Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe vol. II

The night fighter version - Me 262 B-1a/U1 (W.Nr.110635, “red 10") from 10./NJG 11. Until just a few years ago many questioned the very existence of that particular machine, although its photographs had been around for quite some time. [Visualisation 3d Marek Ryś]


In late February 1944 an Me 262 A-1a airframe, W.Nr. 111 899, was modified to carry the MK 214 A V2 cannon. The dimensions of the weapon were such that the barrel protruded some 2 m from the aircraft nose and to accommodate it the nose landing gear had to be redesigned. The nose wheel assembly retracted into the fuselage and rotated 90° to be stowed flat in the landing gear well. The aircraft first flew on March 19, 1945 with Karl Baur at the controls. Baur went on to fly 19 sorties in the fighter and fired 47 rounds on the ground and 81 in airborne trials. The tests proved the big cannon to be very effective: 80% of the fired shells hit the targets. On April 5, 1945 the aircraft was handed over to the Luftwaffe night fighter ace, Maj. Wilhelm Herget, who flew it on two combat missions against the USAAF bomber formations. Unfortunately, on both occasions the cannon malfunctioned.
Another Me 262 example to be equipped with the MK 214 A V3 weapon was A-1a, W.Nr. 170 083. The fighter was modified in April 1945 and was later captured by the U.S. forces.
There were also plans for yet another heavily armed Me 262 version – the A-1a/U5. The aircraft was to feature six MK 108 cannons with a total of 500 rounds of ammunition (100, 85 and 65 rounds per gun in each pair). Only a single prototype of this version was built (W.Nr. 112 355). After the flight test program had been completed the aircraft was handed over to JV 44, where Obstlt. Heinz Bär used it successfully against a P-47.
Efforts to increase the Me 262 A-1a’s offensive punch were not limited to experiments with different types and configurations of conventional cannons. Messerschmitt also took a closer look at the possibility of using unguided rockets to beef up the fighter’s lethality. First such weapons to be introduced to production Me 262 A-1as were WGr. 21 210 mm unguided rockets. The missile weighed in at 110 kg, had a 36 kg warhead and the length of 1.26 m. Its effective range was between 500 and 7 850 m. The missiles were fired from tube launchers carried on standard bomb racks installed in two pairs on each side of the forward fuselage section. This armament configuration was used on several aircraft belonging to JG 7, although it was quickly discarded due to poor accuracy of the rockets.
Much more effective were the R4M “Orkan” 55 mm rockets designed by Kurt Heber. The missile was 812 mm long and weighed 4 kg . The warhead contained 0.52 kg of high explosives. The missile’s typical cruising speed was 525 m/s and its range approached 1 500 m. The R4M rockets had a ballistic trajectory closely resembling that of a typical MK 108 cannon shell, which allowed the use of the Revi 16b gun sight in targeting. The R4M were fired from wooden launchers attached under the fighter’s wings (12 launchers per wing).More than 60 Me 262 examples were retrofitted with the R4M rocket launchers installation. The weapons proved to be very effective against large formations of heavy bombers. They were usually fired in salvos, although just one direct hit was enough to down a four-engine bomber.
The reconnaissance version of the Me 262 was to be the A-5a, which was based on the Me 262 A-1a/U3 airframe. The aircraft had a provision for the installation of two 300 l external fuel tanks. There was also a small window fitted in the cockpit’s floor to allow the pilot visual observation of the ground below the aircraft. Offensive armament was to include a pair of MK 108 cannons installed in the forward, lower fuselage section. The design never proceeded beyond the drawing board.

View of the pilot’s cockpit of the Me 262 B-1a/U1. [Visualisation 3d Marek Ryś]


The bomber version of the Me 262 was A-2a Blitzbomber (lightning bomber), which featured two bomb rack assemblies (ETC 503, ETC 504 or Wikingerschiff). The aircraft could carry a single 500 kg bomb, or a pair of 250 kg bombs. The offensive armament was reduced to two MK 108 30 mm cannons. Among combat crews the bomber version was often referred to as the “Sturmvogel” (storm bird), while the fighter versions were nicknamed “Schwalbe” (swallow).
One of the variants of the bomber version was the Me 262 A-2a/U1. The aircraft featured the TSA 2D flight control system which allowed precision bombing in level flight or in dives. The system was tested in three airframes (W.Nr. 130 164, W.Nr. 130 188 and W.Nr. 170 070), which were later transferred to a frontline unit.