WW2 Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe
A-1a - production version Jaeger (fighter); Jabo (fighter bomber); A-1a/U3 - reconnaissance version; A-2a - blitzbomber version; A-3a - ground attack version; B-1a - two-seat trainer; B-2 - night fighter version


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At the outset of the war, the Luftwaffe was one of the most modern, powerful, and experienced air forces in the world, dominating the skies over Europe with aircraft much more advanced than their counterparts. The Luftwaffe was central to the German Blitzkrieg (lightning war) doctrine, as the close air support provided by various medium two-engine bombers, Stuka dive bombers and an overwhelming force of tactical fighters were key to several early successes.
Junkers Ju 87 Stuka
Dornier Do 215
Junkers Ju-188
Dornier Do 17
Dornier Do 335 Pfeil
Junkers Ju 88
Messerschmitt Bf 109
Messerschmitt Me110
Messerschmitt Me 262
Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor,
Heinkel He 111
Focke-Wulf Fw 190,
Junkers Ju 52
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Messerschmitt Me 262

The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe (Swallow) was the first operational jet powered fighter aircraft. It saw limited action during the end of World War II. German pilots nicknamed it the Turbo, while to the allies they were blow jobs.

Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a
Crew one, pilot
Length 10.58m 34' 8"
Wingspan 12.5m 41' 1"
Height 3.83m 12' 7"
Wing area 21.7m? 233ft?
Empty 3,800kg 8,636 lb
Maximum take-off 6,400kg 14,454 lb
Engines 2x Junkers Jumo 004B-1 turbojets
Power 1,800kg 4091 lb
Maximum speed 870km/h 540 mph
Combat range 1,050km 650 miles
Ferry range    
Service ceiling 11,450m 37,664ft
Rate of Climb 1,200m/min 3,937ft/min
Guns 4x 30mm MK 108 cannon
Bombs none
Rockets 24x 55mm R4M rockets

Me262 Development

Although often viewed as a last ditch super-weapon, the Me 262 was actually under development 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 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 in order to test the airframe. When the BMW 003 engines were finally installed the Jumo was retained for safety reasons; this proved wise as on the first flight with the 003's both of them failed in-flight and the pilot had to land the plane with the nose mounted engine alone.

It was the third airframe that was to become a true jet plane when it took to the air on July 18 1942 in Leipheim near G?nzburg, Germany, piloted by Fritz Wendel. Instead of the planned 003 engines which were proving unreliable, the Junkers Jumo 004 had become available and was installed in its place. The 004 was heavier than the 003, and as a result the center of gravity of the plane would have been too far forward for safety. Moving the engines to the rear was a simple solution to the problem, but as they were mounted centered on the wing spars this wasn't easy to do. The solution was to bend the wings themselves to the rear, leading to the enduring myth that the plane was designed as a swept-wing fighter.

Test flights continued over the next year but the engines continued to be completely unreliable. Although all modifications to the airframe design were completed by 1942, they didn't bother to start production until 1944 when the engines finally started to work. Even then they rarely managed to last 12 hours, and it was not uncommon to have them explode during their first run-up tests. Planes often ended combat with one or both engines dead.

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Another problem with early jet engines is that they had poor thrust at low speed, it's only once the plane is up and running that they come into their own. They also throttled up poorly because it was very easy to burn more fuel than you need by opening the throttle quickly, thereby building up tremendous heat in the burner section melting the end of the engine off (literally). These problems made the plane very difficult to land. If there was any problem with the approach there was practically nothing you could do because the thrust would come on after you had hit the ground. Allied fighter pilots quickly learned of these problems and started attacking the jet fields during landings.

The poor thrust at lower speeds also meant that the aircraft took a fairly long time to climb to altitude, at least compared to other late war designs, and that it burned a tremendous amount of fuel getting to operational altitude. This meant that it had enough fuel for only a short sortee, perhaps on the order of half an hour, even though the plane was literally filled with fuel in every available space.

Even with all of these problems the plane was clearly pointing to the end of the propeller aircraft as a fighting machine. Once the plane was in the air it quickly accelerated to speeds well over 500mph, over 100mph faster than anything in the air. As long as the pilot flew the plane well, it simply flew right past the opposing fighters and tore into the bombers with its heavy armament of four 30mm cannons. In the hands of an even better pilot, the plane could run down P-51s so fast that the opposing pilots simply couldn't get out of the way in time.

Me262 Operations

Initally only the elite pilots of the Luftwaffe were allowed to fly Me 262s. Key to the proper use of the aircraft in combat was to never attempt to turn it as if it were a dogfighter, it was too heavy for this and would slow down very quickly. Given that speed was its only real advantage, good pilots made sure to make only small turns and never let the speed drop too much, making long, sweeping passes at the bomber formations. However, as Hitler grew more desperate, more inexpereienced pilots were put in the cockpits. Since they did not have the necessary experience to be flying an Me 262, many pilots were easy targets for the slower Allied fighters who would lure them into turning fights.
In the end the state of the Luftwaffe was such that the plane rarely flew, most sat on the ground awaiting delivery to operational units. Even when they did fly the overwhelming numbers of allied planes meant they had no overall effect on the war. On March 18th 1945 thirty-seven Me 262s intercepted a force of 1,221 bombers and 632 escorting fighters. They managed to shoot down 12 bombers and 1 fighter for the loss of 3 Me 262s. Although 4 to 1 exchange numbers were exactly what the Luftwaffe was dreaming about, it represents only 1% of the attacking force -- more were lost to mechanical problems.
After the end of World War II, the Me 262 as well as other advanced German technology was quickly swept up by both the Soviets and the Americans. Many Me 262s were found in working conditon by both sides, and were "liberated." These aircraft were extensivly studied, producing early Soviet and US jet fighters.

Me262 Variants

Me262 Post-war variants

  • Avia S-92 - Czech built A-1a
  • Avia CS-92 - Czech built B-1a
  • A-1c - American privately built replica based on A-1a configuration
  • B-1c - American privately built replica based on B-1a configuration
  • A/B-1c - American privately built replica convertible between A-1a and B-1a configuration

(credits: US Navy History Center)

Unlike the British and American Air Forces, the Luftwaffe never developed four-engine bombers in any significant numbers, and was thus unable to conduct an effective long-range strategic bombing campaign against either the Russians or the Western Allies. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was the most versatile and widely-produced fighter aircraft operated by the Luftwaffe and was designed when biplanes were still standard. Many versions of this aircraft were made. The engine, a liquid cooled Mercedes-Benz DB 601, initially generated up to almost 1,000 hp (750 kW). This power increased as direct fuel injection was introduced to the engines. The kill ratio (almost 9:1) made this plane far superior than any of the other German fighters during the war. In this regard it was followed by the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 at 4:1. This plane had relatively short wings and was powered by a radial BMW engine. The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka was a main asset for Blitzkrieg, able to place bombs with deadly accuracy. The leader of the Luftwaffe was Hermann G?ring, a World War I fighter ace and former commander of Manfred von Richthofen's famous JG 1 (aka "The Flying Circus") who had joined the Nazi party in its early stages.
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In the summer and autumn of 1940, the Luftwaffe lost the Battle of Britain over the skies of England, the first all-air battle. Following the military failures on the Eastern Front, from 1942 onwards, the Luftwaffe went into a steady, gradual decline that saw it outnumbered and overwhelmed by the sheer number of Allied aircraft being deployed against it. Towards the end of the war, the Luftwaffe was no longer a major factor, and despite fielding advanced aircraft like the Messerschmitt Me 262, Heinkel He 162, Arado Ar 234, and Me 163 was crippled by fuel shortages and a lack of trained pilots. There was also very little time to develop these aircraft, and could not be produced fast enough by the Germans, so the jets and rockets proved to be "too little too late."  


World War 1; World War 2 Operations, Weapons Data; Modern Weapons Data; Modern Wars; Combat Organizations
WW2 Luftwaffe Planes - List of Aircraft Junkers Ju 87 Stuka Dornier Do 215 Junkers Ju-188 Dornier Do 17, Dornier Do 335 Pfeil Junkers Ju 88 Messerschmitt Bf 109, Messerschmitt Me 262 Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor, Heinkel He 111 Focke-Wulf Fw 190, Junkers Ju 52
LIST OF PLANES US AIR FORCE WW2 USN WW2 Torpedo Bomber - Douglas TBD-1 Devastator USN WW2 Fighters: Brewster F2A Buffalo, Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk Grumman F3F, Grumman F4F Wildcat, General Motors FM-2 Wildcat LOCKHEED P-38 LIGHTNING F-82 TWIN MUSTANG REPUBLIC P-47 THUNDERBOLT NORTH AMERICAN P-51 MUSTANG Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Boeing B-29 Superfortress Consolidated B-24 D Liberator North American B-25 Mitchell, Martin B-26 Marauder
Third Reich Organization and people GERMAN ARMY WW2 ORDER OF BATTLE Adolf (Adolph) Hitler WW2 Victory Defeat Power Luftwaffe History Axis Powers WW2 Pact of Steel Gestapo, SS Panzer Divisions Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, Werner Von Braun, Wilhelm Canaris, Albert Sper, Walter Schellenberg, Von Rundstedt, Heinz Guderian, Wilhelm Keitel Field Marshal Erwin Rommel - Desert Fox German Africa Corps Manstein WW2 German Generals Otto Skorzeny (Skorceny) WW2 Commandos Rundstedt WW2 Field Marshal Nazism Fascism WW2 V1 Rocket - Flying Bomb V-1 V2 Rocket V-2 Fuhrerbunker - WW2 Forifications Maginot Line WW2 Iron Cross Flak
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Pre/Post WW2 USSR Russia Planes - List of Aircraft Ilyushin_IL2 IL-4_Ilyushin Operation Stalingrad , Operation Barbarossa Zhukov (Zukov) M, Russian navy WW2

WW2 Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe