Messerschmitt Bf 109G Gustav
The Bf 109G was not particularly better than its predecessors but it was the version which was produced most. More than 10,000 models in a whole host of different versions and variants came off the assembly lines practically until the end of the conflict. On a more or less large scale, all German fighter units used the Gustav and the aeroplane equipped eight other countries' air forces, allied or not to Germany.
What was surprising about the Bf 109G was the incredibly large number of modifications it underwent during its long career, the final 1945-versions hardly resembling the machines which had been produced three years earlier. Apart from the changes made necessary by the use of a new engine, the way the war was going played an important part in the decision as to how the original concept should change. Messerschmitt's fighter had definitely become faster but it was faced with increasingly more solid, more effective and better-defended adversaries, namely the boxes of Allied B-17 and B-24 bombers.
Used in conjunction with the Luftwaffe's other 'star', the Fw 190 which was better-armed and more maneuverable, the Me 109G specialised in high-altitude combat, against the formations of huge Allied four-engined bombers. To increase its performance, various solutions were tried out and installed: more efficient engines of the AS type with power-boost or methanol-water injection giving increased speed for a short time; increasing range by using droptanks; increased firepower (by increasing the nose canon from 20 to 30mm and the machine guns from 13 to 17mm, using rocket launchers or cannon installed in underwing trays), etc.
Modifications were carried out to improve the aircraft with its canopy (simplified mountings), its undercarriage (wider diameter wheels, lengthened tailwheel) or its tail (increased rudder surface). Twice the German authorities tried to put some order into this diversity of variants and models, first with the G-14 which was intended to incorporate all the different modifications which had been made to the G-6, then with the G-10 which was to have ensured the transition with the last variant, the 109K.
This plan failed because each one of these versions itself generated a whole series of variants which made the whole into an almost inextricable maze....