The two best known fighters of WW2 were the Luftwaffe's Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the RAF's Supermarine Spitfire, not only were they both superb fighter aircraft but continuously evolved to remain a "state of the art" fighter throughout the whole of the six year Wold War Two conflict, they are the best known adversaries of the RAF Spitfire and Hurricane fighters during the "Battle of Britain".
Proffesor Willie Messerschmitt and Walther Rethel of Bayerische Flugzeug Werke A.G, began design work on the Messerschmitt Bf 109 in 1934 to meet a RLM (Reichsluftfahrministerium) specification for a new monoplane fighter aircraft, their design was based on the existing Messerschmitt Bf 108 Taifun, the new design was a cantilever low-wing monoplane of "leading edge technology", it was the first ever all metal stressed skin fighter and incorporated a single spar wing structure with leading edge slats, trailing edge slotted flaps, a fully enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear.
The first prototype, the Messerschmitt Bf109 V1, first flew on the 28th May 1935 powered by the most powerful engine available, the 695 hp Rolls-Royce “Kestrel” II S and piloted by Hans D. "Bubi" Knutsch. following testing at the Luftwaffe Testing Centre at Rechlin the Bf109 was chosen to equip the rapidly expanding German Luftwaffe over competing designs. The first Bf 109's to see operational service did so with the Condor Legion in Spain and were the Bf 109B variant, the aircraft excelled against the inferior fighter aircraft they met in combat.
By the outbreak of WW2 the aircraft pictured above was in service, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 E "Emil", this aircraft was powered by the new 1,175 hp fuel injected Daimler Benz DB 601A, this was the the Supermarine Spitfire MkIa's main adversary in the "Battle of Britain" and the Bf109 was probably the most advanced operational fighter design in the world for the first three years of World War Two. Although the Messerschmitt Bf 109 E is the best known variant of this superb fighter aircraft many variants were to follow incorporating technological improvements to keep the aircraft competitive with the allied fighter aircraft.
Variants of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter scored more aircraft kills in WW2 than any other aircraft in history, the most successful fighter ace ever, Erich Alfred "Bubi" Hartmann, would only fly the Messerschmitt Bf 109, refusing a transfer to Adolf Galland's new Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter squadron JV44. Hartmann flew a total of 825 combat missions in the second half of WW2 shooting down no less than 352 enemy aircraft!
When production of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 ceased in 1945, with over 31,000 aircraft having been made over a ten year period, they had achieved a record number of aircraft kills than any other fighter aircraft before or since, the design was so good that some Messerschmitt Bf 109 examples were still serving in an operational fighter role until the mid 1960's.
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