Combat service with Finland
The Finnish Air Force received its first Bf 109s in 1943. A total of 162 aircraft of this type were ordered from Germany. The first aircraft arrived in Finland on 13 March 1943. In total, 159 aircraft were taken into service. Two G-6s and one G-8 were destroyed en route to Finland. Forty-eight of the Bf 109s received were G-2s, 109 were G-6s and two were G-8s reconnaissance aircraft. The Bf 109 was the aircraft type that has served in the largest numbers in the Finnish Air Force. The aircraft was nicknamed “Mersu” which means “Merc” the same as the nickname for Mercedes-Benz cars, whose parent company Daimler-Benz produced the Bf 109 engine. The Bf 109 carried the designation MT and a 3-digit identification number. With the arrival of the 109s, the Finns once again could fight on a more even basis with their Soviet counterparts, as they could match the latest Soviet fighters. The last of the aircraft arrived in Finland on 20 August 1944, just before the armistice with the Soviet Union.
During the Continuation War, Bf 109s were in service with fighter squadrons 24, 28, 30 and 34:
|Finnish Bf 109G tally:|
|HLeLv 24||HLeLv 28||HLeLv 30||HLeLv 34|
Losses in combat
The Finns scored 667 confirmed victories with the type, losing 34 Bf 109s to enemy fighters or anti-aircraft fire. A further 16 were lost in accidents and eight aircraft were destroyed on the ground. Twenty-three pilots were killed.
One hundred and two Bf 109s survived the war, and the aircraft remained the main fighter of the Finnish Air Force for almost a decade after the end of World War II. Despite the aircraft’s expected short lifespan (it was built as a wartime aircraft and was calculated to last about 100–200 flight hours), it continued in service until spring 1954 when the Suomen Ilmavoimat entered the Jet Age with the De Havilland Vampire. The last flight of the Bf 109 was on 13 March 1954 by Major Erkki Heinilä in aircraft MT-507.
Museum aircraft in Finland
Several Bf 109s are preserved in Finland. MT-452 is on display at the airfield in Utti, and the Central Finland Aviation Museum displays MT-507, which was the last flying Bf 109 of the FAF. The Finnish aircraft constructor Valtion Lentokonetehdas (State Aircraft Factory), also manufactured a fighter, called VL Pyörremyrsky, whose appearance greatly resembled the Bf 109 but which also features some significant improvements, such as significantly easier handling, different wing construction, and re-designed landing gear. One single aircraft was produced before the end of the war; it is today displayed at the Central Finland Aviation Museum. Further, the doctoral thesis by the Finnish aircraft expert Hannu Valtonen is called “Tavallisesta kuriositeetiksi – Kahden Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseon Messerschmitt Bf 109 -lentokoneen museoarvo” (From regular to a curiosity – A focus on the two Messerschmitt Bf 109s at the Central Finland Aviation Museum).
Pilot: Leino, Hemmo Kullervo
Finnish Pilot’s Emblem no. 812
Training: The course in Joroinen War Pilot Course no.1 during the Winter War
War plane types flown: Fokker D.XXI, Morane-Saulnier 406, Fiat G.50, Brewster B-239, Hurricane, Messerschmitt 109
Flying hours logged: 560 in Ilmavoimat service, 10,480 as an airline pilot.
Profession: Airline captain.
Aug 1.1942 LeLv14
Apr19, 1943 LeLv34
Resigned from service May15, 1945
Decorations: Freedom Medal 1st Class, Freedom Cross 4th Class, and Freedom Cross 4th Class with Oak Leaves.
Confirmed victories: 11 in 251 missions.
Messerschmitt BF 109G-6 (Wk-Nr 412122) MT-423/’White 3’ of SSgt Hemmo Leino, 1/HLeLv 34, Kymy, June 1944.
Leino scored 11 victories in 251 missions, flying Fokker D.XXIs with 3/LeLv 30, MS 406s with 1/LeLv 14 and Bf 109Gs with 1/HLeLv 34 – he was posted to the latter unit on 19 April 1943. A year later he was assigned MT-423, which had arrived directly on the squadron following its construction in Germany.
The new unit emblem (derived from an idea put forward by its Commanding Officer), comprising a fledgling eagle, was painted onto the rudder of this fighter and MT-451 in May 1944. These were the only known wartime applications of the badge.
SSgt Leino’s aircraft was a Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6/R6. Germany sought to increase her anti-bomber capability due to devastating attacks by the R.A.F. and U.S. Air Forces on her cities. This resulted in the development of the Bf 109G-6/R6 as a bomber destroyer. MT-423 is a Bf 109G6/R6 this is a tall-tailed example with three 20mm cannon, plus two 13mm machine guns. This gave the Bf 109G-6 a significant weapons package. Stock examples of the Bf 109G-6/R6 carried two additional MG 151/20 cannon mounted one under each wing. These cannon had 140 rounds per gun allowing almost twelve seconds of fire. The Bf 109G6/R6 had one of the most powerful set of guns, second only to the FW 190A8, Bf 110G-2 and possibly the FW 190A4.
The Bf 109G6/R6 was an excellent bomber interceptor, however, its heavy armament made it slow in the roll and climb ratios. In order to rectify this problem, many Finnish aircraft had their under-wing canon removed at unit level, which increased the 109s performance considerably. This example has been modelled with the MG 151/20 cannon removed. The Bf109G-6s firepower is surpassed only by the FW190A series and the Bf110G-2, and it can outclimb both FW190As (as well as operate well at high-altitude), and is faster than the Bf110G-2. The Bf 109G-6/R6s guns are effective at long ranges, unlike the Bf 109K’s 30mm cannon, thus it can avoid opponents well enough to deliver a decisive encounter and withdraw without having to get within range of its target. The Bf 109 was enthusiastically supported by its Finnish pilots, principally due to giving the Finnish Air Force parity with its Soviet opponents.
Kit: The Unimodel 1/48 scale kit contains a pair of 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons installed in conformal gun pods and two 79 US Gal drop tanks, 1 × 250 kg (551 lb) bomb and 4 × 50 kg (110 lb) are also supplied. Standard and Erla Haube canopies are supplied and the cockpit is well furnished. I decided to use Techmod Hakaristi’s for the wings and fuselage as the decals supplied were not up to standard. This kit is a little coarse, however the outline is good and it represents a good example of the “Gunboat”.
- Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 18, LeR3 by Kalevi Keskinen & Kari Stenman, Stenman Publishing.
- Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 23, Sotamaalaus/Warpaint by Kalevi Keskinen & Kari Stenman, Stenman Publishing.
- IPMS Stockholm Magazine, Finnish Air Force camouflage and markings 1940-44 2004/05 edition.
- Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 23, Finnish Aces of World War 2 by Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinen, 5th Impression 2008.