The Messerschmitt Me262 or more commonly known by its nickname “Schwalbe” is the world very first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. It is the first of the Fighter-Bomber class. The design work for this aircraft started before World War II. However, the design had many problems related to its engine and metallurgy which kept interfering with the operational status of this aircraft for Luftwaffe until 1944.
The Messerschmitt Me262 aircraft at that time was much faster than any of the Allied fighter jets and that also included it being faster than the British jet power ‘Gloster Meteor” aircraft.
Messerschmitt Me262, which was one of the most advanced designed operational fighter jets of its time, had the following roles in the war.
- Light Bomber
- Experimental Night Fighter
In all the time of its service, Messerschmitt Me262 shot down nearly 542 of the Allied aircraft but there are claims that it shot down way more than this figure. The attacking force f this aircraft was massively diminished when the Allied aircraft started attacking the fuel supplies during the end of the war. By the end of the war, Messerschmitt Me262 had little impact on the course of war because of it being introduced far too late in the operational service.
German forces ended the use of the Messerschmitt Me262 with the closing of World War II but this aircraft served in the Czechoslovak Air Force until the end of 1951. Many of these aircraft were captured by Allied during the war and were studied for making more influential designs. The designs of this aircraft led to the designs of other post-war aircraft like North American F-86 Sabre and Boeing B-47 Stratojet.
Nowadays many of these Messerschmitt Me262 aircraft are on display in the museum while some are being owned by private collectors and are flown using the modern “General Electric J85” engines.
For our readers today, we have gathered some amazing facts about this aircraft, which are as follows.
Would have been a War Winner:-
During World War II, German high command realized the potential of technology and superior weapons production was what led them to conquer Poland and France. German high command had high expectations of the Messerschmitt Me262 aircraft which their engineers were building in mid wartime to bring them aerial superiority.
Built to house BMW engines:-
Messerschmitt Me262 aircraft were built around the gas turbines which were being developed by BMW. This was one of the groundbreaking works being carried out n the world at that time in 1938. The aircraft had the potential to change the course of the war in the skies.
The initial design had no jet engine:-
The very first prototype of this aircraft was developed a year earlier than the BMW engine was developed. To carry out the testing and development stages of the aircraft, instead of the jet engines, a Jumo piston engine was fitted inside to carry out the aircraft’s first flight.
First flight without a jet engine:-
This world very first operational fighter jet took its first test flight back on April 18th, 1941 and that was without a jet engine.
First flight with Jet Engine:-
In the early 1942 period, the fuselage was finally combined with the pair of a jet engine and the plane in its dreamed design took its first flight in March of 1942. However, the Piston engine was kept in case the jet engine failed.
Saving the Piston engine proved to be a wise decision because on its very first flight, right after the takeoff, the engine gave up. The plane was only able to land safely in one piece because of the skill of the pilot.
Change of engines:-
After this shaky troubled start, engines were redesigned and instead of the previous BMW turbines, a pair of “Junkers Turbojets” was fitted. Although these were heavier than the previous engines, they still allowed the plane to be afloat easily.
Mass production started after approval of Galland:-
The renowned fighter ace of World War II, General Adolf Galland took his first flight in a Messerschmitt Me262 in ay of 1943. Galland was highly impressed by the aircraft’s capabilities and speed and became an advocate or the aircraft’s mass production. Due to his boost, renewed effort and resources were put into the Messerschmitt Me262 program once again.
The Messerschmitt Me262 program faced its very first setback three months later it was renewed. Allied fighter jets started bombing raids on the German aircraft production factories in Regensburg.
Due to these raids, the program and production was moved to Bavaria. Regensburg already had skilled labor for the production but moving it to Bavaria caused further delays in its mass production line.
Entering in service:-
The very first Messerschmitt Me262 aircraft entered in the service in July of 1944 as it entered on the Luftwaffe frontline service. By then Allied had already entered in Normandy, so Germans needed anything to change the course of war into their favor once more.
Only a few of these Me262s flew in combat missions:-
A large number of these Messerschmitt Me262s were developed and from the moment the production line started developing them nearly 1400 of these aircraft were built. Unfortunately for Germans only 300 of these aircraft ever took part in combat.
This aircraft had a maximum speed of 540mph which came with an arsenal of heavy firepower. This allowed t to catch up to many fighter jets of the Allied. The aircraft had one major flaw and it was the maneuverability when it came close in combat. It suffered major disadvantage, especially against the P-51 Mustang.
By the end of the war, British Air Force also introduced their “Gloster Meteor” jet fighter. It was thought that Me262a would have easily won against it but unfortunately they never made any confrontation during the war times.
Messerschmitt Me262 is hailed as the world’s very first operational fighter jet that ushered the world into the age of Jet fighters. While it was designed to have air superiority and also achieved it, it entered the service far too late with many setbacks including production line disaster and redesigning of the engines. Still, this aircraft design helped the world to develop even better and faster fighter jets. Nowadays it is only on displays in museums or is flown by only private collectors.