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The man behind the machine, Wilhelm Emil Messerschmitt , was born on June 26, , in Frankfurt-am-Main, the son of a wine merchant. By , he was co-manager of the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke Allgemeine Gesellschaft BFW , which underwent bankruptcy proceedings on June 1 of that year. In mid, Messerschmitt began work on a four-passenger light transport of cantilever low-wing monoplane design, with retractable landing gear. Completed in the spring of , the BFW M. Although the Bf did not win any of the events, its performance was impressive, and it earned a production contract.
Even before the Bf had made its first flight, Messerschmitt learned that the RLM Reichsluftfahrtministerium, or air ministry was about to issue a specification for a fighter, to be powered by the Junkers Jumo engine and to be capable of at least mph.
geldesk.com/sitemap3.xml Officially, most German airplane manufacturers were invited to submit designs; unofficially, only the established firms like Arado, Heinkel, Fieseler and Focke Wulf could expect serious consideration. While work proceeded on the Versuchs prototype Bf fighter, Germany officially established the Luftwaffe on March 1, , and Adolf Hitler publicly renounced the Treaty of Versailles restrictions on German rearmament on March The first prototype, the BfV-1, flew for the first time on May 29, , a mere three months from the official establishment of the Luftwaffe.
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The BfV-2, completed in October, introduced the hp Jumo A as well as a strengthened undercarriage, and the BfV-3, delivered in June , was the first to be armed with an engine-mounted 7. In spite of its high wing loading, which limited its maneuverability at low speeds, the Bf yielded such outstanding performance that the RLM quickly eliminated the Arado Ar and Focke Wulf Fw from consideration.
That left only the Heinkel He as a possible competitor. Spain would provide a combat environment in which to refine the Bf as a fighter—and the tactics to use it to best effect. The first operational unit in Spain, 2. Staffel of Jagdgruppe 88 2. Operations were initially plagued by accidents, but its pilots soon overcame the challenge of taking off and landing on a narrow-track undercarriage in an airplane that tended to drop its left wing, by applying plenty of compensation with the rudder. The BfB and its principal rival, the I, were at first closely matched.
The BfB was faster in level flight and in a dive, while the I had a superior climb rate and maneuverability. The Spanish Civil War provided a nearly ideal testing ground for the new fighter, and its pilots.
Museo del Aire-Madrid. That fundamental concept would become the basis for numerous variations. When he died in a transport plane crash on November 22, , his score stood at While the Bf was being blooded over Spain, its capabilities were also being demonstrated to the world in Switzerland. Ernst Heinkel, whose He was rapidly losing ground to the Messerschmitt, responded with a sleeker design, the He Not to be outdone, Messerschmitt undertook a major redesign of his basic fighter, producing the MeV-1, with a special DB ARJ engine that could boost its power from 1, hp to 2, hp for about one minute, bringing the maximum speed up to As a result, that official piston-engine speed record would stand for the next 30 years.
Guided by lessons learned in Spain, Messerschmitt produced a rapid succession of improved fighters. Soon after the MeE-1 entered production, Messerschmitt designed a naval version with an extended wingspan, a strengthened airframe and an arrestor hook.
The project was dropped when construction on Graf Zeppelin was halted in , but some production MeT-1s and a fighter-bomber variant, the MeT-2, saw operational use with land-based units up to the summer of Three MeE-3s were also shipped to Japan for evaluation early in Two of the export orders were to cause some embarrassment later.
When the Germans invaded Yugoslavia in April , the Luftwaffe again had to deal with opposition from its own MeEs, fiercely flown by Yugoslav pilots. The German Experten aces with 10 or more victories finally met their match over Dunkirk in May , when they first encountered the Supermarine Spitfire. The rivalry between those two classic fighters would continue throughout the Battle of Britain. After 20 to 30 minutes over the average British target, a Messerschmitt pilot would have to break off his engagement or he would run out of fuel before he could return to base across the English Channel.
After rolling over the opposition in the early stages of the war the fighter met its equal over Britain in the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane. IWM HU Even before the MeEs commenced their ultimately unsuccessful struggle for aerial mastery over Britain, work had begun on a new, aerodynamically refined model in the spring of