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Bob Wright

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My niece has many friends, a couple of whom invited us over for Thanksgiving dinner. The man is a retired Air Force officer, and an aviation buff, thought he himself was not a pilot.

Before dinner discussion turned to airplanes and aviation history. He made the statement that he believed the German Messerschmidt ME-109 (Bf-109) was the best fighter of WW II. He based his claim on the longevity of production/service, and the many roles it filled. Production began in the late "Thirties and continued up until the end of the War in Europe.

I disputed his claim, as the American Curtis P-40 had nearly as long of a production life. But the ME-109 failed miserably the two tasks placed before it. In 1940 it failed to attain air supremacy over the British Isles, and in 1944-1945, failed to defend t homeland.

In defending its home land, the British Supermarine Spitfire excelled, as it defeated the German air war of the Blitz of London. And it was largely the US P-51 Mustang that established air superiority over Europe in 1944-1945. And use of both the Spitfire and the Mustang continued well into the jet age though obsoleted by newer jets.

I welcome your comments for some good conversation.

Bob Wright
 

Snake45

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Bob, I believe your assessment, long story short, is accurate.

Remind your friend that the Bf 109 had a horrendous safety record, particularly on takeoff and landing.

The 109 is also famous for having a cramped, claustrophobic cockpit.

The 109 also continued in service "well into the jet age" in the form of the Hispanos in (not first-line) service in Spain. That's why there were still enough of them around to film the Battle of Britain movie in 1968.
 
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woodsy

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The P-51 was absolutely excellent, but it took a relatively long time to get into action, being difficult to build. In air combat it was unmatched. The P-48 was the best ground attack fighter ever made, and could sustain so much more damage and still get home. The Corsair was used mostly by the Navy, and thus did not get to demonstrate just how good and powerful it was. The P-38 was so fast that it was able to catch up to that Japanese general's flight and blow his plane out of the sky.
No arguments here, just trying to converse.
 

GunnyGene

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B-21 Stealth bomber that has been speculated about for several years will be rolled out this Friday.

 

BearBiologist

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Many people fail to realize that the reputation of the Spitfire was largely based upon the fact that it was fighting over home turf. The ME's had to fly from Germany/Holland and had much less available time to spend over Britain before having to return. Also, British Air-Sea Rescue was much more efficient in the area between Britain and Holland/France. This must have led to a sense of urgency among German flyers.

My dad served in SE Asia (Burma, etc.) and felt the P-38 was the best. He worked on the P-40's (including Chenault's) I personally would give the nod to the Corsair.

But opinions are what create horse races.
 

Pps1980

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The 109 was a challenge to land (narrow landing gear) and had horrible rear view access for the pilot. It was in service so long because it was being manufactured by (mostly unskilled) slave labor for the last 4-5 years of its production and changing things would have slowed production too much. The Spit was a great point defense fighter but was severely limited in range. The P-51, particularly with the Merlin engines and bubble canopy, was an amazing aircraft that had none of the shortcomings of either aircraft. However, the most effective two fighters for the US during WWII were not USAAF aircraft at all but the Navy F6F Hellcat and the USMC F4U Corsair. Those had to operate at long distances over water against much more agile aircraft and each did a fabulous job.

If longevity is your measure: The most capable fighter of WWII was the F4U Corsair which was designed and produced by Chance Vought and was produced between 1942 and 1953 with more than 12,500 aircraft manufactured. Its operational record in Korea, where it became a Mig killer vs the Mig 15, is also excellent.


For F4U vs the P-51 Mustang this report about a 1944 analysis of the two head-to-head in Maryland's USN experimental aircraft facility is a good read.
 
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txramfan

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More planes were shot down by the 109 than any other plane, so if one were to base success only on that number it could be considered the most successful.
Of course when one considers the planes those German pilots faced while attaining 100 or 200 or more air victories and the limited range of the 109 than it becomes harder to say it was.
 

Pps1980

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More planes were shot down by the 109 than any other plane, so if one were to base success only on that number it could be considered the most successful.
Of course when one considers the planes those German pilots faced while attaining 100 or 200 or more air victories and the limited range of the 109 than it becomes harder to say it was.
True. Of course that includes more biplanes than any other, 1930s era plans from small and marginal air forces throughout Europe, the middle east, and Russia. The Luffwaffe had aces with 300+ kills but most of them that lived to the end of the war wrote that they preferred the Fw190.
 
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That is a hard one to answer. Like all comparisons it depends on the Pilot the model of the aircraft and the conditions/altitudes of the fight. As far as the battle of Britten and later it was a race to update both the Spit and 109s. A 109G could beat a MK-5 but was equal to the MK-9. The MK-9 was also equal to the 190-A. I read a book that describes the development and comparison of the Spit and 109 Models, very interesting. As stated the 109 would kill you on both take off and landing.
As for the 51 it was not the best but great at what it did. I have friend that has flown both a 51 and F4U-4 and I spoke with a guy that owns both a 51 and a F4U. Both stated the F4U will out fight the 51. The F4U will also carry a much higher bomb load The 51 is a two handed and the F4U is two fingers to control at high speed. The F4U was built into the Jet age (1952) and shot down MIGs. Another friend owns a T-28 and the P-51 Glamorous Glenn. He says the 28 will out turn and out fight the 51 down low.
Bottom line more 109s were built than any other aircraft. They were also flown by all the high scoring German Aces.

One of my Neighbors flew 190s on the Eastern Front (of Course).
He said he would probably be DEAD if he had to fly the 109.
Same comment was made by a German 190 Eastern Front pilot that came to our EAA meetings.

By the way do not sell the P-47 short. Remember the highest scoring WWII Fighter Squadron in Europe flew the Jug from beginning till end against Germany's best. It also did a pretty good job of blowing Sh!t up :) It also did OK in the SW Pacific but not as well as the P-38 since it was a little short on range.
P-39 was a good fighter just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
 
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The F-6 Hellcat was the 'high scorer' in the Pacific. As far as better than... I would rather have been in a P-47 than a P-51. Both great aircraft but the Thunderbolt could sustain more damage and still get home.
 
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The F-6 Hellcat was the 'high scorer' in the Pacific. As far as better than... I would rather have been in a P-47 than a P-51. Both great aircraft but the Thunderbolt could sustain more damage and still get home.
Frank,

You are correct on both counts. One account I read was that a 47 returned to England with a cylinder blown off and the pilot didn't know it until the Crew Chief pointed it out to him
The A-36 Apache was the dive bomber model of the P-51A and did a fair job until the Jug came a long. Just for the record the F4U did pretty good job at dive bombing. It had a greater dive angle than the SBD. Higher the angle more bombs go on target. The gear was lowered to slow the dive. Think Stuka which was probably the best. A Stuka pilot that came to our EAA meetings told us they could put the bomb where ever they wanted. He flew with Hans-Ulrich Rudel of Stuka Pilot fame on the Eastern Front.
As far as higher kill ratios go with the F6F since it was ship board it fought in more of the large air battles than the mostly land based F4U which fought in fewer and also did ground support. The F6F was much easier to fly and land on the Carrier but the F4U could carry a much larger bomb load.
 

Bob Wright

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As to the Ju-87b Stuka, I read once where many pilots died when, after bomb release, they continued to try to "guide" the bomb and flew into the ground or pulled out too late. The Me-410 had an automatic recover after bomb release.

Bob Wright
 

RSIno1

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A friend had a post war French built (BF108) Nord Pingouin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nord_Pingouin with an upside down 6 cyl Renault engine. If it sat more than a couple weeks you'd have to pull the plugs to drain the oil out of the cylinders before you could crank it over. He swapped it for a Russian YAK12 (giant Cub we called it) and some cash. The Nord seemed slapped together with poor workmanship. I imagine the early Messerschmidt built planes were a work of art.
 
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As to the Ju-87b Stuka, I read once where many pilots died when, after bomb release, they continued to try to "guide" the bomb and flew into the ground or pulled out too late. The Me-410 had an automatic recover after bomb release.

Bob Wright
Bob,
The Stuka also had auto climb that was activated on the stick and after bomb release.



Diving procedure
Ju 87 diving procedure
Flying at 4,600 m (15,100 ft), the pilot located his target through a bombsight window in the cockpit floor. The pilot moved the dive lever to the rear, limiting the "throw" of the control column.[ The dive brakes were activated automatically, the pilot set the trim tabs, reduced his throttle and closed the coolant flaps. The aircraft then rolled 180°, automatically nosing the aircraft into a dive. Red tabs protruded from the upper surfaces of the wing as a visual indicator to the pilot that, in case of a g-force induced black-out, the automatic dive recovery system would be activated. The Stuka dived at a 60–90° angle, holding a constant speed of 500–600 km/h (310–370 mph) due to dive-brake deployment, which increased the accuracy of the Ju 87's aim.

When the aircraft was reasonably close to the target, a light on the contact altimeter (an altimeter equipped with an electrical contact which triggers at a preset altitude) came on to indicate the bomb-release point, usually at a minimum height of 450 m (1,480 ft). The pilot released the bomb and initiated the automatic pull-out mechanism by depressing a knob on the control column

I gave a copy of this photo to Son. Dad brought it back from WWII
A ME-410 in action
1669755819458.png
 
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Jeepnik

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Bob, I believe your assessment, long story short, is accurate.

Remind your friend that the Bf 109 had a horrendous safety record, particularly on takeoff and landing.

The 109 is also famous for having a cramped, claustrophobic cockpit.

The 109 also continued in service "well into the jet age" in the form of the Hispanos in (not first-line) service in Spain. That's why there were still enough of them around to film the Battle of Britain movie in 1968.
The Spanish Air Force was still flying at least four Hipanos in 1976.
 

g5m

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I remember the late 'Connie' Edwards, who had and flew the Hispano versions of the 109, said that he preferred the 109 (or 1112 which was Merlin powered) to the P51 for several reasons. Rate of climb was one. I asked a friend who flew in the South Pacific which of the various aircraft he preferred and he said "The one that got me home" He also told me he never saw a Jap plane. I think he meant in the air.

Mike Dillon had a P40 and would engage in dogfights with a friend who had a P51 and the P40 always won. When he mentioned it to a WW2 combat pilot he was told, "Of course. You're fighting the P40's war." He then explained that the P51 was much better at higher altitudes than 15,000 feet.

So, it's always very interesting stuff. "The devil's in the details".

Incidentally there were a LOT of WW2 aircraft around in the 1940's and 1950's. It was fun, as a kid, to go to local airports and see PBY's, TBM's, P40's and P51's as a well as B25's and Douglas B26's. But I didn't see any of the Martin B26's. Also T6's and some BT13's and Stearmans were around. The heavy bombers were seen at the storage yards where there were hundreds. The Navy was still selling AD4's in the early 1960's- to be melted down.
 
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beentheredone

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The father of my best friend in highschool was a Luftwaffe pilot. His description of the 109 was one German word which likely would not pass the censor program. His "best of the best" was the FW 190.
 

LDM

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In the Battle of Britain, the 109s were assigned to a task that was net envisioned for them -- long-range bomber escort. The lack of provision for drop takes severely limited their time over target and prevented them from escorting flights from Norway against northern England.
 
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