Reviewing the Bf110: Enter the Zerstörer

The Bf110 was conceived as a heavy fighter that was to be flown by the elite of the Luftwaffe fighter force and used in long range operations supporting the Luftwaffe’s medium bombers. Though proving inadequate in that role, they were quickly turned into potent fighter-bombers and bomber destroyers or Zerstörer.

Is the Bf110 still a relevant aircraft in the skies of the Kuban battle? Read on!

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Raw performance comparison

Stall

Bf110E-2
Indicated stall speed in flight configuration: 148..182 km/h
Indicated stall speed in takeoff/landing configuration: 131..162 km/h

Bf110G-2
Indicated stall speed in flight configuration: 160..190 km/h
Indicated stall speed in takeoff/landing configuration: 141..168 km/h

The Bf110G-2 has a much higher stall speed than the E-2 model before it and that goes for both flight configuration as well as in takeoff/landing configuration. Pilots will need to adjust their approach speeds and stay aware of the differing characteristics.

Climb

Bf110E-2
Climb rate at sea level: 10.3 m/s
Climb rate at 3000 m: 9.6 m/s
Climb rate at 6000 m: 6.1 m/s

Bf110G-2
Climb rate at sea level: 15.6 m/s
Climb rate at 3000 m: 14.1 m/s
Climb rate at 6000 m: 10.7 m/s

The Bf110G-2 is able to reach for altitude much more quickly than the E-2 model and this puts it in a far better position to intercept high flying and quick moving bombers – the Pe-2 and A-20B are both fast aircraft and the 110G-2 will need everything available to climb and chase these bombers.

Speed

Bf110E-2
Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Emergency: 456 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 2000 m, engine mode – Emergency: 494 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 5000 m, engine mode – Emergency: 529 km/h

Bf110G-2
Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Combat: 489 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 2000 m, engine mode – Combat: 533 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 6500 m, engine mode – Combat: 581 km/h

The Bf110G-2 is substantially faster than the E-2 model at all altitudes with a 33 km/h advantage at sea level and increasing to a 52 km/h advantage at high altitude.

Power

Bf110E-2
Maximum power in Boosted mode at sea level: 1100 HP
Maximum power in Emergency mode at sea level: 990 HP
Maximum power in Emergency mode at 4500 m: 1020 HP
Maximum power in Combat mode at sea level: 910 HP
Maximum power in Combat mode at 5000 m: 960 HP

Bf110G-2
Maximum power in Emergency mode at sea level: 1480 HP
Maximum power in Emergency mode at 5600 m: 1360 HP
Maximum power in Combat mode at sea level: 1310 HP
Maximum power in Combat mode at 5800 m: 1250 HP

The DB605 engines that replace the DB601 models in the E-2 offer much more available horsepower. This feature alone gives the Bf110 airframe an extended lease on life with improved performance on nearly every feature.

Turn times

Bf110E-2
Maximum performance turn at sea level: 27.4 s, at 270 km/h IAS.
Maximum performance turn at 3000 m: 35.4 s, at 270 km/h IAS.

Bf110G-2
Maximum performance turn at sea level: 23.5 s, at 270 km/h IAS.
Maximum performance turn at 3000 m: 31.2 s, at 270 km/h IAS.

The starkest difference in performance is perhaps the turn times. A maximum performance turn on the Bf110E-2 at 27.4 seconds is dramatically slower than the 23.5 seconds that we see the G-2 model being able to perform. These put it closer in to range of what single engined fighters are able to perform.

While the Bf110G-2 should not be mistaken for an agile turn fighter, it is certainly the more effective heavy fighter of the two.

Comparing the Bf110E-2 to the G-2

If you own IL-2: Battle of Moscow then you are probably familiar with the Bf110E-2. The E-2 model was an update of the C series which fought during the Battle of Britain and it was primarily intended as a fighter-bomber with enhanced ground attack capabilities.

The default armament changes include replacing the old slow firing MG-FF/M cannons with the newer more rapid firing MG151/20 cannons. The MG151/20s are belt fed and mean that you can sustain continuous fire without having to have the gunner reload the cannons after the first set of drums has run out.

The forward cockpit is very similar to the earlier model with some slight adjustments and is fitted with armored glass by default (this is an option on the E-2).

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In the rear the turret gunner has received a fairly significant upgrade. The new gunner station replaces the 7.92mm MG15 machine gun on a flex mount with a twin barrel MG81Z 7.92mm machine gun. Though both fire the same caliber and cartridge, the twin gun 81Z fires at a staggering 1,600 rounds per minute while the MG15 can only fire up to 1,000 rpm. Twice as many guns firing at a much faster rate significantly increases both hit potential and lethality of the rear firing gun. It is also belt fed allowing for near continuous fire.

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The only caveat to the new station is that positioning allows for a slightly more limited firing arc. The window cannot be opened like in the E-2 model. Though slightly more restrictive in gun arcs, it is a benefit in terms of aerodynamics.

The Bf110G-2 also comes with all of the ground attack potential that the E-2 model does and adds to it with additional gunpod options.

Bomber and tank destroying firepower

The role of the Zerstörer was to bring massive firepower to enemy bomber formations and the Bf110 has that capability. The standard loadout is a pair of MG151/20 cannons backed up by a quartet of MG17 light machine guns. The default firepower is more than most other fighters can bring to bear, however, it can be augmented with additional options.

A MG151/20 gunpod with two cannons can be installed beneath the fuselage which brings the total number of cannons up to four. All of these are firing from the centreline so they offer both accuracy and concentrated fire.

bf110g2-cannonbarrage
Four 20mm and four 7.92mm firing at once is a powerful barrage

Beyond the MG151/20 gunpod is something a little bit special. The massive BK3,7 is essentially based on the Flak 18 cannon fitted to an aircraft in an fuselage mounted gondola.

It fires an absolutely massive cartridge. The 37x263mm cartridge far outsizes the 37x145mmR of the M4 autocannon fitted to the P-39. The BK3,7 is suited both for anti-bomber duties and for anti-tank operations, though I suspect it will be used far more often in the anti-tank role than in the anti-bomber role due to performance losses associated with the large cannon gondola beneath the aircraft.

bf110g2-bk37-tankhit.jpg
A direct hit has the potential to kill some Russian tanks including these T-70 light tanks

Both HE and AP rounds are available for the BK3,7 and their use is highly dependent on your target. The HE rounds are ideal for shooting down bombers while the AP rounds are meant to pierce the armor on tanks.

The speed of the Bf110G-2, particularly as you enter into a shallow dive while attacking a tank, makes putting a bullseye on a small tank difficult but certainly not impossible. A direct hit can, if it hits the right part, punch through the armor and disable or destroy some types of tanks. Forum users have reported disabling everything up to a KV-1 and I can confirm that lighter tanks like the T-70 will succumb in one or two hits at the most.

bf110g2-bkcannon
The modifications available include some very serious firepower.

Much more power

bf110g2-poweron.jpg

When the Me210 failed to live up to expectations, Messerschmidt designers were forced to build a stop-gap solution to the changing situation on the frontline while trying to improve the Me210 design. This was the climate in which the Bf110G-2 was born. Another aircraft in a long line of stop gap solutions that ended up being immensely successful.

The biggest improvement to the Bf110G-2 is in the available engine power. The DB-601A available on the E-2 makes 1100 HP at maximum seal level boost.

Overall review

Some have challenged the idea of what having more than one variant of an aircraft can add to a series like IL-2. Though the Bf110 now has two variants and some, like the Bf109, have five, I think it is important for a series that focuses in on specific battles to showcase the key aircraft at the time. When you pull back and look at the progression from one to the next then you can get a sense of what improvements were being made on both sides to increase their capabilities.

The Bf110G-2 represents a fundamentally similar aircraft to the early Bf110E-2 but it also represents an across the board improvement in every category from offensive and defensive firepower to armor plating and climb rate. It replaces the E-2 model on the battlefield in airspace contested by ever faster and more powerful aircraft. The Bf110G-2 ups the ante and then it adds the ability to bust tanks and shoot down bombers in more effective ways than earlier versions could hope to.

I look forward to taking this Zerstörer into battle in the skies over the Kuban river.

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