Messerschmitt Bf 110 C Cäsar

Bf 110B | Bf 110C | Bf 110D | Bf 110E | Bf 110F | Bf 110G | Bf 110H

The Bf 110C was the first version of the Bf 110 to be equipped with Daimler Benz engines. After the failure of the DB 600 project, the C series was built around two DB 601A engines, capable of providing 1,100 hp. This increased the speed of the aircraft to 349 mph at 22,295 ft, and at least gave it a chance of achieving its intended role. The result was an aircraft that could out-fly just about every allied fighter at altitude, but at the altitudes it had to operate in order to protect the bombers it would prove to be increasingly vulnerable to British and later American fighter aircraft.

Replacements

The Bf 110C evolved into the very similar 110E and then 110F series as new engines became available. The various models tended to serve along side each other in most campaigns, and so their combat records will be discussed hear. The Bf 110D was a long range version of the C series aircraft, and will be dealt with separately.

C-1

This was the first production version of the C series. It had the DB 601A engine, rated at 1,100 hp, and was armed with four MG 17 machine guns and two MG FF cannon in the nose, and a single MG 15 machine gun in the observer’s cockpit. It was issued to testing unit in January 1939 and to front line units during the spring and summer of 1939. It took part in the Polish campaign.

C-2

The C-2 was similar to the C-1 but with the FuG 10 Lorenz High Frequency radio instead of the FuG IIIa used in the C-1. It entered service in time for the Norwegian campaign.

C-3

The C-3 had an improved version of the MG FF cannon but was otherwise the same as the C-2. It arrived in time for the invasion of France.

C-4

The C-4 saw 9 mm armour added to protect the pilot. This version arrived in time to take part in the Battle of Britain.

C-4/B

Messerschmitt Bf 110 from the left
Messerschmitt Bf 110 from the left

This was a fighter bomber version. It was equipped with two ETC 250 bomb racks under the fuselage, allowing it to carry two 551 lb/ 250 kg bombs. It was given DB 601N engines, capable of giving extra power at take off.

C-5

A reconnaissance version, with the MG-FF cannon removed and an Rb 50/30 camera installed in the floor of the cockpit.

C-6

A modified Zerstörer version, with the two MG FFs replaced by one 30mm MK 101 cannon.

C-7

A second fighter-bomber version, equipped with one ETC 500 bomb rack. It could carry the same weight of bombs as the C-4/B, but could take a wider selection of bombs.

Combat Record

Poland

The Luftwaffe had 195 Bf 110Cs ready at the outbreak of war. The Polish air force was obsolete at the outbreak of war. The Bf 110C performed well in Poland, but some problems were already becoming apparent. Even the obsolete Polish fighters could out-turn it, forcing the Bf 110 to adopt different tactics, climbing and diving at high speed.

Battle of the German Bight, 18 December 1939

What was the Bf 110s most significant achievement came early in the war. RAF Bomber Command shared the pre-war belief that the bomber would always get through. Despite mounting evidence that this was not the case, on 18 December a force of 24 Wellington bombers was sent to attack the German port of Wilhelmshaven. The attack itself was a relative success. German fighter control was not as developed as the RAF’s, and 22 of the Wellingtons reached Wilhelmshaven unhindered. However, on the way back the British bombers were attacked by Bf 109s and Bf 110s. The 109s didn’t have the range to follow the British bombers far, but the Bf 110 did. Eleven of the 22 Wellingtons were shot down, mostly by the Bf 110s. Bomber Command quickly switched to night time operations over Germany. The Bf 110 was rapidly building up a fearsome reputation.

France

At the start of the war the majority of the Zerstörer groups had still be equipped with the Bf 109. However, between February 1940 and the start of the German attack on France in May 1940 all ten of the Zerstörergruppen were converted to the Bf 110. At this point the Bf 110 was seen as the senior fighter in the Luftwaffe armoury, and at the start of the campaign it still performed well. However, as the battle in France went on, Bf 110 losses mounted. By the start of June, sixty had been lost. Ironically, four more were lost in clashes with Swiss Bf 109Es after German aircraft violated Swiss airspace. The last few weeks of the French campaign saw much lower losses against the battered French air force.

Battle of Britain

Messerschmitt Bf 110 - Bombing Messerschmitt Bf 110 - Bombing

The basic problem faced by the Bf 110 was that it could not perform its job as a bomber escort against modern fighters. In earlier campaigns that weakness had been concealed, either by the lack of such opponents in Poland and Norway, or by the speed of the German advance in France, which disrupted the British and French air effort. It was only over Britain that the Bf 110 came up against a determined enemy equipped with modern fighters, and it simply could not cope. If a Hurricane or Spitfire was unlucky enough to be caught in front of the guns of a Bf 110, then the British fighter would suffer serious damage, but that rarely happened. Loses were heavy – on one day (15 August), nearly thirty Bf 110s were destroyed! 114 were lost in August, and another 81 in September, but that drop only happened because the Bf 110 flew fewer sorties in September, and was now being escorted by the Bf 109. During the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe lost 223 Bf 110s, having started the battle with only 237. Replacements could not be found quickly enough to make up these losses. After the Battle of Britain, the Bf 110 could no longer be seen as an elite day fighter.

Balkans and Greece

After the Battle of Britain, most of the surviving Bf 110 units were reallocated to the increasingly important night fighter wing. However,

Russia

The decline of the Bf 110 is best illustrated by their absence from Operation Barbarossa. Of the 2500 front line aircraft that took part in the invasion of Russia, only 51 were Bf 110s acting in the Zerstörer role. (both C and E series aircraft were involved by now). The Russian’s hammered another nail in the coffin of the Bf 110 as a day fighter by refusing to fight at altitude, where the aircraft was still effective, instead concentrating on low level ground support missions. The two Bf 110 units in Russia, I. and II./ZG 26, soon found themselves performing the same duty. Finally, in April 1942 both units were withdrawn back to Germany and converted to night fighters.

The ground attack role became the Bf 110’s main task in Russia. Two units, I. and II./Schnellkampfgeschwader 210 (Fast bomber wing, or SKG for short), had taken part in the battles on the road to Moscow. These wings were more likely to be equipped with the fighter bomber Bf 110E. Early in 1942 those units were renamed as Zerstörer units again, becoming I. and II./ZG 1, but this marked a change in the expected role of the Zerstörer, not a return to fighter operations. The number of Bf 110s in Russia was never high. By the time of the Battle of Kursk in May 1943, only seventeen remained.

Stats

 

C-4

Engine

2 times DB 601A

Speed

349 mph at 22,295 ft

Climb rate

2,154 feet per minute

Service Ceiling

32,810 feet

Normal Range

482 miles

Span

16.27 m

Length

12.65 m/ 41 ft 6 in

Messerschmitt Bf 110 Zerstorer Aces of World War 2 (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces), John Weal. This book concentrates on the career of the Bf 110 as a daylight fighter. At the start of the war the aircraft had an impressive reputation, which survived to the end of the French campaign but faded once the aircraft had to face modern fighters. Weal traces the story of the Bf 110 through to the final disastrous attempts to use it against American heavy bombers.
cover cover cover
Bf 110B | Bf 110C | Bf 110D | Bf 110E | Bf 110F | Bf 110G | Bf 110H

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 March 2007), Messerschmitt Bf 110 C Cäsar, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_bf_110C.html

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