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The Bf 109E-4 in World War II
- E-4 (Armor and structural improvements, change of MG FF cannons to MG FF/M. Return to 'normal' canopy)
- E-4/B (Fighter-bomber version of E-4, one 250 kg bomb, usually with DB 601Aa)
- E-4/Trop (Version of E-4 modified to serve in tropical regions)
- E-4/N (E-4 with DB601N engine)
- E-4/BN (Fighter-bomber version of E-4/N, one 250 kg bomb)
Bf 109 was the official Reichsluftfahrtministerium (German Aviation Ministry, RLM) designation, since the design was submitted by the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke company, and was used exclusively in all official German documents dealing with this aircraft family. The company was renamed Messerschmitt AG after July 1938 when Erhard Milch finally allowed Willy Messerschmitt to acquire the company; from that date forward, all Messerschmitt aircraft were to carry the "Me" designation except those already assigned a Bf prefix. Wartime documents from Messerschmitt AG, RLM, and others continued to use both designations, sometimes even on the same page, but there were several RLM orders to deny acceptance of documents carrying the Me prefix for the Bf 109. Me 109 is known to have been the name used in print by Luftwaffe propaganda publications as well as by the Messerschmitt company itself after July 1938, and Luftwaffe personnel, who pronounced it may hundert-neun. The Me 109 ("emm ee one-oh-nine") designation was usually used in the English-speaking world. However, in both wartime and contemporary literature, both the "Bf" and "Me" as well as "ME" prefixes are used. All extant airframes are described as "Bf 109" on identification plates, including the final K-4 models.
Origins Of 109's Names
The nicknaming of the 109s Anton Emil Freidrich Gustav Kurfurst etc is based on the German phonetic alphabet of the day relating to the model letter of the aircraft:
Anton, Berta, Caesar, Dora, Emil, Friedrich, Gustav, Heinrich, Ida, Josef ,Kurfurst, Ludwig, Martha, Nordpol, Otto, Paula,
Quelle, Richard, Siegfried, Toni, Ulrich, Viktor, Wilhelm, Xantippe, Ypern, Zeppelin.
Adolf "Dolfo" Joseph Ferdinand Galland (19 March 1912 – 9 February 1996) was a World War II German fighter pilot and commander of Germany's fighter force (General der Jagdflieger) from 1941 to 1945. Galland joined the Luftwaffe in 1933, and despite suffering injuries, including a damaged eye, in two crashes, he continued his military career. In 1937 he was one of 20,000 German military personnel to see action in the Condor Legion, providing Galland with valuable combat experience.
On 12 May 1940, near Liege, Galland scored his first three aerial victories, over RAF Hawker Hurricanes. His wingman on his first mission was Gustav Rödel. By the end of the French campaign, Galland had achieved 14 victories. On 1 August 1940, Galland became the third fighter pilot to receive the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
From June 1940 on, Galland flew as a Gruppenkommandeur of III./Jagdgeschwader 26 (JG 26), fighting in the Battle of Britain with Messerschmitt Bf 109 "Emils" from bases in the Pas de Calais. In July, Galland was promoted to major. By mid-August, Luftwaffe commander Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring's dissatisfaction with the performance of the fighter arm led him to replace several of his pre-war Jagdgeschwader commanders with the current wave of younger high-achievers. Thus on 22 August Galland replaced Major Gotthard Handrick and became Geschwaderkommodore of JG 26. A month later, on 25 September, Galland was awarded the Eichenlaub to the Ritterkreuz for 40 kills.
By the end of 1940, Galland had 58 victories. Promoted to Oberstleutnant, he continued to lead JG 26 through 1941 against RAF fighter sweeps across northern Europe. In early 1941 most of the fighter units of the Luftwaffe were sent to the Eastern Front, or south to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, thus leaving JG 26 and Jagdgeschwader 2 Richthofen (JG 2) as the sole single-engine fighter Geschwader in France.
By this time, JG 26 were starting to re-equip with the new Bf 109F, normally equipped with a 15 mm (or later a 20 mm) cannon firing through the propeller hub and two cowl-mounted 7.9 mm MG 17. Galland felt the model was grossly under-armed and so tested a series of 109 "specials" — one with a unique armament of an MG 151/20 cannon and two cowl-mounted 13 mm MG 131 machine guns, and another with integral wing-mounted 20 mm MG-FF cannons.
For the next two years, these two Geschwader were the main adversaries to the RAF’s day offensives over occupied Europe. Galland's careful husbanding of his resources and astute tactical awareness meant JG 26 kept their losses to a minimum while inflicting maximum damage on the RAF's tactical fighters through 1941. This became even more evident with the arrival of the potent Focke-Wulf Fw 190A to units in late 1941 - early 1942, which completely outclassed the current Spitfire Mark Vb in service with the RAF. However, on April 15, 1941 Galland met his match whilst on his way to a birthday party for General Theo Osterkamp at La Touquet, France. He made a detour on his flight towards England to see if he could find any prey, and his predator instincts paid dividends. On maneuvers off the cliffs of Dover was a group of Spitfires commanded by RAF ace Brendan 'Paddy' Finucane. Galland quickly shot down three Mk II spitfires. However, Finucane rolled away and came up behind Galland where he promptly riddled Galland's new Bf 109F with bullets. Galland bailed out and was rescued a few hours later.
On the morning of 21 June 1941, Galland was shot up by Polish No. 303 Squadron Spitfire and had to crash land. In the afternoon, he was shot down by a No. 145 Squadron Spitfire, bailing out and suffering slight injuries. That same night he became the first member of the Wehrmacht to be awarded the Schwerter (Swords) to the Ritterkreuz for his 70th kill.
On 2 July 1941, Galland led JG 26 into combat against a formation of Blenheims. A Spitfire of the bomber escort (probably from Polish 308 Squadron) managed to hit Galland's plane with a 20 mm shell. The armour plate mounted on the fighter just days earlier saved Galland's life. Galland landed at base, where he was hospitalised for the second time in a few days. Experiences like this taught Galland to respect his opponents.
Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4 JG 26 Adolf Galland
Luftwaffe and Bf109 cockpit resource(German)
Hans-Joachim Marseille by Major Robert Tate, USAF
An excellent read, interview of Erich Hartmann
Possibly spurious yet highly captivating account of an American pilot's encounter with a German fighter ace beleived to be Hartmann
The Bf 109E-4 in Aces High II
Introduced as an era aircraft to match up with the early Spitfire Mk I and Hurricane Mk I models, the 109E4 could actually be reasonable in the Main Arenas. A shortage of speed is a problem, but other than that it isn't all that poor a package, bringing twin cannons, an average climb rate, and being the lightest 109 in the game. In the right conditions where you have a little space to corner people, you might find the 109E4 to be quite effective.
The E4 is actually fairly reasonably powered for a plane of the era, though it isn't very fast. Cruising speed at sea-level is around 283mph, with WEP giving you about another 10mph, putting you squarely in the lower 1/3 of planes in the game in terms of top speed. Altitude increase helps the situation with about 4mph gained at cruise for every 1K of altitude increase up to a maximum of 15K (340mph cruise). WEP tends to add about 5-8mph at most altitudes, which isn't a whole lot. Acceleration and climb are decent though at 3,000ft/minute with WEP, surprising quick and certainly within an acceptable range up to the same ceiling of around 15K alt. WEP is important, so save it for use in combat or when you need to climb quickly. Even though it typically represents only a small amount of top speed gain, it really helps in acceleration. Range is a bit disappointing, though this is a historical weakness, with only 25 minutes of full power on internal fuel with no option for a drop tank.
Aces High II Performance Charts
So close, yet so far. The 109E4 is very different from other 109s in arrangement of the weapons, adopting twin wing mounted cannons instead of the usual single spinner mounted gun. Additionally, this early 109 has the clearly inferior MG/FF 20mm cannons (as compared to the typical MG151) with only 60 rounds/gun. The MG/FF have poor ballistics, slower rate of fire, and the typical convergence issues with wing mounted guns. Not that the MG/FF is any less effective if you land hits, but landing hits is much more difficult, so shorter ranges and longer tracking times are typically adopted to compensate. As backups are a pair of cowl mounted 7.9mm machine guns, which offer lots of ammunition but little in the way of hitting power. Something is better than nothing though and given enough time the 7.9mm can get the job done and convergence is not really an issue (set it out to max). Overall the firepower package is best used at very short ranges where you can bring the cannons to bear with little requirement for difficult aiming. That tends to not be the situation most of the time as enemies are constantly maneuvering against you so you will need to fly a bit smarter to get in nice and close. Consider setting the cannons to a relatively short convergence point (D200) since outside that range aiming is very difficult because of bullet drop. There is no option for gondolas although in the case of the E4 the speed penalties would rarely make it worthwhile.
Maneuverability is generally pretty good. The E4 actually has a slightly smaller wing area but also is quite a bit lighter than any other 109 variant. The E4 turns pretty well and is another one of the 109s that can surprise you with agility. The best maneuvering speeds for the E4 are a little lower in general than the other 109s - something between 250-375 is best. The cannons in the wings tend to add quite a bit of weight at a point away from the main fuselage and that hurts roll performance a bit at most speeds. The E4 suffers the same compression related problems as later 109s and it tends to set on a little sooner, at about 425mph where the roll all but disappears. The lower top speed of the 109E4 is a bit of a blessing in that sense though, with less chance that you will over-speed yourself and let the E4 get out of control on you.
Flap speeds are 200, 198, 175, and 150mph IAS.
Fighting in the Bf 109E-4
The 109E4 is going to be a challenge to be successful in, but you do have most of the raw tools you need to get the job done. The problem is in the polish, which later 109s tended to add, along with additional power. They key will be to find an environment where you can work against smaller groups of enemy planes so that you don't get overwhelmed or have to go defensive too quickly. Climb to a reasonable altitude not exceeding 15K and being mindful of your limited endurance with even full internal fuel. Cruise to the combat area, selecting a target that has already slowed down sufficiently so as not to be able to easily escape. Once you have someone in a tight fight, it is unlikely he can out-accelerate or out-climb you quickly enough to escape.
Try and get in close and give yourself easy shots at short ranges. This is commonly good practice, but in the E4 it is almost critical. Try and unload your aircraft before you fire to give a better chance to compensate for the high ballistic drop in the cannons. Don't fire the cowl weapons by default so as not to confuse the identification of hits. Short bursts, trying to ensure enough lead and drop are key. Use the cowl guns as ranging weapons or to keep the enemy honest. You are unlikely to inflict killing shots with them, but you may damage the enemy and make your job easier. Remember that you can turn better than any other 109 too, so most people will not expect you to even consider a turn-fight. The 109E4 has the same 109 icon as all the rest of the models, F4, G2, G6 or G14, so until they get fairly close and identify you by colour (which won't be that hard for people who know how to tell the difference). You are more like a sheep in wolves clothing (backwards... I know).. but a sheep with teeth if you get close enough.
Defensively, try and make sure you bring friends who can help you egress if you plan to land some of those kills. You simply don't have the speed to leave whenever you choose, and there are several aircraft who can out-turn you fairly easily if you get pinned in a turn-fight. Your turn ability is surprisingly good though, so don't disregard that option and you can likely turn almost equal with something like a Spit IX, which is pretty impressive. Try and always keep a lane open to exit through and don't allow yourself to get surrounded too quickly or when low. You likely won't have the power to break out of that and your cannons will be dry before you can really scare anyone off. Always watch your fuel state too.. overuse of WEP and long transits to/from a friendly field can leave you with little range.
Trim in a 109 is an important consideration and becoming familiar with the full range of trim available and knowing when to use it largely removes the 109's weakness of poor control response at high speed. Whenever your speed falls to a controllable level you can quickly restore normal trim settings using CTRL+X. Trim can be used as a supplement to stick input and with a bit of practice can be used instinctively to accurately aim the 109 or stay on a cons 6 at high speed. The trim keys are:
Elevator up = K
Elevator down = I
Rudder left = J
Rudder right = L
Aileron left = M
Aileron right = , (comma key)
Note: trimming does not add extra turning ability, trimming is done in Aces High by moving your
existing control surfaces not by adjusting trim tabs. Trim only overcomes the simulated heavy control surfaces at high speeds.
A final note or two. The 109E4 is actually pretty good, but takes a high level of situational awareness to survive in. It can turn, something about the same as a Spit IX, which leaves you vulnerable to the myriad of Spit V, Zero, FM2, Hurris, N1Ks, etc, several of which you can't out-run either. People are more likely to respect you though as another 109 variant, so you can sometimes surprise them when they think they can turn gently and still avoid you as in when they face a G6 or G14. That can be the opportunity you need, so exploit it, take your shot, then get out of there before they figure you out as an imposter.
Fighting against the Bf 109E-4
While the E4 is pretty horribly under-powered by late war standards, it still has some tricks up its sleeve and you are unlikely to notice it is a E4 model until you get very close. This can be a problem since the standard 109 tactic is typically to turn to avoid them since most of the 109 drivers fly later model 109s that turn poorly. This can be a problem with the 109, who could match your turn long enough to pin you in place and then finish you off with some cannon fire. One of the worst things with the 109E4 though is the pilot who is flying it. You may find that they are the either of two extremes, elite veteran or unknowing newbie, of which you might be able to tell right at merge. While the newbie is an easy kill, the veteran is likely to give you a pretty tough fight in a plane you wouldn't expect it from.
Identifying the E4 is pretty easy though, just look for the big yellow nose and straight edged camouflage scheme. The other 109s simply don't look the same once you notice these visual differences. Always assume you are not dealing with an E4 though since the other 109s, especially the 30mm equipped ones, can be dangerous in a single pass.
Offensively, try and land hits; the 109E4 is not terribly strong and seems to be less armoured so that smaller calibre hits do more damage. Also, try and force the E4 into a turning defense without committing to that yourself. The E4 is neither a great stall-fighter, nor a great dive-escape plane, so if you can get him slowed down he will likely have to stay around and turn until he can find a place to spring free (which may not happen at all). He won't risk a dive unless he knows you are in a inferior diving plane, of which only the late model Zero comes to immediate mind. Even if you have to break off and reposition, the E4 is unlikely to be able to run very far before you catch back up to him again and can start all over. Don't accept Head-Ons at close range and don't count on a climb or acceleration advantage to get you out of trouble if you over-commit. Just try and land hits, not need to get greedy, the E4 should be like dessert compared to some of the scarier opponents you may meet.
If you get a 109E4 on your tail, try and break way from him. If you have altitude, you can exploit the handling problems of 109s over 425mph and likely roll to a new heading and break contact. It is highly unlikely the 109 can even catch you unless you are in a really slow aircraft yourself. If you don't have altitude, then try and hold the E4 away from you while giving him poor shots at high crossing angles or difficult leads. The cannons on the E4 are such that anything other than a point-blank, or tracking from rear, shot are pretty tough. If you can survive out the first 10 seconds of him firing his cannons then you have likely run him dry of his really dangerous ammunition. Don't try and get in a turn-fight with him though unless you are in a really hot turner.. the E4 is going to give a tough time in a turn-fight to even the likes of later Spitfires. See if you can't land a couple of hits of your own in the process though since the 109 E4 is not really all that strong and cannot absorb damage well. Be careful of the cannons, if you hear light pings and think he still has cannons, most likely they are falling below you, so don't immediately dive. Most E4 pilots, while adapted for the higher drop rates of the Mg151 cannons on Luftwaffe fighters, need to adjust even further for the MG/FF models so tend to fire too low.
Soda's Aircraft Evaluations
Aces High Fighter Perfomance Comparison