Bf-109, Messerschmitt (Me 109)

Bf 109 Messerschmitt / Me109

The Bf109 was the Luftwaffe's standard fighter throughout WWII, and the production of the Bf 109 was larger than that of any other fighter. It was a quite revolutionary design, the smallest aircraft that could be built around a powerful engine. Advantages were good performance and handling, and a simple construction; disadvantages were restricted vision, bad landing characteristics, and the inability to carry heavy armament without adverse affects on handling. The E was one of the best fighters in the world, on a par with the Spitfire; the F was a fine fighter with limited armament; the G suffered from detoriated handling. The K was the last series-produced model. Some extreme developments, elongated, with longer wings and Jumo engines, never reached service. Projects to replace the 109 all failed. Approx 35000 built. Czechoslovakaia and Spain continued production of developments after WWII.

Messerschmitt Bf-109

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt in the early 1930s. It was the first true modern fighter of the era, including such features as an all-metal monocoque construction, a closed canopy, and retractable landing gear.

The Bf 109 was the standard fighter of the Luftwaffe during much of World War Two, although it began to be partially replaced by the Focke-Wulf Fw-190 from 1942. The Bf 109 scored more aircraft kills in World War Two than any other Axis aircraft, and at various times served as an air superiority fighter, an escort fighter, an interceptor, a ground-attack aircraft and a reconnaissance aircraft. The Bf 109 was also produced in greater quantities than any other Axis aircraft of the war and is the most produced fighter aircraft in history, with over 31,000 units built. Although the Bf 109 had some weaknesses, including a short range and troublesome landing gear, it stayed competitive with Allied fighter aircraft until the end of the war.


Bf 109 was the official Reichsluftfahrtministerium (the German Air Ministry) designation, since the design was sent in by the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke company. Because the company was renamed to Messerschmitt, some late-war aircraft actually carried the Me 109 designation stamped onto their aircraft type plates. Me 109 was the name used officially by the Luftwaffe propaganda publications as well as by the Messerschmitt company and the Luftwaffe personnel, who pronounced it 'may hundred-nine'. ME 109 (pronounced 'emm ee one-oh-nine') was the contemporary English interpretation of the designation. However, in both wartime and contemporary literature, both the "Bf" and "Me" prefixes are used, and both are considered valid and accurate.

Design Features

Messerschmitt had already designed much of the Bf 109 by this point. Like the Bf 108, the new design was based on Messerschmitt's "lightweight construction", which essentially aimed to reduce the total number of strong parts in the aircraft as much as possible. One of the more notable examples of this was the mounting of all structural points to a strong firewall at the front of the cockpit, including the wing spars, engine mounts and landing gear. In more conventional designs these would be mounted to different points on the aircraft, with a framework distributing the load among them.

Another notable advantage of this design was that, since the landing gear was attached to the fuselage itself, it was possible to completely remove the wings of the aircraft for major servicing, if necessary, leaving the fuselage intact sitting on the landing gear. However, this had one major drawback - such a landing gear arrangement ensured a very narrow track (the distance between the main tyres) which thus made the plane very unstable in terms of balance while on the ground. In fact, the Bf 109 was notoriously difficult to take off and land, and many planes simply veered off or tipped over to one side during a seemingly perfect run. To make things worse, the landing gear struts were comparatively long. This left the nose pointing up at quite a steep angle with respect to the ground, making forward visibility during taxiing virtually zero. These landing gear-related problems plagued the Bf 109 throughout its life, and accounted for a notable proportion of losses.

Another aspect of this construction technique was the use of a single box-spar in the wing, mounted near the leading edge. Most planes of the era used two spars, near the front and rear, but the box was much stiffer torsionally, and eliminated the need for the rear spar.

Another major difference was the much higher wing loading than the other designs. While the R-IV contract called for a wing loading of less than 100 kg/m², Messerschmitt felt that this was unreasonable; with the engines available to them, the fighter would end up slower than the bombers it was tasked with catching.

A wing generates two forms of drag, parasitic drag due to its form, and induced drag which is a side effect of generating lift. The former dominates at high speeds, when the airflow hitting the wing causes drag that rises with the square of the aircraft's speed. The latter dominates at lower speeds, where the lack of airflow requires the wing to be angled into the airflow at a higher angle of attack. Since the fighter was being designed primarily for high speed flight, a smaller wing would be optimized for high speed use.

The downside of such a trade-off is that low speed flight would suffer, the smaller wing would require more airflow to generate enough lift to stay flying. In order to address this, the Bf 109 included advanced high-lift devices on the wings, including automatically opening slats on the leading edge, and fairly large camber-changing flaps on the trailing edge. When deployed, these devices effectively increase the size of the wing, making it better at low speeds and high angles of attack.

Another drawback of the high wing-loading is that the plane would require more energy to maneuver. Given the limited amount of power available, this effectively meant that the Bf 109 would not be able to turn as tightly as other designs with larger wings. The high lift devices would offset this to some degree, but they also increased drag and so slowed the plane further. Given that maneuverability was last on the RLM's wish-list, Messerschmitt was certain the benefits outweighed the drawbacks.

Type: Bf 109C-1
Country: Germany
Function: fighter
Crew: 1
Year: 1938
Engines: 1 * 730hp Jumo 210Ga
Length: 8.55m
Height: 2.45m
Wing Span: 9.87 m
Wing Area: 16.17 m2
Empty Weight: 1597 kg
Max.Weight: 2296 kg
Speed: 470 km/h
Range: 625km
Armament: 4*mg 7.9 mm

Type: Bf 109E-3
Country: Germany
Function: fighter
Crew: 1
Year: 1939
Engines: 1 * 865kW Daimler-Benz DB601Aa
Length: 8.64 m
Height: 2.50 m
Wing Span: 9.87 m
Wing Area: 16.17m2
Empty Weight: 1900 kg
Max.Weight: 2665 kg
Speed: 560km/h
Ceiling: 10500m
Range: 660 km
Armament: 2*g 20 mm 2*mg 7.9 mm

Type: Bf 109G-6
Country: Germany
Function: fighter
Crew: 1
Year: 1944
Engines: 1 * 1080kW Daimler-Benz DB605AM liquid-cooled inverted V-12
Length: 8.95 m
Height: 2.60 m
Wing Span: 9.93 m
Wing Area: 16.40 m2
Wing loading: 199.8 kg/m²
Empty Weight: 2247 kg
Max.Weight: 3400 kg
Speed: 640 km/h (at 6,300 m)
Rate of climb: 17.0 m/s
Ceiling: 12000 m
Range: 850 km, with droptank 1000 km
Armament: 1*g 30 mm 2*mg 13 mm

Type: Bf 109G-10
Country: Germany
Function: fighter
Crew: 1
Year: 1944
Engines: 1 * 1080kW Daimler-Benz DB605AM
Speed: 620km/h
Ceiling: 11150 m
Range: 1000 km
Armament: 1*g 30 mm 2*mg 13 mm

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