Bf-109 vs. Spitfire....

Which Series of Craft Wins the Fight.... Bf-109 or the Spitfire???

  • Total voters

Ad: This forum contains affiliate links to products on Amazon and eBay. More information in Terms and rules

I think in the early stages of development, the Spitfire was superior. I'm thinking Bf-109B through D, the Bf-109 was inferior to the Spitfire I. It would have been proven had these two types ever met in combat. As it were, the first time they met the Bf-109 was already E. And they were equal in combat.

The Mk.II Spitfire gave no real edge over the Bf-109E, and they kept at a level playing field. The 109 took the lead with the F - but was caught up with the Spitfire V. I, personally, think the early V against a 109F would make the F the winner.

The coming of the IX against G - I, personally, think led to the Spitfire pulling away. The Gustav was becoming difficult to handle , and many problems remained. While the Spitfire was just as easy, handled like a dream but was increasing in power and range. I don't think the Bf-109 ever caught up to the Spitfire come the Mk.IX .

Increasing it's superiority, the VII, XII (low level), XIV and 21 just moved the Spitfire further and further ahead. I don't think the G or K model 109s were the Spitfire equals , it was all down to the German pilot to keep himself alive against a Spitfire ... because his crate was unforgiving , and no longer superior.
Its amazing how each aircraft "grew," it seems the Spitfire growth enhanced its performance while the -109s growth added a plus in one element but a negative in an other....
The engineers concentrated on the big things to improve, and left the little problems to plague the design. As the design become more powerful, the plagues grew and grew !
Well, you all know I'm a Spitfire fan.

And as today is the 70th anniversary of the first Spitfire flight, I guess that I'll have to go with the sentimental favourite.

General comment is that contemporay 109s were almost always faster than Spitfires on the deck, but usually very similar at critical altitudes. 109s usually, but not always, accelerated in a dive better than Spitfires. The Spitfire seems to have had better alieron and elevator authority as a general rule.

I'll put the 109 ahead as the better fighter until the middle of 1940. It was more developed in terms of service and reliability, had a superior engine (more power and direct injection) and heavier armament with wing cannon. The armament wasn't as well suited to fighter vs fighter combat as the 8 .303 package though, but much better for bomber destroying.

If Spitfires had been based out of France in May, 1940, I think that they would of fared only slightly better than the Hurricanes.

After mid 1940 however, the Spitfire gets a real boost in performance and pulls ahead of the 109 in my mind. There are 4 main areas of improvement leading up to and inclusive of the Battle of Britain:

1. The Rotol 3 blade fixed pitch airscrew gets swapped for a de Havilland constant speed unit, which adds 7,000 feet to the flight ceiling, cut time to altitude by around 1/4 and improves dive and turn performance. It also cut take-off distance by 1/3 and made the airplane simpler to handle at low speeds. This began in June 1940 and was finished by mid-August.

2. Internal pilot and engine armour, bullet proof windscreens, fuel tank deflection plate and IFF gear are fitted as standard after the 299th airframe and retrofitted to all other Spitfires. Domed cockpit hoods and rear vision mirrors are fitted as standard. Two step rudder pedals are introduced. This weight and drag penalty cut about 8-13 mph off top speed at altitude. With 2 pitch, 3 blade props clean Spitfire Is were doing around 367 mph @ 20,000 feet. With constant speed props, external armoured wndscreens and IFF antennas, Spitfire Is were doing around 354-358 mph @ 20,000 feet . The trade-off is that the Spitfire is now much less vulnerable to fire by stray rounds. There are first hand accounts of ground crew pulling 20mm rounds out of the foward bullet-proof screens during the BoB.

3. The RAF starts using 100 octane as its primary fighter fuel, so the Merlin II/III/XII are cleared for +12lbs emergency boost, delivering an extra 300 hp for short periods, usually 5 minutes maximum, but there are accounts of Merlins running at +12 1/2 for 30 minutes or more. At heights below 10,000 feet all out speed was increased anywhere from 28-34 miles an hour. Speeds on the deck increased from around 282 mph to 310 mph for the Spitfire I and 290 to 320 mph for the Spitfire II.

4. The Spitfire II is introduced into combat service on 16th August, 1940. It included all the modifications to the Spitfire design as standard. Built at the new Nuffield plant, it was fitted with a Merlin XII which had a constant power rating of +9lbs, as compared with +6 1/4 lbs for the Merlin II/III and delivered about 190 hp more at this rating. Climb to 20,000 feet was cut by 3/4 of a minute to 7 minutes. Cruising speed was around 10-15mph higher. Service ceiling increased by 4,000 feet. The trade off was slightly worse speed performance at altitude. The Spitfire II was some 6-10 mph faster than the Mk I below 17,000 feet and some 4-8 mph slower above 23,000 feet. Top speed dropped to around 351 mph, some 16mph slower than the first Spitfire Mk Is tested.

So, the evolution of the Spitfire changed the fighter considerably, even in the first mark.

A Spitfire I flying in August 1939 could do 280 mph on the deck and 367 mph at 21,000 feet. It could climb to 20,000 feet in 11 and a half minutes. Service ceiling was 28,000 feet. Its engine used 87 octane fuel and was limited to a maximum of 6 1/2 lbs boost. It used a 3 blade, two pitch metal airscrew. It had self sealing fuel tanks, but no pilot, engine or fuel tank armour, no external bullet proof screen and no IFF gear.

A Spitfire I, flying in August 1940 could do 310 mph on the deck, and 355 mph at 21,000 feet. It could climb to 20,000 feet in 7.7 minutes. Service ceiling was 34,500 feet. Its engine used 100 octane and was limited to a maximum of 12 1/2 lbs boost. It used a 3 bladed constant speed metal airscrew. It was fitted with self sealing fuel tanks, internal and external armour screens, IFF gear, better gun heaters, domed canopy, rear vision mirror, mast type radio aerial and other detail improvements.

A Spitfire II, flying in August 1940 could do 320 mph on the deck, and 351 mph at 18,000 feet. It could climb to 20,000 feet in 7 minutes. Service ceiling was 38,500 feet. Its engine used 100 octane and was limited to a maximum of 12 1/2 lbs boost. It used a 3 bladed constant speed metal airscrew. It was fitted with all the same gear as the Mk I as well as improved exhausts and oil cooler.

Now, can someone please post how the 109 evolved from the 109 E-3 throught E-4 and to the E-7, so we have something to compare to? I know that the E-7 recieved the DB 601N, which gave much better power at high altitude.
I guess it's a combo of handling, speed, armour and armament so:

Early Me's had good but vicious handling, but the combat slats would have made deflection firing too far behind then BANG! too far ahead?

I would suspect pilots would be used to this trait and all flaws ironed out by the time the Mk1 Spit came online?

Speed - I think the early Me's were better?

Armour I just don't know about, both were always equal?

Armour all depends on the oppositions armament:

The hub cannon and 2X MG's would be my fave here.

- So that's the Me then? (pilots included)

E vs MkI/II - The Luftwaffe used it all wrong, it was an 'away game', the hub cannon was deleted? the pilots seemed to be shocked by the combat flaps, the RoF was inferior.

That's a win for the Spit? (pilots/tactics included)

I'd say the F was better than the V.

G vs IX? - Well they were about equal in my eyes - the G10 being better, the early G's worse.

The K was advanced, but a pig - as was the Griffon engined Spits to me.

My top choices would be a Spit IX or somewhere between a F and G10.
The Spitfire XIV had the exact same turning circle as the Spitfire IX ! How is it a pig !?
Each mark of the Spitfire and 109 seemed to attempt leap-frog over the other in a continual tug-of-war in terms of performance, but they are generally remarkably even.

The matchups are quite interesting, and show the continual push for more speed and climb throughout the war:

1940: 109 E3/E4/E7 vs Spitfire I/II

1941: 109 F1/F2 vs Spitfire Vb

1941/1942: 109 F4 vs Spitfire Vc

1942/1943 109 G2 vs Spitfire F. IX

1943-1945: 109 G6/G14 vs Spitfire LF. IX/HF. IX, Spitfire VIII, Spitfire VII

1944/1945: 109 G10/K4 vs Spitfire XIV

Plus some oddities like the low altitude Mk XII, high altitude Mk VI and the very late Mk XXI (even if it only flew 154 combat sorties in the war ;) )

I'd say that the continuing strength of the Spitfire lay in the adaptability of the Merlin for various roles, particularly with the 2 stage Merlin 60 serise (61, 63, 63A, 64, 66, 70 and 71) and the low altitude Merlin 50 serise (50, 50M, 55M) which kept the Mk V in frontline service up to mid 1944 as a low-alt fighter bomber :p


I'm simplyfing a bit, as the performance of the early 109s and Spitfires chopped and changed a lot. Here's what i have to go on, after spectating at a REALLY detailed thread (like calling the engine manufacturers and spending $600 on BMW technical manual detailed) at the Aces High web-board about 2 years ago:

The early 109s weren't quite as fast as the early Spitfires. The kenblatt for the Bf 109E1/E3 with the DB 601A at 1.23 ATA/ 2,400 rpm gives a figure of 555 kph/344 mph at 4.2 km/13,800 feet. A contemporary 1939 Spitfire I was doing 590kph/366 mph fully loaded, but unlike the 109, it wasn't a battle worth machine at the time.

However, the DB 601A-1a fitted to the 109E4 and some 109E3s was uprated to 1.30 ATA for 5 minutes combat power. It gave the 109 an extra 15 kph/10 mph at all heights below about 7,000m. So a Battle of Britain 109E4 was doing about 570 kph/354mph at 4.5 km/ 14,500 feet. A contemporary 1940 Spitfire was doing 351-354 mph / 565-570 kph, losing 10 mph or so because of all the extra equipment and the new prop. However, it was doing that at about 18-20,000 feet.

Finally, the 109E4/N and E7 recieved the DB 601N, which ran at a higher 30 minutes rating of 1.25 ATA, but was never cleared for a 5 minute 1.3 ATA combat rating (which doesn't mean that the engine wasn't run at 1.3 ATA, it just wasn't officially done :lol: ) The 601N had a higher full throttle height than the 601A/ 601A-1a. Speed rose to 575 kph/ 357 mph at 5.1 kilometers/ 16,800 feet. It was also better below full throttle height, being some 10 kph/6 mph faster than the 5 minute rating for the DB 601A-1a up to full throttle height and some 25 kph/ 16 mph faster than the DB 601A at all heights.

So basic story is:

109 E1/E3 DB 601A:
460 kph / 285 mph @ sea level
555 kph / 345 mph @ 4.2 km/ 13,800 feet

109 E3/E4 DB 601A-1a:
480 kph / 300 mph @ sea level
570 kph / 354 mph @ 4.5 km/ 14,500 feet

109 E4N/E7 DB 601N:
490 kph/ 305 mph @ sea level
575 kph/ 357 mph @ 5.2 km/ 16,800 feet

Early Spitfire I Merlin II/III:
455 kph/ 282 mph @ sea level
590 kph/ 367 mpg @ 6.1 km/ 20,000 feet

Spitfire I Merlin II/III with 100 octane and +12.5 lbs boost:
500 kph/ 310 mph @ sea level
570 kph/ 355 mph @ 6.1 km/ 20,000 feet

Spitfire II Merlin XII:
515 kph/ 320 mph @ sea level
565 kph/ 351 mph @ 5.5 km/ 18,000 feet.

The Spitfires would of cruised at lower speeds below about 13-14,,000 feet than the 109s, but faster than the 109s above about 17-18,000 feet.
everything has a - side, the later spitfire marks also had a - side (aside from being less beautiful) probably wasnt mentioned
everybody is right but I'm gonna take the 109 because of the longest combat record
I don't know how long the Bf-109 was serving for after the war, but the Spitfire was still in service with the RAF in 1954. Unless we count the HA-112 , the Spitfire served longer.
I voted for the Bf-109, obviously because it is my favorite plane of WW2. I however truely think they were equals on the same level. Yes each one had advantages over the other, however that is the point they each had advantages and disadvantages over the other. The Spit may have had the edge but I go with the Bf-109.

As for after the war, the Bf-109 was used by the Czech and Isreali Airforces into the 1950s and the Spanish Airforce retired there last Bf-109G in the 1960s I believe it was 1964 but not sure on that.
I thought the Spanairds only used the HA-112 Buchon ? They actually still used Bf-109Gs !? I know the Czechs and Israelis had the 109 , but the Israelis also had the Spitfire !
Really? World War II was over by then !? I did not know - I thought World War II was still going on in 1949 !! My god, you're stupid .

Obviously you're not so much into aviation as to appreciate the oddness surrounding Spitfires and Bf-109s surrounding side by side ! Just like the people who didn't find anything strange about a MiG landing at RAF Finningley while my dad stood in shock ... why !? Because he was in the freakin' Cold War - and that'd have been unheard of only ten years before !
plan_D said:
I don't know how long the Bf-109 was serving for after the war, but the Spitfire was still in service with the RAF in 1954. Unless we count the HA-112 , the Spitfire served longer.
I was thinking that the 109 flew combat in Spain in the late 30's and can't recall the Spit OR 109 flying combat after the 1948 Israeli war of independence maybe in Malaysia but i have no knowledge of that

Users who are viewing this thread