Single-seat, first generation fighter-bomber.
The Messerschmitt Me-262 is the world's first operational jet fighter. Contrary to popular belief, the Me-262 was not the first jet fighter, that distinction goes to the canceled Heinkel He-280. Developed in Germany before the start of World War II, the Me-262 was in a class ahead of it's allied contemporaries. New features like swept wings, tricycle undercarriage, and the obvious jet engines, started new trends in aircraft design. Despite the technical advances, political and administrative barriers inhibited the type's development progress. Major technical hurdles in developing the engine technology, mostly due to allied bombing, placed the Me-262's entry into service back years. A delay many argue, cost Germany a technical lead which could influenced the outcome of the war.
Hitler envisaged the Me-262 a bomber, operating in a same manner as the light and fast mechanized Wehrmacht. The Me-262 was a poor fighter-bomber, but excelled at attacking allied bomber formations at speeds 100mph faster than the fastest piston-engined escort fighters. The only way prop-driven fighters could fight the Me-262 was to get it into a slow, turning dogfight. Takeoffs and landings were also deadly for Me-262 pilots as allied fighters would attack while the jet was at low speed and vulnerable. The last Me-262's were built in forests and caves to save them from the allied bomber onslaught. The 1400+ Me-262's could not change the war in Germany's favor. Many Me-262's were destroyed by advancing allied tanks while abandoned on airfields because no fuel was available to fly them out.
All allied air arms studied the Me-262 in the post-war period and incorporated features of it's design into their aircraft. The Jumo 004 formed the basis for the first Soviet turbojet. Swept wings were what turned the F-86 into a world-class fighter, from a mediocre design. A dozen Me-262A's were completed in Czechoslovakia under the designation S-92 and flown until the early 1950's. Avid and dedicated fans of the Me-262 have rebuilt the aircraft in new airframes and flown them at airshows in Europe and the U.S.
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