The last of the flyable aircraft planned for IL-2: Battle of Normandy has arrived. The Messerschmitt Me410 was the offshoot of the much maligned Me210 heavy fighter and it comes with interesting history and capabilities. This review explores the real world history and the virtual companion that 1CGS has built for the Great Battles Series. Does it live up (or down) to the Me410’s reputation? What does the Me410 add to the series? Let’s have a look!
The complex history of the Me210 and 410
To fully understand the Me410 and its role in IL-2: Battle of Normandy, it’s important to understand its history. That history starts not with the Me410 but its immediate and related predecessor. I’m talking about the Me210.
Before trials of the Bf110 heavy fighter were even complete, the designers at Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the German Air Ministry (the RLM) were already contemplating its replacement. The request was for the designers to create a follow-up of the Bf110 with the desire for it to be a multi-role aircraft being capable of performing the roles of Zerstörer and Sturzkampfflugzeug – in other words “heavy fighter” and “dive bomber.” The design would soon be named Me210 and the air ministry (RLM) saw the new aircraft as replacing both Bf110 and Ju87 in combat.
A cacophony of design and development problems would befall the Me210 and it’s entry into combat was delayed for years. By February 1942, it was clear that the Me210 project was in trouble. Production ceased while airframes for over 800 examples sat in various stages of completion and a demoralized Willy Messerschmitt contemplated his next steps.
Infighting between design staff and Messerschmitt meant back and forth redesigns of the wing, fuselage, and tail section. With the pressure on to deliver the Me210 to operational units as quickly as possible, prototypes were also rushed and early test flight reports were less than encouraging. The aircraft was prone to stalls, controls were heavy and unbalanced, and ground loops were frequent.
The fuselage would be lengthened (and not for the last time) and various tweaks to the design were made to attempt to solve the immediate problems. These allowed the initial run of the Me210 to be introduced into limited service in places like Sicily. Problems continued and production remained constrained. A series of improvements were then undertaken that would ultimately be called Me410.
Although the Me210 and Me410 are undoubtedly related and visually appear to be the same, the devil as they say is in the details. There were many changes. Chief among those improvements were a longer fuselage, redesigned wing planform (particularly along the leading edges), leading edge slats, and the more powerful DB603 engine giving the aircraft a top speed of 525 km/h.
The modifications were all accepted into service and the bad memory of the Me210 was intended to be expunged by renaming it Me410 (the Me310 was a related but separate development). The Hungarian Me210Ca also deserves a small note as this hybrid of a Me210 and Me410 design ended up proving superior to the earlier Me210 designs and the type did well in its limited service.
The Me410 was thrown into combat in a variety of different places. In the Mediterranean the type operated alongside the few Me210s still in theatre flying mostly reconnaissance sorties. Meanwhile, in France V./KG 2 was created and began bombing England in nocturnal raids against Portsmouth, Southampton, Brighton and even London. The type also was flown in the night intruder role carrying out attacks against Allied airbases and circling bombers. This campaign would continue until midway through 1944. They faced considerable resistance and many Me410s were shot down by Mosquito night-fighters.
The type was also used in concert with other Luftwaffe types to attempt to stem the flow of Allied bombers that were attacking during both day and night. The Me410 initially found some success in 1943 against the long-range Allied bomber missions that mostly saw their escort fighters turned around before the Zerstörer were employed.
By 1944 success had turned to failure as longer ranged fighters like the P-38, P-47, and P-51 began to intercept the Zerstörer formations. In one recorded instance, of a flight of 13 Me410 were sent against the bomber stream with only one returning to base. The Me410’s time was up and the type was gradually phased out with crews from both bomber and Zerstörer squadrons typically moving to the Me262 or Ar234.
Roles for the Me410 in IL-2
With so much of the Me410’s history typically known to revolve around its Zerstörer role, I’ve seen more than a few comments actively wondering what the role of the Me410 is in IL-2: Battle of Normandy seeing as we have no heavy bomber stream to confront. Fortunately, as we’ve learned above, the Me410 saw plenty of use as a fast bomber and here I can see it being used often in the sim.
To the first point, my examination of the history above suggests to me that a significant part of the Me410’s history on the western front saw it engaged in nighttime bomber raids against the coast of England as well as inland into London. Although we don’t have London itself on the map, most of the other targeted cities are available for those nighttime raids. So, if it’s a historical mission you wish to fly, this is what it’s all about.
Missions were typically conducted at 4,000 and 5,000 meters and flown in shallow dive-bombing runs giving the Me410s tremendous speed suitable to exit the area quickly and get back over the Channel.
We don’t have B-17, B-24, Halifax, or Lancaster heavy bombers to shoot at (maybe one day) but in the meantime the B-25 and B-26 bombers are at least a challenge enough to give the Me410 something to shoot at with its conventional armament or with the massive BK5.
There’s also the legitimate question of how the Me410 compares to the Bf110G-2. Do you take the much maligned “successor” to the Bf110 design or stick with the tried and true original?
In online scenarios, I can see the Me410 being used in much the way that the Bf110 is. Rarely as a fighter but frequently as an attacker. Unlike the Bf110G-2, the Me410 has a Stuvi dive-bombing sight meaning that it has the potential to be an even more precise attacker. It’s also worth comparing and contrasting the two type’s performance to see how they measure up. This is a case where the Bf110G-2 sometimes comes in with the advantage, there are instances where the Me410 is more impressive.
I did do a back to back comparison test on the Kuban spring map flying the Me410 and Bf110G-2 at sea level to do a rough comparison of speed differences. The Bf110G-2 was at 100% fuel and fitted with a pair of SC250 bombs. It reached approximately 477 km/h in combat power. Using the same configuration with the Me410 netted 496 km/h. Almost 20km/h difference.
Visuals and sounds
1CGS did a great job once again modeling a very complicated airplane. From the relatively complex gunner station to the complex pilot position, everything that I had hopped to see is in place. Even the forward panel that swings out of the way to give you a better view while diving onto target is modeled. Kudos for the attention to detail.
The gunner station looks good and is very functional despite the obvious complexity.
The pilot position has a few different configurations depending on what role you’re taking on. I do find the armored glass really disrupts your clean view out the front and while I’ve had no issues with it, it just muddies the view. I imagine the real world version did too and the whole installation of it seems awkward to me.
Textures, sounds, and overall impressions of this aircraft are of one at the peak of what 1CGS has been able to offer. Tactical codes look great and let you recreate many historic combinations and damage decals are at the usual standard. I really don’t have any complaints about the visuals or the sounds.
Flying the Me410
In most regimes of flight, the Me410 seems to mostly have things together and in many ways the Me410 flies very predictably. Its perhaps not a surprise that it feels a bit like its predecessor, the Bf110.
Let’s talk the good parts first because it really is a generally decent airplane (clearly most of the Me210’s foibles were worked out). While doing normal operations like flying and making basic maneuvers, the Me410 feels good and relatively steady. It accelerates quickly and maintains a high cruise speed. One of the chief advantages versus the Bf110 is that your standard bombload is entirely contained in the weapons bay. You feel the extra weight but not the drag.
The elevator is generally effective while the ailerons are relatively average in effect and a bit of rudder is needed for more of a kick. Trying to follow an enemy fighter into a turn is a challenge as the ailerons don’t respond quickly enough and the aircraft is a bit ponderous to turn and roll at the same time. Once established, it does pull well up until the energy falls off. Engine power is excellent so you can power your way through some maneuvers but let it fall off too much and the aircraft tends to wallow and become unstable.
Landings are fine so long as you don’t get close to stall speed. Not until you’re established over the runway and are pulling back on the stick for the flare. It reminds me a bit of the Pe-2 in that regard as it wants to fight you as you get into the stall although the leading edge slats make things a bit easier to manage.
There are things that the Me410 does really well and some other things that it doesn’t do very well despite being asked to do them.
As a bomber destroyer the Me410 is very capable. The available weapon loadouts give Me410 pilots tremendous options when it comes to destroying larger aircraft.
The simplest upgrade is the replacement of the MG17 light machine guns with MG131 heavy machine guns (effectively making this a Me410B). There are modifications to include the WB151 20mm cannon gunpod which gives the Me410 a total of 4 MG151/20 cannons with the weapons bay taken up by the fitted pod. The 20mm cannons can also be swapped out entirely in favour of a pair of fearsome MK103 30mm cannons. The BK5 50mm cannon is another option firing the massive 50×419 mmR which can be used as a sniper weapon to take out bombers from a distance. It could also theoretically be used against ground targets too.
Each modification available comes with its own unique cockpit configuration featuring a variety of gunsights.
You can also choose to add the DB 603 Aa engines which add height to the engine’s critical altitude making it even more effective at higher altitudes and in thinner air. If the series ever adds a B-17, B-24, or Lancaster to the mix, the Me410 will take on a whole new light as a potent bomber destroyer. Provided the escort doesn’t show up.
As mentioned in the history section, the Me410 was also used as a light bomber and here it does well too. Its armament options are limited to either eight SD70 bombs, two SC250, a single SC500 or a single SB1000. The last one, the SB1000, is a specialized version intended to fit into the bomb bay of the Me410 and is equipped with a drogue chute to slow the bombs descent. The explosion is very large too.
This is all less than what the Bf110 can carry around but only slightly. The benefit is that all of these are carried inside the airplane.
It also comes with dive brakes and the Stuvi computing bombsight. The Stuvi is a gamechanger versus what is available in the Bf110 where you have to make a guess. Here you sit up in your seat and then place the target on the pipper and release. Its accurate and highly effective. To aid in that operation, the Me410 has dive brakes giving you excellent stability on the dive. Think of this less as a Stuka and more of a more agile Ju88 using a high-speed shallow dive with quick pull out followed by a rapid depature.
Forward firepower is good as well and even the default loadout is effective enough for strafing. The gunpods are more meant for bomber destroying but there’s no reason they can’t be used against ground targets (although they do take up the bomb bay). If available, the MG131 is a much more effective weapon than the MG 17 guns it replaces so always take those if you can.
The thing that the Me410 does badly at is fighting other fighters. Less responsive than the Mosquito, rolling only marginally better than the Typhoon (the worst rolling fighter in WWII) but with none of the precision, the Me410 is fast but not responsive and unlike the Bf110 it feels to me like an airplane that struggles in this secondary role. It’s also seemingly easier to bring down than the 110 taking fewer hits before something critical seems to fail.
I should mention the gunner station. The Me410’s gunner controls the MG131 machine guns remotely with the guns themselves pivoting from streamlined fairings. This gives the gunner a good view to the back (some radio and other equipment not withstanding) and an effective field of fire from above, below, and from the sides. The heavy machine guns are very effective at causing significant damage to attacking aircraft and these combined with the Me410’s speed makes it more survivable than other bombers in the 1943 and and 1944 time period.
The Me410 in real life was the resuscitation of a failed heavy fighter project that ultimately had little impact on the war. Despite all that, I find it an absolutely fascinating airplane. In its Me410 form, it wasn’t a bad aircraft, but it was one that was asked to do a lot and never fully lived up to its designed purpose.
That’s the real world airplane and in some ways I think the sim version will share in the same fate. It’s an effective aircraft and indeed there are a few reasons to pick the Me410 over the Bf110G-2. With slight increases in speed, a notable drag improvement when carrying bombs, and the highly effective Stuvi dive bombing sight, the Me410 is less of a Bf110 successor and more of a Ju87 and even Ju88 successor. It carries less ordinance but it has the opportunity to place that ordinance more precisely and with better speed and therefore survivability than its predecessors.
The type’s maladies are reasonably well represented in all aspects and the Me410 feels like an airplane that will never make the same kind of splash that something like the Ar234 or Mosquito will. At the same time, it proves to be an effective and, at the very least, interesting airplane to fly around.
Yet another excellent aircraft from 1CGS. A top quality effort of a lesser known, lesser used, but ultimately extremely fascinating World War II warbird.