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Messerschmitt Bf 109 E

German fighter from the Blitzkrieg and Battle of Britain

Messerschmitt Bf 109 E

Messerschmitt Bf 109 E and T
Type: German fighter plane or fighter-bomber from the Blitzkrieg and the Battle of Britain (Bf 109 T carrier plane).
History: At the outbreak of WW2 the Luftwaffe had a strength of 1,056 Bf109s. Many of these were Bf 109Ds, but this series was already being replaced in increasing numbers by the Messerschmitt Bf 109 E.
This had first appeared (as the V14) in mid-1938, and the E-1 was produced both as a fighter (with four MG 17s) and as a fighter-bomber (carrying one 250 kg or four 50 kg bombs). Later E-1s standardised on 20mm MG FF cannon in place of the two wing-mounted MG 17s.

Messerschmitt Bf 109 E
Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4/Trop of JG 27, North Africa, summer 1941.

Against all types of opposing fighter during the Blitzkrieg throughout Poland, Norway, France, Belgium, Holland and southern England, with the exception of the Spitfire (which it greatly outnumbered), the Messerschmitt Bf 109E proved itself superior in both performance and manoeuvrability; only its range let it down.

Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-7 Leningrad JG 5 1942
One of the last Messerschmitt Bf 109 E sub-types, this is an E-7, seen with a large dust filter on the engine air inlet. It was operating on the Leningrad front in 1942 with JG 5.

Production accelerated to the extent that Germany could afford to export sub­stantial numbers of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-3 (which appeared at the end of 1939 and was the principal version to be used in the Battle of Britain) to Bulgaria, Hungary, Japan, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, Russia and Yugoslavia. In addition, a small batch was built during 1941-43 by Dornier's Altenrhein factory in Switzerland.

German and Romanian Messerschmitt Bf 109 E Ploesti
A German Bf 109 E together with two Romanian Messerschmitt's guarding Ploesti oilfields, Romania.

In July 1940 the Gerhard Fieseler-Werke began to convert 10 Bf 109 E-1s to Bf 109T (for Trager = carrier) extended-span configuration. These were to have been development aircraft for the Bf 109 T-1, intended for use aboard the proposed aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin, but after the carrier programme was terminated the 60 T-1s ordered were completed instead as land-based T-2s.

Romanian Messerschmitt Bf 109 E
A Romanian Messerschmitt Bf 109 E in 1942.

Various other E models, up to E-9, were produced for fighter or reconnaissance duties, with powerplant or equipment variations.
Meanwhile, Messerschmitt had been developing what was to become the finest of all the many versions, the Bf109 F.

Users: Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Japan, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, Russia, Yugoslavia (Bf 109 E and T).

Bf 109 E Yugoslavia Air Force
Messerschmitt Bf 109 E from the Yugoslavian Air Force, 1940.

3d model Messerschmitt Bf 109 E
3d model Messerschmitt Bf 109 E

Bf 109 E-4 Trop fighters of JG 27 over Libya
Taken from a German propaganda film of 1941, this photograph depicts a pair of Bf 109 E-4/Trop fighters of I/JG 27 flying over the Cyrenaican (Libyan) desert, soon after the entry of the Afrika Korps.

Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-3
Power plant
one 1,175 hp Daimler Benz
DB601Aa inverted-vee-12 liquid-cooled engine
Wing span
32 ft 4.6 in
Length overall
28 ft 4.2 in
Height overall
10 ft 6.0 in
Wing area
176.53 sq/ft
Weight empty equipped
4,685 lb
Weight loaded
5,875 lb
Maximum wing loading
33.28 lb/sq ft
Maximum power loading
5.00 lb/hp
Maximum speed
348 mph
at 14,565 ft
Cruising speed
233 mph
at 22,965 ft
Initial climb
3,100 ft/min.
Time to height
16,405 ft in 7.1 min.
Service ceiling
34,450 ft
410 miles

two 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns [1,200 rpm, velocity 2,477 ft/sec] above engine each with 1,000 rounds and two 20mm MG FF [540 rpm] in wings, each with 60-round drum.

as fighter-bomber four 110 lb bombs or one 551 lb bomb.
First flight
mid 1938

Production delivery

January 1939 (E-1), end of 1939 (E-3)
Price per unit
100,000 RM =
45,000 $ =
11,250 £
Total production figure (all)
(of this 30,480 during WW2)
Accepted by Luftwaffe 1/39-12/44
Production 1939 (all variants)
Production 1940
(all variants)
Production 1941
(all variants)
Bf 109's in Luftwaffe First Line Units 1.9.39 (Start of WW2)
850 Me109 E-1 and E-1/B, 235 D-1, unknown small number of B's
(200 used against Poland)
Bf 109 E losses in Poland
67 (all by ground fire)
Bf 109 E in Luftwaffe First Line Units 10.8.40 (Start Battle of Britain)
879 Bf 109 E




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