18]

The provision of a fixed "tall" tailwheel on some of the late G-10s and 14s and the K-series helped alleviate the problem to a large extent.[19]

Automatic leading edge slats on a Bf 109E. By using high-lift devices, the handling qualities of the Bf 109 were considerably enhanced.

Right from the inception of the design priority was given to total and easy access to the powerplant, fuselage weapons and other systems while the aircraft was operational from forward airfields. To this end, the entire engine cowling was made up of large, easily removable panels which were secured by large toggle-latches. A large panel under the wing centre-section could be removed to gain access to the L-shaped main fuel tank, which was sited partly under the cockpit floor and partly behind the rear cockpit bulkhead. Other, smaller panels gave easy access to the cooling systems and electrical equipment. The engine was held in two large, forged, magnesium alloy Y-shaped legs which were cantilevered from the main firewall/bulkhead. Each of the legs was secured by two quick-release screw fittings on the main firewall. All of the main pipe connections were colour-coded and grouped in one place, where possible, and the electrical equipment plugged into junction boxes mounted on the firewall. The entire powerplant could be removed or replaced as a unit in a matter of minutes.[16]

An aspect of this construction technique was the use of a single, I-section main spar in the wing, mounted close to the leading edge, thus forming a stiff D-shaped torsion box. Most aircraft of the era used two spars, near the front and rear edges of the wings, but the D-box was much stiffer torsionally, and eliminated the need for the rear spar. The wing profile was somewhere between NACA 2314 and 2315, with a thickness to chord ratio of 14.5%. Another major difference was the higher wing loading than the competing designs. While the R-IV contract called for a wing loading of less than 100 kg/m2, Messerschmitt felt this was unreasonable; with the engines available to them, the fighter would end up slower than the bombers it was tasked with catching. Since the fighter was being designed primarily for high-speed flight, a smaller wing area would be optimal for achieving high level speeds, but the downside of such a trade-off was that low-speed flight would suffer, as the smaller wing would require more airflow to generate enough lift to stay flying. To compensate for this, the Bf 109 included advanced high-lift devices on the wings, including automatically opening leading edge slats, and fairly large camber-changing flaps on the trailing edge. The slats alone increased the overall lift of the wing by up to 12.5% when deployed[20], greatly improving the horizontal turning capability of the aircraft, so much so, in fact, that several Luftwaffe veterans, such as Erwin Leykauf, hard-headedly attest that it even rivalled the British Spitfire in this department[21]. Messerschmitt also included ailerons (and later radiator flaps) that "drooped" when the flaps were lowered thereby increasing the effective flap area. When deployed, these devices effectively increased the wings' coefficient of lift, making the Bf-109 perform a lot better at slow speeds and high angles of attack than the relatively high wing loading would otherwise suggest.[22]Another advantage of the Bf 109 was that the two water radiators were equipped with a blocking system: if one radiator leaked, it was possible to fly on the second or close both radiators down and fly at least five minutes more. [23]

Armament and gondola cannons

A cannon-armed Bf 109E, showing the 20 mm MG FF installations in the wing to good effect

Reflecting Messerschmitt's belief in low-weight, low-drag, simple monoplanes, the armament was placed in the fuselage: two synchronized machine guns, just as in a typical biplane fighter like the Albatros D.Va, were mounted in the cowling, firing over the top of the engine and through the propeller arc. As an alternative, a single high-performance cannon (or 'shell-gun', as sometimes referred in the 1930s) firing through the cylinder banks through a blast tube, with the engine buffering the recoil was considered from the start.[5] This was also the choice of armament layout on some contemporary French monoplane fighters, such as the Dewoitine D.520.[nb 3] Conforming to Prof. Messerschmitt's ethos, this kept his gun-free wings very thin and lightweight.

When it was discovered in 1937 that the RAF was planning eight-gun batteries for its new monoplane fighters - the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire) - it became clear the Bf 109 would need to carry more weaponry; a new wing was designed to carry machine guns, and later, 20 mm MG FF cannon configurations. The problem was that when it came to fitting additional armament, the only place in which it could be located was in the wings. However, the positions of the undercarriage bays, main spar and wing slats meant that room was limited to two bays between the undercarriage and slats. There was room for only one weapon per wing, either a 7.92 mm MG 17 machine gun, or a 20 mm MG FF or MG FF/M cannon. The first version of the 109 to have wing guns was the C-1, which had one MG 17 per wing fitted in the inner bays. To avoid redesigning the wing to accommodate large ammunition boxes and access hatches, an unusual ammunition feed was devised whereby a continuous belt holding 500 rounds was fed along chutes out to the wing tips. The belt was fed around a roller and back along the wing, forward and beneath the gun breech, to the wing root where it was fed around another roller and back to the weapon. The gun barrels were buried in long, large diameter tubes between the spar and the leading edge. These tubes channelled cooling air around the barrels and breeches and out of a slot at the rear of the wing diaphragm and top of the flap. Room was still so restricted that parts of the MG 17's breech mechanism poked into an accommodating hole in the flap structure.[25] The much longer and heavier MG FF had to be mounted in the outer bay. A large hole was cut through the spar webbing to allow the cannon to be fitted with an ammunition feed forward of the spar, with the rear breech block projecting through the spar. The 60-round ammunition drum was placed in the machine-gun compartment; a small hatch incorporating a blister was needed in the wing lower surface to allow access to change the drum. The entire weapon could be removed for servicing by removing a leading edge panel.[25]

Luftwaffe ground-crew ('black men') positioning a Bf 109 G-6 'Kanonenvogel' equipped with the Rüstsatz VI underwing gondola cannon kit. Note the slats on the leading edge of the port wing. JG 2, France, autumn of 1943.

From the 109F-series onwards, guns were no longer carried inside the wings – a noteworthy exception was Adolf Galland's field-modified Bf 109 F-2, which had a 20 mm MG FF/M installed internally in each wing.[nb 4]Only some of the projected 109K-series models, such as the K-6, were designed to carry 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannons in the wings.[26]

In place of internal wing armament, additional firepower was provided through a pair of 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons in conformal gun pods, installed under the wings. Although the additional armament increased the fighter's potency as a bomber destroyer, it had an adverse affect on the handling qualities, reducing its competence in fighter-versus-fighter combat and accentuating the tendency of the fighter to swing pendulum-fashion in flight.[27] The conformal gun pods, without ammunition, weighed 135 kg (298 lb);[28] and 135 to 145 rounds were provided per gun.[28] The total weight, including ammunition, was 215 kg.[28] Installation of the underwing gun pods was a simple task that could be quickly performed by the unit's armourers, and imposed a reduction of speed of only 8 km/h (5 mph).[28] By comparison, the installed weight of a similar armament of two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon inside the wings of the FW 190A-4/U8 was 130 kg (287 lb), without ammunition.[29]

Designation and nicknames

Originally the aircraft was designated as Bf 109 by Reichsluftfahrtministerium (German Aviation Ministry, RLM), since the design was submitted by the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (literally "Bavarian Aircraft Factory") company. However, the company was renamed Messerschmitt AG after July 1938 when Erhard Milch finally allowed Willy Messerschmitt to acquire the company. Subsequently, all Messerschmitt aircraft that originated after that date, such as the Me 210, were to carry the "Me" designation. Despite regulations by the RLM, wartime documents from Messerschmitt AG, RLM and Luftwaffe loss and strength reports continued to use both designations, sometimes even on the same page.[30] All extant airframes are described as "Bf 109" on identification plates, including the final K-4 models,[31] with the noted exception of aircraft either initially built or re-fitted by Erla Flugzeugwerke, which sometimes bore the Me 109 stamping. "Me-109" is usually pronounced in German as may hundert-neun ("hundred-nine") while English-speakers usually say "emm ee one-oh-nine".

The aircraft was given several nicknames by its operators and opponents, generally derived from the name of the manufacturer (Messer, Mersu, Messzer etc.), or the external appearance of the aircraft: the G-6 variant was nicknamed by Luftwaffe personnel as Die Beule ("The bump/bulge") because of the cowling's characteristic covers for the breeches of the later Bf 109G's synchronized 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns, while Soviet aviators nicknamed it as "the skinny one" for its sleek appearance (compared to the more robust Fw 190). The names "Anton", "Bertha", "Caesar", "Dora", "Emil", "Friedrich", "Gustav" and "Kurfürst" were derived from the variant's official letter designation (i.e. Bf 109G – 'Gustav'), based on the German phonetic alphabet of World War II; a practice that was also used for other German aircraft designs.[32]

Flight records

Soon after the public debut of the new fighter, in July 1937 three Bf 109Bs took part in the Flugmeeting in Zürich. Under the command of Major Seidemann, they won in several categories: First Prize in a 202 km speed race, First prize in the Class A category in the international Alpenrundflug for military aircraft, and also victory in the international Patrouillenflug.[14] On 11 November 1937 the Bf 109 V13 flown by Messerschmitt's Chief pilot Dr. Hermann Wurster, and powered by an 1650 1,650 hp (1,230 kW) DB 601R racing engine set a new world air speed record for Landplanes with piston engines to 610.55 km/h (379.38 mph) and won the title for Germany for the first time. Converted from a Bf 109D, the "V13" had been fitted with a special racing DB 601R engine that could deliver 1,650 hp (1,230 kW) for short periods.[33][34][nb 5] Heinkel, having had the He 112 rejected began work on the He 100. On 6 June 1938, the He 100 V3, flown by Ernst Udet, established a new record of 634.7 km/h (394.4 mph), and later, on 30 March 1939, test pilot Hans Dieterle surpassed that record, reaching 746.61 km/h (463.92 mph) with the He 100 V8. Messerschmitt soon regained the lead in this race. On 26 April 1939, Flugkapitän Fritz Wendel, flying the Me 209 V1, raised the figure to 755.14 km/h (469.22 mph). This was a racing aircraft having little in common with the Bf 109, powered by the DB 601ARJ, producing 1,156 kW (1,550 hp) but capable of reaching 1,715 kW (2,300 hp). For propaganda purposes, the machine was called the Bf 109R, suggesting it was just another version of the standard fighter. This world record for a propeller-driven aircraft was to stand until 1969.[35]


Bf 109 D-1 and one C-3 of I./ZG 2, August 1939 at airfield Gross-Stein; these Jumo powered aircraft are representative of the first stages of 109 development.

When the Bf 109 was first designed in 1934, by a team led by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser[36], its primary role was that of a high-speed, short range bomber interceptor[37]. The 109 was also designed to take advantage of the most advanced aerodynamics of the time and embodied structural techniques which were an advance on its contemporaries[38]. In the years of the Blitzkrieg, the Bf 109 was the only single engined fighter operated by the Luftwaffe, until the appearance of the Fw 190.

The 109 remained in production from 1937 through to 1945 embodying many different variants and sub-variants; the primary engines were Daimler-Benz DB 601 and DB 605, with the Junkers Jumo 210 powering the most of the pre-war variants. The most produced Bf 109 model was the 109G-series; more than a third of all 109s built were the G-6 series, with some 12,000 units being manufactured from March 1943[39].

The initial production models of the A, B, C and D series were powered by the relatively low-powered, 670-700 PS Junkers Jumo 210 series engines. A handful of prototypes of these early aircraft were converted to use the more powerful DB 600.[40]

The first major redesign came with the E series, including the navalised variant of the Bf 109E, and the Bf 109T (T standing for Träger, or aircraft carrier). The Bf 109E, or 'Emil ' introduced a number of structural changes in order to accommodate the heavier, but significantly more powerful 1,100 PS Daimler-Benz DB 601 engine, the heavier armament and increased fuel capacity. Later variants of the Es introduced a fuselage bomb rack or provision for a long-range drop-tank, and used the DB 601N engine of higher power output.[41] The 109E first saw service with the "Condor Legion" during the last phase of the Spanish Civil War and was the mainstay variant at the start of World War II through until mid-1941 when the 109F replaced it in the pure fighter role in Luftwaffe service.[42] Eight 109Es were assembled in Switzerland in 1946 by the Dornier-Werke, using licence built airframes; a ninth airframe was assembled using spare parts.[43]

The second major redesign during 1939-40 gave birth to the F series. The 'Friedrich' saw a complete redesign of the wings, the cooling system and fuselage aerodynamics, and was powered by the 1,175 PS DB 601N (F-1, F-2) or the 1,350 PS DB 601E (F-3, F-4). Considered by many as the high watermark of the Bf 109 development, the F series abandonded the wing cannon and concentrated all armament in the forward fuselage: a pair of machine guns above and a single 15 or 20mm cannon behind the engine, the latter firing between the cylinder banks and through the propeller hub and spinner. This configuration was used by all subsequent variants. A handful of Bf 109Fs were used operationally late in the Battle of Britain in 1940, but only become widespread in service in the first half of 1941, replacing the 109E.[44]

The G series, or 'Gustav' , was introduced in mid-1942 in its initial variants (G-1 through G-4) differed only in minor details from the Bf 109F, most notably in being powered by the more powerful 1475 PS DB 605 engine. Odd numbered variants were built with a pressurised cockpit and GM-1 boost as high altitude fighters, while even numbered variants were non-pressurized air superiority fighters and fighter bombers. Long-range photo-reconnaissance variants also existed. The later G series (G-5 through G-14) was produced in a multitude of variants, with uprated armament and provision for a number of kits of pre-packaged parts known as Umrüst-Bausätze, usually contracted to Umbau and given a "/U" suffix. Field kits known as Rüstsätze were also available for the G-series but those did not change the aircraft designation. By early 1944 tactical requirements resulted in the addition of MW-50 water injection boost and high performance superchargers, boosting engine output to 1,800-2,000 PS. From early 1944 a number of G-2s, G-3s, G-4s and G-6s were converted to two seat trainers, known as the G-12. The instructer's cockpit was added behind the original cockpit and both were covered by an elongated, glazed canopy.[45]

The final production version of the Bf 109 was the K series, or 'Kurfürst' , powered by the DB 605D engine with up to 2,000 PS output, and introduced in the autumn of 1944. Though externally akin to the late production Bf 109G series, a large number of detail internal and aerodynamic improvements were incorporated to the design that improved its effectiveness and remedied existing flaws, keeping the fighter competitive with the latest Allied and Soviet fighters.[4][46]

Post-war the 109 was built in Czechoslovakia, as the Avia S-99 and S-199 and in Spain as the Hispano Aviación Ha 1109 and 1112[47]


Total Bf 109 production was 33,984 units;[1] Wartime production (September 1939 to May 1945) was 30,573 units. Fighter production totalled 47% of all German aircraft production, and the Bf 109 accounted for 57% of all German fighter types produced.[48] A total of 2,193 Bf 109 A–E were built prewar, from 1936 to August 1939.

Some 865 Bf 109G derivatives were manufactured postwar under licence as Czechoslovakian-built Avia S-99 & S-199s, with the production ending in 1948.[2] Production of the Spanish -built Hispano Aviación HA-1109 and HA-1112 Buchons ended in 1958.[2]

New production Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, 1936–1945.[49]

Assembly of Bf 109G-6s in a German aircraft factory.
Factory, location Up to 1939 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945* Totals*
Messerschmitt, Regensburg 203 486 2,164 6,329 1,241 10,423
Arado, Warnemünde 370 370
Erla, Leipzig 683 875 2,015 4,472 1,018 9,063
Fieseler, Kassel 155 155
W.N.F., Wiener Neustadt 836 1,297 2,200 3,081 541 7,892
Győri Wagon- és Gépgyár, Győr 39 270 309
Ago, Oschersleben 381 381
Totals 1,860 1,540 1,868 2,628 2,658 6,418 14,152 2,800 33,984

* Production up to end of March 1945 only.

Operational history

The first Bf 109As saw service in the Spanish Civil War. By September 1939, the Bf 109 became the mainstay fighter of the Luftwaffe by World War II, replacing the biplane fighters, and was instrumental in gaining air superiority for the Wehrmacht during the Blitzkrieg. During the Battle of Britain the type was pressed into new roles as an escort fighter, a role it was not originally designed for, and was widely employed as a fighter-bomber as well as for photo-reconnaissance. Despite mixed results over Britain, with the introduction of the improved Bf 109F into widespread operational service in the spring of 1941, the type proved again to be an effective fighter during the Invasion of Yugoslavia, the Battle of Crete and Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the USSR and during the Siege of Malta.

In 1942, it began to be partially replaced by the new German fighter, the Fw 190 in Western Europe, but it continued to serve in a multitude of roles on the Eastern Front and in the Defense of the Reich, as well as in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations Erwin Rommel's Afrikakorps. It was also supplied to several of the Germany's allies, including Finland, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Slovakia.

The Bf 109 was credited with more aerial kills than any other aircraft. One hundred and five (possibly 109) Bf 109 pilots were credited with the destruction of 100 or more enemy aircraft. Thirteen of these men scored more than 200 kills, while two scored more than 300. Altogether this group were credited with nearly 15,000 kills between them.[50] Official ace status was granted to any pilot who scored five or more kills. Applying this to Luftwaffe fighter pilots and their records reveals that "Ace" status belonged to more than 2,500 German pilots.[51] Against Soviets, the Finnish-flown Bf 109Gs claimed a victory ratio of 25:1 in favour of the Finns.[52]

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


Croatia Independent State of Croatia
  • Luftwaffe was the main operator of the Bf 109.
Italy Italian Social Republic
  • Royal Romanian Air Force operated 50 E-3/4s, 19 E-7s, two F-2s, five F-4s and at least 235+ G-2/G-4/G-6/-8s plus 75 IAR built 109G-6a.
  • Czechoslovakian Air Force - operated captured aircrafts and continued building Messerschmitt Bf 109Gs after the war under the Avia S-99 name, but soon ran out of the 109's Daimler-Benz DB 605 engine after many were destroyed during a explosion at a warehouse in Krásné Březno.
Slovakia Slovak Republic
Spain Spanish State
  • Spanish Air Force operated some D-1s, E-3s and 15 F-4s, and may have received several older B-types. Volunteers of Escuadrilla Azul on the Eastern Front operated E-4, E-7, E-7/B, F-2, F-4 (belonged in JG-27 under the command of Luftflotte 2,until April 1943) among G-4 and G-6 (detached in JG-51 under the command Luftflotte 4, until June 1944)
  • Swiss Air Force operated 10 D-1s, 89 E-3a variants, two F-4s and 14 G-6s.
  • Israeli Air Force operated the Avia S-199 derivative, bought from Czechoslovakia. Despite the types shortcomings the Israeli scored 8 victories. Egypt and Syria claimed four S-199 kills, and one probable.[53]

Aircraft on display

Specifications (Bf 109 G-6)

Orthographically projected diagram of the Bf 109 G-6.

Data from The Great Book of Fighters[55] and the Finnish Air Force Bf 109 Manual

General characteristics

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



  • Guns:
    • 2 × 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns with 300 rounds per gun
    • 1 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon as Motorkanone with 200 rpg. G-6/U4 variant: 1 × 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannon as Motorkanone with 65 rpg
    • 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 underwing cannon pods with 135 rpg (optional kit - Rüstsatz VI)
  • Rockets: 2 × 21 cm (8 in) Wfr. Gr. 21 rockets (G-6 with BR21)
  • Bombs: 1 × 250 kg (551 lb) bomb or 4 × 50 kg (110 lb) bombs or 1 × 300 litres (79 USgal)


  • FuG 16Z radio

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists



  1. ^ Hans Hackman, a close friend of Milch, was killed testing the prototype Messerschmitt M20 light transport aircraft, after the M20 proved a disaster in Lufthansa use.
  2. ^ This aircraft was instrumental in testing the Roll-Royce PV-12, later to become the Rolls-Royce Merlin
  3. ^ British reports on captured DB 601 series engines describe "a double walled cannon tube housing" as part of the crankcase. Few if any Bf 109s used weapons firing through the propeller hub until the Bf 109 F-series, which used 15 mm (.59 in) and 20 mm weapons.[24]
  4. ^ Galland flew another F-2/U1 which had the MG 17s above the engine replaced by 13 mm MG 131s
  5. ^ World Speed Records and other aviation records were and still are set by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). A record needs to be set over a recognised course at a set altitude to be valid. The Bf 109 and 209s came under the category "CLASS C, GROUP 1d""FAI record (current)." Retrieved: 29 April 2008.


  1. ^ a b c U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, Aircraft Division Industry Report, Exhibit I - German Airplane Programs vs Actual Production.
  2. ^ a b c d Nowarra 1993, p. 189.
  3. ^ "Luftwaffe Aces of the Western Front." Retrieved: 2 January 2010.
  4. ^ a b Radinger and Otto 1999, pp. 35–37.
  5. ^ a b Zobel and Mathmann 1995, p. 3.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Ritger 2006, p. 6.
  7. ^ Kobel and Mathmann 1997, p. 3.
  8. ^ Beaman and Campbell 1980, p. 13.
  9. ^ Green 1980, pp. 18–21.
  10. ^ Green 1980, p. 14.
  11. ^ Caidin 1968
  12. ^ Green 1980, pp. 15–17.
  13. ^ Feist 1993, p. 14.
  14. ^ a b Nowarra 1993, p. 190.
  15. ^ Cross and Scarborough 1976, pp. 56–66.
  16. ^ a b Cross and Scarborough 1976, pp. 60–61.
  17. ^ a b Hannu Valtonen — Messerschmitt Bf 109 ja saksan sotatalous
  18. ^ Boyne 1994, p. 30.
  19. ^ Radinger and Otto 1999, p. 36.
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Aerodynamic Devices.", 2003. Retrieved: 3 November 2009.
  23. ^ Drabkin 2007, p. 74.
  24. ^ Cross and Scarborough 1976, p. 74.
  25. ^ a b Cross and Scarborough 1976, p. 15.
  26. ^ Prien and Rodeike 1995, p. 177.
  27. ^ Green 1980, p. 88.
  28. ^ a b c d Randinger and Otto 1999, p. 21.
  29. ^ Hahn 1963, p. 35.
  30. ^ "Lynn Ritger, The 109 Lair: Bf or Me 109? Which is correct?" Retrieved: 3 January 2010.
  31. ^ Prien and Rodeike 1995, pp. 167–176.
  32. ^ "German phonetic alphabet of World War II." Retrieved: 2 January 2010.
  33. ^ Feist 1993, p. 21.
  34. ^ Nowarra 1993, p. 193.
  35. ^ Feist 1993, p. 22.
  36. ^ Green 1980, p.7.
  37. ^ Cross and Swanborough 1972, pp. 7–8.
  38. ^ Green 1980, p. 8.
  39. ^ Prien and Rodeike 1996, pp. 99–100, 113–114.
  40. ^ Green 1980, pp. 29–34, 41.
  41. ^ Green 1980, pp. 41–45, 63–64, 76–81, 82–83.
  42. ^ Green 1980, pp. 38-39, 80.
  43. ^ Green 1980, p. 78.
  44. ^ Prien and Rodeike 1996, pp. 9-25.
  45. ^ Prien and Rodeike 1996, pp. 56–165.
  46. ^ Prien and Rodeike 1996, pp. 166-174.
  47. ^ Green 1980, pp. 131–138.
  48. ^ Feist 1993, p. 45.
  49. ^ U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, Aircraft Division Industry Report. Exhibit I - German Airplane Programs vs Actual Production.
  50. ^ Feist 1993, p. 50.
  51. ^ Feist 1993, p. 51.
  52. ^ Neulen 2000, p. 217.
  53. ^ "List of Israeli Air-to-Air Victories 1948-1966." Retrieved: 2 January 2010.
  54. ^ "Royal Air Force Museum - Bf 109-G2." Retrieved: 31 December 2009.
  55. ^ Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. The Great Book of Fighters. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-7603-1194-3.


  • Beaman, John R. Jr. and Jerry L. Campbell. Messerschmitt Bf 109 in action, Part 1. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1980. ISBN 0-89747-106-7.
  • Boyne, Walter J. Clash of Wings. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994. ISBN 0-684-83915-6.
  • Burke, Stephen. Without Wings: The Story of Hitler's Aircraft Carrier. Oxford, UK: Trafford Publishing, 2007. ISBN 1-42512-216-7.
  • Caidin, Martin. Me 109 - Willy Messerschmitt's Peerless Fighter (Ballantine's illustrated history of World War II. Weapons book no. 4). New York: Ballantine Books, USA, 1968. ISBN 0-345-01691-2.
  • Caldwell, Donald L. JG 26: Top Guns of the Luftwaffe. New York: Ballantine Books, 1991. ISBN 0-8041-1050-6.
  • Craig, James F. The Messerschmitt Bf.109. New York: Arco Publishing Company, 1968.
  • Cross, Roy and Gerald Scarborough. Messerschmitt Bf 109, Versions B-E. London: Patrick Stevens, 1976. ISBN 0-85059-106-6.
  • Dimensione Cielo: Caccia Assalto 3, Aerei Italiani nella 2a Guerra Mondiale (in Italian). Roma: Edizioni Bizzarri, 1972.
  • Drabkin, Artem. The Red Air Force at War: Barbarossa and the Retreat to Moscow – Recollections of Fighter Pilots on the Eastern Front. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword Military, 2007. ISBN 1-84415-563-3.
  • Ebert, Hans A., Johann B. Kaiser and Klaus Peters. Willy Messerschmitt: Pioneer of Aviation (The History of German Aviation Design). Atglen, PA: Schiffer Books, 2000. ISBN 0-7643-0727-4.
  • Feist, Uwe. The Fighting Me 109. London: Arms and Armour Press, 1993, ISBN 1-85409-209-X.
  • Fernández-Sommerau, Marco. Messerschmitt Bf 109 Recognition Manual. Hersham, Surrey, UK: Classic Publications, 2004. ISBN 1-903223-27-X.
  • Glancey, Jonathan. Spitfire: The Illustrated Biography. London: Atlantic Books, 2006. ISBN 978-1-84354-528-6.
  • Green, William. Messerschmitt Bf 109: The Augsburg Eagle; A Documentary History. London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishing Group Ltd., 1980. ISBN 0-7106-0005-4.
  • Griehl, Manfred. Das geheime Typenbuch der deutschen Luftwaffe: Geheime Kommandosache 8531/44 gKdos (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas Verlag, 2004. ISBN 978-3790907759.
  • Hitchcock, Thomas H. Messerschmitt 'O-Nine' Gallery. Chicago: Monogram Aviation Publications, 1973. ISBN 978-0914144007.
  • Hooton, Edward R. Blitzkrieg in the West, 1939 -1940 (Luftwaffe at War: 2). Hersham, Surrey, UK: Midland Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-85780-272-6.
  • Kobel, Franz and Jakob Maria Mathmann. Bf 109. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 1997. ISBN 0-88740-919-8.
  • Mankau, Heinz and Peter Petrick. Messerschmitt Bf 110, Me 210, Me 410. Raumfahrt, Germany: Aviatic Verlag, 2001. ISBN 3-92550-562-8.
  • Marshall, Francis L. Messerschmitt Bf 109T "Die Jäger der Graf Zeppelin". Gilching, Germany: Marshall-Verlag, 2002. ISBN 3-0000-8220-4.
  • Marshall, Francis L. Sea Eagles - The Messerschmitt Bf 109T. Walton on Thames, Surrey, UK: Air Research Publications, 1994. ISBN 1-871187-230.
  • Mason, Francis K. Messerschmitt Bf 109B, C, D, E in Luftwaffe & Foreign service. London, UK: Osprey Publishing Limited, 1973. ISBN 0-85045-152-3.
  • Massimello, Giovanni and Giorgio Apostolo. Italian Aces of World War Two. Oxford/New York, Osprey Publishing, 2000. ISBN 978-1-84176-078-0.
  • Mermet, Jean-Claude. Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-1 through K-4. Engines and Fittings. Marnaz, France: Jean Claude Mermet SA, 1999.
  • Messerschmitt AG. Messerschmitt Bf 109G; technisch Kompendium, Handbücher, Ersatztelliste, Bewaffnung Bedienungsvorschrift/Fl, Bordfunkanlage, Lehrbildreihe; 1942/1944. [Elektronische Resource] (Reprint) Ludwigsburg, Germany: Luftfahrt-Archiv, 2006. ISBN 3-939847-13-5 .
  • Messerschmitt AG. Messerschmitt Bf 109K; technisch Kompendium, Handbüch, Ersatztelliste, Rep.-Answeisung, Bewaffnung Bedienungsvorschrift; 1943-1944. [Elektronische Resource] (Reprint). Ludwigsburg, Germany: Luftfahrt-Archiv, 2006. ISBN 3-939847-14-3.
  • Morgan, Eric B and Edward Shacklady. Spitfire: The History. Stamford: Key Books Ltd, 2000. ISBN 0-946219-48-6.
  • Neulen, Hans Werner. In the Skies of Europe. Ramsbury, Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press, 2000. ISBN 1-86126-799-1.
  • Nowarra, Heinz. Die Deutsche Luftrustung 1933-1945, Band 3: Flugzeugtypen Henschel - Messerschmitt. Koblenz, Germany: Bernard & Graefe, 1993. ISBN 3-7637-5467-9.
  • Osché, Philippe (translated by Patrick Laureau). The Messerschmitt Bf 109 in Swiss Service. Boulogne sur Mer, France: Lela Presse, 1996. ISBN 2-91401-731-6.
  • Prien, Jochen and Peter Rodeike. Messerschmitt Bf 109 F, G & K Series – An Illustrated Study. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1995. ISBN 0-88740-424-3.
  • Price, Alfred. Spitfire Mk. I/II Aces (Osprey's Aircraft of the Aces). London: Osprey, 1996. ISBN 84-8372-207-0.
  • Punka, György. "A Messzer": Bf 109s in the Royal Hungarian "Honvéd" Air Force. Budapest, Hungary: OMIKK, 1995. ISBN 963-593-208-1.
  • Radinger, Willy and Walter Schick. Messerschmitt Me 109 (Alle Varianten: vion Bf (Me) 109A bis Me 109E). Oberhaching, Germany: Aviatic Verlag GmbH, 1997. ISBN 3-925505-32-6.
  • Radinger, Willy and Wolgang Otto. Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-K – Development, testing, production. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1999. ISBN 0-7643-1023-2.
  • Rimmell, Ray. ME 109: Messerschmitt Bf 109E. Chipping Ongar, Essex, UK: Linewrights Ltd., 1986. ISBN 0-946958-18-1.
  • Ritger, Lynn. Meserschmitt Bf 109 Prototype to 'E' Variants. Bedford, UK: SAM Publications, 2006. ISBN 978-0955185809.
  • Savic, D. and B. Ciglic. Croatian Aces of World War II (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 49). Oxford, UK: Oxford, 2002. ISBN 1-84176-435-3.
  • Scutts, Jerry. Bf 109 Aces of North Africa and the Mediterranean. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1-85532-448-2, ISBN 978-1-85532-448-0.
  • Shores, C., B. Cull and N. Malizia. Air War for Yugoslavia, Greece & Crete – 1940-41. London: Grub Street, 1987. ISBN 0-948817-07-0.
  • Starr, Chris. "Developing Power: Daimler-Benz and the Messerschmitt Bf 109." Aeroplane magazine, Volume 33, No. 5, Issue No 385, May 2005. London: IPC Media Ltd.
  • Stenman, Kari and Kalevi Keskinen. Finnish Aces of World War 2 (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 23). London: Osprey Publishing Limited, 1998. ISBN 1-85532-783-X.
  • Taylor, John W.R. "Messerschmitt Bf 109." Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
  • Thompson, J. Steve with Peter. C Smith. ‘’Air Combat Manoeuvres’’. Hersham, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-1-903223-98-7.
  • U.S. Army Air Force. German Aircraft and Armament: Informational Intelligence, Summary No. 44-32, October 1944 (Informational Intelligence Summary). New York: Brassey's Inc., 2000 (first edition 1944). ISBN 1-57488-291-0.
  • Valtonen, Hannu. Messerschmitt Bf 109 ja saksan sotatalous (Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the German War Economy). Helsinki, Finland: Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo (Central Finnish Aviation Museum), 1999. ISBN 978-9-51956-887-4.
  • Vogt, Harald. Messerschmitt Bf 109 G/K Rüstsatze. Flugzeug Profile 21. Illertissen, Flugzeug Publikations GmbH.
  • Wagner, Ray and Heinz Nowarra. German Combat Planes: A Comprehensive Survey and History of the Development of German Military Aircraft from 1914 to 1945. New York: Doubleday, 1971.
  • Weal, John. Bf 109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford: Osprey, 2001. ISBN 978-1-8417-6084-1.
  • Weal, John. BF 109D/E Aces 1939-41. Oxford: Osprey, 1996. ISBN 978-1-85532-487-9.
  • Weal, John. Bf 109F/G/K Aces of the Western Front. Oxford: Osprey, 2000. ISBN 978-1-8-5532-905-8.
  • Winchester, Jim. "Messerschmitt Bf 109." Aircraft of World War II: The Aviation Factfile. Kent, UK: Grange Books plc, 2004. ISBN 1-84013-639-1.

Further reading

  • Beale, Nick, Ferdinando D'Amico and Gabriele Valentini. Air War Italy: Axis Air Forces from Liberation of Rome to the Surrender. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife, 1996. ISBN 1-85310-252-0.
  • Bergström, Christer. Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July-December 1941. London: Chevron/Ian Allen, 2007. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2.
  • Bergström, Christer and Martin Pegg. Jagdwaffe:The War in Russia, January-October 1942. Luftwaffe Colours, Volume 3 Section 4. London: Classic Colours Publications, 2003. ISBN 1-903223-23-7.

External links

Simple English

[[File: |thumb|left|180px|The Bf 109.]]

The Bf 109 was a fighter aircraft made by Messerschmitt. It first flew in 1935, and was mainly used by the Luftwaffe during the World War II. It is the most made fighter airplane in history.

Other pages


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address