Me 163 Komet
|Primary Role||Jet Fighter|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseThe possibility of using hydrogen peroxide as fuel was discovered before WW2, leading to the theory of a rocket engine. It was not until 1941 when the world's first rocket-based fighters began to take shape. The design started in early 1941 under the name of Bf 163, which was actually a name originally intended for a two-passenger light aircraft; the purpose for such a name was to foil Allied intelligence efforts. In late 1941, the first prototypes named Me 163 A V1 and V3 were delivered, breaking the speed record by achieving 1,004.5km/h. There were some serious design flaws, but the speed performance was so earth-shattering that the project continued. By late 1943, over 400 Me 163B aircraft were performing test flights fully equipped with cannons. The Me 163B fighters impressed the pilots greatly with their ability to reach the speed of 320km/h by the time they hit the end of runway, and their ability to climb to the altitude of 12,000m in mere three minutes.
ww2dbaseMe 163 fighters began operations in May 1944, and the first combat engagement occurred at the end of Jul 1944 when a number of these fighters attacked United States Army Air Force B-17 bombers. Immediately, their speed overwhelmed Allied fighters. Allied pilots reported that these new German fighters could reach their altitude before the Allied fighters had enough time to dive and intercept. The rocket engines soon became the fighters' biggest weakness as well. Because of the rockets' short fuel life, Me 163 aircraft only had a short time to attack before they run out of rocket fuel and need to glide back to the airfield. Allied pilots soon learned to simply wait until the rocket fuel ran out before beginning their attacks.
ww2dbaseThe blueprint, as well as a prototype, were shared with Japan some time during the war, and were seriously evaluated by Mitsubishi and Yokoi Aircraft Company, but none were produced.
ww2dbaseThe Me 163 Komet fighters were a considered tactical failure, but the design was undoubtedly revolutionary and took aircraft design to the next level.
Last Major Revision: Sep 2006
Me 163 Komet Timeline
|2 Oct 1941||The third Messerschmitt Me 163A rocket-powered prototype aircraft, piloted by Heini Dittmar, achieved an unofficial world speed record of 623.85 mph.|
|13 May 1944||Major Wolfgang Sp├Ąte, in a Me 163 jet aircraft launched from Bad Zwischenahn in northern Germany, pursued two USAAF P-47 fighters. Mechanical problems with the aircraft cause Sp├Ąte to eventually lose contact with the US fighters.|
|29 Jul 1944||A Me 163 jet fighter attempted to disrupt a B-17 raid on Mersburg, Germany but was instead pursued by Captain Arthur Jeffrey in a P-38 fighter. Jeffrey chased the Me 163 jet fighter to a very low altitude and confidently reported a victory, but post war records indicated that there was no Me 163 lost on this particular date.|
|7 Oct 1944||1st Lieutenant Elmer Taylor and 1st Lieutenant Willard Erfkamp of USAAF 364th Fighter Group, flying P-51 fighters, together shot down the German Me 163 rocket fighter piloted by Husser; Husser would survive the subsequent crash landing.|
|2 Nov 1944||About 12 Me 163 rocket fighters of German Jagdgeschwader 400 fighter wing intercepted a group of US bombers escorted by P-51 fighters east of Leipzig, Germany. The Germans shot down two bombers, while the American fighters shot down four Me 163 rocket fighters; the four German pilots shot down were Oberfeldwebel Horst Rolly, Oberfeldwebel Herbert Straznicky, Oberfeldwebel Gunther Andreas, and Jacob Bollenrath (rank unknown). Bollenrath's fighter would be the final Me 163 downing by a P-51 fighter.|
|Machinery||One Walter HWK 109-509A-2 liquid-fuel rocket, rated at 17kN|
|Armament||2x30mm Rheinmetall Borsig MK 108 cannons|
|Wing Area||18.50 m²|
|Weight, Empty||1,905 kg|
|Weight, Loaded||3,950 kg|
|Weight, Maximum||4,310 kg|
|Speed, Maximum||955 km/h|
|Service Ceiling||12,100 m|
|Range, Normal||40 km|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945