The scientific tourist #140 — the Messerschmitt Bf-109

This week’s image is of a Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany:


While designed in the early- to mid-1930’s, the Bf-109 wound up serving in a variety of roles for the German Luftwaffe during World War II. It was one of the earliest truly modern fighters, with an all-metal monocoque body, closed canopy, and retractable landing gear. Ironically, while it spent the war as a thorn in Britain’s aerial side, it first flew with Rolls-Royce engines. Once German engines were ready, though, it was fielded with an inverted V-12 engine of local design and construction. Through a process of constant improvements, the Bf-109 stayed competitive with allied aircraft until the end of the war.

The Bf-109 was the most-produced warplane of WWII (30,573 built during the war), and the most-produced fighter aircraft in history (at least 33,984 built in total, with some sources giving a number of nearly 35,000). Finnish variants were still flying well into the 1950’s, and some Spanish ones were still in service through most of the 1960’s. As a result of their ubiquity, Bf-109s are on display at most major aviation museums.

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