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When Darkness Falls: Nightfighting (September 1940 - May 1945)

When Darkness Falls: Nightfighting (September 1940 - May 1945)



A night fighter (also all-weather fighter or all-weather interceptor) is a fighter aircraft adapted for use at night or in other times of bad visibility. Originally these were large twin-engine fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 110 or small bombers fitted with radar antennas which were meant to be used against large bombers. In the jet age, these were generally two-seat fighters with a radar operator, a large search radar, and eventually radar-guided missiles. Automation with ground radars permitted the design of single-seat interceptors such as the F-102 which was armed with rockets, Falcon and Genie missiles. In the US Navy of the late 1950s, all-weather missile-armed fighters such as the F3H Demon generally were slower and less maneuverable than day fighters such as the F-8 Crusader which were armed with guns and heat seeking missiles to engage other fighters rather than bombers.
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RAF Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I Night Fighter - No. 277 Squadron, 1942 RAF Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I Night Fighter - No. 277 Squadron, 1942 (1:72 Scale)

The Boulton Paul Defiant was a result of an Air Ministry specification (F.9/35) issued before the onset of WWII. It was a low-wing, cantilever monoplane, two-seat fighter of all-metal construction, with retractable landing gear, looking not unlike the Hurricane.

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German Fieseler Fi 156C-2 Storch Reconnaissance Aircraft - III./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1, Belgium, May 1944 German Fieseler Fi 156C-2 Storch Reconnaissance Aircraft - III./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1, Belgium, May 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The Fieseler Fi 156 Storch (stork) was a small German liaison aircraft built by Fieseler before and during World War II, and production continued in other countries into the 1950s for the private market. It remains famous to this day for its excellent STOL performance, and French-built later variants often appear at air shows.

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Captured Fieseler Fi 156C-2 Storch Reconnaissance Aircraft - AVM Harry Broadhurst,83rd Group Air Officer Commanding, 2nd Tactical Air Force, France, Summer 1944 Captured Fieseler Fi 156C-2 Storch Reconnaissance Aircraft - AVM Harry Broadhurst, 83rd Group Air Officer Commanding, 2nd Tactical Air Force, France, Summer 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The Fieseler Fi 156 Storch (stork) was a small German liaison aircraft built by Fieseler before and during World War II, and production continued in other countries into the 1950s for the private market. It remains famous to this day for its excellent STOL performance, and French-built later variants often appear at air shows.

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RAF Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. II Night Fighter - No.151 Squadron, Wittering, England, February 1941 RAF Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. II Night Fighter - No.151 Squadron, Wittering, England, February 1941 (1:72 Scale)

The Boulton Paul Defiant was a result of an Air Ministry specification (F.9/35) issued before the onset of WWII. It was a low-wing, cantilever monoplane, two-seat fighter of all-metal construction, with retractable landing gear, looking not unlike the Hurricane.

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German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 Night Fighter - G9+WD, Oberleutnant Martin Drewes, Gruppenkommander III./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1, Laon-Athies, France, March 1944 German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 Night Fighter - "G9+WD", Oberleutnant Martin Drewes, Gruppenkommander III./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1, Laon-Athies, France, March 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The Messerschmitt Bf 110 was an aircraft of very mixed fortunes. It has often been criticized for its failure during the Battle of Britain, while its successes in other fields have been largely ignored.

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German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 Night Fighter - G9+EF, Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, IV./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1, St. Trond, October 1944 German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 Night Fighter - "G9+EF", Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, IV./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1, St. Trond, October 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The Messerschmitt Bf 110 was an aircraft of very mixed fortunes. It has often been criticized for its failure during the Battle of Britain, while its successes in other fields have been largely ignored.

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German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 Night Fighter - Willi Herget, 3C+LB, Stab I./Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 Night Fighter - Willi Herget, "3C+LB," Stab I./Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 (1:72 Scale)

The Messerschmitt Bf 110 was an aircraft of very mixed fortunes. It has often been criticized for its failure during the Battle of Britain, while its successes in other fields have been largely ignored.

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German Fieseler Fi 156C Storch Air Ambulance - KN+NO German Fieseler Fi 156C Storch Air Ambulance - "KN+NO" (1:72 Scale)

The Fieseler Fi 156 Storch (stork) was a small German liaison aircraft built by Fieseler before and during World War II, and production continued in other countries into the 1950s for the private market. It remains famous to this day for its excellent STOL performance, and French-built later variants often appear at air shows.

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RAF Bristol Beaufighter IF Night Fighter - R2101/NG-R, John Cunningham, No. 604 Squadron, RAF Middle Wallop, England, December 1940 RAF Bristol Beaufighter IF Night Fighter - R2101/NG-R, John Cunningham, No. 604 Squadron, RAF Middle Wallop, England, December 1940 (1:72 Scale)

Developed as a private venture by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, the Beaufighter was a two-seat all-metal fighter using components from the Beaufort torpedo-bomber. First flown on July 17th, 1939, the Beaufighter eventually equipped 52 RAF squadrons, giving outstanding service during World War II, in particular as a night-fighter and torpedo-bomber (where the aircraft were affectionally known as 'Torbeaus').

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USAAF Bristol Beaufighter VIF Night Fighter - KW147, 415th Night Fighter Squadron, 12th U.S. Army Air Force, Le Vallon, Southern France, Sept. 1944 USAAF Bristol Beaufighter VIF Night Fighter - "KW147", 415th Night Fighter Squadron, 12th U.S. Army Air Force, Le Vallon, Southern France, Sept. 1944 (1:72 Scale)

Developed as a private venture by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, the Beaufighter was a two-seat all-metal fighter using components from the Beaufort torpedo-bomber. First flown on July 17th, 1939, the Beaufighter eventually equipped 52 RAF squadrons, giving outstanding service during World War II, in particular as a night-fighter and torpedo-bomber (where the aircraft were affectionally known as 'Torbeaus').

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RAAF Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. II Night Fighter - Flight Sgt. J L Goulter, No. 151 Squadron, RAF Wittering, England, January 1941 RAAF Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. II Night Fighter - Flight Sgt. J L Goulter, No. 151 Squadron, RAF Wittering, England, January 1941 (1:72 Scale)

The Boulton Paul Defiant was a result of an Air Ministry specification (F.9/35) issued before the onset of WWII. It was a low-wing, cantilever monoplane, two-seat fighter of all-metal construction, with retractable landing gear, looking not unlike the Hurricane.

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German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 Fighter - Oberleutnant Martin Becker, 3C+MK, 2./Nachtjagdgeschwader 4, Tavaux, France, 1944 German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 Fighter - Oberleutnant Martin Becker, "3C+MK," 2./Nachtjagdgeschwader 4, Tavaux, France, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The Messerschmitt Bf 110 was an aircraft of very mixed fortunes. It has often been criticized for its failure during the Battle of Britain, while its successes in other fields have been largely ignored.

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RAF Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I Night Fighter -  N1671, RAF Museum Hendon The Only Complete Survivor RAF Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I Night Fighter - N1671, RAF Museum Hendon 'The Only Complete Survivor' (1:72 Scale)

The Boulton Paul Defiant was a result of an Air Ministry specification (F.9/35) issued before the onset of WWII. It was a low-wing, cantilever monoplane, two-seat fighter of all-metal construction, with retractable landing gear, looking not unlike the Hurricane.

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RAF Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I Fighter -  No. 264 Squadron, Battle of Britain, August 1940 RAF Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I Fighter - No. 264 Squadron, Battle of Britain, August 1940 (1:72 Scale)

The Boulton Paul Defiant was a result of an Air Ministry specification (F.9/35) issued before the onset of WWII. It was a low-wing, cantilever monoplane, two-seat fighter of all-metal construction, with retractable landing gear, looking not unlike the Hurricane.

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German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 Night Fighter - 4./Nachtjagdgeschwader 3, Kjevik, Norway, 1945 German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 Night Fighter - 4./Nachtjagdgeschwader 3, Kjevik, Norway, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Messerschmitt Bf 110 was an aircraft of very mixed fortunes. It has often been criticized for its failure during the Battle of Britain, while its successes in other fields have been largely ignored.

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RAF De Havilland Mosquito Mk. VI Night Fighter - NFll HJ711, Elvington Aviation Museum, 2013 RAF De Havilland Mosquito Mk. VI Night Fighter - NFll HJ711, Elvington Aviation Museum, 2013 (1:72 Scale)

The "Mossie," as it was known affectionately by its British crews, was both simple in construction and design. It was a twin engine, single boom aircraft that placed the pilot and navigator in a side-by-side sitting configuration. The Mosquito was one of the most cost effective aircraft ever built because it was constructed out of wood.

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German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 Night Fighter - Oberleutnant Wolfgang Schnaufer, The Night Ghost of St.Trond, Nachtjagdgeschwader 1, St. Trond, Belgium, February 1944 German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 Night Fighter - Oberleutnant Wolfgang Schnaufer, "The Night Ghost of St.Trond", Nachtjagdgeschwader 1, St. Trond, Belgium, February 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The Messerschmitt Bf 110 was an aircraft of very mixed fortunes. It has often been criticized for its failure during the Battle of Britain, while its successes in other fields have been largely ignored.

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German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4/R6 Night Fighter - D5+RL, Nachtjagdgeschwader 3, RAF Museum Hendon German Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4/R6 Night Fighter - D5+RL, Nachtjagdgeschwader 3, RAF Museum Hendon (1:72 Scale)

The Messerschmitt Bf 110 was an aircraft of very mixed fortunes. It has often been criticized for its failure during the Battle of Britain, while its successes in other fields have been largely ignored.

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RAF Bristol Blenheim Mk. 1F Night Fighter - No. 29 Squadron, RAF Digby, England, June 1940 RAF Bristol Blenheim Mk. 1F Night Fighter - No. 29 Squadron, RAF Digby, England, June 1940 (1:72 Scale)

Bristol Aeroplane's Blenheim was a British high-speed light bomber used extensively in the early days of the Second World War. It was later adapted into a successful heavy fighter. A Canadian-made variant named the Bolingbroke was used as an anti-Submarine and training aircraft.

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German Dornier Do 215 B-5 Kauz Light Bomber - Gruppenkommandeur Helmut Lent, Stab III/Nachtjagdgeschwader 2, Leeuwarden, Holland, Summer 1942 German Dornier Do 215 B-5 Kauz Light Bomber - Gruppenkommandeur Helmut Lent, Stab III/Nachtjagdgeschwader 2, Leeuwarden, Holland, Summer 1942 (1:72 Scale)

The Dornier Do 215 was a light bomber, reconnaissance aircraft and later a night fighter aircraft produced by Dornier Werke GmbH originally produced for export, but in the event all except two served in the Luftwaffe. It was nicknamed "The Flying Pencil" because of its slim fuselage. The successor of the Do 215 was the Dornier Do 217.

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RAF Bristol Blenheim Mk. 1F Night Fighter - 54 OTU Squadron (Nightfighter Training Unit), Church Fenton, Summer 1941 RAF Bristol Blenheim Mk. 1F Night Fighter - 54 OTU Squadron (Nightfighter Training Unit), Church Fenton, Summer 1941 (1:72 Scale)

Bristol Aeroplane's Blenheim was a British high-speed light bomber used extensively in the early days of the Second World War. It was later adapted into a successful heavy fighter. A Canadian-made variant named the Bolingbroke was used as an anti-Submarine and training aircraft.

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RAF De Havilland Mosquito Mk. XVI Fighter-Bomber - No. 629 Squadron, Light Night Striking Force, No. 8 Group, RAF Graveley, 1944 RAF De Havilland Mosquito Mk. XVI Fighter-Bomber - No. 629 Squadron, Light Night Striking Force, No. 8 Group, RAF Graveley, 1944 (1:48 Scale)

The "Mossie," as it was known affectionately by its British crews, was both simple in construction and design. It was a twin engine, single boom aircraft that placed the pilot and navigator in a side-by-side sitting configuration. The Mosquito was one of the most cost effective aircraft ever built because it was constructed out of wood.

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German Heinkel He 111 P-2 Night Bomber - Kampfgeschwader 55, Greif, Villacoublay, France, 1940 German Heinkel He 111 P-2 Night Bomber - Kampfgeschwader 55, "Greif", Villacoublay, France, 1940 (1:48 Scale)

When World War I ended, the German Air Force was disbanded under the Treaty of Versailles, which required the German government to abandon all military aviation by October 1st, 1919.

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German Heinkel He 219A-7 "Uhu" Night Fighter - Denmark, 1945 German Heinkel He 219A-7 "Uhu" Night Fighter - Denmark, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The He 219 has been described as the best night fighter operated by the Luftwaffe during World War II. In fact, the "Uhu" (Owl) may have been the best night fighter of the war. Only the American Northrop P-61 "Black Widow" shares the He 219's unique status of being designed for night operation.

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German Heinkel He 219A-7 Uhu Night Fighter - Gruppenkommandeur Manfred Meurer, I/NJG 1, Eggebeck Airfield, Germany, January 1944 German Heinkel He 219A-7 "Uhu" Night Fighter - Gruppenkommandeur Manfred Meurer, I/NJG 1, Eggebeck Airfield, Germany, January 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The He 219 has been described as the best night fighter operated by the Luftwaffe during World War II. In fact, the "Uhu" (Owl) may have been the best night fighter of the war. Only the American Northrop P-61 "Black Widow" shares the He 219's unique status of being designed for night operation.

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