Messerschmitt Bf-109 "Gustav"

           The Messerschmitt Bf-109, incorrectly called the ME-109 by Allied pilots and aircrew, is a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willi Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser during the early 1930s.

           The Messerschmitt Bf-109 was the world's most advanced fighter at the time of its debut in 1936, and remained as the standard fighter for the Luftwaffe throughout the conflict with a total of some 35,000 variants built.

           It had the smallest possible airframe built around the most powerful engine available. It had many of the period innovations such as an all metal stressed skin construction, retractable main landing gear, automatic Handley-Page leading edge slats, etc. The 109 saw first combat during the Spanish Civil War and fully demonstrated its exceptional maneuverability, inherited from its precedent Bf-108 Taifun (Typhoon) multi-purpose sports plane.

           The Bf-109 underwent numerous improvement throughout its career, and mass production of the E variant started late in 1939. Just in the first year of production, about 2,000 aircraft rolled out. Its excellent performance greatly contributed in the active service of German pilots at the Western Front and during the Battle of Britain. The E-3 version used an improved Daimler-Benz DB601Aa engine capable of 1,100 h.p. This engine allowed for  the mounting a 20mm MG FF cannon on the crankcase and firing through the propeller hub.

           The Messerschmitt Bf-109E was one of the best fighters in early WWII, on a par with the British Spitfire. Both the Messerschmitt and Spitfire had strong opposing potencies and weaknesses which made for interesting dogfights.

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Messerschmitt 109s over Africa prepare to attack a British Kittyhawk