The Me-109 was the best known and most produced German fighter of World War II. It was the backbone of the German fighter command and ruled the skies over Europe from 1939 to 1941, as Hitler spread his empire over the continent. The Me-109s earned the respect of Germany's enemies in every theater of conflict and were greatly feared by Allied bomber crews during the later half of the war.
Designed by Willie Messerschmitt in 1934, the Bf 109 was first flown in September 1935. This prototype was powered by a Rolls-Royce Kestrel in-line engine because the engine that the Bf 109 was designed for, the Junkers Jumo 210, was not yet available. In July 1938, the firm that initiated the design (Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG), was redesignated Messerschmitt AG, so later Messerschmitt designs often carried the prefix "Me" instead of "Bf." Over 33,000 were produced during the war, only a handful remain.