Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe / Sturmvogel

Me-262 Schwalbe / Sturmvogel

The Me 262 was the world's first operational jet fighter. It was also the best of its generation, with an advanced aerodynamic design. Its development was much delayed, less by political disagreement than by engines troubles, and the Me 262 arrived too late to influence the end of WWII. Even the series aircraft had extremely unreliable and short-lived engines. The few Me 262 used in combat demonstrated their clear superiority, but were unable achieve much more. Around 1430 built.

Type: Me 262A-1a
Country: Germany
Function: fighter
Year: 1944 Crew: 1
Engines: 2 * 900kg Junkers Jumo 004B-1
Wing Span: 12.48 m
Length: 10.60 m
Height: 3.84 m
Wing Area: 21.70 m2
Empty Weight: 3800 kg
Max.Weight: 6400 kg
Speed: 870 km/h
Ceiling: 11450 m
Range: 1050 km
Armament: 4*g30 mm

Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a Schwalbe (Swallow), Me 262A-2a Sturmvogel (Stormbird), Me262B-1a

Being the first jet fighter to enter operational service, the design of the Messerschmitt Me 262 stemmed from a previous 1938 requirement from the German Air Ministry, for a plane to be powered by the new BMW gas turbine engines. The airframe design was produced by Dr Woldemar Voigt. The design was for a low wing monoplane with a slight sweep on the wing leading edge.

The first prototype Me 262 airframe was finished well before it's jet engines. BMW had numerous problems with this novel form of propulsion. For this reason, the prototype made it's first flight on 18 April 1941 with a conventional Junkers Jumo 210 G piston engine mounted in the nose. By November 1941, the BMW 003 engines were ready for installation into the 262 airframe. On 25 March 1942, an Me 262 prototype took off under the power of a Jumo 210 piston engine and two of the jet engines. The inclusion of the piston engine proved to be a wise decision considering that shortly after take-off, both jet engines failed one after the other due to compressor blade failures, leaving the pilot, Fritz Wendel, to land the aircraft solely under the power of the 'old' propeller.

Further development was continued but with use of the new Junkers Jumo 004 Turbojet engine. This new engine was more reliable, producing 2,200 pounds of thrust. This enabled Fritz Wendel to take off for the first time solely by jet power on 18 July 1942.

The new jet aircraft proved to be much faster than conventional aeroplanes but development problems, Allied bombings, and cautious Luftwaffe leadership contributed to delays in quantity production. In late 1943, Adolf Hitler agreed to put the Me 262 into mass production, but insisted (with great reservations from Generalleutnant Adolf Galland, Göring and Messerschmitt) that the Me 262 be configured as a bomber rather than a fighter. Contrary to Hitler's orders, the Me 262 was exclusively produced as a fighter but when this was discovered by the Führer, an immediate conversion of all planes was ordered, thus ending all hopes of repelling the punishing Allied bombing raids for the sake of dropping one or two bombs. The Me 262 was argued to be an excellent opportunity to inflict serious damage to the Allied bomber formations as it had already produced superb results against Allied aircraft and it used diesel fuel which was in less demand compared with the high-octane fuel used by propeller driven aircraft.

The Allied bombing raids destroyed hundreds of Me 262s on the ground whilst they were being converted from fighters to bombers or were unable to fly due to lack of fuel, spare parts, or trained pilots. Therefore, the Me 262 did not get to reach it's full potential. More than 1,400 Me 262s were produced but fewer than 300 ever saw combat.

Although often viewed as a last ditch super-weapon, the Me 262 was already being developed as project P.1065 before the start of WWII. Plans were first drawn up in April 1939, and the original design was very similar to the plane that would eventually enter service. The progression of the original design into service was delayed by a lack of funds, many high ranking officials thought that the war could easily be won with conventional aircraft, and therefore most of the available government funds were used for the production of other aircraft.

Swept wings had been proposed as early as 1935 by Adolph Busemann, and Willy Messerschmitt had researched the topic from 1940. In April 1941, he actually proposed to fit a 35° swept wing (Pfeilflügel II) to the Me 262. Though this suggestion was not implemented, he continued with the projected HG II and HG III high-speed derivatives of the Me 262 in 1944, which were designed with a 35° and 45° wing sweep respectively. The production Me 262 had a leading edge sweep of 18.5° primarily to properly position the center of lift relative to the center of mass and not for the aerodynamic benefit of increasing the critical Mach number of the wing (the sweep was too slight to achieve any significant advantage). The aircraft was originally designed as a tail-dragger which it was built as in the first (Me 262 V1) through fourth (-V4) prototypes, but it was discovered on an early test run that the engines and wings "blanked" the stabilizers, giving almost no control on the ground. Changing to a tricycle landing gear arrangement, firstly as a fixed undercarriage on the fifth prototype aircraft, then a fully retractable one on the sixth and succeeding prototypes, corrected all of these problems immediately.

The first test flights began in April 1941, but since the BMW 003 turbojets were not ready for fitting, a conventional Junkers Jumo 210 engine was mounted in the nose, driving a propeller, to test the Me 262 V1 airframe. When the BMW 003 engines were finally installed the Jumo was retained for safety which proved wise as both 003s failed during the first flight and the pilot had to land using the nose mounted engine alone.

The V3 third prototype airframe became a true jet plane when it flew on July 18, 1942 in Leipheim near Günzburg, Germany, piloted by Fritz Wendel. The 003 engines which were proving unreliable were replaced by the newly available Junkers Jumo 004. The Jumo 004 was more reliable, but it also caused problems since the Me 262 had to compete with the Arado Ar 234 for the engines.

Test flights continued over the next year but the engines continued to be unreliable. The production of the aircraft was slowed mainly by the engine troubles. An order from Hitler that the new Me 262 must also be part bomber played little part in comparison. Although airframe modifications were complete by 1942, production never began until 1944 when the production engines -- which due to the shortage of strategic materials like tungsten and chromium had to be completely redesigned to employ alloys of inferior temperature resistance -- finally started to work.

Jet engines have less thrust at low speed than piston or turboprop engines and due to this, acceleration is relatively poor. It was more noticeable for the Me 262 because all early jet engines (before the invention of afterburners) responded slowly to throttle changes. The introduction of a primitive autothrottle late in the war only helped slightly. Conversely, the higher power of jet engines at higher speeds meant the Me 262 enjoyed a much higher climb speed. Used tactically, this gave the jet fighter an even greater speed advantage than level flight at top speed.

Operationally, the Me 262 had an endurance of 60 to 90 minutes.

Manufacturer: Messerschmitt
Country of Origin: Germany
Role: Single-seat land-based interceptor fighter (A-1a),
fighter bomber (A-2a), or two seat night fighter (B-1a/U1 & B-2a)
Engine: Two 900 kg (1,986 lb) thrust Junkers Jumo 004B axial flow Turbojets
Wing Span: 12.5 m (41 ft 1 in)
Length: 10.58 m (34 ft 8.5 in)
Height: 3.83 m (12 ft 6.75 in)
Weight: Empty 4,000 kg (8,820 lb)
Loaded 7,045 kg (14,938 lb)
Maximum Speed: A-1a: 870 km/h at 6,000 m (540 mph at 19,685 ft)
A-2a: 755 km/h (470 mph)
B-1a: 800 km/h (497 mph)
Ceiling: 11,450 m (37,664 ft)
Range: 1,050 km (650 miles)
Climb Rate: 1,200 m/min (3,937 ft/min)
Accommodation: 1 Pilot
Armament: A-1a: Four 30 mm MK108 cannons in nose, two with 100 rounds each, two with 80; could also carry 24 R4M 55 mm unguided rockets on underwing racks.
A-2a: As A-1a but with two additional 250 kg (551 lb) bombs on racks under nose.
B-1a: As A-1a
B-2a: As A-1a plus two inclined MK 108 behind the cockpit.

Developed from a 1938 design by the Messerschmitt company, the Me 262 "Schwalbe," ("Swallow") was the world's first operational turbojet aircraft. First flown as a pure jet on July 18, 1942, it proved much faster than conventional airplanes. Development problems, Allied bombings, and cautious Luftwaffe leadership contributed to delays in quantity production. In late 1943, Adolf Hitler agreed to mass production, but insisted the aircraft be used primarily as a fighter-bomber. On July 25, 1944, an Me 262 became the first jet airplane used in combat when it attacked a British photo-reconnaissance Mosquito flying over Munich. As a fighter, the German jet scored heavily against allied bomber formations. The bombers, however, destroyed hundreds of Me 262s on the ground. More than 1,400 Me 262s were produced, but fewer than 300 saw combat. Most remained on the ground awaiting conversion to bombers, or were unable to fly because of lack of fuel, spare parts, or trained pilots.

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