During the 1930's one of several fundamental fighter debates concerned the Long-Range Escort. Generally assumed to be twin engined, and have a crew of 2, such aircraft were to accompany Bombers in to enemy territory and protect them from interception. Apart from Britain, most nations equipped themselves with such machines. But in the stern test of battle their inability to dogfight put them at a grave disadvantage. The only reason the RAF regretted omitting such an aircraft - a gap temporarily filled by Bristol Blenheim light bombers - was that they were ideal candidates for Radar equipped Night Fighters, something not dreamed of when the big fighters were planned. In the Luftwaffe the designation was called a "Zerstorer" (Destroyer). The BFW company flew the prorotype Bf 110 on 12th May 1936, and though extremely underpowered with 2 730 hp Jumo 210 Ga engines the first production version of July 1938 carried heavy armament and was apparently the basis of a truly outstanding warplane. By 1939 the definitive Bf 110C version was in production with the long awaited DB601 engine, and the general perception was that it would simply carve a swathe through any enemy airspace. Goering said to his new "Zerstorergruppen" - "You will be like Hannibal's cavalry protecting his elephants ; the Bombers are my elephants". They were the elite of the Luftwaffe. In Poland it was recognised that new tactics would be needed to overcome the Bf 110C's limited manoeverability, but the aircraft had proved useful in many roles. In Norway in April 1940 they accomplished much, and a force of 350 cut through opposition in the West in May 1940. But in the High Summer it was a very different story. ZG units were decimated over Britain, and on occasion had to be escorted by Bf 109's !. This did not seem important as the Me 210 was about to replace the Bf 110 ; but when the new aircraft proved to be a failure the Bf 110 had to be kept in production in a succession of improved versions. It received new radio, extra fuel capacity, bomb racks, different guns, cameras, Radar for Night Fighter variants, a 3rd seat for a Radar operator and a host of other equipment often supplied as a Field Conversion Kit. From September 1940 it did not fly over Britain but ranged over the Balkans, Crete, North Africa, The Eastern Front in Russia and in Germany itself as a Night Fighter. It was a Bf 110 that Rudolf Hess used in his ill fated flight to Scotland in 1941. Even in the later versions, which were burdened by more than a ton of extra equipment and handicapped by large Exhaust Flame-Dampers, performance was sufficient for an "Experte" to destroy several RAF heavy Bombers in one night. The top scoring German Night Fighter ace - Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer - notched up 121 kills. At all times the Bf 110 was docile and extremely pleasant to fly, unlike the Me 210 & Me 410. Production of this basically obsolescent aircraft was actually increased each year until 1944, long after it was planned to have been replaced. The first really big increase in weight had come in early 1941 with long range tanks, drop tanks and bombs on the D Series. With the E & F there were small increases in power. Some F Series aircraft were heavily armed and fitted with Upward Firing "Schrager Musik" (Jazz) Cannons and Lichtenstein Radar for Night Fighting which caused more drag on the airframe due to the aerial arrangement on the nose. The last version was the Bf 110G. This was improved with better engines, yet more firepower and much like the Bf 109 & Fw 190 was fitted with a succession of special weapons to take on the American Bombers by day & the RAF by Night. But by 1944 it was really past it's usefulness and many were lost whilst trying to intercept Bombers from both Air Forces. Bf 110C's during the Attack on France & the Low Countries in May 1940, Bf 110C-4's operating in the Mediterranean/North Africa theatre & a Bf 110G-4 Night Fighter in the RAF Museum at Hendon.