The Bf 109 was the most important German fighter aircraft of the Second World War. This colourful book focuses on the Bf 109G and the Bf 109K, the two last versions to enter mass production. We start with a brief history of the Bf 109 from its development in the mid-1930s through the earlier variants of the aircraft, up to the Bf 109F. Most of the book is dedicated to the Bf 109G, the version that was produced in the largest numbers, and the Bf 109K, the last version to be mass produced. The authors also look at the late versions that weren't built in large numbers, and the post-war overseas production that saw the Bf 109 airframe paired with a wide range of engines (ending with a Rolls Royce Merlin in the last Spanish aircraft).
The book is very well illustrated, with a varied selection of photographs and a large number of side plans, some showing colour schemes while the more useful ones (for me) show each variant of the Bf 109 G and K, with the identifying details that can distinguish between them - air intakes, cockpit changes, extra hatches or other minor difference between the variants. The authors have access to original Messerschmitt documents, and include some plans from the original archives.
The authors are unusually willing to admit that their subject wasn't an entirely successful design. The more powerful engines used on these late Bf 109s were really too much for the airframe, making the aircraft very difficult to control. This is supported by quotes from some of the German experts, who describe how they were outclassed at altitude by their Allied opponents, and by an interesting flight report written by an American pilot using a captured Bf 109. The problem was that Messerschmitt's attempts to produce a replacement fighter failed, while improvements in Allied fighters meant that the earlier versions of the 109 weren't quite fast enough to cope. The distributed production system that allowed Germany to produce so many 109s in the last three years of the war also made it difficult to introduce major changes to the design. Amongst the minor variants examined here is one with a wide wheel base undercarriage that would have been much easier to handle on the ground, but that never entered production.
This is a useful guide to the late war versions of the Bf 109, with a super range of illustrations supported by an interesting text.
Author: Nico Brass & Srecko Bradic