The Messerschmitt Bf 110 Zerstörer

Germany
Germany

side view front view under view

The Zerstörer was the result of a certain way of thinking from before the war. During the period of 1934 - 1939 a lot of countries adopted the doctrine of the Heavy Fighter. This aircraft was mostly powered by two engines, heavily armed, and crewed by two or three people. Some examples are the Fokker G.I of the Dutch Air Force (RNAF, Klu), the Petlyakov Pe-3 of the Russian Air Force (VVS), or the Boulton Paul Defiant of the Royal Air Force. These fighters, it was thought, had the armament to strike lethal blows in one pass during combat, and possessed range and power to penetrate deep into the heart of the enemy. A result of the fact that they were mostly powered by 2 engines meant that the aircraft was a lot less maneuverable than single-engined fighters, and thus became vulnerable.
The "Heavy Fighter" concept started already in the first World War, while Germany and the Netherlands were the countries that were most interested. It would be able to perform long-range duties such as reconnaissance, ground attack, and escort. Because of the requirements it meant the aircraft would have to be larger than a fighter necessary for the range, and smaller than a bomber necessary for maneuverability. Turned around it meant that it was neither a fighter, nor a bomber. It could not deliver reasonable payloads because it lacked the size and power, nor did it have the agility of single-engined fighters. Politics in Germany started from the first view-point, whereas the lower echelons in the military saw that it would be a "Jack of all trades", but a master in nothing. However, in Germany the concept of a Zerstörer (Destroyer) was the embodiment of all what the Nazi's stood for, just like the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka. Thus in 1934 a requirement was issued to AGO, Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (later Messerschmitt), Dornier, Focke-Wulf, Gotha, Heinkel and Henschel for a twin-engined heavy fighter with a crew of three, a heavy gun armament including a trainable mountable cannon, and provisions for an internal weapons bay for bombs.
Willy Messerschmitt, together with Walter Rethel, felt that the requirements would produce an indifferent fighter, and decided to concentrate on a design with the highest possible performance. This was not to the likings of the RLM (Reichs Luftfahrt Ministerium), but because of urgings from Ernst Udet, a known Ace of the First World War, the design was given a fair chance. BFW (Bayerische Flugzeugwerke) received an order for three prototypes that were to be evaluated against the Focke-Wulf Fw 57 and Henschel Hs 124. Even before the production of the Bf 100 (as it was called then) prototypes had begun a change was made in the requirements. The multi-role Kampzerstörer concept was abandoned in favour of two separate versions: the Schnellbomber (fast bomber) and the Zerstörer (destroyer). These would be of roughly the same seize and weight, but the maximum possible performance was concentrated on single-role applications. The Schnellbomber resulted in the failed Bf 162, where the Zerstörer requirements resulted in the Bf 110.

Versions:

Further pictures:

Messerschmitt Bf 110 taking off on a Desert airstrip
Messerschmitt Bf 110 taking off on a Desert airstrip

Messerschmitt Bf 110 being prepared
Messerschmitt Bf 110 being prepared

 

Technical data on the Messerschmitt Bf 110C-4
Powerplant 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 601A-1 inverted-Vee, rated at 1100 hp (820.04 kW) each Role during war
  • Fighter
  • (Ground) Attack Fighter
  • Close Support Attack Fighter
  • Fighter-bomber
  • Night-Fighter
  • Long range (attack) Fighter
  • Reconnaissance Aircraft
  • Advanced Trainer
Length 39 ft 8.33 inch Height 13 ft 6.5 inch
Empty weight 11354 lb Operational weight 14881 lb max
Wing Span 53 ft 1.8 inch Wing Aspect ratio 6.82
Wing Area 414.42 sq ft Service ceiling 32810 ft
Maximum speed 348 mph at 22965 ft Cruising speed 304 mph at 16405 ft
Initial climb rate 2,165 ft per min
Climb to 19,685 ft in 10 min 12 sec
Range 680 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 279 Imp gal (335 US gal) Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 4 × 0.312 inch MG 17 fixed forward-firing in the nose, 1.000 rounds each
  • 1 × 0.312 inch MG 15 trainable rearward-firing in the rear cockpit, 750 rounds
Cannons
  • 2 × 20 mm MG FF fixed forward-firing in the lower nose, 180 rounds each
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 3: pilot, optional navigator/observer, radio operator/gunner Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 12 May 1936 Operational Service january 1939 - 1945
Manufacturer Messerschmitt A.G. Number produced about 6.050 total, unknown number this version
Metric system
Length 12.1 m Height 4.13 m
Empty weight 5150 kg Operational weight 6750 kg max
Wing Span 16.2 m Wing Aspect ratio 6.82
Wing Area 38.5 m² Service ceiling 10000 m
Maximum speed 560 km/h at 7000 m Cruising speed 489 km/h at 5000 m
Initial climb rate 660 m per min
Climb to 6.000 m in 10 min 12 sec
Range 1094 km max
Fuel capacity internal 1.270 liters Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 4 × 7,92 mm MG 17 fixed forward-firing in the nose, 1.000 rounds each
  • 1 × 7,92 mm MG 15 trainable rearward-firing in the rear cockpit, 750 rounds
Cannons
  • 2 × 20 mm MG FF fixed forward-firing in the lower nose, 180 rounds each
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -

Technical data on the Messerschmitt Bf 110F-2
Powerplant 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 601F inverted-Vee, rated at 1350 hp (1006.41 kW) each Role during war
  • Fighter
  • (Ground) Attack Fighter
  • Close Support Attack Fighter
  • Fighter-bomber
  • Night-Fighter
  • Long range (attack) Fighter
  • Reconnaissance Aircraft
  • Advanced Trainer
Length 39 ft 8.33 inch Height 13 ft 6.5 inch with tail up
Empty weight 12346 lb Operational weight 15873 lb max
Wing Span 53 ft 1.8 inch Wing Aspect ratio 6.82
Wing Area 414.42 sq ft Service ceiling 35760 ft
Maximum speed 351 mph at 17715 ft Cruising speed 311 mph at 14760 ft
Initial climb rate Climb to 19,685 ft in 9 min 12 sec Range 746 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 279 Imp gal (336 US gal) Fuel capacity external Up to 132 Imp gal (159 US gal) in 2 × 66 Imp gal (79 US gal) drop tanks
Machine guns
  • 4 × 0.312 inch MG 17 fixed forward-firing in the nose, 1.000 rounds each
  • 1 × 0.312 inch MG 15 trainable rearward-firing in the rear cockpit, 750 rounds
Cannons
  • 2 × 20 mm MG FF fixed forward-firing in the lower nose, 120 rounds each
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 2: pilot, radio operator/gunner Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 12 May 1936 Operational Service january 1939 - 1945
Manufacturer Messerschmitt A.G. Number produced about 6.050 total, unknown number this version
Metric system
Length 12.1 m Height 4.13 m with tail up
Empty weight 5600 kg Operational weight 7200 kg max
Wing Span 16.2 m Wing Aspect ratio 6.82
Wing Area 38.5 m² Service ceiling 10900 m
Maximum speed 565 km/h at 5400 m Cruising speed 500 km/h at 4499 m
Initial climb rate Climb to 6.000 m in 9 min 12 sec Range 1201 km max
Fuel capacity internal 1.270 liters Fuel capacity external Up to 600 liters in 2 × 300 liters drop tanks
Machine guns
  • 4 × 7,92 mm MG 17 fixed forward-firing in the nose, 1.000 rounds each
  • 1 × 7,92 mm MG 15 trainable rearward-firing in the rear cockpit, 750 rounds
Cannons
  • 2 × 20 mm MG FF fixed forward-firing in the lower nose, 180 rounds each
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -

Technical data on the Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4c/R3
Powerplant 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 605B-1 inverted-Vee, rated at 1475 hp (1099.6 kW) each Role during war
  • Fighter
  • (Ground) Attack Fighter
  • Close Support Attack Fighter
  • Fighter-bomber
  • Night-Fighter
  • Long range (attack) Fighter
  • Reconnaissance Aircraft
  • Advanced Trainer
Length 42 ft 9.75 inch including antenna Height 13 ft 8.5 inch with the tail up
Empty weight unknown Operational weight unknown
Wing Span 53 ft 3.25 inch Wing Aspect ratio 6.88
Wing Area 413.33 sq ft Service ceiling 26245 ft
Maximum speed 342 mph at 22900 ft Cruising speed 317 mph at 19685 ft
Initial climb rate 2,170 ft per min Range 560 miles typical,
808 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 279 Imp gal (336 US gal) Fuel capacity external Up to 132 Imp gal (159 US gal) in 2 × 66 Imp gal (79 US gal) drop tanks
Machine guns
  • 1 × 0.312 inch MG 81z two-barrel trainable rearward-firing gun in the rear cockpit
Cannons
  • 2 × 30 mm MK 108 fixed forward-firing in the nose, 135 rounds each
  • 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 fixed forward-firing in the nose, 300 rounds (port) and 350 rounds (starboard)
  • 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 or MG FF fixed obliquely forward- and upward-firing in the rear fuselage in stead of the guns in the rear cockpit,
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 3: pilot, radar operator, optionally radio operator/gunner Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 12 May 1936 Operational Service january 1939 - 1945
Manufacturer Messerschmitt A.G. Number produced about 6.050 total, unknown number this version
Metric system
Length 13.05 m including antenna Height 4.18 m with the tail up
Empty weight unknown Operational weight unknown
Wing Span 16.24 m Wing Aspect ratio 6.88
Wing Area 38.4 m² Service ceiling 7999 m
Maximum speed 550 km/h at 6980 m Cruising speed 510 km/h at 6000 m
Initial climb rate 661 m per minute Range 901 km typical,
1300 km max
Fuel capacity internal 1.270 liters Fuel capacity external Up to 600 liters in 2 × 300 liters drop tanks
Machine guns
  • 1 × 7,92 MG 81z two-barrel trainable rearward-firing gun in the rear cockpit
Cannons
  • 2 × 30 mm MK 108 fixed forward-firing in the nose, 135 rounds each
  • 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 fixed forward-firing in the nose, 300 rounds (port) and 350 rounds (starboard)
  • 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 or MG FF fixed obliquely forward- and upward-firing in the rear fuselage in stead of the guns in the rear cockpit,
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Messerschmitt Bf 110  Zerstörer
Messerschmitt Bf 110 V - Versuchs versions. The Bf 110 Zerstörer series had numerous prototype to test new configurations, concepts or engines with. One of the most notable aircraft was the Bf 110 V1, that proved that the Bf 110 Zerstörer was possible. It was based on both the Bf 108 Taifun and the Bf 109 fighter, the first a four-seat, the second a single-seat aircraft. Provisions were also made for the twin engine. The result was an enlarged Bf 109 with a glasshouse cockpit canopy that could accomodate 3 crewmembers, and the engines situated on the wings. In the nose there was room for the fixed forward-firing battery of guns. The Bf 110 V1 was powered by 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 600a engines, that still proved to be unreliable. Performance was good, handling adequate, but stability was only marginal except at high speeds. By the time that the Bf 110 V2 joined the test team, they were the only contenders for the Zerstörer, because both Focke-Wulf and Henschel were unable to come up with a design that matched the changed requirement for a Zerstörer. Since Herman Göring, head of the Luftwaffe and German air minister grew impatient, BFW received an order for the first Bf 110's even before the third prototype was delivered.
Number built: unknown
Messerschmitt Bf 110A-0 These aircraft would initially be powered by 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 601 engines, which posessedfuel-injection, a higher compression ratio, and an improved supercharger compared to the DB 600. However, since the RLM thought the engine would only be available during 1938, the Bf 110A-0 would be powered by 2 × Junkers Jumo 210Da inverted-Vee, rated at 680 hp (507 kW) each. Although these engines had a lower output, the RLM felt that the Bf 110A-0 could provide valuable experience.
Number built: 4
Messerschmitt Bf 110B-0 Since the DB 601 was delayed, the decision was taken to fit the next batch of aircraft with an uprated version of the current engines. These aircraft were powered by 2 × Junkers Jumo 210Ga, rated at 700 hp (522 kW) each. Other changes were the forward fuselage and fixed armament. The Bf 110A had a Bulging, drooping nose, and this was replaced by a more aerodynamical nose that could carry 4 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG 17 guns, 1.000 rounds each. Additionally, armament could be bolstered by 2 × 20 mm MG FF fixed forward-firing cannons in the lower fuselage. The cannons would be installed on a pallet under the pilot, and the 60-round drums would be changed by the navigator/radio operator
Number built: unknown out of 45 Bf 110B's
Messerschmitt Bf 110B-1 This was identical to the Bf 110B-0, but the Bf 110B-0 was unarmed, where the Bf 110B-1 was armed. This version also had additionally 1 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG 17 trainable rearward-firing gun in the rear cockpit. This version entered service in July 1938, and among its other details were a span of 55 ft 5.33 in (16,90 m) with an aspect ratio of 7.34 and an area of 418.72 sq ft (38,90 m²), length of 41 ft 4 in (12,60 m), height of 11 ft 4.67 in (3,47 m), max take-off weight of 12,562 lb (5.698 kg), max level speed of 283 mph (455 km/h) at 13,125 ft (4.000 m), cruising speed of 198 mph (319 km/h) at 9,845 ft (3.000 m), range of 1,069 miles (1.720 km), and a service ceiling of 26,245 ft (8.000 m).
Number built: unknown out of 45 Bf 110B's
Messerschmitt Bf 110B-2 Reconnaissance version of the Bf 110B-1. The cannon installation was replaced by a camera installation
Number built: unknown out of 45 Bf 110B's
Messerschmitt Bf 110B-3 This version was a conversion for a trainer standard
Number built: unknown out of 45 Bf 110B's
Messerschmitt Bf 110C-0 Pre-production batch of the Bf 110C series. Messerschmitt improved the aerodynamic charateristics of the Bf 110 while waiting for the Daimler Benz DB 601A engines to be released. The deep radiators in the lower half of each engine nacelle were replaced by a combination of shallow oil coolers under the nacelle and shallow coolant radiators under the wings outboard of the nacelles. The oil coolers had manually operated exit flaps, and the coolant radiators had electrically controlled exit flaps. This change required modification of the wing structure. When the engine became available in 1938, the Bf 110C-1 was almost equal to the Bf 110B-1 except for its slightly revised wing with more angular tips that reduced span and area slightly, and of course the engines.
The new powerplant was 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 601A, rated at 1,100 hp (820 Kw). Because of the much more powerfull engines, the Bf 110C had a very good performance. Maximum level speed reached 335 Mph (540 km/h) at 19,685 ft (6.000 m).
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110C-1 Identical to the Bf 110C-0. This version was armed with 2 × 20 mm MG FF fixed forward-firing cannon, 120 rounds each, 4 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG 17 fixed forward-firing guns, 1.000 rounds each, and 1 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG 17 trainable rearward-firing gun, 750 rounds. Other technical details are: a span of 53 ft 3.75 in (16,25 m) with an aspect ratio of 7.59 and an area of 413.33 sq ft (38,40 m²), length of 39 ft 7.25 in (12,07 m), height of 13 ft 6.5 in (4,13 m), empty weight of 10,769 lb (4.885 kg), normal take-off weight of 13,289 lb (6.028 kg), max take-off weight of 14,880 lb (6.750 kg), maximum level speed of 295 mph (475 km/h) at sea level, max cruising speed of 304 mph (490 km/h) at 16,405 ft (5.000 m), economical cruising speed of 217 mph (350 km/h) at 13,780 ft (4.200 m), range of 680 miles (1095 km), initial climb rate of 2,165 ft (660 m) per minute, climb to 19,685 ft (6.000 m) in 10 minutes 12 seconds, and service ceiling of 32,810 ft (10.000 m).

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Bf 110C-1/U1 After being withdrawn from active service, a number of Bf 110C-1's were converted for the glider-towing role.


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110C-2 The Bf 110C-2 was identical to the Bf 110C-1, except for it's radio equipment. The Bf 110C-2 was fitted with a FuG 10 in stead of a FuG IIIaU radio.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110C-3 This version was based on the Bf 110C-2, and differed only in it's 20 mm armament. The MG FF cannons were replaced by other MG FF cannons that were smaller, and some fairings that were necessary with the old guns could be removed now.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110C-4 In this version there was some armor protection for the crew provided. The armor was pasrtly responsible for the increase in weight (490 lb, 220 kg).

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Bf 110C-4/B This was the JaBo, or JagdBomber (fighter-bomber) version of the Bf 110C-4. It was fitted with 2 ETC-250 racks, each capable of carrying a 551 lb (250 kg) SC-250 bomb. The additional weight and drag was countered by installeing a pair of more powerfull engines: 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 601N inverted-Vee, rated at 1,270 hp (947 kW) at 16,405 ft (5.000 m).
The idea for a JaBo version was borne out of the realisation that the Zerstörer could be usefull in more than only a long-range escort or heavy fighter.


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110C-5 This version was developed parallel with the Bf 110C-4/B. It was a specialised photo-reconnaissance model in which the forward armament was reduced to 4 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG FF guns. It had an Rb 50/30 camera installed. The basic variant was powered by 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 601A-1 enigines.

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Bf 110C-5/N Identical to the Bf 110C-5, but powered by 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 601N engines.


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110C-6 This version had it's two 20 mm cannons replaced by 1 × 30 mm MK 101 cannon. It was introduced during the Battle of Britain, and was built in only small numbers.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110C-7 The final Bf 110C version was a JaBo once more. It had two ETC-500 racks side-by-side under the fuselage to carry 2 × 1,102 lb (500 kg) SC-500 bombs. Because of the increased weight the main landing gear was strengthened. This version was only built in small numbers.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110D-0 Pre-production batch of the Bf 110D series. During the invasion of Norway and Denmark it was decided that although the Bf 110C had more range and endurance than a single-engined fighter, this was still inadequate to be able to escort convoys. To increase the range and endurance, Messerschmitt fitted a ventral auxiliary fuel tank with a capacity of 264 Imp gal (317 US gal, 1.200 liters). This tank was fitted under the fuselage which gave the Zerstörer besides a very distinctive profile also increased drag and less maneuverability. The tank prompted the nickname "Dackelbauch", or Dachshund belly. The tank itself could be jettisoned, but (because of aerodynamic issues) more than once refused to drop. Also a number of aircraft were lost due to the fact that insufficiently vented tanks could get a very volatile/explosive mix of fuel and air.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110D-1 First production version of the Bf 110D series

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Bf 110D-1/U1 Although the Bf 110D-1/R1 and Bf 110D-1/R2 were considered to be a failure, it made the Germans realise that the Zerstörer was suited for the night-fighter role. The Bf 110D-1/U1 was fitted with the Spanner-Anlage, an infra-red sensor.This sensor had only a range of a couple of miles/km.



Rüstsätze (field conversion sets):

Bf 110D-1/R1 This version was identical to the Bf 110D-1. This version was fitted with the ventral auxiliary fuel tank.
Bf 110D-1/R2 This version had a better solution for the increased needed range. It had 2 × 198 Imp gal (238 US gal, 900 liter) drop tanks.


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110D-2 This version was the successor of the Bf 110D-1/R2, in the form of a long-range fighter-bomber. It could carry 2 × 1,102 lb (500 kg) SC-500 bombs, and 2 × 66 Imp gal (79 US gal, 300 liter) drop tanks.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110D-3 This version was a parallel development to the Bf 110D-2. It was meant for long-range anti-shipping duties and had a dinghy in the rear fuselage. It could carry 2 × 1,102 lb (500 kg) SC-500 bombs, and 2 × 66 or 198 Imp gal (79 or 238 US gal, 300 or 900 liters) drop tanks.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110E-0 This version was the pre-production version of the Bf 110E. The performance of the Bf 110C and Bf 110D had proved indifferent at best during the Battle of Britain. After the Battle had petered out into nightly (nuisance) raids by the Luftwaffe, production of the Bf 110 was scaled down. Also, the role as heavy fighter was reassessed, and it was decided that the bf 110 could perform probably better in the role of fighter-bomber or night-fighter. The Bf 110E was the first step towards the fighter-bomber version, and was based on the Bf 110D version
It had improved equipment, improved armor protection for the crew, some structural strengthening, and four ETC-50 racks under the outer wing to carry 4 × 110 lb (50 kg) SC-50 bombs, toether with the already possible 2 × 1,102 lb (500 kg) SC-500 bombs carried under the fuselage on two ETC-500 racks. Optionally it was possible to carry 2 × 66 Imp gal (79 US gal, 300 liters) drop tanks in stead of the 110 lb (50 kg) bombs under the outer wings.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110E-1 This version was identical to the Bf 110E-0, and was powered by 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 601A-1 inverted-Vee engines initially. Later production aircraft received 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 601N inverted-Vee engines .

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Bf 110E-1/U1 Night-fighter version, fitted with the Spanner-Anlage infra-red target detector sensor.
Bf 110E-1/U2 Night-fighter version, with provision for a control officer.


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110E-2 This version was based on the Bf 110E-1, and additionally had a dinghy in the rear fuselage like the Bf 110D-3. It was powered by 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 601N inverted-Vee
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110E-3 This version was based on the bf 110E-1, and powered by 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 601N inverted-Vee engines. It was adopted for long-range reconnaissance duties, by replacing the MG FF cannon and ventral bomb racks with a camera installation. Armament was increased with 2 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG 17 fixed rearward-firing guns in the sides of the rear fuselage, and had provisions for 2 droptanks with a capacity of 66 or 198 Imp gal (79 or 238 US gal, 300 or 900 liters) under the outer wing panels.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110F-0 This version was developed parallel with the Bf 110E version, and appeared a little later. It was identical to the Bf 110E-1, but was powered by 2 × Daimler-benz DB 601F inverted-Vee, rated at 1,350 hp (1.007 kW). This engine needed a larger oil cooler, which was the only external difference with the Bf 110E.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110F-1 This version was identical to the Messerschmitt Bf 110F-0, except for armor protection. For the cockpit canopy 2.25 inch (57 mm) thick armor glass was used for the windscreen, together with additional armor glass and armor plate in the cockpit and over the gunner's position.
Under the fuselage two ETC-500 racks were fitted which could carry 2 × 1,102 lb (500 kg) SC-500 bombs, or 2 × 551 lb (250 kg) SC-250 bombs, or 2 × 1,102 lb (500 kg) SD-500 fragmentation bombs, or 1 × 1,102 lb (500 kg) AB-500 container for 500 incendiary or fragmentation bombs. Additional weapons load could be carried under four underwing ETC-50 racks in the form of 4 × 110 lb (50 kg) SC-50 bombs, or 4 × 110 lb (50 kg) SD-50 fragmentation bombs, or 4 × 110 lb (50 kg) AB-24 containers each carrying 24 × 4.4 lb (2 kg) SD-2 fragmentation bomblets.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110F-2 This version was the Heavy Fighter variant, which lacked all provisions for external loads.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110F-3 This version was the reconnaissance brother of the Messerschmitt Bf 110F-1. It had the MG FF cannon and ventral bomb racks replaced with a camera installation. It had provisions for 2 droptanks with a capacity of 66 or 198 Imp gal (79 or 238 US gal, 300 or 900 liters) under the outer wing panels.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110F-4 After small numbers of the Messerschmitt Bf 110F-2 and Messerschmitt Bf 110F-3 had been produced it was decided that the production of the Bf 110 would end. This would be in favour of the Messerschmitt Me 210. However, problems with the Messerschmitt Me 210 meant that it couldn't enter service yet for some time, and production of the Bf 110 needed to be resumed.
At the very time that the Bf 110 design was scrutinised for improvements, the need for night-fighters became urgent. The RAF night-bombing campaign was growing, and the US 8th Air Force day raids were starting as well. Weapons of several types were evaluated, these including the 8.27 in (210 mm) WGr.21 rocket-propelled shell for use against bomber formations and the 2.87 in (73 mm) RZ 65 rocket-propelled shell for use against ground targets. Proposals for the use of these weapon on the Bf 110 included four WGr.21 tubes under the outer wing panels and 12 RZ 65 tubes under the fuselage.
The resulting Bf 110F-4 wasn't armed with rockets, however, but with the same armament of the Bf 110F-2 supplemented by 2 × 30 mm MK 108 fixed forward-firing cannons in a ventral tray. Another change to the bf 110F-2 standard were the larger rudders and their trim tabs to improve handling and controlability during single-engine flight.

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Bf 110F-4/U1 Night fighter version fitted with the 2 × 30 mm MK 108 fixed oblique upward firing cannons in a Schräge Musik (Shrill music or Jazz) installation in the rear cockpit.
Bf 110F-4a This night-fighter was fitted with Airborne Intercept radar of the FuG 202 Lichtenstein BC type installation with a 4-pole antenna array on the nose. This subvariant also had its 20 mm MG FF drum-fed cannon replaced by 20 mm MG 151/20 belt-fed cannon with 650 rounds (300 for the port weapon and 350 rounds for the starboard weapon). The changes increased the max take-off weight of the Bf 110F-4a to 20,474 lb (9.287 kg), and in conjunction with the drag of the Matratze (mattress) antenna array this reduced maximum level speed to 317 mph (510 km/h) at 18,370 ft (5.600 m) and range to 522 miles (840 km) with internal fuel. Provision for two 66 Imp gal (79 US gal, 300 liter) drop tanks allowed this range to be increased at the expense of a further reduction in speed.


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110G-0 The Bf 110G series was most effective in the form of a night-fighter variant. Construction of the Bf 110 had halted already, but failure to make the Messerschmitt Me 210 operational forced the Germans to start production again. Production of the Bf 110 would have to be resumed to cover the gap now left by the failure of this Me 210. In the short term the Bf 110E and Bf 110F series were ordered as these could be put into production without any further delay, and this created some time for Messerschmitt to complete the development of an improved model it had been planning since the summer of 1941 as the Bf 110G. The Bf 110G was powered by 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 605B-1 inverted-Vee, rated at 1,475 hp (1.100 kW) for take-off and 1,355 hp (1.010 kW) at 18,700 ft (5.700 m) each. This allowed the maximum take-off weight to be increased to 20,700 lb (9.390 kg). The first production batch was launched by the Bf 110G-0 pre-production batch.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110G-2 The Bf 110G-1 was never produced. It was planned that the Bf 110G-1 would operate as a heavy day fighter, with a fixed forward-firing armament of 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon, 650 rounds (300 to port and 350 to starboard) and 4 × 0.312 in (7,92 mm) MG 17 guns, 1.000 rounds each, in the lower and upper parts of the forward fuselage respectively. It was soon decided, however, that even with the uprated powerplant the Bf 110G was obsolete in the pure fighter role, and the sensible decision was therefore taken to drop the Bf 110G-1 in favor of the Bf 110G-2 heavy fighter with fighter-bomber capability made possible by provision for the carriage of several Rüstsätze (field conversion sets).
Furthermore did the Bf 110G-2 differ from the Bf 110G-0 in having revised vertical tail surfaces like those on the Bf 110F-4 for improved single-engine handling. More than that, the landing gear was strengthened to be able to carry the heavier weights, and the rearward defense was improved with the use of the 0.312 in (7,92 mm) MG 81z two-barrel gun, 800 rounds total. Other changes include two ETC 500 racks under the fuselage for 1,102 lb (500 kg) bombs and provision under the outer wing panels for the carriage of four 110 lb (50 kg) SC-50 bombs or 2 × 66 Imp gal (79.25 US gal, 300 liter) drop tanks.

Rüstsätze (field conversion sets):

Bf 110G-2/R1 This conversion enabled the Bf 110G to act as a bomber destroyer. The underfuselage bomb racks were replaced by a single 37 mm BK 3,7 gun adapted from the Flak 18 anti-aircraft gun and enclosed in a fairing of wood and fabric construction. This weapon was supplied with 72 rounds of ammunition, with a high muzzle velocity, and the explosive projectiles were usually sufficient to cripple a day bomber with a single hit. To compensate for the extra weight of the installation the MG 151/20 cannon had to be removed, however, and even so the mass and drag of the 37 mm gun installation degraded the Bf 110G-2/R1’s greatly, which made the type a very easy prey for the escort fighters that began to appear in growing numbers.
Bf 110G-2/R2 To compensate for the loss in performance and handling of the Bf 110G-2/R1, this version was fitted with a GM-1 nitrous oxide power-boost system. This system was positioned in the rear cockpit, in place of the radio operator. Also all defensive armament and rear-cockpit protective armor was (necessarily so) deleted.
Bf 110G-2/R3 The fixed forward-firing battery of 4 × 0.312 in (7,92 mm) MG 17 guns was replaced by 2 × 30 mm MK 108 cannon, 135 rounds each for an altogether transformed offensive capability. This included 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 fixed forward-firing cannon in the lower part of the forward fuselage and alternative installations of 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon in a ventral tray or 2 × 1,102 lb (500 kg) SC-500 bombs on ETC 500 ventral racks.
Bf 110G-2/R4 This was the combination of the Bf 110G-2/R3 with the Bf 110G-2/R1 (1 × 37 mm BK 3,7 and 2 × 30 mm BK 108 cannons)
Bf 110G-2/R5 This was identical to the Bf 110G-2/R4, but this version was fitted with a GM-1 nitrous oxide power-boost system.


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110G-3 This version was produced in parallel with the Bf 110G-2. Being a long-range reconnaissance version, it was fitted with 1 × Rb 50/30 or Rb 70/30 camera, a fixed forward-firing armament of 4 × 0.312 in (7,92 mm) MG 17 machine guns, a trainable rearward-firing armament of 1 × 0.312 in (7,92 mm) MG 81z two-barrel machine gun, a fixed rearward-firing armament of 1 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon under the rear fuselage with 350 rounds, and provision for 2 × 66 Imp gal (79.25 US gal, 300 liter) drop tanks under the outer wing panels.
The Bf 110G-3 had a maximum level speed of 348 mph (560 km/h) at 19,030 ft (5.800 m), and its normal range was 559 miles (900 km)

Rüstsätze (field conversion sets):

Bf 110G-3/R3 The fixed forward-firing machine guns were replaced by 2 × 30 mm MK 108 cannons.


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 This was a dedicated night-fighter variant, which was produced parallel with the Bf 110G-2. It entered service late 1942. This version was fitted with additional armor protection for the pilot, and was designed for the carriage of air interception radar added in the form of Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets), and the variant’s standard armament was a fixed forward-firing battery of 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon with 650 rounds and 4 × 0.312 in (7,92 mm) MG 17 machine guns with 4.000 rounds together with a trainable rearward-firing armament of 1 × 0.312 in (7,92 mm) MG 81z two-barrel machine gun with 800 rounds.

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Bf 110G-4/U1 This version had a Schräge Musik (shrill music, i.e. jazz) central cockpit installation of 2 × 30 mm MK 108 cannon firing obliquely forward and upward, with the MG 81z deleted from the rear cockpit.
Bf 110G-4/U5 The first type of radar installed in the Bf 110G-4 was the FuG 212 Lichtenstein C-1 equipment to produce the Bf 110G-4/U5 with a single-pole antenna array producing considerably less drag than the four-pole Matratze (mattress) array of the Bf 110F-4.
Bf 110G-4/U6 An improved version of the Bf 110G-4/U5 carrying, in addition to the FuG 212 equipment, the FuG 221a Rosendaal-Halbe equipment designed to home in on the emissions of the ‘Monica’ tail-warning radar carried by some of the bombers of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command.
Bf 110G-4/U7 This version dropped the FuG 221a equipment and exchanged the FuG 212’s single-pole antenna for a four-pole array.
Bf 110G-4/U8 The advent of this Bf 110G-4/U7 coincided with the German night-fighter arm’s decision to exploit the improved range and target-acquisition capabilities of its air interception radar by adding long-range roving patrols to its ground-controlled Himmelbett system. This version was fitted with a 118.8 Imp gal (142.65 US gal, 540 liter) auxiliary tank in place of the radio operator/gunner and provision under the outer wing panels for 2 × 66 or 198 Imp gal (70 or 238 US gal, 300 or 900 liter) drop tanks. Early trials revealed that the concept of roving patrols was still impractical, however, and only a few examples of this subvariant were produced.


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4a In the fall of 1943 the four-pole antenna array became the standard for the Bf 110G-4 series.

Rüstsätze (field conversion sets):

Bf 110G-4a/R1 Fitted with 1 × 37 mm BK 3,7 Flak cannon
Bf 110G-4a/R2 Fitted with the GM-1 nitrous oxide power-boost system
Bf 110G-4a/R3 Fitted with 2 × 30 mm BK 108 cannons in stead of 4 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG 17 guns


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4b This version was basically similar to the Bf 110G-4a apart from its radar installation, in which the FuG 212 Lichtenstein C-1 radar was retained with a single-pole antenna array and complemented by the FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN-2 with a four-pole Hirschgeweih (stag’s horn) antenna array to provide the ability to ‘see’ through the clouds of ‘Window’ metal foil strips ('Chaff' in American terminology) dropped by RAF Bombers to produce a vast number of echoes on the Germans’ radar screens. The use of two radar systems was dictated by the fact that the minimum range of the FuG 220 was 437.5 yards (400 m), which was somewhat greater than the range at which visual contact with the target was likely to be established, so the FuG 212 was retained as this had a maximum range of 220 yards (200 m)

Rüstsätze (field conversion sets):

Bf 110G-4b/R3 Fitted with 2 × 30 mm BK 108 cannons in stead of 4 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG 17 guns
Bf 110G-4b/R6 Fitted with 2 × 30 mm BK 108 cannon, as well as the GM 1 nitrous oxide power-boost system.
Bf 110G-4b/R7 Fitted with 2 × 30 mm BK 108 cannon, as well as an auxiliary fuel tank of 119 Imp gal (143 US gal, 540 liter) in place of the radio operator/gunner.


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4c By a time early in 1944, the minimum-range capability of the FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN-2 radar had been improved to the point at which it was feasible to discard the FuG 212 Lichtenstein C-1 equipment and so reduce the number of drag-producing antennae sprouting from the nose.

Rüstsätze (field conversion sets):

Bf 110G-4c/R3 Fitted with 2 × 30 mm BK 108 cannons in stead of 4 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG 17 guns
Bf 110G-4c/R4 The 2 × 30-mm MK 108 cannon were replaced by 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon. Quite mysteriously, the aircraft were all delivered with two ETC 500 racks under the fuselage, but these were generally removed and, in some cases at least, replaced by a ventral tray carrying two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon.
Bf 110G-4c/R6 Fitted with 2 × 30 mm BK 108 cannon, as well as the GM 1 nitrous oxide power-boost system.
Bf 110G-4c/R7 Fitted with 2 × 30 mm BK 108 cannon, as well as an auxiliary fuel tank of 119 Imp gal (143 US gal, 540 liter) in place of the radio operator/gunner.


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4d This version was the final Bf 110G-4 version

Rüstsätze (field conversion sets):

Bf 110G-4d/R3 This version had a redesigned and less drag-producing antenna array for its FuG 220b radar. Some of the aircraft were also adapted in the field with the FuG 227/1 Flensburg system, with antennae mounted on the wing tips, to home onto the emissions of the British ‘Monica’ tail-warning radar


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110H-2 Produced in parallel with the Bf 110G up to the middle of 1944, this model had been planned from mid-1941 with a number of differences from the Bf 110G. Many of its features had then be adopted from the Bf 110G so that in the long run the Bf 110H differed significantly from the Bf 110G only in its powerplant of two DB 605E inverted-Vee engines, a measure of local strengthening in the rear fuselage, stiffened fins, stronger main landing gear units, and a retractable tailwheel

Rüstsätze (field conversion sets):

Bf 110H-2/R1 Fitted with the GM-1 nitrous oxide power-boost system
Bf 110H-2/R2 Fitted with the GM-1 nitrous oxide power-boost system


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110H-3 Reconnaissance version, fitted in the same manner as the Bf 10G-3, but with the 4 × 0.312 in (7,92 mm) MG 17 fixed forward-firing machine guns replaced by 2 ×30 mm MK 108 cannon.
Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050
Messerschmitt Bf 110H-4 Night-fighter equivalent of the Bf 110G-4

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Bf 110H-4/U7 This version dropped the FuG 221a equipment and exchanged the FuG 212’s single-pole antenna for a four-pole array.
Bf 110H-4/U8 This version was fitted with a 119 Imp gal (143 US gal, 540 liter) auxiliary tank in place of the radio operator/gunner and provision under the outer wing panels for 2 × 66 or 198 Imp gal (70 or 238 US gal, 300 or 900 liter) drop tanks.


Number built: unknown out of circa 6.050

Remarks:

During the War the Bf 110 Zerstörer had it's moments of great victory, and moments of terrible losses. The first version to see action was the Bf 110C-1 in the Polish campaign that started World War 2. The Zerstörer had such advantage in firepower and performance that it had not much opposition from the slow but agile Polish fighters. Nevertheless, in fighter vs Fighter engagements it didn't live up to expectations fully. As a bomber-interceptor, however, the heavy armament and good performance, and it's agility that was better than it's opponents, the Zerstörer excelled. During one mission in December 1939 a couple of Zerstörers were responsible for the destruction of 12 out of 24 Vickers Wellingtons over Heligoland. These bombers were unescorted, and no match for the powerfull Zerstörer.
During the Battle of Britain the flaws of the 'Heavy Fighter' concept showed in fighter vs fighter engagements. During the Battle the Bf 110's were easy meat for the Hurricanes and Spitfires. It must be noted however that when the Zerstörer would perform a "Freie Jagd" or Fighter Sweep, it outperformed the Hurricanes and Spitfires. It was not until Hermann Göring ordered the escorting fighters to stay close to the bombers that the Bf 110 suffered it's severest losses. The Zerstörer was an aircraft that needed speed to work with, and a close escort robbed it of this advantage.
Later in the War it was often effectively used as a night-fighter. The layout of the aircraft, and the fact that multiple seats were available meant it could easily be fitted with radar equipment and operators, while still maintaining a reasonable good performance. De Havilland Mosquitoes where it's most dangerous adversaries at that time.
Although it might sometimes sound as iff the Bf 110 was a bad aircraft please be aware that it was in fact not so. Of the twin-engined aircraft it was one with the longest history (1939-1945), and in the beginning it had decisive advantages over enemy single-engine fighters. In the JaBo role it was also put to good use by the Luftwaffe, and as night-fighter it filled a desperate gap quite well.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

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© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 5/20/01