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The Luftwaffe's Me-163 Comet Jet Aircraft

Updated on May 22, 2012
Targets ahead
Targets ahead
Taken by a P-51 pilot
Taken by a P-51 pilot
On the ground, readying
On the ground, readying

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.


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    • profile image

      Correction needed 

      6 years ago

      Not 162, it is 163

    • profile image

      Langston 

      7 years ago

      Nice work, though the Komet had a rocket engine, not a jet. The fuel came in two parts. Mixing them caused an instantaneous explosion. You should also mention how many Nazi pilots were killed in fueling, training,take off and landing accidents. Allied pilots almost didn't have to shoot them because this aircraft was a fireball waiting to happen. Like the ME 262, the Komet was vulnerable to Allied fighters when landing. I have never heard of attached rocket style weapons. The Natter used these though they were mounted in the nose cone. The number of allied bombers shot down by Komets is very low, perhaps no more than a dozen.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      7 years ago

      I am sure a P=51 pilot might think it was a UFO,a t firest glance.

    • FGual profile image

      FGual 

      7 years ago from USA

      One of the most innovative aircraft of WWII, I remember building a Komet model when I was a kid. The rocket fuel was volatile, sometimes blowing up when landing. Saw pictures of a Japanese copy, don't know if that ever flew. Lessons from the Komet went into the Bell X-1 I'm sure.

    • CHRIS57 profile image

      CHRIS57 

      7 years ago from Northern Germany

      Interesting to see how jet aircraft development was pushed to its subsonic limits within a very short period of time.

      This dynamic and rapid flight technology development was only matched in the 1950ties by the Kelly Johnson teams at Lockheed Skunk Works (F104G, U2/TR2, SR71).

      Also all fundamental space flight developments originated in the 40ties, 50ties and early 60ties. I have the impression that the generation of slide ruler engineers and hands on managers of that time were much swifter than the CAD and power point kids of today.

      It took 9 years from address to the nation to putting man on the moon. How long would the same program take today?

      By the way, i live only some 15 miles away from the remote airfield where the ME163 "Kraftei" = "power egg" was deployed after severe bombing at Peenemünde rocket center. Thanks for your hub, makes me consider to take a Sunday bicycle ride to that place in the near future.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      7 years ago

      Many thanks.

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 

      7 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      My dad was a mdel airplane builder so I grew up with airplanes in my blood! I enjoyed this very much. You have this laid out beautifully and it is easy to understand. Keep up the great HUBS. Up one and Useful. Hey! I'm now your fan! If you visit my HUB with Linda, please leave a brief a comment as it will brighten her day. RJ

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