Messerschmitt Bf 109F JG(Y1+) France 1940 01

Photo 01: The first production versions of the Bf109F-1 and F-2 variants began to reach front-line units in November 1940. This aircraft, 'Yellow 1', has the standard black-green spinner with a one-third white segment and a yellow cowling and rudder. The camouflage seems to have been amended in the field as the area around the Hakenkreuz shows where additional mottling has been applied.

Messerschmitt Bf 109F France 1940 01

Photo 01: Unlike the engine cowlings on the earlier Bf109E which had to be completely removed for engine maintenance, those on the Bf109F had a central hinge which allowed each side to be raised, clamshell fashion. As seen on this machine, the lower cowling was also hinged and swung down and to one side.

Messerschmitt Bf 109F France 1941 01

Photo 01: During the Winter of 1940/41, the Luftwaffe erected more permanent structures to protect men and machines from the elements. Here, a Bf 109F of an unidentified unit is parked in front of a wooden hangar.

Messerschmitt Bf 109F JG.5 (4+-) Russia 1941-42 01

Photo 01: A black fuselage number and a horizontal bar, as in this winter scene of a Bf 109F shrouded against the elements, normally indicate a machine of the 5. Staffel of a Jagdgeschwader, although which one is not known.

Messerschmitt Bf 109F JG54.Erg Russia 1941 01

Messerschmitt Bf 109F (SJ+MN) ferried aircraft to Russia via Poland 1941 01

In an endeavour to ensure all Jagdgeschwadern operating in Russia were kept adequately supplied with aircraft, a large infrastructure was necessary in the rear areas and several ferry units were required to fly aircraft up to the front. Even so, such was the extent of battle attrition that several Staffeln soon had only a few machines ready for operations. New aircraft still carrying factory codes were often ferried to Varsovya where they were collected by operational pilots who then flew them on to their front-line units. These photographs, all taken in Poland, show that theatre markings were sometimes applied at the factories and not always by the operational units themselves. In this connection, note however - that while the aircraft seen

Messerschmitt Bf 109F (SG+YW) ferried aircraft to Russia via Poland 1941 01

Photo 01: has yellow under the wingtips and a yellow cowling, the latter is in two different shades suggesting that, contrary to then current regulations, the area of yellow originally applied only under the cowling, as seen on (SG+YW), was later enlarged to include the whole cowling.

Messerschmitt Bf 109F (SJ+MR) ferried aircraft to Russia via Poland 1941 01

Photo 01: This variation in the yellow is seen more clearly in the view showing (SJ+MR) in flight over Poland where the yellow of the fuselage band is noticeably darker than the yellow cowling.

Messerschmitt Bf 109F (Y11+) ferried aircraft to Russia via Poland 1941 01
Bf 109F (Y5+) ferried aircraft to Russia via Poland 1941 01

Photo's 01-02: The remaining photographs show 'Yellow 11' and 'Yellow 5' presumably in transit back to their unit in Russia after being repaired or overhauled. 'Yellow 11' has 15 victory bars painted on its yellow rudder but the unit to which it belonged has, unfortunately, not been identified. Another view of 'Yellow 11' shows the aircraft was particularly clean and had a glossy spinner.

Messerschmitt Bf 109F JG(B4+) Russia 1941 01
The identity of the pilot who flew this aircraft marked with a hand giving the thumbs down sign, or the unit to which he belonged, is not known.

The Messerschmitt Bf 109F Friedrich

Externally the Bf 109F had many aerodynamic improvements over the E series.

On later aircraft the left hand exhaust was fitted with a metal shield to stop exhaust fumes from entering the supercharger intake. The canopy stayed essentially the same as that of the E-4 although the handbook for the F stipulated that the forward, lower triangular panel to starboard was to be replaced by a metal panel with a port for firing signal flares. A two-piece, all metal armour plate head shield was added to the hinged portion of the canopy, although some lacked the curved top section. A bullet-resistant windscreen could be fitted to the windscreen as an option. A boundary layer duct allowed continual airflow to pass through the airfoil above the radiator ducting and exit from the trailing edge of the upper split flap. The lower split flap was mechanically linked to the central 'main' flap, while the upper split flap and forward bath lip position were regulated via a thermostatic valve which automatically positioned the flaps for maximum cooling effectiveness.

In 1941 'cutoff' valves were introduced which allowed the pilot to shut down either wing radiator in the event of one being damaged; this allowed the remaining coolant to be preserved. The valves were only delivered to frontline units as kits, the number of which, for unknown reasons, was limited. Other features of the redesigned wings included new leading edge slats, which were slightly shorter but had a slightly increased chord, and new rounded, removable wingtips which changed the profile of the wings and increased the span slightly over that of the E series. The redesigned wing made the internal mounting of guns impractical, so armament was revised.

The armament of the Bf 109F consisted of the two MG 17 above the engine plus a Motorkanone cannon firing through the propeller hub: The early F versions were equipped with the MG FF/M cannon, the F-2 got the 15 mm MG 151, and from F-4 on the 20 mm MG 151/20 was used. Only after a lack of spare parts, did he accept an F. Later on, an attachment of underwing 20 mm cannons addressed the issue of fire-power, but at a price to performance.

Werner Molders on the other hand saw the single centerline gun as an improvement. It is possible that the criticism of the Bf 109F's armament is based on the early F-2 version with the 15 mm MG 151/15 cannon, which was later replaced by the 20 mm version of the same weapon and was praised for being highly effective by aces like Gunther Rall.

The first Bf 109Fs were rushed into service; some aircraft crashed or nearly crashed, with either the wing surface wrinkling or fracturing, or by the tail structure failing. In one such accident, the commander of JG2 'Richthofen', Wilhelm Balthasar lost his life when he was attacked by a Spitfire during a test flight. While making an evasive manoeuvre, the wings broke away and Balthasar was killed when his aircraft hit the ground.

Tests were also carried out to find out why the tails had failed and it was found that at certain engine settings a high-frequency oscillation in the tailplane spar was overlapped by vibrations from the engine; together this was enough to cause structural failure at the rear fuselage/fin attachment point. With the problems out of the way, pilots generally agreed that the F series were the best-handling of all the Bf-109 series.

Werner Molders flew one of the first operational Bf 109F-1s over England from early October 1940; he may well have been credited with shooting down eight Hurricanes and four Spitfires while flying W.No 5628, Stammkennzeichen SG+GW between 11 October and 29 October 1940.

Bf 109F variants and sub-variants

* F-0 (Pre-Production Aircraft built from E series airframes, Adolf Galland was one of the few to fly one operationally)
* F-1 (Armed with one MG FF/M 20 mm Motorkanone cannon and two MG 17 7.92 mm machine guns)
* F-2 (Armed with one MG 151 15 mm cannon and two MG 17)
o F-2/trop tropicalized version
* F-3 (F-1 with 601E engine, small production and most upgraded to F-4 standard)
* F-4 (Armed with one MG 151/20 20 mm cannon and two MG 17)
o F-4 R1 (Two 20 mm cannon in underwing packs, special purpose variant, only in small numbers)
o F-4/Z additional GM-1 injection system
* F-5 (Recon version of F-4, only two MG 17)
* F-6 (Recon version of F-4, improved camera equipment)

Web References: Bf-109

 Some of the most widely used Book References:

  • Jagdwaffe: Battle of Britain: Phase One: July-August 1940 (Luftwaffe Colours: Volume Two, Section 1) Paperback Eric Mombeek (Author), David Wadman (Author), Eddie J Creek (Author)
  • Jagdwaffe: Battle of Britain: Phase Two: August-September 1940 (Luftwaffe Colours: Volume Two, Section 2) Paperback Eric Mombeek (Author), David Wadman (Author), Martin Pegg (Author)
  • Jagdwaffe: Battle of Britain: Phase Three: September-October 1940 (Luftwaffe Colours: Volume Two, Section 3) Paperback Eric Mombeek (Author), David Wadman (Author), Martin Pegg (Author)
  • Jagdwaffe: Battle of Britain: Phase Four: November 1940-June 1941 (Luftwaffe Colours: Volume Two, Section 4) Paperback Eric Mombeek (Author), David Wadman (Author), Martin Pegg (Author)

 Some of the most widely used Magazine References:

  • Airfix Magazines (English) -
  • Avions (French) -
  • FlyPast (English) -
  • Flugzeug Publikations GmbH (German) -
  • Flugzeug Classic (German) -
  • Klassiker (German) -
  • Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) -
  • Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) -
  • Osprey (English) -
  • Revi Magazines (Czech) -