Messerschmitt Me 262
x 54" x 2" Oil on Canvas. Framed
History: In the
pre-nuclear, pre-terrorist days of warfare, when many battling nations were
technological equals, overwhelming mass was an irresistible determiner of
outcome. For a single nation to twice take on the modern world within a 20-year
period, there must be a high level of self-delusion, if not madness, in the
highest ranks of government, especially when it was still staggering from the
effects of losing the first try. None-the-less, Nazi Germany did exactly that,
and no amount of technological ingenuity could alter that fact, as the history
of the Messerschmitt Me 262, the first turbojet to be used in combat,
dramatically illustrates. Had the aircraft been introduced in large numbers in
1939, it is conceivable that the "Battle of Britain" might have ended
as Hitler envisioned, while the United States, had it become involved, would
have had to fight an aerial war from across the Atlantic, and every pub in
England would today be known as "die Bierstube." Perhaps.
In fact, the Me 262 began as a preliminary design in 1939, without the engines
needed to make it fly. Thus, the first prototype flew in 1941 with a 700hp Jumo
210G piston engine, and not the planned BMW 003 turbojet engines.
The early prototypes were fitted with conventional tail wheels. However,
this configuration made takeoffs highly dangerous, so a fully retractable
tricycle landing gear modification became the standard. The Me
262A-1a "Schwalbe" ("Swallow") was the first
production model of the Me 262. It was produced with four Mk 108 30mm cannon
mounted in the nose, in its role as an interceptor, a role that it performed
with great promise except for several limiting factors: First, it came into the
battle far too late, when the Allied air forces had reached formidable capacity;
secondly, its engines were a constant source of trouble, frequently failing
after no more than 12 hours; third, it was utilized inappropriately for far too
long, after Hitler decided that the machine should be used in a bombing
capacity, to "punish" the Allies. That version, the Me
262A-2a "Sturmvogel" ("Stormbird") was
reconfigured to carry two 550lb bombs, still retaining the four cannon. A
further refinement, Me 262A-2a/U1 had two of the
cannon removed to provide space for a bomb-aiming device, and Me
262A-2/U2 carried a prone bombardier in the nose section. Thus,
for much of the aircraft's brief combat life, it was used against the wrong type
of targets, with even less effect than if it had been used as an interceptor.
In addition to bomber, ground attack and night fighter variants, the Me 262 was
also produced as a tandem two-seat trainer, the Me 262B-1a.
Four 262A-1as were modified to carry a single 50mm Mk 214 cannon which extended
almost 7 feet beyond the nose of the plane, but the blinding flash from the
barrel limited the effectiveness of the device. In any case, it didn't matter.
There were 1,433 Me 262s built, with nearly 500 more destroyed by bombing raids
before they were completed. Of that total, fewer than 300 were actually used in
Using equipment and components manufactured during the occupation of
Czechoslovakia, some Me 262s were produced by Avia, in Czechoslovakia after the
war, under the designation S.92.
In its brightest moments, when it was used as intended, the Me 262 was the
equivalent of sending the "Three Musketeers" against Sitting Bull at
Little Big Horn. In one battle, for instance, 37 of the 262s were scrambled
against an Allied raid that consisted of 1,221 bombers and 632 fighter escorts!
In their most effective performance, they cost the Allies a one percent loss.
Despite the fact that the Me 262 is
one of the most rare and esoteric aircraft of World War II, at least one group
has endeavored to build brand new copies of this interesting airplane, updated
to modern safety standards, and powered by more modern jet engines. The
distinctive profile of the Me 262 has recently graced the skies again, this time
in peaceful reflection rather than with hostile intent.
Nicknames: Turbo (Used by