Messerschmitt Bf 109G – 7./JG 52, Ace of Aces Erich Hartmann, Luftwaffe, Romania, October 1944 1/32
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Corgi Aviation Archive 1/32 scale AA34904: Messerschmitt Bf 109G of 7./JG 52, Luftwaffe, as flown by “Ace of Aces” Erich Hartmann, Romania, October 1944
Limited edition of 2,000 pieces
Length 11.25 inches Wingspan 12.5 inches
Erich Alfred “Bubi” Hartmann was the most successful fighter ace in the history of aerial combat. He shot down 352 enemy aircraft while serving the Luftwaffe. After reaching 250 victories, he was temporarily grounded by Hermann Göering who feared the Nazi hero might die in combat. As his reputation developed he gained the nickname Cherniy Chort (“Black Devil”), both because of his skill and his aircraft’s paint scheme.
Hartmann was in the early cohort of German pilots who got exhaustive training before they were sent to the Front. The Germans couldn’t sustain this through the war, but it was crucial early on. He knew his plane, mission, and tactics extremely well. Pilot training is almost always the dominant factor in an air battle.
He also had a dogfighting strategy that was a great match for his situation on the Eastern Front. It was more of an anti-dogfighting strategy, really. Hartmann always sought quick, surprise attacks and avoided twisting-and-turning engagements that would have made him more vulnerable. This is exactly as it should have been, since he usually had free-hunt missions, a choice of targets, and the luxury of deciding when, and if, to engage.
Hartmann is well known for striking at very close range. This made his gunfire lethal, saved ammo for more enemies, and didn’t alert his targets before absolutely necessary. A lot of his victims never knew anyone was there until one of their wings ripped off or their engine blew up. Hartmann essentially shot himself down a few times by running into his enemy’s shrapnel; a true indication of just how close he liked to get.
The first German mass produced 109 fighter was the Messerschmitt Bf 109E, which is often mistakenly referred to as the Me 109. The Bf is the designator for the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW) (Bavarian Aircraft Works) that produced the original aircraft. In 1938 Messerschmitt took over BFW but throughout WWII German handbooks and documents referred to the aircraft as the Bf 109. By the end of 1939 the Bf 109E (Emil) had replaced all other 109 variants and equipped 13 Gruppens with 40 aircraft each. The Bf 109 was the main Luftwaffe single-engine fighter aircraft until the Fw-190 came along.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is one of the few fighters ever to be developed from a light-plane design. Willy Messerschmitt’s angular little fighter was built in greater numbers than any other fighter plane, the total reaching 33,000.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 also shot down more Allied planes than any other aircraft, and stayed in service longer than most, having entered combat in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), fighting through World War II, and then going to war again in 1947, this time for the newly emerging state of Israel.
The great success and longevity of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 can be attributed to the simple directness of its design. In 1934, Messerschmitt engineers sought to place the biggest possible engine in the smallest possible airframe, and make that airframe easy to produce and repair. They succeeded admirably on all counts.
The first flight, in September 1935, was made with an imported Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine of 695 horsepower. Over the years, more than 100 variants of the basic design were created, including modifications introduced on Spanish and Czech production lines after the war. Larger and larger engines were installed, along with hundreds of pounds of additional equipment, and the tough little airframe took it. Examples from the final German operational version, the Bf 109K series, had a 2,000-horsepower engine and a top speed of 450 miles per hour; truly astonishing for a design begun in 1934. A little known fact is that this was the first aircraft to incorporate a slanted back pilots seat, which helped to reduce g forces in combat.
Throughout its career, the Bf 109 was pitted against new and powerful adversaries, notably upgraded British Spitfires and the North American P-51 Mustang. In the hands of a capable pilot, the Bf 109 inevitably held its own. Notoriously difficult to take off and land, and restricted to a 3 bladed propeller, the Messerschmitt nevertheless remained a formidable adversary until the last day of the war.
Designed to meet a Luftwaffe need for a single-seat fighter/interceptor, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 was first flown on May 28th, 1935. Its all-metal construction, closed canopy and retractable gear made the Bf 109 one of the first true modern fighters of WWII. This versatile aircraft served in many roles and was the most produced aircraft of the war and the backbone of the Luftwaffe, and was flown by Germanys top three aces, who claimed a total of 928 victories between them. Armed with two cannons and two machine guns, the Bf 109s design underwent constant revisions, which allowed it to remain competitive until the end of the war.
The Bf 109G was the most numerous version of this long-lived German fighter. Around 10,000 were produced in ten main variants. The 109G was used by every German day fighter unit, and by eight other countries. Ironically, this version of the Bf 109 was not meant to exist. It had originally been hoped that the 109F would be replaced by an entirely new fighter. The Me 209 had first flown early in 1939, but it was soon discovered to offer little or no improvement over the 109F, and at quite a considerable increase in complexity. Work began in 1941 on the Me 309, another failed attempt to produce a replacement 109. The only other successful German single seat fighter of the war, the Fw 190, was good at low level, but poor at high altitude. By 1941 the air war was moving to increasingly high altitudes, and so in the summer of 1941 the Messerschmitt design team began work on yet another version of the 109; the G (Gustav)
The 109G was designed around the DB 605 engine. This was heavier than the engines it replaced, but the same size, so could fit in the same fuselage designs. It produced a fighter that was heavier than the 109F, but faster. The new machine was also less manoeuvrable than the 109F, which was preferred by many of the fighter experts. The engine also caused two major problems. First, early versions were prone to engine fires caused by overheating oil. This was soon fixed. Second, the engine type suffered from low oil pressure. This second problem was never satisfactorily fixed.
The Bf109 was obsolescent towards the end of World War Two, yet it remained the backbone of the German Air Forces day fighter force and was flown by many of her allies. In production right up to the end of hostilities, more than 33000 were built; second only to the Russian ‘Sturmovik’ as the most prolific military design, and post-war versions served with the Czech, Israeli and Spanish Air Forces, the latter until the mid-1960s with Rolls Royce Merlin engines; Some of these surviving long enough to be used in the classic ‘Battle of Britain’ film in 1968.