APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 9 October, 2001


Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1 "Emil"

Philippe Lemieux

Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1


The Bf 109 is an air superiority fighter that was the mainstay of the Luftwaffe for most of the late thirties and that bore the brunt of the fighting between 1939 and 1940. A monoplane in the midst of biplanes that were in service when it was designed, it is the first fighter that benefited from the 1935 Vienna conference where superscience theories were applied to aerodynamics and showed to the world, particularly to the scientific attending the conference. There it was made clear that future fighters if they were to be successful needed a lot of streamlining and different wing layouts and planforms. The Bf 109 showed the world how to do just this. Equipped with a mildly tapered cantilever wing, it was made entirely of flush riveted skin panels and all its underlying structure was either streamlined or hidden under the skin for reduced drag. The wing was also fitted with newly found high lift devices like wing leading slats. Those helped to produce lift in the same way as LE flaps but without the high drag penalty, thus the pilot was able to use them at high speed during a fight. This was a big departure from how other fighters-monoplane or biplane- of the time were designed. Most of them were either braced monoplane not very safe, or safer but less quick biplanes. The Bf 109 V1 of 1935 broke the speed record in level flight and subsequent development versions raised the mark during the late thirties. The basic Bf 109 version to enter service was the Bf 109B-0 in 1937, it received a Jumo 210A inverted V12 as powerplant and was able to reach 550 km/h in level at 3 250m. It was quickly replaced by an evolution called the Bf 109C-1 and entered the fray in Spain with pre-production Bf 109B-1 and B-2 sweeping all opposition in the skies over Madrid. In the meantime the fledgling Luftwaffe back in the fatherland was reequipping with the Bf 109D "Dora" with a DB 600Aa engine, a 20mm MG-FF cannon and two MG 17 machine guns. At the start of the Invasion of Poland this was already being replaced in most of the Jägergeschwader by the Bf 109E-1, the "Emil". The Bf 109E-1 retained the same wing configuration but the front fuselage was modified a bit to fit and cool the new DB 601A engine of 1 100BHp output at sea level. It was much like the DB600Aa of the previous version but solved many reliability problem found in the previous version, there was also less pieces to break in the new engine and it was less difficult to cool down. Therefore a simpler and less draggy radiator box was added to the port side of the engine cowling, instead of the previous air traps. The biggest difference was in armament with two 20mm MG-FF with 60 rounds each in the nose plus two 7,9mm MG 17 machine guns in the wings. Although this differed slightly with Rustsatz, most of the fighters that were operational had this fitting while others only got 7,9mm MG 17 instead of the cannons. In the years in which it was used the Bf 109E-1 was a no beater for any of its opponents, it was fast, about 600 km/h, very well armed and rugged.

Service History

Bf 109s of the Luftwaffe had first appeared during the Spanish civil war. Flown by german volunteers like the famous Adolf Galland in the Légion Condor, the Bf 109 proved decisive in attaining air superiority over Madrid and Morocco. However, the Bf 109E-1 didn’t see action in this conflict. The "Emil" got its bloodying in late 1939 when the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe launched a surprise attack on Poland. At the time the Bf 109E-1 was the most numerous fighter in service and was already a symbol for the Luftwaffe. Even today when you show a Bf 109 picture to an uninitiated he will identify it as a german warplane. In september 1939 the "Emil" was beginning to show its age compared to other Luftwaffe birds waiting on the drawing boards, but the Polish Air Force with its motley crew of PZL. 11 and other simpler machines was simply no match for the technical superiority of the "Emil". Combats were swift and decisive the "Emil" gaining the upper hand on the Polish in a week or so. This quick success and the propaganda around the Bf 109 built the warplane a fearsome reputation that will last until the Battle of Britain.


Author's Note

For those familiar with the Bf 109E in Luft Krieg this is a revised version which firstly depicts an aircraft not available in the book and secondly a Bf 109 closer to reality than what is written inside Luft Krieg.Also I've used the Heavy Gear Tech. Manual 2nd Edition when writing those stats and not the Gear Krieg rules, I don't know if they are the same or different.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 9 October, 2001