Messerschmitt Bf 109G

Introduction

The Bf 109G was the most numerous version of this long-lived German fighter. Around 10,000 were produced in ten main variants. The 109G was used by every German day fighter unit, and by eight other countries. Ironically, this version of the Bf 109 was not meant to exist. It had originally been hoped that the 109F would be replaced by an entirely new fighter. The Me 209 had first flown early in 1939, but it was soon discovered to offer little or no improvement over the 109F, and at quite a considerable increase in complexity. Work began in 1941 on the Me 309, another failed attempt to produce a replacement 109. The only other successful German single seat fighter of the war, the Fw 190, was good at low level, but poor at high altitude. By 1941 the air war was moving to increasingly high altitudes, and so in the summer of 1941 the Messerschmitt design team began work on yet another version of the 109.

The 109G was designed around the DB 605 engine. This was heavier than the engines it replaced, but the same size, so could fit in the same fuselage designs. It produced a fighter that was heavier than the 109F, but faster. The new machine was also less manoeuvrable than the 109F, which was preferred by many of the fighter experts. The engine also caused two major problems. First, early versions were prone to engine fires caused by overheating oil. This was soon fixed. Second, the engine type suffered from low oil pressure. This second problem was never satisfactorily fixed.

Conversion Kits

The 109G had a more flexible design than the earlier models. It could be fitted with a variety of factory equipped modifications, known as Umrüst-Bausätze and another set of field conversion kits, known as Rüstsatz. One aircraft could have several of these kits attached.

There were at least five standard Rüstsatz

R-1: Etc 900/IXb rack, carrying SC 250 bombs
R-2: Etc 50/VIId rack, taking 4 SC 60 bombs
R-3: 300 litre drop tank
R-6: MG 151/20 mm cannon under each wing
R-7: Direction Finding (DF) loop

Messerschmitt Bf 109G from the left
Messerschmitt Bf 109G
from the left

The situation is somewhat confused by the existence of several standard sub-variants of the 109G, such as the R2. This was a reconnaissance fighter, equipped with a Rb 50/30 camera, and appeared in G-2/R2, G-4/R2 and G-6/R2 versions. These variant numbers are sometimes confused with the Rüstsatz numbers.

There were probably six Umrüst-Bausätze

U1: The Me P 6 reversible pitch propeller. This modification was not in widespread use.

Messerschmitt Bf 109G from the rear
Messerschmitt Bf 109G
from the rear

U2: The GM 1 powerboost system. This system allowed the fighter to operate above its normal maximum altitude for up to 50 minutes by providing extra oxygen to the combustion system.

U3: The MW powerboost. This was standard on the G-10, G-14 and G-14/AS, and used on G-8 and G-12. It improved performance at altitudes too low for the supercharger, by adding a Methanol/ Water mix to the fuel. It could be used for up to ten minutes at a time, with a five minute gap between uses.

U4: This version used the 30 mm MK 108 cannon in the engine instead of the 20 mm MG 151/20. It was used on the G-6, G-10, G-14 and G-14/AS.

U5: This was the same as the U4 with the addition of two more 30 mm MK 108 cannons under the wings. It was not adopted.

U6: This might refer to the use of a 30 mm MK 103 cannon in the engine. It may have been used on the G-14 and G-14/AS

Replacement

The Bf 109G was not exactly replaced. It remained in production to the end of the war. At the same time the Bf 109K-4 appeared. This version took all of the refinements introduced in the G series and combined the best of them in a standard fighter. It appeared too late in the war to make any difference to the air war.

Variants

G-0

Messerschmitt Bf 109G from below
Messerschmitt Bf 109G from below

The first twelve machines had to be built using the DB 601E engine as the 605 was not yet ready. They appeared late in 1941. Once the DB 605 appeared, the first Bf 109G was re-engined with the DB 605.

G-1/ G-2

The first six versions of the Bf 109G were produced in pairs. The odd numbered version had a pressurised cabin, the even numbered did not. The G-1/G-2 used the DB 605 engine and the same powerboost system as early Z type fighters. With the boost turned on it was faster that the Spitfire V. It was armed with two MG 17 machine guns in the engine cowling and one MG 151/20 20mm cannon in the nose.

It entered service in the spring of 1942, with the G-2 appearing first by several weeks. It was first given to fighter units that were facing Allied heavy bombers, especially on the Channel coast and in North Africa. It was found to be somewhat lightly armed for that task, and was often used with the R-6 kit, giving it two more cannons mounted under the wings.

G-3/ G-4

Experience with the G-1/G-2 proved that the heavier fighter needed some more modifications. The most obvious change was that the tires were increased in size, resulting in a slight bulge in the top of the wings. The FuG16 radio replaced the FuG 7a radio. Both the pressurised G-3 and un-pressurised G-4 were  normally used with the R-3 drop tank to give them extra range. The R-6 under-wing cannon was also often added.

G-5/ G-6

The G-5 was the final pressurised version. As with all of these paired models, the un-pressurised G-6 was produced in much larger numbers. The most important change here was that the MG 17s were finally replaced with two 13 mm MG 131 machine guns (used in all subsequent Bf 109s). As with the G-3/G-4 these versions were normally used with the R-3 drop tank. Despite the new machine guns, the R-6 under-wing cannons were often used. The GM-1 powerboost was also increasingly common.

The heavy armament was introduced largely to deal with the increasing number of heavy American bombers that were ranging over Germany during the day. These larger bombers were very difficult to shoot down with lighter armed fighters, especially for the many inexperienced pilots who emerged from the poor Luftwaffe training later in the war.

The G-5 and G-6 entered service early in 1943. The G-6 remained in use until the end of the war, despite suffering heavy losses at the hands of the P-51 Mustang and P-47 Thunderbolt during 1944.

Later versions of the G-6 had the FuGa IFF radio added. This version was particularly difficult to handle at takeoff, so some later models were given a larger rudder, made out of wood, a non-strategic material (i.e. one that was not in short supply).

G-8

The G-8 was a G-6 converted to the reconnaissance role. It entered service in 1944. It was produced with either one Rb 50/30 camera or two Rb 12.7/7x9 cameras behind the cockpit and a Robot II camera in the wing, aimed via the gunsight.

G-10

This was the most advanced version of the G series. It used the DB 605D engine, and was the fastest of the G series fighters. However, this engine was delayed, and so the G-10 did not appear until several months after the G-14, entering service in November 1944. This month saw the highest German fighter production of the war, but poor training and concentrated allied bombing prevented many of these fighters from being used effectively. The Bf 109 G-10 often found itself acting as an escort for the Fw 190. That aircraft was a better bomber-killer, but was very vulnerable to allied fighters at altitude. In the hands of a good pilot, the Bf 109G-10 was a very capable fighter, but by the end of 1944 the Luftwaffe had very few good pilots left.

G-12

The Bf 109G-12 was a two-seater trainer produced in an attempt to make up for the short period of time available for training new pilots. It was made by modifying already existing G-2, G-4 or G-6 airframes It was not a success, and only about 100 were made between 1942 and 1943. 

G-14

When the G-10 was delayed by the late appearance of the DB 605D engine, the Jäger Stab (Fighter Staff) produced the G-14. This was an attempt to rationalise the increasingly large number of variants in existence, in order to increase production. It was not as good as the G-10 or K-4, but it was ready in June 1944, and so was produced in large numbers.

It used the DB 605A engine, the erla haube clear canopy and the tall wooden tail used in some G-6s. It used the FuG 25a and FuGZY radios with a direction finding loop. It was armed with two MG 131 in the engine cowling and one MG 151/20 in the engine. A common variant was the G-14/AS, equipped with the DB 605 AS engine with MW powerboost.

G-16

SC 50 German HE bomb
SC 50 German HE bomb

There is limited evidence that this version ever existed. If it did, it was a ground attack fighter bomber, armed with two 20 mm cannon under the wings and four SC 50 antipersonnel bombs. One photograph looks to show this variant, so it may have been an evaluation model that never entered service (as was also the case for most later versions of the 109K.

Combat Record

The combat record of the Bf 109G demonstrates well the declining fortunes of the Reich. By the time the 109G appeared Germany was on the defensive everywhere.

Russia

The Bf 109G arrived in Russia just in time to take part in the disaster at Stalingrad. However, while in the west the 109 was both outnumbered and often outclassed by allied fighters, in the east it retained something of an advantage over its Russian adversaries. However, those planes were present in much greater numbers. In the east the air war remained purely tactical, with both sides concentrating on short range work close to the front line. Many of the changes made to the Bf 109G during its lifetime were not directly relevant to conditions on the eastern front. German pilots continued to gain high numbers of victories on the eastern front, if not quite as easily as earlier in the war. 

North Africa

The Bf 109G was issued to units in North Africa in June 1942. However, it took at least six months for every unit to move from the F to the G, so both versions were in use at El Alamein and during the retreat to Tunisia. This was the period that finally saw the allies gain air superiority over the desert, mostly due to their numerical advantages. The retreat also saw many aircraft abandoned due to faults that could otherwise have been easily fixed. However, this happened at the same time as the G-6 began to appear in North Africa, so many of the aircraft lost would soon have been replaced anyway. The Germans suffered increasingly heavy losses during this period. At the start of May 1943 the final Luftwaffe units in North Africa were evacuated to Sicily. The war in the desert was over.

Italy

The 109G would fight a similar battle in Italy. As the allies slowly pushed their way up the Italian peninsula the 109 would be outnumbered by increasingly capable Allied aircraft. The 109 G-6 and G-10 featured most heavily in the battles over Sicily, where once again they were heavily outnumbered. The Spitfire, P-38 and P-47 fighters were a match for their German adversaries. Overwhelmed by enemies on every front, by the middle of 1944 there were no more German 109s in Italy.

The West

When the American daylight bomber offensive began in late 1942, the Fw 190 was the standard Luftwaffe fighter in France. However, the Fw 190 was not good at altitude, and so the Bf 109G-4 was issued to units in both JG 2 and JG 26, the two Jagdeschwader that had remained in the west when the rest of the Luftwaffe moved east for the attack on Russia. These 109 equipped units would become increasingly drawn into the battle against the heavily armed, high altitude American bombers and their increasingly powerful fighter escorts. 

Defence of the Reich

On 27 January 1943 the USAAF launched its first heavy bomber raid on a target in Germany, when more than 50 B-17s attacked the naval base at Wilhelmshaven. This first raid confirmed the American belief that their big bombers could fight their way into Germany. One B-17 was lost, while five Bf 109G-1s were shot down. This was a false dawn for the US daylight bombing campaign. The Bf 109G would soon prove itself more than capable of shooting down unescorted heavy bombers in dangerously large numbers. However, in order to achieve this, the Luftwaffe had to move fighter units from other fronts back to Germany. 1943 was the last “good” year for the German fighter pilots over Europe. 1944 saw the appearance of the P-51 Mustang, a fighter than could escort the heavy bombers all the way to their targets and engage the Bf 109G on equal terms over Germany. More and more of the irreplaceable “Experten” were lost. Despite great individual achievements, the German fighter wings were slowly pushed from the skies. The 109G (along with the Fw 190 and the 109K) fought on to the end of the war, but could contribute little to the war.

Battle of the Bulge

The final death of the Jagdwaffe came on 1 January 1945. At the end of 1944 Galland had proposed an all out attack on the American heavy bombers, using as many fighters as could be found (he hoped for 2000) to shoot down 500 bombers. He expected to lose as many aircraft, and perhaps 100 pilots, but believed the gamble would worthwhile. However, Hitler had other plans. He was convinced that his plans for an attack through the Ardennes would turn the tide in the west by splitting the allied armies in two. The Luftwaffe was to play a part in this attack. However, when the land attack began of 16 December, bad weather kept both side’s aircraft on the ground. When the weather cleared on 1 January 1945, the Luftwaffe launched Operation Bodenplatte (Baseplate). This was a massed attack on the allied forward air bases. It was a total disaster. Little damage was done, for the cost of 214 pilots killed or missing. Another 92 fighters of all types were lost over the western front on 14 January. The Bf 109 almost disappeared from the skies over German.

Overseas

Bulgaria

Bulgaria received close to 150 Bf 109 G-2s and G-6s.

Hungary

Hungary received fifty nine G-2s, G-5s and G-6s, and then in late 1944 received 250 Bf 109 G-10 and G-14s. By April 1945 only 40 survived.

Croatia

Croatia received a small number of G-2s, G-5s, G-6s, G-10s and G-14s between July 1942 and the autumn of 1944.

Italy

Italy received just over 150 G-2, G-3, G-4 and G-6s, and at least 76 G-10 and G-14 models.

Rumania

Rumania received 70 G-1, G-2 and G-6s and a small number of G-8s

Finland

Finland received fifty nine G-2s, G-5s and G-6s, and one G-8

Slovakia

The Slovaks received a small number of G-3s and G-6s.

Switzerland

The Swiss were allowed to buy fourteen G-6s, partly in compensation for their destruction of a Bf 110 containing top secret radar technology. They were the only country not allied to Germany to receive this aircraft.
 

Stats

 

G-6

G-8/R5

G-10

G-14/AS

Engine

DB 605A

DB 605A

DB 605D

DB 605 ASM

Horsepower

 

 

 

 

Take off

1475

1475

1,800

1800

Climb and Combat

1310

1310 at 0 ft

1275 at 0 ft

1250 at 0 ft

 

1250 at 19,029 ft

1250 at 19,029 ft

1150 at 26,247 ft

1150 at 25,591 ft

Maximum continuous

1075 at 0 ft

1075 at 0 ft

1050 at 0 ft

1020 at 0 ft

 

1080 at 18,045 ft

1080 at 18,045 ft

1030 at 25,263 ft

1050 at 25,263 ft

Speed

 

 

 

 

Max combat

316 mph at 0 ft

315 mph at 0 ft

300 mph at 0 ft

294 mph at 0 ft

 

390 mph at 21,654 ft

390 mph at 21,600 ft

393 mph at 29,528 ft

387 mph at 25,500 ft

Max emergency

329 mph at 0 ft

329 mph at 0 ft

337 mph at 0 ft

336 mph at 0 ft

 

397 mph at 21, 654 ft

397 mph at 21,654 ft

414 mph at 24,606 ft

408 mph at 24,606 feet

Optimum max. cruise

298 mph at 0 ft

298 mph at 0 ft

279 mph at 0 ft

276 mph at 0 ft

 

369 mpg at 19,685 ft

369 mph at height

377 mpg at 27,599 ft

372 mph at 24, 606 ft

Range

336 miles at 19,685 ft

336 miles at 19,865 ft

336 miles

324 miles at 27,559 ft

Based on performance statistics recorded by the General Luftzeugmeister, 1944

 

109 in Action 2Messerschmitt Bf 109: Pt. 2 , John R. Beaman, Jr. This second volume continues on from part one, beginning with the Bf 109F, probably the best version of the fighter, and taking the story to the end of the war and beyond. [see more]
cover cover cover
Bf 109B - Bf 109C - Bf 109D - Bf 109E - Bf 109F - Bf 109G - Bf 109H - Bf 109K
Bf 109B - Bf 109C - Bf 109D - Bf 109E - Bf 109F - Bf 109G - Bf 109H - Bf 109K
History - Variants - Combat Record - Overseas Service - Stats

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 March 2007), Messerschmitt Bf 109G, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_bf_109G.html

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