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P 47 the best fighter of WW2

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  • P 47 the best fighter of WW2

    Is it true that most Luftwaffe pilots would rather be sent to the Eastern Front than the Western Front?

    Pete Feigal
    , former Pro Military Artist for 25 Years
    Answered March 27 · Upvoted by
    Rishav Karn
    , former Hauptmann at Wehrmacht and
    Rich Kiene
    , Served in USMC 67-71 DaNang VN 1969.US Army 86-93 Somolia 93.

    I can’t, of course, speak for all German aviators, but I had the immense luck to meet and become friends with a very special one, and I heard his thoughts about the Eastern vs the Western Front…

    I was once a professional artist working for the US Military, military and aviation museums, restorers, CAF squadrons, the Tuskegee Airmen, etc. focusing on military subjects, esp. WWII aircraft/AFV and the Middle Ages/Mongols. I met the German aviator Günther Rall at the EAA FlyIn at Oshkosh, WI, one year when we had adjoining booths and stayed friends/penpals till his death. He was history’s #3 ace, with 275 victories in 621 combat missions. He was shot down five times and severely wounded, even marrying his doctor after one long hospital stay for a severely injured back.

    Above: Rall in the middle in front of his Bf-109G.

    He saw it all; fought in the Battle of France, Battle of Britain, Balkans, and mostly the Eastern Front, the retreat from Stalingrad and Kursk, where commanded the famous JG-52, the most successful fighter wing in history, and taught students like Erich Hartmann, and then finally in defence of the Reich.

    He spoke of his concerns when, in April of ‘44, he was transferred west to fight in the defence of the Reich. The quality of the American pilots and aircraft he believed were clearly superior to the Soviet’s, and the fighting would be at higher altitudes. He had great respect for the Allied pilots, ranking, (“On this day, at least,”) the British first, the Americans a close second and the Soviets a distant third.

    He said he was a bit fatalistic about facing the American P-47’s and P-51’s but was a soldier and did his duty. His fears were justified when, after he had jumped one of Zemke’s Wolfpack’s P-47’s, (Rall always used the hit-and-run tactics, NEVER got into tight turning contests, had no use at all for “dogfighting” and taught all his students, including Barkhorn and Hartmann that “if they ever found themselves “dogfighting” they had done something majorly wrong,” and considering these were the three greatest aces in history, I believe he had a point,) shooting it down, he was instantly attacked by other P-47’s. Already diving on the attack, he had no choice but to continue down, but his 109 was a terrible diver/roller and no aircraft except perhaps a P-38 could out dive a P-47 and no plane except perhaps a FW 190 could out roll it. He took many hits, including, “a bit disconcertingly!” a .50 that severed his left thumb. He bailed out and survived, but was, thankfully, out of the action for good.

    He said it ultimately saved his life as the Allies had total superiority of the air and he doubted he could have survived many more encounters.

    Mr. Rall was a true gentleman, and I got to hear his amazing thoughts and insights about WWII aircraft altogether, esp. fighters, and the Battle of Britain, meeting Hitler, Stalingrad, Kursk, the defence of the Reich and WWII from all angles as a whole from his unique eyewitness POV. He spoke passable English and my German, esp. reading, was good enough to hear/read some incredible stories.

    My favourite memory of him was at Oshkosh when he did an impromptu history lesson outside my art booth to a crowd of intrigued aviation fans using some of my WWII art as aids. At one point some hayseed in bib overalls and a Confederate flag cap drawled, “So you was a Naaazi, huh?” Mr. Rall, not a big man, stood up straight and replied, with great dignity: “I was a soldier, sir.”

    Rest in peace, sir.


    Some great thoughts going on here! I apologise but I don’t have time to answer all questions individually do to health/life concerns so:

    A lot of conversation about comparison dive speeds going on, lots of “data” and “stats” being thrown around and I want to give a bit of a different perspective to all this, so here’s some thoughts about what I learned from 25 years working/speaking with top test pilots, pilots, crew chiefs, designers, museums, restorers, etc.

    (Above: Greatest diver in WWII.)

    I knew “Corky” Meyer, and if you don’t know him it’s a shame as he was America’s top civilian test pilot, who was THE #1 Grumman test pilot who brought in the Hellcat, Bearcat, Tigercat and many of their jets, had balls that wouldn’t fit in Yankee Stadium, and eventually was Grumman’s CEO. He was so respected he was chosen to first evaluate the captured Zero. He did extensive testing of a staggering array of aircraft, Allied and Axis, and laid a real, comprehensive foundation for accurate comparison of all of America/Britain’s fighters and had the best, most accurate knowledge of all of WWII’s fighters I ever met, and he talked with the most actual hands-on experience of anyone I personally ever knew, except Eric Brown, that, unfortunately, I never met. His experience with dive testing these planes is paramount here in my notes…

    I also knew many pilots who first flew the P-47 some who then switched to the P-51, and met and talked with, though didn’t know them personally, a couple, like “Gabby” Gabreski, America’s top ETO ace, who stuck with their P-47’s through the war.

    I was brought up watching newsreels of beautiful, swoopy “Hollywood” Mustangs and Corsairs, and relatively few of ugly Hellcats and Thunderbolts, (having to do, I learned years later, with the restrictions put on cameramen because of top secret issues earlier in the war, that were later relaxed for publicity/public morale purposes), but I learned when I got into military aviation professionally, from most of these amazing men, to my initial surprise, but has been demonstrated to me again and again ever since, that…

    The P-47 Thunderbolt was, without a doubt, the greatest fighter, *the* greatest warcraft of WWII and probably of all time. If it’s namesake the A-10 Thunderbolt was an aircraft built around a huge 30mm gun, the P-47 Thunderbolt was an aircraft built around a huge Pratt & Whitney turbo-supercharged R2800 air-cooled, radial engine.

    It was *the* most versatile aircraft of WWII. It did everything well.

    Docile and sweet to fly despite its size, even for the average 200 hour-trained pilots. I’ve never flown a P-51, darn it, although I have a T-6 and Yak trainer, but had (cramped but free!) rides in two 51s, and the Mustang was a little bit twitchy, you had to really fly it.

    Self-sealing fuel tanks, good armour behind the pilot’s head, (and as it turned out, elsewhere from the very strong and huge turbo-supercharger system.)

    Huge, tall, comfortable cockpit with unmatched visibility, and some features few aircraft could match: these included electric fuel indicators, great heating and air-conditioning for the cockpit, and variable heating for the gun-bays, great in chilly Europe and at high altitudes.

    It flew over 746,000 combat sorties, more missions than the P-51, P-40, and P-38…wait for it…*combined!*

    It was made in greater numbers than any other US fighter.

    The pilot is the greatest/most important/expensive part of any aircraft and their survivability per mission was *the* key element of air combat, and the P-47 had the best survivability per mission of any US fighter in WWII, and I believe almost top in all nation’s fighters. “The plane’s safety record was nothing short of astounding – only about 0.7 percent of Thunderbolts were lost in action.”- Military History Now. “Thunderbolts were lost at the exceptionally low rate of 0.7 per cent per mission and Jug pilots achieved an aerial kill ratio of 4.6:1. In the European Theater, P-47 pilots destroyed more than 7,000 enemy aircraft, more than half of them in air-to-air combat.”-Smithsonian. “As a testament to the survivability of the P-47, it should be noted that the top ten aces who flew the P-47 returned home safely.”-Aviation History. That alone is so significant.

    It’s true the Mustang had a better kill ratio, and are given credit for shooting down more German planes, but it’s “Apples/Oranges.” The P-47’s were in service a full year before the P-51’s started arriving in signifiant numbers, and took on and broke the back of the Luftwaffe earlier in the war when it still had good pilots. The P-47’s paved the way for D-Day’s almost unopposed by the Luftwaffe status, and when the Luftwaffe was significantly damaged, they switched the P-47s over to the much tougher role of “ground pounding”, while the P-51’s took on, for the last 10 months of the war significant numbers of good, even great German aircraft, but flown mostly by green boys, “clay pigeons,” “floaters,” some with less than 50 hours of training from lack if fuel, significantly poorer in quality than the “expertens” the P-47s had faced from late ’42 to D-Day.

    It was arguably *the* best ground attack aircraft of the war with its eight .50’s, carrying 3400 rds, (425 rds per gun,) vs the P-51’s six .50’s carrying 1880 rds. And the 47 could heft 2.4 tons of ordnance, bombs and rockets in ground attack vs the P-51’s single one (1) ton. When firing 5” rockets it had the broadside of a Destroyer!

    Just in Europe, from D-Day through the end of the war, P-47 units of the 9th Air Force are given credit for destroying 86,000 German railway cars, 9,000 locomotives, (their railroad system was, also arguably, the Germans greatest weapon of WWII), 6,000 armoured fighting vehicles, (NOTE: mostly by disabling their tracks/suspensions or by destroying their support vehicles, aircraft did not actually destroy many actual AFVs) and 68,000 trucks. This does not count the horses and wagons that truly propelled the Wehrmacht and infantry/artillery pieces/machine-gun-emplacements/pillboxes that the P-47’s, guided by other P-47 pilots grounded, working with the American infantry, that could bring in close support sometimes within a recorded 50 yards! Danger Close!

    A significant key to its success in ground attack key was its immense strength, including its amazing Pratt & Whitney R2800 air-cooled engine that could literally have two complete cylinders blown away by German 20mm cannon shells and still get her pilot home. By comparison, the P-51 was a poor ground attack aircraft with its incredibly fragile water-cooled Packard-built Rolls Royce Merlin engine that could be destroyed by a piece of high-velocity metal the size of a fingernail clipping piercing its unarmored cooling system, a “Golden BB.” It performed poorly again in the ground attack role in Korea when the same Pratt & Whitney R2800 air-cooled radial engines, this time powering F4U Corsairs, had to be sent in to replace them after they took severe losses from ground fire.

    Despite the myths and lies spread by the “Bomber Mafia” that had come to power in the Army Air Corps in the ’30’s on their totally flawed theory that fast, supercharged bombers wouldn’t need fighter protection, but would simply outrun enemy fighters, (proved murderously wrong on raids like Schweinfurt,) and who then fudged “info”,“data” and “charts” to “prove” that the existing P-47s were not good escort fighters, and “it wasn’t our fault!”, “data” still insanely waved about by amateurs today. In reality, with drop tanks, the P-47s were great escort fighters. The P-47 units went in desperation over the general’s heads, worked in cooperation to get the new British “paper” drop tanks, and proved their worth. By the model P-47D, the Thunderbolt could carry up to three drop tanks, giving it a range of 1,900 miles (3,057 kilometres), far enough to escort bombers to any target and back. And by war’s end the P-47 “N” Model was *the* premiere escort fighter of the war with a lavishly large cockpit, huge fuel tanks, even an auto pilot, and it could escort the B-29s on extremely long missions up to 2,350 miles, further than any P-51 and in incredible comfort.

    With its large fuselage able to carry cameras it as an excellent photo recon ship.

    It was, for all practical purposes except for a very few produced models:

    The fastest piston-powered aircraft of WWII, its R2800 engine made during the war between 2,000 and 2,800 at the end, in actual hp, one horsepower per cubic inch, better performance than the RR Merlins could ever achieve.

    With its turbo-supercharger it was the best high altitude fighter of the war, except for a few and relatively insignificant Ta 152s or experimentals.

    And even thought it couldn’t climb or turn (“dogfight”) with smaller aircraft, despite what terrible History Channel documentaries and decades of poorly researched computer/video games try and sell, that kind of tight turning combat was NOT in vogue from 1941 on. (Read my original answer above to hear what Gunther Rall thought of “dogfighting.”) The fast hit-and-run/energy/zoom manoeuvres of ambush, dive and roll, were, and the P-47 was, except for the FW 190, the best roller, and it was the best diver of WWII.

    All from a fighter designed before WWII, unlike the later arriving P-51, with its obvious advantages of hindsight/combat experience.

    But specifically back to the diving abilities: the P-47 was the fastest diving piston-powered aircraft of WWII in the majority of, but not in 100% of, conditions, as nothing ever is.

    “The Thunderbolt was the fastest-diving American aircraft of the war—it could reach speeds of 550 mph (480 kn; 890 km/h)”-Wiki

    Once at the Planes of Fame museum “Corky” talked about how so much of the “stats” that are constantly thrown around about like Gospel on aircraft performance by folks that might not understand them or how that data was gathered…was simply wrong. He told a great story that he had heard from people who were there about the time when Lockheed established the performance stats for their new P-38 to try and sell it to the military, and it sounded like Chevy trying to fudge stats on their new Camaro!

    He said that for at least a week before the “official test,” top Allison techs fine-tuned/balanced the two engines, turbo-superchargers, set exact manifold pressures, tweaked the props, (always something that could rarely be done precisely in the field with its dual engines, a huge weakness of the P-38. It was in fact two aircraft put into one, beautiful, very expensive, very complicated and its greatest weakness, not strength.) They stripped her like a stolen car of its .50’s, 20mm, ammo, big radio, armour plate, drained 3/4 of its fuel, “even threw out the fuzzy dice on the rearview mirror!” Lockheed engineers went over every inch, they had their own test pilot trained for months on this individual aircraft, “hired winged Pegasus as an advisor,” pampered, peeped and babied her, then…let ‘er rip! She flew like, well, “Winged Pegasus,” and performed magnificently, giving Lockheed great numbers to take to the military procurers who controlled the purse strings, as, patriotic as Lockheed surely was, they had a very expensive prototype they desperately wanted to sell…and they put the P-38 in an unrealistic configuration that she would never actually ever be in in a real, combat setting. The average, ordinary, 19 year-old, bubblegum chewin’, baseball cap wearin’, standing on a 50 gallon oil tank, American crewman could never, ever duplicate that level of enhanced performance in the intense, actual pressure of The Field.

    When calculating the P-47’s actually dive numbers a lot of the dive speed performance people go to is based on Eric Brown’s (easily one of the top ten pilots of all time,) performance testing with the P-47.

    Dive speed performance is measured differently with different factors. At high altitudes its usually “mach number limited” and at low it’s “air speed limited.” Other factors: acceleration in the dive, ease of recovery, room to recover, strength of the aircraft to actually consistently reach those numbers are also key factors to be considered here, and all to the P-47s benefit.

    For instance overall a P-47D could outdive a Spitfire Mk14 by over 100mph! And it could outdive all German fighters except the Me 262 jet, (that, BTW, melted IT’S turbo fans on every mission, from lack of essential alloys, kinda expensive and labor intensive.)

    Capt. Eric Brown tested the P-47 and said the P-47s mach limit was a very low .71 and that has been accepted by many for a long time, but new/old research shows he was, sorry, Eric, wrong.

    The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) both at Langley and the Ames Research Centers, and the Royal Air Force all tested the Thunderbolt and they all came up with much higher mach numbers than Brown, at .814815 in the US and the RAF's Fighting Development Unit came up with .836. Republic itself came up with 0.82, flown by Chief Test Pilot, Robert Johnson, our #2 ace in ETO, flying exclusively P-47s, 27 victories, who, I believe, knew what he was doing in a Thunderbolt cockpit.

    Some stories said Brown had better equipment but this is unlikely. NACA had an almost unlimited wartime budget and had/could manufacture all the best equipment they needed, were very experienced at measuring mach numbers. They even tested the P-47’s manoeuvrability up to mach 0.78. So the majority of source material is hugely weighed against Eric Brown on this.

    We also have pilot reports from the entire war that P-47 pilots at altitude would easily outdive German fighters, (or anything else), whose aircraft had limits from 0.75 for the Bf 109s to about 0.78 for the Fw 190s. If Brown was correct and the P-47 was limited to 0.71 then the 109s and 190s could have escaped them by diving, something that just didn’t happen as Gunther Rall personally could testify to. (The only time this didn’t happen was earlier in the war when the Thunderbolts were ordered to *not* chase the diving German fighters and stick to the bombers they were escorting.)

    As I expressed earlier, simply looking at sheer numbers and stats are misleading. For instance, one huge advantage the P-47 had in the dive over the P-51 and basically almost every WWII aircraft, esp. fighters, was electric dive brakes, that it, thankfully, got relatively early in its combat career, something very few aircraft, including the Mustang, were ever equipped with.

    By designing compressibility dive flaps for the heavy and fast P-47, Republic’s Aviation engineers provided means to counteract these undesirable changes and afford safe pullouts at critical speed and high altitude, a huge factor over other fighters. The P-51 with it’s great “numbers” simply couldn’t, in reality and combat situations, dive as fast as the “stats” say, as it couldn’t recover fast enough. (The P-51’s earlier cousin the A-36 Apache actually was equipped with dive brakes but the later P-51s were not.)

    (Note: because of the refigured wing of the “N”ovember Model, different shape/sized, extra fuel tanks, that particular P-47 model did not have dive brakes.)

    A P-47D pilot with dive recovery brakes could fly right up to or even slightly beyond the mach limit with confidence. Confidence that the aircraft was the best made and would not tear apart as most others, including P-51’s might, and that he could recover from the dive. And here’s where some of the “official stats” become meaningless: when most aircraft were on the verge of hitting their max mach number…their aircraft could possibly disintegrate. If your mach number is 0.80 but you know that at 0.805 the tail of your Bf 109 or P-51 has a pretty good chance to tear off…you are probably never going to actually go 0.80. The P-47 could honestly do that 0.82 over and over again, with no risk to plane or pilot.

    This ”confidence” is another factor in the dive numbers: the actual strength of the aircraft…how many G’s can an aircraft sustain before breaking. “Corky” was famous for being able to bring home a bent ship that had most of the rivets popped and he learned some interesting things about the Thunderbolt. And here is another huge advantage to the P-47. A little know fact to most amateur historians about the P-47 is that it was THE best manufactured aircraft of WWII, followed closely by the B-29 Superfortress and Grumman F6F Hellcat. On the whole the P-51 was very well made, but it did not come close to the quality of the P-47.

    Check out ‘Gregs Airplanes and Automobiles’ on Youtube for his 9 hour documentary series on the P-47, and his conclusion about this amazing aircraft. Incredible facts and figures, right down almost to the individual nuts and bolts, combat record, design philosophy, much more, amazingly meticulous research! You WILL become a believer in all things “Thunderbolt.”

    (BTW, the F4U Corsair was actually quite shoddily made, built only for speed, didn’t even have a cockpit floor for most of its manufacturing run. Yes, you read right. Drop your canteen, map, compass, pencil, sandwich and you are SOL. Way tougher to land/taxi/take off in, with that huge, always leaking-white-taped-sealed forward-hog-nosed-low-viz-gas tank, and every single pilot I ever met who flew both the F6F Hellcat and the F4U Corsair vastly preferred the Hellcat, and so did the maintenance crews.)

    People wonder at the $51,000 cost of a P-51D vs the $85,000 cost of a P-47D, 3 for less than the price of 2, a significant factor in the US Military continuing with the P-51 after the war. It was a bigger aircraft, of course, with duplicated systems, eight .50’s, significantly more ammo, and its huge turbo-supercharged Pratt & Whitney 2800R air-cooled, radial engine, far superior at altitude to the merely supercharged V-12, water-cooled Packard-built Rolls Royce Merlin, made up much of that cost. But additionally the cost difference was because of the sheer quality of materials and build time put into the Thunderbolt. When you study the manufacturing process of the P-47, (Check out ‘Greg’s!’) its mind-blowing. Double-skinned with the top quality aluminium, absolutely top quality steel and components, even fasteners, literally the “nuts and bolts” were better, (yes, there are many different grades of quality for all of this items, and the P-47 had the best.) When you study the amazing and huge turbo-supercharger system, you realise why the fuselage had to be so big. And it didn’t just supply massive amounts of air to the engine, the system that extended from behind the pilot to the engine itself acted as armour to the aircraft and pilot as well. The fans of the turbos, for instance, were actually made of low, but still armour-grade steel! It was never “armoured like a tank,” it would have never got off the ground, but it sure as Hell was "BUILT like a tank.” It was incredibly strong and durable and that was the reason its got its precious and expensive pilots home after being shot up better than any other WWII aircraft, this alone making it the best aircraft of WWII. Without a good pilot, even the best machine is only an expensive “paperweight.”

    While some may point out the dive factors between the P-51 and the P-47 being close they are not taking in the fact that the P-51 could NOT sustain those physical strains in real combat manoeuvres: it’s tail or wings would break off and their pilots were taught NOT to dive at those speeds. The P-47 actually *could* sustain those optimal dive speeds without losing “structural integrity.” Again, the numbers, the “stats” themselves are meaningless without the real, authentic physics to give them clarity.

    A lot of thoughts here. No one aircraft was the fastest diving in all conditions but the P-47 was generally considered the fastest diving prop-driven aircraft of the war.

    Thanks for the time. If you’d like to see some of my pen and ink art, here’s a long-dead website with a few of my WWII aircraft and AFVs images, including a couple of Bf 109’s (G and K) and a Tiger tank. Amazingly, after 40 years my fine art T-shirts still sell at museum gift shops and on eBay. There’s no accounting for taste!

  • #2
    PART 1

    Pete Feigal
    Former Pro Military Artist for 25 YearsUpdated July 7

    Who had the advantage in the Battle of Britain?
    Some fine general answers here, so I’ll just mainly focus on one element in this crucial battle, and kick the living’ crap outta the piss-poor, but still legendary Messerschmidt Bf 109.

    I won’t go into it’s abysmally poor fuel-carrying capabilities allowing them only a few minutes of fight time at full War Emergency Power, (WEP) an American term, not German, BTW, over the combat zones, that dumped so many precious and well trained, (some since Spain in ‘36) German pilots in the Channel or British POW camps…which alone won the BoB for England. Or how it was hampered in the Battle of Britain escorting German medium bombers by the foolish combat restrictions, not it’s fault…

    But I will share a couple of insights from my 25 years as a professional military artist where I worked in the WWII Aircraft/AFV world that might be interesting or fun and personally knew a top Spitfire and a top 109 pilot who flew in the BoB:

    BUT, DISCLAIMER: If you are a huge Bf 109 fan, you might want to move on or stick your fingers in your ears and make Daimler Benz noises:

    (Above: Here come the negative waves about the Bf 109

    (Above: The #1 killer in military aviation history., but… )

    If we are talking air to air victories, then it isn’t even close, the Bf 109 was the greatest killer in history:

    “The Bf 109 was credited with more aerial kills than any other aircraft.”-Wiki

    “Moreover, the ubiquitous Me-109 was credited with shooting down more enemy aircraft and producing more aces than any single fighter in the annals of aerial warfare.”-Historynet.

    The Messerschmidt Bf 109, flying for many different airforces from 1936 and soldiering on till the mid-1960’s, with a possible tally some (not myself) say might reach as high as 50,000 Allied aircraft destroyed. Very doubtful. But the numbers must be quite high.

    How high is very difficult to say as numbers vary widely just as accurate Luftwaffe losses also vary from different sources and the Soviet Union/Russia has always been very evasive about any kind if WWII loses, men or equipment. Food for thought though: just the top three German aces of WWII, Hartmann, 352 kills, Barkhorn, 301 and Rall, 275, who I personally was friends with, had a combined score of 928 kills… Just these three German aviators…


    “It is relatively certain that (at least) 2,500 German fighter pilots attained ace status, having achieved at least 5 aerial victories.”-Wiki

    50,000? It’s possible, I guess, but no one I ever met in my 25 years in the business ever really knew for sure, and I think a much more reasonable 20,000+, but who really knows….

    Here’s one interesting resource some might want to look at:
    Jan J. Safarik: Aces; Germany
    :: Complete list of Luftwaffe victories claimed during Spanish Civil War :: Luftwaffe Victories in 1939 :: Luftwaffe Victories in 1940 :: Luftwaffe Victories in 1941 :: Luftwaffe Victories in 1942 :: Luftwaffe Victories in 1943 :: Luftwaffe Victories in 1944 :: Luftwaffe Victories in 1945 :: Luftwaffe Victories During French Campaign [2.] :: Luftwaffe Victories During Battle of Britain [2.] :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Hawker Hurricane :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Supermarine Spitfire :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Hawker Typhoon & Tempest :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Republic P-47 Thunderbolt :: Luftwaffe Victories Against North American P-51 Mustang :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Bell P-39 Airacobra :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Lockheed P-38 Lightning :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Polikarpov I-15 & Polikarpov I-153 :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Polikarpov I-16 Rata :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Jakovlev fighters (Jak-1, Jak-3, Jak-5, Jak-7, Jak-9) :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Lavochkin fighters (LaGG-1, LaGG-3, LaGG-5, La-5, La-7) :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Mikojan & Gurevich fighters (MiG-1, MiG-3) :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Bristol Beaufighter :: Luftwaffe Victories Against de Havilland Mosquito :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Viermott÷ters (four-engine bomber) :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Handley Page Halifax :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Avro 683 Lancaster :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Short Stirling :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Consolidated B-24 Liberator :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Douglas A-20 Boston / Havoc :: Luftwaffe Victories Against North American B-25 Mitchell :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Martin B-26 Marauder :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Vickers Wellington :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Armstrong Whitworth Whitley :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Petlyakov Pe-2 :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Iljuschin DB-3 & Iljuschin Il-4 :: Luftwaffe Victories Against Douglas DC-3 & Lisunov Li-2 Comments: HTML version PDF version Sources & Literature Wood, Tony: Tony Wood's Combat Claims & Casualty Lists , . (O.K.L. Fighter Claims, Chef für Ausz. und Dizsiplin, Luftwaffen - Personalamt L.P. (A) V Films &Supplementary Claims from Lists.)
    But that it shot down more aircraft does that make it the “greatest” fighter aircraft in history? Many criteria decide that and the Bf 109’s huge list of negatives does NOT point toward that lofty ranking, in my mind, not even close. Many constantly sing its praises, and its service was spectacular, but here’s a couple of insights I learned from working in the WWII aircraft/AFV world as a professional military Arts for 25 years, to play “Devil’s Advocate”:

    The BF 109 was designed in the early ‘30’s and was very advanced for its time, but had some extreme design flaws, and I’m not even talking about it’s terribly low fuel capacity everyone knows about, (demonstrated so graphically in the Battle of Britain,) it’s inability to carry any kind of a significant bomb load, making it a terrible ground-attack aircraft, or with it’s small fuselage that made it a poor photo-recon ship, and hard to keep upgrading, (the G model had so many sheetmetal blisters it was nicknamed “the bulge,) and its atrocious low-speed handling under 250kph, (made significantly worse if you added any extra weight: bombs, drop tanks).

    RANT: The most important element of a great fighter aircraft is, of course, a well trained, motivated, hunter in the cockpit. And for the aircraft, itself, Versatility is *the* key, something the 109 had none of. Single mission speciality was fine for bombers and cargo planes but fighters needed to be ready to perform well at a number of different tasks, chiefly but in no specific order: #1. Ground attack, #2. Photo recon, #3. Air to air, #4. Bomber Escort capabilities. For instance the P-47, greatest fighter in the ETO and likely the entire war could do it all: with its 8 .50s with 3400 rds and 2.4 ton bomb/rocket capacity, (2.4 Xs that of a more vulnerable/fragile water-cooled P-51,) and ruggedness made it the best ground attack aircraft of WWII, it’s huge fuselage to carry many and different cameras for a great photo recon, a great air superiority fighter that broke the back of the Luftwaffe and its “experten” pilots a full year before the P-51’s arrived in any numbers, and with it’s turbo-supercharged engine, the US’s greatest high altitude fighter, best diver of the war with it's electric dive brakes, tied with the FW 190 for best roller, (no, it could not turn with a 109, but the Hollywood images of the traditional “dogfight’ were NOT the preferred tactic after the BoB and the initial battles in the Far East with the Japanese Zeros. Hit and run ambush from height, energy, zoom and boom tactics were, and in that the P-47 excelled.)

    As Günther Rall and Erich Hartmann always taught, “Never Dogfight! If you find yourself dogfighting, you have made a major mistake!” Fastest piston powered aircraft by war’s end, made in the most numbers of any US fighter, best survivability per mission of the war, the exceptionally low rate of 0.7 per cent per mission, THE most important factor, as it’s rugged, air-cooled engine got the pilots home better than any other aircraft in WWII, and with drop tanks as good or better than the P-51 at escort missions. By war’s end the P-47N model was the premier escort fighter, with new wings, massive gas tanks, an autopilot, rear-warning radar and a cockpit like a Cadillac it could escort the B-29’s on the long missions to Japan and back. And it flew over 746,000 combat sorties, more missions than the P-51, P-40, and P-38…wait for it…*combined!*

    As a professional military artist I heard all the horror stories connected to this German aircraft from some of the best aviators in history including 109 pilots and Allied testers.

    Not name-dropping, I swear, but I personally knew “Corky” Meyer, Grumman and the US’s greatest civilian test pilot, Jeffrey Quill, THE top test pilot for the Spitfire, and Günther Rall, #3 ace of all time and others I never knew as friends but who were there and shared insights about its strength and weaknesses, in this answer/case some of the latter:

    (Above: For starters, just about the worst cockpit in aviation history.)

    The 109 had a horribly small and low cockpit. I once got to sit in a 109 *E*mile at Doug Champlin’s fighter museum in Arizona and it was like crouching in an Altoid box. Its tiny, low space made visibility terrible. That so many German aviators did so well in an aircraft clearly inferior to the FW190, is a bit of a mystery to me. One of the most important factors in combat is visibility. The vast majority of pilots never even see the guy who shoots them down. A lot of the game is keeping your eyes peeled, sweeping back and forth for targets, and making sure no one gets the jump on you. A lot of air combat comes down to a few crucial elements: see before being seen, kill before the enemy realizes he is dead, do NOT engage in any turning contests, keep your “energy’”(speed/momentum) up, protect your wingman, and, most importantly, come home alive.

    Not only was it low, uncomfortable, and at that time of the BoB, poorly heated at best and claustrophobic, it also confirmed what I had heard from another friend, Jeffrey Quill, the Spitfire’s top test pilot from ’38-on, after taking over from “Mutt” Summers, that the tiny cockpit confined the force that pilots could apply on the controls, with obvious effects on the 109’s flight performance. RAF testing in '46 revealed that under some conditions, the force its pilots could exert on the 109’s control column was only 40% of what they could equally apply in a Spitfire. In the time when hydraulically-boosted controls weren’t readily available, this was a major deficiency. The Spit’s two-step rudder pedals also permitted the pilot to lift his feet up during high-G maneuvering, delaying the onset of blackout. Unfortunately for the German pilots the 109 didn’t have those pedals. This was a major issue in the Battle if Britain, and an advantage to the Brits to offshoot the Spitfires’s famous carburettor problem. vs the 109’s superior fuel-injection. (Briefly, when the Spitfire went nose-down to begin a dive, the resulting negative G force manoeuvre would flood the engine's carburettor, causing the engine to stall. Check out the simple but brilliant fix here:
    Miss Shilling's orifice - Wikipedia
    Fuel flow restrictor retro-fitted to Merlin engines The Rolls-Royce Merlin engine originally came with a direct carburettor, prone to cut-out due to fuel flooding in negative G. Miss Shilling's orifice was a very simple technical device made to counter engine cut-out in early Spitfire and Hurricane fighter aeroplanes during the Battle of Britain . While it was officially called the R.A.E. restrictor , it was referred to under various names, such as Miss Tilly's diaphragm or the Tilly orifice in reference to its inventor, Beatrice "Tilly" Shilling . Engine cut-out problems [ edit ] Gun camera view of a Spitfire firing at an He 111 bomber. A sudden loss of power caused by a slight downward pitch of the nose could be fatal in such a situation. Early versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine came equipped with an SU carburettor . When an aeroplane equipped with such an engine performed a negative G force manoeuvre (pitching the nose hard down), fuel was forced up to the top of the carburettor's float chamber rather than down into the engine, leading to loss of power. If the negative G continued, fuel collecting in the float chamber would force the float to the floor of the chamber. Since this float controlled the needle valve that regulated fuel intake, the carburettor would flood and drown the supercharger with an over-rich mixture. The consequent rich mixture cut-out would shut down the engine completely. [1] During the Battles of France and Britain , the German fighters had fuel injected engines and therefore did not suffer from this problem as the injection pumps kept the fuel at a constant pressure. The German pilots could exploit this by pitching steeply forward while opening the throttle, a manoeuvre that the pursuing British would be unable to emulate. The British countermeasure, a half roll so the aircraft would only be subjected to positive G as it followed German aircraft into a dive, could take enough time to let the enemy escape. The Tilly orifice [ edit ] Complaints from pilots over engine cut-out during dives and brief inverted flight led to a concentrated search for a solution. Engine manufacturers Rolls-Royce produced an improved carburettor, but this failed in testing. It was Beatrice 'Tilly' Shilling , an engineer working at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough , who came up with a simple device which could be fitted without taking the aircraft out of service. She designed a thimble-shaped brass flow restrictor (later refined to a flat washer) with precisely calculated dimensions to allow just enough fuel flow for maximum engine power. It came in two versions, one for 12 psi manifold pressure and another for the 15 psi achieved by supercharged units. [2] While not completely solving the problem, the restrictor, along with modifications to the needle valve, permitted pilots to perform quick negative G manoeuvres without loss of engine power. This improvement removed the RAF's Rolls-Royce Merlin -powered fighters' drawbac

    Below some good images/models showing the terrible cockpit:

    The “bubble” canopies of the P-51 and the P-47, for instance, allowed pilots to sit in spacious, high, luxurious, well-heated, comfortable cockpits with maximum visibility as opposed to the Bf 109 where the pilot sat in a cramped, low, chilly, tiny cockpit, with miserable visibility.

    (Above: Cramped, low, cold.)

    When it comes too the two opposing engines, the Daimler Benz 601 and the Rolls Royce Merlin, both V-12 water-cooled designs, (although the DB 601 was inverted. A couple of reasons for this, to improve visibility of the already horrible cockpit, the inverted V made it more aerodynamic/slippery, for ease of maintenance access, [for example, changing the spark plugs on a 109 was a breeze, as the German ground crewman doesn't have to climb on a ladder, but can just stand on the ground,] less exhaust noise from the lower exhaust stacks, and inverted engines have a little bit less wear because upon start up, the cylinders have a bit better lubrication. This is because gravity causes oil to settle in the cylinder walls.)

    And as both were water-cooled, both were too fragile for combat duty, but I’m going to be mean and just pick on the DB engine:

    Its Daimler-Benz DB601/5 engines inverted V-12s were masterpieces of design and manufacture, but were the *worst* type of engine for actual combat. Like the Allison or Rolls Royce Merlins they were water-cooled and incredibly fragile; Just like your home car: if there was the tiniest leak/hit on any of its vulnerable radiators, (unfortunately exposed in it’s lower wing surfaces, although not quite as bad as the P-51’s huge belly scoop,) water jackets, pumps and hoses, it quickly expelled the coolant, the close tolerances would get *real* close and with a disconcerting CLANG the engine would seize up, turning your beautiful, graceful 109, P-51 or P-40 into a brick. (Give me a Pratt & Whitney R2800 air-cooled, radial engine with almost twice the HP of a Merlin that can literally have two complete cylinders shot away and *still* get me home, not dropped in The Channel or a POW camp, any day.)

    (Above: Daimler Benz DB 605- incredibly gorgeous, technically advanced…fragile as tissue paper. One tiny splinter of steel the size of a fingernail clipping, “golden BB”, anywhere in the water-cooling system and it’s ..Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish Ladies…”)

    The technically advanced Bf 109’s DB 601/5 engines were designed to be removed as a one-piece unit from the firewall forward for ease of maintenance, *but* also because sometimes to ship back to Daimler and its factory techs/mechanics as the engine was very sophisticated and advanced, with very tight tolerances, not always a good thing, and on occasion the average, 19 year old, gum smackin’ German ground crews couldn’t do all the necessary work themselves in the field. The much simpler air-cooled BMW 801s (not to mention the P&W R2800s) were significantly easier to work on for the average crew member in combat conditions.

    But worst of all…and hang on to your hats, if you haven't heard about this…approximately 33,984 Bf 109s were built in total, more than any other fighter in WWII, in continuous manufacture from 1936–1945…

    …and possibly 33%, almost 11,000, crashed on mostly landings and takeoffs, but some taxiing, due to its insanely narrow landing gear geometry, with its gear and motors placed, not widely on its wings, but in its belly. (The Spitfire has a similar placement but a bit more forgiving geometry.)

    Most were not “totalled,” of course, being repaired to fly (and crash) again, but it killed or wounded thousand of precious young German pilots, lost not in combat, but often in training or landing accidents. The main repair issue was not just the gear but the engine damage when the prop “face-planted,” locked on the revving engine and ripped it’s internals apart.

    (For perspective: A Bf 109 approaches at 120 mph, and lands at about 105–110 mph. Ever been in a car crash at 110 mph? The harness safety system/padded dash/”airbags” of a 1941 Bf 109 were not quite as good as your family car in 2021, esp. if it flips. Thousands of pilots died or were injured.)

    Some say this is a myth, (“Butbutbut Joe “Nobody” Jones on Youtube says this is a lie!” Riiiiight.) Consider this: when some of the top German aces of all time, actual Messerschmidt factory designers and THE top two Allied test pilots of all time all say the same thing, it’s worth a bit more than a consideration, in my opinion. Both “Corky” Meyer and Capt Eric Brown published the story and as far as I know, nobody’s refuted it officially. “When the old dog growls, its best to look out the window.”-Old Norwegian proverb.

    Many claim this is an insane figure, but also for consideration of the German Engineering Philosophy: “If its worth designing, It’s worth OVER or UNDER designing.” About 60% of all Tiger tanks, perhaps 800 of the 1347 made, one of the biggest lemons of this or any war, were conveniently and courteously destroyed…by their own crews, because of their terrible initial design, horrible fuel consumption and basic engine/suspension/final drive unreliability…so maybe its not so crazy. Pray your enemy builds some of their main battle systems so poorly designed that they destroy themselves 33% and 60% of the time!

    “Corky” Meyer, Grumman’s top test pilot, who brought in the Hell/Bear/Tigercats and many of their jets, (bio below,) our greatest civilian test pilot who did THE workup baseline testing/comparison of all Allied fighters ((AMAZING reading!) and some Axis ones, first chosen to test the captured Zero, and later CEO and president of Grumman American, published in 2003 in his “Flight Journal”:

    “...11,000 of the 33,000 (109s) built were destroyed during takeoff and landing accidents...Chief aerodynamicist for the the Messerschmitt Me 163 rocket fighter, (itself not exactly a paragon of safety and wisdom,) Josef Hubert (advising/working for Grumman after the war on their new jets)....told me that Willy Messerschmitt had adamantly refused to compromise the Bf 109’s performance by adding the drag-producing wing-surface bumps and fairings that would have been necessary to accommodate the wheels with the proper geometry. This would have reduced its accident rate to within expected military-fighter ranges and made it a world standard!” -2003 August, Flight Journal, “The Best WWII Fighter” by “Corky” Meyer.

    (Above: In addition to its horrible gear geometry, the gear itself was built quite spindly and thin and apparently out of the same “Waterford crystal” the Tiger and Panther’s final drive gears were manufactured from ;-)

    (Above: Insane mathematics needlessly cost the lives and health of thousands of young German pilots.)

    And…Meyer sites a letter in 1980 written by Colonel Johannes “Macki” Steinhoff, 176 victories, #23 ace of all time, who mostly flew the 109 and then 262s and like Rall, was actually one of the very few who flew/survived the entire war, 1939–45, but terribly wounded, and with his face severely burned.:

    “He sent me a long letter relating that I should be sure of the absolute vertical alignment of the tailwheel; he also wrote that its inherently weak brakes should be in excellent condition because in WWII, the Luftwaffe lost 11,000 out of 33,000 Bf 109s to takeoff and landing accidents. Steinhoff directly attributed this terrible record to the bad geometry of the plane’s very unstable, splayed-out, narrow landing-gear configuration. In his letter, he said twice that if a German mechanic who really knew the Bf 109 wasn’t handy, I should *not* get into the cockpit.”-2000 Winter, Flight Journal Special Edition WWII Fighters, “The Bf 109′s Real Enemy Was Itself.”- by “Corky” Meyer

    Bf 109s always had a tendency to pull left, and the pilots, esp green ones, always had to be attentive for a burst of wind, bumps in the field, and esp. a surge of torque from the engine, (esp. the later more powerful 605s DB/DC engines with mods,) etc. and you better effin’ keep your foot right over the left pedal, covered and ready. Landings were much more difficult, esp. with fatigue, wounds, low fuel, etc.

    I talked with Mr. Rall, who adored his 109, about the narrow gear. He hesitated then: “…Very problematic, especially for young pilots without the necessary muscle-memory training.” This issue was also brought up once at Oshkosh when he gave one if the big tent talks.

    (Above: Günther Rall. “During World War II Rall was credited with the destruction of 275 enemy aircraft in 621 combat missions. He was shot down five times and wounded on three occasions. Rall claimed all of his victories in a Messerschmitt Bf 109.” -Wiki.

    I had the good fortune to meet him at the EAA FlyIn at Oshkosh one year when he was selling his ‘Flight Journal’ in the booth adjacent to mine where I was selling my art. We kept in contact until his death and he was a treasure trove of first hand experiences for me from the Battle of Britain, to Barbarossa, to Stalingrad and Kursk to Defence of the Rhine to what it was like being being shot down five times to meeting Hitler. Amazing man, and a true gentleman who fought from Day 1 in 1939 and yet somehow still survived, then worked for years training NATO pilots to fight the Soviets and won the respect and even deep friendship of this former adversaries.

    I asked him about flying in the Battle of Britain and the how he would rate the different pilots he faced and flew with. Not surprisingly he rated the initial German “experten” pilots with so much combat experience as the best, but their quality fell drastically from attrition esp against the Allies in ’43-mid ‘44, so that by D-Day the Germans were quite green with little fuel to train them. He rated the British pilots as the best of the Allies, also with the most combat experience, fighting since ‘39, the Americans a close second and the Soviets third.

    (above: Check out the tiny vs the wide stance form first the poorly designed Bf 109 above and then, below the magnificent Fw 190

    And then, from Eric Brown, THE top test pilot of all time who test flew a number of different 109 Marks…

    Captain Eric Melrose "Winkle" Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC, Hon FRAeS, RN[1] (21 January 1919 – 21 February 2016) was a Scottish Royal Navyofficer and test pilot who flew 487 types of aircraft, more than anyone else in history.”-Wiki

    “But the Bf 109’s deficiencies almost equal its fabulous assets. The Luftwaffe lost 11,000 of these thoroughbred fighting machines in takeoff and landing accidents, most of them at the end of the War when they needed them most…I felt certain, too, that the landing gear’s being slightly splayed outward aggravated the ground-looping tendency and contributed to the excessive tire wear and bursts. The Spitfire had a similar, narrow-track landing gear, but it was not splayed out like that of the Bf 109, and the Spitfire didn’t show any ground-looping propensities.” Brown went on to explain that high accident rates in 1939 resulted in a tailwheel lock being added to later models.-1999 December, Flight Journal, “Combat Warrior, The Historical View” by Captain Eric Brown, likely the best test pilot in history. (Bio below.)

    (Above: “Can you say: “Ground Loop?” I thought ‘cha could.”-Mr. Rodgers.)

    The 109 was a busy little “sports car,” a “race horse” that took expertise to fly it to its max, something many Luftwaffe pilots could do initially, flying all the way back to Spain learning all it’s little intricacies and tricks, but in their defeat at the Battle of Britain those wonderful ‘experten,’ ended up in the Channel or in English POW camps. Later models automated more functions, but it was still hard to fly well without vast expertise and practice, something the sometimes only 50-hour-trained German boys would never get, who became fodder for the experienced Allied aviators. Early models had a hard time keeping engine temp at the optimum, and early 109 pilots had to have been busier than one-armed paper hangers flying, fighting, adjusting radiator doors, etc. This was a complicated aircraft that reality needed to be *flown!* and the terrible toll of experienced pilots just got worse and s=worse as the war progressed. Another reason German should have phased it out and focused/built the much better, much easier to fly FW 190 series.

    Last edited by Lou Newton; July 21, 2021, 06:57 PM.


    • #3
      Part 2

      One of the problems with the 109s was the constant upgrades necessary to try and keep this old aircraft even a bit competitive to the Allied fighters. Every aircraft was precious andl had to be kept flying. There were often so many different “M”odels, modifications, upgrades, etc, on a single field the ground crews couldn’t keep up with the staggering array of parts, factory bulletins, improvements, new parts, new maintenance routines, let alone the constant regular day-to-day maintenance to simply keep their crates in the air, let alone keep up with the factory upgrades. And the quality of the field maintenance suffered, not even counting the entire engines that had to be sent back to the factory for the most intricate work, and not even counting the continued deterioration of the German railroad system, likely German’s greatest weapon in WWII, that was being systematically destroyed, and unable to keep up with the constant stream of parts necessary to keep them all flying, competitively or not.

      *Above: “Let me tell ya, Willy, its the power plant of the future: It runs on peat moss!”)

      Not insignificantly, the quality of the German synthetic fuel and lubricants kept dropping in the successful Allied bombing efforts against it, not the Bf 109’s fault, but the significantly tighter tolerances of the water-cooled DB engines was majorly effected, but quite not so much as the looser mechanical tolerances of the far superior BMW 801 air-cooled engines.

      The BF 109 was an outstanding aircraft but starting with the battles against the Spitfires, and as the war progressed, it suffered one great, almost insurmountable, weakness compared to the British and American aircraft it battled against: it was significantly slower. The DB 601, esp., was just never able to run at the higher horsepower levels that the Allies could. And there are many reasons for this: from supercharger gearing to intake manifold pressures to octane ratings to levels of tuning and too many more to get into on this broad answer. Most of it’s combat advantages and subtleties were lost to the new batch of poorly trained pilots that were being fielded. From mid 1944 on, the Bf 109’s in any configuration or variant, increasingly became fast moving “fawns” to the Spitfires, P-51s and P-47 “wolves.” The final “K” 109 models were, as a testament to some brilliant German engineering, for a change, much faster, but still came too late in the game and again were in the hands of third-rate pilots/boys.

      A major part of this speed deficiency, besides the Allied advantages in fuel octane allowing significant higher manifold pressures, was it’s supercharger: a brilliant 2-stage supercharger (perhaps the greatest advantage over the significantly better Fw 190 giving better performance at higher altitude until the FW 190D models,) which, as good as it was, couldn’t compete with the P-47’s huge turbo-supercharged R2800 and the P-51’s DUAL superchargers. The 109’s DB 605 engine was significantly bigger in displacement (32%) than the Rolls Royce Packard-built Merlin, but the P-51s had two superchargers attached: one feeding the engine and one feeding the other supercharger. And there were two main version of the Merlin 1650: the -7 version was geared so its supercharger drive speed would be optimal at War Emergency Power (WEP)with 130 octane fuel qt 6200 feet with the supercharger in low speed and at 19,300 feet in high speed. (The -7 is the Merlin typically quoted for HP numbers.) This version was not optimal for escorting high altitude bombers at 25,000 feet so another Merlin version, the -3 which had different supercharger drive ratios which changed the shaft speed. The -3 engine actually has less power overall but gives it more power at 17,000 feet and 28,800 feet at high speed. And the 109 G’s starts running out of steam at 18,800 feet that’s a huge advantage for the P-51. The -3 has 1720 HP won 120 octane fuel vs 1595 for the -7 but its a question of where that power is *available.*

      Laymen sometimes just look at raw data, who’s got the most, biggest, etc. but don't understand the practical application of the numbers and their often subtle nuances in real life performance. When I was drag racing motorcycles, for instance, you don't just look at sheer horsepower, but the transmission/clutch, quality of the tires and skill of the rider. Too much horsepower and sometimes you can’t “get it to the road”, an you waste it spinning your tires.

      Many P-51’s were retrofitted with the -3 supercharger kits giving less overall HP but more where they needed it at high altitudes.

      Another big issue was that the P-51s Merlin had an aftercooler, a liquid to air heat exchanger that cools the hot air coming out if the superchargers, similar to modern liquid to air intercoolers found on high performance cars today.

      The after cooler adds power into ways: first it increases the density of the charge by cooling it, and second, it reduces the tendency to knock allowing greater manifold pressure.

      So the 109 did NOT have dual stage superchargers, the first feeding the engine and the second feeding the first supercharger. And it did NOT have an aftercooler. (Here’s where Willy Messerschmidt additionally screwed up on the initial design: by designing it a such a little “racehorse,” the size of the 109 was so small, the fuselage was so tight, it had very little room for the modifications it needed to stay competitive from 1936 -1945. Folks not in the know deride the huge P-47 for its huge size not understanding the incredible advantages of the bigger fighter beyond the fact that enemy projectiles had to travel through significant amounts of steel to hit anything vital: it had room inside for significantly more ammo, cameras and to continue to upgrade it as the war and technology progresses.

      (Above: A huge reason the P-47 had the best survival rate of any aircraft in WWII: its size and strength.)

      Add to that the Allies 130 octane fuel vs the German’s 95 and there is a huge advantage in speed of 40–60 mph. It is also a testament this time to German engineering that the D 605 was even as close to the the Merlin as it was, but also remembering it did have 32% more displacement. And then near mid 1944, the Allies/ fuel octane jumped up to and became standard at 150, another significant advantage. Was this significant? A P-51 that had run at 67 inches manifold pressure at WEP on 130 octane could now run at 75 inches on 150 octane. (A note on War Emergency Power: its a throttle setting. At full throttle the P-51, for instance is running at 61 inches of manifold pressure, but if the pilot needs an extra burst of power…

      (Above: P-51 throttle.)

      (Above: P-51 throttle.)

      …he pushes the throttle forward hard, it will break a “stop wire” and go farther forward and deliver either 67 or 75 inches of manifold pressure depending on which setup/fuel which gave the pilot 5 minutes at WEP. After debriefing each pilot had to log the minutes under WEP and after 50 hours of WEP the engine was removed, and disassembled looking for signs of extra wear. (The P-47′s incredibly tough air-cooled R2800 engines could run much longer and harder on WEP and with significantly less wear.) Also WEP did nothing for Allied fighters below 5000 feet. At higher altitude, however the increase in HP was between 100–150 HP.

      additionally the P-51’s Merlin also could rev higher that the 109s DB 605, 3000 rpm vs 2700 rpm.

      There trick for fighting a P-51/P-47 was to fight it at less than 20,000 feet, and the German pilots were taught to bring the fight down to lower levels if possible where it was more agile…but the P-51 and esp the P-47 were better divers, so that was tricky also as the German pilots were steadily getting greener and the U.S. pilots were getting better.

      The Germans were also in a terrible disadvantage in the quality of their fuel, much of it synthetic. Allied aircraftT used 100/130 octane avgas vs their 87 octane.

      A must-read is about Eugene Houdry and Alex Golden Oblad, two unsung heroes of the battle of Britain and WWII itself, and their work on a chemical catalyst process for the Sun Oil Company, now Sunoco, which converted almost useless crude oil/sludge into 100-octane fuel that America gave England to replace the standard European 87 octane fuel just before the Battle of Britain and helped increased the Spitfire's speed by 25 mph at sea level by 34 mph at 10,000 feet, a not inconsiderable advantage against the 109s.

      Connected to my paragraph above about the significant speed deficiency of the 109 to esp p-47s and P-51s, being more and more on the defensive as the war progressed, for example, the German ground crew’s ability to specifically fine-tune and optimise the 109’s manifold pressures to a specific altitude for maximum power was lost to the “REactive/defensive” position vs the allied “ACTion”/offensive moves, where the British and American ground crews were able to fine-tune their Spitfires, P-51 and P-47s for maximum power knowing at approximately what altitude their pilots would be flying their missions at. The 100/130 avgas allowed the US planes to run “hotter” manifold pressures, and have considerable power/speed advantages. This one-down position of the Luftwaffe, esp. the 109s, was another distinct disadvantage.

      The Germans kept trying to replace the 109 but without success. Why they didn't gear their entire production capabilities towards the far superior and newer Fw190 series that was far easier to upgrade then the tired-out 109 is testimony more to Willy Messerschmidt’s good status with Hitler than the aircraft’s basic abilities, now stale, and their poor long-range strategic manufacturing planning, also reflected in the incredibly poor but horribly expensive “performance” of the Tiger (and then to a bit lesser extent with the Panther tank) series and how they were insanely committed to it for years with vast amounts of wasted resources, (i.e. massive “Sunk Cost Mentality”: “Hey, We’ve already put this much wasted effort and a zillion Reichsmarks into these sweaty turkeys, we can’t quit now!”) again connected to Hitler’s hard-on for “super-weapons”, gigantic artillery pieces, ridiculous Maus AFVs, resource stealing V-Weapons, and a never-ending array of amazing but unbuildable aircraft, stunning designs beyond their time, but impractical in the very limited time/resources/alloys/fuel that a losing Germany was facing. Endless expensive mechanical manifestations of the “Get Rich Quick Scheme-Miracle War Winning Zuper-Veapons!” As Dr. Phil would have said, “How’s that workin’ for you?”

      BIG EDIT: In the hands of an “experten” who knew and could utilise its abilities and quirk and deal with its weaknesses, it was a true killer, a “racehorse,” but as those pilots and their expertise died, so did its effectiveness.

      The only way the Germans could increase the G models to compete with the allies they *had* to increase the manifold pressures and created the MW (methanol-water) 50 system which is a methanol-water injection system, using a 22.5 gallon tank (85 liter) behind the cockpit and running a line to to the engine, ridiculously simple, and with it the G14 model could run 51 inches of manifold pressure making 1775 Hp, up 300 hp of the older G6 Models, running 42.5 inches of manifold pressure, giving the G14 a top speed of 413 mph, (and a high altitude version the G14 As, which had it’s supercharger optimised for fighting up high, with a top speed of 422 mph.) It could be used for 30 minutes total, only ten minutes at a time, with a 3 minute cool-down period between each. Again not as fast as the P-51Ds but at least the Mustangs could not so easily escape the fight at will against the slower G4s.

      That the K model was so fast was a true burst of engineering brilliance from the German designers/engineers, esp with the MW 50 methanol-water injection that was incredibly simple, but wasted on the green pilots. Maybe 500 K’s were made, about half were destroyed before they even flew, and the K4 was the best of them all, 2000 hp, 452 mph the only one that was a bit faster than a P-51D, (447–425 mph) but in the hands of a rare surviving expert, was very dangerous. It was pretty hopeless for the Germans by that time.

      Part of the increased speed was the very limited amounts of the new C3 fuel with 100 octane rating (vs their usual B4 synthetic fuel with 87 octane, which, BTW, with the MW system on the G14s, raise the octane of the 87 fuel to 100, just by itself from the anti-knock function of the water.)

      But here's the thing, the Germans *had* the technology for the MW 50 system back in 1940, but never utilised it! Imagine if they had used it on the old E models in the Battle of Britain in 1940 (and the Fw190s set up in 1941), increasing the 109’s HP by an extra 200–300, it could have made things very tough for the British.

      So if the 109, magnificent in the ‘30’s, ran out of steam in the ‘40’s, how could it have shot down more enemy aircraft than any other design? Because it was made in greater numbers than any other fighter of WWII and it’s pilots were initial simply the best. Even when it couldn’t compete head to head with the Spitfires, P-51s and P-47s there were still some German “experten” flying. As they rapidly were killed, the 109 started killing so many of its own green pilots in landing/take-off accidents due to the terrible gear geometry, and at the hands of the cadre of great new allied pilots.

      Thanks for reading my rant. Big thanks to ‘Greg’s Airplanes and Automobiles’ on Youtube. Bios and more info/photos just below:

      BTW, If you're interested, here’s some of my art from a long dead website including art of Hartmann’s last 109K.
      Günther Rall - Wikipedia
      Günther Rall (10 March 1918 – 4 October 2009) was a highly decorated German military aviator , officer and General , whose military career spanned nearly forty years. Rall was the third most successful fighter pilot in aviation history, behind Gerhard Barkhorn , who is second, and Erich Hartmann , who is first. [1] Rall was born in Gaggenau , the German Empire , in March 1918. Rall grew up in the Weimar Republic . In 1933 the Nazi Party seized power and Rall, deciding upon a military career, joined the Wehrmacht in 1936 to train as an infantry soldier. Rall transferred to the Luftwaffe soon after and he qualified as a fighter pilot in 1938. In September 1939 World War II began with the German invasion of Poland. Rall was assigned to Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52—Fighter Wing 52) and flew combat patrols in the Phoney War period on the Western Front . Rall flew combat missions in the Battle of France and Battle of Britain , claiming one enemy aircraft destroyed in May 1940. Rall's wing sustained heavy casualties and the then-22 year old was appointed to Staffelkapitän (Squadron Leader). He then served in the Balkans Campaign in April and May 1941 without success. In June 1941, JG 52 moved to the Eastern Front , where it remained from Operation Barbarossa until the end of the war. Rall claimed his first successes in the air defence of Romania . In November 1941, he was shot down, wounded and invalidated from flying for a year. At this time Rall had claimed 36 aerial victories. His achievements earned him the German Cross in Gold in December 1941. Rall returned in August 1942 and was awarded the Knight's Cross on 3 September 1942 for 65 enemy aircraft shot down. By 22 October Rall had claimed 100 and received the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves. He reached 200 in late August 1943. On 12 September 1943 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, the second highest military award in the Third Reich at the time of the presentation. By the end of 1943 Rall had achieved over 250, the second flier to do so after Nowotny did in October 1943. In April 1944 Rall left JG 52 and the Eastern Front. He was given command of II./ Jagdgeschwader 11 and served in the Defence of the Reich where he was wounded for a third time. In November 1944 Rall was appointed as an instructor and flew captured Allied fighter aircraft in order to prepare instruction notes on their performance to German fighter pilots. Rall ended the war with an unsuccessful stint commanding Jagdgeschwader 300 near Salzburg , Austria , where he surrendered in May 1945. During World War II Rall was credited with the destruction of 275 enemy aircraft in 621 combat missions. He was shot down five times and wounded on three occasions. [2] Rall claimed all of his victories in a Messerschmitt Bf 109 , though he also flew the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 operationally. All but three of his claims were against Soviet opposition. Rall joined the West German Air Force in 1956, served as Inspünther_Rall–-flight-no-25
      Click here to proceed .–-flight-no-25

      Eric Brown (pilot) - Wikipedia
      Captain Eric Melrose "Winkle" Brown , CBE , DSC , AFC , Hon FRAeS , RN [1] (21 January 1919 – 21 February 2016) was a British Royal Navy officer and test pilot who flew 487 types of aircraft, more than anyone else in history. [2] [3] Brown holds the world record for the most aircraft carrier deck take-offs and landings performed (2,407 and 2,271 respectively) [2] and achieved several "firsts" in naval aviation , including the first landings on an aircraft carrier of a twin-engined aircraft, an aircraft with a tricycle undercarriage , a jet aircraft , and a rotary-wing aircraft. He flew almost every category of Royal Navy and Royal Air Force aircraft: glider, fighter, bomber, airliner, amphibian, flying boat and helicopter . During World War II , he flew many types of captured German, Italian, and Japanese aircraft, including new jet and rocket aircraft. He was a pioneer of jet technology into the postwar era. [5] Early life [ edit ] Brown was born in Leith , near Edinburgh , Scotland . [6] His father was a former balloon observer and pilot in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and Brown first flew when he was eight or ten when he was taken up in a Gloster Gauntlet by his father, the younger Brown sitting on his father's knee. [7] [8] [4] In 1936 Brown's father took him to see the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Hermann Göring had recently announced the existence of the Luftwaffe , and Brown and his father met and were invited to join social gatherings by members of the newly disclosed organisation. At one of these meetings, Ernst Udet , a former World War I fighter ace, was fascinated to make the acquaintance of Brown senior, a former RFC pilot, [8] and offered to take his son Eric up flying with him. [4] Eric eagerly accepted the German's offer and after his arrival at the appointed airfield at Halle , he was soon flying in a two-seat Bücker Jungmann . He recalled the incident nearly 80 years later on the BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs , [9] You talk about aerobatics – we did every one I think and I was hanging on to my tummy. So, when we landed, and he gave me the fright of my life because we approached upside-down and then he rolled out just in time to land, he said to me as I got out of the cockpit, slapped me between the shoulder-blades, and gave me the old WW1 fighter pilots' greeting, Hals- und Beinbruch , which means broken neck and broken legs but that was their greeting. But he said to me, you'll make a fine fighter pilot – do me two favours: learn to speak German fluently and learn to fly. In 1937, Brown left the Royal High School and entered the University of Edinburgh , studying modern languages with an emphasis on German. While there he joined the university's air unit and received his first formal flying instruction. [8] In February 1938 he returned to Germany under the sponsorship of the Foreign Office, having been invited to attend the 1938 Automobile Exhibition by Udet, by then a Luftwaffe major general. [8] He there saw the demonst

      Art That Moves- Pointillism, Pen and Ink, museum quality Prints, Cards and T-Shirts by Artist Pete Feigal, specializing in Aviation and Motorcycles.
      To the exclusive web site for the artwork of Pete Feigal. Pete's art comes in an array of limited-edition, museum-quality, signed and numbered prints and only the finest wearables! melanie groves- Web Master ... Mistress ... Minion ... Whatever. [email protected] The artwork on this site and or art created by Pete Feigal is copyrighted and the exclusive property of Pete Feigal and Art That Moves. It may not be reproduced or used for any purpose without the express written consent of the artist. Thank you. This site is continually under development and will be changing and updated frequently in the coming weeks. Products, pictures and plenty more will be added including a secure form for ordering Pete's work. Please take a minute to explore the site. Most of it works, some of it doesn't, but having that element of surprise is what makes life interesting. Until then, please check back often to see our progress and if you have any comments, questions or suggestions please drop us a note at [email protected] Thank you! Pete Feigal is a nationally known artist who specializes in the rare technique of pointillism. It is a painstaking process where the art is made up entirely by dots. It takes about 100 hours to complete just one design and the detail is incredible. Pete is able to make drawings look like photographs using only white paper and black ink. The process may be slow, but Pete likes to draw things that go FAST! Motorcycles, Warbirds, Classic Cars, Flying Squirrels- anything that MOVES! (Hence the name Art That Moves ). The historical accuracy in Pete's work is without compare. In fact, Pete Feigal is being inducted into Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame as their Artist of the Year, 2006, for the impressive detail and accuracy of his aviation artwork. Pete's art is everywhere, it's featured in Museums, and aviation gift shops, in Warbirds and other WW II aircraft, in Dentist's offices, under flight suits, and over toddlers, as the ultimate airshow apparel, and on the backs of burly bikers blazing down the byways! (Hence the name Art That Moves ). Most of Pete's artwork is available beautifully silkscreened with ultra fine screens onto the highest quality dress shirts and t-shirts so that everyone is able to enjoy this amazing art. We have tons of classic warbirds like the P-51, P-38, B-17, Spitfire and the Corsair, we have an old school motorcycle or two, and the occasional scantily clad woman (hey, it's nose art, it's historical!) OK, enough with the infomercial. Bottom line- we have the highest quality shirts, beautiful lithographed cards and prints, and the most incredible art around!

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      • #4
        This is part 8 of an 8 part series about the P 47. The other 7 parts are worth watching: