Messerschmitt Me 210 Heavy Fighter / Fighter-Bomber
The Messerschmitt Me 210 was a failed successor to the classic Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine heavy fighter of the German Luftwaffe.
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The twin-engined heavy fighter saw its battlefield usefulness realized during World War 2 where designs such as the Lockheed P-38 "Lightning", de Havilland DH.98 "Mosquito" and Kawasaki Ki 45 ruled the skies for their part in the war. The dual engine layout offered increases in performance as well as survivability while also adding range and a greater war load capability. Beyond their classic Bf 110 offering, Messerschmitt worked on a refined version of the approach as the Me 210- though this endeavor did not prove itself an outright success.
The Me 210 was penciled as a direct successor to the pre-war Bf 110
and its design phase was begun before the official start of the conflict. A first flight was had on September 2nd, 1939 - one day after the German invasion of neighboring Poland which began the years-long conflict in Europe. By this time, the Bf 110 was entrenched as the primary German two-engine heavy fighter but the German Air Ministry was already eyeing a more modern solution - the Me 210 was challenged by a competing design from Arado known as the Ar 240 design - fourteen of this aircraft were ultimately produced with the first flying on June 25th, 1940 but the line was not adopted for formal service with the Luftwaffe.
The Me 210 continued some of the design traits seen in the Bf 110. It sat a crew of two (pilot / gunner) in tandem under a heavily glazed, greenhouse-style canopy. The wing mainplanes were fitted noticeably ahead of midships and each was fitted with a streamlined engine nacelle extending out beyond the wing leading edges. A "tail-dragger" undercarriage was used and a teardrop-shaped fuselage made up the central structural component of the aircraft. Unlike the Bf 110, the finalized Me 210 form was given a single vertical tail fin and low-set horizontal planes (the original Me 210 prototype was, however, fitted with a twin-finned tail unit). The Me 210 featured its cockpit well-forward in the fuselage with a commanding view of the area ahead. Daimler-Benz DB 601F series engines were selected to power the type, these outputting 1,330 horsepower each and promising speeds nearing 400 miles per hour. An internal bomb bay rounded out the list of features (the Bf 110 was forced to store its ordnance externally).
Fixed armament was comprised of 2 x 20mm MG 151/20 autocannons along with 2 x 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns in the nose. 2 x 13mm MG 131 machine guns were set as rear-facing, rear-firing units (fitted as fuselage blister packs) operated via remote-control by the gunner in the rear cockpit position. The bomb load was limited to 2,200lb of internal drop stores.
By all accounts, the Me 210 was to become a strong performer - aerodynamically refined with a solid engine fit and lessons learned in the ongoing war pushed through changes to make the system a more effective weapons platform (at least on paper). Such was the commitment to the promising Me 210 that the Luftwaffe secured a production contract for 1,000 of the heavy fighters - this even before the prototype had flown.