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Messerschmitt Me 210


Originated in 1937, the Me 210 was designed as a superior twin-engined multi-purpose aircraft to replace the Bf 110. In autumn 1938 RLM awarded a contract to Arado and Messerschmitt simultaneously for the development of a Bf 110 replacement. The resulting Messerschmitt design consisted in a mere improvement of the basic design with more powerful powerplants and heavier armament. Arado’s answer to the requirements was the Ar 240 but confidence in the original Bf 110 long-range fighter and bomber-destroyer concept led at the beginning of 1938 to Messerschmitt being asked to design an eventual successor. The result was the Messerschmitt Me 210 which first flew on 5 September 1939, powered by two 1,050 hp (783 kW) Daimler-Benz DB 601A engines. It proved to be extremely unsatisfactory, being difficult to handle and suffering from extreme instability.

After the first flight test of the Me 210 V1 the plane had to be heavily modified for its flying capabilities were barely poor. It had problems with longitudinal and lateral stability, and these were not suitable for a firing platform such as a combat aircraft. The design was improved by deleting the original twin vertical surfaces, similar to those of Bf 110, and fitting a large traditional vertical stabilizer and rudder with the aircraft flying on 23 September. A slight improvement was apparent, but in spite of a number of modifications carried out on the two prototypes they continued to display poor handling characteristics, being prone to stalling and spinning, but by mid-1940 a first batch of airframes was in final assembly.

Even while test flying was still going on, the RLM placed an order of 1000 Me 210As in mid-1940. The first 15 Me 210s were earmarked as test aircraft and on 5 September 1940 the program suffered the first of a number of crashes when the second prototype broke up during diving trials, fortunately the pilot escaped.

The first flight of a pre-production 210A-0 was in April 1941. The first pre-production planes were under trials in a new established special test unit Erprobungsgruppe 210 at the end of 1940. The ErG 210 was to conduct operational testing of the Me 210 and develop combat tactics for the fighter-bomber. This unit was already well known, during the battle of Britain in Summer 1940, while it mainly flew the Bf 110s and 109s awaiting for Me 210 deliveries. Its first leader was Hauptmann Walter Rubensdörffer, killed in action in a Bf 110 over England before he could ever fly a Me 210. Another important victim was Oberleutnant Heinz Forgatsch of 3./SKG 210. He died in an accident while testing a Me 210 at Rechlin. Production began in Spring 1941 in both the Augsburg and Regensburg factories.

Such were the problems encountered that eight pre-production Me 210A-O and 13 production Me 210A-l aircraft were added to the test program, but in spite of this very little improvement was evident, and it was obvious that only major design changes would have any chance of correcting the faults. At this stage such a move would have caused an unacceptable delay in the production program, so deliveries began and 64 were supplied starting in April 1941 in two variants, the Me 210A-l destroyer-bomber which was armed with two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon and two 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 17 machine guns, and the Me 210A-2 fighter-bomber which had a maximum bomb load of 4,4091b (2000 kg).

By the end of 1941 the test program was over and the final evaluation was that it was still an unsuitable firing platform for its stability problems. Messerschmitt modified a pre-production plane (Me 210 A-0 NE+BH Werk Nr. 101) with lengthened rear fuselage (lengthened by 1½ panels) and redesignating it with the Versuch-number V17 on 14 March 1942. This modification was very successful in increasing the plane’s handling qualities. Another important modification was the fitting, in July 1942, of wing leading edge slots. Soon after flying tests it was ordered to retrofit all Me 210 As with this device.

However, on 14 April 1942, after about 200 Me 210s had been delivered (this number including two Me 210B-0 pre-production and two Me 210B-l production reconnaissance aircraft), construction was halted in favour of a resumption of manufacture of the Bf 110 to give time to try to resolve some of the Me 210's shortcomings. The stability problem was solved finally by introducing automatic wing leading-edge slots and redesign of the rear fuselage, which was lengthened by 3 ft 1 1/2 in (0.95 m) and made deeper. The improvements were tested and the design was submitted with the proposal that the 1,750 hp (1305 kW) Daimler-Benz DB 6O3A engine should be used to provide better performance, This appealed to the RLM, as a solution of this kind would allow a number of unfinished Me 210 airframes to be used, and Messerschmitt was given the go-ahead and the designation 410 assigned to the revised design. The final Me 210 delivery was in April 1942.

Although introduced into operational service in Me 210A, B and C versions from early 1941, most were being replaced within two years.

The rear gunner controlled rear-facing machine guns in twin barbettes which gave much trouble in early service. Forward-firing armament was two cannon and four machine guns.

The Hungarians built the Me 410C in the Danube Aircraft Factory and used it successfully. Messerschmitt had supplied jigs and tools, and a new factory had been built for production when the German decision to stop its own Me 210 program was made. The Hungarians nevertheless decided to proceed and one of the pre-production Me 210A-0s had been fitted with 1,475 hp (1100 kW) DB 605E engines as a prototype for the Me 210C. The engines were license-built by Manfred Weiss.

Production started in 1943 with the Luftwaffe receiving two-thirds and Royal Hungarian Air Force one-third of the aircraft built.

The Me 210C had the wing slots and new rear fuselage, and production deliveries from the Hungarian factory started at the beginning of 1943. They were split on the basis of one-third to the Royal Hungarian air force and two-thirds to the Luftwaffe. Production was slow to develop, but by early 1944 the first Hungarian units had been formed. Production ended in Hungary in March 1944, by which time 267 Me 210Cs had been built in two variants, the Me 210C-1 reconnaissance/bomber-destroyer aircraft, and the Me 21OCa-1 bomber-destroyer/dive-bomber. In contrast with the Luftwaffe, Hungarian pilots liked the Me 210 and used it as a close-support aircraft and dive-bomber.

A total of 267 Me 410's had been constructed before production ended in March 1944.


Messerschmitt Me 210


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