The Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornisse

(Hornet)

Germany
Germany

side view front view under view

Looking for a successor to the Messerschmitt Bf 110, the Messerschmitt Me 210 was designed. However, it's design was beset with problems, and by the time it had matured to a good aircraft it had a terrible reputation from which it could not recover.. Nevertheless, the Bf 110 needed a replacement, for it was growing obsolete.
The replacement was close at hand, however. Using the Me 210 as a starting point, and changing the designation for partly psychological reasons, the Me 410 Hornisse was quickly completed. The Me 410 differed from the Me 210 mostly in it's powerplant, and modified outer wing panels. These panels included automatic leading edge slots, modified ailerons, trailing-edge flaps and radiator flaps. In fact, the first Me 410 prototype (Me 410 V1) was a modified Me 210A-0 pre-production aircraft.
Flight trials proved that the Me 410 didn't have the vices of the Me 210, and performed excellent with good handling. This, combined with experience with the Me 210, was reason enough for the Me 410 to be ordered into production only a few weeks after the first flight.

Versions:

Further pictures:

Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornisse, side view
Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornisse, side view

Another Me 410 side view, this time the barbettes and cockpit entry hatch are clearly seen
Another Me 410 side view, this time the barbettes and cockpit entry hatch are clearly seen

 

Technical data on the Messerschmitt Me 410A-1/U2
Powerplant 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 603A inverted-Vee, rated at 1750 hp (1304.61 kW) each Role during war
  • (Ground) Attack Fighter
  • Fighter-bomber
  • Light Bomber
  • Dive Bomber
  • Reconnaissance Aircraft
Length 40 ft 11.5 inch Height 14 ft 0.5 inch
Empty weight 17598 lb Operational weight 24772 lb typical
Wing Span 53 ft 7.75 inch Wing Aspect ratio 10.2
Wing Area 389.69 sq ft Service ceiling 32810 ft
Maximum speed 388 mph at 21980 ft Cruising speed 365 mph at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate Climb to 21,980 ft in 10 min 42 sec Range 1050 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 1,100 Imp gal (1,321 US gal) Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 0.312 inch MG 17 fixed forward-firing in the nose, 1.000 rounds each
  • 2 × 0.51 inch MG 131 trainable lateral-firing in remote controlled power-operated FDSL barbettes on the sides of the fuselage, 500 rounds each
Cannons
  • 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 fixed forward-firing in the nose, 350 rounds each
  • 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 fixed forward-firing in a ventral tray, 250 rounds each
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 2: pilot, radio operator/gunner Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) Autumn 1942 Operational Service April 1943 - 1945
Manufacturer Messerschmitt A.G. Number produced 1.160 total, unknown number this version.
Metric system
Length 12.48 m Height 4.28 m
Empty weight 7982 kg Operational weight 11237 kg typical
Wing Span 16.35 m Wing Aspect ratio 10.2
Wing Area 36.2 m² Service ceiling 10000 m
Maximum speed 624 km/h at 6700 m Cruising speed 587 km/h at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate Climb to 6.700 m in 10 min 42 sec Range 1690 km max
Fuel capacity internal 5.000 liters Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 7,92 mm MG 17 fixed forward-firing in the nose, 1.000 rounds each
  • 2 × 13 mm MG 131 trainable lateral-firing in remote controlled power-operated FDSL barbettes on the sides of the fuselage, 500 rounds each
Cannons
  • 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 fixed forward-firing in the nose, 350 rounds each
  • 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 fixed forward-firing in a ventral tray, 250 rounds each
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -

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

Different versions of the Messerschmitt Me 410  Hornisse
Messerschmitt Me 410A-1 Schnellbomber The first Me 410A-1 Schnellbomber (fast bomber) was delivered to the Luftwaffe in January 1943 with a fixed forward-firing armament of 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon and 2 × 0.312 in (7,92 mm) MG 17 machine guns, a defensive armament of 2 × 0.51 in (13 mm) MG 131 trainable rearward-firing machine guns in two remotely controlled barbettes on the sides of the fuselage immediately to the rear of the wing trailing edges, and provision for 2,205 lb (1.000 kg) of disposable stores in a weapons bay located in the lower part of the forward fuselage: this bay could carry 1 × 2,205 lb (1.000 kg) SC-1000 or SD-1000 bomb, or 2 × 1,102 lb (500 kg) SC-500 bombs, or 8 × 110 lb (50 kg) SC-50 bombs; the type could also be fitted under the wing roots with tandem pairs of Aussen-ETC racks for the carriage of an additional 4 × 110 lb (50 kg) SC-50 bombs. The bombs were aimed with the aid of a Stuvi 5B dive-bombing sight.

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Me 410A-1/U1 Reconnaissance version, fitted with 1 × Rb 20/30, Rb 50/30 or Rb 75/30 camera in the central fuselage
Me 410A-1/U2 Heavy fighter version, fitted with a pallet (Waffenbehalter) with 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon fixed forward/firing in the weapons bay, 250 rounds each.
Me 410A-1/U4 Bomber-destroyer version. This model had the standard forward-firing gun battery replaced by a single 50 mm BK 5 gun with 21 rounds of ammunition in a cylindrical magazine and aimed with the aid of a ZFR 4a sight.


Number built: unknown out of 1.160 total
Messerschmitt Me 410A-2 Zerstörer Whereas the Me 410A-1 was a fast light bomber, the Me 410A-2 was a heavy fighter. It was identical to the Me 410A-1 and carried exactly the same gun and internal bomb armaments, but lacked the Stuvi 5B dive-bombing sight and provision for the four external 110 lb (50 kg) bombs. A number of aircraft were later fitted as a bomber destroyer.

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Me 410A-2/U4 Bomber destroyer version. These aircraft retained the standard forward-firing gun battery in combination with a single 50 mm BK 5 gun supplied with 21 rounds of ammunition from a cylindrical magazine.


Number built: unknown out of 1.160 total
Messerschmitt Me 410A-3 This model was the direct result of the Luftwaffe’s general lack of satisfaction with the Me 410A-1/U1 in the reconnaissance role. In this variant the 2 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG 17 machine guns were eliminated and the lower line of the forward fuselage was deepened to allow the incorporation of two Rb 20/30, Rb 50/30 or Rb 75/30 cameras in the former weapons bay. The Me 410A-3 entered service in limited numbers from a time early in 1944, and equipped three long-range reconnaissance Staffeln (one on the Western Front and the other two on the Eastern Front).
Number built: unknown out of 1.160 total
Messerschmitt Me 410B-1 This version followed the Me 410A series in April 1944 on the productionlines. The main difference was the uprated powerplant: 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 603G inverted-Vee, rated at 1,900 hp (1.417 kW) each. It had the same dimensions as the Me 410A-1/U2. Other differences include its empty weight of 17,598 lb (7.982 kg), normal take-off weight of 24,772 lb (11.237 kg), max level speed of 392 mph (630 km/h) at 26,575 ft (8.100 m) declining to 364 mph (585 km/h) at 13,125 ft (4.000 m), max cruising speed of 370 mph (595 km/h) at optimum altitude, endurance 2 hours 24 minutes, and climb to 26,245 ft (8.000 m) in 22 minutes 30 seconds with maximum weapon load.
The versions of the Me 410B-1 at first were identical to the Me 410A series, so the Me 410B-1 was the basic Schnellbomber.

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Me 410B-1/U2 Heavy fighter version, fitted with a pallet (Waffenbehalter) with 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon fixed forward/firing in the weapons bay, 250 rounds each.
Me 410B-1/U4 Bomber-destroyer version. This model had the standard forward-firing gun battery replaced by a single 50 mm BK 5 gun with 21 rounds of ammunition in a cylindrical magazine and aimed with the aid of a ZFR 4a sight.


Number built: unknown out of 1.160 total
Messerschmitt Me 410B-2 This was the equivalent to the Me 410A-2 series, in the form of a heavy fighter. Several variants exist.

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Me 410B-2/U2 The fixed forward-firing armament was augmented by the addition of a weapons-bay pallet (Waffenbehalter) with 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 fixed forward-firing cannon, 250 rounds each.
Me 410B-2/U4 Bomber-destroyer variant with a formidable fixed forward-firing armament of 2 × 30 mm MK 103 cannon (replacing the two 20 mm cannon and two 0.312 in/7,92 mm machine guns on the basic fighter) in combination with 1 × 50 mm BK 5 gun supplied with 21 rounds of ammunition from a cylindrical magazine.



Rüstsätze (field conversion sets):

Me 410B-2/U2/R2 Fitted with an additional 2 × 30 mm MK 108 cannon.
Me 410B-2/U2/R3 Fitted with an additional 2 × 30 mm MK 103 cannon.
Me 410B-2/U2/R4 Fitted with an additional 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon.
Me 410B-2/U2/R5 Fitted with an additional 4 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon.


Messerschmitt Me 410B-3 This was the long-range reconnaissance variant of the Me 410B model analogous to the Me 410A-3, and therefore had the 2 × 0.312 in (7,92 mm) MG 17 machine guns eliminated and lower line of the forward fuselage deepened to allow the incorporation of two Rb 20/30, Rb 50/30 or Rb 75/30 cameras in the former weapons bay.
Number built: unknown out of 1.160 total
Messerschmitt Me 410B-5 Produced only in small numbers and used mostly for experimental work, this was a torpedo bomber version of the standard Me 410B with the 2 × 0.312 in (7,92 mm) MG 17 machine guns deleted, FuG 200 Hohentwiel air-to-surface search radar fitted, and provision made for a disposable armament of 1 × 1,984 lb (900 kg) LT F5b torpedo, or 1 × 1,675 lb (760 kg) LT F5i torpedo, or 1 × 3,968 lb (1.800 kg) SC-1800 bomb, or 2 × 882 lb (400 kg) BT-400 bomb-torpedoes, or 6 × 440 lb (200 kg) BT-200 bomb-torpedoes carried as two under the fuselage and four under the outer wing panels.
The type also had provision for the defensive gun barbettes to be replaced by a 154 Imp gal (184.9 US gal, 700 liter) auxiliary fuel tank, and as the disposable load was carried externally the former weapon bay was adopted to carry a 143 Imp gal (171.7 US gal, 650 liter) auxiliary fuel tank.
Number built: unknown out of 1.160 total
Messerschmitt Me 410B-6 This was a heavy fighter optimized for the coastal anti-shipping role with FuG 200 Hohentwiel air-to-surface search radar and a gun armament of 2 × 30 mm MK 103 cannon, 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon and 2 × 0.51 in (13 mm) MG 131 machine guns.
Number built: unknown out of 1.160 total
Messerschmitt Me 410B-7 This was another model that was built only in very small numbers and used mostly for development work as a reconnaissance fighter optimized for the day role.
Number built: unknown out of 1.160 total
Messerschmitt Me 410B-8 This was another model that was built only in very small numbers and used mostly for development work as a reconnaissance fighter optimized for the nocturnal role with flares carried in the weapons bay.
Number built: unknown out of 1.160 total
Messerschmitt Me 410C Early 1944 this version was planned. It was to have a much higher performance at higher altitudes, even while carrying heavier weapons loads and sometimes night intercept radar. Two new wings were designed, increasing span to 60 ft or 67 ft (18.25 m or 20.45 m). The powerplant would by 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 603JZ, or 2 × Junkers Jumo 213E/JZ, or 2 × BMW 801TJ. All engines would be fitted with turbosuperchargers, and drive four-bladed propellers with very wide blades. The Daimler-Benz's would be fitted with a annular nose radiator in stead of the usual ones under the rear part of the wings. The main landing gear would retract straight to the rear, while twisting the wheels 90 degrees.
However, since the air industry was suffering seriously the Me 410C program was abandoned before any production aircraft were built.
Number built: unknown out of 1.160 total
Messerschmitt Me 410D This version was considered in stead of the Me 410C series. It was powered by 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 603JZ inverted-Vee engines, and had a revised forward fuselage to increase the field of view of the pilot and cause lower drag. In this version the outer wing panels would be made out of wood, to conserve strategic materials. The Me410D series failed because of, amongst others, problems with adhesives and structural failures in the wooden parts.
Number built: unknown out of 1.160 total
Messerschmitt Me 410H This interim version would replace the Me410D series, and was basically identical to the Me 410B-2. This version however had extra untapered wing panels between the engines and the outer wing panels. Span would have increased to 75 ft (23 m), but the first conversion was never completed.
Number built: unknown out of 1.160 total

Remarks:

The Me 410 Hornisse (Hornet) was an unpleasant surprise for the British. In Februari 1944 a staffel of II/KG 51 started flying intruder missions over Great Britian. Britain had been accustomed to quiet nights since over a year, during which almost no nightly intruder missions were flown by the Luftwaffe. The Me 410 was heavily armed, fast, and had sufficient range. The succes of the Me410 was a great relief for Prof. Dr. Willy Messerschmitt, since Messerschmitt had been forced to resign after the utter failure of the Me 210.
The name Hornisse is actually an unofficial one. The Me 410 was in use by amongst other II/ZG 26 also known as the Hornissengeschwader. This Geschwader had received wide publicity because of it's successes.
The Me410 served in many theatres, like the North-European, Mediterranean, and Eastern Theatres. Many aircraft were built as reconnaissance aircraft, since the Me 410 had a good range and good performance. Another version in which it was extensively used was that of the Bomber destroyer. By mid-1944 most surviving Me 410's were operated in the Defence of the Reich against day bombers. The good speed and heavy armament brought down many bombers, but overall score was probably about even since the Me 410 were easy targets for the much more nimble North American P-51's and Republic P-47's, who were escorting the bombers.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

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