The Messerschmitt Bf 110 originated in a mid 1930's Luftwaffe requirement for a twin-engined long range escort fighter.
The main role of this proposed new aircraft was to be a bomber destroyer, which led to the term Zerstörer being applied to any German twin-engined fighter design.
The initial contenders were designs from Focke-Wulf, Henschel and the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG (later to become Messerschmitt).
After a change of requirements, the last design was left as the only contender.
Three prototypes were ordered, with the first flying in May 1936.
The development process eventually led to the first production aircraft (Bf 110 B-1 series) entering service in 1938.
By the time Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, the C-1 series was in service.
With more powerful engines than earlier versions, these were regarded by the Luftwaffe as being very useful long-range fighters, despite misgivings about the earlier versions being too sluggish.
The German crews learned to avoid in close-in dogfights with the Polish PZL P.11 fighters, and instead use their superior speed in high-speed passes.
The Bf 110 C-1 had excellent performance compared to most contemporary single-engined fighters, but over France and especially Great Britain things were to change.
The type was roughly equal to the Hurricane, but inferior to the Spitfire.
When used in high-level fighter sweeps, the Bf 110 was still an effective opponent, however, when the Bf 110's were ordered to provide close escort cover for medium-level bomber raids, then they were at a serious disadvantage and accordingly suffered heavy losses.
Despite this serious setback, the Bf 110 was to enjoy a quite long career where it underwent continuous upgrading and modifications, with nearly 6,000 being built. Partially, this was due to the failure of the Me 210 series, and the protracted development period of the improved Me 410.
However, the main key to the Bf 110's success was versatility, as it was to be used in no fewer than five different roles.
The first was the day fighter role, despite the losses suffered in the second half of 1940, the Bf 110 could still be a quite useful fighter, especially where its long range could be made to count.
It's performance and range also made it a natural for the reconnaissance role. It was also used as a fighter-bomber, with later versions carrying a bomb load of up to 1200 Kg. The final two roles saw the Bf 110 return to the role it was originally designed for, which was that of bomber-destroyer.
Starting in late 1940, the Bf 110 was used as a night fighter. Eventually, it was to become the most numerically important German night fighter, and was the typical aircraft of the top night fighter aces.
Experts such as these preferred the Bf 110 to the larger Ju 88 which should became the officially preferred night fighter in the later part of the war.
The Bf 110 was more nimble than the Ju 88, although both aircraft were so weighed down with specialized equipment and radar arrays that they became quite vulnerable to RAF Mosquito intruders.
Another role was that of day bomber destroyer, where the Bf 110 would find itself attacking bombers, instead of defending them as in 1940. It did not perform this role alone, as Bf 109’s, FW 190´s and Me 410's were also used as destroyers against the American strategic bombers. Appropriate armed fighters eventually became a vital part of the German defence system -- the so-called Pulk-Zerstörer units, whose task it was to break up the bomber formations using heavy concentrations of firepower, including under wing mortars.
Once a formation had been successfully attacked in this way, the disorganised survivors could be shot down much easier.
This tactic initially proved very successful, as long as there were little or no escort fighters. However, by early 1944 the Americans were introducing long-range escort fighters in great numbers. Also, they decided at this time to free up the fighters from close-in escort duties, thus allowing them to achieve maximum effectiveness.
With the Americans having eventually relearned the lessons of the Battle of Britain, the result was the defeat of the Luftwaffe day fighter force, with the lumbering Zerstörer units suffering heavy losses from which they never recovered.
A quick review of the available Bf 110 kits shows just how neglected this famous aircraft has been in 1/72 scale.
In the latter half of the 1990's, Italeri released a series of Bf 110 kits: the G-4/R-3 night fighter, this kit (the C-3/4), and the D-3 long-range fighter.
That mold was one of the last Italeri molds to feature raised panel lines.
The three kits use equal frames for the fuselage and wings, with different sprues for every version.
The Zerstörer kit has about 100 parts on two light grey frames and one transparent.
It includes also a full load of six bombs. Mold quality is quite good, with hardly any flash and a small amount of mold seam.
The raised panel lines are heavier than on (say) a classic Airfix kit, but a few coats of paint will look after that. Things are not very straightforward on the instruction sheet front. This is because of inconsistencies, mainly between the instructions and the back cover illustrations. Markings for two different Zerstörer Geschwader aircraft are supplied with the kit.
In the instructions, these are described wrong since the clerk at Italeri mixed the captions beneath the sketches. So it must be this way.
A C-3 Mark aircraft of 6. Staffel, ZG. 26 (U8 GL). This aircraft with a white nose and spinners is also depicted on the front cover artwork. ZG.26 was the well-known Horst Wessel unit, but that name isn`t mentioned anywhere in the kit.
A C-4 Mark aircraft of 3. Staffel ZG. 76 (M8 CP) which was the “Haifischgruppe”, with 'sharks teeth' noseart.
No date or location information is given in the instructions.
On the back cover of the box, there is a 4-way view of the 'sharks teeth' aircraft, and it is placed correctly in France, 1940.
There is one point worth mentioning right here and now: if either of these subjects should really be authentic, then it shouldn't be carrying any bombs, as this capability was only introduced in the C-4/B version planes of the Erprobungsgruppe 210 squadron.
We can only assume that Italeri originally planned some other versions or at least decal options, too.
Not any of the Bf 110 kits are currently 'live' in the Italeri catalogue any more, but some direct order outlets may still have some in stock.
As with most Italeri kits, the price should be reasonable. The interior colour for this kit is given as FS34227 "pale green", and that covers all areas, including cockpit, wheel wells, door interiors and undercarriage struts.
For Italeri, FS34227 means (in effect) RLM 02 Grau. An interior completely painted in RLM 02 would indicate an early-war aircraft --from 1941, cockpits were painted the much darker RLM 66 Schwarzgrau.
However, we can't use this information to reliably work out the dates for either of these subjects, as Italeri always quotes the exact same interior scheme for all kits of Luftwaffe aircraft, even if the year is 1945.
Be that as it may, since both here are early war subjects, and that it is correct to use RLM 02 everywhere as indicated at all. The main undercarriage was the strong point of this kit back in the nineties.
There are quite detailed roof sections for the main wheel bays, provided as separate parts.
Each main undercarriage unit consists of a main strut with a side strut attached, a separate rear support strut, a scissors link, and the unusual horizontal strut across the front of the main strut that is attached to the inside front of the main undercarriage door units.
The main doors feature a wrong rib detail which could be sanded off easily.
The tires have the correct deep horizontal treads seen on the real aircraft, and the wheels are correctly canted inwards at the base.
The cowling profile just above and ahead of the oil cooler intake is correctly reproduced, although the intake itself is 'solid' in the kit.
Now let's go through a list of other (mostly minor) problems that I encountered:
There is no landing light included in the kit. Italeri obviously just forgot about it.
You will just have to make one up.
The position of under wing bomb pylons is unclear.
The one-piece lower wing feature indicated holes, but these are for external fuel tanks provided in the other kits.
At one point in the instructions, these holes are shown as having been drilled out, but don't let that fool you.
Step 9 gives a rough idea of where to place the pylons.
The centreline rack must also be attached without any location pins or markers, but that's at least easy to do.
The under wing radiators fit very snugly up against the outer rear part of each nacelle, but there is still a couple of small gaps that need to be filled in.
The vertical splitters on radiator intakes are missing, even though they are shown on the cover artwork.
The exhaust stacks are designed to fit between upper and lower engine nacelles.
The bases of the stacks are rounded at each end, leaving small gaps between the stacks and the nacelles.
In general terms, the assembly of the engine blocks showed up some less than perfect parts fit, most notably when attaching the completed engine blocks to wings.
These are worth a separate section by themselves.
There are two large bombs on a centreline rack, and two smaller bombs underneath each wing.
The smaller bombs each have a pylon with two separate crutch units.
Each of the six bombs has the same construction flaw --you need to cut away part of the base on one of the fins (on the bomb half with just one fin) to get the two halves to fit together properly.
The instructions are that all of the bombs are to be painted black. Note that I didn't say anything about the actual size of the bombs--the instructions are of no help in this regard.
When I bought this kit my first reaction on looking at the bombs was 'they are not the right size'.
The C-4/B could carry two 250 Kg bombs under the fuselage. The C-7 was a development of the C-4/B that could carry two 500 Kg bombs.
According to all of the best references that I have, it was only with the E-1 version were under wing racks introduced, specifically for four 50 Kg bombs.
The larger bombs supplied with this kit are neither one thing nor the other based on my measurements -- they seem to be too large to be 250 Kg bombs (which is what they should be), and too small to be 500 Kg bombs.
The under wing bombs are even more puzzling, if that were possible. There is a quite popular three-view plate depicting a Bf 110E from ZG.26 erroneously based at Palermo near the end of 1940, painted in a (uncovered) tropical scheme, and carrying six black-painted bombs in the same configuration as this kit.
But the accompanying notes say that it was a C-4/B and that these are two 250 Kg and four 100 Kg bombs.
This just doesn't match the earlier statement that, under wing bombs were not carried by this version.
Finally, the bombs in the kit look much too large to be 50 Kg or even 100 Kg.
Painting and Decals
It never rains but it pours. When Italeri want to confuse you, they go the whole hog. They also manage to screw up the paint schemes.
Italeri mostly quote the same underside colour for Luftwaffe subjects, regardless of what it actually was, so this can be very confusing.
You have to look at the topside camouflage (among other things) to work out the correct colours or better start your own research.
Here the instructions and the rear cover quote two different upper colour schemes, neither of which is correct when you 'translate' from the Italeri FS/Model Master colours to RLM standards.
The instructions specify a splinter camouflage of FS 34092 European Green/FS 34097 Field Green.
In effect, this should mean RLM 70/RLM 71. This was the standard WW II Luftwaffe splinter scheme for just about everything.
The back cover quotes a scheme of FS34092 European Green/FS 34227 Pale Green. This would equate to a scheme of RLM 70/RLM 02 at least to me, which is somehow strange.
On the instructions, both subjects have the same splinter scheme. But the aircraft shown on the back cover has a different splinter scheme.
Of course, since you don't expect this to happen, it is very easy to get fooled.
There are other little differences as well, such as where the demarcation between the splinter camouflage and underside blue should be on the engine cowlings.
I'm willing to bet that the detail shown on the back cover is correct, where the demarcation line runs along the exhaust stack --this is also shown in photographs of the aircraft with the 'sharks teeth'.
Just the letters “C” must have been printed black on the undersides. All photos also shows the spinner tips being painted a light colour.
The instructions say that the spinners of both aircraft are to be painted completely white. However, the back cover views show just the tips painted yellow for the 'shark-unit' aircraft, which seems to tally with the photos.
The decals were of a common fidelity, but as usual you will have to bring your own Swastikas.
A quite fair amount of stencilling is provided, including those horrible but authentic little numeric markings for the rear segments of the fuselage.
The under wing crosses should be partially covered by the outer bomb racks. I say 'should be' because there are no diagrams or artwork that show this.
Accuracy and Detail
I think I've already covered most of the major accuracy issues.
This seems to be a sufficiently accurate model of the actual aircraft, beside the bombs!
Detail is good, but obviously not up the 'current' standards of other brands.
The kit correctly has both propellers turning in the same direction, just the spinners are a little bit oversized. The fuel caps on the wings are too near the wing root as far as I can see, which is a minor flaw.
The kit features an armored windscreen, which actually was just used on the “U8 GL”. This is another reason befor you build any Italeri subject that you have checked referances. The mentioned plate of the Palermo-based aircraft doesn't (apparently) show an armored windscreen.
However, I think we can safely say that this plate is absolutely not the most reliable source of information available! Apart from everything else, it purports to show a C-4/B, yet has the extended tail cone that was first used on the D-3. So sorry, s**t happens Keith Fretwell!
This kit is certainly a useful starting point for some of the early-war Bf 110 models, but be careful about just what version you want to build, especially if and when it comes to loading your kit with bombs. Italeri was not! Still, for the moment I look upon it as the glass being half-full as opposed to half-empty, when you think of what we had before Fujimi`s and these Italeri kits were released.
The one disappointment for me is that Italeri have not released a Pulk-Zerstörer variant.
However, it would probably be easy to modify the G-4 night fighter kit to this standard, and the under wing WfrGr 21 mortars can be obtained from a variety of sources, including Italeris own Me 410 kit.
My starting point for information was (as usual) my two standard Luftwaffe reference works:
Warplanes of the Luftwaffe, edited by David Donald.
The Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II, by David Mondey.
The Warplanes book is a quite useful reference, but it contains informations that ends up contradicting itself in places, such as I discovered in this and other reviews. Nevertheless there is very little on the web that is not contained in these references. For more detailed information on the Bf 110, you are looking at more specific sources like SQS or journal
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on Aeroscale.
The Messerschmitt Bf 110 originated in a mid 1930's Luftwaffe requirement for a twin-engined long range escort fighter. The main role of this proposed new aircraft was to be a bomber destroyer, which led to the term Zerstörer being applied to any German twin-engined fighter design.