Fortunately for the Luftwaffe, the twin-engine Messerschmitt Bf 110 was now available in quantity after its humiliating defeat as a fighter escort in the Battle of Britain. It possessed good blind-flying instrumentation, good speed and maneuverability, and a heavy armament (two 20mm MG 151 cannons and four 7.92mm MG 17 machine-guns) for dealing with heavy bombers. The Bf 110 became Germany's most numerically important night fighter, and was produced and utilized right through until the end of the war.
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German 'destroyer' fighter
The Germans were more acutely aware far earlier than the British of fighter protection for bomber formations. For them, the idea that the 'bomber will always get through', did not have nearly the same naive certainty. The first result of this thinking was the Messerschmitt Bf-110, designed to requirements laid down by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Reich Air Ministry) in 1934, and first flown in prototype on 12th May 1936. At 316 mph (508.5 kph) prototype Bf-110s proved to be only a little slower than their contemporary rival, the Hurricane.
The operational Bf-110 (C/F variants) two-seat, long-range day and escort fighters were powered by two 1,100 hp Daimler Benz DB 601A twelve-cylinder liquid-cooled engines, and had a maximum speed of 349 mph (561.6 kph) at 22,965 ft (7,000 meters). 39 ft 8.5 ins long (12 meters), 11.5 ft high (3.5 meters) with wingspan of 53 ft 4| ins (16.28 meters), wing area of 413 sq ft (38.37 sq meters) and normal loaded weight of 15,300 lbs (6,490 kgs), Bf-110 day and escort fighters were successful against weaker opponents in the blitzkrieg strikes of
1940. However, like its more famous stable mate, the Me-109, the Bf-110 made a poor showing against the RAF in the Battle of Britain. As far as the Bf-110 was concerned, this eclipse of its day and escort fighter role set it on a new career as a three-seat night fighter, from 1943, a role in which it served for the remainder of the war.
The Bf-110 night fighter (G/H variants) was powered by two 1,475 mph Daimler Benz DB 605B engines and flew at 324 mph (521.4 kph) maximum at 22,900 ft (6,980 meters). It was larger and heavier than its daytime predecessor, having a loaded weight of 20,700 lbs (9389.5 kgs) and roughly two feet (60.96 cms) more height and length, but the same wingspan and wing area.
The night fighter armament consisted of two 1.18 inch (30 mm) MK108s, one forward firing 0.78 in (20 mm) MG151, and two .3 in (7.9 mm) rearward firing MH61 MGs, compared to the daytime version's four .3 in (7.9 mm) MG17s, two 0.78 in (20 mm) MHFF forward firing cannon and one rear-firing .3 in (7.9 mm) MG15 machine gun.