Messerschmitt Bf 110 vol. I

One month later in July 1934, the RLM reviewed the propositions that had been received. Neither Dornier nor Heinkel had sent a proposition and offers from AGO and Gotha were rejected after a preliminary grading. AGO proposed the Ao 225, a twin-engine, low-wing monoplane design armed with four 20 mm cannon. Gotha’s proposition was for an unconventional plane called Projekt 3001/3002. It was an all-metal high-wing monoplane with twin tail booms. Two Daimler-Benz 600 engines were located in the fuselage while the propellers were located in the forward part of the tail booms and connected to the engines by a complicated system of gears. Armament consisted of four 20 mm cannon (two mounted statically in the nose and two in a canopy near the rear of the fuselage).

Interior of Messerschmit’s Bf 110D-3 cockpit, FuG 10 radio inside.[Kageros's Archive]

Orders were placed with Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW), Focke-Wulf (Fw) and Henschel (Hs) to continue development on their destroyer/bomber ideas, which later became the Messerschmitt Bf 110, Focke-Wulf Fw 57 and Henschel Hs 124. Each company was to build three prototypes and five pre-production series aircraft, all to be powered by the Jumo 210. Wooden models were to be ready by February 1935 and the first prototypes constructed by February 1936.
After representatives from the RLM inspected the wooden mock ups in February 1935, they were more inclined to re-evaluate the Kampfzerstörer concept. The original concept to combine a fighter and bomber into one airframe turned out to be impractical. As a result, the RLM developed a new concept for a Schnellbomber (fast bomber). The new aircraft would need to reach a cruising speed of 450 km/h and a top speed of 500 km/h with a 500 kg bomb load. Armament was limited to a single 7.92 mm machine gun. These new requirements were sent to Junkers, Messerschmitt, Henschel and Focke-Wulf. The prototypes which they had been working on (Bf 110, Fw 57 and Hs 124) would become typical destroyer (Zerstörer) aircraft.
The authors of many post-war monographs devoted to the Messerschmitt Bf 110 have claimed that Willi Messerschmitt ignored the requirements of the RLM for the Kampfzerstörer type and that he had been working from the very beginning on a twin-engine strategic fighter plane. He had indeed omitted the internal bomb-load requirement, which worked to the company’s advantage when the Kampfzerstörer specification was amended. But an analysis of RLM documents fails to support the theory that this move was sanctioned because of Messerschmitt’s political connections. The Bayerische Flugzeugwerke was completely dependent on government contracts and Willi Messerschmitt had already incurred the personal enmity of Erhard Milch who personally made decisions about who was awarded government contracts. In fact, the differing approaches to the requirements set out by the C-Amt suggest that the RLM encouraged the three designs submitted (Bf 110, Fw 57 and Hs 124) to differ significantly in meeting the requirements. Milch thus gave himself more room for maneuver when making a decision as to which type best suited tactical and operational requirements.
On 1 November 1935 a two-year production plan was unveiled which included three prototypes and five production models each for the Bf 110, Fw 57 and Hs 124. The Bf 110 and Hs 124 were to be fitted with the Jumo 210, while the Fw 57V1 would get the Rolls-Royce Buzzard, and the Fw 57V2, Fw 57V3 and the Bf 110 V3 wold be fitted with in-line DB 600 engines. In this same document, even before the first prototype had flown, there were no orders for a series model of the Fw 57!
The fact that the experts at the RLM had doubts about the abilities of the plane at such an early stage in its development was not surprising. Suffice it to say that the type was supposed to have a wing span of 25 meters, 7 meters more than the Dornier Do 17 and 2 meters greater than the Heinkel He 111 while its weight was equal to that of the He 111 with a full bomb load! Given its size and weight there was little chance it would be capable of hunting down an enemy single-engine fighter.
During construction of the first Fw 57 prototype the designers moved away from British engines in favor of the Daimler-Benz DB 600. The plane made its first flight in the summer of 1936 with test pilot Kurt Tank. During one of the later flights the landing gear failed to deploy and the plane was damaged while landing on soft terrain. Hans Sandler, who piloted the plane in 1937 claimed that it was a heavy and clumsy machine that was unpleasant to fly. Because the Fw 57 program proved a failure, it is not known whether the V2 or V3 prototypes were ever finished.