by Dan Salamone
With a total production run of nearly 35,000 machines, the Bf 109 filled many roles with various air forces. Perhaps the most unique variant of all was the Bf 109T- a shipboard fighter designed to fly from the deck of the never-completed carrier Graf Zeppelin. With a total of only 80 Bf 109T built, this version of the famous Messerschmitt fighter had remarkable longevity, serving from their completion in 1941 until at least 1944. A few possibly survived until 1945.
This variant was originally equipped with an arrestor hook, catapult attachments, and a more robust tailwheel to withstand the rigors of carrier operations. The most obvious physical difference were the extended wingtips. These increased the wingspan from 32 4.5" on the standard Bf 109E series to 36 4.25" on the "Toni". This longer wing had a spoiler on the top of the wing to help reduce landing speed, as well as longer leading edge slats and ailerons.
The Bf 109T-1 had the general appearance of the E-3 with the older type canopy. The T-2 (which is the subject of this article) was equipped with the later E-4 style canopy. These aircraft also carried a different supercharger intake from the E series version.
When the Graf Zeppelin was finally canceled, the aircraft already completed were stripped of their naval gear and delivered to units that operated from short landing strips, such as those found in Norway. The longer wingspan of the Toni was ideal for operations from this environment. They saw service with many units such as JG 5, JG 11, JG 77 and the Jagdstaffel Helgoland.
The aircraft depicted in the diorama is Black 6 flown by the Staffelkapitan of 11./JG11, Oberleutnant Herbert Christmann. At the time this unit flew from the wood plank airfield at Lister-Mondal in southern Norway. Quite possibly the most gaudy Bf 109 documented during World War II, Black 6 was lost in combat during the spring of 1944.
Surviving this, Oblt. Christmann lost his life over the invasion front in August 1944
while flying a Fw 190 A-8 of 1./JG11. At the time depicted in this diorama, Black 6
carried six kill marks on her rudder.
Additional modifications to the basic kit:
I did not need any of the carrier gear for my subject.
The conversion starts by removing the outer 33cm from each injection molded wingtip. The aileron molded into the top of each wing must be removed as well. The resin parts fit very well with the plastic wings. The only problem was that the resin parts were slightly thicker than the plastic wings. I glued everything with CA and, when cured, sanded the joint with a sanding pad until the difference was eliminated. Other than that this was a drop fit project. The ailerons and slats need a little tweaking, and the kit supercharger intake should be replaced with the resin one supplied by Hawkeye. After assembly, the new resin wing tips add 11cm. to each wing tip - a noticeable difference.
There are other small changes needed to finish the conversion to "T" series standards. The best reference for this is "Sea Eagles" written by Francis Marshall. This book is very difficult to find now, but Aviation Usk may have a few copies remaining. If making the naval version with arrestor gear this book will also help with placement and markings of these aircraft.
Here is a list of the final, minor modifications:
In summary, a simple conversion but one that changes the appearance of this classic
This, and other photographs of Black 6 are overexposed and make interpretation difficult at best. We all know that black and white photograph interpretation is at best a series of educated guesses based on other information that has been verified through artifacts and/or color photography. Luckily in this age of electronic communications I was able to correspond with many people who were able to help me in my attempt to create a historically accurate replica. This list includes the author of "Sea Eagles" Francis Marshall, as well as Claes Sundin, Kjetil Aakra, Phillipe DeMuelder and Bob Rinder. Without the input of these gentlemen this project would of been much more difficult- my thanks to all of you! Even as I was applying decals new information was presented to me on Black 6- some of which contradicted previous information. Keep in mind that this was my view on the data and photos provided to me and in no way do I claim that this is the definitive answer on how this aircraft appeared. Simply, until some type of proof, be it physical or photographic, shows otherwise this is my interpretation of what Black 6 looked like in the spring of 1944.
As I mentioned, the photo was overexposed. Going by the book, this aircraft should of been RLM 74 and 75 over 76. However, I could not make out two shades of a darker color on the fuselage spine or wing leading edge. Also, the aircraft had a soft wave pattern painted on the upper surfaces in a light color similar to the fuselage sides. It is apparent that this aircraft flew many missions over water- I interpreted the colors as RLM 75 over 76, with the wave pattern also in 76. I felt the only other explanation for the wave pattern was that it could be a worn winter camouflage, but in that case it would normally show more mottle on the side of the fuselage.
The first remarkable item in this photo is the large flame running from the spinner to just beneath the cockpit. This is a highly unusual marking for a Luftwaffe machine and leads me to believe that there were many "odd" things about Black 6. Best guess is that the flames were a personal statement by Oblt. Christmann - but perhaps it was also a marking device for his pilots to identify him in combat, or even a device to help locate the aircraft in case it went down in a remote area. There is no way to confirm the reason for the marking, but it does beg to have an answer. The last major marking to mention is the yellow RVD band of JG11 located near the rear of the fuselage.
So we have a three year old combat aircraft, rare in itself at this point in the war. Add to this an unusual (for a fighter) camouflage scheme, and the flames on the nose. This aircraft is a perfect example of how many variations in camouflage and markings there were in the field. The camouflage scheme makes sense for the environment in which this unit flew. I would love to see how the other 20 or so Bf 109T of 11./JG11 were finished. My guess is that they were in a variety of schemes, but as a common thread I feel they would reflect their individual needs in this harsh combat environment.
Aeromaster enamels were used for the color scheme. I sourced the decals from various
sheets from both Aeromaster and Super Scale. The model was finished using a variety of
clear coats to seal the artist oils and chalk weathering. I used clear flat misted lightly
over the entire model, but chose semi gloss for the red flames to show newer paint. Also,
semi gloss was sprayed on the leading edges of the wings, and fuselage spine to show the
sheen usually found on Luftwaffe aircraft.
All the figures were painted with Ral Partha acrylic paints and sealed with Floquil
Figure Flat spray.
The finished project shows Oblt. Christmann preparing for another mission while one of
his ground crew touch-up the red flames on the aircraft. Small items to notice are the
pilots cap and pistol near the windshield, spilled red paint on the crewman and
bucket, as well as the dog sleeping near some puddles in which lay fallen leaves and an
old bottle. I believe that when a model is shown in an environment that it operated it
enhances the overall appearance, and makes it much more interesting to view than a model
sitting alone. It adds the human element, and after all that is what really captures the
There are many photographic examples of aircraft, as well as other vehicles, that show
a departure from the "official" guidelines. For Luftwaffe fans, JG 54 is a great
example with all their field applied paint schemes in Russia, and JG 5 in Norway another.
I would like to see more people rely on their eyes and instincts to a greater extent when
interpreting black and white photos, and less on camouflage directives that have been
repeated for years. Not only has the state of building models changed drastically over the
past 10 years, but the quality of research material has increased as well. It is time that
people embrace this, after all, short of having physical evidence of a paint color even
the best researcher has to rely on an educated guess. Instead of solely relying on what
has been accepted for years, look at things with an open mind and you will see many
details and nuances that you may of missed before!
These books were very useful during this project:
These kits, sets and materials were used:
Model, Article Text and Photographs Copyright © 1998
by Dan Salamone