10 Facts About The First Jet Fighter – The Me 262

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1. World’s first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft

Me 262s were one of the most advanced combat aircraft introduced in WWII. The aircraft was effective in dogfighting, but was also used for scouting, light bombing, and even dabbled in night fighting. German pilots who flew the Schwalbe claimed that they shot down at least 542 Allied aircraft during the war.

2. It first flew in 1941

Messerschmitt started designing the Me 262 in April 1939, years before the start of WWII. Its maiden flight occurred on April 18, 1941, while fitted with a piston engine. The Me 262 held its first jet-powered flight on July 18 of the next year.

3. Faster than any Allied aircraft at the time

The Me 262 was faster than any available Allied fighter when it entered service. Its top speed was rated at 560 mph, 100 mph faster than the Gloster Meteor F.1, which was introduced in 1944.

4. Fitted with the first operational jet engines in the world

Its Jumo 004 engines, made by Junkers, were the first of their kind. 004s were first tested in 1940 with diesel fuel. Three months later, the engines were bench-tested again, producing a maximum thrust of 950 lbf. Aside from the Me 262, the Jumo 004 also powered the world’s first turbojet-powered bomber – the Arado Ar 234.

5. Plagued by engine problems

Germany’s shortage of strategic materials contributed to the slow production rates of its engine. The lack of an alloy that could endure such high temperatures was a huge problem in production and was never resolved during the course of the war. Furthermore, the engines weren’t as reliable as hoped, as they needed frequent replacement – sometimes even after just one flight.

6. Armed with four 30mm MK 108 cannons

The fighter/bomber carried four 30mm MK 108 cannons and had space to carry up to 24 55mm R4M rockets. These unguided rockets were stored on its underwing racks, twelve in each wing. It was estimated that it would only take one or two of these rockets to shoot down a B-17 Flying Fortress.

7. Saw limited service during the war 

Though the Me 262 was the fastest and more heavily armed than any Allied fighter, the aircraft had barely any positive effect on the Germans. The jet-powered fighter was introduced late in 1944 and was riddled with engine problems throughout its service. In the end, production delays and technical problems proved to be too much to handle for the Me 262. 

8. Around 1,430 Me 262s were produced

In total, Germany produced 1,430 Me 262s (including prototypes). However, most of these were not battle ready. In fact, less than a hundred of these were combat-ready at one point in time.

9. The subject of intense interest by the Allies

The Allies knew how dangerous the Me 262s were (if they worked correctly, that is). Luckily, its turbojet engines couldn’t produce enough thrust at low airspeeds, making the German jets vulnerable during landings and takeoffs. Lt. Chuck Yeager was one of the first Americans to shoot down an Me 262, and he did so while the aircraft was about to land.

with many efforts made to capture and test the aircraft. Because of this vulnerability, the Allies’ bombers frequently targeted Luftwaffe airfields while the fighters looked out for landing Me 262s.

10. Influenced the development of many post-war aircraft

Engine problems aside, many Me 262s were still captured and studded by the Allies even after the war ended. The tests and new technology taken from the aircraft would later influence the designs of many post-WWII planes. Sukhoi Su-9s, Nakajima Kikkas, F-86s Sabres, and MiG-15s were directly influenced by the Me 262.