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From its appearance in 1935, until the Battle of Britain in 1940, the Bf-109 was easily the best fighter in the world. The design was the result of Willy Messerschmitt and Walter Rethel's endeavor to fit the most powerful engine in the smallest possible frame.
The Messerschmitt Bf-109 began as an entry by the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in a Luftwaffe (German Air Force) fighter competition in the early 1930s. Willy Messerschmitt's creation incorporated one of the most advanced aerodynamic designs at the time, with retractable landing gear, an enclosed cockpit, automatic slats, cantilever wings and stressed skin construction. During the trials, the Bf-109 clearly outperformed the larger and heavier favorite, Heinkel's He 112. The first production model, the Bf-109B, began coming off the lines in 1936. The redesignation of the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG (Aktiengesellschaft or Corporation) to the Messerschmitt AG in 1938 led many to call it the Me-109, although the official Luftwaffe designation of the aircraft remained the Bf-109 throughout the war.
German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt in the early 1930s. The first truly modern fighter of the era combining the features of all-metal monocoque construction, a closed canopy and a retractable landing gear.
The Bf-109 has basically the smallest airframe that Willy Messerschmitt attached to the most powerful engine. The Bf-109 remained a formidable air superiority fighter throughout World War II and was credited with more aerial kills than any other aircraft.
The standard fighter of the Luftwaffe for the duration of World War II, although it began to be partially replaced by the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 starting in 1942. The Bf-109 scored more aircraft kills in World War II than any other aircraft. At various times it served as an air superiority fighter, an escort fighter, an interceptor, a ground-attack aircraft and a reconnaissance aircraft.
Although the Bf-109 had weaknesses, including a short range, and especially a sometimes difficult to handle narrow, outward-retracting undercarriage, with well trained pilots; it stayed competitive with Allied fighter aircraft until the end of the war.
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German World War II fighter aircraft
One of history's classic fighters, the Messerschmitt Bf-109 was to the Luftwaffe what the Spitfire was to the Royal Air Force. Several Bf-109 versions were successfully flown before twenty-four Bf-109B-2s were in 1937 sent to join the Luftwaffe's Condor Legion in Spain. Willy Messerschmitt's combat aircraft quickly out-fought the rival Soviet Polikarpov fighter. The Bf-109E series, which first appeared in 1938, was mass-produced and in 1939-40 proved superior in performance to virtually every fighter opposed to it during the Luftwaffe's participation in the early period of German conquest.
Production of the Bf-109E series mounted so rapidly that the surplus to German requirements was exported to other countries. The Bf-109E saw continual action in the Battle of Britain but its range permitted only very little operational time over southern England. The E series extended to the E-9 and included models built as fighters, fighter-bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. The most efficient production model of the Bf-109 was the Bf-109F, the first version capable of out-maneuvering the Spitfire V. First appearing in 1941, the Bf-109F was lined up for the German invasion of Soviet Russia.
By the late summer of 1942, however, the F series had been superseded in production and service by the Bf-109G, more familiarly known as the 'Gustav'. The 'Gustav' accounted for over 70 per cent of total Bf-109 production and it saw widespread service in Russia and from early-1943, against Allied deep-penetration bomber raids over Germany. The escort-fighters, especially of the United States Eighth Air Force, dealt a severe blow to the Bf-109s in the declining circumstances of Goering's Air Force. Altogether, including post-'Gustav' versions, a wartime aircraft construction record of 35,000 Bf-109 fighters were built.
Maximum speed: 357 mph (575 km/hr) at 12,305 ft (3,750 m). Operational ceiling: 36,090 ft (11,000 m). Normal range: 413 miles (665 km). Armament: two 7.9 mm MG machine-guns in upper front fuselage and one 20 mm MG FF cannon in each wing (data refers to Bf-109E-4).