In 1939, Messerschmitt submitted their proposal Projeckt 1065 to a RLM specification for a day fighter type airframe suitable for jet engines. This proposal would eventually become the Me 262, the first operational military jet fighter in the world. All of the first generation jet engines suffered from problems and the project was delayed waiting for a suitable engine. The original design called for BMW turbojet engines. During this delay, the first prototype airframe was flown powered by a piston engine so as to keep the development of the aircraft going. The first production engine was a Jumo 004. An experimental test unit, Ekdo 262 was formed in December of 1943 to get operational experience. Hitler decides the 262 will be the wonder weapon bomber of his dreams. Top Luftwaffe brass were shocked, seeing the 262 as a bomber eater. Delays to obey these new orders prevent service entry by months. Small flights of fighters are declared operational without fanfare. KG 51 is declared operational officially and begins bombing missions in October,1944. Hitler allows GenLt. Galland to form JV 44 in January,1945. It becomes a last stand and haven for the cream of Luftwaffe day fighter pilots. Due to aviation grade fuel shortages and industrial quality standards plummeting, the sortie level was very low. Constant enemy air patrols over 262 bases were a major problem. Piston-engine day fighter units had to be assigned to airfield defense duties. Various units used Me 262s until the end of the war. The basic airframe was versatile enough to serve as a fighter, bomber, photo-recon, trainer and night fighter. Most of the concepts introduced by this aircraft became standard features of the new post-war fighters.

       The Messerschmitt Me 262 was the first operational jet powered military aircraft. Like many firsts, it was based on ideas from the past. The concept of jet propulsion was first put forth about 150 BC. The first recognizable gas turbine design dates to 1791. And like many other firsts, it had to wait until science and technology became sufficiently advanced to actually construct working examples. By the 1930s, several nations were involved in the development of gas turbine engines suited to aircraft propulsion.

       On June 7, 1939 two German aircraft manufacturers, Heinkel and Messerschmitt submitted proposals to the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) for gas turbine powered aircraft capable of speeds far faster than conventional piston powered aircraft. Heinkel had teamed up with Dr. Joachim Pabst von Ohain to develop the He 280. Messerschmitt had teamed up with BMW to develop the Me 262. The RLM awarded contracts for both. The He 280 was first to fly under jet power. Problems with the BMW engines meant the Me 262 airframe made its first flight under piston power. Eventually the Me 262 would overcome its problems. Many sources credit Willy Messerschmitt’s better political standing with high Reich officials for the Me 262 program winning final approval for operational service.

       The BMW 003 and Jumo 004 engines were experiencing many problems. Gradually the Jumo engine was picked by the RLM to power the Me 262. Professor Messerschmitt saw this as an opportunity to test the new airframe separately to explore its aerodynamic qualities. The first airframe was flown powered by a Jumo210G piston engine so that the test pilots could evaluate general handling characteristics. A few minor problems were found and cured. The Me 262 airframe was bigger and heavier than the Bf 109. Air tests showed the Me 262 able to fly faster the Bf 109C with the same piston engine. The first jet only Me 262 flight occurred on July 18,1942. Many problems with the first BMW 003 engines caused Messerschmitt to also use Jumo 004 engine. Unfortunately engine problems would plague the Me 262 program in its entirety. Both the BMW 003 and the Jumo 004 suffered from materials and production quality problems. Both being axial compressor designs meant that the turbine blades used were the most critical parts of the engine. The Allied bombing campaign, that was putting pressure on all aspects of German military manufacturing, meant materials needed for these engines were not available and inferior substitutes were used. The result was very unreliable engine performance. Shortage of nickel meant that those turbine blades had to be made from alloys which couldn’t withstand the heat generated. Many pilots died because they couldn’t manage engine temperature limits during combat. Short engine life meant more efforts changing and overhauling the engines strained the supply system even more.

       Another big problem for the Me 262 program was Adolph Hitler. In late November of 1943, the Me 262 was demonstrated for Hitler. He saw it as the ‘Blitz’ bomber he had hoped for. Professor Messerschmitt was asked if it could carry bombs. He told Hitler it could. The design team was planning for a fighter bomber version. Hitler assumed the version he saw was able to be his ‘miracle’ bomber. Hitler ordered that the Me 262 be put into operations as a bomber. The veteran Luftwaffe pilots who were able to test fly the prototypes, immediately saw it’s potential to turn the tide of the airwar. The Allies had no fighter aircraft capable of matching the Me 262. The Allied wouldn’t be able to field a comparable aircraft until 1945. Major delays were caused in the Me 262’s introduction as the fastest fighter in the world. Officially, the first Me 262s were deployed by bomber units. Unofficially, small test units were developing fighter tactics.By the time the Me 262 was deployed as a fighter, the war situation was so bad, that it was unable to make a difference in the outcome of the war.

       General der Jagdflieger, Generalleutnant Adolph Galland and other top fighter pilots had been agitating for the Me 262 to be used as a fighter. Hitler finally gave Galland official permission to form a fighter unit in February of 1945. The word went out to the Luftwaffe and many top pilots found their way to Galland. Officially known as JV 44, it was unofficially known as the ‘Squadron of the Experten’. Many top aces joined to have one more chance to face the Allied forces with a superior aircraft. Unfortunately, by this time the tactical and logistic situation for the Luftwaffe was desperate. Units that had aircraft couldn’t fly missions due to lack of fuel. New pilots couldn’t be trained properly. Parts, especially engines, couldn’t be transported to units with Allied aircraft destroying trains, trucks, and bridges. Air fields housing jet units were highlighted for special attention with bombs and strafing. At war’s end, Me 262s were hiding in wooded areas and operating from stretches of the autobahn. They were the most advanced fighter aircraft of the war, but rendered ineffectual in such small numbers.

       By the end of the war, the Me 262 was used as a Interceptor,Fighter-Bomber, Reconnaissance, unarmed Fast Bomber, Home Defence fighter, Trainer and Nightfighter.

       Post-war, the Me 262 in just about any condition was highly sought after trophy. The basic characteristics of this fighter became the standard of all postwar jet fighters. It featured swept wings, although originally the sweep was introduced to maintain center of gravity issues, later aerodynamic research into high speed proved the value of wing sweep. The pilot enjoyed a full vision canopy. Tricycle landing gear allowed easier control on the ground. Armament consisted of cannons instead of machine guns. The airframe could be equipped with rockets and drop tanks. All of these things became ‘standard’ equipment on jet fighters.

       Despite the importance of the Me 262 to aviation advancement, only a few examples have been preserved. 1 rare two-seat nightfighter version is preserved in South Africa and all the other examples in Germany, England, Australia and the United States are single seat versions.

       Thru the 1970’s Monogram sent wave upon wave of first class 1/48 scale World War Two aircraft kits to the public. It is sometimes referred to as the Shep Paine era because of the tip sheets included with these kits. These kits were of such quality, that careful construction and painting made pretty good looking kits from the box. It was a kind of follow-up to the series of US Navy carrier based aircraft they had released in the mid 1960’s. The Monogram Me262A series kit was released in 1978.

       This kit was built by SEPAF and HAD member Steve Forkey in 1981. Steve built his kit as a Me262A-1b Wk Nr 500071. It served with III /JG7. Steve had not built a model kit for many years. He built this kit OOB. He had the opportunity to observe other members of SEPAF and applied many new techniques to this kit. Super glues, puttying and sanding seams, painting with an airbrush, Microscale treatment of decals was all new to him. He did a great job with this kit. The white ‘3’ denotes the 9th staffel or flight. The Red and Blue fuselage bands, commonly called ‘Reich Defense’ colors, denote JG7. The JG7 greyhound emblem is also displayed.

       Aircraft 500071 led an interesting life. On April 25, 1945 this Me262 was flown by Oberfahnrich Hans-Guido Mutke. After engaging a flight of B-26s, he discovered that his fuel situation was critical. He was far from base, flying over recently liberated French controlled territory. He was also near the Swiss border. He did not want to risk capture and possible murder by irate Frenchmen. He decided to head for the Swiss Dubendorf military airfield near Zurich. He made a successful landing and was interned until the war ended weeks later. His aircraft was kept in flyable condition for technical study.

       The Swiss government returned 500071 as a gift to the Deutsches Museum at Munich in 1957. It is currently on public display along with a rare Me163.

      

Bibliography:

       Kagero Miniatury Lotnicze 18 - Me 262 In Combat

                         Authors : Marek J. Murawski

                         Pub: OW Kagero

                         ISBN: 83-89088-70-3

       Aircraft Monograph 8 - Me 262 Schwalbe Pt.1

                         Authors: Seweryn Fleischer, Merak Rys

                         Pub: AJ Press

                         ISBN: 83-86208-48-1

       Aircraft Monograph 9 - Me 262 Schwalbe Pt.2

                         Authors: Seweryn Fleischer, Marek Rys

                         Pub: AJ Press

                         ISBN: 83-86208-69-4

       Me 262: Stormbird Rising

                         Author: Hugh Morgan

                         Pub: Motorbooks International

                         ISBN: 0-87938-965-6

       Warplanes of the Third Reich

                         Author: William Green

                         Pub: ExeterBooks/Bookthrift Marketing Inc.

                         ISBN: 0-671-08160-8

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