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Weapons of World War Two

The Battle of Britain (Jul-Oct 1940)

Messerschmitt Bf 109

Version depicted: Bf 109E

Messerschmitt Bf 109E

In December 1965, the Spanish military aviation definitely retired a fighter of conventional construction which until the decade of 1950 to 1960 was built by Hispano Aviation. This way it disappeared from the scene the last descendant of one of the best fighters from the Second World War: the Messerschmitt Bf 109. And it is ironical that when it was born, in 1935, a high officer of the Luftwaffe said that that monoplane aircraft had to be fragile and poorly maneuverable; another wing plane should be added. And what was that enclosed cockpit? The pilot needs to feel the wind in the face to make a good estimation of the speed. Without any doubt, that prototype would achieve nothing good! However, 35000 exemplars would be built in eight basic versions and they would be used by all of the Axis nations as well as some others. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a monoplane aircraft fitted with low irregular wings of trapezoidal shape, totally coated with sheets of a light alloy, except in the movable surfaces, which were coated with fabric. The fuselage, of entirely metallic structure, had a body of two parts. The engine installed in the E version (that depicted in the illustration) was a Daimler Benz 601, with twelve cylinders in inverted V, which could produce a maximum power of 1000 horsepower. The pilot was protected by some steel sheets of 8 millimeters in thickness and the armored windshield of 65 millimeters in thickness. The landing gear was somewhat fragile, but one of satisfying stability. In its baptism of fire, which took place during the Spanish Civil War, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 found itself in front of distinctly inferior adversaries, as it would happen again in the campaign of France. During the Battle of Britain, however, things changed when it found a worthy antagonist: the Spitfire. It was a hard fight, for both were contenders of a high class. Maybe the Messerschmitt Bf 109 was slightly faster, but the Spitfire was more maneuverable at high speeds; besides, it fought at home, whereas the Messerschmitt Bf 109 had to calculate the necessary fuel for the return travel, which did not allow it to stay more than about half an hour in the English sky. After the "Adlertag", which ended, as it is well known, with a victory for the Royal Air Force, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 operated in every European sky as diurnal and nocturnal fighter, photographic reconnoiter, stratosferic fighter, attack aircraft and fighter-bomber, fighting to the limit of its forces. After the end of the war it had the chance to fight again when, as an irony of destiny, one of its postwar models fought within the ranks of the Israeli Air Force, along with the Spitfire, against the Arab aircraft.

Messerschmitt Bf 109E
Designer: Engineer Willy Messerschmitt

Entry into service: 1937 (Me Bf 109B); 1939 (Me Bf 109E-3); 1944 (Me Bf 109K-4)

Wingspan: 9.85 meters (Me Bf 109B and Me Bf 109E-3); 9.97 meters (Me Bf 109K-4)

Wing area: 16.17 square meters (Me Bf 109B and Me Bf 109E-3); 16.12 square meters (Me Bf 109K-4)

Length: 8.55 meters (Me Bf 109B); 8.64 meters (Me Bf 109E-3); 8.85 meters (Me Bf 109K-4)

Height: 2.45 meters (Me Bf 109B); 2.50 meters (Me Bf 109E-3 and Me Bf 109K-4)

Full load/Empty weight: 2150/1505 kilograms (Me Bf 109B); 2685/2125 kilograms (Me Bf 109E-3); 3374/2380 kilograms (Me Bf 109K-4)

Payload/Crew: 655 kilograms/1 (Me Bf 109B); 560 kilograms/1 (Me Bf 109E-3); 994 kilograms/1 (Me Bf 109K-4)

Engine (maximum power at sea level): Junkers Jumo 210Da of 720 horsepower (Me Bf 109B); Daimler Benz 601 Aa of 1175 horsepower (Me Bf 109E-3); Daimler Benz 605 ASCM of 2000 horsepower (Me Bf 109K-4)

Time to reach 6000 meters of altitude: 9 minutes 48 seconds (Me Bf 109B); 7 minutes 45 seconds (Me Bf 109E-3); 3 minutes 36 seconds (Me Bf 109K-4)

Maximum speed: 460 kilometers/hour (Me Bf 109B); 560 kilometers/hour (Me Bf 109E-3); 727 kilometers/hour (Me Bf 109K-4)

Service ceiling: 8200 meters (Me Bf 109B); 10500 meters (Me Bf 109E-3); 12500 meters (Me Bf 109K-4)

Defensive armament: Three MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns (Me Bf 109B); two MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns and two MG FF 20-millimeter cannons (Me Bf 109E-3); one MK 103 30-millimeter cannon and two MG 151/15 15-millimeter cannons (Me Bf 109K-4)

Drop armament: Many variants were fitted with wing or ventral supports for bombs, for a maximum of 500 kilograms (E type)

Operational range: 690 kilometers (Me Bf 109B); 664 kilometers (Me Bf 109E-3); 573 kilometers (Me Bf 109K-4)

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