Germans testing a Messerschmitt Bf 109 E3, 1940

The facility is Luftfahrtforschungsunstalt Hermann Goering. It was located in Volkenrode, a suburb of Braunschweig and was the most advanced wind tunnel testing facility in the world at the time, although they were not able to fully calibrate most of the equipment due to the war.

The motto on the eagle at the rear of the aircraft says: "Das Deutsche Volk wird sich durch die Eroberung der Luft sein Ihm Gebuhrenden Platz in der Welt Erzvingen". Translated, it would be: "The German people, though conquering the sky, will force their proper place in the world".

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 E3 was designed by Willi Messerschmitt and Walter Rethel and had its first test flight in 1935. The all-metal aircraft had a closed cockpit and a retractable under-carriage.

Powered by a Rolls-Royce Kestrel V engine, it had a top speed of 342 mph (550 km/h) and a range of 410 miles (660 km). It was 28 ft 4 in (8.65 m) tall with a wingspan of 32 ft 4 in (9.87 m). The aircraft was armed with 2 machine guns and 2 20 mm cannons.

The first Bf 109As saw service in the Spanish Civil War. By September 1939, the Bf 109 had become the main fighter of the Luftwaffe, replacing biplane fighters, and was instrumental in securing air superiority for the Wehrmacht during the Blitzkrieg.

During the Battle of Britain, it was pressed into the role of escort fighter, a role for which it was not originally designed, and was widely used as a fighter-bomber as well as a photo-reconnaissance platform. was employed in.

Despite mixed results on Britain, with the introduction of the improved Bf 109F in early 1941, it again proved to be an effective fighter during the invasion of Yugoslavia (where it was used by both sides), the Battle of Crete, Operation Barbarossa. Invasion of the USSR and the Siege of Malta.

More air kills were made with the Bf 109 than any other aircraft of World War II. Several aerial victories were achieved against poorly trained and badly organized Soviet forces during Operation Barbarossa in 1941.

The Soviets lost 21,200 aircraft at this time, almost half to combat. If shot down, Luftwaffe pilots could land in friendly territory or parachute and return to fight again. Later in the war, when Allied victories began to bring the fighting to a close, and then into German territory, bombing raids provided a lot of targets for the Luftwaffe.

This unique combination of events led to the highest individual pilot victory score ever. One hundred and five Bf 109 pilots were each credited with the destruction of 100 or more enemy aircraft. Thirteen of these men scored more than 200 kills, while two scored more than 300. In all, this group of pilots was credited with a total of about 15,000 kills.

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