Like most aircraft that were to make a name
for themselves, the Messerschmitt 109 had many variants. The original was
the Bf109 V1 designed in 1935 and was the first was the first all metal
stressed skin fighter that would enter service. Powered by a 695 hp Rolls
Royce Kestrel power plant, it also had a single enclosed cockpit and a
retractable undercarriage. The following two variants, the Bf109 V2 and
the Bf109 V3 had a 680hp Junkers Jumo 210A power plant. Both these variants
were flying by June 1936.
By December 1936, the variant V4 and V5
was sent to Spain for evaluation and testing and they were redesignated
to Bf109B-0 being powered by Jumo 210D engines and an armament of two 7.9mm
machine guns. The first operational Bf109's to see operational service
with the Legion Condor in Spain was the 109B but by early 1938 the Bf109C
had entered service having a Jumo 210Ga fuel injected power plant and the
addition of two additional machine guns. The Bf109D followed in 1938 which
was equipped with the carburetor powered Jumo 210Da.
Many of the Bf109 aircraft in their development
stage still carried the V series, and the Bf109 V10 which had been flying
in its experimental stages was using the Daimler Benz DB 600A which was
a carburetor engine in 1937. After further experimental aircraft had been
used, the Bf109 V15 was fitted with the all new Daimler Benz DB 601A engine
with direct fuel injection which had lifted the hp rating up to 1,175 hp.
This variant was designated the Bf109E-1, the Bf109E-3 being introduced
in early 1940. The difference between the E-1 and the E-3 was the addition
of two 20mm MG FF cannon at the expense of two of the machine guns.
Prior to the commencement of WWII and throughout
the Battle of Britain the Bf109E was no doubt one of the worlds greatest
single seat, single engine fighters. Compared to the British Hurricane
and the Spitfire it was equal to the task and historians and aircraft enthusiasts
will argue for many years which was the best aircraft. Overall, possibly
of the three the Spitfire just edges to the fore, but had Germany made
the necessary improvements to the Bf109 as the British did to the Hurricane
and Spitfire, then the outcome of 1940 may have been different.
The first of the series Bf109E-3 was completed
towards the end of 1938, and by the end of 1939 some 1,540 machines had
been built with nearly 50 seeing service in the Spanish Civil War. Following
the E3 was the Bf109E-4 which although had no performance improvements,
had an improved MG FF cannon and it was this variant that saw service in
the Battle of Britain.
Other variants were the Bf 109E-4/B which
was a fighter-bomber version that carried one 550lb or four 110lb bombs.
The Bf109E-4/N gave slightly improved performance when the DB 601Aa engine
was replaced by the 1200hp DB 601N. The Bf109E-5 and the Bf109E-6 were
used and fitted out as reconnaissance fighters being fitted with camera
equipment, the Bf109E-5 also having the cannon removed.
The E variant of Bf109 were used extensively
until early 1942, where, with the Bf109F aqnd Bf109G they gave way to the
Bf109K in which the pre-series Bf109K-0 was to appear in September 1944.
It is also interesting to note, that a variant of the Bf109E was for use
on the carriers Graf Zeppelin and Peter Stasser. Here the wing span was
increased as well as the leading edge slats and ailerons, flap travel was
also increased and break points were incorporated for the folding of the
wings, and an arrester hook fitted at the rear. This carrier version was
designated the Bf109T, the T indicating 'Träger' or in English, 'Carrier'.
Originally ten Bf109E aircraft were converted as Bf109T variants, while
about sixty were actually manufactured as Bf109T.
||Daimler-Benz DB601A, of
1,175 hp, direct fuel injection, inline
||4,189 lbs (1,190 kg)
||5,875 lbs (2,665 kg)
|Max Speed (Sea Level)
||290 mph (466 k/ph)
|Max Speed (14.560 ft)
||348 mph (560 k/ph)
||233 mph (375 k/ph)
||3,510 ft/min (17.83 m/sec)
||410 miles (660 kms) at cruising
||36,500 feet (11,125 m)
||2xMG FF Cannon (60 rounds
2x17.9mm MG Machine Guns
(1,000 rounds per gun)
||32ft 4½in (9.87m)
||28ft 4½in (8.64m)
||8ft 2½in (2.50m)
||174.05 sq feet (16.7 sq
The Battle of Britain - 1940
website © Battle of Britain Historical Society 2007