The biggest myth about the Me262 is as follows:
“The Me262 could have won the war if only it hadn't been delayed by the order to develop it as a bomber.”
There are a number of reasons why this is just plain wrong…
The biggest is engine development – the engines used for the protoype Me262s were effectively hand-built to very exacting tolerances. Once they were adapted for mass-production the quality was reduced. More problematic was the lack of resources to make various specialised items for the engines (like hollow fan blades). All this lead to a huge reduction in the service life of the engines (figures of anywhere between a 12-hour and a 20-hour lifespan are often quoted), and a corresponding increase in the likelyhood of a breakdown. The Me262 was a twin-engine plane – but it could not fly well on one engine. Added to this is the fact that using jet engines would mean extensively re-training the ground crew for the aircraft, and it will take time to get adequate numbers of adequately skilled technitions for such a radically new engine type. Lack of skilled technitions to service the engines would further decrease the service life and increase the chance of breakdowns.
On the topic of resources, somewhere around 1,440 Me262s were built for the Luftwaffe in the last 2 years of the war, along with literally thousands of other aeroplanes. The majority of these never ever flew, as the Luftwaffe lacked both fuel and pilots – both rather essential.
In addition, the actual Me262 aeroplane itself was far from perfect. Its Mk108 cannon were powerful, but had a slow rate of fire, a low muzzle velocity and initially were prone to jamming. The undercarriage was rather weak, presumably because the aircraft was originally a 'taildragger' redesigned with a tricycle undercarriage. Its one advantage was sheer speed. And actually, sheer speed was also a disadvantage. It meant that the plane was more demanding to fly compared to piston-engined aeroplanes, and the closing speed in combat was far higher, meaning that the pilots would need faster reactions and better aim. This is in a period when the standards of Luftwaffe pilots was in decline, and they were even considering using Hitler Youth members as fighter pilots. In addition, the Me262 ideally required a long and solid runway for take-off and landing, which limited their rapid deployment options, and left whole squadrons vulnerable to being grounded by a few well-placed bombs on their runway. Piston-engined fighters could deploy from Pierced-Steel Planking (PSP) laid over practically any surface, which also lent itself well to quick and easy repair.
So how would the Me262 have changed the course of the war? Fans of the aircraft envision a scenario where hordes of Me262s have swept the sky clean of Allied aircraft, and gained complete air superiority for Germany. This is apparently achieved by utilising the superior speed of the Me262 to undertake a never-ending series of ‘boom and zoom’ attacks on Allied fighters – even the most passionate supporter of the Me262 will admit that it simply lacked the manouverability to ever risk dogfighting. The first problem here is that the Me262 was built as a bomber interceptor, with weaponry to match the role. Obviously, weapon fits can be changed, and there is no reason why it cannot be fitted with 4 x 20mm cannon for anti-fighter work. The second problem is that Allied fighters were far more numerous than their German counterparts, and could potentially swamp the Me262s as they attempted to take off (which happened to a limited extent in real life). The idea that this is prevented by having piston-engined fighters protecting the Me262 airfields (again, as in real life) means that you will have to create a secnd, equally sized force of piston-engined fighters, whose only role is protecting the jet's airbases. Which is patently ridiculous. What is more revealing is the fact that Allied fighters did, in reality, shoot down Me262s in air-to-air combat. The speed advantage of the Me262 was routinely negated by American escort fighters by the simple method of a height advantage – they knew what height the Me262s would need to be at to attack the bombers, and judged it from that.
Obviously, these hordes of Me262s would require adequate resources of fuel, pilots, and reliable engines. When the first two of these were available (1943) the last was not, and when the last was potentially achieveable (1944/45) the first two were lacking. I say ‘potentially’ as by 1944/45 Germany was losing its sources of the raw materials needed at a rapid rate.
The bottom line is this - IF you can get the engines to work by 1943, and if all other objections are swept aside, and the Luftwaffe starts recieving them in large numbers, and IF this proves a big problem to the RAF/USAAF (unlikely, they still have a numerical advantage and historically did develop tactics to deal effectively with the Me262) then what would happen?
Britain would speed up its own jet programme and you would have Me262s combatted by the slightly inferior Meteor and then the far superior Vampire (both of which had far more reliable engines).
All the information in this post comes from this Forum – and in particular I am endebted to Simonr1978 for all his posts on this topic, and for his expert input to this post.
For a full topic on the Me262 follow this link:
http://www.fun-online.sk/forum/viewtopi ... 98&start=0
For discussion on this Myth-Buster, follow this link:
http://www.fun-online.sk/forum/viewtopi ... 8151#88151
For further discussion please make a new topic in the new forum
Discussion on World War 2 in general.
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