Messerschmitt Me 262A-2a Schwalbe (Swallow)
War in the Air
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The most advanced fighter of World War Two, too few Messerschmitt Me262s were deployed by the Luftwaffe at too late a stage to affect the course of the air war over Europe.
"What an aircraft! It was as though the Angels were pushing!"
Luftwaffe fighter ace Generalleutnant Adolf Galland, describing his first flight in an Me262.
Preliminary design work on what was to become the Me262 began in 1938. Persistent problems with the turbojets intended for the aircraft delayed the project and the first flight by a Me262 using only jet power did not take place until July 1942.
In December 1943 Hitler decreed that the Me262 Schwalbe (Swallow) should only be manufactured as a fighter bomber. Senior Luftwaffe officers believed that the Me262 was more valuable as a fighter, and Hitler's wishes were initially ignored much to his subsequent fury.
Small numbers of Me262 fighters and fighter bombers were used operationally by the Luftwaffe from mid 1944. Allied pilots found the Me262 a formidable opponent and special tactics were adopted to meet the new threat. However, chronic supply shortages meant that few Me262s saw combat and the true potential of the Me262 was never realised.
What makes this a milestone aircraft?
The Me262 was the only jet fighter to see air-to-air combat in World War Two and its appearance was a great shock to the Allies. It was a significantly more advanced design than its British contemporary and many of its aerodynamic secrets were eagerly incorporated in later post-war combat aircraft.