Messerschmitt Bf 109
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is a German World War II fighter aircraft that was, along with the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, the backbone of the Luftwaffe's fighter force. The Bf 109 first saw operational service in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War and was still in service at the end of World War II in 1945. It was one of the most advanced fighters when it first appeared, with an all-metal monocoque construction, a closed canopy, and retractable landing gear. It was powered by a liquid-cooled, inverted-V12 aero engine. It was called the Me 109 by Allied aircrew and some German aces, even though this was not the official German designation. It was designed by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser who worked at Bayerische Flugzeugwerke during the early to mid-1930s. It was conceived as an interceptor, although later models were developed to fulfill multiple tasks, serving as bomber escort, fighter-bomber, day-, night-, all-weather fighter, ground-attack aircraft, and reconnaissance aircraft. It was supplied to several states during World War II and served with several countries for many years after the war. The Bf 109 is the most produced fighter aircraft in history, with a total of 33,984 airframes produced from 1936 to April 1945. Some of the Bf 109 production took place in Nazi concentration camps through slave labor. The Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring fighter aces of all time, who claimed 928 victories among them while flying with Jagdgeschwader 52, mainly on the Eastern Front. The highest-scoring, Erich Hartmann, was credited with 352 victories. The aircraft was also flown by Hans-Joachim Marseille, the highest-scoring ace in the North African Campaign who shot down 158 enemy aircraft (in about a third of the time). It was also flown by many aces from other countries fighting with Germany, notably the Finn Ilmari Juutilainen, the highest-scoring non-German ace. Pilots from Italy, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Hungary also flew the Bf 109. Through constant development, the Bf 109 remained competitive with the latest Allied fighter aircraft until the end of the war.
Focke-Wulf Fw 190
The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (nicknamed Würger;[b] English: Shrike) is a German single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank at Focke-Wulf in the late 1930s and widely used during World War II. Along with its well-known counterpart, the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Fw 190 became the backbone of the Jagdwaffe (Fighter Force) of the Luftwaffe. The twin-row BMW 801 radial engine that powered most operational versions enabled the Fw 190 to lift larger loads than the Bf 109, allowing its use as a day fighter, fighter-bomber, ground-attack aircraft and to a lesser degree, night fighter. The Fw 190A started flying operationally over France in August 1941 and quickly proved superior in all but turn radius to the Spitfire Mk. V, the main front-line fighter of the Royal Air Force (RAF), particularly at low and medium altitudes. The 190 maintained superiority over Allied fighters until the introduction of the improved Spitfire Mk. IX. In November/December 1942, the Fw 190 made its air combat debut on the Eastern Front, finding much success in fighter wings and specialised ground attack units (Schlachtgeschwader – Battle Wings or Strike Wings) from October 1943. The Fw 190 was well-liked by its pilots. Some of the Luftwaffe's most successful fighter aces claimed many of their kills while flying it, including Otto Kittel, Walter Nowotny and Erich Rudorffer. The Fw 190 had greater firepower than the Bf 109 and, at low to medium altitude, superior manoeuvrability, in the opinion of German pilots who flew both fighters. It was regarded as one of the best fighter planes of World War II.
Messerschmitt Me 262
The Messerschmitt Me 262, nicknamed Schwalbe (German: "Swallow") in fighter versions, or Sturmvogel (German: "Storm Bird") in fighter-bomber versions, is a German fighter aircraft and fighter-bomber that was the world's first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. Design work started before World War II began, but problems with engines, metallurgy and top-level interference kept the aircraft from operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944. The Me 262 was faster and more heavily armed than any Allied fighter, including the British jet-powered Gloster Meteor. One of the most advanced aviation designs in operational use during World War II, the Me 262's roles included light bomber, reconnaissance and experimental night fighter versions. Me 262 pilots claimed a total of 542 Allied aircraft shot down, although higher claims are sometimes made.[Note 1] The Allies countered its effectiveness in the air by attacking the aircraft on the ground and during takeoff and landing. Strategic materials shortages and design compromises on the Junkers Jumo 004 axial-flow turbojet engines led to reliability problems. Attacks by Allied forces on fuel supplies during the deteriorating late-war situation also reduced the effectiveness of the aircraft as a fighting force. Armament production within Germany was focused on more easily manufactured aircraft. In the end, the Me 262 had a negligible impact on the course of the war as a result of its late introduction and the consequently small numbers put in operational service.