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Airman 1st Class
Sep 10, 2005
The messerschmitt 110 was by some peoples standards, on an old forum of mine, a complete flop. I nearly flipped out on that peson, because the 110 would later become numerically the most important night fighter of the war for the reich, and it served in many roles, other than which it was built for, with success. The Bf-110 could carry a heavy armament, and often did so in the night fighter role, along with radar, and acheived success, becoming a true thorn in the side of the RAF. Not only did the 110 prove a worthy adversary against night bombers of the RAF, but it also worked as a day interceptor against american daylight bombers. It could carry rockets, and mortars to break up formations of bombers, and was successful in head on attacks, when escort fighters werent around to maul the poor 110, because as we all know from the battle of britain, it was not a dogfighter. It could carry anti-armor and anti-personnel weapons in the fighter-bomber/close support well, but did this mostly when employed on the eastern front. The 110 was surpassed in performance by both the P-38, and the mosquito, which is obvious, so im not going to even argue that point. This was just a post to anyone out there who doubted for one second just how valuable the Messerschmitt 110 was. As i havent seen any bad mouthing it, this isnt directed towards anyone in particular, and everyone here seems much smarter than my lst group. Just had to get that rant off my chest.
The Me110 with Schrage Musik upward firing cannon were devastating to bombers at night. The fighter could slip in beneath the bomber undetected and fire away at its convenience. Many bomber crews never knew what hit them. During the day its heavy firepower was effective against American bombers, but like you say it was a sitting duck for any escort fighter.
Schrage Musik was an interesting innovation. Powerful, and able to be incorporated into many aircraft, Ju-88s, Bf-110s and several more, including plans to mount them on the Me-262 night-fighter variant being introduced into service. The mounting worked very well on the 110, adding to its already potent armament. It allowed the pilot to view the bomber using what little light there was to visually sight the target, and using the darkness of the ground as cover for itself. Only given away by its muzzle flashes, which was often too late. Adding to the potency of the 110, some RAF heavies lacked a ball turret, providing defense for the bottom of the aircraft. Macking the 110 all but immune, except from rear gunners from the aircraft ahead, and if they were escorting at the time, the marauding mosquitos.
The Me110 was something of a flop in its original intended role; long-range heavy escort fighter. Hurricanes and Spitfires went through them like I go through a currry on a Saturday night.

However, like many twin engined aircraft of WW2, it was impressed into a number of roles it wasn't designed for and did relatively well in them. The fact reamains though that the 110 never EXCELLED at any one role. Rather, it was the airframe available at the time and the Germans needed whatever thay could get their hands on, particularly considering the failure of the Me-210 as a replacement. So it was pressed into service in the night-fighter, formation leader, heavy fighter, fighter-bomber and even maratime-strike roles.

Like anything, the Me-110 can't be judged in a vacuum. Comparisons really have to be made to other twin engined heavy fighter types.

Potential list would be

Westland Whirlwind
Lockheed P-38E
Nakajima (?) Ki-45
Fokker G.1
Potez 63
Bristol Beaufighter
The 110 came from a wrong concept, the heavy fighter that could work his way among all defenses, strike the target (ground or airborne) and go back home.
History proved that such a plane does not exist (ironically the Germans came close to this concept with the 262, that to me is more the heir of the 110 than the 109)
What is difficult to explain is that Luftwaffe continued in this wrong concept with the 210 and 410, when it was evident that the best compromise for the job was a single engine plane (P47 or even the 190F and G)

But 110 was not a bad aircraft 'in se', so it performed very well in roles not related to dogfight and, coupled with the right avionics, was an extremely good night fighter.

P38 is in my opinion the best of Jabber's list, but the concept of P38 was more a 'fighter with two engines' than a 'zerstoer' , single seater and originally intended for interception, placing it in the P47-FW190 category.
All other planes in the list were no match for a single engine fighter of the same era.
The 110 was the right aircraft at the right time, because without it, the luftwaffe would have been ever more hevaily mauled by night by the RAF. The 110 was a decent airframe for the night fighting role, with two engines, and room for the radar, and still able to pack a good punch, and maintain a speed good enought for the job. Something the single engine fighters would have more touble doing. The 110 had better range that the single seaters available, more loiter time, and was a stable gun platform, also allowing the installation of the schrage musik, something the single seaters again would have lacked. Without the 110, the germans, and nachtjagdwaffe would have been in trouble, more so than before. Because the wilde sau tactics werent good enough.
The Westland Whirlwind was actually a VERY good fighter, it was just edged out by an unhappy combination of circumstances.

1. It was too expensive. Twin engine fighters are a lot more expensive in terms of man hours and resources to build.

2. It used the wrong engines. The Whirlwind used the rather anemic Peregrine, which not only failed to produce the power that was needed but was also unreliable. Rolls Royce were already concentrating on improving the Merlin and left Peregrine development alone.

3. RAF specifications got the better of it. The relatively high wing loading of the Whirlwind meant that it was difficult to land on short grass fields, which the RAF required (somewhat stupidly really). Engine supply troubles meant that the Beaufighter was more economical to build and its 'cannon fighter' requirement was matched by both the Beau and the new Typhoon (which began to enter service at roughly the same time).

4. Switch to night bombing. Part of the original specification whaich the Whirlwind was built to was as a long range escort fighter. When the RAF moved towards night bombing, the need for such a fighter vanished.
The -110 served several great puposes for the German Luftwaffe of WWII. It could contribute the fact that it was a great escort and by the role of a Tank Buster as well with either 57mm or 75mm cannons.

It was very useful and the -110 isnt much of a flop.
I dont know about the -110 as an escort...does anyone recall the battle of britain, when the -110 was easy prey, not because of pilot skill, but because it simply wasnt the aircraft for that job.
I don't imagine the German bomber crews were very happy when they saw their "escort" form a defensive circle at the first sign of British fighters.
Bf-110 as escort fighter was an error .A twin engined aircraft can't hope to be easily successful in a a duel with a single engine fighter , BF-110 had serious troubles to face Spitfires, Hurricanes, Dewoitine 520, Morane 406 ( 35 % aircrafts lost).
Bf-110 in a dogfight with a Spitfire is like Mike Tyson wearing a tutu and trying to dance "Giselle".
The twin engined fighter had excellent performances as night fighter, as assault aircraft ( II/ZG26 destroyed 148 tanks, 166 guns, 3280 vehicles, 49 trains, 1 armored train and 4 bridges in Russia. They destroyed 741 aircrafts on the ground and shot down 96 ones too).
It was a good bomber destroyer :In December 18 1939 Bf110s of ZG/76 shot down 9 Wellingtons of 22 over Wilhelmshaven.
The Bf 110G was a heavy slow beast in the bomber dewstroyer role and this is why it was replaced by the ever more popular Me 410A and B in some of the day destroyer gruppen.

The Wilde Sau single engine jobs were actually quite effective as nf's although taking hits by 88mms while pursueing RAF 4 engines was a very real concern. Schrägwaffen was not needed on the single engines as their forward arms were enough to bring down any RAF bomber and Mossie. the 262 did not need the SM arrangement either although there was a test mount in Kommando Welter covered in our forthcoming book......

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