Though best remembered as a late-war weapon, the design of the Messerschmitt Me 262 began prior to World War II in April 1939. Spurred by the success of the Heinkel He 178, the world's first true jet which flew in August 1939, the German leadership pressed for the new technology to be put to military use. Known as Projekt P.1065, work moved forward in response to a request from the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM - Ministry of Aviation) for a jet fighter capable of at least 530 mph with a flight endurance of one hour. Design of the new aircraft was directed by Dr. Waldemar Voigt with oversight from Messerschmitt's chief of development, Robert Lusser. In 1939 and 1940, Messerschmitt completed the initial design of the aircraft and began building prototypes to test the airframe.
While the first designs called for the Me 262's engines to be mounted in the wing roots, issues with the power plant's development saw them moved to pods on the wings. Due to this change and the increased weight of the engines, the aircraft's wings were swept back to accommodate the new center of gravity. Overall development was slowed due to continued issues with the jet engines and administrative interference. The former issue often was a result of the necessary high-temperature resistant alloys being unavailable while the latter saw notable figures such as Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, Major General Adolf Galland, and Willy Messerschmitt all oppose the aircraft at different times for political and economic reasons. Additionally, the aircraft that would become the world's first operational jet fighter received mixed support as many influential Luftwaffe officers who felt that the approaching conflict could be won by piston-engine aircraft, such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109, alone. Originally possessing a conventional landing gear design, this was changed to a tricycle arrangement to improve control on the ground.
On April 18, 1941, the prototype Me 262 V1 flew for the first time powered by a nose-mounted Junkers Jumo 210 engine turning a propeller. This use of a piston engine was the result of ongoing delays with the aircraft's intended twin BMW 003 turbojets. The Jumo 210 was retained on the prototype as a safety feature following the arrival of the BMW 003s. This proved fortuitous as both turbojets failed during their initial flight, forcing the pilot to land using the piston engine. Testing in this manner continued for over a year and it was not until July 18, 1942, that the Me 262 (Prototype V3) flew as "pure" jet.
Streaking above Leipheim, Messerschmitt test pilot Fritz Wendel's Me 262 beat the first Allied jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor, into the skies by about nine months. Though Messerschmitt had succeeded in out-pacing the Allies, its competitors at Heinkel had first flown their own prototype jet fighter, the He 280 the previous year. Not backed by the Luftwaffe, the He 280 program would be terminated in 1943. As the Me 262 was refined, the BMW 003 engines were abandoned due to poor performance and replaced by the Junkers Jumo 004. Though an improvement, the early jet engines possessed incredibly short operational lives, typically lasting only 12-25 hours. Due to this issue, the early decision to move the engines from the wing roots into pods proved fortuitous. Faster than any Allied fighter, production of the Me 262 became a priority for the Luftwaffe. As a result of Allied bombing, production was distributed to small factories in German territory, with around 1,400 ultimately being built.
Entering service in April 1944, the Me 262 was used in two primary roles. The Me 262 A-1a "Schwalbe" (Swallow) was developed as a defensive interceptor while the Me 262 A-2a "Sturmvogel" (Stormbird) was created as a fighter-bomber. The Stormbird variant was designed at Hitler's insistence. While over a thousand Me 262s were produced, only around 200-250 ever made it to frontline squadrons due to shortages in fuel, pilots, and parts. The first unit to deploy the Me 262 was Erprobungskommando 262 in April 1944. Taken over by Major Walter Nowotny in July, it was renamed, Kommando Nowotny.
Developing tactics for the new aircraft, Nowotny's men trained through the summer of 1944 and first saw action in August. His squadron was joined by others, however, only a few of the aircraft were available at any given time. On August 28, the first Me 262 was lost to enemy action when Major Joseph Myers and Second Lieutenant Manford Croy of the 78th Fighter Group shot one down while flying P-47 Thunderbolts. After limited use during the fall, the Luftwaffe created several new Me 262 formations in the early months of 1945.
Among those becoming operational was Jagdverband 44 led by the famed Galland. A unit of select Luftwaffe pilots, JV 44 began flying in February 1945. With the activation of additional squadrons, the Luftwaffe was finally able to mount large Me 262 assaults on Allied bomber formations. One effort on March 18 saw 37 Me 262s strike a formation of 1,221 Allied bombers. In the fight, the Me 262s downed twelve bombers in exchange for four jets. While attacks such as this frequently proved successful, the relatively small number of available Me 262s limited their overall effect and the losses they inflicted generally represented a tiny percentage of the attacking force.
Me 262 pilots developed several tactics for striking Allied bombers. Among methods preferred by pilots were diving and attacking with the Me 262's four 30mm cannons and approaching from a bomber's side and firing R4M rockets at long range. In most cases, the Me 262's high speed made it nearly invulnerable to a bomber's guns. To cope with the new German threat, the Allies developed a variety of anti-jet tactics. P-51 Mustang pilots quickly learned that the Me 262 was not as maneuverable as their own planes and found that they could attack the jet as it turned. As a practice, escorting fighters began flying high over the bombers so that they could quickly dive on German jets.
Also, as the Me-262 required concrete runways, Allied leaders singled out jet bases for heavy bombing with the goal of destroying the aircraft on the ground and eliminating its infrastructure. The most proven method for dealing with the Me 262 was to attack it as it was taking off or landing. This was largely due to the jet's poor performance at low speeds. To counter this, the Luftwaffe constructed large flak batteries along the approaches to their Me 262 bases. By war's end, the Me 262 had accounted for 509 claimed Allied kills against approximately 100 losses. It is also believed that a Me 262 flown by Oberleutnant Fritz Stehle scored the final aerial victory of the war for the Luftwaffe.
Propulsion: 2 Turbojet Engines
Engine: Junkers Jumo 004B-1
Engine Power: (each)8,8 kN1978 lbf
Speed:870 km/h470 kts 541 mph
Service Ceiling:11.450 m 37.565 ft
Rate of climb:1189 m/min3900 ft/min
Range: 1.050 km 567 NM 652 mi.
Empty Weight:3.800 kg 8.378 lbs max.
Takeoff Weight:6.400 kg 14.110 lbs
Wing Span12,48 m 40 ft 11 in
Wing Area: 21,7 m˛234 ft
Length: 10,60 m 34 ft 9 in
Height: 3,84 m 12 ft 7 in
First Flight:18.04.41 (Jet 25.03.42)
Production years: 1943 - 1945
Total Production: ca. 1430
The Fw 190 D was a reengined and reengineered development of the widely-used Fw 190 A, the first Fw 190 production model. It was viewed by its designer, Kurt Tank, as an interim design pending availability of the Ta 152. Prototype testing began in March 1942, with the unreliable air-cooled BMW 801-series engine replaced by the liquid-cooled Junkers Jumo 213A 12-cylinder engine (1776hp, boosted to 2240hp with water-methanol injection). This engine had previously been used exclusively on bombers.
The longer-nosed Fw 190 D, with a redesigned tail, was a success with pilots because of increased engine reliability and performance much superior to the Fw 190 A-8 in climb, dive and level speed. The aircraft attained 692kph (430mph) at 11,300m (20,200ft) and could fly 850kmh (480mi/h) -- performance that made it a much better interceptor against the burgeoning and fighter-escorted Allied bomber formations. Pilots considered it more than a match for the P-51D "Mustang". Armament was two 20mm Mauser MG-151/20 cannon in the wing (with a robust 250 rounds per gun) and two 13mm Rheinmetall MG-131 cannon (with 475 rounds per gun) over the engine. Small batches of Fw 190 D-0 and D-1 preproduction fighters were delivered for service evaluation in Spring and Summer 1943, just as the American 8th Air Force was starting large daylight bombing raids.
The first production variant was designated D-9 (because the previous production type was the A-8). Construction started at Marz, Cottbus, and Kassel-Waldau in Summer 1944. This was part of a major expansion in German single-engined fighter production initiated 2 years earlier by Erhard Milch, chief of aircraft procurement and supply. Over 1,000 fighters a month were now entering air defense service.
The multirole D-9 carried bombs in some versions and radar in others (the D-9/R11 and D-12/R11 night fighters) and was even faster than the D-1, reaching 709kmh (440mph) at 20,780m (37,000ft). Nicknamed "Dora-9" ("Dora" being the phonetic "D" of Luftwaffe radio traffic), service began in October 1944 with III/JG-54 (the 3d Squadron of Fighter Group 54), then I and II/JG-26 (by January 1945), and JG-2 and JG-301 (in early 1945). Allied and Luftwaffe pilots immediately dubbed it the "long-nose" ("langnasen") Fw 190. On their first operational mission with the new Fw 190 D-9, II/JG-26 shot down four British "Lancaster" bombers and one "Mosquito" fighter for the loss of one "Dora-9".
Several Fw 190 D-9 equipped groups, including JG-2 and JG-26, participated in airfield attacks by nearly 1,000 aircraft during the ill-advised "Operation Base Plate (Bodenplatte)" opening the Battle of the Bulge on January 1, 1945. JG-2 suffered 40 percent losses, and a total of 250 fighters were lost. Additionally, since the U.S. Army Air Force had begun hitting aircraft assembly plants and later oil refineries, the fighter force steadily lost effectiveness against daylight bombing raids. By the time JG-6 received 150 D-9s in April 1945, the bombing campaign had so restricted fuel supplies that only four aircraft could fly at a time.
Development continued with the D-10 through-15 versions, all of which were to be multi-role interceptor/ground-attack fighters with a wide variety of engines-the Daimler-Benz DB-603A and EB, the Junker Jumo 213EB and F with and without water methanol injection. Further development followed as the Ta 152, which is reported separately. Between 650 and 700 Fw 190 D's were completed when production ceased in 1945. Focke-Wulf's Marienburg plant, although apparently devastated by bombing, itself produced eight Fw 190 D's a day in December 1944. Figures vary, but approximately 13,250 fighters and 6,250 fighter-bomber versions were produced. This included 11,411 accepted by the Luftwaffe in 1944 alone-an increase of 375% over the previous year-and some 2,700 added in the final months of the war, even though about 30% of Fw 190 factories had been overrun by Soviet forces by February 1945.
Propulsion:1 Piston Engine
Engine: Junkers Jumo 213A-1Engine Power: 1325 kW 1777 hp
Speed: 685 km/h 370 kts 426 mph
Service Ceiling: 12.000 m 39.370 ft
Range: 835 km 451 NM 519 mi.
Empty Weight: 3.490 kg 7.694 lbs max.
Takeoff Weight: 4.840 kg 10.670 lbs
Wing Span: 10,51 m 34 ft 6 in
Wing Area18,3 m˛197 ft˛
Length: 10,19 m 33 ft 5 in
Height: 3,95 m 12 ft 12 in
First Flight 13.05.1939