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  • 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.

     Updated: 3/29/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    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.

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    Messerschmitt Me 262A-1 Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1944
    Type: Single-Seat Jet-Powered Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft
    National Origin: Nazi Germany
    Manufacturer(s): Messerschmitt - Germany / Avia - Czechoslovakia
    Production Total: 1,400

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 34.78 feet (10.6 meters)
    Width: 41.01 feet (12.50 meters)
    Height: 12.47 feet (3.80 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 8,378 lb (3,800 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 14,110 lb (6,400 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 2 x Junkers Jumo-004B turbojet engines developing 1,984 lb of thrust each.

    Maximum Speed: 541 mph (870 kph; 470 knots)
    Maximum Range: 652 miles (1,050 km)
    Service Ceiling: 37,730 feet (11,500 meters; 7.15 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 3,937 feet-per-minute (1,200 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    4 x 30mm MK 108 cannons in nose

    External Bombload of up to 1,200lbs. Other armaments of later models included (some trialed):

    2 x 550lb SC250/SD250 bombs under forward fuselage
    2 x 1,100lb SC500/SD500 bombs under forward fuselage
    1 x 1,100lb or 2,200lb towed bomb (Deichselschlepp)
    2 x 20mm MG 151/20 cannons with 2 x 30mm MK 103 cannons and 2 x 30mm MK 108 cannons in nose.
    24 x 55 R4M AA rockets underwing
    1 x 50mm Mauser MK 214 autocannon in nose
    1 x 50mm Rheinmetall BK 5 cannon in nose
    2 x Ruhrstahl X-4 wire-guided AA missiles under the forward fuselage.

    Reconnaissance versions were usually gun-less aircraft and carried camera equipment in the nose, noted by bulged fairings along the nose sides required for the film magazines.

    Global Operators / Customers

    Czechoslovakia (post war); Nazi Germany

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    Me 262 - Base Series Designation

    "Schwalbe" - Name denoting fighter version

    "Sturmvogel" - Name denoting fighter-bomber version

    Me 262V - Prototypes and pre-production models

    Me 262A-0 - 23 Pre-Production models built

    Me 262A-1a - First Operational Status Model

    Me 262A-1a/U1 - Additional 2 x 20mm cannons (in addition to the base 4 x 30mm assembly.

    Me 262A-1a/U2 - Inclement Weather Variant

    Me 262A-1a/U3 - Unarmed Reconnaissance Model

    Me 262A-1b - Bomber Destroyer; 24 x air-to-air unguided rockets added (12 under each wing).

    Me 262A-2 Sturmvogel (Stormbird) - Fighter-Bomber

    Me 262A-2a - Fighter-Bomber; capable of 1,102lb external bomb load.

    Me 262A-2a/U1 - One-ioff used to trial new bombsight

    Me 262A-2a/U2 - Two-seat fighter-bomber variant with bombardier fitted into prone bomb-aimer position in glazed-over nose assembly; 2 examples.

    Me 262A-3a - Proposed ground-attack variant; not furthered.

    Me 262A-4a - Reconnaissance variant

    Me 262A-5 - Production Reconnaissance Fighter; limited numbers by war's end.

    Me 262B-1a - Two-seat conversion trainer with dual controls.

    Me 262B-1a/U1 - Two-seat trainers converted to night fighter role; outfitted with FuG 218 Neptun radar and antenna array on nose.

    Me 262B-2 - Proposed Night Fighter; lengthened fuselage

    Me 262C-1a - One-off prototype; rocket-assisted interceptor; Walter HWK 109 rockets.

    Me 262C-2b - One-off prototype; rocket-assisted interceptor; BMW rockets.

    Me 262C-3 - Proposed interceptor with Walter HWK RII-211 rocket boosting.

    Me 262C-3a - Proposed interceptor with Walter HWK 109-509S-2 rocket boosting.

    Me 262D-1 - Proposed mortar-carrying bomber destroyer

    Me 262E-1 - Proposed bomber destroyer with 55mm MK 114 cannon in nose.

    Me 262E-2 - Proposed bomber destroyer with 48 x R4M rocket support under wings.

    Me 262W-1 - High-speed version with Argus As 014 pulsejet engines.

    Me 262W-3 - High-speed version with Argus As 044 pulsejet engines.

    Me 262 "Lorin" - High-speed model benefitting from 2 x Lorin ramjet boosters over wings.

    Nakajima J9Y "Kikka" - IJN variant based on the Me 262

    Nakajima Ki-201 "Kayru" - IJA variant based on the J9Y