Messerschmitt Bf 110
The Messerschmitt Bf 110
Messerschmitt Bf 110 was an aircraft of mixed success. While a failure during
the Battle of Britian as a fighter (for which it was initially designed as), it
did enjoy success in other roles. Yet, this aircraft that did not match up to
Luftwaffe expectations managed to serve Germany throughout the Second World War
in long-range escort fighter, fighter-bomber, reconnaissance, ground attack and
night fighter roles.
long-range multi-seat escort fighter is possibly the most difficult of combat
aircraft to design. Certainly no entirely successful machine in this category
emerged from the Second World War, and when Professor Willy Messerschmitt began
design studies for such a warplane towards the end of 1934 at the Bayerische
Flugzeugwerke at Augsburg his problems would have seemed insurmountable had he
possessed a full knowledge of interceptor fighter development trends abroad.
Such a machine as was required by Marshal Goering to equip the elite "Zerstorer"
formations that he envisaged had to be capable of penetrating deep into enemy
territory, possessing sufficient range to accompany bomber formations. The fuel
tankage necessary presented a serious weight penalty and called for the use of
two engines if the "Zerstorer" was to achieve a performance
approaching that of the lighter interceptor fighter by which it would be opposed.
Yet it had to be manaoeuvrable if it was to successfully fend off the enemy's
possessed no previous experience with twin-engined military aircraft when he
commenced work on the Bf 110. Indeed, his first warplane, the single seat Bf 109
, had been conceived only the previous summer. At the time, the most powerful
aero engine of national design available was the Junkers Jumo 210A of 610 hp
(455 kw). It was obvious from the outset that a pair of such engines would be
inadequate to provide the power needed for the relatively large and heavy
fighter envisaged. However, the Daimler-Benz Aktiengesellschaft was actively
engaged in developing a new 12-cylinder liquid-cooled inverted-vee engine, the
DB 600 , which held promise of 1,000 hp (746 kw) and on the premise that such
engines would be available for his prototypes, Messerschmitt began the design of
the Bf 110.
a 1934 requirement for a long range escort fighter, the first prototype Bf 110
made its initial flight on May 12, 1936. A key factor in the design was the use
of two Daimler-Benz DB 600 engines; subsequent difficulty in obtaining enough of
these to power development aircraft meant that the Bf 110 could not be tested
during the Spanish Civil War. Nevertheless, one aircraft was tested at the
Rechlin evaluation center in 1937 and proved to be very fast, although not as
manoeuvrable as hoped. Despite obvious shortcomings, the Bf 110 entered service
in 1939 as the Bf 110C, powered by two 1100 hp (820 kw) DB 601A engines.
Production was set up on a massive scale, and by the end of the year some 500 Bf
110s were flying operationally.
By the time
Germany invaded Poland on September 1,1939, ten Luftwaffe Gruppen had been
equipped with the heavy fighter. Owing to the limited aerial opposition the Bf
110C was largely employed in the ground-support role, and after the fall of
Poland little was heard of this much-vaunted machine until, on December 14,
1939, it was encountered by a formation of twelve Wellingtons over the
Heligoland Bight. But it was not until it was to come up against R.A.F. fighters
in 1940 that the Bf 110C was to receive its first real trial in combat and to be
long-range escort fighter the Bf 110C received a disastrous mauling at the hands
of the more nimble Hurricane and Spitfire during the "Battle of Britain".
Rather than protecting the bombers under escort, the Bf 110C formations usually
found that they were hard put to defend themselves, and the farcical situation
developed in which single-seat Bf 109E fighters were having to afford protection
to the escort fighters. The complete failure of the Bf 110C in the role for
which it had been conceived led to its eventual withdrawal from the Channel
coast but did not result in any reduction in its production priority.
Polish PZL fighters and other European countries the aircraft fared well, but
when used during the Battle of Britain to escort German bombers, Royal Air Force
fighters dealt heavily with the aircraft, forcing the Luftwaffe to switch to
short-range Bf 109s for escort duties. Although the Bf 110s had failed in this
primary task, production continued at a high rate; by 1945 no fewer than 6,150
had been built, ranging from Bf 110As to Gs. As later models became available,
the early Bf 110Cs and Ds were transferred to the Middle East and Eastern Front.
"C" and "D" models had almost disappeared from the European
theatre by the summer of 1941, although they were being used extensively on the
Russian front and in the Middle East. Production during 1940 had risen to 1,083
machines, but with the impending introduction of the Me 210 only 784 machines
were produced in the following year.
By the end
of 1942, in which year 580 Bf 110s were produced, production of this aircraft
had again been stepped up as, on April 17, production of the Me 210 was canceled
after numerous accidents, thus leaving a serious gap in the Luftwaffe's fighter
and fighter bomber production program. To fill the gap an improved version of
the Bf 110 was introduced, the G-series with the DB 605 engine which provided
1,475 hp (1100 kw) for take-off and 1,355 hp (1011 kw) at 18,700 feet. The
pre-production Bf 110G-0 fighter-bomber was delivered for service evaluation
late in 1942, and from early in 1943 G-series machines were encountered in
increasing numbers. Apart from its engines the first production model, the Bf
110G-1, was similar to earlier fighter-bomber variants, and the G-2 differed
principally in the armament installed: two or four 20 mm. MG 151 cannon and four
7.92 mm. MG 17 in the nose plus two 7.92 mm. MG 81 in the rear cockpit.
The Bf 110Es
were capable of carrying a respectable bomb load of 4,410 lbs (2000 kg) as
fighter-bombers, while straight fighter and reconnaissance versions were also
built. These, and later versions, were operated with a fair degree of success in
many war zones. The Bf 110F was basically similar to the E, but two new variants
were produced - the 110F-2 carrying rocket projectiles and the F-4 with two 30
mm cannon and an extra crew member for night fighting. The last version, the Bf
110G, was intended for use originally as a fighter-bomber but, in view of the
success of the F-4 and the increasingly heavy attacks on Germany by Allied
bombers, was employed mostly as a night fighter.
From time to
time Bf 110G night fighters were used on day operations. They were first
employed as close escort to the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau off the Dutch
coast and Heligoland Bight, and in the summer of 1943 they fought American
day-bomber formations whenever the latter flew unescorted. The Bf 110G groups
sustained heavy losses during these actions owing to their pilots, trained in
night-fighting tactics, going in close before attacking and being met by the
heavy defensive fire of the bombers. They were no match for American fighters
escorting American B-17 and B-24 bombers over Berlin.
It was in a
Bf 110 that Rudolf Hess, Deputy Fuhrer of Germany, flew solo to Scotland on the
night of May 10,1941, in the hope of negotiating peace terms with Britain,
without Hitler's knowledge.
Initial four pre-production aircraft with Junkers Jumo 210B engines.
Initial production version produced in sub variants Bf 110B-0 to Bf 110B-2, the Bf 110B-3 being a conversion of an earlier aircraft.
production version introducing two 1,100 hp (820 kw) Daimler-Benz DB 601A fuel injected engines. Built in sub variants Bf 110C-0 to Bf 110C-7. The Bf 110C-4 showing its capability as a fighter bomber and the Bf 110C-5 as a reconnaissance aircraft.
Production version built in sub variants Bf 110D-0 to Bf 110D-3. The Bf 110D-2 developed as a long range fighter bomber and the Bf 110D-3 for convoy escort duty.
Production version built in sub variants Bf 110F-0 to Bf 110E-3. The Bf 110E-1 and Bf 110E-2 being used as either fighter bombers or night fighters. The Bf 110E-3 was produced as a long range reconnaissance version.
A production version similar to the Bf 110E but introducing the 1,350 hp (1007 kw) DB 601F engines. Built in sub variants up the Bf 110F-4.
A production version introducing the 1,475 hp (1100 kw) Damlier-Benz DB 605B engines. Built in sub variants up the Bf 110G-4. The Bf 110G-4/R3 being produced as a radar equipped night fighter.
Seat Night Fighter
Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (after 1938 Messerschmitt AG)
Two 1,475 hp (1100 kw) Damlier-Benz DB 605B inverted V-12 piston engines.
Maximum speed 342 mph (550 km/h) at 22,900 ft (6980 m); cruising speed 317 mph
(510 km/h) at 19,685 ft (6000 m); service ceiling 26,245 ft (6780 m); initial
climb: to 18,045 ft (5500 m) in 8 minutes.
miles (2100 km) with two 66 Imperial Gallon drop tanks mounted under the wing
outboard of the engines.
Empty 11,222 lbs (5090 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 21,805 lbs (9890
Span 53 ft 3 3/4 in (16.25 m); length 42 ft 9 3/4 in (13.05 m); height 13 ft 8
1/2 in (4.18 m); wing area 413.35 sq ft (38.40 sq m).
Two 30 mm MK 108 cannon (135 rounds per gun) and two 20 mm MG 151 cannon (300
rounds (port) and 350 rounds (starboard)) in the nose, and two 20 mm MG 151
cannon in a trainable Schrage Musik mount in the rear cockpit. An option was the
installation of a Waffenwanne 151Z ventral tray, housing two forward firing 20mm
MG 151 cannon. Some aircraft had two 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 81 machine guns
instead of the two 20 mm MG 151 in the rear cockpit. A small number of aircraft
had provisions for 210 mm Wfr Gr 21 rockets under the wings. On models
designated for fighter bomber service, ETC 50 racks were installed under the
wings capable of carrying 2,645 lbs (1200 kg) of bombs.
110A-0 (three production aircraft), Bf 110B, Bf 110B-1/B-2/B-3 (initial
production), Bf 110-C, Bf 110C-1 to Bf 110C-4, Bf 110C-4/B, Bf 110C-5 (reconnaissance),
Bf 110C-6, Bf 110C-7 (fighter bomber), Bf 110D, Bf 110D-1/R-1 & Bf 110D-1/R-2
(long range escort fighters), Bf 110D-1/U-1 (night fighter), Bf 110D-2 (long
range fighter bomber), Bf 110D-3 (convoy escort), Bf 110E (pre-production), Bf
110E-1 (production aircraft), Bf 110E-2 (fighter bomber), Bf 110E-3 (long range
reconnaissance), Bf 110F (engine and armor upgrades), Bf 110F-0 to Bf 110F-1, Bf
110F-2 (converted to fire rockets but proved unsatisfactory), Bf 110F-3 to Bf
110F-4, Bf 110G, Bf 110G-0 to Bf 110G-4, Bf 110H, Bf 110G-0 to Bf 110G-4.
FuG 10P R/T Set, FuB1 2F Airfield blind approach reciever, FuG 227/1 Flensburg
Homing System (used to home in on British Monica tail warning radar emissions -
only fitted to some aircraft), FuG 212 Lichtenstien C-1 Radar, FuG 220b
Lichtenstien SN-2 Radar.
Operators: Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania.