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.
|Manufacturer||Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW)Messerschmitt AG|
|Designer||Willy Messerschmitt, Robert Lusser|
|First flight||29 May 1935[1|
|Retired||9 May 1945, Luftwaffe27 December 1965, Spanish Air Force|
Hungarian Air Force
Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana
Royal Romanian Air Force
+603 Avia S-199
Hispano Aviación HA-1112
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 190A series' performance decreased at high altitudes (usually 6,000 m (20,000 ft) and above), which reduced its effectiveness as a high-altitude interceptor. From the Fw 190's inception, there had been ongoing efforts to address this with a turbosupercharged BMW 801 in the B model, the much longer-nosed C model with efforts to also turbocharge its chosen Daimler-Benz DB 603 inverted V12 powerplant, and the similarly long-nosed D model with the Junkers Jumo 213. Problems with the turbocharger installations on the -B and -C subtypes meant only the D model entered service in September 1944. These high-altitude developments eventually led to the Focke-Wulf Ta 152, which was capable of extreme speeds at medium to high altitudes (755 km/h (408 kn; 469 mph) at 13,500 m (44,300 ft)). While these "long nose" 190 variants and the Ta 152 derivative especially gave the Germans parity with Allied opponents, they arrived too late to affect the outcome of the war. 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.
|First flight||1 June 1939|
|Retired||9 May 1945 (Luftwaffe)
Hungarian Air Force
French Air Force
Turkish Air Force
|Produced||1941–1945 (65 produced post-War for French Air Force)|
|Number built||Over 20,000|
|Developed into||Focke-Wulf Ta 152|
Junkers Ju 87
The Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka (from Sturzkampfflugzeug, "dive bomber") was a German dive bomber and ground-attack aircraft. Designed by Hermann Pohlmann, it first flew in 1935. The Ju 87 made its combat debut in 1937 with the Luftwaffe's Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 and served in Axis forces in World War II (1939-1945). The aircraft is easily recognisable by its inverted gull wings and fixed spatted undercarriage. Upon the leading edges of its faired main gear legs were mounted ram-air sirens known as Jericho trumpets, which became a propaganda symbol of German air power and of the so-called Blitzkrieg victories of 1939–1942, as well as providing Stuka pilots with audible feedback as to speed. The Stuka's design included several innovations, including automatic pull-up dive brakes under both wings to ensure that the aircraft recovered from its attack dive even if the pilot blacked out from the high g-forces.
The Ju 87 operated with considerable success in close air support and anti-shipping roles at the outbreak of World War II. It led air assaults in the invasion of Poland in September 1939. Stukas proved critical to the rapid conquest of Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and France in 1940. Though sturdy, accurate, and very effective against ground targets, the Stuka was, like many other dive bombers of the period, vulnerable to fighter aircraft. During the Battle of Britain of 1940-1941, its lack of manoeuvrability, speed and defensive armament meant that it required a heavy fighter escort to operate effectively. After the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe deployed Stuka units in the Balkans Campaign, the African and the Mediterranean theatres and in the early stages of the Eastern Front war, where it was used for general ground support, as an effective specialised anti-tank aircraft and in an anti-shipping role. Once the Luftwaffe lost air superiority, the Stuka became an easy target for enemy fighter-aircraft. It was produced until 1944 for lack of a better replacement. By 1945 ground-attack versions of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 had largely replaced the Ju 87, but it remained in service until the end of the war in 1945. Germany built an estimated 6,000 Ju 87s of all versions between 1936 and August 1944.
|Role||Dive bomber and ground-attack aircraft|
|National origin||Nazi Germany|
|First flight||17 September 1935|
Bulgarian Air Force
Royal Romanian Air Force
Messerschmitt Bf 110
The Messerschmitt Bf 110, often known unofficially as the Me 110, is a twin-engine Zerstörer (Destroyer, heavy fighter), fighter-bomber (Jagdbomber or Jabo), and night fighter (Nachtjäger) developed in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and used by the Luftwaffe during World War II. Hermann Göring was a proponent of the Bf 110, believing its heavy armament, speed, and range would make the Bf 110 the Luftwaffe’s premier offensive fighter. Early variants were armed with two MG FF 20 mm cannon, four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns, and one 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine gun for defence (later variants would replace the MG FFs with MG 151s and the rear gunner station would be armed with the twin-barreled MG 81Z). Development work on an improved type to replace the Bf 110 - the Messerschmitt Me 210 - began before the war started, but its teething troubles resulted in the Bf 110 soldiering on until the end of the war in various roles. Its intended replacements, the aforementioned Me 210 and the significantly improved Me 410 Hornisse never fully replaced the Bf 110.
The Bf 110 served with considerable success in the early campaigns in Poland, Norway and France. The primary weakness of the Bf 110 was its lack of maneuverability, although this could be mitigated with better tactics. This weakness was exploited by the RAF when Bf 110s were flown as close escort to German bombers during the Battle of Britain. When British bombers began targeting German territory with nightly raids, some Bf 110-equipped units were converted to night fighters, a role to which the aircraft was well suited. After the Battle of Britain the Bf 110 enjoyed a successful period as an air superiority fighter and strike aircraft in other theatres and defended Germany from strategic air attack by day against the USAAF's 8th Air Force, until an American change in fighter tactics rendered them increasingly vulnerable to developing American air supremacy over the Reich as 1944 began. During the Balkans and North African campaigns and on the Eastern Front, it rendered valuable ground support to the German Army as a potent fighter-bomber. Later in the war, it was developed into a formidable radar-equipped night fighter, becoming the main night-fighting aircraft of the Luftwaffe. Most of the German night fighter aces flew the Bf 110 at some point during their combat careers and the top night fighter ace, Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, flew it exclusively and claimed 121 victories in 164 sorties.
|Manufacturer||Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW)|
|First flight||12 May 1936|
Hungarian Air Force
Romanian Air Force
|Variants||Messerschmitt Bf 161|
Messerschmitt Bf 162
|Developed into||Messerschmitt Me 210|
Heinkel He 111
The Heinkel He 111 was a German airliner and bomber designed by Siegfried and Walter Günter at Heinkel Flugzeugwerke in 1934. Through development, it was described as a "wolf in sheep's clothing". Due to restrictions placed on Germany after the First World War prohibiting bombers, it was presented solely as a civil airliner, although from conception the design was intended to provide the nascent Luftwaffe with a heavy bomber. Perhaps the best-recognised German bomber of World War II due to the distinctive, extensively glazed "greenhouse" nose of the later versions, the Heinkel He 111 was the most numerous Luftwaffe bomber during the early stages of the war. It fared well until it met serious fighter opposition during the Battle of Britain, when its defensive armament was found to be inadequate. As the war progressed, the He 111 was used in a wide variety of roles on every front in the European theatre. It was used as a strategic bomber during the Battle of Britain, a torpedo bomber in the Atlantic and Arctic, and a medium bomber and a transport aircraft on the Western, Eastern, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and North African Front theatres.
The He 111 was constantly upgraded and modified, but had still become obsolete by the latter part of the war. The failure of the German Bomber B project forced the Luftwaffe to continue operating the He 111 in combat roles until the end of the war. Manufacture of the He 111 ceased in September 1944, at which point piston-engine bomber production was largely halted in favour of fighter aircraft. With the German bomber force virtually defunct, the He 111 was used for logistics. Production of the Heinkel continued after the war as the Spanish-built CASA 2.111. Spain received a batch of He 111H-16s in 1943 along with an agreement to licence-build Spanish versions. Its airframe was produced in Spain under licence by Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA. The design differed significantly only in the powerplant used, eventually being equipped with Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. These remained in service until 1973.
|Role||Strategic bomber, Heavy bomber|
|National origin||United States|
|First flight||21 September 1942|
|Introduction||8 May 1944|
|Retired||21 June 1960|
|Primary users||United States Army Air Forces|
United States Air Force
Royal Air Force
Boeing KB-29 Superfortress
Boeing XB-44 Superfortress
Boeing B-50 Superfortress
|Developed into||Boeing 377 Stratocruiser|
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. While German use of the aircraft ended with the close of World War II, a small number were operated by the Czechoslovak Air Force until 1951. It also heavily influenced several designs, such as the Sukhoi Su-9 (1946) and Nakajima Kikka. Captured Me 262s were studied and flight-tested by the major powers, and ultimately influenced the designs of post-war aircraft such as the North American F-86 Sabre, MiG-15 and Boeing B-47 Stratojet. Several aircraft survive on static display in museums, and there are several privately built flying reproductions that use modern General Electric J85 engines.
|Role||Fighter aircraft and fighter-bomber|
|First flight||18 April 1941 with piston engine (Junkers Jumo 210)|
18 July 1942 with jet engines
Czechoslovak Air Force (S-92)
|Developed into||Messerschmitt P.1099|