The Messerschmitt Bf 109D, designated Dora, was a single-seat fighter aircraft used and designed by Germany during the Spanish Civil War and the beginning of World War II.


The Bf 109D was the first of the 109 series to abandon the old Jumo engines, and begin the long precedent of Daimler-Benz powered fighters. In theory, the Dora would be powered by the new Daimler-Benz DB 600, a fuel-injected model which was much more powerful than the Jumo 210. The DB 600 was also much heavier than the Jumo, and because of this the 109D's airframe was strengthened.[1]

However, the DB 600 engines were in short supply, and priority was given to the He 111 bomber. Because of this, the 109D did not recieve the Daimler-Benz as planned. Instead, it was powered by the 640hp Jumo 210D. This variant of the Jumo 210 series was actually a downgrade from the model used on the Bf 109C. Unlike the previous model, the Jumo 210D was not fuel-injected. It would stall under negative g-force, and could not achieve the same high-altitude performance.[1][2]

Aside from this, the Dora was very similar to the Clara. For armament, it had four MG 17 machine guns; two in the nose and one in each wing.



By 1938, the Condor Legion had lost its advantage. The Spanish Republicans had introduced a new fighter, the I-16 Type 10, nicknamed the "Super Rata". The Bf 109B, the legion's main fighter was, for the first time, outclassed. The Legion began losing fighters rapidly, fighters that could not be replaced. The Bf 109C was sent to aid the war efforts, but its limited numbers made it a fruitless addition.[1][2]
Bf109D, c.1938, Spain.

A Condor Legion Bf 109D in Spain, 1938.

The Legion was only saved from destruction with the introduction of the Messerschmitt Bf 109D. The Dora arrived in the summer of 1938, and gained back the advantage over the Republican Air Force. The next year, the Bf 109E was introduced, and hammered the final nail into the coffin for the Republican Air Force. The Spanish Civil War ended soon after.


Bf109D in Poland

A Bf 109D during the Invasion of Poland.

By 1939, the Dora model still accounted for about one fourth of Germany's front-line fighter strength. These units were rapidly replaced by the main fighter model of the time, the Emil, throughout the Invasion of Poland. The Dora still performed well in Poland, as the opposition was mostly outdated and outclassed, usually both.[1][2]

Bf109 Dora

A Bf 109D in standard German camouflage.


By 1940, the Bf 109D was still in very limited service with the Luftwaffe. During the Phoney War, Bf 109Ds claimed multiple kills against British and French aircraft, including multiple Fairey Battle bombers and at least four French Morane fighters.[5]

The Bf 109D continued to be completely replaced by the 109E. By the time the Battle of France began, the Dora was only operated by a select few night fighter squadrons. It continued to serve in this role until it was taken out of service completely, later in 1940.


Bf 109D-0: A pre-production designation for the Dora. Identical to the C-1.

Bf 109D-1: Standard Bf 109D variant.

Bf 109D-2: A variant with a 20mm motorkanone. Just like the previous attempts, the motorkanone proved to be problematic and failed. This variant was never produced.

Bf 109D-3: A variant with one 20 mm MG FF canons in each wing, replacing the MG 17s in a manner similar to that of the later E-3. Never produced.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5
  3. 3.0 3.1
  5. "Messerschmitt Bf 109 A–D series", Jackson, Robert, Osprey Publishing, Jan 20, 2015

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.