Messerschmitt Me 262 (Schwalbe / Sturmvogel) Single-Seat Jet-Powered Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft
The German Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe of World War 2 became the first operational jet-powered fighter in military history.
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The Messerschmitt Me 262 was the German answer to a failing war effort heading into 1945 during World War 2 (1939-1945). It was championed by some of the major players of the war though ultimately limited in its combat reach by forced design decisions, shortages of critical war materials, engine reliability, inexperienced pilots, and the Allied bombing campaign. The Me 262 could have been a game-changer for the Germans had it been given the necessary resources it required to make its mark on the war early on and provide a turning point for the German defense. By the end of the war, the Me 262 was hampered by a variety of issues - both logistically and politically - which ultimately limited its effectiveness and imprint on the war. Additionally, so much time had elapsed between the design idea and actual operational service that the Allies were already hard at work on their own jet-powered fighters which would have leveled the playing field. Nevertheless, the Me 262 still resonates with observers of World War 2 history - the first jet-powered fighter in service anywhere in the world - and remains the focus of so many "what-if" scenarios.
The turbojet engine is largely credited to the British and Frank Whittle but other nations evolved their own designs at about the same time in history. Germany was one such nation with patents and prototypes emerging during the 1930s - BMW and Jumo would become two of its major contributors players heading into World War 2 (1939-1945). With new, more refined turbojet engine models becoming available, the RLM (German Air Ministry) charged the Messerschmitt and Heinkel concerns with development of a new military-minded airframe to be powered by jet propulsion. Due to the limited thrust output of these new engines, two engines became the accepted norm for all viable future jet fighter designs.
Messerschmitt and Heinkel submitted their designs to the RLM in June of 1939 as "Projekt 1065" and "He 280" respectively. German authorities favored the Messerschmitt design over the competing Heinkel endeavor but still saw value in further developing the He 280 alongside the P.1065 and thusly, funding was allotted for both submissions. First flight of the He 280 was on April 2nd, 1941 becoming the world's first turbojet-powered military fighter aircraft in the world to fly. The Heinkel product followed its earlier He 178 experimental prototype into aviation history, the He 178 being the first jet-powered aircraft ever to fly back on August 27th, 1939.