The Messerschmitt Me 262 HG III (also HG-3) was a short-lived evolution of the iconic Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter of World War 2 (1939-1945). The original aircraft, introduced into service during April of 1944, became the world's first operational jet-powered fighter and was posed to give the German Luftwaffe a considerable edge in the skies over Europe but the lack of capable pilots coupled with a deteriorating war situation for Germany led the fighter to have a limited impact in the war.
Despite this outcome, Messerschmitt engineers continued to push the design along several routes and one path revealed a series of high-speed (Hochgeschwindigkeit) studies during what remained of the war years. The Me 262 HG II was something of a modernized, improved version of the original Me 262 - which was more or less becoming an obsolete product heading into 1945 -while HG III emerged as a drastic overhaul of the base design. The HG initiatives looked to incorporate additional aerodynamic qualities to help performance and fuel efficiency. Work on these aircraft was started in 1944 by Woldemar Voight, the man also responsible for the original Me262.
The combat effectiveness of the Me 262 in service was somewhat mixed at this point in the war - it was certainly a fast airplane with inherently powerful armament but it utilized unreliable and fuel-thirsty jet engines that were prone to flaming out at altitudes nearing 30,000 feet and higher. As such it lacked the capability to meet Allied bomber formations flying at very-high-altitudes and this was proving to have a disastrous effect on German war-making capabilities. Like it or not, the Luftwaffe found itself squarely in a defensive-minded war and containing the Allied bombing effort became a primary goal for the service.
To expedite development of both the HG II and HG III, the proven fuselage of the existing Me 262 fighter was retained though with some forced modifications. A potent battery of 4 x 30mm MK 108 autocannons would be carried in the nose and a low-profile canopy fitted over the pilot's position. In the HG III the wings were given 45-degree sweepback for the proposed high speeds at play and the original conventional tail arrangement was carried over - though one design attempt gave the HG III a "butterfly" tail - essentially a pair of outward-canted vertical fins negating the need for traditional horizontal tailplanes. A tricycle undercarriage provided the fighter a most modern look.
Unlike the Me 262 (and the proposed HG II), which held its turbojets in underslung nacelles under the wings, the HG III would incorporate its engines within the wing roots in an attempt to blend wing and body. These were aspirated by side-mounted intakes located at each wing leading edge and served to keep thrust output as close to center mass as possible while also eliminating the need for an expansive ductwork system which would have reduced thrust output further. Projected thrust from the selected Heinkel HeS 011 turbojets was 2,866lb each with a combined rating nearing 5,700lb.
The HG III ended its days in development as the war in Europe itself came to an end in May of 1945. Many German secret projects were taken over by the British, Americans and Soviets and either furthered or scrapped in the immediate post-war period. The 35-degree wing sweep seen in the HG II prototype concept (destroyed in a runway incident in May of 1945) was reused in the classic North American F-86 Sabre and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet-powered fighters soon to come.
Estimated performance specs for the HG III included a maximum speed between 620 and 730 miles-per-hour (sources vary) and a service ceiling of at least 35,000 feet.
One proposed offshoot of the HG III was a night intruder model outfitted with radar in the nose and a second crewman in an elongated cockpit. The 4 x 30mm cannon armament would have been retained. Another was the HG III/3 which repositioned the cockpit to the extreme aft of the fuselage, formed into the leading edge of the tail unit. Horizontal planes were affixed to the vertical portion of the new tail structure.
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