Messerschmitt Bf 110G

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

Introduction

The Bf 110G had quite a lot in common with the Bf 109G. Both aircraft had to be developed from earlier versions when the new aircraft that were meant to replace them failed to live up to expectations. In this case that aircraft was the Me 210. When Messerschmitt first suggested a new version of the Bf 110 in the summer of 1941, work on the Me 210 was still going well, and so the project was turned down. However by the start of 1942 the Me 210 was displayed some serious problems, leading to the cancellation of the project in April 1942. These flaws had become apparent somewhat earlier. In January 1942 work began on a new version of the Bf 110.

The only significant change between the Bf 110F and the 110G was the use of the new DB 605 engine. This was about the same size as the DB 601F used in the older aircraft, so very little changes had to be made to the basic airframe. It was strengthened to accommodate the heavier engines, allowing it to carry a heavier payload. It was this that gave the Bf 110G its long life. As new demands were made on the Luftwaffe, the 110G was able to carry the extra equipment. More powerful guns, rockets, extra fuel and an increasingly complex array of radar sets would place more and more weight on the aircraft.

The pre-production Bf 110G-0 appeared in May 1942. It handled very well when unencumbered, but when fully loaded the performance suffered badly. As a day fighter the Bf 110G would have a short lifespan, but as a night fighter it would remain in use until the end of the war. By the middle of 1944 the Me 410 was beginning to replace the Bf 110G in both day and night service.

Production of the Bf 110G ended in February 1945. It had not been included in the Emergency Fighter Program of November 1944, an attempt to streamline the German aircraft industry, and so when the last aircraft already under construction were finished, production ended.

Variants

G-1

This was a planned fighter-bomber version of the aircraft. However, after production of the similar Bf 110F-1 was ended work on this version was cancelled.

G-2

The heavy fighter (Zerstörer) version of the Bf 110G was the first to enter full production. Early versions were armed with four 7.9 mm MG 17s in the upper nose (each with 1000 rounds) and two 20 mm MG FF/M cannon in the lower nose (each with 180 rounds). The observer had a single 7.9 mm machine gun facing backwards from his cockpit.

This basic firepower was soon upgraded. The nose cannon were replaced by the MG 151/20 20 mm cannon (400 rounds for the left gun and 350 for the right). The observer’s gun was replaced by a MG 81Z twin machine gun with 750 rounds per gun. Older models of the G-2 could be upgraded to this standard using the U1 kit (see below).

The Bf 110G-2 entered front line service in January 1943 on the Russian front. Its first combat experience came in the aftermath of the fall of Stalingrad. Zerstörer units played an important role in slowing down the Russian advance in early 1943, acting as a ground attack aircraft.

G-3

The G-3 was a long-range reconnaissance version of the aircraft. It was similar to the G-2, but with the belly-mounted cannons removed and a RB 50/30 camera mounted in the rear cockpit. It had a short lifespan, entering production in January 1943 and being phased out in favour of the Ju 88D and Me 210/410 in the summer of that year. The remaining G-3s were converted to G-2s and sent to reinforce the zerstörer units

G-4

This was the most successful version of the Bf 110G. It was designed from the start to be a radar equipped night fighter. Over the last two years of the war it would be equipped with an increasingly varied range of radar sets as the “wizard war” (or the War in the Ether) raged between British and German radar experts. Over 1,850 of this version were built between January 1943 and February 1945. From the autumn of 1943 responsibility for the development of the Bf 110G passed from Messerschmitt to Gotha.

The initial version of the G-4 was armed with 20-mm MG 151 cannons and four 7.92 MG 17s and carried the FuG 202 Lichtenstein aerial interception radar. The radar equipment had to be constantly updated, first to the FuG 212, and then when that was jammed by the British to the FuG 220 combined with the FuG 212.

The G-4 was used with a very wide variety of modification kits. These allowed the experienced pilot to fine tune the weapons load of the aircraft to their requirements, as well as increase the range and endurance of the fighter, but in each case the performance suffered. That was not as significant at night as during the day, although radar equipped British night fighters took their toll on the Bf 110G-4. One response was the addition of a third crew member – a dedicated gunner. Once again performance suffered.

 
Umrüst-Bausätze (Construction modification sets)

These kits were fitted at the factory. Some became almost standard.

U-1

The fitting of two MG 151/20 mm cannon in the lower nose. This was used to bring early production models up to the normal G-2 standard, and to convert G-3 reconnaissance aircraft back to the G-2 standard.

U5:

This may refer to a streamlined mounting for the FuG 202 and 212 AI radar sets that increased the angle they worked at but reduced the maximum range. It may have been used in combination with the FuG 220 radar.

U6:

A combination of the U5 kit and the FuG 221 radar system. This radar system was abandoned in favour of the FuG 227 Flensburg radar.

U7:

GM 1 nitrous oxide power boost. This could increase the power of the engines by 300 hp for up to 19 minutes, but it reduced the normal performance of the aircraft, and required the removal of the rear firing machine guns and was rarely used. Also known as the R2 kit.

U8:

An increased internal fuel tank with another 142.6 gallons (540 litres). It increased the range of the aircraft by 220 miles, but causes such a severe reduction in performance that it was abandoned after some field testing.

U9

The replacement of the nose mounted MG 17s with two 30 mm MK 108 cannon, with 135 rounds for the right cannon and 120 for the left.

Rüstsätze (Auxiliary apparatus/ field kits)

These were normally added closer to the front line.

R1

The addition of a 3.7 cm Flak 18 cannon beneath the fuselage, for use an anti-tank weapon. It was tested in April-June 1943 in Russia on a variety of aircraft. The Bf 110G performed badly with this kit and it was not proceeded with.

R2

Alternative name for the U7 kit

R3

Alternative name for the U9 kit

R4

A combination of the R2 and R3 kits

R5

The R1 and R3 kits combined. This would have produced an aircraft with very heavy firepower but little or no manoeuvrability.

 

R6

A combination of the GM-1 powerboost and the R3/U9 kit, but with the MG 81Z rear gun retained. This was tested in early 1944 but probably not used.

R7

One 79 gallon/ 300 litre drop tank fitted below each wing. This became almost standard on the Bf 110G.

R-8

The famous Schräge Musik (Jazz) kit. This consisted of two upward firing MG FF/M 20 mm cannon added to the rear of the observer’s cockpit. It would allow the pilot to fly underneath a bomber and then fire upwards into it.

 

R-9

An upgraded version of R8, using two MK 108 30 mm cannon instead of the MG FF/M. This probably never went beyond unit testing.

B-1

A streamlined 20 gallon/ 75 litre drop tank for oil, normally used with B-2

B-2

Either two 238 gallon/ 900 litre drop tanks or two 79 gallon / 300 litre drop tanks beneath the outer wing panels

M-1:

Belly mounted twin MG 151/20 20 mm gun pack with 200 rounds per gun

M-2::  

Two ETC 500/IXb bomb racks beneath the fuselage.

M-3:

Four ETC 50/VIIId bomb racks beneath each outer wing panel.

M-4:

Two SD 2/XII racks carrying 24 bomblets

M-5:

Two 21 cm WGr 42 rockets under each wing

Combat

Russia

The first unit to receive the Bf 110G-2 was I./ZG 1, then based in the Donetz bend, close to Rostov. Soon after arriving in Russia the 110G was rushed into action against Russian tanks moving west from Stalingrad. The aircraft helped to stem the Russian attack, but at heavy cost. The Bf 110 had quickly found itself engaged in ground attack operations in Russia, where the lack of enemy heavy bombers meant there were no targets for the heavy fighter. However, it had never been present in large numbers, and during the course of 1943 the last Bf 110 equipped units were pulled off the Eastern front. One final unit remained in Finland until the start of 1944.

Defence of the Reich

The summer of 1943 saw a brief resurgence of the Zerstörer concept. The first six months of 1943 had seen the USAAF launch its first tentative daylight raids on Germany and occupied Western Europe. However, between 18 July and 17 August 1943 the Americans mounted nine large raids against important targets within Germany. To counter this new threat, the Luftwaffe pulled a number of Bf 110G armed units back from other fronts. These aircraft had their firepower increased by the installation of a variety of Rüstsatz kits and were then sent against the B-17s and B-24s in the skies over Germany.

At first the Bf 110 posed a serious threat to the American bombing campaign. However, the increasingly heavy equipment load on the fighter meant that it would be very vulnerable against any enemy fighter aircraft. At the end of 1943 the P-51 Mustang first appeared over Germany. This aircraft outclassed the Bf 110G in just about every aspect (apart from weight of firepower, but the 110’s guns were no use against opponents it simply couldn’t hit). Even the Luftwaffe’s single engined fighters, the Bf 109 and Fw 190 struggled against the Mustang. Bf 110 losses were unsustainably high – units could suffer 50% losses in one day – and over the first few months of 1944 the Bf 110 disappeared from the daylight skies over Germany. An attempt was made to reequip the Zerstörer units with the newer Me 410, but this aircraft too was vulnerable to the allied day fighters that were slowly but surely winning control of the skies over German.

Night Fighter

The Bf 110G-4 was a significant improvement on earlier Bf 110 night fighters. The various modification kits overcame the two biggest problems – low endurance and limited firepower – making it a relatively effective night fighter. The expert night fighter units suffered heavy losses when they were temporarily transferred to day duties, but were able to main some presence in the night time skies for most of the war. The Bf 110 was once again to find itself vulnerable to allied fighters, this time to radar equipped Mosquitoes, raiding deep into Germany. By the end of 1943 the night fighter force was made up of the Bf 110 and Ju 88 with a small number of He 219s coming into service. For the rest of the war, the Bf 110G-4 remained a key part of the night fighter force, but allied jamming measures, day time losses and combat losses at night slowly reduced the impact of the German night fighter.

Stats

Stat

Bf 110G-2

Bf 110G-4

Engine

2 DB 605 B-1

2 DB 605 B-1

Power

 

 

Takeoff

1496 hp

1496 hp

Climb and combat

1328 at 0 ft

1328 at 0 ft

 

1268 hp at 19,029 ft

1268 hp at 19,029 ft

Max continuous

1090 at 0

1090 at 0

 

1095 at 18,045 ft

1095 at 18,045 ft

Combat speed at 0 km

289 mph

265 mph

Combat speed at height

349 mph at 19,029 ft

317 mph at 19,029

Endurance/ Range

 

 

At 19,865 ft on internal fuel

559 miles

547 miles

Same height with 2x300l drop tanks

808 miles

789 miles

Wing span

53 feet 4.75 inch

Same

Length

39 ft 7 3/16 feet

42 ft 4 ¼ feet

Prop diameter

11 ft 7 7/8 feet????

 

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 110G, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_bf_110G.html

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