The Messerschmitt Bf 109, often called Me 109, was a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser during the early to mid 1930s. It was one of the first true modern fighters of the era, including such features as all-metal monocoque construction, a closed canopy, a retractable landing gear, and was powered by a liquid-cooled, inverted-V12 aero engine. The Bf 109 first saw operational service during the Spanish Civil War and was still in service at the dawn of the jet age at the end of World War II, during which time it was the backbone of the Luftwaffe's fighter force. From the end of 1941 the Bf 109 was supplemented by the Focke-Wulf Fw 190.
Originally conceived as an interceptor, later models were developed to fulfill multiple tasks, serving as bomber escort, fighter-bomber, day-, night-, all-weather fighter, ground-attack aircraft, and as reconnaissance aircraft. It was supplied to and operated by several states during World War II, and served with several countries for many years after the war. The Bf 109 was the most produced fighter aircraft in history, with a total of 33,984 units produced from 1936 up to April 1945.
The Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring German fighter aces of World War II, who claimed 928 victories between them while flying with Jagdgeschwader 52, mainly on the Eastern Front, as well as by the highest scoring German ace in the North African Campaign.
Through constant development, the Bf 109 remained competitive with the latest Allied fighter aircraft until the end of the war.
Source: Wikipedia, "Messerschmitt Bf 109", available under the CC-BY-SA License.
As Described In
Their Finest Hour: As the Bf 109E-3 was tested in battle, certain modifications were made based on its combat performance. This new version, the Bf 109E-4, had a redesigned and reinforced canopy for better visibility and durability, plus more powerful wing mounted cannons. When it was later decided to use the Bf 109E-4 as a Jabo, or fighter/bomber, a bomb rack was mounted underneath the fuselage. This model, the Bf 109E-4/B, saw its first action in July 1940 against coastal radar stations in the Battle of Britain.
Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe: Another new feature of the Bf 109G-6 was the MK 108 cannon, which was fired through the propeller spinner in the nose, but the short supply of this formidable weapon meant that the G-6 models were usually fitted with the MG 151 cannon. This extra armament gave the 109G-6 a deadly punch for attacking bombers, but the added weight hampered it during dogfights with Allied Mustangs and Thunderbolts.