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.
In testing, the Me 210 - in its original form - proved highly unstable, stalling and spins proved all too common in even minor flight actions which endangered test pilots (the second prototype was, indeed, lost to a spin, the pilot bailing to safety). Engineers attempted to solve this issue through installation of a single-vertical tail fin replacing the original twin-finned assembly but the change did little to evolve the Me 210 into a viable flying machine of war. Nevertheless, the need for a new heavy fighter was great and development continued despite a growing list of problems which inevitably led to a growing list of possible solutions - it is said that sixteen prototypes were used to finalize the Me 210 production form. This was then followed by preproduction aircraft under the "Me 210A-0" designation. "Me 210A-1" was used for production-quality heavy fighter types that entered service and a dive bomber / heavy fighter model was known as "Me 210A-2".
An improved version with DB 605 series engines was introduced under the "Me 210C" designation. Changes were also instituted to the airframe to help with ongoing stability and handling issues and it was this form that was also taken on by the Hungarian Air Force as the "Me 210 Ca-1" and assembled locally in Hungary. Some of this stock eventually came to the Luftwaffe inventory.
The Me 210 never quite acquitted itself as a sound fighting platform and total production yielded only 258 flyable aircraft. Thought was already being given to an altogether different version, the Me 310, but only one prototype of this design was completed with a first flight had on September 11th, 1943. Armament was to remain the same as in the Me 210 but engines were switched to the DB 603A series inline. However, the aircraft showed little improvement over the Me 210 which led to yet another follow-up design in the "Me 410" (detailed elsewhere on this site). The Me 410 was adopted by the Luftwaffe and saw serial production figures reach 1,189 units before the end - the problems encountered in the Me 210 nearly all solved in the newer offering.
For its time in the war, the Me 210 had a disastrous run as a frontline fighter. Deliveries began in April of 1942 but practical use showcased the design's many inherent flaws to the point that manufacture of the product was halted before May - forcing the now-outclassed Bf 110 to keep its place in the Axis inventory for a time longer. The Me 210C saved the line some with its new engine fit and airframe modifications but this stock only numbered a few hundred in Luftwaffe service - as many as 108 being received.
Before the end, the Me 210 was completely replaced by the aforementioned Me 410 design. Japan received a single Me 210A-2 example (by way of submarine) for evaluation and testing was done by the Army for a time but no adoption followed.
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2 x 20mm MG 151/20 automatic cannons.
2 x 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns.
2 x 13mm MG 131 machine guns (one to a remote-controlled turret emplacement).
Up to 1,100 lb of external stores and 110 lb of internal stores carried.
Me 210 - Base Series Designation
Me 210 V1 - Prototype
Me 210 V2 - Prototype; lost to irrecoverable spin in testing.
Me 210 A-0 - Pre-production form
Me 210 A-1 - Initial fighter-bomber production form
Me 210 A-2 - Dive bomber / heavy fighter variant
Me 210C - Improved Me 210 with DB 605 series engines
Me 210 Ca-1 - Hungarian production model; based on the improved Me 210C.
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