Built in 1941, Werk Nr 9209 was allocated to JG51. On 22 February 1942 Ober-Lieutnant A. Niss, commander of the JG51 Squadron's 8th Detachment, got lost and was fired on from a machine gun near Tushino Airfield while flying 9209. The radiator and fuel tank were damaged, and the German officer was forced to land within Soviet troop unit positions.
Captured by Red Army soldiers, the fighter was quickly restored by technical personnel from the 47th Aviation Division based in Tushino, but the first flight of the captured Messerschmitt ended in a crash landing, resulting in the breaking of the right undercarriage leg and wing tip. The machine had to undergo one more repair (this time by a TsAGI team) before it was handed over to the Air Forces Scientific Research Institute for comprehensive testing. Engineer-Captain A. S. Rozanov, one of the institute's foremost experts on German aircraft, accepted the bird.
He encountered serious problems from the outset. The experienced engineer noticed that the aircraft had undergone major repair at least four times and was completely worn out. The unstable spring-weather and frequent Air Defense Command flight bans also retarded his efforts. On 5 April, Rozanov wrote the following to his direct supervisor A. N. Frolov:
|“||While plotting the altitude curve, I faced a serious obstacle. Supercharger pressure slightly decreases up to the altitude limit of 2900 meters and then sharply falls off. It is possible that the supercharger coupling is worn out and it becomes "powerless" at altitude. I report to the command element regularly and, of course, they swear at me for dragging out the testing. I will have to "pump up" the altitude-airspeed performance curve using science...||”|
A few more days passed and the test report on the Bf 109F was finished. Rozanov's conclusions did not differ much from those Frolov had drawn before the testing began, but were more detailed. It was noted that the Bf 109F was faster near the ground by 70 km/h than the Bf 109E. About half of this was due to the powerful DB 60IN engine, and the other half due to enhanced aerodynamics. The fighter's operational qualities were also evaluated. Soviet specialists noted the good access to the engine, especially to the spark plugs, convenient cowling, and easy handling thanks to various automatic devices (including those regulating oil and water temperatures).
The evaluation of the canopy was not so unambiguous. On the one hand, it provided for a good view forward and to the side and its flat panes did not distort visible objects. On the other, the canopy could not be opened when the engine was running; it could only be jettisoned. Colonel Stefanovskiy, a leading institute pilot, noted that vision to the rear was unsatisfactory, because a heavy frame with armor headrest did not allow one to see an enemy aircraft attacking from the rear.
During the trials, Institute specialists simulated aerial combat between a Bf 109F and a Russian Yak-1 (No. 0511), and worked out recommendations for Red Army Air Forces flight personnel. It turned out that the Soviet fighter had more chances to- win the greater the altitude. If the Me 109F was superior close to the ground and head-on attacks were recommended to our pilots then, at an altitude of 3000 meters, the chances were even and at 5000 meters, the Yak allegedly outperformed its adversary in speed and maneuverability. In other words, the suggestion was for pilots to draw German fighters to high altitudes.
Alas, these recommendations did not reflect the true state of affairs. From German materials and test results obtained in Britain, it turned out that the Bf 109F with a DB 60IN engine had a maximum speed of 597-600 km/h at an altitude of 6000 meters, rather than at the 552 km/h registered at the Air Forces Scientific Research Institute. It meant that the Messerschmitt surpassed all domestic fighters, the series-produced MiG-3 included. [N 1]
At least one source states that 9209 was lost in November 1941, and the aircraft tested by the Air Forces Scientific Research Institute was actually Werk Nr 9692.
- ↑ It is quite clear why principal attention in the Soviet Union was paid to enemy fighter performance near the ground. It was just there where the main battles of the first phase of war took place and our aircraft designers were required urgently to improve the flight performance of domestic aircraft at low altitudes.