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Me 262 Messerschmitt
Me 262 Schwalbe
Interceptor

DESCRIPTION:
The historic Me 262 Schwalbe (Swallow) was the first jet-powered aircraft to see combat. The project began in 1938 when Messerschmitt was called upon to design a new fighter powered by two gas turbine engines being developed by B.M.W. The configuration eventually chosen featured a sleek streamlined fuselage with the two podded engines carried beneath a low-mounted wing.

Although the airframe was ready to fly by 1941, the early B.M.W. turbojet engines were well behind schedule due to prolonged development delays. German designers instead chose to make the first flights using a single piston engine located in the nose. These early flights confirmed the good handling characteristics of the Me 262 and allowed other systems to be tested until the jet engines were finally ready a year later. Being conservative, the designers decided to keep the piston engine in the nose as a backup. Luckily, this move paid off. On its first jet-powered flight, the Me 262 had barely become airborne using the combined power of all three engines when both jets failed. The auxiliary piston engine provided just enough power to make a safe landing, thereby saving the plane for future testing.

It is a common misconception that the Me 262 might have won the war if Adolf Hitler had not delayed the project by insisting the aircraft be used as a bomber. Though Hitler's demand did play a role in slowing the Me 262, as did the indifference of key Luftwaffe leaders, it was continuing problems developing the jet engines that provided the greatest impediment to the program. However, Junkers had finally developed engines of sufficient power and reliability by late 1943 to make the new fighter feasible.

The Luftwaffe began committing the remarkable Me 262A-1a to combat in mid-1944 when air defense squadrons were pitted against the columns of heavy bombers making daily raids on German cities and military targets. Later models included the Me 262A-2a Sturmvogel (Stormbird) bomber and the Me 262B two-seat night fighter carrying an early form of airborne radar.

Despite being well-armed with 30-mm cannons and air-to-air rockets, the Me 262 was simply too little too late to turn the tide of war in Germany's favor. Maintaining production was difficult due to Allied attacks on industrial centers, and many aircraft were destroyed on the ground or shot down because of poor pilot training. The few that did see action may have outclassed their Allied opponents in terms of speed, but several were lost to the superior numbers and better maneuverability of enemy piston-powered fighters.

A total of about 1,430 examples of the Me 262 were ultimately built, though only about 300 ever saw combat. Many of the survivors were captured by the victorious Allies and used to help jumpstart the blossoming jet age.

Data below for Me 262A-1a
Last modified 27 September 2009

HISTORY:
First Flight 18 April 1941 (with piston engine)
25 March 1942 (with jet engines)
Service Entry

30 June 1944

CREW: (Me 262A) one: pilot
(Me 262B) two: pilot, radar officer

ESTIMATED COST:

unknown

AIRFOIL SECTIONS:
Wing Root NACA 00011-0.825-35
Wing Tip

NACA 00009-1.1-40

DIMENSIONS:
Length 34.79 ft (10.60 m)
Wingspan 40.96 ft (12.48 m)
Height 12.58 ft (3.84 m)
Wing Area 233.58 ft (21.70 m)
Canard Area

not applicable

WEIGHTS:
Empty (Me 262A-1a) 8,380 lb (3,800 kg)
(Me 262B-1a) 9,700 lb (4,400 kg)
Normal Takeoff 14,110 lb (6,400 kg)
Max Takeoff 15,720 lb (7,130 kg)
Fuel Capacity 635 gal (2,400 L)
Max Payload

at least 2,200 lb (1,000 kg)

PROPULSION:
Powerplant two Junkers Jumo 004B-1/-2/-3 axial turbojets
Thrust 3,968 lb (17.7 kN)

PERFORMANCE:
Max Level Speed at altitude:
(Me 262A-1a) 540 mph (870 km/h) at 19,685 ft (6,000 m)
(Me 262A-2a) 470 mph (755 km/h)
(Me 262B-1a) 495 mph (800 km/h)
at sea level: 515 mph (825 km/h)
Initial Climb Rate 3,935 ft (1,200 m) / min
Service Ceiling 37,565 ft (11,450 m)
Range 565 nm (1,050 km)
g-Limits unknown

ARMAMENT:
Gun (Me 262A-1a) four 30-mm MK 108 cannons (two w/100 rds ea, two w/80 rds ea)
(Me 262B-2a) some equipped with one 50-mm MK 114 cannon
Stations two external hardpoints
Air-to-Air Missile none
Air-to-Surface Missile none
Bomb (Me 262A-2a) up to two 1,100 lb (500 kg) bombs
Other (Me 262A-1b) up to 24 55-mm R4/M rockets
(Me 262B-2a) up to 48 55-mm R4/M rockets

KNOWN VARIANTS:
Me 262 V1 First prototype initially fitted with a piston engine to test flight characteristics, later fitted with two B.M.W. 003 turbojets
Me 262 V2 through V12 Test aircraft
Me 262A-0 Preproduction aircraft
Me 262A-1a Schwalbe Production single-seat fighter interceptor fitted with four cannons in the nose
Me 262A-1b Single-seat interceptor fitted with R4M air-to-air rockets
Me 262A-2a Sturmvogel Single-seat bomber based on the Me 262A-1a
Me 262A-5a Reconnaissance model
Me 262B-1a Two-seat trainer
Me 262B-1a/U1 Early two-seat night fighter equipped with a radar in the nose
Me 262B-2a Improved two-seat night fighter
Me 262C Test aircraft fitted with rocket-assisted takeoff gear; 3 built

KNOWN COMBAT RECORD:

World War II (Germany, 1944-1945)

KNOWN OPERATORS:

Germany, Deutsche Luftwaffe (German Air Force)

3-VIEW SCHEMATIC:

Me 262


SOURCES:
  • Chant, Christopher and Taylor, Michael J.H. The World's Greatest Aircraft. Edison, NJ: Chartwell Books, 2006, p. 70, Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe.
  • Donald, David, ed. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1997, p. 623-624, Messerschmitt Me 262.
  • Eden, Paul. The Encyclopedia of Aircraft of WWII. London: Amber Books Ltd, 2004, p. 356-363, Messershmitt Me 262 Schwalbe.
  • Isby, David C. Jane's Fighter Combat in the Jet Age. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1997, p. 8-23.
  • Jackson, Robert. The Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft. London: Paragon Books, 2002, p. 261-262, Messerschmitt Me 262.
  • Luftwaffe Resource Group Me 262 site
  • Stormbirds Me 262 site





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