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ME 262 Sturmvogel - Was Hitler correct?

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The fighter-bomber version of the German ME 262 was known as the Sturmvogel (Storm Bird). It has long been said that the Luftwaffe had the advantage of this jet-powered aircraft stifled by Hitler's stupidity in demanding that the new aircraft type be produced as a fighter-bomber. But was the idea stupid in theory?

 

Germany's first jet-powered aircraft, the Heinkel He 178 took its maiden flight about a week before the invasion of Poland in 1939. As a result, the Me 262 was already under development as Projekt 1065 (P.1065) before the start of World War II. The project originated with a request by the Ministry of Aviation for a jet aircraft capable of one hour's endurance and a speed of at least 850 km/h (530 mph; 460 kn). Dr Waldemar Voigt headed the design team, with Messerschmitt's chief of development, Robert Lusser, overseeing.  

 

The Germans had the design of the airframe well in hand, but the engine technology hindered progress. One particularly acute problem arose with the lack of an alloy with a melting point high enough to endure the high temperatures involved, a problem that by the end of the war had not been adequately resolved. The aircraft made its first successful flight entirely on jet power on 18 July 1942, powered by a pair of Jumo 004 engines.

 

In mid-1943, Adolf Hitler envisioned the Me 262 as a ground-attack/bomber aircraft rather than a defensive interceptor. The configuration of a high-speed, light-payload Schnellbomber("fast bomber") was intended to penetrate enemy airspace during the expected Allied invasion of France. Previously, the Stuka, was the designated ground support aircraft, but it could only be effective in areas where the Allies had air superiority by having the covering support of the ME 109 or FW 190. It was clear that if the Allies intended to invade, they would have the air superiority, and the Stuka operations would be cut to pieces. In light of that expectation, the idea of an aircraft able to support ground troops by entering a battlefield at high speed; making its attack, and then getting out at speed seems reasonable.

 

Following the Allied invasion of France, US P47 Thunderbolt and the British Hawker Tempest carried out the role of fighter/bomber, ground support. This role was the same as envisaged for the Sturmvogel, and it would have been a great asset as the Germans tried to hold the Allies' ground forces advancing from East and West.

 

Admittedly, Germany was having Hell bombed out of it by day and night. That restricted production of all aircraft, but about 1400 were built (17,000 ME 109 in 1944/45). Losses of ME 262s mostly occurred becasue they were set upon by Allied aircraft during take off or landing at their bases. These attacks meant that other fighter aircraft had to provide airborne protection during the beginning and end of ME 262 sorties.

 

History records that the actual operational success of the ME 262  Sturmvogel was not outstanding, due to the overwhelming air superiority of the Allies. But should History also mock Hitler's vision of a high speed, ground attack aircraft that could have supported German ground troops as they tried to stop the rolling Allied juggernaut?

 

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Unreliable engines and the poor climb these early low thrust engines gave would have made them easy prey for a good piston fighter plane. the DH Vampire is far better but still a very poor performer at low speed in the power department.  They all need a lot of runway (Like the earlier B 707 ).Jet engines keep a more or less constant thrust, so give more power as their speed increases. The high thrust engine were turbofan High bypass ratio motors which are also more fuel efficient. Turbine blade metallurgy has a lot to do with it also, enabling high EGT's. equals efficiency. Nev

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I concede that the ME 262 had problems arising from the power output of its engines. 

 

My point is not to discuss the operational failings of the aircraft that finally came into operation too late and too few to stem the tsunami of Allied air superiority. The point I'd like to raise was whether or not Hitler's own desire to use this new form of ultra-fast aircraft as hit and run ground support units for surface forces was stupid, as the writers of History would have us believe, or was actually a smart idea in view of the Luftwaffe's loss of the control of the air over battlefields. 

 

Hitler was in the thick of things during World War One. He would have gained knowledge of the effect of aircraft on advancing troops from being under attack from them. Come WWII, Hitler was seeing that the anti-bomber campaign of the Luftwaffe was not effective. Everyone and his dog (Hitler's German Shepherd bitch, Blondi included) knew that there would be an invasion from the West. Since other fighter aircraft he had in greater numbers could still be directed at the bomber streams, the smaller numbers of the fast ME 262 might reasonably be more effective as support for ground troops.

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 You need thrust to turn fast and" lifting" wings. I've seen a dogfight with a Vampire and a Caribou and the Caribou easily turns inside the vampire every time. I don't know what critical Mach No the 262 was but it wouldn't be anything special and with low thrust and a big thirst it's a bit operationally limited... It catches the imagination I suppose, being a jet but would probably require 2x the runway length the Bf 109 needed to take off and might have a pretty limited payload  and little range... They had the best supercharger systems in their piston engines as they built plenty of race cars and bikes with them. Nev

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The Me262 wasn't very manoeuvrable, which would be a disadvantage for a ground attack aircraft. It was also slow to accelerate and the engines had to be handled gently. However, its speed made it an excellent interceptor despite its rather short endurance. Galland certainly thought Hitler's idea was a serious blunder and misuse of the plane's major speed advantage over allied fighters and its ability to knock down bombers with its 30mm cannon and missiles. However either way, it was a case of too little too late to alter the outcome of the war, so whether Hitler was right or not is probably a moot point.  Goering eventually conceded that Galland was right despite initially backing Hitler.

Edited by rgmwa
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I think the 262 injuns had a similar TBO as  Le Rhone Rotary, around 50 hours.

Yanks claimed heaps of 262's shot down, they were either landing out of fuel or parked 😁

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Don't forget that Galland was a fighter pilot. His military thinking was aligned with the job he was trained to do - shoot down enemy aircraft of all types. I have said that I agree that the ME 262 was a dog, but that's not the discussion here.

 

The discussion is, "Was the ME 262, due to its speed and low numbers, better used as an army support, hit and run weapon than as one of the many aircraft trying to dam the bomber streams?"

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27 minutes ago, old man emu said:

Don't forget that Galland was a fighter pilot. His military thinking was aligned with the job he was trained to do - shoot down enemy aircraft of all types. I have said that I agree that the ME 262 was a dog, but that's not the discussion here.

 

The discussion is, "Was the ME 262, due to its speed and low numbers, better used as an army support, hit and run weapon than as one of the many aircraft trying to dam the bomber streams?"

True, Galland was a fighter pilot, so he saw its advantages from that point of view. Many 262's initially intended as fighter-bombers ended up being transferred to fighter squadrons (and there weren't many of those), or were abandoned.  From memory, I think they built about 1,400 but only had a fraction operational at any one time.  I suspect high speed is not as important in an Amy support aircraft as the ability to carry a lot of ordnance, have good endurance plus good acceleration and manoeuvrability. Douglas Skyraider and Warthog are examples. Typhoons and Tempests were pretty effective too.  For what it's worth on this idle Saturday afternoon, in my view the FW190 would have made a better hit and run weapon that the Me262. 

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2 hours ago, old man emu said:

Hitler's German Shepherd bitch, Blondi

I thought his bitch was Eva Braun.  Didn't know she was a sheep farmer.

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Hitlers decisions were flawed on every front, in every month of every year of WW2.  He demoted or destroyed those who had the necessary skills to improve the Luftwaffe.

He ordered that all components produced, be turned into operational aircraft, leaving no spares for support. The reasoning behind this, was Hitler wanted to demonstrate superior numbers in available equipment to the Allies.

The end result of his faulty reasoning and orders was that, when the Luftwaffe aircraft started to break down, there were no spares to repair them - so the Lutfwaffe were forced to turn to cannibalisation of working aircraft to keep others going.

 

Hitler spent vast amounts of time and money carrying out genocide on a race of people he detested. That act alone took up substantial manpower and money to carry out.

He utilised half-starved POW's and some Jews to carry out labour tasks in his industries. As with the Japanese with the Bridge over the River Kwai, the Aussie POW's forced to work on the railway and bridge deliberately slowed up progress, and damaged equipment.

The POW's and others forced to work in German operations would also have deliberately sabotaged and slowed up operations. It would have taken a lot more Germans to watch over the forced labour to ensure they didn't sabotage operations.

 

Time after time, Hitlers understanding of tactics and strategies was proved to be woeful. Starting a War on one front against one implacable enemy, then starting a War on another front, in the exact opposite direction, isn't exactly the way to win wars.

Hitler engineered the death of many of his most capable leaders in his ranks of senior officers, and replaced them with incompetents who were picked because they were toadies.

On the Eastern Front, Hitler refused to take the advice of his most senior Generals, to fall back in a strategic retreat, when the Russians were threatening to overwhelm the Germans.

Hitler told them they must not retreat, and they had to fight to the last man. They did exactly that, and it cost Germany hundreds of thousands of experienced fighting men, as well as losing vast amounts of German equipment to the Russians.

 

No decision of Hitlers regarding aircraft ever had any vestige of success, simply because all his thought processes were flawed, he lacked full understanding of strategies and tactics, and he was driven simply by rage against Jews.

As WW2 progressed, his decision-making became more and more flawed, and even some of his most senior officers went against his orders, numerous times. Any decision of Hitlers involving aircraft, would have been made for all the wrong reasons.

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i went looking for Winkle Brown's discussion of the 262 but found this first - possibly the best aviation story I have ever seen on YouTube. I knew some of it, but to see the man tell the story is amazing.

 

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