Messerschmitt Bf 110: Luftwaffe’s “Night Hunting Devil” of World wᴀʀ 2
In the past, the Messerschmitt Bf-110 was developed and used as a fearsome night fighter equipped with radar and became a mainstay of the Luftwaffe.
In the mid-1930s, the Nazi air force had a rather difficult problem. Their bombers had a range of 2,400km, but their fighter escorts had a range of only 650km. Before 1939, all air connoisseurs believed that bombers could always get through the enemy’s anti-aircraft fire, but as the wᴀʀ escalated, Nazi Germany realized that they needed an aircraft that could escort bombers on long-range missions. The solution they came up with was the Messerschmitt 110, also known as the Bf 110.
Introduced in 1937, the Bf 110 saw consistent service over all of the fronts involving German forces and its allies. Total production reached 6,170 examples by wᴀʀ’s end in 1945 and variants allowed the original design to evolve some throughout the wᴀʀ years. While it became less effective in daytime operations as the wᴀʀ wore on, the Bf 110 was pressed into other roles better suited to its strengths by the end.
The German engineers’ approach to the Bf 110 was like a “bridge product” between a traditional fighter and a medium bomber. A twin-engine approach provided improved survivability over the warzone and theoretically could solve the problem of operational range. At the same time, a more powerful design could also be outfitted with more firepower through machine guns, cannon and bombs beyond what a single-engine airframe offered. The Bf 110 could act as a heavy fighter, bomber, and night fighter.
Original armament was 4 x 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns coupled to 2 x 20mm MG FF/M cannons in the nose. The rear cockpit featured a single 7.92mm MG 15 machine gun to help protect the aircraft’s more vulnerable “six” position from trailing, intercepting aircraft. This armament load was excellent for the time for a short burst of fire was able to bring down most any aircraft the enemy could field – particularly bombers flying in tight formation. During the course of the Bf 110s flying career, only slight changes would be enacted to the armament suite – primarily to save on weight or to carry more mission equipment. A bomb-carrying capability was later added that only served to broaden the aircraft’s tactical appeal in combat.
The Bf 110 had a range of 2,400km and a top speed of up to 560km/h. The Bf 110 was the fastest of the early World wᴀʀ II aircraft. However, Bf 110 had a fatal weakness. The longer range forced it to have a large fuel tank, making it larger and heavier than other fighters. Specifically, the Bf 110 weighed more than 4 tons, twice as much as the Bf 109, the most popular Nazi fighter aircraft in World wᴀʀ II.
The Bf 110 was highly hoped by the German military, so they were also called an “air destroyer”. Bf 110 is considered a most modern German weᴀponѕat that time. In 1939, planes achieved some remarkable feats when they destroyed Polish plans or British bombers flying over German airspace.
But by 1940, the situation had changed. Unlike before, when Germany only had to confront small-scale air forces like France or Poland, their opponent was a very strong Britain militarily. In 1940, the Bf 109 was a powerful aircraft, but its range only allowed it to fly over London for 10 minutes before having to return to base and possibly causing the German bombers to be destroyed by the British Air Force.
The Bf 110’s competitors were high-speed aircraft such as the British Hurricane and Spitfire. The price to pay for long range and powerful attack power was too high: the Bf 110 proved to be slow against British fighters. Instead of protecting the bombers, the Bf 110 had to defend itself and at times had to fly in a circle formation to avoid attack from the rear. Before the Battle of Britain, Germany had 237 Bf 110s, but after the battle ended, 223 were destroyed. Among the German pilots who died in this operation was Hans-Joachim Goring, grandson of Nazi Air Force Commander Hermann Goring.
Later in the battlefields of North Africa and Russia, with a new radar system, the Bf 110 was a powerful night attack aircraft, specializing in hunting for British Lancaster bombers in the skies over Germany. Equipped with artillery and air-to-air missiles, the Bf 110 also destroyed many American B-17s and B-27s in 1943. However, it was no longer an aircraft used to assert power. in the air anymore.
In 1944, the United States introduced the P-51 Mustang, a fighter that could fly at more than 725 km/h, with a range of up to 2,600 km and still retain the agility of a fighter. Confronted with Mustang and Thunderbolt, the Bf 110 became the Allies’ prey. The arrival of the Mustang also marked a new era for fighters. The Americans built a fighter with high speed, long range and high maneuverability. Although not equipped with many weapons, its advantages were enough to destroy many different types of military aircraft.