The Me163 was the fastest production aircraft of World War II. It’s rocket engine, swept wing, and tailless design were all revolutionary. In fact, it is the only rocket powered aircraft to ever enter series production.
Yet it’s impact on history is more folklore than anything substantive. After the jump, a look at a very advanced fighter concept.
This is another Germany’s extremely advanced projects. But its deficiencies are at least as significant as its strengths. The idea was, a point defense interceptor that could climb to over 30000 feet in about two minutes. With a top speed around 700 MPH it was uncatchable by anything during powered flight. But “during powered flight” would prove to be the first really big catch. With only about five minutes of fuel, the plane would spend most of its time airborne as a glider. This further translated into about a 25 mile range. Which means there was an even finer point on point defense than would be on other such aircraft. That means it could defend a single fairly small locale. It also had pretty specialized service needs, so it couldn’t easily be relocated to defend a different site.
Add to that, its speed with power was actually too fast for a productive firing run on a bomber formation. Especially considering firepower of two 20 mm cannon, this is pretty light for going against American heavies. And with the engine off it was easy prey for escorting fighters.
There were even more serious issues with the fuel. The Komet used a two-part liquid fuel. The components needed to be carefully kept apart until needed because when mixed they were caustic and explosive… Because. It. Was. Rocket. Fuel. Labeled “T-Stoff” and “C-Stoff” the two liquids were transported in separate trucks and pumped into clearly labeled and separate tanks. Now the obvious thing to mention here is that was a fighter plane, going places where people would be shooting at it. The consequences of a damaged fuel tank were even more dire than in a gasoline powered aircraft. Bailing out was often not really an issue.
Ultimately the type only entered service with one group (JG 400) and operated from a couple bases. The less than 100 aircraft in service scored around 10 kills for 16 losses. Plans at one point called for a number of interconnected bases that would allow for a broader defensive sphere; but the Me 262 proved to be a more useful aircraft and the Me 163 was not further supported.
No doubt this aircraft scared the daylights out of allied bomber crews. It was virtually untouchable at speed. But it came with too many limitations and hazards, and was not what we could call successful.
This subject is from the DML kit, with Cutting Edge decals. It flew with JG 400 in early 1945.
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