History Podcasts

Messerschmitt Me 262

Messerschmitt Me 262

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Messerschmitt Me 262

The Me 262 is often called the 'First Jet fighter' and it is frequently said that had Hitler not insisted that it be produced as a bomber it could have had a much greater impact on World War II. Neither statement is exactly true as there were several other fighters which could claim to be the first jets and it was the production of the engine which slowed the numbers being built. What is clear that the Me 262 was the turbo jet fighter which had the most impact on the war and was an incredible technical achievement. In 1938 while the British scorned Frank Whittle's engine design the Germans had started to develop what was to become the Me262. The airframe was far ahead of the engines and the first one flew with a conventional engine in the nose.

On 25 March 1942 the first flight with turbojets took place although it was not very successful and only the normal engine in the nose saved the plane from a sticky end. Work progressed and by the time of the fourth prototype's flight in April 1943 the plane had an impressive performance. The engines needed perfecting and Hitler's demand that it must be able to carry bombs slowed the development until 1944 when the first test planes were delivered to a squadron (by this time Meteors were in use with 616 sqn RAF). Unlike the other early German jet fighters the Me 262 handled very well but the short engine life and continued problems with its guns jamming hampered it in combat. Several special weapon versions were made but even the bomber failed to cause the havoc expected. The Me 262 was technically impressive but only served as a last death rattle of Nazi technology coming too late to have much effect.

Messerschmitt Me 262 Picture Gallery

Total produced (est); 1,400
Maximum speed; 866km/h (538mph)
Range 1050km (650miles)
Weapons; normally 4x30mm cannon.

Messerschmitt Me 262 - History

The Me 262 was the first operational turbojet powered aircraft. In addition to being jet powered, it brought forth many advancements in aircraft design. Although sometimes viewed as a last ditch Nazi super-weapon, the Me 262 was under development before the start of WWII and did have some shortcomings. While never available in quantity, it was effectively used by the Luftwaffe in a variety of roles and proved itself a potent weapon.

Development began on the Me 262 in April 1939 which was code named Stormbird or Silver. A combination of excellent design and downright luck resulted in a very harmonious design while significantly stretching the known aeronautical boundaries. An example of this is the Me 262's wing. The characteristic swept design was the result of a need to place the center of gravity aft to compensate for heavier then expected engines. It was only later that the benefits of swept wings were realized.

The first test flights began April 18, 1941 with Me 262 V1 PC+UA. Since the planned BMW 003 turbojets were not ready at this time, a conventional Jumo 210 twelve cylinder mounted in the nose was used for power in order to test the airframe. Later when the BMW 003 engines were installed a test flight took place which resulted in both turbojets failing and the pilot bringing the plane in on the nose mounted engine alone.

PC+UC became the first fully jet propelled Me 262 on July 18, 1942. Fritz Wendel piloted this third prototype on the momentous occasion. The plane was powered by the new Jumo 004A-0 turbojets (at right).

The Jumo 004 would prove to be the source of the Me 262's greatest weakness. The turbojet was at this time still in it's infancy and many technological hurdles had to be overcome. This resulted in a lengthy period of development which led to continued delay in the development and production of the Me 262. One of the problems was that the materials necessary for proper heat proofing were extremely rare in war-torn Germany. Alternate materials had to be used which resulted in engines that were less than reliable. In some cases, a brand new engine would suffer catastrophic failure during initial run-up. Even engines that worked right had a very short operational life. Most would only last for 12 hours of operation. On many occasions, pilots were forced to land with one or both engines out.

Messerschmitt Me262 – First Operational Jet Fighter -16 Facts and Great Photos

Arriving late in the Second World War, the Messerschmitt Me262 was the world’s first operational jet fighter, a terrifying new weapon in the skies above Europe.

A Would Be War Winner

During the Second World War, the German high command had a great belief in the potential of technology. Superior weapons appropriately used had let them conquer Poland and France, as well as winning significant victories against their other opponents. They, therefore, had great faith in what new weapons could do.

The development of a jet fighter, which their engineers worked on throughout the war, was expected to bring them aerial superiority. It gave some a belief in the potential for victory at last after it became near impossible.

This airframe, Wrknr. 111711, was the first Me 262 to come into Allied hands when its German test pilot defected on March 31, 1945. The aircraft was then shipped to the United States for testing.

Built for BMW Engines

The Me262 was designed to be built around gas turbines being developed by BMW. These were a ground breaking development, and when work on the Me262 started in 1938, it had the potential to transform war in the skies.

Underground manufacture of Me 262s. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 141-2738 CC-BY-SA 3.0

A Jet Plane Without a Jet Engine

The first prototype of the rest of the aircraft was ready nearly a year before the BMW engine was. So that testing and development could continue, this model was fitted with a Jumo piston engine in place of jet engines, allowing it to take its first flight on the 18 th of April 1941.

Detail of the turbojet engine of the Messerchmitt 262 exhibited at the Deutsches Museum.Photo: Nicola Giorgione CC BY-SA 4.0

All Together Now

The fuselage was finally combined with a pair of jet engines in early 1942. The first jet-powered flight by an Me262 took place in March that year. The piston engine was kept in case the jet engines failed.

The Jumo 004 powered the world’s first operational jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262. The engine’s development began in 1937, but large-scale production did not begin until late 1944. By the time Germany surrendered in May 1945, more than 5,000 engines had been produced.Photo: mark6mauno CC BY 2.0

A Troubled Start

Such safety precautions proved to be wise. Just after takeoff on that first flight, the jet engines failed. It was only thanks to the luck and skill of the pilot that the plane was landed in one piece.

Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe (Swallow).Photo: David Thompson CC BY 2.0

A Change of Engines

Following this failure, the engines were redesigned. In place of the previous BMW turbines, the Me262 was fitted with a pair of Junkers turbojets. These were heavier than the previous engines but proved better at keeping the plane aloft.

Me-262 jet engines.Photo: Justin Holder CC BY-ND 2.0

Not a Priority

Despite their love of technology, the men at the top of the Messerschmitt company and German High Command did not make the Me262 a high priority during these middle years of the war. Instead, they focused on seeking improvements to combat planes that had already proved their potential in battle, such as the BF109 and Bf110.

Me 262A-1a “5” of the JV 44

A Boost from Galland

In May 1943, flying ace Fighter General Adolf Galland took his first flight in an Me262. It was a turning point for the plane. Galland’s high rank and his status as a famed fighter ace meant that people listened when he became an advocate for the jet. He called for mass production to begin, and so renewed effort and resources were poured into the Me262 program.

Me 262 cockpit

A Serious Setback

Three months later, the Me262 faced a fresh setback. On the 17 th of August, the United States Army Air Forces launched the Schweinfurt Regensburg mission, a coordinated bombing raid against centers of German aircraft production. The Me262 production lines were housed in factories in Regensburg which were hit during the raid.

Messerschmitt Me 262 performing demonstration flight.

In the aftermath, production of the jet was moved to Bavaria. Whereas Regensburg already had the skilled labor needed to build the Me262, this was missing in its new home, leading to further delays.

Entering Service

In July 1944, the Me262 finally entered frontline service with the Luftwaffe. By now, the Allies had landed in Normandy and the tide of war was turning. The Germans needed any advantage they could get.

Me 262 A-2a/U2 V555 Weimar Germany 12 May 1945

First Jet Combat

On the 25 th of July, an Me262 attacked a British Mosquito plane carrying out reconnaissance work over Munich. It was the first time a jet plane had taken part in aerial combat.

Messerschmitt Me 262 in flight.Photo: max.pfandl CC BY 2.0

Three Different Roles

Hitler had insisted that high performance planes should be designed to act as bombers as well as fighters. Thanks to this, the Me262 had the capacity to be deployed in three different roles. It served as a fighter bomber, a reconnaissance plane, and an interceptor.

Deadly Against Bombers

Against the lumbering planes of the Allied bomber fleets, the Me262 proved to be a deadly hunter. Armed with four 30mm cannons and 24 rockets, it carried an impressive weight of firepower.

Despite this, there was only one period of focused Me262 anti bomber action. The 18 th to the 21 st of March 1945. During this period, 40 sorties a day were flown against American bombers, as the Third Reich fought its last desperate battle for survival. But by then, it was too late.

Me262 V083 with a 50mm Rheinmetall Mauser BK 5 cannon

Mixed Performance Against Other Fighters

With a maximum speed of 540mph and an incredible array of firepower, the Me262 could often gain the edge over other fighters. But a lack of maneuverability could put it at a disadvantage once the planes closed for combat. Me262s sometimes suffered when faced with American P-51 Mustangs.

The most interesting fighter match up never even took place. By the late war, Britain’s Gloster Meteor jet fighter was also in the air. Faster and better armed than its British opponent, the Me262 would likely have won in any confrontation, but we can’t know for sure as they never faced each other. The first jet vs jet combat would not come until the Korean War.

Me 262 A in 1945.Photo Bundesarchiv, Bild 141-2497 CC-BY-SA 3.0

Few Saw Combat

Messerschmitt produced large numbers of the Me262a. From the moment they started rolling off the production lines to the end of the war, over 1400 were built. Yet fewer than 300 of them took part in combat.

This happened for several reasons. Some were stuck on the ground while they were converted into bombers. Others lacked appropriately trained pilots or sufficient fuel. Hundreds were destroyed before they had a chance to fight, caught on the ground by Allied air raids.

Messerschmitt Me262 white 22 of the JV44 Salzburg Austria May 1945

An Inspiration

The Me262 never had the chance to fulfill its early promise. But it became an important step in the development of combat aircraft, inspiring the designers of early jet fighters around the world.

Messerschmitt Me 262 variants- Me 262 A-1a U4, Me 262 A-2a U2, and Me 262 C-1a.

Me 262 A-2a 111685 9K+FH, autobahn near Munich

Booster rocket for Me 262 A – 2a in the Airfield Museum Schwäbisch Hall.Photo Doovele CC BY-SA 4.0

Collings Foundation’s Me 262 in Marana AZ, April 19, 2013.Photo Tascam3438 CC BY-SA 3.0

Me262 jet fighter wreck at Erding Field, Germany 1945

Messerschmitt Me 262 B1-A.Photo gravitat-OFF CC BY 2.0

Messerschmitt Me.262 At Everett Paine Field.Photo aeroprints.com CC BY-SA 3.0

The remains of a Messerschmitt Me 262 of 2. KG 5, shot down over B86 Helmond, Holland, the previous day by a 40mm Bofors gun crew

Third prototype Me 262 V3

Me-262: Harbinger of a New Era

On March 31, 1945 test Messerschmitt test pilot Hans Fay flew this factory fresh Me-262 to the occupied Frankfurt/Rhein-Main Airfield and delivered the feared fighter into Allied hands.

Willy Messerschmitt’s Me-262 was not quite the game changer it might have been if produced earlier and in greater numbers, but after its 1944 debut, air combat would never be the same.

On the morning of August 27, 1939, a new era dawned when Ernst Heinkel telephoned Ernst Udet and told the just-awakened chief of the technical department of the German air ministry, “I wanted to inform you that Captain Warnitz has just successfully flown the world’s first jet plane, the Heinkel He-178, and landed safely.” After a drowsy pause, Udet congratulated Heinkel, then went right back to sleep. Neither Udet nor the German Luftwaffe was fully aware of the significance of Erich Warnitz’s unprecedented test flight. Just a few days later, however, Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland plunged Germany into a war that would compel the Luftwaffe to accelerate the jet’s development into a practical weapon.

Heinkel wasted no time in developing a twin-jet fighter, the He-280, which made its first powered flight on March 20, 1941. By then, however, he was not alone. In Britain Frank Whittle had long been working on a jet engine, which would finally propel a demonstrator airframe, the Gloster E.28/39, into the air on May 15, 1941. Closer to home, Heinkel’s rivals at Messerschmitt were working on a fighter of their own—one that would usher in the jet age in deadly earnest.

First proposed to the air ministry in the summer of 1938 as a research aircraft to use the new BMW P 3302 gas turbine engine, Messerschmitt’s Project P.1065 was pursued by a design team led by Woldemar Voigt. The airplane was intended as an interceptor from the outset, even though the Luftwaffe requirement had not specified that role for it. The original Me-262 had a tailwheel and slightly swept back wings to maintain the desired center of gravity. The prototype, powered by a single 690-hp Junkers Jumo 210 piston engine, was first flown at Augsburg by Captain Paul Wendel on April 18, 1941.

Although Hitler’s fixation on using the Me-262 as a fighter-bomber is popularly blamed for holding up its development, the real delaying factor was the engine. BMW had claimed its P 3302 turbojet would produce 1,300 pounds of thrust by the end of 1939, but when one of the engines was bench-tested in late 1940, it only managed 570. Meanwhile, Heinkel had developed his own engine, capable of producing 1,100 pounds, to power his He-178 on its historic first flight. The first of BMW’s P 3302 engines—redesignated 003s—did not arrive at Augsburg until November 1941, and on March 25, 1942, Wendel took the Me-262 up for its first jet-powered flight. When both of the 003s failed, he was forced to land using the auxiliary piston engine.

By then Junkers had developed the Jumo 004, which was tested at 2,200 pounds of thrust. Two 004s were installed on the third Me-262 prototype, and Wendel made a successful 20-minute flight on July 18, 1942. Even after plane and engine went into full production, however, the Jumo 004 would be an Achilles’ heel for the Me-262. Germany lacked adequate supplies of chromium and nickel, essential for the production of steel alloys necessary to operate at a jet engine’s high temperatures, and substitute metals, such as ordinary steel with a spray coating of aluminum, were prone to burning. At the end of the war the average Me-262 engine required an overhaul after 10 hours of use, and outright replacement after only 25 hours.

Heinkel and Messerschmitt vied for a production order until March 27, 1943, when the German chief of aircraft procurement, Erhard Milch, ruled in favor of the Me-262. Although the He-280 was faster, had a better climb rate and higher service ceiling, its twin vertical tail structure was suspect and its range was two-thirds that of the Me-262.

The jet fighter program had proceeded with such secrecy that General of Fighters Adolf Galland knew nothing of it until he finally got to fly the Me-262 V-4 on May 22, 1943. He was instantly impressed, declaring that flying the jet felt “as if an angel were pushing,” and recommended that Me-109 production be halted so that Messerschmitt could concentrate on the new fighter. Galland’s influence did speed things up: 72 hours later, Milch ordered the Me-262 into series production. The first 100 would be issued to special test units that would use the fighters operationally while ironing out any shortcomings as they arose.

In mid-1943 German air defenses had been holding their own against British and American bombers. But the successful Allied invasions of North Africa in November 1942, Sicily in July 1943 and Italy in September fueled Hitler’s fears about a potential invasion of France. He proposed that a series of lightning airstrikes by high-speed “blitz bombers” could eliminate any beachhead the Allies might establish.

Such was the situation on November 2, 1943, when Hermann Göring, while visiting the Augsburg plant, first asked Willy Messerschmitt if the Me-262 could be adapted to the bombing role. “Herr Reichsmarschall, from the very outset we have provided for the fitting of two bomb pylons so it can carry bombs—either one 500 kg or two 250 kg,” Messerschmitt replied. When Hitler broached the same question while watching an Me-262 demonstration at Insterburg on November 26, Messerschmitt again answered affirmatively. But while the Führer blissfully assumed that his wish would be carried out, Messerschmitt proceeded with the Me-262 as a bomber interceptor, with four MK 108 low-velocity 30mm cannons in the nose.

The Luftwaffe accepted its first 16 preproduction Me-262A-0s, which had been waiting for engines, between April 18 and 29, 1944, and at the end of that month Erprobungskommando 262 was formed at Lechfeld, Bavaria, commanded by Captain Werner Thierfelder. As they gained experience, the test unit’s pilots wrote an operating manual for the Me-262A-1a Schwalbe (swallow) fighter.

On May 23, Hitler summoned Göring, Milch, Galland, Albert Speer and other officials to Berchtesgaden to discuss fighter production. When Milch’s report touched on the Me-262, Hitler interrupted him: “I thought the 262 was coming as a high-speed bomber? How many of the 262s already manufactured can carry bombs?”

“None, Mein Führer,” Milch replied. “The Me-262 is being manufactured exclusively as a fighter aircraft.” There was an awkward silence, then Milch added that extensive design changes would be necessary to convert the jet into a bomber, and even then it would not be able to carry more than 500 kilograms.

“Never mind!” Hitler exclaimed. “I wanted only one 250-kilo bomb.” Losing his composure, he demanded precise weight statistics on the fighter’s armor, guns and ammunition. “Who pays the slightest attention to the orders I give?” he railed. “I gave an unqualified order, and left nobody in any doubt that the aircraft was to be equipped as a fighter-bomber.” His confidence in Milch shattered, Hitler thereafter progressively stripped him of his authority, while making Göring personally responsible for implementing the blitz bomber program.

On May 27, a still-furious Führer ordered that the Me-262 be regarded strictly as a fighter-bomber. He allowed fighter testing to continue a few days later, but insisted that the first operational units be equipped with the bomber. Messerschmitt responded by mounting two pylons, each capable of carrying a 250-kg bomb, under the nose of the 10th prototype, and fitting an extra 132-gallon fuel tank in the rear fuselage. To compensate for their weight, two of the nose cannons and most of the cockpit armor plating were removed. While the Me-262A-2a Sturmvogel (storm bird) was hastened into production, a detachment from Kampfgeschwader (bomber wing) 51, commanded by Major Wolfgang Schenk, was sent to Lechfeld for conversion training.

Meanwhile, Allied forces landed in Normandy on June 6, and fought their way down the Cotentin Pensinsula to take St. Lô on July 18. Even then Hitler remained convinced that Normandy was only a feint and the main Allied landing was yet to come at Calais, for which the Sturmvogel would surely be ready.

The first nine Me-262A-2as of Schenk’s detachment were finally transferred to Châteaudun, France, on July 20—the same day that Hitler was wounded by a bomb in an unsuccessful assassination attempt at his “Wolf’s Lair” headquarters in East Prussia. Only five of the fighter-bombers arrived, and their efforts were hobbled by an order from the Führer that they not fly faster than 750 kilometers per hour or dive below 4,000 meters. Consequently, the Sturmvogel pilots accomplished little as they joined the retreat to Chièvres, Belgium. On August 28, the unit suffered its only combat loss—the first Me-262 to be claimed by Allied fighters—when Republic P-47Ds flown by Major Joseph Myers and 1st Lt. Manfred O. Croy of the 82nd Squadron, 78th Fighter Group, sent Sgt. Maj. Hyronimus Lauer’s Sturmvogel crashing into a field west of Brussels, after which the pilot ran for his life while the rest of Myers’ flight demolished the jet.

It was an Me-262A-1a of Erprobungskommando 262, however, that had drawn first blood on July 26, when 2nd Lt. Alfred Schreiber caught a de Havilland Mosquito engaged in a high-altitude photoreconnaissance mission over the Alps. A former Me-110 pilot, Schreiber swiftly downed four more British and American photorecon intruders. But while taking off on November 26, he suffered an engine flameout, and the world’s first jet ace died in the ensuing crash.

On October 1, 1944, KG.54 became the second German bomber wing to receive Me-262A-2as. The unit was not combat-ready until mid-December, when its planes made desultory attacks on American ground targets in the Ardennes. By then, Allied air superiority had left Germany in such desperate straits that on February 9, 1945, KG.54’s fighter-bombers joined the interceptors in attacks on American bomber formations, downing two B-17s but losing four pilots. The wing claimed 50 Allied planes by war’s end, but between aerial combat, accidents and attacks on its bases, KG.54 lost 70 percent of the more than 150 Me-262A-2as assigned to it.

In August 1944, while the first Me-262s were starting to prove their worth, the Luftwaffe formed a new fighter wing, Jagdgeschwader 7. Its original equipment was to have been Focke-Wulf Fw-190Ds, then Messerschmitt Me-109G-14s, but while it waited for sufficient numbers of either to become available, the Luftwaffe decided to equip its three groups entirely with the new jets. “They came in sections on long railway trucks from the south of the Reich,” recalled JG.7’s first commander, Colonel Johannes Steinhoff, “and the mechanics, assisted by a team from the Messerschmitt works, started assembling them and shooting in the cannon. By the end of November we were in the air, training in flights of three and in small formations.”

Meanwhile, an interim unit based at Achmer and Hesepe airfields was formed under Austrian ace Major Walter Nowotny on September 26. Having difficulty getting his troublesome jets operational due to the growing danger from Allied fighters, Nowotny arranged for Fw-190Ds to provide air cover for the 262s during takeoff and landing, when they were most vulnerable.

Kommando Nowotny was credited with 22 victories before being incorporated into JG.7. These included a B-24 downed by “Nowi” Nowotny himself on November 7, and a B-17 and a P-51 on the 8th, raising his overall tally to 258. As he was returning from that last mission, however, one of Nowotny’s engines flamed out. General Galland, who was visiting Hesepe at the time, recalled what followed:

I was outside with [1st Lt. Georg-Peter] Eder, [Lufwaffe chief of staff] Generaloberst [Günther] Korten and other pilots including Karl “Quax” Schnörrer, Nowi’s best friend and wingman for many years, and the ground crew personnel to watch his approach to the field, when an enemy fighter, clearly a Mustang, pulled away not far from us. I remember being surprised because rather than coming in from altitude, this Mustang was low….The explosion of the jet rocked the air, and only a column of black smoke rose from behind the trees.

We all jumped in a car and took off and reached the wreckage, and it was Nowotny’s plane. After sifting through the wreckage, the only salvageable things found were his left hand and pieces of his Knight’s Cross, Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds decoration. He had simply disintegrated. The hole in the ground was about four meters deep and the area for about 100 meters all around was on fire and smoking. I remember the smell of the jet fuel being quite heavy in the air….Eder was standing next me as we looked through the wreckage, and I promoted him on the spot to take over command of the unit. He just looked at me and said, “Yes sir,” and then turned away.

Some 70 percent of JG.7’s personnel were experienced pilots, many of them aces, but the others were new and inadequately trained. Steinhoff spent six weeks at the Lechfeld air base trying to familiarize his men with the new fighters. Only one of the four Me-262A-1as slated for the wing’s first operational mission got off the ground on November 28, 1944, but its pilot, Sgt. Maj. Hermann Büchner, intercepted and shot down a Lockheed F-5E, the photoreconnaissance version of the P-38 Lightning. Later that same day Major Rudolf Sinner downed another F-5E over Lake Ammer.

Besides basic armament, some Me-262s carried underwing racks with R4M 55mm rockets, and a few sported 210mm rockets on the nose rack in place of bombs. Major Heinz Bär flew a special Me-262A with six MK 108 nose cannons, while Major Wilhelm Herget piloted one of two Me-262A-1a/U4s fitted with a single 50mm MK 214 cannon that one American who spotted it likened to “a giant telegraph pole.”

Messerschmitt built a two-seat trainer, the Me-262B-1a. Seven of them were fitted with radar arrays, designated Me-262B-1a/U1s and fought alongside the single-seaters operating with a night fighter squadron led by 1st Lt. Kurt Welter. The unit was credited with 48 victories, of which 30 were claimed by and at least 20 confirmed to its commander, making Welter the most successful 262 pilot of the war.

By the late autumn of 1944, Me-262As were making their presence felt among the American bomber streams and, to a considerably lesser degree, among the Allied ground forces. They were, however, too little and too late to affect the course of the air war over Europe. The presence of the long-ranging P-51D Mustang and the steady Allied advance across the Continent brought Me-262 air bases within striking distance of an increasing number of Allied fighters. If the jets were too fast to catch in the air (though some were shot down by a handful of lucky pilots), they could be ambushed as they took off or landed.

On January 19, 1945, a coterie of fighter pilots, represented by Colonel Günther Lützow, confronted Göring regarding his inflexible, incompetent running of the Luftwaffe. The five-hour session ended with an apoplectic Göring demanding that Lützow be shot (his punishment was later changed to exile on the northern Italian front) and that Galland step down as general of fighters in favor of Gordon Gollob. Hitler intervened with a decree for Galland to form his own squadron of Me-262s, flown by his pick of the Luftwaffe’s surviving aces. Consisting primarily of “disgraced” senior officers who had stood up to Göring, Jagdverband 44’s ranks included such veterans as Lützow, Steinhoff, Bär, Herget, Walter Krupinski and Gerhard Barkhorn, Germany’s second-ranking ace with 301 victories.

Flying from Munich-Reim, JV.44 did not enter combat until April 4, and its first victory was a P-38 that was accidentally clipped by an enlisted member, Eduard Schallmoser. Schallmoser would down two more of his four victims in similar fashion, earning his own place in JV.44 legend as the “Jet Rammer.”

JV.44’s adjutant, Major Krupinski, who scored the last two of his 197 victories in the Me-262, recalled what it was like to fly the jet:

The first time I saw them work was I think on April 5, 1945, as the unit shot down five heavy bombers. There were quite a large number of enemy escort fighters around, so that tended to keep you busy in the cockpit. There was no way we were going to dogfight with these Mustangs, Thunderbolts and Lightnings. We had to just come in fast, hit [the bombers] very hard and then get away very quickly. Once we were at least four to five miles away we could turn back and line up another target. The one great advantage that we had in the 262 over the 109 or 190 was our approach and climbing speed. This was both a positive and a negative thing.

Our speed allowed us, as I said before, to attack rapidly and then leave. That speed gave the enemy gunners on the bombers much less reaction time to sight in, lead us and get a solid killing burst. Our speed also allowed us to approach from underneath, closing the gap quickly, and if you had the rockets that gave you a great advantage, as you could fire the R4Ms from outside the effective range of the .50-caliber machine guns. The rockets also gave you a better chance of a hit, as they spread out, like a shotgun. This allowed us to pull away before we could be fired upon in many cases. However, the rockets also increased drag, thus slowing us down from our 100 mph speed advantage over the Mustangs to just over 70-75 mph speed advantage….

[Allied escort fighters] would have to drop from very high altitude, convert that into increased airspeed and then hope to close in on one of us, and even get a good deflection shot. This was the most common way our jets were shot down, other than being shot up trying to take off or land, when we were very vulnerable and had no maneuverability or speed until about two to three minutes after takeoff. That is a lot of time when you have the enemy on your tail.

The only great downside to having the jet was the loss of maneuverability we could not turn as tight as the other fighters, so speed was our life insurance. The other problem with such a fast attacking and closing speed was that, just as the enemy gunners had little time to lead you for a kill, you had much less time to pick out a target. You had to be right the first time, and if you did not have rockets, you had to adjust your shooting to compensate for the much slower targets. In this case there was very little deflection shooting. You closed in quickly, fired a quick burst and then you left.

Krupinski was well aware of the danger that attended completing a mission with enemy fighters still on the prowl:

The one method they would use was going to our airfields and shooting them up. They knew where we were it was no great secret. These guys would hang around and try to catch us landing, hoping for an easy kill. This was why we had Fw-190s or Me-109s that would fly cover for us to protect our landings. The other problem was that after you broke contact, and were usually out of ammunition and low on fuel, the enemy fighters would be following….On a good day, you probably had about 10 to 15 minutes to approach, extend your gear hoping it would work, land and get out of the cockpit. Many times we jumped out of our jets to have the shadows of enemy fighters pass overhead as they strafed us….

Taking off and landing, as I have said, were the most tense moments for a 262 pilot, as the plane built up speed slowly, and you could stall out easily if you pushed the throttles forward too quickly, which caused a flameout. This happened several times…and we finally learned how to throttle up slowly without killing ourselves.

I flamed out once when I was in transition training. I was used to pushing the throttle full to increase takeoff power. This was a great error in the jet. I know that many of the pilots who were killed flying the jet probably died due to stalling out this way. The 262 was a very heavy aircraft when compared to the 109 and 190, and at low speed I would equate it to flying a brick.

Overall, JV.44 claimed more than 55 victories by April 29, when Bär used his six-cannon plane to down a P-47. But the cost was high, including Steinhoff, severely burned after a landing gear collapsed on April 17 Lützow, killed by P-47s on April 24 and Galland, wounded by a P-47 on April 25. On May 4, as the Seventh Army closed in on JV.44’s last base, Krupinski oversaw the destruction of its last two dozen jets.

Although the Me-262 didn’t enter service until Allied numbers were too overwhelming to overcome, the jet units were credited with at least 735 planes. They left an indelible impression on their enemies, accelerating the drive among post war powers to develop their own turbojet warplanes. Czechoslovakia’s Avia plant continued to build its own version of the 262, the S-92, until the Communist coup of 1948, followed by a 1951 order for production to cease in favor of license-built Soviet designs.

One of many Allied pilots who got to evaluate the Me-262A after the war, Royal Navy Captain Eric Brown said the cockpit had “a complex but neat layout.” Starting the jet was an involved affair, and its slow acceleration revealed how underpowered it was. But once it built up some speed, Brown said it was “a very responsive and docile aeroplane, leaving one with a confident impression of both a first-class combat aircraft for both fighter and ground attack roles.” He reported a pleasant harmony of controls, but noted the “landing run was long and was always accompanied by that unpleasant suspicion of fading brakes that one had with all German aircraft of the period.” Overall, though, he considered the 262 “in my view unquestionably the foremost warplane of its day.”

Aviation History research director Jon Guttman wishes to thank Colin D. Heaton for permission to use quotes from his interviews with Adolf Galland and Walter Krupinski from his upcoming book Voices of War, Vol. 1: The Luftwaffe Aces, No. 1. Additional reading: The German Jets in Combat, by Jeffrey Ethell and Alfred Price Stormbird: One of the Luftwaffe’s Highest Scoring Me262 Aces, by Hermann Büchner and Messerschmitt Me 262 Sturmvogel, by Dennis R. Jenkins.

Ready to build your own “Sturmvogel”? Click here for our exclusive kit review!

Originally published in the July 2010 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.

Gloster Meteor vs Messerschmitt Me 262

Two countries had operational Jet Fighters squadrons during WWII but they never had a dogfight. If they had, which would have won?

In April 1944 the Messerschmitt Me 262 entered service with the Luftwaffe this was quickly followed by the Gloster Meteor entering sevice for the RAF in July 44.

Comparing the two planes is difficult as the Gloster was a fighter and the Messerschmitt an interceptor.

The Messerschmitt had 1 x 30mm cannon compared to the 4 x 20mm cannons of the Meteor. Effectively the Messerschmitt cannon was designed to shoot bombers and the Comets to shoot fighters.

The Messerschmitt's engines were very unreliable.

Messerschmitt's did 500mph in 44 and 540mph in 45. Meteors did 415mph in 44 and 490mph 45.

Meteors had a better turning circle.

Both aircraft were sturdy and could fly on one engine if damaged.

The Messerschmitt's had a faster climb rate but the Meteor had a higher ceiling.


Maailman ensimmäinen suihkukonelento lennettiin Saksassa 27. elokuuta 1939 Heinkel He 178 -koneella lentäjänä Erich Warsitz [2] . [3] Isossa-Britanniassa tähän pystyttiin 15. toukokuuta 1941 Gloster-Whittle E. 28/39:llä ja Yhdysvalloissa 1. lokakuuta 1941 Bell P-59 Airacometilla, joten suihkuhävittäjän kehitystyössä Saksalla oli tuolloin kahden vuoden etumatka länsiliittoutuneisiin.

Syksyllä 1940 Saksan sodanjohto antoi määräyksen, joka salli ainoastaan sellaiset tutkimus- ja kehityshankkeet, joiden tulokset olisivat taistelukäytössä vuoden sisällä. Käskyn välitön seuraus oli suihkuhävittäjän kehitystyön pysähtyminen lähes kokonaan ja ainakin puolentoista vuoden viivästys Me 262:n sarjatuotannon osalta. Messerschmittin tehtailla kehitystyötä kuitenkin jatkettiin sodanjohdolta salassa ilmataisteluvälinepäällikkö Ernst Udetin tuella. [4]

Vuoden 1942 alussa asiaan paneuduttiin uudestaan ja vakavasti pohdittiin pitäisikö tuloksena olla hävittäjä vai pommikone. Professori Willy Messerschmittin johdolla päädyttiin yksimielisesti hävittäjän kehittämiseen. Toukokuussa 1943 oli prototyypin kehitystyö niin pitkällä, että päätettiin sarjatuotannon aloittamisesta ensimmäisen 100 koneen osalta. Varsinaisen lopullisen mallin sarjatuotannon tasoksi kaavailtiin noin tuhatta konetta kuukaudessa. Asialle piti kuitenkin saada Adolf Hitlerin hyväksyntä, mutta hän halusi, että koneesta kehitetään nopea pommittaja.

Hävittäjäversion kehitystyötä jatkettiin Hitleriltä salassa muutamilla kokeilutyypeillä pommittajaversion rinnalla. Hitlerin päätöksen vaikutus Me 262:n kehityksen hidastumiseen on edelleen kiistanalainen. [5] [6] [7]

Suihkumoottorin kehitys Muokkaa

Suurin syy Me 262:n tuotantoon oton viivästymiseen oli Junkers Jumo 004 -moottorin hidas kehityskaari. Alun perin moottorille tarkoitetut raaka-aineet, kuten nikkeli, kromi, koboltti ja molybdeeni, olivat käyneet sodan pitkittyessä harvinaisiksi Natsi-Saksassa. Suurin ongelma oli titaanin puute. Junkers Jumo 004a:n tilalle jouduttiin suunnittelemaan malli Jumo 004b, joka käytti strategisia raaka-aineita vähemmän, ja esimerkiksi terästä niiden tilalla. Teräs on kuitenkin painavaa, eikä kestä kovin hyvin korkeita lämpötiloja, joten se piti suojata alumiinilla. Materiaalien muutos johti moottorin osien jäähdytyksestä sekä värinästä aiheutuneiden ongelmien vuoksi rakenteen uudelleensuunnitteluun ja Jumo 004b saatiin tuotantoon vasta vuoden 1944 alkupuolella. Saksalaisten suunnittelijoiden käyttöön ottama aksiaalisuihkumoottori osoittautui pidemmän päälle kehityskelpoisemmaksi vaihtoehdoksi kuin englantilaisten keskipakoisvoimalle perustuva malli, joten toisen maailmansodan jälkeen suihkumoottoreiden kehitys jatkui Jumon ja BMW:n aloittamalla linjalla.

Sturmvogel-salamapommittaja Muokkaa

Vuoden 1943 lopulla Me 262 alkoi kiinnostaa Hitleriä, joka halusi käyttää tyyppiä nopeana pommikoneena. Tällä Hitler havitteli kykyä iskeä länsiliittoutuneita vastaan koneella, jota ei voitaisi torjua tavanomaisin ilmatorjunta-asein. Me 262:n sarjatuotanto määrättiin aloitettavaksi heti. Muutos pommikoneeksi oli kuitenkin tässä vaiheessa ongelmallista. Syöksypommitus tai jyrkkä liukupommitus ei voinut tulla kysymykseen, sillä nopeus olisi noussut yli 950 kilometriin tunnissa, eikä konetta olisi voinut hallita. Matalalla lennettäessä olisi polttoaineen kulutuksen raju kasvu rajoittanut operatiivisen toimintasäteen hyvin lyhyeksi. Vaihtoehdoksi jäi korkealta suoritettava vaakapommitus, mutta tällöin suuren nopeuden, koneen lento-ominaisuuksien ja huonojen tähystysmahdollisuuksien vuoksi maalin tuli olla suuri. Koneeseen ei oltu suunniteltu lainkaan pommikuilua tai pommiripustimia, laukaisu- ja sytytinlaitteita tai pommitukseen soveltuvia tähtäimiä. [8]

Liittoutuneiden pommitukset lykkäsivät ensimmäisen sadan kappaleen sarjatuotannon aloittamisen maaliskuun 1944 alkuun, ja kun koneet olivat luovutuskunnossa 24. huhtikuuta 1944, yhdysvaltalaisten pommitus Leipheimin viimeistelytehtaaseen tuhosi ne. Huhtikuussa lentovarustelun hätäohjelmasta keskusteltaessa Hitler sai yhden ankarimmista raivokohtauksistaan kuullessaan, että Me 262 on rakennettu yksinomaan hävittäjäkoneeksi. Samalla Hitler päätti, että kaikki tuotannon alkamisen jälkeen rakennetut jo noin 120 suihkuhävittäjää oli muutettava pommikoneiksi. Myöhemmin Hitler kielsi puhumasta Me 262:sta muuten kuin pika- tai salamapommittajana. [9]

Ainoa paikka kahdelle pommille saatiin jättämällä pois ulkopuoliset pudotettavat polttoainesäiliöt, jolloin toimintasäde rajoittui alle 200 kilometriin. Koneessa käytettiin pommien ripustamiseen Schloss 503A-1 -pommiripustimia. Elokuussa 1944 alkoivat päivittäiset ”salamapommitukset” liittoutuneiden maihinnousuarmeijoiden taakse. Lentäjät eivät voineet vahvistaa, osuivatko nämä pommit yleensä mihinkään. Kuvaavaa tuolle ajalle oli se, että yhdysvaltalaisten tehdessä päivähyökkäyksen Messerschmittin Augsburgin tehtaita ja läheistä Lechveldin lentokenttää vastaan pystyttiin torjuntaan lähettämään vain kuusi suihkuhävittäjää. Pommitukset tuhosivat maassa 60 salamapommittajaksi rakennettua Me 262:ta. [10]

Schwalbe-suihkuhävittäjä Muokkaa

Messerschmittin tehtailla hävittäjäversion kehitystyö jatkui, tosin ilman Hitlerin virallista hyväksyntää. Vasta lokakuussa 1944 Hitler antoi luvan Me 262 -suihkuhävittäjän sarjatuotannon aloittamiseen ja suihkuhävittäjäyksikön perustamiseen. Yksikön johtoon määrättiin majuri Walter Nowotny, jolla oli jo 250 ilmavoittoa. [11]

Sodan jälkeisessä muistelmateoksessaan natsi-Saksan varusteluministeri Albert Speer ilmaisi mielipiteenään Me 262 -hävittäjäprojektin olleen lukuisten ihmeasehankkeiden joukossa kaikkein lupaavimpia hankkeita. Voimavarojen keskittäminen hävittäjäversion kehittämiseen yhdessä Wasserfall-ohjuksen kanssa olisi tehnyt länsiliittoutuneiden massiiviset ilmapommitukset Saksan sotateollisuutta vastaan äärimmäisen vaikeiksi liittoutuneiden ilmaherruuden muuttuessa kyseenalaiseksi. Syinä toteutuneeseen kehityskulkuun Speer piti muun muassa Hitlerin haluttomuutta ja kyvyttömyyttä ymmärtää puolustustaisteluluonteisten aseiden merkitystä.

Ensimmäiset Me 262:t tulivat Saksan ilmavoimien Luftwaffen palveluskäyttöön heinäkuussa 1944. 26. heinäkuuta 1944 Me 262 saavutti ensimmäisen ilmavoittonsa, kun sillä ammuttiin alas Münchenin lähellä tiedustelulennolla ollut De Havilland Mosquito PR.I.

Koneen valmistusmäärä jäi niin pieneksi (1 430 kpl), ettei sillä ollut vaikutusta toisen maailmansodan lopun ilmaherruuteen, joka oli tuolloin liittoutuneiden koneilla.

Ardennien taistelun jälkeen 1. tammikuuta 1945 operaatio Bodenplattessa Me 262 Sturmvogel oli jo mukana. Tässä Luftwaffen viimeisessä suuressa länsirintaman operaatiossa tuhoutuivat kuitenkin käytännössä koko natsi-Saksan jäljellä olevat hävittäjävoimat. Jatkossa vuoden 1945 keväällä Reinin taistelujen aikaan näitä salamapommittajia koetettiin käyttää tärkeiden siltojen tuhoamiseen. Menestys oli kuitenkin huono. Liittoutuneiden lentolaivastojen komentajat kokoontuivat 11. tammikuuta 1945 Versailles’hin pohtimaan pitäisikö pommitusstrategiaa muuttaa yhä lisääntyvien ”kuolemaa tuottavien suihkuhävittäjien” takia. [12]

Me 262 oli hyökkäykselle altteimmillaan lähestymislennossa laskua varten tai välittömästi kiitotieltä noustuaan, koska sen moottorit reagoivat hitaasti. Tehonvähennyksen tai -lisäyksen oli oltava huolellista moottorin sammumisvaaran vuoksi. Koneessa ei ollut lentojarruja, mikä osaltaan pidensi nopeuden hidastamiseksi vaadittavaa lähestymislentoa. [13] Liittoutuneet käyttivät tätä hyväkseen ”rottajahdiksi” nimetyllä taktiikalla, jossa nopeat mäntämoottorihävittäjät pyrkivät yllätykseen. Tähän vastattiin suojaamalla lähestymis- ja noususuunnat voimakkaalla ilmatorjunnalla ja mäntämoottorisilla suojahävittäjillä. [14]

Kesäkuussa 1944 perustettiin ensimmäinen Me 262 -koneilla varustettu yksikkö, Erprobungskommando 262, kokeilemaan uusia suihkuhävittäjille sopivia taktiikkoja. Yksiköstä erotettiin syyskuussa Kommando Nowotny (Jagdgeschwader 7), joka oli ensimmäinen kokonaan suihkuhävittäjillä operoiva osasto. Se toimi Achmerista ja Hesepenistä käsin. Me 262:n suuri nopeusero mäntämoottorikoneisiin verrattuna vaati kokeneiltakin hävittäjäohjaajilta hyökkäysmenetelmien uudelleenarviointia. MK 108 -tykin ammuksen hidas lähtönopeus aiheutti sen, että Me 262:n piti lähestyä pommittajia niiden torjunta-aseistuksen kantaman piiriin (noin 600 metriä).

Tästä syystä alettiin kehitellä vaihtoehtoisia aseita, kuten R4M-raketit, jotka pystyttiin laukaisemaan koneen normaalin tähtäimen avulla noin kilometrin päästä, jolloin oltiin pommittajien puolustusaseiden kantaman ulkopuolella. Suihkuhävittäjien nopeus pommituskonelauttoja vastaan johti niin sanottuun vuoristorata-taktiikkaan, jolla päästiin ylhäältä syöksyen saattohävittäjien ohitse ja pystyttiin sen jälkeen alhaalta lähestymään pommikoneita hitaammalla nopeudella. Menetelmää kehitti alun perin Walter Schuck, joka käytti hyväkseen pommikonemuodostelmien suurta kokoa. Hän kehitti ”aalloilla ratsastamiseksi” kutsumansa tavan hyökätä. Schuck lensi takaa muodostelman suuntaisesti tehden hyökkäyssyöksyjä ja nousten takaisin. Menetelmän mahdollisti osaltaan tykinammusten suuri teho. [15]

Lukuisia muitakin taktiikoita esitettiin ja kokeiltiin taistelutilanteissa, mutta aina suurin ongelma oli kohteena olevien pommikoneiden hitaus. Me 262 ei voinut hidastaa nopeuttaan, koska nopeuden kiihdyttäminen takaisin olisi kestänyt liian kauan. Tuolloin kone ei olisi vihollisen mäntämoottorisia saattohävittäjiä nopeampi ja olisi haavoittuva kuten ”rottajahti”-hyökkäyksessä. Jatkuvaa huippunopeutta lennettäessä tähtäyksen piti tapahtua äärimmäisen nopeasti.

Jotkin potkurikoneet kuten Yhdysvaltain North American P-51 Mustang, pystyivät syöksymällä hetkellisesti saavuttamaan riittävän suuren nopeuden myös ilmataistelussa. Adolf Galland haavoittui tällaisessa tilanteessa hyökätessään Yhdysvaltain Martin B-26 Marauder -pommittajia vastaan. [16] Me 262:ssa ei ollut heittoistuinta. Eräs keino hypätä oli ottaa moottoreista tehot pois nopeuden vähentämiseksi ja kavuta istuimelta ylös ohjaamon reunalle. Sitten lentäjä potkaisi sauvan eteenpäin. Koneen aloittaessa ulkopuolisen syöksyn negatiivinen kiihtyvyys heitti lentäjän ulos ja peräsimien yli. [17]

Me 262:n moottorit vaativat paljon huoltoa, ja niiden kestoikä oli keskimäärin vain noin 20 lentotuntia. Osaltaan tähän vaikutti korkealaatuisten raaka-aineiden puute, mikä lyhensi erityisesti kuumuudenkestoa vaativien osien käyttöaikaa, osaltaan myös moottoreiden alkeellinen rakenne.

Me 262:n merkitystä sodan lopulla vähensi polttoaineen ja koulutettujen lentäjien puute, joiden takia koneet seisoivat lentokentillä käyttämättöminä. Niitä jäikin sotasaaliina suuria määriä liittoutuneiden haltuun.

Rüstsätze (kenttämodifikaatiosarjat) Muokkaa

Rüstsatze voitiin asentaa useisiin Me 262:n alatyyppeihin, jolloin tyyppinimen loppuun lisättiin /Rn.

/R1 Kiinnikkeet 500 litran ulkoiselle polttoainesäiliölle. /R2 Kahden kiinteäpolttoaineisen Rheinmetall 109-502-rakettimoottorin asentaminen lentoonlähdön avustamiseksi (RATO). /R3 Rakettiavusteisen BMW 003R-suihkuturbiinin asennus /R4 FuG 350 Zc Naxos -tutkan asennus. /R5 Yleinen neljän 30 mm MK 108-tykin asennus /R6 Jabo (JagdBomber) -varustus (pommitustähtäin ja pommiripustimet) /R7 Puiset ripustimet siiven alle 12x R4M raketille /R8 R110BS Ilmasta ilmaan rakettien asennus /R9 Ruhrstahl Ru 344 X-4 ilmasta ilmaan ohjusten asennus

Messerschmitt Me 262 - History

"It felt as though angles were pushing"
Luftwaffe General Adolf Galland after his first flight with a Me262 on May 22, 1943.

It might be not surprising, but the flight simulator Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe was the inspiration for getting this model, too. The Revell it was not too difficult to build and gave me the opportunity to learn how to work with an airbrush set. Although this means that the whole model was just build for learning purposes, working with an airbrush set was easier than I expected and the result was not so bad at all.

Being the first operational jet fighter of the world, the Messerschmitt Me262 was one of the most advanced aircraft of its time.

Development for this plane began as early as 1938 and the first prototype made its maiden flight (still propulsed by a piston engine) in April 1941. The first jet powered version flew in July 1942.

Full scale production started in November 1943 but two major aspects, one political and one technical stopped its fast introduction to front line fighter units. The political factor was that the plane should be used as a fast bomber instead of a fighter, and it took until late 1944 and early 1945 until it was officially allowed to use this plane as a fighter. The technical problem was the reliability and availability of the jet engines. They had only a lifetime of about 10 flying hours and production never reached the output necessary.

The Messerschmitt Me 262: the Third Reich’s jet fighter

Towards the end of World War II, an increasingly desperate Nazi hierarchy devised weapons that would help turn the tide of the war. These were known as the ‘Wunderwaffe’. From huge tanks and aircraft carriers to guided missiles, on paper the Third Reich was back in business. However, in reality, due to a lack of raw materials and manpower in a fast deteriorating Germany, this was not the case. One of the few successful prototypes was the Messerschmitt Me 262 – the world’s first jet fighter. It is difficult to imagine the sense of wonder that must have been felt by the Allied soldiers when first witnessing the 262. Many had heard rumours of Hitler’s wonder machines, but here was one in action. With its Junkers Jumo 004B-1 turbojets, it put any Allied fighter to shame and made the propeller-powered planes seem like relics from a bygone era.

Can you believe that this jet aircraft could have gone up against Spitfires in the Battle of Britain?

Early days
The Third Reich had a habit of overproducing vehicles and aircraft. The Tiger II tank for example was, technologically speaking, one of the best tanks of the war, but was bogged down with manufacturing issues from the beginning. The Me 262 faced the same difficulties, and as a result, never realised its potential. The blame has often been attributed to Hitler for his insistence on delaying the project in favour of a fighter-bomber. However, recent study has unearthed information that puts the blame with the Nazi Ministry of Aviation rather than the Führer. It seems that the aviation hierarchy failed to see the potential of jet engines in aircraft so put it at the bottom of the pile after every ideas meeting. The development was known as Projekt P.1065 and was thought up as early as April 1939, but never got off the ground until it was too late. If this had not been the case, it’s quite a scary thought of what the jet Messerschmitt would have been able to achieve. Would jets have won the Battle of Britain? Would D-day have been achievable? Would the atomic bomb have been dropped on Berlin instead of Hiroshima?

In combat
Production finally lurched into gear in the spring of 1944 as the Greater Germanic Reich was already shrinking at a rapid rate. The first to take flight was in the ‘Erprobungskommando’ unit and was flown by Luftwaffe fighter ace Major Walter Nowotny. More than 1,400 were constructed but only 300 ever saw combat. Faster than any Allied fighter, the Me 262 was known as the ‘Schwalbe’ (swallow) and would undertake the role as a defensive interceptor. Alongside it was the fighter-bomber Me 262 A-2a ‘Sturmvogel’ (stormbird), which was developed at Hitler’s strict insistence.

The Allies did manage to construct one jet fighter during the war, the Gloster Meteor, but it barely made any impact

The start of the new jet age got off to a stumble as the first 262 was shot down by a group of P-47 Thunderbolts in August 1944. However by 1945, the Messerschmitts were back in larger and more formidable formations. The Jagdverband 44 was one of these new squadrons who led successful attacks on the Allied bombers that had been ravaging German cities in a hail of firestorms. The jets were so quick that a bomber’s guns could simply not move their crosshairs quickly enough to down it. The Allies developed tactics of their own to take down the Third Reich’s new weapon. P-51 Mustangs were more manoeuvrable than the Me 262s, so they developed a tactic to attack the jets as they turned, as this was when they were most vulnerable. When escorting bombers, the Mustangs flew higher than before so they could dive bomb the enemy before the bombers were taken out. If this didn’t work, the Me 262 would be taken out when it was about to land, as it was much more vulnerable at low speeds.

Albert Speer claimed in his autobiography that senior generals such as Hermann Goering simply didn’t understand the advanced mechanics of the Me 262

The Allies knew they couldn’t often match the might of the jet engines in the air so they cut its production lines. The 262 could only take off from concrete runways, so it could only go airborne from a small amount of locations. A similar tactic to the bombing of the V-2 production centres, it demonstrated how integral the D-Day landings had been. If Britain had no troops on the ground, it would have been almost defenceless against an onslaught of rockets and jet fighters. The Third Reich’s dwindling resources were another issue as well, so even if the Luftwaffe bases weren’t attacked as forcefully, would they have had the supplies to have launched consistent assaults? Overall, the Me 262 claimed 509 Allied kills against approximately 100 losses. A tiny statistic among the death and destruction of World War II.

Constant meddling by the upper echelons of the Nazi hierarchy mad the Me 262 a wasted opportunity

Decline and discovery
As the airfields of Nazi Germany were searched after the war, the technology of this jet engine Messerschmitt was viewed with the utmost curiosity. The legacy of the aircraft can be seen today with jets now standard in modern fighters and the idea of swept wings and twin pod engines in military and civilian planes alike. Almost the exact chassis was used in the post-war Czechoslovak Avia S-92 and CS-92, demonstrating the brilliance of the design. Looking back at Hitler’s Wunderwaffe, many can be viewed with a pinch of salt. The Messerschmitt Me 262 is one of the very few that bucks the trend, and if it was introduced earlier, things could have been very different in the war-torn skies of Europe.

• Length: 10.6m (34ft 9in)
• Wingspan: 12.7m (41ft)
• Height: 3.5m (11ft 6in)
• Crew: 1
• Power Plant: 2 x Junkers Jumo 004B-1 turbojets
• Range: 1,049km (652 miles)
• Max Speed: 870km/h (541mph)
• Ceiling: 11,449m (37,565ft)
• Guns: 4 x 30 mm MK 108 cannons
• Bombs/Rockets: 2 x 550lb bombs/24 x 2.2in R4M rockets


For more on the wackiest game changing inventions of the past, check out History of War magazine

Edward I (Longshanks), King of England (1272-1307).

Sir Thomas Overbury, English poet and courtier.

John Wesley, English evangelist and theologian, founder of the Methodist movement.

Ivan Goncharov, Russian novelist (Oblomov).

Henry Clay Folger, American lawyer and businessman, co-founder of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

James Weldon Johnson, African-American poet and novelist (The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man).

James Montgomery Flagg, American artist and author.

Igor Stravinsky, Russian-born U.S. composer (The Rite of Spring, The Firebird).

Blanche Sweet, film actress.

John Hersey, novelist and journalist (Men on Bataan, Hiroshima).

Gail Godwin, writer (The Perfectionists, The Southern Family).

Paul McCartney, songwriter and singer, member of the Beatles.

Chris Van Allsburg, children's author and illustrator (Jumanji, The Polar Express).


* The story that the Me 262 could have made a major difference in the war if not for Hitler's insistence that it be built as a fighter-bomber seems to exist in a fuzzy state between myth and fact. Most recent documents on the Me 262 suggest that the teething problems with the Jumo 004 engines were really the critical path for aircraft development, and though Hitler's insistence on development of the aircraft as a "Jabo" led to a bureaucratic fiasco, it's hard to prove that it made all that much difference in practice.

In fact, some authors have suggested that the idea of using the Me 262 in the "Jabo" role was perfectly sensible. Hitler felt, with some justification in November 1943, that existing aircraft types could deal with Allied bombers. His major concern was to be able to deal with Allied amphibious landings on the beachhead where they were most vulnerable, and if there had been substantial quantities of jet bombers available that could have penetrated the thick fighter screen over the Normandy beachhead, they might have made all the difference. Who can say now?

    THE WARPLANES OF THE THIRD REICH by William Green, Doubleday & Company, 1970.