The Messerschmitt Bf 110 & Me 210/410

v1.0.0 / 01 aug 16 / greg goebel

* At the outbreak of World War II, the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, placed high hopes on the "Messerschmitt Bf 110", a heavy twin-engine fighter with long range and powerful armament, envisioning it as an offensive weapon, particularly in the bomber escort role. While it met expectations in the early battles of the war, it was soon learned that it was no match for single-engine fighters. However, the Bf 110 still proved highly valuable as an interceptor, and fought in that role to the end of the conflict.

A replacement twin-engine fighter, the Messerschmitt "Me 210", was designed, though it proved unsuccessful; it was ultimately refined as the "Me 410", to see action late in the war. This document provides a history and description of the Bf 110, Me 210, and Me 410 -- as well as two other Luftwaffe twin-engine fighters not produced in large numbers, the Focke-Wulf "Fw 187" and the Dornier "Do 335".

Messerschmitt Bf 110

[1] BF 110 ORIGINS
[4] ME 210 & ME 410

[1] BF 110 ORIGINS

* In 1934, the German Air Ministry (ReichsLuftMinisterium / RLM) issued a requirement for a long-range, twin-engine heavy fighter with powerful armament. It was primarily intended for long-range bomber escort, but it was generally described as a "Zerstoerer (Destroyer)", useful for interdiction of enemy air or ground forces, as well as reconnaissance missions.

A contract for three prototypes each was awarded to Focke-Wulf, Henschel, and the Bavarian Aircraft Works (Bayersiche FlugzeugWerke / BFW). A BFW design team under Willy Messerschmitt came up with a twin-engine fighter design designated the "Bf 110". The initial prototype, the "Bf 110 V1", where "V" stood for "Versuchs / Experimental Prototype" performed its first flight on 12 May 1936, with Rudolf Opitz at the controls. It demonstrated a maximum speed of 508 KPH (316 MPH), well superior to contemporary variants of the BFW Bf 109 single-engine fighter.

While the RLM specification had originally requested three crew -- including a pilot, navigator, and radio operator / rear gunner, all under a long glazed greenhouse-style canopy -- the prototype only had two crew, separated by the main fuel tank. Planned armament was four fixed 7.92-millimeter (0.312-caliber) MG 17 machine guns in the bulbous nose, with a single 7.92-millimeter MG 15 on a flexible mount in the rear of the cockpit. Other features of the machine were:

The second prototype, the "Bf 110 V2", performed its initial flight on 24 October, with the "Bf 110V3" -- the first armed machine, with four 7.92-millimeter (0.31-caliber) MG 17 machine guns in the nose -- taking to the air on 24 December. The three initial prototypes demonstrated satisfactory performance and generally good handling -- though they had a nasty swing on takeoffs, a problem that would never be fully corrected, and they couldn't match the maneuverability of contemporary single-seat fighters. The results were regarded as promising enough to order four pre-production "Bf 110A-0" fighters.

Daimler-Benz was reconsidering the design of the desired DB 600 powerplants, working toward a DB 601A with fuel injection -- permitting more aggressive maneuvering -- and a beefed-up supercharger, so these aircraft were fitted with Jumo 210Dd engines that provided only 455 kW (610 HP) and were fitted with two-blade variable-pitch props. They featured the same armament of four MG 17 guns in the nose, but added an MG 15 gun of the same caliber on a flexible mount in the rear of the cockpit. Of course, these aircraft were underpowered.

The Bf 110A-0 machines led to a batch of 10 unarmed "Bf 110B-0" aircraft, with a redesigned and cleaner nose replacing the original bulbous nose, and then, in the summer of 1938, initial production "Bf 110B-1" aircraft, with two MG FF 20-millimeter cannon -- a variant of a Swiss Oerlikon weapon -- in the nose to complement the four MG 17s, the MG 15 in the rear of the cockpit being retained. Delays with the DB 601A meant these aircraft were powered by Jumo 210Ga engines, and remained underpowered.

Only 45 Bf 110B-series machines were completed, the quantity including a number of "Bf 110B-2" reconnaissance fighters, with the cannon removed and a camera installed. The B-series was not really suitable for operations, being used for service evaluations and trials. Most were converted to "Bf 110B-3" trainers, with the cannon or all armament removed, and additional avionics added. A few were used in trials. Incidentally, although prototypes of the competing Focke-Wulf "Fw 57" and Henschel "Hs 124" were built and flown, they were clearly inferior to the Bf 110, and did not enter production.



* In expectation of deliveries of the DB 601A engine, the Messerschmitt company (which BFW had become in the meantime) improved the Bf 110's airframe by beefing up the structure to handle the greater power; introducing a tidier canopy arrangement; fitting angular wingtips, with a slightly decreased wingspan; and cleaning up the engine installation, with the radiator moved from under the engine to inside the outboard wing. The result was the "Bf 110C" series, the first true production machines.

Following a batch of pre-production "Bf 110C-0" aircraft, deliveries of the "Bf 110C-1", with DB 601A-1 engines providing 820 kW (1,100 HP) each, began in early 1939. It was given production priority, with over 300 delivered by the end of the year. The Bf 110C-1 was followed by:

On being withdrawn from the fighter role, a number of Bf 110C-1 machines were converted to the "Bf 110C-1/U1" glider tug configuration. It is unclear if they saw much operational use. There were attempts, incidentally, to use three Bf 110s harnessed together to tow the oversized Messerschmitt Me 321 glider; the scheme was downright dangerous, and was abandoned.

   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                16.27 meters        53 feet 4 inches
   wing area               38.4 sq_meters      413.3 sq_feet   
   length                  12.65 meters        41 feet 6 inches
   height                  3.5 meters          11 feet 6 inches

   empty weight            5,200 kilograms     11,455 pounds
   MTO weight              6,750 kilograms     14,880 pounds

   max speed at altitude   560 KPH             350 MPH / 305 KT
   service ceiling         10,000 meters       32,800 feet
   range                   775 kilometers      480 MI / 420 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

* With the outbreak of war in September 1939, great things were expected of the Bf 110 by Luftwaffe chief Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering. During the invasion of Poland that faith seemed to be justified. Polish air opposition, consisting of outdated fighters, was quickly swept from the skies, with the Bf 110 proving useful in reconnaissance and Jabo roles during the rest of the campaign.

Messerschmitt Bf 110

The Bf 110 also seemed to demonstrate its merit when the British Royal Air Force (RAF) sent 22 Vickers Wellington twin-engine bombers to attack German warships in broad daylight on 18 December 1939. The intruders were tracked by radar, which the British didn't know the Germans possessed, with 16 Bf 110s shooting down 12 Wellingtons and damaging the rest very badly. In addition, Bf 110s served with distinction in the invasion of Norway in April 1940. A flight of Bf 110s was supposed to support a paratroop drop on a Norwegian air base, but the transports didn't show, and so the flight leader decided to land on the Norwegian base and intimidate the defenders with the rear machine guns on the fighters, until the paratroopers finally arrived.

Things similarly seemed to go well during the lightning conquest of the Low Countries in France in May and June, but during the Anglo-French evacuation of troops across the English Channel Bf 110s were badly chewed up by RAF Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire single-engine fighters. Bf 110 pilots, realizing that they couldn't meet single-engine fighters head-on, switched to the "defensive circle" tactic, with Bf 110s flying in a circle, so that an adversary fighter that got on the tail of one Bf 110 was vulnerable to the Bf 110 behind it.

However, it wasn't until the Battle of Britain began shortly thereafter that the unsuitability of the Bf 110 for bomber escort became really apparent. By September 1940, when the daylight air offensive against Britain was finally called off, over 300 Bf 110s had been lost in combat. It had proved successful in the Jabo role, particularly in anti-shipping strikes, but for the air superiority role, it was painfully inadequate. The Bf 110 was then transferred to the Balkans and North Africa, where in the absence of serious air opposition they were able to still raise hell through the first half of 1941.

In June 1941, the Bf 110 was committed to Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, and assisted in the destruction of Soviet air power in the first few days of the offensive. However, from that time on, increasing air opposition on the front lines meant that the Bf 110's usefulness in that environment was on the fade. It would nonetheless remain a significant weapon on the defense to the end of the war.

* During this time, the Germans had been introducing improved Bf 110 day fighters. The "Bf 110D-0" introduced a belly tank fixture known as the "Dackelbauch (Dachshund Belly)" with a capacity of 1,050 liters (277 US gallons) that required removal of the two MG FF cannon. Experience with the production "Bf 110D-1/R2" showed the scheme didn't work well -- the fighters demonstrated a tendency to simply disappear without a trace, the problem finally being traced down to the fact that the empty Dackelbauch tank remained full of fuel fumes, turning it into a bomb.

The "Bf 110D-1/R2" was then introduced, featuring a drop tank under each wing instead. The drop tanks would become common to later Bf 110 variants, with tank sizes ranging from 300 liters (79.1 US gallons) to 1,050 liters (277 US gallons). This led to the "Bf 110D-2", a Jabo with the ability to carry twin drop tanks and also two 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) bombs; and the "Bf 110D-3", built in parallel, which was capable of hauling the same external loads, but was optimized as a shipping escort, featuring an extended tail to stow an inflatable dinghy.

Messerschmitt Bf 110

The "Bf 110E-0" was an improved Jabo pre-production variant, featuring modest changes, including some structural reinforcement, enhanced armor protection, and updated avionics kit -- as well as outboard wing racks for a total of four 50-kilogram (110-pound) bombs, with two drop tanks as an alternative store. It retained DB 601A engines, as did early "Bf 110E-1" machines, but they didn't provide enough power for the increased loads -- so later Bf 110E-1 production introduced DB 601N engines,

The Bf 110E-1 led to other E-series variants, with DB 601N engines:

The DB 601N was still not powerful enough to compensate for increase in weight, and so a new "Bf 110F" series was introduced, featuring DB 601F engines with 970 kW (1,300 HP) each. The pre-production "Bf 110F-0" machines were much like the Bf 110E-1 in configuration, the only visible difference being the engine installation. The initial production "Bf 110F-1" was a Jabo, with additional cockpit armor, notably an armor glass windshield, the armor being retrofitted to many earlier production Bf 110s. The Bf 110F-1 could carry up two 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) bombs under the belly, and up to four 100-kilogram (220-pound) bombs under the wings.

The "Bf 110F-2" was a Zerstoerer variant, much like the Bf 110F-1 except for the bomb racks deleted, while the "Bf 110F-3" was a reconnaissance fighter, along the lines of the Bf 110E-3. The "Bf 110F-4" was a night fighter, discussed below.

The E-series was produced in parallel with the F-series, it appears because of DB 601N production availability, and the fact that a Bf 110E had satisfactory performance, as long as it wasn't too heavily laden. The F-series seemed to be the end of the line for the Bf 110; production declined from 1,083 machines in 1940, to 784 in 1941, to 580 in 1942. Production of the supposedly improved Messerschmitt Me 210 heavy fighter was supposed to begin in late 1941, in principle allowing the Bf 110 to be phased out completely.



* The reports of the death of the Bf 110 turned out to be premature. The first factor was that, as discussed below, the development of the Me 210 turned out to be drastically "snakebitten", leading to a major political controversy and an equally major redesign that would result eventually in the Me 410 -- a good aircraft, but much too late.

The second factor was that when the RAF gave up on daylight bombing over Germany, they not surprisingly turned toward night bombing, and Germany was in desperate need for a night fighter that could carry radar to spot intruders at night. General Josef Kammhuber, who began implementation of a defensive network in 1940. In July of that year, he formed the first Bf 110 "Nachtjaeger (NJG / Night Fighter Squadrons)". A system was developed where Freya long-range radars gave warning of RAF bomber streams, and then a Bf 110 would be vectored onto an individual bomber using a ground-controller cell, with one Wuerzburg tracking radar following the bomber and another following the Bf 110, the fighter pilot being directed toward the target by a ground controller over a radio link. Incidentally, the RAF would eventually set up a scheme in which German-speaking personnel would break in on the controller channel to create confusion.

Initially, Bf 110Cs had been committed to the night intercept role, with the aircrew dependent on "Mark I eyeball" for targeting. This only worked well on moonlit nights; that led to use of Bf 110D fighters fitted with a "Spanner-Anlage" infrared sensor in the nose, but its range was too limited. Lichtenstein airborne intercept (AI) radar proved a better solution. The "Bf 110F-4", mentioned above, was one of the first successful production night fighters, with a third crewman as a radio operator, and a ventral tray with twin MK 108 short-barreled 30-millimeter cannon to provide more killing power.

The Bf 110 made a good night fighter, at least with the introduction of the F-series, since it could carry the required load of radar, radar operator, and heavy cannon. It was straightforward to fly -- an important consideration, since night air combat operations tend to be dangerous even when there's no contact with an enemy -- while it had adequate performance and endurance, though a heavily-laded Bf 110 wasn't that much faster than the bombers it was trying to catch.

A particular improvement was the introduction of upward-firing cannon, with the 30-millimeter belly cannon tray removed and twin MG FF 20-millimeter cannon set on the back at an angle from 70 to 80 degrees, with a sight set into the roof of the canopy. RAF bombers had no belly protection and no belly gunner to keep an eye out for what might be going on directly beneath the bomber. The scheme was known as "Schraege Musik" (meaning "Jazz Music", or more literally translated "Slanted Music / Oblique Music"), and it was devastatingly effective, with RAF bomber losses demonstrating an abrupt shift upward.

The first production variant with Schraege Musik was the "Bf 110F-4/U1", but it would become a standard feature on later night fighter variants. All the clutter of such night-fighter gear meant a demand for yet more engine power, resulting in the "Bf 110G" series, with DB 605B engines providing 1,100 kW (1,475 HP) each.

Evaluation "Bf 110G-0" machines were delivered in early 1942, leading to delivery of similar initial production "Bf 110G-2" aircraft in early 1943 -- the "Bf 110G-1" was a heavy day fighter variant, the decision being made not to build it. It featured reinforced landing gear to handle higher takeoff weights, with Mauser MG 151/20 20-millimeter cannons in place of the two MG FF cannon in the nose, and a fast-firing MG 81Z dual 7.9-millimeter machine gun replacing the MG 15 at the rear of the cockpit. The MG 151/20 cannon could be replaced by racks for two 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) bombs. Other G-2 subvariants included:

The "Bf 110G-3" was a long-range reconnaissance fighter. It had two cameras, capability for drop tanks; four MG 17 machine guns in the nose but no cannon; and a fixed rearward-firing MG 151/20 cannon augmenting the MG 81Z dual machine gun. Some were built with twin MK 108 30-millimeter cannon in the nose instead of the four machine guns, these machines being designated "Bf 110G-3/R3".

Messerschmitt Bf 110 night fighter

The most significant of the G-series was the "Bf 110G-4", which was built as a night fighter, with provisions for radar. Standard armament was four MG 17 7.9-millimeter machine guns in the nose; twin MG 151/20 cannon under the nose; and the MG 81Z dual machine-gun assembly for rear defense. Subvariants included:

Production of the Bf 110 ramped back up, with 1,580 delivered in 1943 and 1,525 delivered in 1944. While the Bf 110 was enjoying a renaissance in the night fighter role, it was also enjoying a resurgence in day fighter operations. The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) began ramping up a daylight bomber offensive over Germany in mid-1943, believing that tight formations and heavy defensive armament could compensate for fighter escort. They were fatally wrong. The German defense was energetic and devastating, with the Bf 110 day fighters contributing to the destruction with heavy cannon armament, rockets, and even dropping delay-fuzed bombs into formations. By the fall of 1943, the USAAF was forced to restrict its operations to targets within the range of fighter escorts.

However, by March 1944 new variants of the P-51 and P-47 were available that had enough range to escort bombers to targets deep inside the Reich, and Bf 110 day fighter operations became suicidal. Things were not going so well for the night fighters either, with RAF Mosquito equipped with a Lichtenstein detector named "Serrate" hunting the hunters in the dark.

To compound the troubles, in mid-1944 the Allies began to dispense "Window", long aluminum strips that acted as radar reflectors and jammed German radars, which confounded the Lichtenstein radar. The Germans had been developing a longer-wavelength radar, the Fug-220B Lichtenstein SN-2, that had greater range and also proved more resistant to Window, though it was less precise in its targeting.

The "Bf 110G-4b" carried a single antenna for the Lichtenstein C-1, to be used for close-range targeting, surrounded by four big "stag's antlers" dipole arrays for the Lichtenstein SN-2. It appears the pre-existing field upgrade kits could be fitted to the Bf 110G-4b, as well as the "R-6", which was a combination of GM-1 boost and MK 108 nose cannon; and the "R-7", which had a fuselage auxiliary tank, plus the MK 108 nose cannon.

Messerschmitt Bf 110 night fighter

Refinement of the Lichtenstein SN-2 eliminated the need for the Lichtenstein C-1 for close-range targeting, and so the elimination of the central antenna. This resulted in the "Bf 110G-4c". It had similar field upgrade kits as its predecessor, including "R3", "R6", and "R7" -- plus an "Bf 110G-4c/R4", which had twin MG 151/20 20-millimeter cannon in the nose, instead of the twin MK 108s. By default, the Bf 110G-4c had belly stores racks, but they could be replaced by a belly cannon pack with twin MG 151/20 cannon. There was also a "Bf 110G-4d/R3", identical to the Bf 110G-4c/R3" except for a streamlined Lichtenstein SN-2 antenna array. Many Bf 110G machines were updated in the field with the "Flensburg" unit, an improved follow-on to Rosendaal, to home in on Monica emissions.

A relatively small number of "Bf 110H" machines were delivered, these being equivalent to the Bf 110G series, except that they were powered by DB 605E engines, not DB 605B engines, along with minor tweaks such as reinforced landing gear and a retractable tailwheel. Production included "Bf 110H-2", "Bf 110H-3", and "Bf 110H-4" variants, with subvariants along the lines of those of their G-series equivalents.

By late 1944, the fuel situation was becoming critical, increasingly grounding the Luftwaffe. Some Luftwaffe "Experten" racked up big scores in the Bf 110, Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schaufer claiming 121 kills. In the last year of the conflict, Junkers Ju 88 night fighters increasingly displaced the Bf 110 in the role, though some pilots still preferred the smaller Bf 110.

There were no foreign users of the Bf 110, nor did it see any real use in the postwar period. It had been forced to soldier on well after it had become obsolescent, but it managed to give the Allied bomber offensive a very hard time. A number of machines survive in static displays, but it does not appear there are any flight-worthy survivors.


[4] ME 210 & ME 410

* Even as far back as 1937, there was interest in building an improved successor to the Bf 110, resulting in RLM authorization for development of the "Me 210". The initial "Me 210 V1" prototype performed its first flight on 5 September 1939, with Hermann Wurster at the controls; the flight was said to have been successful, but only in the sense that Wurster managed to safely land again. It was a taste of things to come. More prototypes were built and flown, but progress in getting the aircraft to fly right was painfully slow.

The Me 210 was roughly along the same lines as the Bf 110, with twin DB 601A-1 engines providing 820 kW (1,100 HP) each on mid-mounted wings; a snub nose; and fully retractable taildragger landing gear, all with single wheels, the main gear retracting backward into the engine nacelles. The pilot and radio operator sat back-to-back under a greenhouse canopy. The first prototype originally had twin tailfins, but it proved so unstable that the twin tailfins were quickly replaced with a single large tailfin. That didn't solve the type's problems by any means; on 5 September 1940, the second prototype was lost in a crash, the pilot bailing out.

Development was protracted, with a total of 16 prototypes built into the summer of 1941, with little progress made. Although the aircraft remained unpromising, the Me 210 was put into production in early 1941, with the first "Me 210A-0" pre-production machine rolled out in April, and the full production "Me 210A-1" rolled out in November.

The Me 210A-1 featured DB 601F engines providing 1,010 kW (1,350 HP) each; fixed forward-firing armament consisting of two 20-millimeter MG 151/20 cannon and two 7.92-millimeter (0.312-caliber) MG 17 machine guns in the nose; and rear defensive armament consisting of a remotely controlled 13-millimeter (0.51-caliber) MG 131 machine guns in an FDL barbette on each side of the fuselage, with an interrupter system to stop them from firing when they were pointed at the tailplane or rear fuselage. The barbettes originally proved highly unreliable, leading to experiments with fixed rearward-firing guns; they unsurprisingly proved useless, with engineering work finally getting the barbettes operating properly.

Messerschmitt also produced a light bomber variant, the "Me 210A-2", with a bombbay that could accommodate two 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) bombs and a rack under each wing for a 1,000-kilogram (2,200-pound) bomb; and worked on an "Me 210B-1" reconnaissance variant, with forward-firing armament reduced to twin MG 151/20 cannon, and two cameras in the bombbay.

After delivery of relatively small quantities of Me 210s beginning in November 1941, however, a government commission investigating the defects of the type ordered a production halt in April 1942, after the completion of about 200 machines, including the prototypes. The Me 210 had wretched handling characteristics, described as "vicious" -- in particular suffering from a nasty tendency to go into a spin in a blink of an eye; it was also too unreliable for field use.

The Me 210 was judged unacceptable for operational service. The whole program was such a fiasco that Fieldmarshal Erhard Milch, boss of the RLM, who couldn't stand Willy Messerschmitt, pressured Messerschmitt into resigning from his position as company chairman. Hermann Goering joked that his own tombstone would read: HE WOULD HAVE LIVED LONGER HAD THE ME 210 NOT BEEN PRODUCED.

Messerschmitt Me 210

* However, the Me 210 was not abandoned. Messerschmitt engineers worked frantically to fix the problems, performing such modifications as a longer and deeper rear fuselage and adding automatic leading-edge slats. The aircraft was finally tamed; it was not without faults, but it was no longer unsafe to fly. Some quantity of Me 210s that were in construction when production was halted were completed in this configuration, with a number of the machines that were fielded being similarly upgraded. It seems some dozens of such Me 210s found their way to field service.

On being given DB 605B engines providing 1,100 kW (1,475 HP), the machine went into production under license with Hungarian Danube Aircraft Works as the "Me 210C" from 1942 into 1944. There were two Hungarian variants, a "Me 210Ca-1", which was a fighter and dive bomber, plus an "Me 210C-1" reconnaissance fighter; a total of 267 Me 210Cs was built, with about a third of them going into service with the Luftwaffe. There was consideration of an "Me 210D" reconnaissance variant, but it didn't happen.

With further refinements, particularly a revised wing and revised engine radiator scheme, production of the design also was restarted at the Augsburg plant in late 1942, as the "Me 410 Hornisse (Hornet)". The Me 210 had been so discredited that it was thought wise to give the improved type a new designation. The Me 410 was initially fitted with DB 603A engines providing 1,380 kW (1,850 HP) each.

There were two variants at the outset, including the "Me 410A-1", a Schnellbomber, and a "Me 410A-2" Zerstoerer. They were very similar, both featuring the same gun armament scheme as the Me 210 -- two MG 151/20 cannon and two MG 17 machine guns fixed firing forward, and an MG 131 gun in a barbette on the sides of the rear fuselage -- and could both carry up to 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of bombs in an internal bombbay. The only major difference was that the Me 410A-1 could also carry two 50-kilogram (110-pound) bombs in tandem under each wingroot (for a total of four 50-kilogram bombs) and had a dive-bombing sight, though no dive brakes.

   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                16.35 meters        53 feet 7 inches
   wing area               36.2 sq_meters      390 sq_feet   
   length                  12.48 meters        40 feet 11 inches
   height                  4.28 meters         14 feet

   empty weight            7,518 kilograms     16,574 pounds
   normal loaded weight    9,650 kilograms     21,275 pounds

   max speed at altitude   625 KPH             390 MPH / 335 KT
   service ceiling         10,000 meters       32,800 feet
   range                   1,200 kilometers    745 MI / 650 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

By April 1943, the Me 410 was being used by V/KG2 for "tip and run" night raids over England, with single aircraft darting in over Britain at top speed and low altitude, dumping their bombloads without too much care for precision targeting, and then fleeing as fast as possible. Even with such tactics, British air defenses proved too much for the Hornisse, with Royal Air Force night fighters inflicting intolerable losses on the intruders.

As with most German aircraft in full production, the Me 410A was produced in a large number of subvariants, with the subvariant list complicated by the use of factory and field upgrade kits:

Me 410 gunboats served heavily in the defense of the Reich against Allied bombers, but the gunboats were heavily laden and their performance degraded accordingly. They suffered heavily when the Americans introduced long-range P-51 escorts.

Messerschmitt Me 410

* By 1944, production had moved on to the "Me 410B" series with DB 603G engines providing 1,420 kW (1,900 HP) each, baseline production including an "Me 410B-1" Schnellbomber and a "Me 410B-2" Zerstoerer. Similar modification kits were provided, resulting in another Chinese menu of subvariants:

Work was also performed on a revolving launcher in the bombbay that could fire six 21-centimeter (8.3-inch) rockets at a bomber formation in rapid succession, but this scheme proved troublesome and did not reach service.

Initially, Me 410B production focused on bomber variants, but the focus quickly changed to interceptor variants as the fortunes of the Reich deteriorated. However, development did continue of the "Me 410B-5" anti-shipping variants, with FuG 200 Hohentwiel sea-search radar, twin MG 151/20 cannon for nose armament; and the capability of carrying the L10 Friedensengel glide torpedo and the Bomben Torpedo (BT) series of munitions. The BT weapons were not actually torpedoes as such; they were dartlike bombs with three fins that were designed to stay on course after entering the water to hit a ship below the waterline. A specialized sight was required to perform this trick. There was also work on a "Me 410B-7" day reconnaissance variant and an "Me 410B-8" night reconnaissance variant -- to carry illumination flares -- but none of these variants reached production.

A total of about 1,126 Me 410s of all variants was built, with Messerschmitt production augmented by Dornier, which made about a fifth of them. Several experimental variants were flown, including the "Me 410C" and "Me 410D" with turbocharged engines and annular radiators (giving them the look of radial engines); and the "Me 410H", with a long wingspan, heavy bombload, and fixed forward-firing armament of two MG 151/20, two MK 103, and two MK 108 cannon. These experimental variants did not reach production or service. With Germany facing defeat, all production of the Me 410 ended in September 1944.



* While the RLM was pursuing development of the Bf 110 in 1936, the ministry also took interest in a proposal by Kurt Tank, chief engineer of the Focke-Wulf firm, for a single-seat twin-engine fighter, the "Fw 187", to be powered by twin DB 600 engines. The RLM gave the go-ahead for development, on the provision that Jumo 210 engines be used instead, since DB 600s were in short supply at the time.

The initial "Fw 187 V1" prototype performed its initial flight in spring 1937, with Hans Sander at the controls. The fighter was of all-metal construction, with a low-mounted wing and a Jumo 210 under each wing. The fuselage was very slender, so much so that some of the flight instruments had to be mounted on the engine nacelles, instead of in the cockpit. Although the Jumo 210 engines provided only 510 kW (610 HP), instead of the 750 kW (1,000 HP) of the desired DB 600 engines, performance was good, with the machine reaching 525 KPH (325 MPH), compared to the expected 560 KPH (350 MPH) with DB 600s.

The second prototype, the "Fw 187 V2", performed its initial flight in the summer of 1937; it incorporated many changes relative to the first prototype, for example uprated Jumo 210G engines and, on later flights, a single 7.92-millimeter (0.32-caliber) MG 17 machine gun on each side of the nose. It was followed in the spring of 1938 by the "Fw 187 V3", which had two tandem seats and considerable redesign, as well as twin MG FF 20-millimeter cannon.

Focke-Wulf Fw 187

The first prototype was lost in a fatal accident on 14 May 1938. The program continued, generating three more two-seat prototypes -- the last of which, the "Fw 187 V6", was fitted with proper DB 600A engines that allowed it to reach 635 KPH (395 MPH). Three "Fw 187A-0" pre-production machines were built, with Jumo 210Ga engines, and armament of two MG 17s on each side of the nose plus twin MG FFs in the belly. However, the Bf 110 was seen as satisfactory at that time, and there was no interest in going on to production of the Fw 187.

   FOCKE-WULF FW 187A-0:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                15.3 meters         50 feet 2 inches
   wing area               30.4 sq_meters      327.2 sq_feet   
   length                  11.1 meters         36 feet 5 inches
   height                  3.85 meters         12 feet 8 inches

   empty weight            3,700 kilograms     8,155 pounds
   MTO weight              5,000 kilograms     11,025 pounds

   max speed at altitude   530 KPH             330 MPH / 285 KT
   service ceiling         10,000 meters       32,800 feet
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

The Fw 187s that had been built were used for trials and apparently saw a small amount of combat, being sent to operational units mostly as a propaganda and deception measure to trick the Allies into thinking the Fw 187 was a real production machine. A night-fighter version was proposed in 1943, but it didn't happen -- there was simply no space in the aircraft for the bulky radar gear.

* While German industry rolled out Bf 110s, the RLM was investigating a next-generation twin-engine fighter of unusual design, the Dornier "Do 335", which featured an engine in the nose and an engine in the rear -- what is now informally called a "push-me-pull-you" configuration. The idea was to build a twin-engine fighter with less drag than conventional twin-engine concepts.

Claudius Dornier had acquired experience in the implementation of "push-pull" engine pods in some of the designs of his prewar flying boats; in the mid-1930s, he became interested in what might be done with that configuration in a twin-engine fighter. The biggest technical sticking point was placement of an engine in the extreme rear of the aircraft, which would have made the machine very tail-heavy; a more forward placement meant use of a driveshaft.

To validate the use of a rear engine with a driveshaft, Dornier contracted with Ulrich Huetter to design a flying testbed, with "Goettingen Go-9", which was built by Schempp-Hirth. It was a very light aircraft, with a sailplane-like fuselage, a pusher prop driven by a 60 kW (80 HP) Hirth HM-60R engine -- mounted at the aircraft's center of gravity, rotating the prop through a driveshaft -- and a ventral tailfin in addition to the usual dorsal tailfin; the ventral tailfin kept the pusher prop from striking the runway on takeoffs and landings. The Go-9 flew in 1940 and showed the pusher prop / driveshaft scheme was workable, but for the time being, the RLM wanted Dornier to focus on bombers and flying boats.

In 1942, however, the RLM issued a requirement for what would evolve into a multi-role day fighter, night fighter, fighter-bomber, and reconnaissance platform. Dornier submitted a push-pull design designated the "Projekt 231", and the RLM authorized development of the machine as the Dornier "Do 335". The initial prototype, the "Do 335 V1", performed its first flight on 26 October 1943. A total of nine prototypes of increasing levels of finish was built, leading to the delivery of the first of ten "Do 335A-0" pre-production machines in mid-1944 and service trials beginning later in the year. The first "Do 335A-1" machine, generally similar to the Do 335A-0, appeared in the fall of 1944, and eleven were built in all. The type was named the "Pfiel (Arrow)", though aircrews nicknamed it the "Ameisenbaer (Anteater)" for its appearance.

* The Do 335 was of all-metal construction, with tricycle landing gear; a low wing; the top-&-bottom tailfin scheme used on the Go-9; and twin DB 603E-1 12-cylinder vee inlines, driving three-bladed props front and back. The forward engine featured an annular radiator. The second engine was positioned at the rear of the wing and was fed by a belly inlet.

Dornier Do 335

All landing gear had single wheels, with the main gear hinging in the wings to retract towards the fuselage, and the nose gear retracting backward. Basic armament was twin MG 151/15 15-millimeter cannon in the nose, firing through the prop arc, and an MK 103 30-millimeter "motorcannon" firing through the prop hub. There was a hardpoint under each wing for an external fuel tank or 250-kilogram (550-pound) bomb, and a weapons bay in the belly for a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) bomb, or multiple smaller munitions.

The canopy hinged open to the right; early prototypes had a sliding canopy. Rear view was very poor, so production machines featured rear-view mirrors in blisters on the side of the canopy. The pilot sat on an ejection seat to get out of the aircraft; it was something of a clumsy procedure, with the pilot first using explosive charges to get rid of the rear prop and top tailfin, then manually shedding the canopy. The bottom tailfin could also be dumped for a wheels-up landing.

   DORNIER DO 335A-1:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                13.8 meters         45 feet 3 inches
   wing area               38.5 sq_meters      414.4 sq_feet   
   length                  13.85 meters        45 feet 5 inches
   height                  5 meters            16 feet 5 inches

   empty weight            7,260 kilograms     16,005 pounds
   normal loaded weight    10,000 kilograms    22,230 pounds

   max speed at altitude   765 KPH             475 MPH / 410 KT
   service ceiling         11,400 meters       37,400 feet
   range (no tanks)        1,395 kilometers    865 MI / 755 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

Performance of the Do 335 proved outstanding, the machine being fast and maneuverable. However, despite the fact that the Reich's circumstances had become desperate by that time, considerable work was diverted to development of a wide range of variants, as if the Germans had all the time in the world:

Many other Do 335 variants were on the drawing board, such as high-altitude variants with stretched wings; a "Do 435" night fighter, with simplified structure and side-by-side seating for two crew; and even a "Do 635" machine built by mating two Do 335s together. They didn't happen, and in fact of the few dozen Do 335s completed, there is no record they saw combat -- though a few Allied pilots did report seeing them in flight. A number fell into Allied hands and were evaluated after the war. One of these machines now resides at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington DC.

The Do 335 had obvious potential, the single-seater being one of the fastest piston fighters ever built, with the design adaptable to different roles. It was fortunate for the Allies that by the time it was ready to be put into production, the Reich no longer had the resources to do so.



* As concerns copyrights and permissions for this document, all illustrations and images credited to me are public domain. I reserve all rights to my writings. However, if anyone does want to make use of my writings, just contact me, and we can chat about it. I'm lenient in giving permissions, usually on the basis of being properly credited.

* Sources include:

* Revision history:

   v1.0.0 / 01 aug 16 / gvg