Messerschmitt design analysis

by Martin Caidin

Outstanding in the roster of the wor1d's greatest combat aircraft, Germany's vaunted Me-109G series fighter airplane has been the standard fighting machine of the Nazi Die Luftwaffer since the latter part of 1938.

Approached in all-round performance by only the Lockheed Lightning, Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire and North American Mustang, the first Messerschmitts entered combat in the Spring of 1938 during the Spanish Civil War. Designed by Willie Messerschmitt of the Messerschmitt aircraft firm in Germany, this small vicious fighter has fought on every warfront that has witnessed the Nazi Wehrmacht locked in fierce combat with the Allied war machine. Holder of the world's greatest horizontal speed record attained at the International Absolute Speed Record Contest on April 27th, 1939, Flight Captain Fritz Wendel of the Luftwaffe piloted a special Messerschmitt Bf-109R racing aircraft at the rocketing speed of 481.4 mph on a three kilometer course, a feat as yet unequaled. A souped-up Daimler-Benz DB.600ARJ 1,800-hp in-line liquid-cooled engine powered the Bf-109R.

Clashing with British Spitfires and Hurricanes in its debut against the RAF as the Me-109E in the opening phase of the historic Battle of Britain, successive modifications and design changes of the German fighter up through the Me-109E7 and Me-109F2 have resulted in the latest series, the Me-109G.

Air Tech presents the design and performance analysis of one of the greatest fighters in the world, the Messerschmitt Me-109G6 This aircraft, and several other Me-109G modifications, are acknowledged by the entire military aviation world as one of the closest approaches to the perfect fighter plane of World War II.

The superb Diamler-Benz DB.605 twelve-cylinder inverted-Vee liquid-cooled engine of the Messerschmitt Me-109G6 deserves a special tribute by itself. The Daimler-Benz, in all the design modifications from the original DB.600 to the DB.605 series, has performed brilliantly under every abnormal weather condition. From forty and fifty degrees below zero in Russia to the blanketing humidity of 130° in Libya and Tunisia, the Daimler-Benz has powered the slim Messerschmitt to its present height of combat fame. Featuring the most simplified engine mount of any type airframe design, the DB.605 presents a minimum of servicing and maintenance problems. The DB.605 may be ranked with the magnificent Rolls-Royce Merlin and Griffon series engines as one of the two finest liquid-cooled powerplant designs in the world. Even the mighty Napier Sabre engine, developing some 700 hp more than the Daimler-Benz cannot compete with the all-round qualitative superiorities of this excellent German creation.

Developing and maintaining 1,500 hp from takeoff to 16,400 feet, the Daimler-Benz allows a maximum speed of 395 mph at 22,000 feet and a cruising speed of 306 mph at 18,000 feet for the Me-109G1 and Me-109G2. Actual speed characteristics of the Me-109G6 cannot be quoted due to the usual inaccuracy of unofficial sources, but considering the added weight of the pressurization equipment for pilot and engine in the Me-109G6, the maximum speed would certainly be cut about ten mph.

Armament in the most popular arrangement, now standard for the Me-109G1, Me-109G2, Me-109G4 and Me-109G6, (Me-l09G3 and Me-109G5 were armament and pressurization test models) includes two electrically cocked Mauser Type I 20-mm cannon mounted beneath the wings in underslung cannon nacelles, one Mauser Type I 20-mm cannon firing 200 rounds of shells from the hollow propeller hub; two 7.92 Rheinmetal-Borsig machine guns mounted on top of the engine nacelle and synchronized to fire 500 rounds through the propeller arc. Cannon fire at the rate of 900 rounds per minute, the synchronized weapons at 600 rounds per minute. The Mauser Type I nose cannon of the Me-109F1 is interchangeable with a Type II Mauser 15-mm (.60 calibre) nose cannon in the Me-109F2, which also maintains a firing rate of 900 rounds per minute. The 7.92-mm Rheinmetal-Borsigs are replaceable with 13-mm MG 131 machine guns.

Normal range of the Messerschmitt Me-109G2 is 655 miles at 210 mph, a maximum 1,250 miles at 210 mph with a jettisonable auxiliary belly tank. A combat range of 440 miles may be attained at the unusually high combat cruising speed of 360 mph for 1.4 hours duration.

A two-speed two-stage supercharger for the DB.605 affords a service ceiling of above 42,000 feet for the Me-109G6 in the pressurization equipped models. These special high altitude types have pressurized cabins for the pilot and special equipment for the engine, necessary in the rarified air in the eight mile area above the stratosphere. The older Me-109G versions with the 1,350-hp DB.603 and DB.605s have a service ceiling of 41,000 feet without pressurized equipment, although the pilot may be clothed within a pressurization suit.

The Me-109G fighters can climb above the 3,320 feet per minute rate established by the Me-109F1 and Me-109F2 fighters at 5,000 feet altitude. According to the British, the light, strong construction of the Messerschmitt enables the aircraft to be capable of producing a phenomenal rate of climb and dive. Design of the Messerschmitt is very clean, and small size plus a low wing loading gift the aircraft with excellent maneuverability and handling ease.

The wing of the Me-109F and Me-109G models has been reduced in thickness and modified in section over the Me-109E7 fighter to reduce drag. Wingtips have been made semi-circular. These changes resulted in slightly increased wingspan and area over the Me-109E modifications. Wing radiators are sunk deeply under the trailing edge of the wing roots. A newly designed system of flaps controls the flow of cooling air. The boundary layer beneath the wing is picked up just in front of the radiator, then led over the top and discharged through a double-surfaced flap forming a continuation of the upper wing surface.

The wings are of low-set cantilever monoplane design, are of all metal structure with a flush-riveted skin. The trailing edge flaps are of camber-changing split type, mechanically operated. There are leading edge slots on the Messerschmitt's wing which permit easy handling in small and rough fields, an invaluable service for permitting the deadly machine to operate at front line combat. The Frise-type ailerons have ground adjustable tabs.

The tail fin is of cantilever design with the fixed unbraced tailplane set about half way up. No trimming tabs are accommodated. The elevators have small adjustable tabs which can be operated on the ground only. The empennage is of all-metal fixed surfaces, the balanced elevators and rudders are of fabric-covered metal.

The forward sections of the landing gear are fully retractable. The individual legs which hinge upwards and outwards are worked by hydraulic jacks. There is an auxiliary hand-raising gear for emergency operation. Forward wheels are equipped with foot-operated hydraulic wheel brakes and tail-wheel is semi-retractable. The Daimler-Benz is equipped with a VDM controllable-pitch propeller with a sensitive constant-speed governor. There is a cutout on this control to allow the propeller to be used as a fixed-pitch type or hand-controlled for normal cruising performance.

The fuel tank, holding 88 British Imperial gallons, (German measurement unobtainable) consists of a rubber bag set in a plywood box below and behind the pilot's seat. The fuel cell is self-sealing. An auxiliary tank may be carried in the belly bomb rack for increasing the maximum range.

The Me-109G2 is not equipped with pressurization equipment, but other models have special high-flying modifications. Tests for the pressurization equipped versions were made in a special type Me-109GV, then incorporated in the other extra-high-altitude fighters.

Fuselage is of all-metal monocoque structure with a flush-riveted skin. A completely enclosed cockpit with excellent vision houses the pilot and a full complement of instruments, cockpits in the pressurized equipped versions sealed off from the rest of the aircraft. The 10-mm armor plate behind the pilot, situated between the cockpit and the fuel cell, has been replaced in the Me-109Gs with a heavier plate of armor, and additional armor plate has been installed throughout the aircraft. Armor protection for the pilot takes the form of a plate behind his head attached to the hinged cockpit cover. The armor plating is 8 mm (0.315 inch) thick on the Me-109E, is heavier on the Me-109G series.

The cockpits of the Me-109Fs and Me-109Gs are almost identical to that of the Me-109E types, with slight variations due to newly installed equipment. Instrument complement now includes an independently strung blind-flying panel. There is a master compass in the rear fuselage, while the repeater dial is on the dashboard.

There is a short-wave single wave-band transmitting and receiving radio set located halfway between the wings and tail on the Me-109E fighters. On the Me-109Gs it should be in almost the same position, with a possible minor dislocation due to the increased length of the Me-109G fuselage. A first-aid box is located directly next to the radio in the fuselage compartment. Directly aft of the pilot's cockpit is a small baggage space.

Provision is made for installation of racks for one 1,210-pound (550-kilogram) bomb beneath the fuselage, which is interchangeable with a jettisonable fuel cell. Some Me-109Gs carry several wing bombs as on the tropical fighter Me-109F4.

Wing span of the small fighter is 32' 7", length 29' 4". Height is 8' 6", the total wing area 173 square feet.

Gross weight is 7,706 pounds with full combat equipment for the Me-109G1 and Me-109G2, higher for the Me-109G6 due to the added weight of the pressurization equipment. The following power loadings are for the Me-109F2 fighter, specifications on the Me-109G6 are as yet unavailable. The Me-109G6 specifications may correspond with the tally of the Me-109F2, as the additional weight of the former fighter is compensated for by the extra 300 hp of the DB.605 over the DB.601E of the Me-109F2. Wing loading is 35.2 pounds/square foot, power loading at takeoff approximately 5.6 pounds/horsepower.

Till the advent of the USAAF's latest Lightning and Mustang fighters, the only other aerial combat machine in the world that could be safely matched with the outstanding performance of the formidable Messerschmitt Me-109 series fighter was Britain's Spitfire. Today we have matched and in many cases superseded the creative genius of the Reich's scientists. But the Messerschmitt, and the Spitfire, must be credited the distinction of being the only two fighters in the world which have maintained qualitative superiority throughout the five long years of grueling total air warfare.

This article was originally published in the October, 1944, issue of Air Tech magazine, vol 5, no 4, pp 60-61, 68.
The original article includes 4 photos.
Photos credited to British Combine, International News Photo, British Official Photo.

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