Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Messerschmitt Bf-110 G versions

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In 1941, the Messerchmitt design team started to study new versions of the Bf-110, in order to upgrade it and adapt it to new operational standards. The best way to give the Zerstorer a new life was to mount new more powerful engines, which were indentified in the form of the DB 605 B-1. The new creation of Daimler Benz had weight and size almost equal to the DB 601, but could guarantee 1.475 hp at takeoff and 1.355 hp at 5,700 m. 

The pre-production series G-0 was followed by the G-1, which was however soon cancelled. The first version to enter service was the G-2, which could operate both as a Zerstorer or as a Jabo (fighter bomber), thanks to the Rustsatze modification kits. The Bf 110 G-2 was introduced in May 1942: it was in many aspects similar to the F-4 version, with tail rudders increased in size, stronger landing gear and a mazimum loading weight of 8.290 kg. Defensive armament was increased with the adoption of a twin 7,9 mm MG 81Z, while the fixed guns consisted of four 7,92 mm MG 17 e two 20mm MG 151, loaded with 300 and 350 rounds respectively. It was possibile to add under the fuselage two ETC500 bomb racks, or a single WT pod with two 20mm guns.  Under the wings,  two further bomb racks  or two 300 litres auxiliary tanks could be accomodated.

Using the G-2/R1 Rustsatze kit, it was even possibile to mount a 37mm BK 3,7 gun, manned by the gunner and loaded with 60 rounds. The weapon had a muzzle velocity of 1.170 m/s and could destroy a bomber with a single shot, but was also considerably heavy and reduced speed and service ceiling.
In 1943 it was finally recognized that the 7,9 mm were useless against four-engined heavy bomber, thus they were substituted in the Rustsatze G-2/R3 with a couple of MK 108 30 mm cannons, 135 round each. The G-2/R4 went even further, combining the R1 and R3: the 37 mm BK 3,7 plus the two 30 mm MK 108.

During 1943, the Bf-110 saw an unexpected second life as day fighter. The 8th Air Force launched its full scale daylight strategic offensive, sending huge formation of unescorted bombers against the Reich. The Luftwaffe High Command decided to reincorporate the Zerstorergeschwader into to Defence of the Reich ranks; it was thought that the Bf-110 could well support, with its heavy guns and long range, the Bf 109 and Fw 190 units. No less than eight Zerstorergeschwader participated in anti-bomber operations, namely:
  • I. and II./ZG 1
  • I., II., III./ZG 26
  • I., II, III./ZG 76
This units fought with courage and skills, so much that the Bf-110 became known as Pulk Zerstorer, meaning "bomber formation destroyer". They were armed with combinations of 20mm, 30mm, 37mm guns plus two or four WGr 21 rockets and destroyed many B-17s and B-24s.
From January 1944, however, the introduction of the P-51 Mustang meant that the bombers were now escorted for their entire journery to and from Germany. As it had been proved four years earlier during the Battle of Britain, the Bf-110 couldn't survive agaist single-engined fighters. Losses rose quickly, and within June 1944 the Zerstorerwaffe was disbanded, its crew sent to fighter units and its aircraft passed to the Nachtjagd.

The nightfighter units had been using the Bf-110 from 1941 as their main interceptor. For these reasons, the G-4 was the first version designed and produced for nighfighting duties. Aircraft started to reach operational units in the summer of 1942, but engine problems prevented the version to be widely operational until the following year. The G-4 was armed as the G-2, and was also equipped with radar systems such as the FuG 202 Liechtenstein and the FuG 221, able to intercept British Monica radar emissions.
Bf-110 G-4 of NJG 1
Nightfighting Rustsatze included the G-4/U7 with the GM-1 booster and the G-4/U8 long range version, fitted with two 900 litres auxiliary tanks.
From mid-1944 onwards, the Luftwaffe decided to standardize the production onto the G-4/R3, armed with two forward-firing 20 mm cannons and two 30 mm ones, plus the optional Schrage Musik installation usually mounted behind the cockpit.
This latter weapon gave to nightfighter pilots the chance to attack British bombers from below, were they were most vulnerable as they lacked ventral guns.

The end of 1943 also saw the introduction of the FuG 220 Liecthenstein SN-2 which operated of a longer-wavelenght of 90 MhZ, less affected by electronic jamming. This version, however, required bigger antennas and had a minimum range of 500 metres. For this reasons, it was necessary to mount the Liechtenstein C-1 antenna on the nose, with its full set of four masts. As a consequence, dragg and weight rose alarmingly, reducing speed of 50 km/h (30 mph). Technological improvements allowed to produce  SN-2 versions with a lower minimum range, therefore removing the big UHF C-1 antennas.

This improvements led to the final night version, the G-4c, which was used until the end of the war and became the favourite mount of many night fighter aces.

Despite being a failure as pure fighter, the Bf-110 had a second carrier as a night fighter and was one of the few aicraft produced for the entire duration of the conflict. 6,170 Bf-110 were produced, and three survived until today. They are located at:
  • RAF Musem, London - Bf-110 G-4 nighfighter
  • Deutches Technikmusem in Berlin
  • Private museum of Helsingoer, Denmark

Bf-110 G-2 of 4./ZG 1 at Trapani, Sicily

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