World War II Fighting Jets

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Jeffrey Ethell & Alfred Price

Naval Institute Press Annapolis, Maryland

Copyright © 1994 by Jeffrey Ethell and Alfred Price First published in the UK in 1994 by Airlife Publishing Ltd Published and distributed in the United States of America and Canada by the Naval Institute Press, 118 Maryland Avenue, Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5035 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 94-65971 ISBN 1-55750-940-9 This edition is authorized for sale only in the United States, its territories and possessions, and Canada All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the Publisher in writing. Printed in England by Butler & Tanner Ltd.


Author's Note Acknowledgements Preface The Rationale for the Jet Engine Chapter 1 The Messerschmitt 262 Chapter 2 The Messerschmitt 163 Chapter 3 The Gloster Meteor Chapter 4 The Arado 234 Chapter 5 The Yokosuka Ohka Chapter 6 The Heinkel 162 Chapter 7 The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star Chapter 8 The Ryan FR-1 Fireball Chapter 9 The Bachem Ba 349 Natter Chapter 10 Finale Glossary Bibliography Index

6 7 8 9 11 63 93 107 135 149 169 183 195 204 206 207 208



n this book German words have been anglicised where appropriate. Thus Gunther has been written as Guenther, Kothen as Koethen and Bohlen as Boehlen. Where measurements are given they are in Imperial measures, with converted figures being rounded out where appropriate. Where Japanese Navy ranks are stated, they have been translated to their nearest U.S. Navy equivalent. On several occasions the authors found great difficulty in marrying the British, American, German and Japanese records concerning actions involving jet aircraft. Frequently the claims from one side bear little or no relation in time or place to the losses admitted by the other. For this reason claims and losses have been linked in the text only where there is clear evidence for doing so; where there is no positive link claims have in most cases been omitted.



he authors wish to tender their grateful thanks to David Irving for permission to quote from his book The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, and to Captain Eric Brown for permission to quote from Wings of the Luftwaffe. In collecting material for this work the authors received generous assistance from numerous friends in several countries. Particular thanks are due to the following: Guenther Wegmann, Rudolf Opitz, Horst Goetz, Hans-Georg Baetcher, Rudolf Schnoerer, Walter Hagenah, Erich Sommer, Rudolf Zimmermann, Diether Lukesch, Peter Kappus, Rudolf Glogner, Arno Abendroth, Jay Spenser, Walter Boyne, Harold Watson, Richard Smith, Eddie Creek, Hanfried Schliephake, Hans Ring, Guenther Heise, Ken Bokleman, Bill Hess, Chris Shores, Robert Mikesh, Harold Andrews, Logan Coombs, Norm Taylor, Nathan 'Rosie' Rosengarten, Ropert Esposito, A.W. 'Tony' LeVier and Ray Wagner.



his is an expanded version of the authors' earlier book The German Jets in Combat,

motors. These pushed the current technologies up to and sometimes beyond their limits, and they

published in 1979. That work limited itself to describing the development and operational careers of three German jet aircraft types that saw

could be temperamental to the point of lethality. Secondly there were the airframes of the early jet

combat over a long period during World War II: the Messerschmitt 163, the Me 262 and the Arado 234. The new book covers all of that ground, plus a lot more. It includes descriptions of the development and combat careers of three other jet aircraft types that saw action during the conflict, the British Gloster Meteor, the Japanese Yokosuka Ohka and, by the narrowest possible margin, the Heinkel 162. It also tells the stories of the two American and one German jet aircraft that had entered squadron service and were on the point of going into action when the war ended: the Lockheed P-80A Shooting Star, the Ryan FR 1 Fireball and the Bachem Ba 349 Natter. This work takes the reader through the most rapid period of scientific advance in the history of aviation: from the beginning of the jet age to the

aircraft; in each case new designs that were liable to suffer the teething troubles that inevitably go with such things. Thirdly, and in the short term more intractable than the other two, there was the little-understood phenomenon of compressibility that manifested itself as speeds nudged ever closer to the invisible 'sound barrier'. All of this took place against the background of all-out war in which major nations were battling for their very survival. In the certain knowledge that the enemy was also working on these problems, and might find the answers first and reveal their discovery with devastating effect, there was no time for carefully staged test programmes seeking incremental advances in knowledge. It was a callous world in which test pilots, and often service pilots as well, were

period immediately following World War II. It is a

expected to take risks in order to advance the frontiers of knowledge and bring new aircraft into

gripping story of human endeavour, the essentials of which took place between the beginning of 1943

service quickly. It was a world in which he who dared did not always win, but he who refused to

and the beginning of 1946. At no time before or

dare would almost certainly lose.

since have test pilots been confronted with so many, or such difficult, technological and aerodynamic hurdles.

First there were the

completely new and inadequately developed power plants, the turbojet engines and rocket

Jeffrey Ethell, Front Royal, Virginia, U.S.A.

Alfred Price Uppingham, Rutland, England.



lthough the ideas that spawned them were by no means new, it was not until the latter part

Thus the 1,000 pounds of drag at 300 mph became 4,000 pounds of drag at 600 mph, and to overcome

of the 1930s that serious work began on gas turbine engines and rocket motors to power military aircraft. Two factors combined to spur development work in these fields. First, as the war clouds gathered over Europe and other parts of the

that the aircraft needed 4,000 pounds of thrust. It can be shown that this was the equivalent of 6,400 horsepower. But at 600 mph the efficiency of the propeller was little over 50 per cent, so a piston

world, there were strong pressures to improve the performance of military aircraft and in particular fighters. Secondly, and stemming from the first, there was a dawning realisation among aircraft designers that the immutable laws of physics would prevent propeller-driven planes from attaining speeds above 500 mph. The fundamental problem stemmed from the use of the propeller as a means of converting rotational power into thrust: as speed increased, the propeller's efficiency fell drastically. A few figures will serve to illustrate the point. In round terms, the Spitfire attained a maximum speed of about 300 mph at sea level with an engine that developed 1,000 horsepower. At that speed the propeller was about 80 per cent efficient and the 1,000 pounds of thrust that it produced equalled the drag from the Spitfire's airframe. Now consider the engine power needed to propel the same airframe at twice that speed, 600 mph. Drag rises with the square of speed, so if the speed was doubled the drag was quadrupled.

engine to drive the aircraft at that speed required not 6,400 horsepower, but 12,000. In 1945 the best piston engines available for fighters produced a fraction over one horsepower for each pound of their weight. Thus a piston engine developing the power to propel our notional fighter at 600 mph would have weighed about 11,000 pounds — about double the all-up weight of an early production Spitfire. For flight at high speeds the turbojet engine or rocket motor were fundamentally more efficient forms of power plant. They produced their thrust directly, with no conversion losses. The thrust developed by the jet engines remained more-orless constant throughout the aircraft's speed range. The BMW 003 turbojet fitted to the He 162 delivered 2,028 pounds of thrust for a weight of less than 1,400 pounds, and gave the fighter a maximum level speed of 562 mph. No pistonengine and propeller combination offered a thrustto-weight ratio that was in any way comparable, and it was clear that their days were numbered for use in high performance aircraft.

The third prototype Me 262, the first to get airborne on jet power alone, being readied for its maiden flight at Leipheim on 18 July 1942. (Transit Films)

CHAPTER 1 The Messerschmitt 262


n the history of aviation few aircraft have been the subject of greater controversy than the Messerschmitt Me 262. Several commentators have drawn on its history to demonstrate the military ineptitude of Hitler and other German leaders

research aircraft powered by two of the new P 3302

who, it is said, failed to push its development with the necessary vigour or use the aircraft in the right way. Some have even gone so far as to suggest

pair of the new engines available for flight testing by the end of 1939. It proved to be a grossly over-

that, correctly used, the Me 262 might have changed the course of the Second World War. Such

The airframe design produced by Dr Woldemar Voigt and his team was for a low wing monoplane with slight sweep-back on the wing, two jet

gas turbine engines under development by the BMW Company. At the time the P 3302 was expected to develop a thrust of just over 1,300 pounds, and BMW confidently expected to have a

optimistic prediction.

sweeping statements deserve careful analysis; and to provide that analysis we shall consider not only the technical development of the aircraft but also the military and poli...

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