Warplanes / Germany
Messerschmitt Me 210 and Me 410

Messerschmitt Me 210

The Germans pinned high hopes on the Messerschmitt Me 210, which first flew on 2 September 1939, as an ultimate replacement for the Bf 110. However, after the prototype (with twin fins and rudders, like the Bf 110) displayed chronic instability and later crashed during flutter trials (even after resort to a large single fin and rudder), development was slow. It was not until the end of 1940 that a few preproduction aircraft were delivered to Erprobungsgruppe 210, the unit that had been formed to introduce the aircraft into operational service before the Battle of Britain, The principal ground attack variants were the Me 210A-2 with DB 601Aa engines and the Me 41ÛC-2 with DB 605B engines; these started to equip II/ZG 1 on the Eastern Front shortly after the German attack on the USSR opened but, following a number of fatal accidents when pilots lost control in shock stalls during ground attacks, the aircraft was quickly withdrawn from operational use. By the time a remedy had been found, in mid-1942 (by fitting wing slats), some 600 aircraft had been completed and the majority of these underwent modification.
 
In the event no more than 258 Me 210s ever reached the Luftwaffe and few of the modified aircraft equipped fully-operational ground-attack units. This was because, by 1943, interest centred on the Me 410 Hornisse (hornet), which was in effect a DB 603Apowered Me 210 with lengthened engine nacelles and all the stabilityassociated modifications found essential in the earlier aircraft. By 1943 the operational distinction between closesupport and tactical bombing had become blurred in the Luftwaffe and, although the Me 410A equipped 5./KG 2 at Lechfeld, and 2.(F)/122 and III/ZG 1 in the central Mediterranean, only the operational sorties by the last-named unit could be described as 'close support' of the German army. Another bomber unit, I/KG 51 'Edelweiss', was equipped with Me 410As in June 1943 for night raids over the UK (and, on account of its excellent performance, proved a tough adversary even for the RAF's de Havilland Mosquito nightfighters); however, I/KG 51 switched to the tactical role at the time of the Normandy landings and became very active over the invasion area. Of the total of 1,160 Me 410s produced, not more than about 200 ever equipped groundattack units, the remainder serving as conventional medium-level light bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and as bomber-destroyers in the air defence of the Reich.

Specification Messerschmitt Me 410A-1 

Type: two-seat fighter/fighter-bomber
 
Powerplant: two 1305-kW (1,750-hp) Daimler-Benz DB 603A inverted V-12 piston engines
 
Performance: maximum speed 638 km/h (396 mph) at 6700 m (21,980 ft) or 549 km/h (341 mph) at sea level;
climb to 6700 m (21,980 ft) in 10.7 minutes;
service ceiling 10000 m (32,810 ft);
normal range 1480 km (920 miles)
 
Weights: empty 6050 kg (13,338 lb);
maximum take-off 10530 kg (23,215 lb)
 
Dimensions: span 16.35 m (53 ft 7.75 in);
length 12.41 m (40 ft 8.5 in); 
height 4.28 m (14 ft 0.5 in);
wing area 36.19 m2 (389.6 sq ft)
 
Armament: two MG 151/20 20-mm cannon and two 7.92-mm (0.31-in) MG 17 machine-guns m the nose and single 13-mm (0.51-m) MG 131 heavy machine-gun in each of two remotely controlled FDL 131 barbettes on the sides of the centre fuselage, plus a bombloadofuptotwo 1000-kg (2,205 Ib) bombs internally, or up to 10 50-kg ( 110-lb) bombs internally and on external racks
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