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Messerschmidt Me-262

The Messerschmidt Me-262 was the first jet-fighter to ever enter combat. It was a radical design that was plagued by failures and setbacks. The prototype 262 had a tailwheel instead of a nosewheel, but this was later changed because it was though to be too difficult for inexperienced pilots to takeoff with the tailwheel. The prototype had the two jet engines and an extra piston engine in the nose for emergencies. This proved helpful when, on one of the test flights, the two jets quit. The test pilot skillfully landed the plane with the piston engine. The Jumo 004 jet engines weren't very dependable and easily flamed-out if the throttle was handled too rough. The 262 was late coming into service not only because Hitler decided to use it as a fighter-bomber, but also because the engines took longer to develop than first thought. The 262 had a potent armament of four 30mm cannons located in the nose. It could also carry two 210mm rockets or two 1,110 pound bombs under the nose. Later versions could carry twenty-four unguided rockets, twelve under each wing. A devoted night-fighter was also developed, but nothing came of it. Another development was one plane fitted with a 50mm cannon replacing the four 30mm cannons on the nose. This would have been used against American bomber. The design was dropped when the flash of the cannon temporarily blinded the pilot. The 262 was most vulnerable taking-off and landing, when they were slow. As a result, piston enigne fighters like the Fw-190 and Bf-109 had to cover them while taking-off and landing. The Me-262 was an excellent bomber killer and could have slowed the Allied advance if more had been built.

The Me-262 is often called the best fighter of World War Two. Yet it had many problems. The engines flamed-out easily, it accelerated slow, it wasn't as manuverable as propeller-driven fighters, and it was vulnerable during take-off and landing.

Many Me-262s were 'liberated' by Allied countries after the war. This example was captured by the U.S. The Russians developed their own fighter from captured 262s, which was practically a Russian made 262. Stalin turned it down because it looked too much like the 262.

Several nightfighter 262s were developed. They were two-seaters and had radar in the nose.