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Tom Cleaver
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Hasegawa (Pro Modeler) Bf-109G-2, Finnish Air Force

June 24, 2018 · in Aviation · · 8 · 2.4K

During the Winter War of 1939-40, Finland obtained 24 Brewster B-239 fighters, which were the first completely-modern fighters to equip the air force. These were U.S. Navy F2A-1s, and became the first-line fighter after the end of the war in March 1940. Finland joined with Germany in attacking the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, in what the Finns called The Continuation War and saw as an attempt to regain the territory that had been sacrificed in the peace treaty that concluded the Winter War.

The Red Air Force in the northern regions where the Finns operated was primarily equipped with I-152 and I-153 biplane fighters and I-16 monoplanes. The Soviets would operate the I-153 and I-16 in front line fighter roles in this region as late as the summer of 1943, though Lagg-3 and Yak-1 and Yak-7 fighters began appearing in late 1942. While almost always outnumbered, the Finnish Brewsters were technically superior to their opponents; when combined with pilots who had superior training, they maintained air superiority over their part of the front, with the B-239s eventually scoring 0ver 400 victories by the time Finland was forced to capitulate in September 1944.

The Finns had tried as early as 1938 to obtain first-line fighters from Germany, but had been refused. Even after going to war as Germany's ally, they were only able to obtain German war booty in the form of Curtiss H-75A-3 “Hawk” fighters taken over from France, for which they had to pay a”market” price! In December 1942, an agreement was reached to supply 30 first-line Bf-109G-2 fighters to equip one fighter wing, with the Germans agreeing to supply replacements for losses. The agreement was signed February 1, 1943. The aircraft were supplied in two batches, 14 brand-new Bf-109G-2s that arrived March 13 and 16 completely-overhauled ex-Luftwaffe G-2s that arrived on May 10.

Lentolaivue (LeLv) 34 was formed as a new fighter regiment to operate the Bf-109G-2s. Most personnel came from LeLv 24, the premier Finnish fighter unit equipped with B-239s and including many of the leading aces. Pilots had gone to Germany for training in the Bf-109 prior to joining the unit. Major Olavi Ehrenrooth was the first CO, but was killed in a flying accident on March 27, 1943. Major Eino Luukanen assumed command, and would remain LeLv 34 CO until the end of the war.

The Messerschmitts first made their presence known to the Red Air Force on March 24, 1943, when Warrant Officer Ilmari Juutilanen shot down a Pe-2 over the Estonian coast. It was the first of an eventual 58 victories Juutilanen would score while flying the Bf-109, atop 36 victories scored in the Fokker D.XXI during the Winter War and with the B-239 in the Continuation War, making him the Finnish Ace of Aces with 94 victories.

The Finns generally operated their Bf-109s in flights of two or four, to intercept Soviet aircraft over the front lines and to protect Helsinki from bombing raids. There were larger battles, with the first of these coming May 20, when five Bf-109s led by Captain Olli Puhakka engaged 23 Soviet fighters, shooting down one I-16 and one Yak-1, while Lt. Paavo Myllyla with four Bf-109s intercepted 12 I-153 Chaikas and shot down two. Though the Chaika was technically outclassed by the Bf-109 in almost all categories, its pilots would give the Finnish 109 pilots difficulty throughout the period of the Chaika's remaining service because of its agile maneuverability.

On May 21, Major Luukanen led 11 Bf-109s to intercept four Il-2s escorted by 17 Lagg-3s and La-5s. 16 B-239s and 12 German-flown Fw-190s from JG 54 joined in the fight. Luukanen's force scored two Il-2s, two Lagg-3s and two La-5s before the five Soviet survivors fled the scene of battle. Similar battles were fought over the Karelian peninsula for the rest of 1943, with the Finns consistently out-scoring their Soviet opponents.

By early 1944, the Finns were down to thirteen operational Bf-109s, despite German replacements which had provided a total of 48 Bf-109G-2s. A new agreement was concluded on March 15, 1944, to provide another 30 Bf-109G-6 fighters, thus allowing the Finns to equip two fighter regiments with Messerschmitts. 15 of the Bf-109G-6s arrived by March 18, allowing LeLv 34 to transfer their surviving Bf-109G-2s to the B-239-equipped LeLv 24, which in turn passed their 15 surviving B-239s on to LeLv 26. The Finnish State Aircraft Factory had managed to re-build several damaged Bf-109G-2s by replacing damaged parts of one with undamaged parts of another, so that LeLv 24 had 18 Bf-109G-2s by the time the Soviet offensive began on June 9, 1944, that would finally push Finland out of the war within 90 days.

Fighting over the front during the summer of 1944 against the Soviet offensive was an almost-daily affair for both Bf-109-equipped units. For instance, on June 10, Lt. Sarjamo led 4 Bf-109G-2s of 2/HleLv 24 against 10 Pe-2s escorted by 60 Yak and Lavochkin fighters, shooting down three Pe-2s before diving away from the escorts. Later that day, Captain Jouko Myllymaki led his flight of four Bf-109G-2s against a Soviet formation of 36 Pe-2s escorted by over 40 La-5s, shooting down three Pe-2s and two La-5s, again for no losses by the Finns.

On June 19, LeLv 24 received eight new Bf-109G-6s to the third flight, while LeLv 34 received six to make good losses.

Throughout June and July, the Messerschmitts attacked Soviet formations over the front, with particularly difficult battles over Viipuri-Tali area. One particularly large engagement on June 28 saw a flight led by Captain Hans Wind of LeLv 24 lead 11 Bf-109s against 20 Il-2s and 20 Pe-2s that were attacking Finnish positions, shooting down eight Il-2s, two Pe-2s and an escorting La-5, while that afternoon Captain Puhakka of 3/HleLv 34 intercepted 60 Il-2s escorted by 40 fighters; Lt. Puro of 2/HleLv 24 arrived with 8 Bf-109G-2s and in the ensuing air battle the Soviets lost six IL-2s, two Yak-3s, two Yak-9s and one P-39 Airacobra. In all on that one day, HleLv 24 scored 33 victories while HleLv 34 scored another 10, all without loss, though a wound suffered by Captain Hans Wind put him out of action for the remainder of the war.

During the Soviet offensive, which lasted 38 days, The Finnish Bf-109s and B-239s claimed 425 Soviet aircraft destroyed and another 78 damaged, while the Fw-190s of II/JG 54 led by Major Erich Rudorffer scored a further 126 victories.

The last victories of the Continuation War came on August 8, 1944, when Major Luukanen's four Bf-109G-6s intercepted six Il-2s escorted by six Yak-9s, shooting down on Il-2 and two Yak-9s. The truce was signed on September 4, 1944. Finland maintained its independence by confirming the border created by the Winter War, with additional territory ceded from northeastern Finland.

HleLv 34 scored a total of 345 victories on Bf-109s, losing 13 aircraft in air-to-air combat and five to anti-aircraft fire, with 12 pilots killed and one becoming a POW. HLeLv24 had scored 300 victories while flying the Bf-109 in the last six months of the conflict, losing 12 109s in combat and two in an air raid, with 9 pilots killed and one becoming a POW. Total Bf-109 victories - including 3 by HLeLv30 and 15 by HleLv 28 right at the end - was 663 for a total loss of 24, a victory ratio of 25-1.

Of 162 Bf-109Gs supplied during the war, the Finns had 102 available at the end. The Paris Agreement of 1947 limited them to 60 front-line fighters, with the rest put into storage and used for attrition. 41 aircraft were destroyed or damaged beyond repair in post-war service, with the last flight being made by Lt. Col. Erkki Heinila on March 13, 1954, to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the Bf-109's arrival in Finland.

MT-213 - the Career of a Fighter:

MT-213, one of the first batch of Bf-109G-2s delivered to the Finnish Air Force, was delivered from the Messerschmitt factory at Weiner-Neustadt, Austria, on March 9, 1943, and was flown to Malmi, Finland, on March 16, 1943. The aircraft was assigned to 3/HleLv 34, to be flown by Lt. Reino Valli. On landing at Utti airfield following combat on May 20, 1943, Lt. Valli taxied into the wing of a Luftwaffe Junkers W.34. 45 minutes later, Master Sergeant Onni Paronen in MT-216 collided with MT-213 while taxying and smashed the rear fuselage. MT-213 was delivered to the State Aircraft Factory on June 8, 1943 for major repairs.

During its time at the State Aircraft Factory, MT-213 became one of only a few Bf-109 (including MT-221, MT-230 and MT-232 as well as MT-213) to be repainted in the standard Finnish Air Force camouflage scheme of green and black upper surfaces with light blue lower surfaces during the war; this pattern was applied to some surviving Bf-109s as they were overhauled after the war.

MT-213 returned to service with 1/LeLv 34 on January 3, 1944. During a training flight on February 27, 1944, Master Sergeant Nils Katajainen experienced engine failure and crash landed at Suulajaarvi airfield. During repair at the field air depot, the darker national markings were applied.

Following repairs, the aircraft was delivered two 2/HleLv 24, and assigned to Lt. Eero Riihikallio, who scored three victories while flying MT-213 before it was sent on to 2/HleLv 28, based north of Lake Ladoga, where it was assigned to Lt. Vaaino Vuori. On July 18, 1944, Lt. Esko Haalfors stalled on takeoff at Utti airfield. MT-213 was damaged beyond repair and was stricken off charge on August 30 with a total 158 flying hours logged in Finnish service.

MT-213 was successful in air combat. On May 5, 1943, Sergeant Nuorala shot down an La-5. On May 16, Master Sergeant Lehtovaara shot down two Lagg-3s. Sergeant Alakoski shot down one I-153 on May 16 and another on May 17. Following assignment to HleLv 24, Sergeant Peltola shot down an La-5 on June 2, 1944 while Lt. Lumme shot down a Pe-2 on June 10. Regular pilot Riikikallio got an La-5 on June 17, and two La-5s on June 23. On the same day St. Halonen shot down an La-5. MT-213s last combat victory came when Lt. Nyman shot down an La-5 on July 6,1944, before the Messerschmitt was sent on to HleLv 28 at the end of the week. (Where it was damaged beyond repair in a training accident on 18 July, 1944. Ed)

MT-213's combat logbook is typical of a Second World War fighter aircraft, in that her “regular” pilot flew her only occasionally, while she was the victim of ham-handedness on the part of her pilots and others on three occasions, before being written off in an operational accident.

As part of their production agreement with Revell-Monogram, provided a Bf-109G-4 kit which was released in 2003 by Pro-Modeler. This kit has a different upper cowling part to cater to the 7.7mm machine guns carried by the type, and resin wheels of the earlier, narrower type used by the G-4. Otherwise the kit is the same Bf-109G-6 kit, which means a modeler needs to be aware of which small things - such as the plate for the Morane antenna in the lower wing, and the filler points on the fuselage right side - are not used on the earlier Gustav.

The major physical difference between the Bf-109G-4 and the earlier Bf-109G-2 is the retractable tail wheel of the G-2. This requires a modeler open up the covered-over tail wheel well, and find a substitute gear leg and wheel. This stumped me for a while, before I remembered having an extra tail wheel for a Tamiya Beaufighter. While it may not be exactly right for a Bf-109, the wheel is the right size, and when it is attached in position it looks right.

Fortunately, I had the old Aeromaster Finnish Fighters decal sheet instructions, which has a painting diagram for MT-213 that shows both left and right sides as well as upper and lower views. This is important, because the left and right sides are differently painted along the demarcation line between upper and lower camouflage.

There are no decals for MT-213 available. However, Aeromaster has three 1/32 Bf-109 sheets, with a Finnish 109G-6 on each. Using these I was able to get the darker national markings for the upper wings and fuselage, with lighter color markings for the lower wing, and to piece together the serial number, using a “2", “1,” and “3" from each sheet. Only a few of the technical markings were re-applied after the repaint, so I applied those I could see in photos.

MT-213 is the most distinctively-painted of the Finnish 109s to see service during the war. Since there are no decals for it, I'm fairly sure there aren't 50 of them out there just like it.

Reader reactions:
9  Awesome

19 additional images. Click to enlarge.

8 responses

  1. Knew this builder right away...nice all-around job, TC

  2. An absolute beauty! This version really is unique, so is the story around it! Thanks Tom and congratulations my friend. Michel.

  3. Whoa! Fantastic build! Now, tell me again what's wrong with this sorry ol Hasegawa kit? Looks GRRRREAT to my Mk I's!
    BTW, I've kept ALL my sorry ol Hasegawa 109s! Luv 'em!

  4. Really fine 109. Great finish. Love the scheme you modeled.

  5. Lovely work Tom, great scheme.

  6. A great story,Tom. I'm always impressed by the Finns; they achieved so much with so little!. Your model looks excellent too & I'll note the finer points of difference when I tackle my next '109. It will be Finnish, of course>

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