The subsequent number of variants was enormous, spread across the entire production run from four prewar models through the E, F, G, and K series. In a combat career lasting from to , the Messerschmitt fought from Spain to Africa to Norway to Russia. Armament varied considerably, from rifle-caliber machine guns in early models to 20 and 30m cannon during the war years. From bases in northern France it had only about 20 minutes over southern England, and not even drop tanks fully redressed the original concept of a tactical support fighter.
The total production of 34, aircraft, included limited postwar construction in Czechoslovakia and Spain. Today the huge majority of airworthy Messerschmitts are Spanish derivatives, some modified with Daimler-Benz engines. Read the article from the August issue of Flight Journal. Your email address will not be published.
Profile Data. In an effort to better serve you, our reader, and ensure a rich and relevant experience please help us by completing this Flight Journal interest profile. I would like to subscribe to the Flight Journal Newsletter. Forgotten Password Cancel. Subscribe Button Subscribe. Although the additional armament increased the fighter's potency as a bomber destroyer, it had an adverse effect on the handling qualities, reducing its performance in fighter-versus-fighter combat and accentuating the tendency of the fighter to swing pendulum-fashion in flight.
All Messerschmitt aircraft that originated after that date, such as the Me , 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. All extant airframes bear the official  "Bf " designation on their identification plates, including the final K-4 models.
The aircraft was often nicknamed Messer by its operators and opponents alike; the name was not only an abbreviation of the manufacturer, but also the German word for "knife". Heinkel , having had the He rejected in the design competition of , designed and built the He On 30 March , test pilot Hans Dieterle surpassed that record, reaching For propaganda purposes, the Me V1 aircraft possibly from its post-July first flight date was given the designation Me R , with the later prefix , never used for wartime Bf fighters.
When the Bf was designed in , by a team led by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser ,  its primary role was that of a high-speed, short range interceptor. The remained in production from through in many different variants and sub-variants. The most-produced Bf model was the G series more than a third of all s built were the G-6 series, 12, units being manufactured from March until the end of the war.
A few prototypes of these early aircraft were converted to use the more powerful DB The second big redesign during —40 gave birth to the F series. The F-type also omitted the earlier stabilizer lift strut on either side of the tail. The improved aerodynamics were used by all later variants. Some Bf Fs were used late in the Battle of Britain in but the variant came into common use only in the first half of The G series , or Gustav , was introduced in mid Odd-numbered variants were built as high-altitude fighters with a pressurized cockpit and GM-1 boost, while even-numbered variants were un-pressurized, air superiority fighters and fighter-bombers.
Long-range photo-reconnaissance variants also existed. By early , tactical requirements resulted in the addition of MW water injection boost and high-performance superchargers , boosting engine output to 1,—2, PS 1,—1, HP. An instructor's cockpit was added behind the original cockpit and both were covered by an elongated, glazed canopy.
Though externally akin to the late production Bf G series, a large number of internal changes and aerodynamic improvements was incorporated that improved its effectiveness and remedied flaws, keeping it competitive with the latest Allied and Soviet fighters. Total Bf production was 33, units;  wartime production September to May was 30, units. Messerschmitt provided skilled technicians, raw materials, and tools and the SS provided prisoners, in a deal that proved highly profitable for both parties.
Bf 109 E-3
Micheln which produced Bf wings, in January After the August Regensburg raid, some Bf production was relocated to Gusen in Austria,   where the average life expectancy was six months. Many died while performing this hazardous duty. Some Bf G derivatives were manufactured postwar under licence as Czechoslovak-built Avia S and Ss, with the production ending in New-production Messerschmitt Bf fighters, — By September , the Bf had become the main fighter of the Luftwaffe, replacing the biplane fighters, and was instrumental in gaining air superiority for the Wehrmacht during the early stages of the war.
During the Battle of Britain , it was pressed into the role of escort fighter, a role for which it was not originally designed, and it was widely employed as a fighter-bomber , as well as a photo-reconnaissance platform. Despite mixed results over Britain, with the introduction of the improved Bf F in early , the type again proved to be an effective fighter during the Invasion of Yugoslavia where it was used by both sides , the Battle of Crete , Operation Barbarossa , the invasion of the USSR , and the Siege of Malta.
In , it began to be partially replaced in Western Europe by a new German fighter, the Focke-Wulf Fw , 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 and with Erwin Rommel 's Afrikakorps. The Soviets lost 21, aircraft at this time, about half to combat. Later in the war, when Allied victories began to bring the fight closer, and then to German territory, bombing raids supplied plenty of targets for the Luftwaffe.
This unique combination of events — until a major change in American fighter tactics occurred very early in , that steadily gave the USAAF daylight air supremacy over the Reich — led to the highest-ever individual pilot victory scores. Altogether, this group of pilots was credited with a total of nearly 15, kills. Bf s remained in foreign service for many years after World War II. The Swiss used their Bf Gs well into the s. Romania used its Bf s until The Spanish Hispanos flew even longer. Some were still in service in the late s. They appeared in films notably Battle of Britain playing the role of Bf Es.
Some Hispano airframes were sold to museums, which rebuilt them as Bf s. Note, this list includes operators who used Bf s for active service or combat. It does not include the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, which all operated small numbers of captured aircraft for testing and evaluation see: Messerschmitt Bf operational history Allied Bf s.
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