MESSERSCHMITT Me 262^31
Hitler reluctantly reversed his order to return
production to the fighter variant.
At last the Me 262 could streak through
the skies and devastate enemy bomber
streams. Serving in small numbers and starved
through a lack of fuel and reliable engines,
the brief operational history of the Me 262
was remarkable for its potency. Even after the
war had come to a close, the Me 262 was still
superior to its Allied counterparts, such as the
Ironically, the Me 262’s Achilles heel was
its jet power. The Me 262 was vulnerable on
take-off and landing, the engines taking a long
time to throttle up. Once a pilot was on the
landing approach, he was committed as the
engines could not accept sudden power inputs.
The Me 262 may have been untouchable in
Above: Me 262s of Erprobungskommando 262
lined up at Lechfield in September 1944. The
futuristic shape of the Me 262 was far in advance
of any other aircraft of its time.
Left: The pilot sat high in a canopy that tilted open
to the right and offered good all-round visibility.
The front window glass was bullet-proofed and
the seat (non ejection) was armoured.
the skies, but on landing or take-off, it was
fair game for marauding Mustangs. The high
attrition of pilots and lack of training also took
their toll. Fresh pilots, inexperienced and new
to war, found themselves in the world’s fastest
fighter. As they rocketed through bomber
streams at exhilarating speed, some made the
mistake of slowing down to line up for the
kill, they themselves becoming a target for
bomber gunners and fighters.
There is no doubting that the Me 262
terrified the Allies. In September 1944,
USAAF Gen Carl Spaatz expressed fears that
if greater numbers of the jets appeared over
the Third Reich, it would be enough to cause
cancellation of the Allied daylight bomber
offensive. Too late, the chaotic bureaucracy of
the Luftwaffe came to realise that the Me 262
was Germany’s only salvation and the project
was given top priority.
In all over 1,400 Me 262s of all versions were
produced but numbers never exceeded 200
on combat duties at any one time due to fuel
and pilot shortages. Despite the limitations
imposed upon it, the Me 262’s brilliance
confirmed it as the world’s most advanced
fighter of World War 2.