German Aircraft at Hendon RAF Museum

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was the German equivalent of the British Spitfire fighter; the two aircraft were in a technological race until the end of the war.   Ironically, the Bf 109 started life using a Rolls-Royce Kestrel V engine, before entering full production with a Daimler-Benz.

Messerschmitt Bf109

This aircraft had the greatest production run of any aircraft during world war two, with almost 35,000 built, starting in 1936 and continuing right through until 1945.   The model on display here is the Bf 109G or "Gustav", which was the most numerous of the many variants.  Not too many Bf 109s are left, and only 3 are in flying condition, including a Bf 109E "Emil" which flew at the 2005 Yankee Air Museum "Thunder over Michigan" airshow near Detroit, and a Bf 109G "Gustav" which flew at the 1996 Wanaka Warbirds airshow in New Zealand.

Messerschmitt Bf109

Although the Bf 109 is the aircraft which springs to mind when people think of German fighters of world war two, it wasn't the best German propeller driven fighter of the war.   That position belongs to the Focke-Wulf FW 190, which was introduced in 1941, and was one of the few German aircraft to use a radial engine.   The one on display is a two-seat training plane, created by modifying a standard FW 190.

Focke Wulf FW 190 fighter

The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka had a similar history to the Bf 109, entering service before the war and taking part in combat during the Spanish civil war.   Like its fighter counterpart, the Ju 87 also had to soldier on until the very end of the war, by which time it was totally outclassed.

Junkers Ju87 dive bomber

The Ju 87 was the Nazi's original terror weapon, and was even fitted with a siren to cause panic as it dived down to release its bombs.   In Spain and during the early years of the world war it was highly respected by both sides, largely because of the accuracy it achieved as a result of its diving technique.   The Germans wasted a lot of effort trying to emulate the early success of the Stuka, but it gradually became apparent that the plane was very vulnerable to modern fighter aircraft like the Spitfire and Mustang, and was even susceptible to ground fire as it pulled back up from its dive.   However it continued to be used in anti-shipping and anti-tank roles right until the end.

Junkers Ju87 dive bomber

The Heinkel He 111, like the Bf 109 and Ju 87, started its combat service in Spain and struggled through to the end.   Although effective in short range combat and in tactical campaigns in support of German infantry and armour, it was not suited to long-range strategic bombing.   Although they caused a lot of damage during the Blitz bombing of British cities like London and Coventry, this was nothing compared to what was done by heavy bombers like the British Lancaster and the American B-17 Flying Fortress.   Surprisingly, though, they remained in service in Spain through the 1960s, and one of these was still flying at airshows into the 1990s until it was tragically lost with its crew during a landing accident.

Heinkel He111 medium bomber

The Junkers Ju 88 is considered to be the Luftwaffe's most versatile aircraft, being used in many varieties, each specialized in a role such as fast bomber, dive bomber, torpedo bomber, night fighter, ground attack aircraft or reconnaissance plane.   This one is a Ju 88R-1 night fighter, easily recognizable from the radar antennas fitted on its nose.   Two of the three man crew defected to Britain during the war, much to the consternation of the third man, the radio operator.   The pilot had arranged this defection with the British secret service, who wanted to acquire German radar technology.

Junkers Ju88 bomber

Here's another night fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 110 Zerstörer or "destroyer".    Originally intended as a long-range fighter, it was no match for the spitfires and hurricanes it fought against during the Battle of Britain.   It was therefore reassigned to the roles of fighter-bomber and night fighter, where it achieved its greatest successes; at the start of 1944 these aircraft comprised 60 percent of the German night fighter force.   This is the only intact aircraft of this type remaining anywhere.

Messerschmitt Me110 Zerstörer

Here's my favourite aircraft in this section, the Heinkel He 162 Salamander, also called the Volksjäger, or "people's fighter".   Desperate to find a technological edge which would enable them to win the war, but running out of basic materials like aluminium, the Germans built the Volksjäger.    Developed in only three months, it was built largely from wood and required only one jet engine, instead of the two used by the other German jet fighter of the war, the Me 262.   Several of the prototypes crashed, one during a display in front of Luftwaffe officials, but development continued.   However, the end of the war arrived with only 200 ever being delivered, and only 2 combat kills are recorded for it.

Heinkel He162 jet fighter