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 Messerschmitt Me 262 Picture Gallery

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

Germany's Secret Weapons in World War II, Roger Ford. A fascinating look at the huge number of secret weapons that were developed in Germany during the Second World War, amongst them the massive Maus tank, the V-1 and V-2 vengeance weapons and a wide range of increasingly exotic aircraft [see more]
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How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, TDP. (15 February 2001), Messerschmitt Me 262, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_me262.html

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