The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe

(Swallow)

Germany
Germany

side view front view under view

The Messerschmit Me 262 Schwalbe is probably one of the most celebrated aircraft of all time. It was the first Jet fighter in the world to reach operational status. For the Germans it was too bad that they didn't anticipate the dire need for such a fast interceptor at the time of it's birth, Messerschmitt had to give greater priority to the improvements to the Bf 109 and Bf 110 designs before the War and during the early War years.
The Me 262 is not the first aircraft that took to the air powered by turbojets exclusively. This honour goes to the Heinkel He 178 which was a light research type, powered by 1 × Heinkel-Hirth HeS 3b axial flow turbojet, rated at 1,653 lb st (static thrust) (7,255 kN) dry, at yet an unknown date (unknown to me). This research aircraft of Heinkel was followed up by another type, the Heinkel He 280. This aircraft was the first aircraft specifically built as a fighter fitted with turbojets. It never reached operational status, because on 27 March 1943 the RLM (Reichsluftfahrt Ministerium) instructed Heinkel to abandon all further work on it.
While Heinkel was already deep in the proces of designing a turbojet powered fighter, when on 4 Januari 1939 Messerschmitt received orders from the RLM to design such an aircraft. A couple of preliminary plans were drawn up, one being a twin-boom type aircraft, the other a pod-and-boom design. These two designs were single-engine designs, but since the two turbojet designs under development weren't powerful enough Dipl Ing Waldemar Voigt (the team leader of Messerschmitt) was forced to turn to twin-engined designs. This design was designated Projekt 1065, and the first prototype was powered by a Junkers Jumo 210 with a two-bladed propeller since there were no jets available yet. The Projekt 1065 V1 was redesignated Messerschmitt Me 262 V1, and took off for the first time on 18 April 1941.
There was no hurry, and a much higher priority was given to improvements to the Bf 109 and Bf 110, so trials were performed at a leisure rate. It was not until mid-November 1941, that finally the turbojets arrived, being BMW 109-003 turbojets, rated at 1,213 lb st (5,39 kN) each. On 25 November the Me 262 V1 took off powered by the two turbojets, but luckily the piston engine with propeller was still installed. The Jets suffered from a flame-out on their maiden trip, and the test pilot (Fritz Wendel) could barely put the aircraft down with some damage. It turned out that both turbojets had broken compressor blades, which BMW was unable to explain. This resulted in a delay in development of the BMW jets that would last until October 1943. Luckily, Junkers had received a development contract in the summer of 1939 for axial-flow turbojets, and work had progressed well. Initial bench trials of the Junkers Jumo 109-004 in November 1940 revealed major problems, but these problems had been solved mostly by August 1941.
Two Junkers Jumo 109-004A-0 preproduction turbojets were delivered to Messerschmitt, which were fitted to the Me 262 V3. The Junkers jets were bigger and heavier than the BMW jets, and were rated at 1,852 lb st (8,24 kN) dry. The increase in weight and size necessitated larger nacelles, and a larger vertical tail surface. Flight trials commenced in July 1942, but were unsuccesful since the Me 262 V3 was unable to lift from the runway. The Me 262 V3 still had a tailwheel landing gear, which meant that the wing blanketed the horizontal tail surface during the take-off run and prevented the elevator from becoming effective. It was suggested that as a temporary expedient Wendel might touch the brakes at the appropriate moment, the resulting momentary deceleration serving to lift the tail, and this trick worked well enough for the Me 262 V3 to achieve its maiden flight on turbojet power on 18 July 1942.
After this the Me 262 received a lot of interrest from test pilots and the General der Jagdflieger, Adolf Galland, which were all full of praise for it. Subsequently, on 25 May 1943 it was decided that Messerschmitt would receive an initial order for 100 aircraft. However, on 17 August 1943 the US 8th Air Force bombed Regensburg, destroying most of the preliminary production lines of the Me 262, which delayed production considerably.

Versions:

Further pictures:

Captured Nightfighter version of the Messerschmitt Me 262B-1a/U1
Captured Nightfighter version of the Messerschmitt Me 262B-1a/U1

Messerschmitt Me 262 in Allied hands, partially dismantled.
Messerschmitt Me 262 in Allied hands, partially dismantled.

 

Technical data on the Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a
Powerplant 2 × Junkers Jumo 109-004B-1/2/3 turbojets, rated at 1984 lb st (8.83 kN) dry each Role during war
  • Air superiority Fighter
  • Fighter
  • Fighter-bomber
  • Night-Fighter
Length 34 ft 9.5 inch Height 11 ft 6.75 inch
Empty weight 8378 lb Operational weight 9742 lb typical,
14080 lb max
Wing Span 41 ft 0.5 inch Wing Aspect ratio 7.21
Wing Area 233.58 sq ft Service ceiling 40000 ft
Maximum speed 540 mph at 19685 ft Cruising speed unknown
Initial climb rate 3,937 ft per min.
Climb to 19,685 ft in 6 min 48 sec
Range 652 miles typical
Fuel capacity internal 565 Imp gal (679 US gal) Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns - Cannons
  • 2 × 30 mm MK 108 fixed forward-firing in the nose, upper pair, 100 rounds each
  • 2 × 30 mm MK 108 fixed forward-firing in the nose, lower pair, 80 rounds each
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 1 Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 18 july 1942 Operational Service 1944 - 1945
Manufacturer Messerschmitt A.G. Number produced about 1.433 total, unknown number this version.
Metric system
Length 10.6 m Height 3.52 m
Empty weight 3800 kg Operational weight 4419 kg typical,
6387 kg max
Wing Span 12.51 m Wing Aspect ratio 7.21
Wing Area 21.7 m² Service ceiling 12192 m
Maximum speed 869 km/h at 6000 m Cruising speed unknown
Initial climb rate 1.200 m per min.
Climb to 6.000 m in 6 min 48 sec
Range 1049 km typical
Fuel capacity internal 2.570 liters Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns - Cannons
  • 2 × 30 mm MK 108 fixed forward-firing in the nose, upper pair, 100 rounds each
  • 2 × 30 mm MK 108 fixed forward-firing in the nose, lower pair, 80 rounds each
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Messerschmitt Me 262  Schwalbe
Messerschmitt Me 262 prototypes A number of prototypes were build to test the concept, and improve the eventual design:
The Me 262 V1 was used to test aerodynamical characteristics of the Me 262. It was fitted with a Junkers Jumo 210G piston engine, driving a two-bladed propeller, rated at 730 hp (545 kW), with which it first flew on 18 April 1941. Later it was fitted with 2 × BMW 109-003 axial flow turbojets, rated at 1,213 lb st (5,39 kN). Powered by all three engines, it flew for the first time on 25 November 1941, suffering from a double flame-out.
The Me 262 V2 was a test airframe fitted with 2 BMW 109-003 jets.
The Me 262 V3 was the first aircraft to be fitted with 2 × Junkers Jumo 109-004 turbojets. It first flew without the piston engines, but with a tailwheel landing gear on 18 July 1942. The feat was achieved by using a trick, because the position of the wing and horizontal tail surfaces, and the use of the tailwheel landing gear had prevented earlier take-offs. The V3 was later badly damaged in an accident, and was written off. At that time it was the only turbojet powered prtototype, and the program was delayed as such.
The Me 262 V4 was flown by the General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland on 22 May 1943. This convinced Galland of the enormous potential of the Me 262. Still impressed, Galland suggested that production priority should be focussed on the Me 262 at the expense of the Bf 109 and Me 209 (at least).
The Me 262 V5 was the first prototype that was fitted with the tricycle landing gear, of which the nosewheel was fixed. This landing gear solved the problem of taking off with a trick, and greatly improved forward visibility and thus safety during take-off and landing.
The Me 262 V6 first flew on 17 October 1943, and stood model for later production aircraft. It had a fully retractable tricycle landing gear, gun bays and blast ports, an electrically operated tailplane and a high speed wing with automatic leading-edge slats and trailing-edge flaps. The landing gear was lowered by gravity, and the aircraft had to be yawed to lock them. The V6 was powered by 2 × Junkers Jumo 109-004B turbojet, rated at 1,984 lb st (8,825 kN). These turbojets were some 198 lb (90 kg) lighter and more powerful than the Jumo 109-004A jets.
The Me 262 V7 introduced a clear-blown cockpit canopy, and cabin pressurisation that halved the apparent altitude.
The Me 262 V8 was the first aircraft armed with the 4 × 30 mm MK 108 cannon.
The Me 262 V9 was used for the testing of radio and other equipment
The Me 262 V10 introduced the 'gear change' control column that reduced stick forces at high airspeeds
The Me 262 V11 was used for general aerodynamic development.
The Me 262 V12 was used for general aerodynamic development and was during it's use considerably modified. One of those modifications was the change to a shallow cockpit canopy which boosted performance to 624 Mph (1.004 km/h), but which also seriously restricted the pilot's field of vision.

Of the first eight prototypes all but the V3 were lost during the flight test program, and were replaced by additional aircraft. These were designated like Me 262 V1 Ers (Ers stands for Ersatz, or substitute)
Number built: 19, including 7 pre-production aircraft used as prototypes.
Messerschmitt Me 262A-0 pre-production The initial batch of pre-production aircraft was 30 aircraft. 7 of these were used as prototype/testing aircraft, the remainder went to the Erprobungskommando Ekdo 262. This unit was based at Lechfeld, and finally could start their work in earnest during the summer of 1944.
Number built: 23
Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a Schwalbe This was the first version that was delivered to the Luftwaffe. It was similar to the Me 262A-0 pre-production aircraft except for it's powerplant, and intended to be used as an interceptor. The Me 262A-1a was powered by 2 × Junkers Jumo 109-004B-1 production standard turbojets, later supplanted by 2 × Junkers Jumo 109-004B-2 turbojets, and eventually by 2 × Junkers Jumo 109-004B-3 turbojets.
Service tests proved that the Me 262 was faster than any piston driven aircraft, but had a poor acceleration and deceleration. It possessed excellent diving capabilities, and good handling characteristics.

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Me 262A-1a/U1 This subversion had revised armament in the form of 2 × 30 mm MK 103 fixed forward-firing cannon in the nose with 72 rounds each, 2 × 30 mm MK 108 fixed forward-firing cannon in the nose with 66 rounds each, 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 fixed forward-firing cannon in the nose with 146 rounds each,
Number built: 3
Me 262A-1a/U3 Reconnaissance version, armed with 2 × 30 mm MK 108 fixed forward-firing cannon in the nose, and cameras. There could optionally be fitted 2 × Rb 50/30, or 1 × Rb 20/30, or 1 × Rb 75/30.


Number built: unknown
Messerschmitt Me 262A-1b Schwalbe This interceptor version was fitted with a wooden rack under the wings to be able to launch up to 24 R4m rockets. The R4M was an air-to-air rocket, used to destroy bombers and break up their formations. R4M stands for Rakete 4kg Minengeschoss (8.8 lb thin-walled shell rocket), which was a fin-stabilised solid propellant rocket carrying 17.6 zz (500 gr) of HE (High Explosive). They were launched within 0,03 second to cover the area of one four-engined heavy bomber at a range of 600 yards (550 m).
Number built: unknown
Messerschmitt Me 262A-2a Sturmvogel This version was intended to be used as a fighter-bomber and had provisions as such. It was similar to the Me 262A-1a, except for the two Schloss 503A-1 bomb racks under the wings. Each hardpoint was rated 1,102 lb (500 kg), and each could carry either 1 × 1,102 lb bomb, or 2 × 551 lb (250 kg) bombs.

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Me 262A-2a/U1 this subversion had the nose mounted armament reduced to 2 × MK 108 cannon. The spare room in the nose was used to install a Tief- und Sturzfluganlage (low- and dive-bombing flight device) to improve bombing accuracy. Only 2 of this version were built, because Hitler revoked his order that all Me 262 be fitted with bombing devices. All subsequent aircraft were intended for the interceptor role once again.
Me 262A-2a/U2 This single prototype had the cannon-carrying metal nose replaced by a plywood nose carrying a prone bombardier position with a bomb-aiming transparency and a gyro-stabilized Lofte 7H bomb sight.


Number built: unknown
Messerschmitt Me 262A-3a This version was produced to test ground-attack missions with the Me 262. Already it was recognised that the 30 mm MK 108 cannon had a low muzzle velocity, and a relatively small ammunition capacity. Also there wasn't much armor protection against ground fire. To solve this the Me 262A-3a was fitted with additional armor protectig the fuel tanks as well as the floor and sides of the cockpit.
Number built: unknown
Messerschmitt Me 262A-5a Production version of the Me 262A-1a/U3 for use as a reconnaissance aircraft. It was armed with 2 × 30 mm MK 108 fixed forward-firing cannon in the nose, and cameras. There could optionally be fitted 2 × Rb 50/30, or 1 × Rb 20/30, or 1 × Rb 75/30.
Number built: unknown
Messerschmitt Me 262B-1a This version was a conversion trainer with dual flight controls under a redesigned canopy. To make room for the second crewmember the rear main fuel tank was deleted, which necessitated carriage of 2 × 66 Imp gal (79 US gal, 300 liters) drop tanks on Shcloss 503A-1 Wikingschiff racks.

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Me 262B-1a/U1 Operational demands had overtaken the trainer requirements, so after only 15 aircraft the Me 262B-1a was produced as a night fighter. In this version the rear cockpit was occupied by the radar operator. The radar itself, a FuG 218 Neptun V air interception radar was fitted in the nose with a four-pole Hirschgeweih (stag's antler) antenna array. Furthermore the FuG 350 Zc Naxos receiver was fitted, which could home in on the emissions of the H2S nav/attack radar used by the British bombers.
Only about a dozen were in service by 1945.


Number built: 15
Messerschmitt Me 262B-2a The Me 262B-1a/U1 was considered only an interim type pending the development of the Me 262B-2a as the definitive night-fighter model with a fuselage lengthened by the insertion of additional sections fore and aft of the cockpit to increase length by 3 ft 11.25 in (1,20 m) and provide additional volume for fuel tankage that was now increased in capacity to 638 Imp gal (766 US gal, 2.900 liters) from the figure of 381 Imp gal (457 US gal, 1.730 liters) in the Me 262B-1. The Me 262B-2a/U1 retained provision for the two drop tanks under the forward fuselage, and added capability to tow a 330 Imp gal (396 US gal, 1.500 liter) flying drop tank from the attachment under the rear fuselage. Like the flying bomb that had originally been intended for this hardpoint, the flying drop tank was supported for take-off on a small two-wheel dolly that fell away after lift-off. The drag of the Hirschgeweih antenna array reduced speed by 37 mph (60 km/h), so it was decided to replace the FuG 218 radar with the FuG 240 Berlin centimetric air interception radar with a dish antenna inside the nose, but none of these aircraft had been delivered before Germany’s surrender
Number built: probably 2, maybe none
Messerschmitt Me 262C-1a This version was intended as a point-defence interceptor, with the two Junkers Jumo turbojets, and additionally a Walter HWK (509) R II-211/3 rocket engine in the tail. The rocket engine was meant to give the Me 262 an extraordinary rate of climb.
Number built: 1
Messerschmitt Me 262C-2b This version was intended as a point-defence interceptor. It was powered by 2 × BMW 109-003R turbojets, and 1 × BMW 718 bi-fuel rocket engine in the tail. The rocket engine was meant to give the Me 262 an extraordinary rate of climb like with the Messerschmitt Me 262C-1a.
Number built: 1

Remarks:

The first production Me 262's were accepted in June 1944, and the Erprobungs Kommando 262 started testing right away. As expected the Me 262 performed well in the Bomber intercept role, mainly due to the high speed (hard to intercept by enemy fighters) and the heavy armament. It was also used effectively as a high speed reconnaissance aircraft.
There are 28 pilots known to achieve Ace-status with the Me 262 alone, apart from their other scores. The top scorer with the Me 262 was Oberleutnant Kurt Welter, scoring 29 kills in the Me 262. Welter was the Commander of the Kommando Welter, 10./NJG 11. He claimed 25 De Havilland Mosquitoes, and four double engined bombers. This score also shows that the Mosquito's most dangerous opponent was the Me 262.
Flying day and night, the Me 262 was a great threat to all Allied bombers. As such they were relentlessly hunted down, and the fiercest air battles developed frequently above the airfields where the Me 262's were stationed. Not unusually, the Me 262 airfield were protected by heavy Flak (Flieger Abwehr Kanonne) batteries, and a whole Geschwader of piston engine fighters like the Bf 109 or Fw 190. The Germans quickly realised, and the Allied quickly leared that the Me 262 was most vulnerable during take-off or landing, while it was very hard to catch when it was in the air already.
Contrary to popular belief, some people believe that the Me 262 program was not delayed most because of Hitlers decision it should operate as a bomber. During the autumn of 1943 Germany was on it's retreat in Russia and Italy, and it desperately needed fast fighter-bombers. The fastest of all was the Me 262, then in it's trials. During one these trials the Me 262 was demonstrated to Hitler on 26 November 1943. The question was then popped: could the Me 262 carry a bombload of up to 2,205 lb (1.000 kg) without complicated conversion work. Professor Willy Messerschmitt was there to give the answer: a positive yes. This could be done within 2 weeks of notice. Most delays were already caused by the unreliability of the engines. Worsening matters, Germany was also running low on critical alloys, deminishing the quality of the engines, causing the total lifetime of an engine to be reduced to only 25 hours of flying time. Every 10 hours the engine additionally needed to be hauled over completely.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

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© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 5/20/01