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Most adaptable - Spitfire vs Bf109


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Poll: Which was most adaptable? (21 member(s) have cast votes)

Which was most adaptable?

  1. Supermarine Spitfire (17 votes [73.91%])

    Percentage of vote: 73.91%

  2. Messerschmitt Bf 109 (6 votes [26.09%])

    Percentage of vote: 26.09%

Vote Guests cannot vote

#11 Lightning

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 03:57 PM

All operational Bf 109s during WWII used the DB 601/605 series engines.

Nope. 109Ds were used in the assault on Poland in Sept 1939. 109Ds were used in the Battles of Low Counties and France.


I recall reading that the later Bf 109Ds actually used the Db 601 engine. I will try to find that reference and post it. Whether they were exclusively the "D"s used in Poland, I can't say for sure. I do Know that not many "D"s were used there, and they were quickly replaced by "E"s.

At any rate, whether or not the "D"s used a DB 601 in no way changes what I said about the Bf 109 using the same basic engine throughout WWII. The DB 600/601/ 605 series were basically the same engine as it went through development. To quote Wikipedia:

"The DB 601 was basically an improved DB 600 with direct fuel injection."

The DB 605 was, in turn, an improved DB 601. If a few Jumo-powered '109Ds got into the early (the very early) battles of the war, they had very little impact, relatively speaking, and, again, my comments of 9/25/08 stand materially unaffected by that circumstance.

#12 ChrisMcD

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 07:58 PM

Hi Lightning,

I do think that there was a basic difference in philosophy between Supermarine and Messerschmit. Supermarine developed, or even overdeveloped the Spitfire because Mitchell died and his replacement was not really a creator of new designs. Willy Messerschmit was working on a whole series of new designs, but there was still a lot of basic redesign on the 109, despite Willy's determination to keep production volumes up. So I do disagree with your diagnosis

Engines
Messerschmitt didn't have much choice but to stick with the DB series, even though the 605 was really to big and heavy for the airframe. The Griffon was deliberately designed to fit into Merlin airframes, but even then the Griffon/Spitfire was a surprise to the Air Ministry when the Spitfire/Typhoon/190 race was won in the opposite ranking to that expected.

Wings
I thought there was a change/reversion after the 109E where the F no longer had wing cannon in the main spar because of strength problems? So there was a wing "redesign' of a sort when they took out the extra weight (not to mention the 109T or the Me 155).

Tail surface
What about all the crashes caused by the redesigned tail on the F series - when they got vibration problems by removing the bracing struts?

Fuselage/cockpit
I accept that there were very few changes to the 109's fuselage and it was a triumph of design, but the cockpit was terrible - poor vision, heavy frames, poor rear view etc.

The Spitfire was greatly changed over it's life, but a lot of pilots I respect (ie Quill and Brown) argued that Supermarine tried as hard as they could to keep the handling as similar as possible from start to finish - hence all the changes to the tail etc. whereas Messerschmitt were more focussed on ease of production.

So it did stay a Spitfire until the wing change that led to the Spiteful with it's poor stalling and loss of real 'spitfire' handling.

#13 Lightning

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 02:57 PM

Ricky stated


Which was the most adaptable design?

Pays to read the post that accompanies the poll question. ;)


That's why "I voted for the Spitfire with reservations." I think the Spitfire design was more adaptable to development than that of the Bf 109. The great number of changes undergone by the Spitfire, both internally and externally, throughout its life is a good demonstration of that.

The adaptability of the basic airplane to various roles is something else. Many of the modifications to the Spitfire were made to optimize it to a specific role. Clip the wings, and you have a better low altitude fighter that is not very good at high altitude. Tune the engine, extend the wings and give them pointed tips (and later add a pressurized cockpit), and you have an excellent high altitude fighter that would be emasculated down low.

The various "gun wings" were another example. In order to adapt and optimize the Spitfire to different roles such as fighter bomber, air-to-air fighter, bomber interceptor, bomber escort, etc., different armament combinations were used. These required somewhat extensive internal wing changes to accommodate the different batteries of guns. Among these was the "universal wing mentioned earlier.

All these modifications resulted in an airplane that changed markedly in appearance and construction over time.

The Bf 109 also underwent changes, to be sure, but to nowhere near the extent as those of the Spitfire. Yet compare any two variants, and they are quite similar. This is my point. The Bf 109 in its basic configuration was used as a high/low altitude fighter, a fighter bomber, a bomber escort, a ground support fighter, etc. And it did it with the same basic, albeit vastly improving, engine throughout the war.

Compare the Bf 109B to the Bf 109G and you see two airplanes that are very closely related. Compare the Spitfire I to late models, especially the Mk24, and you see very different airplanes (I know that the Mk 24 was post war, but it is a Spitfire.)

#14 Lightning

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 03:28 PM

I wrote this earlier:

I recall reading that the later Bf 109Ds actually used the Db 601 engine. I will try to find that reference and post it.


I looked through my books to see if I could find the above reference with the following results:

What had jogged my memory was that the Bf 109 V14 and V15 experimental models having DB 601s installed were slated to be prototypes for the Bf 109D-0. Before this came to pass, it was decided to divert them to the Bf 109E program. The prototypes for the "D" then became the V11, V12, and, to some extent, the V13. I had remembered that there was somehow a connection between the Bf 109D and the DB 601 engine, but I had forgotten the details.

#15 Lightning

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 03:59 PM

All operational Bf 109s during WWII used the DB 601/605 series engines.

Nope. 109Ds were used in the assault on Poland in Sept 1939. 109Ds were used in the Battles of Low Counties and France.


When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, there were 1085 Bf 109s on strength. Of these,
there were 235 "D"s which, for the most part, were being used as a stopgap aircraft for the newly forming "destroyer" squadrons that were slated to receive Bf 110s. The "D"s were later relegated to training units. The extent to which this already meager number ofobsolescent aircraft engaged in combat, and their overall impact is therefore miniscule.

At any rate, the Bf 109D was replaced on the production lines by the Bf 109E at the end of 1938--almost a year before WWII began in September 1939. Therefore, the Bf 109s produced during the war began with the "E" and were all equipped with DB 601/605 engines.

To be technical (and that's ok here), "D"s were used in the war, but they were not produced during the war. So, in the context of being technically wrong, and not for any practical purposes, I stand corrected.

#16 Ricky

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Posted 01 October 2008 - 07:40 AM

I did not intend the discussion to be limited to just the war years - both aircraft served pre- and post-war also.

#17 Red Admiral

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 02:29 PM

Were Bf109s used for photo-reconnaissance? I don't remember so but this was a major role for the Spitfire, especially post-war.

#18 Kutscha

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 04:05 PM

Were Bf109s used for photo-reconnaissance? I don't remember so but this was a major role for the Spitfire, especially post-war.

Yes. R2 with Rb50-30 camera and R3 with Rb75-30 camera. (the - should be a slash but keyboard is acting up)

There was also a naval version with an extended wing. Then there was the super extended wing 109H which was a big flop.

#19 Ricky

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 10:22 AM

If I can sum up so far...

The Spitfire proved to be the design that was most capable of being mucked-about with, but it was also the design that needed most mucking about with?


In all honesty, I'm not convinced on that score. For example, the Spit's armament went through several alterations, which initially required different wings until the 'Universal wing' took care of the most common options. The Bf109 wing guns basically remained the same throughout due to the limited flexibility in their design - extra weaponry had to be slung undernieth in draggy pods.

#20 Lightning

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Posted 03 October 2008 - 01:30 PM

Hi Ricky,

Quoting you:

"I did not intend the discussion to be limited to just the war years - both aircraft served pre- and post-war also."


I quite agree. That's why I made the comments about the Bf 109B vs the Bf 109G and the Spifire MkI vs the Spitfire Mk 24, underlined in my quote of September 30 below:

"Compare the Bf 109B to the Bf 109G and you see two airplanes that are very closely related. Compare the Spitfire I to late models, especially the Mk24, and you see very different airplanes (I know that the Mk 24 was post war, but it is a Spitfire.)"

I didn 't bring up the substantial design changes that resulted in the "Seafire" series of naval fighters because they were not technically "Spitfires," but their major changes in configuration do serve to illustrate my point in an indirect manner.

As to the Bf 109, many of the pre-war models were nothing more than prototypical experimental aircraft that, even though some may have seen limited operational use, were nevertheless not initially intended to become mainstay variants. The '109s sent to the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War are an example. This conflict, in the eyes of the Luftwaffe, was really just a vast proving ground for the fighter. It was also a very effective propaganda tool used to convince potential future adversaries of German superiority in the air. At any rate, the strong similarities between the configuration of these early models and that of the last variants left no doubt that they were, in essence, the same basic aircraft.

The end of the war was really the end of Bf 109 development and improvement. Some other countries used existing airframes for a while, but lack of the original DB 605 engines resulted in the use of substitutes, namely the Merlin and, I believe, a version of the Jumo.

The Spanish-built "Bucon" was not really a step forward in the design, and certainly no great change to the configuration--except for what was required to adapt to the Merlin engine. The overall effectiveness and handling were actually a step backward. The fact that these aircraft looked, for all practical purposes, the same as WWII '109s is demonstrated by the fact that they were used in the fine film "The Battle of Britain." This was considered a great improvement since up to that time Bf 109s had always been lamely portrayed in films by P-51s.

Regards,
Lightning






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