Messerschmitt Me 210

The Messerschmitt Me 210 was an attempt to improve on their earlier Bf 110. Even before the outbreak of war in 1939 it was clear that the Bf 110 had some limits, and so in 1937 work began on its possible replacement. The Me 210 was intended to perform three main functions – heavy “destroyer” (or Zerstörer) fighter, dive bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. Enthusiasm for the new model was understandably high, with the Bf 110 still seen as the most powerful element in the Luftwaffe’s fighter force. The R.L.M. took the unusual step of ordering 1,000 of the Me 210 before the first prototype had flow, just on the strength of the design (and presumably on the prestige Messerschmitt was then held in).

The first prototype of the Me 210 was ready for testing on 2 September 1939. It had a similar twin endplate fin and rudder to the Bf 110, and was powered by two DB 601A engines, also used in the Bf 110C, the first major production version of that aircraft. The results of the first flight were disappointed. Dr. In. Hermann Wurster, the test pilot, reported that the aircraft had very poor flying characteristics, and was unstable.

Several attempts were made to improve the aircraft. The second prototype had the twin endplate fin and rudder replaced by a more conventional single rudder, a modified cockpit. It was intended to fit the aircraft with two remote controlled rear-firing gun turrets, armed with one 13 mm MG 131 on each side of the fighter, and controlled by the observer. The second prototype was fitted with a mock-up of this system. However, its performance was not much better than the V1s – indeed this second aircraft crashed during tests on 5 September 1940. Over the spring and summer of 1940 a further fourteen test aircraft were built, each attempting to improve the poor performance of the basic design.

These improvements were included in the first pro-production model, the Me 210A-0, which began to reach its test unit, Erprobungsgrugge 210, late in 1940. In addition, the A-0 was powered by the DB-601F liquid cooled engine, which gave 1,305 hp, a significant improvement over the DB 601A. Even this test group suffered serious losses due to accidents with the new aircraft. On 14 April 1942 production of the Me 210 was cancelled.

Work continued on finding a solution to the problems of the aircraft. In July 1942 one aircraft was equipped with leading edge slots on the wings, which significantly improved the performance of the aircraft. Production was restarted, and the modification was retrofitted to all existed Me 210s. 95 aircraft were produced in 1942, 89 in 1943 and 74 in 1944. However, not all of these aircraft reached front line units, and many were cannibalised for parts for the superior Me 410.

The improved aircraft was still not suited for a front line role. In the summer of 1942 a new experimental unit, Versuchstaffel 210, was set up to test the revised aircraft. On its first mission over Britain in September 1942, two aircraft were shot down. A small number of Me 210s reached units in Africa early in 1943, but the aircraft performed no better there and by the middle of 1943 it was being replaced by the Me 410.

The Me 210 was one of the more visible failures of the German aircraft industry during the Second World War. Messerschmitt was responsible for their fair share of the failures – the Me 210 was joined by the Me 209 and 309 fighters. The company lost 30 million RM on the Me 210.

Variants

A-1

This was the fighter version of the Me 210, armed with two 20 mm MG 151 cannon and two 7.9 mm MG 17s in the nose and two 13mm MG 131 machine guns in the remote controlled turrets.

A-2

The bomber version of the Me 210. The A-2 had the same guns as the A-1, and could carry two 1000lb/ 500kg SC 500 or SD 500 bombs in an internal bomb bay, and two more under the wings.

B-1

The last version of the Me 210 to reach production was this photographic reconnaissance version. The Mg 17 machine guns were removed and two cameras fitted. Four were made in all.

C-1 and C-2

These would have been identical to the A-1 and A-2 but using the DB 605B engine. It reached the prototype stage.

D-1

The B-1 but with the DB 605B engines. The D-1 never reached the prototype stage.

Performance

 

A-0

Span

53 feet 7 1/3 inches

Length

36 feet 7 ¾ inches

Powerplant

Two 1350 hp DB 601F engines

Speed

288 mph

Ceiling

29,200 feet

Range

1,130 miles

Crew

Two

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (16 March 2007), Messerschmitt Me 210, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_me_210.html

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