The Luftwaffe's Me-163 Comet Jet Aircraft
One could and should say that the modern jet combat aircraft originated in WW2 in Germany. Hitler was only mildly interested in rocket engines, despite the urgings from its Luftwaffe (airforce) that it was a weapon that would change the outcome if Hitler would focus on it. He did not. Instead, Hitler allowed the projects to continue with minimal funding and support. When the first jet aircraft, Me-262 and then Me-163 entered the war, it was too late because their numbers were too small.
The Me-163 Comet (Komet) was really the first modern jet aircraft because of its swept back wings. A style that exists in many fighters today. In fact, all jet aircraft have this type of wing because of aerodynamics. Its jet engine shot out its exhaust out from the rear of the aircraft. It was a single pilot fighter with a limited flight time of not more than 15 minutes. Within three minutes of take-off, the jet was at 32,000 ft! It would then turn and glide down upon the enemy bombers firing its two 30mm cannons aiming for pilots or engines. The first bomber downed was in early August, 1944. Although P-51s tried to battle it, it was like a turtle and a hare. The Me-163 was hurling through air at 700 mph, almost twice the speed of the P-51. American pilots could barely see it. yet alone, fire at it with accuracy. The aircraft was remarkably agile and docile to fly at high speed. According to Rudolf Opitz, chief test pilot of the Me 163, it could "fly circles around any other fighter of its time". So true. Pilots commented on that flying it was like, "controlling a runaway speeding train" and attacking bombers meant total bravery because you could not fire until with 500m of the target going over 500 mph or more.
At the end of 1944, 91 aircraft had been delivered to JG 400 but a continuous lack of fuel had kept most of them grounded. At most, some 300 had been built by the end of war. The biggest launching of the Me-163 was on Oct 7, when American bombers are flying air raids at Leuna and Merseburg. The Luftwaffe managed to assemble and ready 20 Comets and all took off at 10 second intervals. The Comets streaked into the air high above the American bombers and then descended onto their prey at incredible speeds. Some of the Comets were refueled and sent again after landing. However, P-51s were waiting making the whole process dubious. By April,1945, some of the Comet's became more lethal, armed with 6-8 50mm rocket tubes under the wings and fired when within 50 ft. of the target! This proved to be better weapon although one had to have steel of nerves! But, like the aircraft itself, it was too late to impact the war.