Hawker Hurricane Mk.I vs. Messerschmitt Bf 109 E
During the Battle of Britain, Messerschmitt Bf 109 E „Emil“ fighters were most often engaged with the Hawker Hurricane Mk.I. nicknamed „Hurry“. Which machine emerges victorious from the duel?
The Messerschmitt Bf 109E was undoubtedly superior to the Hurricane Mk.I in most respects, which was true both technologically and in a number of important parameters. In addition, it cost almost half as much as the British fighter.
I’d rather not go into the corkscrew
In terms of flight and operational characteristics, the Hurricane Mk.I was a trouble-free type. The solid airframe took damage well and was easy to repair. The aircraft was easy to fly, performed horizontal manoeuvres easily, and remained very stable when firing. The corkscrew was forbidden, as the machine lost a full 600 metres of altitude in two turns. Most RAF pilots were also convinced that the „Hurry“ surpassed the „Hundred and Twenty“ in agility.
For the conditions of spring 1940, it had a decent top speed and climb rate, and was easy to take off and land. Operation from field airfields was facilitated by a rather robust wide-track landing gear. Overall, its handling was not difficult even for less experienced pilots, which was a considerable plus for the RAF at that time.
An undeniable disadvantage of the British type was the use of a float carburettor on the engine, which briefly cut off the fuel supply during manoeuvres with negative overload (including transition to dive flight). The powerplant was momentarily out of action and the Bf 109 E, which did not suffer from this problem due to direct fuel injection into the engine, gained valuable metres in combat.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109E was undoubtedly superior to the Hurricane Mk.I in most respects, both technologically and in a number of important parameters. In addition, it cost almost half as much as the British fighter.
Hawker Hurricane Mk.I
WIDTH: 12.19 m
LENGTH: 9.58 m
HEIGHT: 3.98 m
Range: 812 km
CARRYING AREA: 23.92 m
FLIGHT WEIGHT: 2 924 kg
MAX. 521.4 km/h (at an altitude of 5,430 m)
MAX. DISTANCE: 10,707 m
WEAPON: 8×7.7mm Colt-Browning machine gun
Figures apply to later versions with Merlin III engine and Rotol RMS-7 three-blade auto-adjustable wooden propeller
What did the Germans say?
With the exception of the Bf 109 E-1 version, the German fighter had more effective gunnery. On the other hand, the British aircraft certainly presented a better firing platform: it „sat“ well in turns and made it easier for the pilot to engage the target from difficult angles. The Germans, who captured several of them during the spring blitzkrieg, considered the British type inferior to the Bf 109 E. But they were fundamentally wrong.
Despite its performance lag behind the „Emil“, the Hurricane Mk.I was still a sufficiently combat-ready type to hold its own in the air battle for Britain. With the exception of the „100s“, it had superiority over all other Luftwaffe types. The smaller and lighter Bf 109 E was a much more „lively“ machine than its British opponent. At medium speeds it handled nicely, but at high speeds the steering forces became heavy. Longitudinal and lateral stability was excellent, it was very fast and climbed well, also picking up speed in dive flight.
Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-3
WIDTH: 9.87 m
LENGTH: 8.64 m
HEIGHT: 3.40 m
Range: 660 km
CARRYING AREA: 16.40 m
FLIGHT WEIGHT: 2 608 kg
MAX. 570 km/h (at an altitude of 4,000 m)
MAX. RANGE: 10,300 m
WEAPONS: 2× 7.92mm MG 17 machine gun, 2× 20mm MG FF cannon
The man behind the knife decides
The Hurricane lagged behind in virtually every respect, but not so far behind that it couldn’t put up a near-equal fight. The results of the engagements in that fateful summer and autumn of 1940 depended more on the quality of the pilots, their tactics and the immediate air situation than directly on the performance tables of the two types.
The fact is, however, that the Germans were more often victorious in fighter battles. While the main target of the Messerschmitt pilots was their opponents from the RAF Fighter Command, the Hurricanes’ jockeys focused mainly on destroying Luftwaffe bombers.