Messerschmitt 109

Willy Messerschmitt's Bf 109 was the Luftwaffe's benchmark fighter throughout World War II. It was the mount of the vast majority of the German aces and scored more kills than any other Axis aircraft. Few fighters of the period bettered the Bf 109's longevity, either. The aircraft entered service in time to be blooded in Spain, and it remained the backbone of the Luftwaffe fighter arm until the end of the war. Even after 1945 it continued to serve with several air forces and briefly went back to war in Israeli hands.

The aircraft rapidly gained something of a reputation, which was carefully nurtured by Nazi Germany's expert propagandists, and this lived on even after the aircraft had begun to show its age, and while newer fighters on both sides were clearly its betters. For its achievements up to 1940 alone, the Bf 109 deserves to go down in history as one of the World's great fighter aircraft, and if the same level of superiority over all opposition eluded the Bf 109 from the Battle of Britain onwards, this should not tarnish the fighter's reputation. Indeed, in the face of a constantly changing air war, the Bf 109 proved adaptable enough to accept new powerplants and weapons with a minimum of modification, allowing the family of variants and sub-variants to grow rapidly, with scarcely a break in production. This versatility was probably the key to the aircraft's colossal success, and was due to straightforward sensible design practice.

Messerschmitt Bf 109G

The birth of the Bf 109 was the outcome of political feuding between Erhard Milch and Willy Messerschmitt, which threatened extinction of the private Bayerische Flugzeugwerke. The company's M-20 monoplane airliner failed spectacularly, the prototype and two production aircraft crashing and Deutsche Luft Hansa canceling all orders. This led the company to the brink of financial ruin, but recovery was made possible when Luft Hansa were forced to take delivery of the aircraft they had ordered. As head of Luft Hansa Milch had accused Messerschmitt of building unsafe aircraft and as Reich Commissioner for aviation, his hostility ensured that the company would only receive small orders to license build aircraft designed by others, and would not be asked to design its own aircraft for the rearmament of the Luftwaffe.

This situation finally changed after the company negotiated to supply a Romanian cartel with a new transport aircraft in 1933. Infuriated by Messerschmitt's touting for overseas business, officials at the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM, or State Ministry of Aviation) drew from Messerschmitt the retort that he had been obliged to seek business elsewhere because of the lack of support from Berlin itself. Stung by this accusation, the RLM awarded a contract which resulted in the highly successful Bf 108 Taifun, and soon afterwards awarded fighter development contracts to Arado, BFW, Focke-Wulf and Heinkel, it being confidently expected that Messerschmitt's lack of experience in high-speed aircraft design would mean that his contender would stand little chance of success.

Employing features of his excellent Bf 108 Taifun four-seat tourer, Messerschmitt's design emerged as a small angular low-wing cantilever monoplane with retractable landing gear, leading-edge slats and enclosed cockpit. These features, together with its all-metal, flush riveted monocoque fuselage, made it the most modern of the contenders, since the Heinkel had an open cockpit and no slats, the Arado an open cockpit and fixed landing gear, and the Focke-Wulf a braced, unslatted high wing. Such modernity was striking, and rather controversial, drawing from Ernst Udet the comment that the aircraft would 'never make a fighter'. It had been intended to use the new Junkers Jumo 210A engine, but this was not available for the Bf 109 V1 prototype so an imported Rolls-Royce Kestrel V of 695 hp (518 kW) was used, the aircraft being rolled out and flown in September 1935. Though no one was to know it at the time, this choice of powerplant would be echoed years later, when the last Bf 109 variant, the Spanish 1109-M1L Buchon (Pigeon), used another Rolls-Royce engine, this time the Merlin in 1953.

When flown in competition with the Ar 80 V1, Fw 159 V1 and He 112 V1, at the Travemunde trials, the Bf 109 V1 performed well despite minor problems and, amid general surprise, was rewarded by a contract for 10 prototype development aircraft (although it was not in fact declared the outright winner, 10 Heinkel aircraft also being ordered). One problem experienced by the Bf 109 was the collapse of its narrow track landing gear on arrival at the Rechlin test centre. At the time, most put it down to bad luck, but the incident foreshadowed what was to be one of the aircraft's greatest weaknesses throughout its life, unforgiving ground handling characteristics that were to cause the loss or damage of hundreds of production aircraft. Definitive evaluation trials were held at Travemunde in November 1935, and these resulted in final victory over the Heinkel He 112. Superior performance, a spectacular display by Dr Ing Herman Wurster and a lower manufacturing cost settled the issue and the Bf 109 was selected for production.

Three further prototypes (the Bf 109 V2 registered D-IUDE, Bf 109 V3 D-IHNY and Bf 109 V4 D-IOQY) were flown in 1936, powered by Jumo 210A engines and with provision for two synchronized 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 17 machine-guns in the nose decking. However, rumours abounded that the British Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire were to be armed with four guns, so that by the time the Bf 109 V4 prototype flew a third 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 17 was planned to fire through the propeller hub.

The proposed two-gun Bf 109A production version did not therefore materialize, and the first pre-production Bf 109B-0 examples were flown early in 1937, at the same time as the Bf 109 V5, Bf 109 V6 and Bf 109 V7 prototypes. Considerable operational experience was gained during the Spanish Civil War by three Staffeln of Jagdgruppe 88, fighter component of the 'volunteer' Legion Condor, which received the V3, V4 and V5 for combat evaluation, and which was equipped with production examples of the Bf 109B-1, Bf 109B-2 and Bf 109C-1 versions as soon as they became available, having complained that its initial equipment of Heinkel He 51s simply could not cope against the Republicans' Polikarpov I-16s. This experience assisted in the development of the aircraft itself and in the development of air combat tactics in general, for it was largely through men such as Werner Molders and Adolf Galland who fought in Spain with the Bf 109, that basic air fighting tactics were evolved which were to last well into the jet age.

The next prototype, the Bf 109 V9, had two 20 mm MG FF cannons installed in the wings. This machine served as prototype for the production Bf 109 C series which were essentially similar to the BF 109 B series apart from their armament. The pre-production Bf 109C-0 and the initial production Bf 109C-1 both carried four 7.95 mm (0.31 in) MG 17 machine guns, and the Bf 109C-2 subtype had a further MG 17 firing through the airscrew hub. The experimental Bf 109C-4 had four MG 17 guns and a single 20 mm MG FF cannon, but this version was not placed in service. In August 1938 twelve Bf 109C-2 fighters arrived in Spain to re-equip other parts of Legion Condor.

While work was progressing on the improvement of the fighter's armament, parallel experiments were being conducted with a view to improving performance. An early 960 hp (705 kW) Daimler-Benz DB 600 engine was installed in a standard Bf 109 B series airframe to form the Bf 109 V10. Two further prototypes, the Bf 109 V11 and Bf 109 V12, were fitted with the production type Daimler-Benz DB 600A, resulting in a substantial improvement in performance, a maximum speed of 323 mph (520 km/h) was attained and the service ceiling boosted to 31,170 ft (9500 m).

With this engine a new sub-type, the Bf 109D, entered production in late 1937, the pre-production Bf 109D fighters employing converted Bf 109 B model airframes and carried an MG 17 machine gun in each wing as first introduced on the Bf 109C. In addition, a single engine-mounted MG FF cannon was carried. A small production batch of Bf 109D-1 fighters followed to equip one Gruppe, but the availability of the redesigned DB 601 1,050 hp (783 kW) engine, incorporating direct fuel injection and improved supercharging capacity, had led to abandonment of further production of the DB 600 and, in consequence, the Bf 109D in favour of the Bf 109E with the later engine, and ten of the Bf 109Ds were sold to Switzerland and three to Hungary.

By the beginning of World War II in September 1939, the Luftwaffe had standardized its fighter Geschwader on the Bf 109. The Bf 109D series, although produced in fairly large numbers and still in service, was already giving place to the Bf 109E (widely known as the 'Emil'). Ten pre-production Bf 109E-0s appeared late in 1938 with two nose-mounted 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 17 machine-guns and two in the wings, and powered by the 1,100 hp (821 kW) DB 601A engine, which promised to solve the reliability and other problems of the DB 600 which was to have been used by the 'Dora'.

Production Bf 109E-1s started leaving the Augsburg factory at the beginning of 1939 with alternative provision for two 20 mm MG FF cannon in place of the wing machine-guns, although late delivery of the new engine meant that the first few Es to come off the line were put into storage to await their engines! Maximum speed was 570 km/h (354 mph) at 3750 m (12,305 ft) and service ceiling 11000 m (36,090 ft), performance figures which helped the Bf 109E to eclipse all of its opponents in the first eight months of the war. A sub-variant, the Bf 109E-1/B, introduced soon after, was a fighter-bomber capable of carrying a 250-kg (551 lbs) bomb under the fuselage.

Adolf Galland's Messerschmitt Bf 109E of JG.26 Schlageter Kdz. France 1940

Production of the Emil was shifted from Augsburg to Regensburg in 1939 (to make way for the Bf 110 twin-engined fighter) as a massive subcontract programme was undertaken by Ago, Arado, Erla and WNF, 1,540 aircraft being delivered that year. Despite deliveries of 10 Jumo-engined Bf 109Cs, and thirty Bf 109Es to Switzerland, Bf 109E deliveries were almost too fast for the aircraft to be absorbed by the newly forming Jagdgruppen. Nevertheless, on the eve of the invasion of Poland the Jagdverband comprised 12 Gruppen flying 850 Bf 109E-1s and Bf 109E-1/Bs and one with Ar 68s. Some 235 Bf 109D-1s were still serving with the Zerstörergeschwader. A handful of Bf 109Bs were on charge with II/ZG 1, while I/JG 21 had a few Bf 109Cs on charge. Five Bf 109 Gruppen actually participated in the invasion of Poland, with just over 200 aircraft. 67 Bf 109s were lost, most, but by no means all, to ground fire. The first occasion on which Bf 109s fought the RAF was during the daylight raid by 24 unescorted Vickers Wellingtons on Wilhelmshaven on 18 December 1939, 12 of the bombers being destroyed for the loss of two Bf 109Es of JG 77.

In 1940 production of the Emil increased to 1,868 aircraft, the D-series being almost entirely discarded from front-line use. Principal sub-variants produced that year were the Bf 109E-2, Bf 109E-3 (with two 7.92 mm MG 17s in the nose and two in the wings, plus an MG FF/M firing through the propeller shaft) and the Bf 109E-4 (with two nose MG 17s and two wing MG FF cannon). All these versions saw widespread action during the Blitzkrieg against France and the Low Countries (with sixteen Gruppen), and in the great daylight battles over southern England during the Battle of Britain. When employed in the 'free chase' tactic they proved deadly, the combination of experienced pilots and fast Bf 109 proving generally superior to the mostly novice RAF pilots in their Hurricanes.

The Bf 109s initially bettered even the Spitfire, except in what became, in the Battle of Britain at least, the all-important arena of turn performance. The Bf 109E, though suffering heavy attrition, wreaked havoc on the RAF's fighters, but simple arithmetic was against it. The Bf 109 had insufficient fuel to stay and fight for more than a few minutes, and damaged aircraft inevitably failed to make it home, while downed pilots became prisoners of war. Similarly damaged RAF aircraft and downed RAF pilots were usually airborne again within hours. Moreover, as is now well known, the capabilities of the Bf 109E were frequently squandered when the aircraft were too often tied to close escort of bomber formations, a role in which the Bf l09Es were deprived of their greatest assets, speed and manoeuvrability. At the same time, the enemy was not slow to learn from his mistakes, and RAF fighter pilots rapidly ditched the cumbersome pre-war tactics which had led to so many losses.

Unfortunately for the RAF, it was less easy to switch from the small-calibre light machine-gun armament used on most RAF fighters, and which proved ineffective against most targets, unless the pilot could get close enough to score multiple-hits. Nevertheless, by the end of the Battle, the Luftwaffe had lost 610 Bf 109s (of an overall total of 1,792 aircraft destroyed on operations) while the RAF's 1,172 losses included 403 Spitfires, 631 Hurricanes, 115 Blenheims and 23 Defiants.

These figures obscure the fact that RAF losses were falling, while Bf 109 attrition was reaching worrying levels. Later in the Battle of Britain the Bf 109E was also employed as a fighter-bomber (the Bf 109E-4/B), proving particularly difficult to intercept. Jabo versions of the Emil were later used with great success in other theatres, one such aircraft successfully sinking the British cruiser HMS Fiji during the invasion of Crete in 1941. Other variants, which appeared soon after the Battle of Britain, included the Bf 109E-5 and Bf 109E-6 reconnaissance fighters, the latter with Daimler-Benz DB 601N engines, the Bf 109E-7 with provision for belly drop tank, and the Bf 109E-7/Z with GM-1 nitrous oxide engine boost.

Early in 1941 the Emil was beginning to appear in the Mediterranean theatre, with tropicalised versions of the above sub- variants serving with JG 27 in North Africa. Here the combination of experienced pilots with Bf 109Es were able to repeat their success against the RAF, though scoring mainly against ageing Hurricanes and Kittyhawks. By the time Germany opened its great attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Bf 109F series was beginning to join the frontline fighter squadrons, although the Emil provided one third of the fighter strength for the initial assault and continued to serve for a long time yet, especially in the ground attack role.

Powered by the 1,300 (969 kW) DB 601E, the Bf 109F was generally regarded as the most attractive of the entire Bf 109 family, and its design represented almost a textbook exercise in drag reduction. It introduced extended and rounded wingtips and an enlarged spinner, while Frise ailerons and plain flaps replaced the Emil's slotted flaps. A fully retractable tailwheel superseded the earlier fixed type, and a cantilever tailplane, without bracing struts, was introduced. In the matter of gun armament, however, the Bf 109F was widely criticised, for it deleted the wing-mounted 20 mm Rheinmetall-Borsig (Oerlikon licence) MG FF cannons in favour of a higher-velocity 15 mm Mauser MG 151/15 cannons firing through the propeller hub with two 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 17s above the nose. While this tended to satisfy the German Experten (aces) as benefiting the aircraft's performance, it was pointed out that the majority of Luftwaffe fighter pilots needed a heavier armament with which to achieve a 'kill'.

Pre-production Bf 109F-0s were evaluated by the Luftwaffe during the second half of 1940, and Bf 109F-1s were delivered early the following year. Both initial variants had an engine-mounted 20 mm Rheinmetall-Borsig MG FF due to shortages of the 15 mm Mauser MG 151/15 cannon. A number of accidents indicated that removal of the tailplane struts left the entire tail unit vulnerable to sympathetic vibration at certain oscillating frequencies of the engine, and strengthening modifications were quickly put in hand. With these in place the Bf 109F proved superior in performance and agility to the Emil, and many pilots preferred its handling characteristics. Thereafter, the increasing weight and engine power which accompanied the essential stream of modifications steadily degraded the Bf 109's handling characteristics. After the Bf 109F-2 (with 15 mm MG 151 finally replacing the 20 mm Rheinmetall-Borsig MG FF) came the principal version, the Bf 109F-3, early in 1942 with a top speed of 390 mph (628 km/h) at 21,980 ft (6700 m).

Bf 109Fs had joined the Geschwaderstab and III Gruppe of Adolf Galland's JG 26 'Schlageter' early in 1941 on the Channel coast, and during the early stages of Operation Barbarossa in the East this version equipped Major Gunther Lutzow's JG 3 'Udet', Werner Molders' JG 51, Major Gunther von Maltzahn's JG 53 'Pik As' and Major Johannes Trautloft's JG 54. The superiority of the new fighter (even over the Spitfire Mk V in the West) quickly became apparent as the German fighter pilots' victory tallies soared.

The 'Friedrick' underwent progressive improvement and development: the Bf 109F-4 had an MG 151 rebarrelled to 20-mm, while also introducing morale-boosting windscreen and cockpit armour, and the larger F2Z supercharger, the Bf 109F-4/R1 could be fitted with a Rustsatz (field conversion kit) comprising two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons in underwing packs for the bomber-destroyer role, the Bf 109F-4/B fighter-bomber was capable of carrying up to 1,102 lbs (500 kg) of bombs, and the Bf 109F-5 and Bf 109F-6 reconnaissance fighters were introduced later in 1942. It was principally in the tropicalised Bf 109F-4 that the 22-year-old Oberleutnant Hans-Joachim Marseille became the highest-scoring Luftwaffe fighter pilot in the West with 158 air victories, although he died bailing out from a Bf 109G-2 on 30 September 1942 in North Africa.

The Bf 109G (dubbed the 'Gustav' by German pilots) was introduced into service in the late summer of 1942 and came to be built in larger numbers than any other version, serving with more units, although its characteristics were such that it rapidly came to be regarded as Germany's second fighter, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 equipping the most important units. The emergence of the Spitfire Mk IX and P-51D had finally shown the Bf 109 to be on the verge of obsolescence, and to counter this, Messerschmitt finally sacrificed handling and manoeuvrability for outright performance. The Gustav was thus powered by the much heavier 1,475 hp (1100 kW) DB 605A, although pre-production Bf 109G-0s retained the DB 601E.

Basic armament remained two nose-mounted 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 17s and hub-firing 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon. The Bf 109G-1, with pressure cabin, was powered by the DB 605A-1 with GM-1 power boosting, and the tropical version, the Bf 109G-1/Trop, carried 13 mm (0.51 in) MG 131s in place of the MG 17s, necessitating larger breech blocks and giving rise to the nickname' Beule' (bump) on account of the raised fairings forward of the windscreen. The Bf 109G-2 dispensed with the pressure cabin and the Bf 109G-2/R1 was a fighter-bomber; the Bf 109G-3 was similar to the Bf 109G-1 but with FuG 16Z radio, and the Bf 109G-4 was an unpressurised version of the Bf 109G-3.

The Bf 109G-5 introduced the DB 6O5D engine with MW-50 water-methanol power boosting (making possible a maximum power of 1,800 hp/1343 kW for combat bursts), while the Bf 109G-5/R2 featured a taller rudder and lengthened tailwheel leg in an effort to counter the aircraft's swing on take-off. Ever since the introduction of the Bf 109F had removed wing-mounted guns from the 109, a controversy had raged over how a fighter should be armed. In the hands of an expert the Bf 109F's three guns were adequate against fighter targets, but the quality of Luftwaffe gunnery training had steadily declined (young pilots being expected to learn most of their skills on the job) and the Bf 109's most important targets had become heavily armoured Russian Shturmoviks and large American bombers, making three relatively slow-firing guns clearly inadequate. Therefore the Bf 109G-5 introduced a basic armament of a single hub-flring 30 mm MK 108 cannon, and two nose-mounted MG 131s, whose larger breech blocks were covered by the distinctive 'beulen'.

A Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6/R6 of II Staffel/JG 53 Jagdgeschwader - Eastern Front 1943

Most important of all the 'Gustavs' was the Bf l09G-6 which, in various sub-variants, was powered by AM, AS, ASH, ASD or ASM versions of the DE 605 engine; with provision for two underwing 20 mm MG 151/20 guns. Numerous Rustsätze kits were produced to increase armament, including those to produce the Bf 109G-6/R1 fighter-bomber with a bomb load of up to 1,102 lbs (500 kg). Most aimed at improving the Bf 109's capability as a bomber-destroyer however, as the Defence of the Reich role steadily assumed greater importance. The Bf 109G-6/R2 bomber-destroyer had two 21 cm (8.27 in) WGr 210 'Dodel' rockets replacing the underwing cannon, while the Bf 109G-6/U4 (with an Umrust-Bausatz or factory conversion set) was armed with two 30 mm MK 108 underwing cannon, and the Bf 109G-6/U4N night-fighter carried radar. Tropicalised versions of most of these were also produced.

The Bf 109G-7 was not built, but the Bf 109G-8 reconnaissance fighter formed part of the equipment of Nahaufklärungsgruppe 13 late in 1943 on the Channel coast. Fastest of all 'Gustavs' was the Bf 109G-10 with the DB 605D with MW-50 boost and bulged cockpit canopy (known as the 'Galland hood'), and a top speed of 429 mph (690 km/h) at 24,280 ft (7400 m); the Bf 109G-10/R2 and R6 possessed the revised tail and tailwheel assembly of the Bf 109G-5/R2 and were equipped with FuG 25a IFF equipment; the Bf 109G-10/U4 had provision for a belly gun pack containing two MK 108 30 mm guns, but this could be replaced by a non-jettisonable fuel tank known as the Inner Behalter. The Bf l09G-12 was a two-seat trainer, field-modified from the Bf 109G-1 to provide conversion training on the Schulejagdgeschwader, notably JG 101, 102, 104, 106, 107 and 108 in 1944. Last operational version was the 'universal' Bf 109G-14 with lightened fixed armament but with provision for external guns, WfrGr 210 rockets or bombs. The Bf 109G-16 heavily armoured ground-attack fighter-bomber entered production before Germany's surrender but did not see operational service.

The Gustav formed the backbone of the Luftwaffe's last mass operation, the ill-fated Operation Bodenplatte, a mass attack against allied airfields in France, Belgium and Holland aimed at destroying troublesome USAAF and RAF fighter bombers on the ground. Unfortunately, the Luftwaffe fighters suffered heavy losses while inflicting little damage, while destroying General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland's preferred plan ('Big Blow') which was conceived as a mass operation (with 1500-2000 fighters) to destroy 500+ US bombers, whose crews would be irreplaceable. Galland believed that allied fighter bombers would be quickly replaced, and that while pilots in Bodenplatte would inevitably fall into Allied hands, many pilots shot down in 'Big Blow' would parachute safely into Gennan territory.

Development of the Bf 109H high-altitude fighter started in 1943, being a progression from the F-series with increased wing span and the GM-l boosted DB 601E. Maximum speed was 466 mph (750 km/h) at 33,135 ft (10100 m). Pre-production aircraft were evaluated operationally in France and a few sorties were flown by production Bf 109H-1s, but wing flutter problems caused the H-series to be abandoned, although projects included the Bf 109H-2 with Jumo 213E, and the Bf 109H-5 with DB 605 engines.

Last main operational version of the Bf 109 was the K-series, developed directly from the Gustav; indeed the Bf 109K-0 pre-production aircraft were converted G-series airframes. The Bf 109K-2 and Bf 109K-4 (pressurised) were powered by MW-50 boosted 2,000 hp (1492 kW) DB 605 ASCM/DCM engines and armed with one 30 mm MK 103 or MK 108 cannon and two 15 mm (0.59 in) MG 151 heavy machine-guns, and the Bf 109K-6 had provision for two underwing 30 mm MK 103s. Only two Bf 109K-14s (DB 605L with MW-50 and a top speed of 450 mph; 725 km/h) saw action before the end of the war, being delivered to Major Wilhelm Batz's Gruppenstab, II./JG 52, in April 1945. 

A Messerschmitt Bf 109K-4 of II Gruppe Jagdgeschwader 3 - Pasewalk Germany 1945  

With the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 reaching full operational status only after two years of war, the Bf 109 provided the backbone of the Luftwaffe's fighter arm throughout World War II, with more than 30,000 examples produced (because of confusion caused by bombing of factories, an accurate production total could not be arrived at, but only the Russian Ilyushin Il-2 had a higher figure, with 36,163 models built), it was natural that experiments and projects abounded.

For example, among the more bizarre trials were those conducted on Bf 109Es to carry a parachutist in an over-wing 'paracapsule'. Another (in the Starr-Schlepp programme) involved the mounting of a Bf 109E on a DFS 230 troop-carrying glider as a means of delivering airborne forces; this experiment was followed later in the war by the well-known Beethoven- Gerät composite weapon system involving the use of Bf 109s and Fw 190s mounted atop unmanned Junkers Ju 88s loaded with explosives. A number of radical operational tactics were pioneered by Bf 109 units, including the aerial bombing of American bomber formations with 551 lbs (250 kg) bombs dropped from Bf 109Gs (pioneered by JG 1 in 1943), and the use by JG 300 of day fighters for freelance night combat against night-bombers, known as Wilde Sau tactics.

A development of the Emil was the Bf 109T (T - indicating Träger) carrier-borne fighter, intended for deployment aboard the German carrier Graf Zeppelin. Featuring folding long-span wings, arrester hook and catapult spools, 10 pre-production Bf 109T-0s and 60 Bf 109T-1s were produced between 1939 and 1941, but when the carrier's construction was finally abandoned most of these aircraft were delivered to the Luftwaffe for land-based operation.

Perhaps the most ambitious of all projects was the Bf 109Z Zwilling, involving the union of two Bf 109F airframes and outer wing panels by means of new wing and tail sections; the pilot was to have been accommodated in the port fuselage and two versions were proposed, a Zerstorer with five 30 mm guns and a fighter-bomber with a 2,205 lbs (1000 kg) bombload. A prototype was built but this was never flown.

Bf 109s were supplied to numerous foreign air forces from 1939 onwards, and considerable licence-production of the 'Gustav' was undertaken by Avia at Prague and JAR at Brasov in Romania. The most successful of the foreign air arms with Bf 109s was the Finnish air force, its highest-scoring pilot, Lentomestari Eino Juutilainen, achieving 94 victories, of which 59 were scored in 'Gustavs'; he was the highest-scoring non-German/Austrian fighter pilot of all time and his aircraft were never once hit in combat.

Spain undertook licence-assembly of the Bf 109 during and after World War II using the Hispano-Suiza 12-Z-89 and 12-Z-17 engines in German supplied airframes, and later the Rolls-Royce Merlin; these aircraft, termed Hispano HAS 1109-J1L, HA 1110-K1L (two-seater) and HA 1112-K1L, remained in service until the 1960s. Other post-war use of the Bf 109 included a number of C-199 Mezec or 'Mule' (Czech-built Jumo 211F-powered 'Gustavs') flown by Israel against the Egyptian air force in 1948. The Bf 109 was widely supplied to German satellite states in World War II, and was also used by neutral countries such as Spain and Switzerland. 

Total production is estimated at 35,000, making it one of the most numerous aircraft types of the war.

Nicknames: Augsburg Eagle; Buchon "Pounter Pigeon" (HA-1112); Mezec "Mule" (Avia S-199); Anton (A-Model); Bertha (B-Model); Clara (C-Model); Dora (D-Model); Emil (E-Model); Fritz (F-Model); Gustav (G-Model); Beule/Bump (Bf-109G-1 Trop); Toni (T-Model).

Specifications (Bf-109G-6):
        Engine: 1800-hp Daimler-Benz DB-605 inverted V-12 piston engine
        Weight: Empty 5,893 lbs., Max Takeoff 6,945 lbs.
        Wing Span: 32ft. 6.5in.
        Length: 29ft. 7in.
        Height: 11ft. 2in.
            Maximum Speed at at 23,000 ft: 385mph
            Ceiling: 38,500 ft
            Range: 450 miles
            Two 13mm (0.51-inch) MG131 machine guns
            Three 20mm MG151 cannon

Number Built: ~35,000