The Messerschmitt BF 110


In the mid-1930s the Luftwaffe was building up its strength with a number of new warplanes,
and the Messerschmitt Bf 110 was the company's submission for a twin-engine fighter for
which Focke-Wulf and Henschol also prepared designs. They were to be initially heavy
fighters, but with the capability of being deployed as high-speed bombers. Changes in
requirements for the fighter resulted in Messerschmilt being the only candidate out of the rest
and three prototypes were built, the first flying on May 12th, 1936. The two 910 hp
Daimler-Benz DB 6OOA engines were very unreliable; nevertheless, a speed of 314 mph
was recorded during tests and the general performance was considered reasonable,
although swing during take-off and landing gave problems. Engine unreliability plagued the
three prototypes, and the pre-production series of Bf 110A-G aircraft had 680-hp Junkers
Jumo 210Da engines which produced a considerable performance penalty, but
Messerschmitt was still awaiting the new DB 601A with fuel injection and other
improvements. This engine's early testing period stretched even longer, with consequent
delays to the Bf 110 program, and after the fourth pre-production aircraft had been completed
in March of 1938 the company switched to the Bf 110U, a cleaned-up version with provision
for two 20 mm FF cannon in the nose, supplementing the four machine-guns carried by the Bf
110A-0. A total of 45 Bf 110Bs were built, all with Jumo engines: most were Bf 110B-1
aircraft, but some Bf 110B-2 machines had their cannon removed and cameras installed,
while the few Bf 110B-3 example aircraft were modified for use as trainers. The DB 601A
engine at last became available, resulting in the Bf 11OC with some airframe changes,
including squarer-cut wingtips and new radiators. Ten Bf 11OC-O pre-production aircraft
were delivered for evaluation in January 1939, followed closely by Bf 11OC-1 production
fighters. As production built up, Focke-Wulf and Gotha joined the program and by the end of
August 1939 a total of 159 Bf llOCs had been delivered at a production rate of 30 per month.
By the end of the year deliveries had reached 315. The new fighter proved its abilities in the
Polish campaign, and in December 1939 succeeded in destroying nine out of 24 Vickers
Wellingtons on a mission over the Heligoland Bight. Three other Wellingtons failed to return
from the operation and the 50% loss to Bomber Command was a severe blow, but it
enhanced the prestige of the Bf 110 as a bomber destroyer. Monthly averages of no more
than 102 aircraft were produced in 1940, but it was in this year, wben the Bf 110s began to
encounter single-engine fighter opposition, that its shortcomings became obvious. While its
ability as a day fighter may have been doubted, even in the improved Bf 110C-2 and Bf
110C-3 versions, there were plenty of other roles where it could perform useful tasks.

The Bf 110C4 with armor for the crew and an uprated 1,200-hp DB 601N engines was used
as a fighter-bomber and could carry two 551 lb bombs beneath the center section; in this role
it became the Bf 110C-4/B and operated against British shipping in the English Channel in
the summer of 1940 with success. The Bf 110C-7 was an improved fighter-bomber with up to
2,205 lb of bombs, while the Bf 110C-5 was a reconnaissance machine. A few aircraft were
converted as Bf 110D-1/R-1 and Bf 110D-1/R2 aircraft to fly long-range escort missions from
Norway with extra jettisonable tanks. However, on their only mission to northern England
they were severely mauled by Supermarine Spitfires and lost seven aircraft, some through
the inability to jettison their tanks, which made them easy prey for the fighters. As the Battle
of Britain began in July 1940, the Bf 110 units were committed to a policy of bringing the RAF
fighters to combat, leaving the German bombers to arrive over England while the RAF were
refuelling and re-arming. The scheme was a failure, since the Messerschmitts could not
match the manoeuvrability of the Hurricanes and Spitfires and were unable to defend
themselves sufficiently with only one rear-firing machine gun. In the resulting battles, the
Messerschmitt units suffered very heavy losses(120 aircraft in August). As the winter of 1940
drew in, the Bf 110 was able to find itself in a more suitable role, as a night-fighter. At first the
Bf 11OCs had no specialised equipment and had to rely on the crew's eyesight to intercept
bombers. An early short-range aid was an infra-red sensor fitted in the nose of the Bf
110D-1/U-1. Systems gradually improved with the setting up of ground control radar stations
in mid-1941, but the supposedly much improved Me 210 was expected to be available shortly
and production of the Bf 110 was considerably cut back. Due to the fact the Me 210 and its
developed version the Me 410 were failures, the Bf 110 continued in production after they
were abandoned. With the phasing out of production of the Bf 11OC series in the spring of
1941, the next series was the Bf 1101J, including the Bf 110D-2 long-range fighter-bomber
based on the Bf 110D-1/R2, and the Bf 110D-3 convoy escort with special overwater
provision and extra fuel. This variant evolved into the Bf 110E-0 pre-production and Bf
110E-1 production aircraft with a bombload of 2,645 lb and 4,409 lb respectively, the Bf
110E-2 fighter-bomber and the Bf llOE-3 long-range reconnaissance version with two
rearward-firing MG 17 fixed machine-guns. With the next major sub-type, the Bf 110F, a more
powerful engine than the DB 60lA or DB 601N of earlier models became available, in the form
of the DB 601F which gave 1,350 hp. Extra armor was installed and a variety of bombs could
be carried beneath the wings and fuselage, but the Bf 110F had only been in production for a
short while when the type was phased out in favor of the Me 210 in October 1941. New
rocket shells which could be used against ground and air targets were tested on a Bf 110F-2;
two rocket-launching tubes were mounted beneath each outer wing panel and the weapons
were intended to be fired into bomber formations. Also tested was the RZ65 rocket shell
which was fired from a battery of twelve 73 mm tubes mounted beneath the fuselage, but this
proved unsatisfactory and was abandoned.

Final Bf 110F variant was the Bf 110F-4a, which carried an array of Lichtenstein intercept
radar aerials in the nose so alot of performance was lost. Failure of the Me 210 meant that
further development of the elderly Bf 110 had to continue, and the next production model was
the Bf 110G-1, a heavy day fighter with 1,475 hp DB 605B-1 engines. The Bf 110G series
went through a mass of subvariants. The Bf 110G-2/R-1 had a 37-mm cannon in place of the
under fuselage bomb racks, and had its two forward firing 20 mm MG 151 cannon removed;
one round from the 37 mm cannon could knock out a bomber. The Bf 110G-2/R3 had two 30
mm MK 108 cannon in place of the four 7.92 mm nose machine-guns, and the Bf 110G-3 was
a long-range reconnaissance fighter with cameras replacing its cannons. The final variant
was the Bf 110H which was produced in parallel with the Bf 110G from which included a
strengthened rear fuselage and landing gear. Total production of the Bf 110 series totalled to
about 6,050 aircraft, the last, a Bf 110G, being completed in March 1945.


Type: three seat night fighter
Span: 53 feet 3 3/4 in.
Lenght; 42 ft. 9 3/4 in.
Height: 13 ft. 8 1/2 in.
Weight: empty 11,222 lbs. max take off 21,805 lbs.
Armament: two 30 mm MK108 cannon and two 20 mm MG 151 cannon in the nose. two 7.92
mm MG 81 machine gunsmounted in rear cockpit

Engine: two 1,475 hp Daimler-Benz DB 601B-1 12 cylinder inverted Vee piston engines


Max speed: 342 mph
Cruising speed: 317 mph
Range: 1,305 miles with drop tanks
Service Ceiling: 26,245 ft

Operators: Luftwaffe, Hungary, Italy, Romania