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Messerschmitt Me 262

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When it entered service with the Luftwaffe in July 1944 the Me 262 became the first ever operational jet fighter. Faster than the piston-engined fighters of the time, it was at low speeds where it was most vulnerable. The Messerschmitt Me 262 arrived to late to make a difference in the Second World War.

Quick Facts
Messerschmitt Me 262 side profile image
First flight
18th July 1942
Entered service
July 1944
Total built

Front view
Me 262 front view photo
Side view
Me 262 side view photo
Rear view
Me 262 rear view photo

During the 1930s BMW were working on axial flow turbojets capable of 1,323lb of thrust, and these were planned to be ready by December 1939. It would be Messerschmitt who were chosen to produce an aircraft to be powered by this engine. Designated the P.1065 it featured engines in the wing roots, before being moved to under the wings, a top speed of 599 mph was predicted.

Now known as the Me 262, three prototypes along with a static test airframe were ordered. However, when the prototype flew for the first time on the 18th April 1941 it would be powered by a Junkers Jumo 210G piston-engine positioned in the nose. This was due to problems with the BMW engines which were giving less than half of the predicted 1,323lb of thrust and the Junkers Jumo 004 jet engine was also experiencing problems. In this guise the aircraft was tested to make sure various systems in the aircraft worked.

Seven months after the prototype flight the first of BMW's 003 turbojets arrived and were installed alongside the Junkers Jumo piston-engine. However, the BMW 003 turbojets failed just after take-off and it was the Junkers Jumo engine that allowed the pilot to land safely. The failure was due to compressor blades, which need a compete redesign, a delay which resulted in the Junkers Jumo 004A turbojet being used and due to this engine being both larger and heavier the Me 262 had its airframe modified.

The first prototype of the jet powered Me 262 took place on the 18th July 1942, nearly nine months before the British Gloster Meteor, with a pair of 1,825lb thrust Junkers Jumo 004A engines providing the power. Testing of the new jet fighter continued and the tailwheel landing gear was replaced in favour of a tricycle landing gear and 1,984lb thrust Junkers Jumo 0048-1 engines were installed and sixteen months later the new aircraft was demonstrated to Adolf Hitler.

Before the Me 262 could be put into production a number of issues still had to be resolved and even when this was achieved the Me 262 had to compete with the Arado Ar 234 Blitz for jet engines meaning that the built airframes had to be stockpiled. By April 1944 production was able to start, with the 19th April 1944 seeing Erprobungskommando 262 formed to begin the process of getting the Me 262 ready for operational service, but for the three months between June 1944 and August 1944 only 107 would be built.

Powered by a pair of 1,984lb thrust Junkers Jumo 004B engines, the Me 262A-1a had a top speed of 540 mph, range of 526 miles with a service ceiling of 37,500 ft. Armament was four 30mm cannons. July 1944 saw the Me 262A-1a begin to enter service. The aircraft was faster than piston-engined Allied fighters of the time, although at low speeds it was vulnerable and was not as manoeuvrable and a number of Allied aircraft scored victories over the type. It wasn't until March 1945 that large scale attacks could be mounted by the Me 262.

A number of sub-variants were also produced including the Me 262A-1a/us reconnaissance version with a pair of Rb 50/30 cameras. A two-seater trainer version designated the Me 262B-1a was produced and this led to the Me 262B-2a night fighter, however the war ended before this variant could be developed.

When production ended 1,430 Me 262s had been built.

Technical Details

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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Me 262A 540 mph 526 miles 37,500 ft four 30mm cannons
Me 262 A-1a side profile image
Me 262B Trainer version.
Me 262C Two prototypes, one a Me 262C-1a the other a Me 262C-2b.
Me 262D Intended to carry Jagdfaust Mortars.
Me 262E Two versions planned, the Me 262E-1 based on the Me 262A-1a and the Me 262E-2 intended to carry 48 R4M rockets.


Click on a photo to view a larger version.
Me 262A-2a

See This Aircraft

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

Me 262 A-2a Royal Air Force Museum, Midlands

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