The Messerschmitt Bf 110, was a twin-engine heavy fighter (Zerstörer – German for "Destroyer") in the service of the Luftwaffe during World War II. Hermann Göring was a proponent of the Bf 110, and nicknamed it his Eisenseiten ("Ironsides”). Development work on an improved type to replace the Bf 110, the Messerschmitt Me 210 began before the war started, but its teething troubles resulted in the Bf 110 soldiering on until the end of the war in various roles, alongside its replacements, the Me 210 and the Me 410.
Throughout the 1930s, the air forces of the major military powers were engaged in a transition from biplane to monoplane designs. Most concentrated on the single-engine fighter aircraft, but the problem of range arose. The Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM), issued a request for a new multipurpose fighter called the Kampfzerstörer (battle destroyer) with long range and an internal bomb bay. The request called for a twin-engine, three-seat, all-metal monoplane that was armed with cannon as well as a bomb bay. Three companies: Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Messerschmitt), Focke-Wulf and Henschel responded to the request.
Messerschmitt defeated Focke-Wulf, Henschel and Arado, and was given the funds to build several prototype aircraft. The Focke-Wulf design, the Focke-Wulf Fw 57, had a wing span of 25.6 m (84 ft) and was powered by two DB 600 engines. It was armed with two 20 mm MG FF cannons in the nose and a third was positioned in a dorsal turret. The Fw 57 V1 flew in 1936 but its performance was poor and the machine crashed. The Henschel Hs 124 was similar in construction layout to the Fw 57, equipped with two Jumo 210C for the V1. The V2 used the BMW 132Dc radial engines generating 870 PS compared with the 640 PS Jumo. The armament consisted of a single rearward-firing 7.92 mm MG 15 machine gun and a single forward-firing 20 mm MG FF cannon.
The initial deliveries of the Bf 110 encountered several delays with delivery of the DB 600 motors, which forced Bayerische Flugzeugwerke to install Junkers Jumo 210B engines, leaving the Bf 110 seriously underpowered and able to reach a top speed of only 431 km/h. The armament of the A-0 units was also limited to four nose-mounted 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns.
Even without delivery of the DB 600 engines, Bayerische Flugzeugwerke began assembly of the Bf 110 in mid-1937. As the DB 600 engines continued to have problems, Bayerische Flugzeugwerke was forced to keep on using Jumo motors, the 210G, which supplied 515 kW (700 PS) each. Three distinct versions of the Bf 110B were built, the B-1, which featured four 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns and two 20 mm MG FF cannons. The B-2 reconnaissance version, which had a camera in place of the cannons, and the B-3 which was used as a trainer, with the cannons replaced by extra radio equipment. Only 45 Bf 110Bs were built before the Jumo 210G engine production line ended. The major identifier of the -A and -B-series Bf 110s was the very large "mouth" bath radiators located under each engine.
In late 1938, the DB 601 B-1 engines became available. With the new engine, the design teams removed the radiators under the engine nacelles and replaced them with water/glycol radiators for the C-series airframes onwards, placing them under the wing just outboard of each nacelle, otherwise similar in installation, appearance and function to those on the Bf 109E. With the DB 601 engine, the Bf 110's maximum speed increased to a respectable 541 km/h (336 mph) with a range of approximately 1,094 km. A small oil cooler and air scoop remained under each engine nacelle for the remainder of the Bf 110's production run.
The Bf 110 served with success in the early campaigns, the Polish, Norwegian and Battle of France. The Bf 110's lack of agility in the air was its primary weakness. This flaw was exposed during the Battle of Britain, when some Bf 110-equipped units were withdrawn from the battle after very heavy losses and redeployed as night fighters, a role to which the aircraft was well suited. The Bf 110 enjoyed a successful period following the Battle of Britain as an air superiority fighter and strike aircraft in other theatres. During the Balkans Campaign, North African Campaign and on the Eastern Front, it rendered valuable ground support to the German Army as a potent fighter-bomber(Jagdbomber-Jabo). Later in the war, it was developed into a formidable night fighter, becoming the major night-fighting aircraft of the Luftwaffe. Most of the German night fighter aces flew the Bf 110 at some point during their combat careers, and the top night fighter ace of all time, Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, flew it exclusively and claimed 121 victories in 164 combat missions.
The Messerschmitt Bf 110, often known non-officially as the Me 110, was a twin-engine heavy fighter (Zerstörer—German for "Destroyer") and fighter-bomber (Jagdbomber or Jabo) developed in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and used by the Luftwaffe and others during World War II. Hermann Göring was a proponent of the Bf 110. It was armed with two MG FF 20 mm cannons, four 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns, and one 7.92 mm MG 15 machine gun or twin-barrel MG 81Z for defence. Development work on an improved type to replace the Bf 110, the Messerschmitt Me 210 began before the war started, but its teething troubles from its aerodynamics resulted in the Bf 110 soldiering on until the end of the war in various roles, alongside its replacements, the Me 210 and the significantly improved Me 410 Hornisse.
The Bf 110 served with considerable initial success in the early campaigns, the Polish, Norwegian and Battle of France. The primary weakness of the Bf 110 was its lack of agility in the air, although this could be mitigated with the correct tactics. This weakness was exploited when flying as close escort to German bombers during the Battle of Britain. When British bombers began targeting German territory with nightly raids, some Bf 110-equipped units were withdrawn and redeployed as night fighters, a role to which the aircraft was well suited. After the Battle of Britain the Bf 110 enjoyed a successful period as an air superiority fighter and strike aircraft in other theatres, and defended Germany from strategic air attack by day against the USAAF's 8th Air Force, until a major change in American fighter tactics rendered them increasingly vulnerable to developing American air supremacy over the Reich as 1944 began.
During the Balkans Campaign, North African Campaign and on the Eastern Front, the Bf110 rendered valuable ground support to the German Army as a potent fighter-bomber. Later in the war, it was developed into a formidable radar-equipped night fighter, becoming the major night-fighting aircraft of the Luftwaffe. Most of the German night fighter aces flew the Bf 110 at some point during their combat careers, and the top night fighter ace of all time, Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, flew it exclusively and claimed 121 victories in 164 combat missions.
The Bf 110's main strength was its ability to accept unusually powerful air-to-air weaponry. Early versions had four 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns in the upper nose and two 20 mm MG FF/M cannons fitted in the lower part of the nose. Later versions replaced the MG FF/M with the more powerful 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons and many G-series aircraft, especially those which served in the bomber-destroyer role, had two 30 mm MK 108 cannons fitted instead of the MG 17. The defensive armament consisted of a single, flexibly mounted 7.92 mm MG 15 machine gun. Late F-series and prototype G-series were upgraded to a 7.92 mm MG 81 machine gun with a higher rate of fire and the G-series was equipped with the twin-barrelled MG 81Z. Many G-series night fighters were retrofitted or factory-built with the Schräge Musik off-bore gun system, firing upward at an oblique angle for shooting down bombers while passing underneath, frequently equipped with two 20 mm MG FF/M, but field installations of the 20 mm MG 151/20 or 30 mm MK 108 cannons were also utilised. The Schräge Musik weapons were typically mounted to the back of the rear cockpit.
The Bf 110 G-2/R1 was also capable of accepting armament such as the Bordkanone series 37 mm BK 3,7 auto-fed cannon, mounted in a conformal ventral gun pod under the fuselage. A single hit from this weapon was usually enough to destroy any Allied bomber.
The fighter-bomber versions could carry up to 2,000 kg (4,410 lb) of bombs, depending on the type.
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