Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 – 1./JG.1, Wilhelm Balthasar, Luftwaffe 1940
2 in stock
2 in stock
Corgi Aviation Archive 1/72 scale AA28005: Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4, Wilhelm Balthasar, 1./JG.1, France 1940. Limited edition of 1,000 Pieces
Length 5 inches Wingspan 5.25 inches
As the savage aerial fighting above the evacuation beaches of Dunkirk was taking a heavy toll on both sides, the airmen of Britain and Germany knew this was just a pre-curser of a more significant battle to come. Having lost valuable fighters during the Battle of France and Operation Dynamo, the RAF knew that they were facing a battle-hardened enemy, equipped with the most feared fighter aircraft in the world, the agile and heavily armed Messerschmitt Bf 109, which had ruthlessly cleared European skies of all opposition air forces sent against it.
Supremely confident and possessing much greater numbers, the fighter pilots of the Luftwaffe would be at a disadvantage for the first time, fighting against an organised RAF, equipped with excellent fighters of their own and having extremely well trained pilots. The Germans would also be fighting over enemy territory with the English Channel acting as a physical and psychological barrier during combat – if they were shot down, or suffered mechanical difficulties, their chances of getting back to France were now looking much less likely. Despite these new challenges, swarms of Messerschmitts crossed the Channel, determined to break the resolve of the Royal Air Force.
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.