Me 262 "Schwalbe," ("Swallow") was the
world's first operational turbojet aircraft. First flown as a
pure jet on July 18, 1942, it proved much faster than
conventional airplanes. Development problems, Allied bombings,
and cautious Luftwaffe leadership contributed to delays in
quantity production. In late 1943, Adolf Hitler agreed to mass
production, but insisted the aircraft be used primarily as a
fighter-bomber. On July 25, 1944, an Me 262 became the first jet
airplane used in combat when it attacked a British
photo-reconnaissance Mosquito flying over Munich. As a fighter,
the German jet scored heavily against allied bomber formations.
The bombers, however, destroyed hundreds of Me 262s on the
ground. More than 1,400 Me 262s were produced, but fewer than
300 saw combat. Most remained on the ground awaiting conversion
to bombers, or were unable to fly because of lack of fuel, spare
parts, or trained pilots.
Jumo motors tended to flame out if the throttles were advanced
too quickly, making for sluggish performance during take-offs
and landings. The Allied pilots flying Mustangs and Spitfires
discovered this quickly and frequently attacked the jets on
landing. The Mustangs and Spitfires were also much more maneuverable
than the Me-262, so that Allied pilots adopted the tactics of
waiting until an Me-262 was committed to a dive before pulling a
High-G turn to avoid the attacker. As a bomber it was limited by
it's payload (1,000 lbs) and by Hitler's edict that it remain
above 13,000 ft due to the highly sensitive nature of it's
engines. He was afraid that the inevitable losses of fighter-bombers
at low altitudes would provide the Allies with a functioning jet
about 1,200 were delivered to the Luftwaffe although many more
were made. Many were destroyed on the ground waiting for engines
or fuel or were captured as Allied troops advanced into Germany.
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