- Manufacturer: Messerschmitt A.G.
- Country: Germany.
- Aircrft type: fighter and fighter bomber.
- Pilot accomodation: enclosed cockpit.
- Service entry: 1937.
- Retired: 1967.
Specifications: Bf 109G-6.
Operational equipment: standard communications equipment and a Revi C/12D aim.
1x 30mm MK 108 with 60 bullets or one fast firing 20mm MG 151/20 with 150 bullets, both firing through the propeller cone.
2x 13mm MG 131 with 300 bullets each installed on the engine cowling, syncronized to fire through the propeller arc.
A reinforced point under the fuselage for a 250kg bomb or, generally, a fuel tank.
Engine: One Daimler Benz DB 605AM inverted V piston engine, rated at 1475hp on takeoff and 1355hp at 5700m.
Internal: 400 litres.
External fuel tank: 300 litres.
- Empty: 2673kg.
- Normal takeoff weight: 3148kg.
- Maximum takeoff weight: 3400kg.
- Maximum speed clean: 621km/h at 6900m.
- Maximum speed at sea level: 547km/h.
- Crusing speed: 531km/h at 5800m.
- Maximum range with external fuel tank: 1000km.
- Maximum range with internal fuel tank: 563km.
- Climb rate at sea level: 1020 metres/minute. 6 minutes to reach 5700m.
- Service ceiling: 11548m.
The origins of the Bf 109 go back to 1933, in a bitter rivalry between Erhard Milch, Secretary of Aviation, and Willy Messerschmitt. This rivalry originated in 1929 when Milch, as Lufthansa´s director, cancelled an order for 20 M-20Bs of the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW), aircraft which were almost ready, and wanted the deposit back. BFW couldn´t return the payment and was forced to declare itself in bankruptcy, situation in which it re-emerged with difficulty thanks to the decision of Milch (subordinated to Hermann Göering) that the company should only manufacture other aircraft under license. Messerschmitt was decided to keep making aircraft of its own design and, in the absense of German orders, began to promote BFW to foreign buyers. This move incited interest on Romanian clients, but the success of it was punished by Milch (who was backed by the German Air Ministry/GAM), under the argument of concentrating of foreign orders and not on German orders. The reaction was the one expected by Messerschmitt and his co-directo, Rokan Kokothaki, which gave them the opportunity to publicly declare that they were looking for foreign orders because they couldn´t secure orders on the domestic market.
This forced the hand of the German Air Ministry, and ordered Messerschmitt to complete 6 of its M-37 aircraft under the name Bf 108, and sign it up for the 4th International Turism Competition in Zürich, which took place between August and September of 1934.
Even though several pilots and the German Air Ministry, complained about the Bf 108A being dangerous, and had one accident, Messerschmitt could prove that its design was structurally and aerodinamically safe.
On the 1934 competition, the Bf 108A got the 5th and 6th positions, but the most important thing was, it was the fastest aircraft in the competition thanks to its clean and cantilever low wing design and retractable landing gear. Messerschmitt had hired engineer Walther Rethel as Chief Engineer, and was under this direction that the Bf 108A was transformed into the Bf 108B “Taifun” (Typhoon) of 4 seats, which began to receive orders.
Meanwhile, the two men (Messerschmitt and Rethel) worked together in a preliminar design of a single seat, single engined fighter after the GAM was forced to include BFW, together with Arado, Focke Wulf and Heinkel, in the competition for the Luftwaffe´s first modern fighter. The design received the designation Bf 109, keeping the Bf 108´s low wing cantilever design, together with many more improvements.
In historical terms, the Bf 109 was an important development, because it included in one fuselage characteristics that may have appeared by one or two on other aircraft. These were: a metalic structure (used for the first time on the Dornier Do H “Falke” fighter), stressed metal skinning (used for the first time on the Short Silver Streak of 1920), a metal semi-monocoque fuselage structure (used in several 1920 fighters), leading edge slats and trailing edge flaps (used for the first time on the Handley Page H.P 21 of 1923), and the combination of an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear (used on Grumman fighters of the 1930s). Combined on the Bf 109, it gave the aircraft an elegant design and oval-shaped fuselage, with a side-hinged canopy whose rear edge was faired into the upper line of the raised rear fuselage, a plain tail unit with a strut-braced horizontal surface located about one quarter of the way up the vertical surface, and a cantilever low-set wing that was dihedraled and also tapered in thickness and chord. Other features included an armamanet of 2x 7,92mm MG 17 installed on the engine cowling and syncronized to fire through the propeller arc, prevision for the instalation of two new in-development V engines of 12 cylinders, the Daimler Benz DB 600 and the Junkers Jumo 210.
Bf 109V1(A): The constrution of the prototype aircraft began at the end of 1934, and the Bf 109V1 (Bf 109A) made its first flight on September of 1935 using (due to the lack of Junkers Jumo 210) a Rolls Royce Kestrel engine in V, rated at 695hp for takeoff and 640hp at 4267m, using two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller Schwarz. After completing factory trials, the Bf 109V1 was taken for official trials, but it was met with a lot of resistance from other pilots, who complained about how high the nose of the aircraft was, its high wing load, and narrow landing gear.
With the Arado Ar 80V1 and Focke Wulf Fw 159V1 eliminated from the competence. The remaining aircraft, the He 112 V1, emerged as a favourite for the pilots, even though the Bf 109V1 reached a maximum leveled speed of 465km/h 17% faster, adding to that its higher climb speed and fast diving speeds. Against these obvious advantages, pilots preferred the He 112V1 due to its wide landing gear, excellent field of vision when taking off and landing, and low wing load.
**Bf 109V2:**The V1 was joined by the V2, with the inverted V Junkers Jumo 210 engine, rated at 610hp at takeoff.
Bf 109V3: The V1 and V2 were soon joined by the V3, which was different from the V2 on the inclusion of two MG 17 machineguns in the cowling. 10 pre-production aircraft followed and, when the final showdown between the He 112 and Bf 109 took place, BFW´s fighter emerged as the favourite, and was granted the authorization to be massively produced after the competition.
Bf 109B-1 The Bf 109 entered production during the Autumn of 1936. By then, BFW had been reorginized into the Messerschmitt A.G, and the first operational variant entered service in April 1937. It was planned that the type should enter service with the Second Group of the 132nd Fighter Wing (2/JG 132) “Richtofen” in Germany, but by that time, the Soviet Union had supplied the Spanish Republican forces with the biplane Polikarpov I-15 and monoplane Polikarpov I-16. Both fighters had shown a superior performance to the Luftwaffe´s current Heinkel He 51, which equipped the Fighter Group 88 (Jagdgruppe 88) of the Condor Legion.
After a fast conversion to the new machine, 2/JG 132 personnel was sent to Spain, enjoying a huge superiority over the I-15s and I-16s, superiority maintained when following versions of the Bf 109 were introduced.
Bf 109B-2: Following versions included the B-2, which originally used the fixed-pitch two bladed propeller, later replaced with the three-bladed and constant speed VDM (Hamilton Standard) propeller.
Bf 109C-1: The main modifications of this variant were the inclusion of a deeper radiator intake under the forward fuselage to include the inverted-V Junkers Jumo 210Ga engine and 4x 7,92mm MG 17 machineguns, two installed on the engine cowling and syncronized to fire through the propeller arc with 500 bullets each, and two on the wings, with 420 bullets each.
Bf 109C-2 The first variant to not see service in the Spanish Civil War, the C-2 equipped again the engine machinegun, which fired between its cylinders, having a total of 5 machineguns. It was supposed to replace the C-3.
Bf 109C-3: The same as the C-2, but it replaced the engine mounted machinegun for a 20mm MG FF/M cannon. The small quantity of produced aircraft were used for different purposes.
Bf 109D-0: The next variant to appear was the D, which was considered as an interim type while the definitive model, the Bf 109E with an inverted V engine DB 601, was finished. The D was powered by a Daimler Benz DB 600Aa engine in inverted V, rated at 986hp for takeoff and 910hp at 4000m, offering a superior performance against the Jumo 210 powering the Bf 109B and C. After some machines, the production moved to the D-1.
Bf 109D-1: The only D subvariant, in had reinforced wings, reinforced landing gear joints to the fuselage and an armamento of 1x 20mm MG FF/M cannon firing through the propeller with 160 bullets and 2x 7,92mm MG 17 machineguns syncronized to fire through the propeller arc with 500 bullets each.
The cannon was an average weapon, and was often removed in favour for an incresed ammount of bullets for both machineguns (1000 for each).
Bf 109D-2: It would have included 2x 7,92mm MG 17s on the wings.
Bf 109D-3: The same as the D-2. It would have included two MG FF cannons. None of the two subvariants entered production because the German Air Ministry decided to concentrate on the Bf 109E, Germany´s most important fighter at the beginning of WW2.
Next: variants Bf 109E to F.
Bf 109B (Condor Legion):