Spring of 1940: importance achievements of Bf-110

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by tomo pauk, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Our member (parsifal) brought an interesting quirk out - LW, while waiting the hypothetical Fw-187 with DB engines, has no Bf-110 either, while the attack on Low Countries and France is unfolding.

    My questions: how important was the Bf-110 for the LW and all German war effort during the spring of 1940, in Western Europe? What were the achivements of the units flying the type?
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    IMO operations in Norway during Spring 1940 were probably the most important for Me-110 day fighter aircraft. Without the Me-110 Germany won't have fighter cover until after the battle is mostly over.
     
  3. delcyros

    delcyros Well-Known Member

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    The Bf-110 represents one of the underappreciated A/C of this timeframe.
     
  4. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    John Vasco who has studied the Bf 110 extensively and would not,I think,sell it short has written.

    "December [1940] saw the odd sporadic combat as the year petered out,a year that began with the Zerstorer crews and units knowing success only through the Polish campaign in September 1939 and the brush with RAF Wellingtons in December 1939. The north European campaign in the spring of 1940 upped the tempo,and the western camaign of May/June 1940 saw the Zerstorer units come into contact for the first time with RAF fighters that exposed the shortcomings of the aircraft. The Battle of Britain would prove to be the campaign that would pit the young Zerstorer crews not only against the relative greenhorns of the regular RAF,but also against battle hardened veterans who had opposed the Luftwaffe in previous campaigns in the shape of French,Czech and,in particular,Polish pilots. This mix,coupled with RDF which time after time helped to direct RAF fighters onto incoming Luftwaffe formations,would be the rock upon which wave after wave of Zerstorer crashed.............

    Zerstorer would be found in action in the Mediterranean theatre,across the entire Russian front,detached for a short period to Iraq,and,as the tide of war turned against Germany,in daytime defence of the Reich. This latter campaign dealt the Zerstorer such a blow that their disbandment was complete by July 1944.

    For those crews that survived to the end of 1940,they would carry into 1941 a sober and realistic assessment of their machine's capabilities against modern single engined fighters."

    I can't find much to argue with in that. I suspect the last sentence may well be a result of Vasco's friendship with,and interviews of,many surviving veterans.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  5. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The operations over france were fundamentally different compared to what happened over England that year. Robert Higham in his book "Unflinching Zeal" provides a pretty good pverview of the BOF. In that battle, there were slightly less than 350 Me 110s and around 860 Me 109s. Each Me 110 flew around 30% more sorties than each 109. During the first three days of the campaign, the Luftwaffe concentrated on eliminating the allied air forces as a major factor in the battle. The French (and the AASF) had anticipated this and kept most of their meagre bomber resources well back from the battlefield. Beyond 109 range, generally. The Germans used their 110s as airborne battering rams to blast a way clear for the bombers, who comprehensively pasted the allied airfields. The French in that three day period lost 192 MS 406s (and I think other fighters) , and well over 200 of their precious bombers. LW losses in those opening battles were just 16 a/c. There were just 3 110s lost in the opening phases of the battle. The French opened the battle with a very low serviceability rate for their fighters....about 25%, so fighters were mostly employed as strafers and ground attack aircraft. With its heavy firepower, stable flight characteristics, and above all long range, the 110s in these early battles were crucial. Without them, the battle would have been much harder for the germans.

    Overall, the Germans found that their 109s suffered a much higher attrition rate compared to the 110s. This arose principally because of the short range and endurance of the 109. The 110, with its longer range could hang back on prepared airfields and hit the enemy by deep pentration sorties. The 109s were found to run out of fuel all too often,and were forced to use unsatisfactory forward airfields. They consequently had a much higher accident rate compared to the 110. Overall, the 350 110s deployed suffered 82 casualties during the battle, compared to well over 240 Me 109s.

    The LW considered its Zerstorer squadrons its elite. Up to the beginning of the BoB it had good reason for that belief.
     
  6. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    Arguably the Ju88C could have fulfilled that role well, as it would have even greater range, firepower, and reload capacity; it could also carry some bombs to hit French airfields after enemy fighters were dealt with.
     
  7. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    There were two incursions by Bf 110s into Swiss airspace which throws up an interesting comparison.
    Swiss Bf 109s shot down five Bf 110s from II./ZG 1. One on the 4th of June and four on the 8th. The Swiss lost one Bf 109 which made a successful belly landing after combat.

    As far as the BoF went it was a hard time for the Zerstorer units. For example on 19th May 5./ZG 26 reported only three serviceable Bf 110s. Losses increased as the Luftwaffe closed in on Dunkirk and the Zerstorer units more frequently met Spitfires operating from southern England. As Vasco says.

    "..losses for the Bf 110 units in the following days would reflect this,as the limitations of combat with modern single engined enemy aircraft became clear."

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  8. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    Messerschmitt Bf 110 operational history - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
  9. Gixxerman

    Gixxerman Member

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    Besides the later night role it seems pretty obvious to me that the Bf110 was ideally suited to the precision interdictor role typified by the C4b varient.
    Stephen Bungay has said this fast precision bombing role had the potential to effect the outcome of the BoB no less.

    As a fighter to fight other advanced single seat fighters it must have been obvious to anyone with a clue that it was being misused?
     
  10. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    The 110 sure is a challenger for the 3rd place in the best fighter of '40 and this despite it's a twin engined twin manned plane.
    In '41 the work is more hard, the Hurricane get the new Merlin (oh yes the hurry with new merlin was available also in fall '40). With time less the 110 is used as fighters and less the 110 can be used as fighters (the crews don't get the required experience).
     
  11. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Yes. Erpr.Gr. 210,which despite the name never did get to test the Me 210,was used in the fighter bomber role with considerable success.The Bf 110s did receive an escort of Bf 109s,contrary to another myth they were the only Bf 110 unit to receive such an escort during the BoB. Had more Bf 110 units been converted to this role we can only guess how effective they might have been against the RAF's infrastructure.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  12. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    Understanding them as a light bomber would require either something else filing the escort role and/or the Bf110's vulnerabilities in that role being understood and a new role being explored for them.
     
  13. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    It was not, however available in quantity

    The C-series was the first version of the Ju 88 to be produced as a fighter aircraft. Work on converting the Ju 88 into a fighter began with the seventh prototype in 1938. This involved replacing the glazed nose of the bomber with a solid nose containing fixed forward firing guns. The resulting aircraft could match the speed of the Bf 110, with three times the range of that aircraft. I do not know much about its manouverability, climb rates and the like. In any event, production of the Ju88 derived Heavy Fighter aircraft did not become a priority until 1943, by which time the C-series had been replaced by more modern versions.

    Somer of the sub-types

    C-1 and C-3

    The C-1 and C-3 were planned versions powered by BMW 801 radial engines. These were in short supply, as they were used in the Fw 190A, so neither of these models entered production.

    C-2

    As a result the first production fighter version was the C-2. This was powered by two 1,200hp Jumo 211B or G engines, and were based on the Ju 88A-1 bomber, featuring the same short span wings as that aircraft. They carried three MG 17s and one 20mm MG FF in the solid nose. They could also carry 1,100lbs of bombs in the internal bomb bays. These aircraft were used by I./NJG 2 and carried out intruder mission over Britain during most of 1941. In other words, availble at squadron strengtrh, but too late for May 1940

    C-4

    The C-4 was a fighter variant of the A-5, featuring the wider wings introduced in that aircraft. It carried the same four forward guns as the C-2, was powered by two Jumo 221G or 221F engines, and carried extra armour plating for the crew. The C-4 joined I./NJG 2 in time to take part in the operations against Britain in 1941. Production was still limited, and the Bf 110 was preferred in both the heavy fighter and night fighter roles.

    C-5

    Ten C-5s were produced, powered by BMW 801A engines. These were used as research aircraft. The main innovation introduced with the C-5 was the replacement of the ventral gondola with a weapons pod that could carry two 7.92mm machine guns, mounted under the front bomb bay. The BMW engines improved the top speed of the aircraft to an impressive 354mph.
     
  14. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    I suppose it was a question of priorities. Had the Bf110 not been available I'm sure that there would have been some greater effort into putting something in the sky that would be in the long range fighter category.
     
  15. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    It should be no surpise that once the allied air forces recovered from the initial onslaugt the loss rates for the Bf110 would go up. The French actually staged somewhat of a recovery 22-25 May, and again 3-8 June. In air combats the French, and to a lesser extent the AASF were able to shoot down a lot of Luftwaffe a/c, including quite a few Me 110s. This should be easily understood. The Me 110 was not an air superiority fighter in the same way as the Me 109, Spitfire or D520 were. In the air it was vulnerable to SE fighters.

    After the initial flush of victory 10-13 May, French serviceability rates normalized and they at last took to the air in reasonable numbers.


    The French air force was virtually demolished and the RAF took terrible punishment as well. The latter lost with over 900 aircraft lost,including 453 Hurricanes.What is very relevant is the manner in which those Hurricanes were lost. Terraines analysis shows that 378 of them "were either destroyed on the ground, or were aircraft under repair that had to be abandoned.." Given that the Me 110 units were doing the lions share of ground attacks on airfields (along with some precision bombing units)this suggests (but does not confirm, I admit) that the majority of RAF aircraft destroyed were destroyed by Me110s and bombers, rather than Me 109s. . It might be a different story for those allied aircraft types that got airborne.

    From the above figures, a maximum of 75 Hurricanes lost in combat.In the same campaign the Luftwaffe lost 367 fighters,mostly ME109s, and probably not destroyed on the ground.

    This is not to suggest that 75 Hurricanes fell while knocking down 367 Messerschmitts; the air war was far more complex than that. But few historians of the assault on the West point out that it cost the Luftwaffe 1,389 aircraft of all types,and that 367 of them were "technically superior" fighters.

    Derek Robinson - Invasion 1940 pp122-3


    E. R. Hooton, in Phoenix Triumphant p. 267-268 lists Luftwaffe losses as 1,428, 0f which 1,129 were lost due to enemy action. Hooton goes on to list 1,092 aircrew killed, 1,395 aircrew wounded, and 1,930 aircrew missing. Corresponding French losses were 574 a/c lost in the air (of which 174 were lost to Flak), 460 aircrew killed and another 120 taken prisoner. RAF losses were 959 aircraft (of which 477 were fighters and 381 bombers) and 912 aircrew killed or missing (of which 312 were pilots) and another 184 aircrew wounded.


    However there is an important footnote to add to all of this. The Luftwaffe was successful in gaining air superiority 10-13 May, in no small measure due to the effects of the Zerstorer units. Though the Allies were able to stage a partial recovery and operate in an "air denial" role, which tends to maximise losses, it was never able to gain anything of substance from its air assets, othe than the evacuatikon from Dunkirk after losing that initial confrontation. Air battles are, more than anything about control of the skies above a certain geographical area, and the successful application of airpower to support a terrestial or maritime operation. The Germans were never denied that flexibility after the initial battle
     
  16. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    From what I can tell the Allies lost most aircraft on the ground to bomber units rather than the Bf110, which tackled any fighters than tried to take off. Remember there were not radar warnings in France, nor an organized observer system like in Britain, though the French were researching radar and were given the details of the Dowding system. So German aircraft could slip in and attack aircraft on the ground without warning. The Bf110 was not carrying bombs at this time and the major weapon against airfields were bombs, as there was only limited damage the firepower of a Bf110 could do with its machine guns and cannons. I could see the Bf110 be effective against aircraft scrambling to confront them, either taking off or trying to gain altitude, which is probably why the Bf110 was so effective, because at that point a single engine fighter like a Hurricane cannot maneuver and use its primary advantage over the Bf110.
    Once radar warning was an obstacle and the Bf110 couldn't surprise units on the ground or in the process of taking off, all of its disadvantages were exposed and a different role had to be found for it.
     
  17. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    No not correct, or at least the availble information does not support that claim. Steve has already accessed Me110 operational history in wiki, but did not include the following in his quote

    "During the Phoney War, a number of French aircraft were shot down by Bf 110s. ZG 1 Gruppenkommander Hauptmann Hannes Gentzen became the highest-scoring fighter pilot in the Luftwaffe on 2 April, when he shot down a Curtiss Hawk over Argonne.

    For the attack on the Netherlands, 145 Bf 110s were committed under Oberst Kurt-Bertram von Döring's Jagdfliegerführer 2. During the campaign, the Bf 110 demonstrated its capabilities as a strike aircraft. On 10 May, ZG 1 claimed 26 Dutch aircraft destroyed on the ground on Haamstede airfield. Between 11–13 May, most of the 82 aerial claims over Belgium were made by the Bf 110 equipped ZG 26. However, this was tempered by the loss of nine Bf 110s against the RAF on 15 May. By this date, Oberstleutnant Friedrich Vollbracht's ZG 2 claimed 66 Allied aircraft".

    You can find similar operational details of the 110s relative success against both the RAF and the FAF in the main campaign after 10 May

    Bergstrom contains some interesting analysis regarding the performance of the Me 110 as a fighter. He suggests that its failure was as much to do with poor tactical employment as any shortcomings of the aircraft. It was a fast moving energy fighter, but was mostly employed during the BoB as a close escort. Lacking both climb and accelaration, it was a sitting duck in that capacity.

    The failure of the Bf 110 in air to air fighting in the BoB is often repeated in literature. Christer Bergström in his book ”Luftstrid över kanalen”, 2006, has analyzed the victory and loss statistics in the BoB and presents a different picture to the usually repeated "Bf 110 fighter BoB disaster" scenario.

    "The confirmed aerial victories achieved by Bf 109 units amounted to 815 while the Bf 110 units gathered 407 confirmed victories. A comparison between confirmed victories and operational losses due to air battles gives at hand that in the period 8 August to end of October 1940:

    Bf 109 units scored 815 victories to 489 losses – a ratio of 1,7:1
    Bf 110 units scored 407 victories to 185 losses – a ratio of 2,2:1

    In October the Bf 110 units even had a ratio of 3:1 while the Bf 109 units dropped to 1,4:1.

    Christer Bergström continues to discuss the matter as well as comparing Spifire and Hurricane relative performances and some of the RAF unit’s performance, RAF Bomber command losses, coastal command and the Fleet Air Arm..
    When finally comparing the scores by Bf 109 and Bf 110 units as mentioned above with the estimated true losses by each side for the period July-October 1940 it turns out that in approximate figures the authentic victories versus actual air battle losses where:

    Spitfire 550 victories to 329 losses – a ratio of 1,7:1
    Hurricane 750 victories to 603 losses – a ratio of 1,2:1
    Bf 109 780 victories to 534 losses – a ratio of 1,5:1
    Bf 110 340 victories to 196 losses – a ratio of 1,7:1

    Bergström continues by discussing the validity of the data including the difficulties in identifying if a Bf 109 or 110 shot down a RAF fighter, however, the outcome is that minimum 25-30% of all British aircraft losses inflicted by Luftwaffe fighters were scored by Bf 110s.
    The “Total failure of the Bf 110 as a fighter aircraft in the BoB” is perhaps another BoB Myth worth reassessing, aloing with "radar was the key to British survival"?

    The fact is that on several occasions the Bf 110 units performed better than the Bf 109 units on a particular day. When deployed tactically correct using the advantages the Bf 110 offered the Bf 110 was still a lethal weapon in air-to-air fighting which I believe Christer Bergström is able to show.

    When not being tied to close escort to the bomber force, it made effective diving attacks on RAF fighters using surprise, high speed and it’s heavy nose armament to score victories. In France and the low countries this was extended to diving attacks for aircraft on the deck.

    Long range and an extra pair of eyes was also helpful in air battle, the range enabling to wait for the right moment to strike and the extra pair of eyes increasing the situational awareness of the pilot in an air battle.

    Wrongly used as a close bomber escort the disadvantages with slow acceleration and climb in comparison with the Spitfire and Hurricane negated the Bf 110s strengths, which was also proven by high losses on several such instances.

    JaBo attacks are tactical strikes which can be very effective to gain temporary supremacy over a limited area of battleground for a limited time and best used in combination with other units, such as army or naval units in a Blitz Krieg style war, but not as a strategic weapon. For this reason use of the ZGs as JABOs in the BOF was appropriate, whereas use in the BoB was the opposite.....a liability in fact. In order to subdue the British defenses and defense industry some heavier bomb loads would be needed and even then the experience from the later Allied heavy bombing raids over Germany indicates that it would have been very difficult to achieve this even if Germany would have had the strategic bomber force it never had or got".
     
  18. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    #18 wiking85, Jan 29, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2013
    I've also read that the Bf110 was very unmaneuverable unless within 20-30mph of its top speed. Something about the airflow over the frame wasn't sufficient except at higher speeds.

    As a precision light bomber it had potential for precision strikes on the British radar stations during the BoB and had only slightly less accuracy than the Ju87 when fitted with bomb racks, while having much greater survivability than the Stukas during the BoB.

    As to bomb load and effect, remember that the B17s on raids into Germany before the liberation of France were only able to carry two tons of bombs that far. That was the exact load of the German medium bombers operating from France as far north as York (IIRC). The problem the Germans had was lack of numbers and operational aircraft (by the time of the Blitz serviceability was close to 50%). Also the historical attacks were not focused in repeated air attacks (priorities were changed constantly) AND the intelligence was often faulty when targeting specific factories. The Luftwaffe had much higher serviceability in July 1940 than in October 1940 and would have had many more aircraft overall without the losses exceeding replacements and wearing down crews. Without the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe would have grown between July and October, replacing all that had been lost in France and potentially even then some.
     
  19. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    6,700kg Me-110C loaded weight.
    11,850kg. Ju-88C6 loaded weight.

    You'll have a tough time convincing me the heavier Ju-88 can match aerial performance of Me-110 with engines available during 1939 to 1940.
     
  20. Tante Ju

    Tante Ju Banned

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    110 was not so unmanouverable, Vasco has some account. In fact even turning and even roll was fairly good, handling very good. Not so good as a SE, but almost, and exceptional for a twin.

    But it was somewhat underpowered compared to single engined fighters - take for example 1000 HP in 109E for 2,6 tons vs 2000 HP in 110C for 6,7 tons and a larger airframe you will see where 110s problem lay.

    BTW imho its interesting parallel to P-47. P-47 wasnt too manouverable to say the least, but it was fast, had a bit of better range than single engines and heavily armed. It was still quite successfull when strenghts were used.
     
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