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Jet Fighters in Action During World War II

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters

ME 262

ME 262

Gloster Meteor

Gloster Meteor

Introduction

World War II was truly a global war. In hundreds of years of world history, nothing like this ever took place. This was the first war in world history where the results of significant battles were dictated by air power. The Germans perfected the concept of the dive bomber as an aid to their tactics of blitzkrieg and were initially highly successful. This fascination for the dive bomber was later to prove their nemesis.

Most of the aircraft names we hear during World War 2 are piston engine aircraft like the Spitfire and the ME 109. However, towards the end of the war jet fighter planes had made an appearance. Germany was the leader in this field but unfortunately for them, the technology came too late and by then the war had been lost. Had they perfected their jet planes years earlier the result of the air war would have been different


Japanese fighter jet

Japanese fighter jet

He 162

He 162

Bell P59

Bell P59

The Jets

Germany

German technology was pretty advanced and the first jet fighter the Messerschmidt ME 262 had made its first flight in July 1942. During the testing of the plane before the general staff and Reich Marshal Goering a question was asked, " can the plane dive bomb?." When the answer was given that it was a fighter the sanction to go ahead with the development of the plane was not given. This was a blunder and Germany, which had an ace threw it away. The plane made an appearance in 1945 towards the end of the war and it proved its efficacy by downing many bombers of the USAF. The war had been lost by then. The Germans later produced the Frieseler F1. This was the manned version of the V-1 (Flying bomb) rocket. It was ready for service by the end of 1944 but was never used as the Allies overran France by then and the Russian army had entered Germany.

German technology had produced the world's first fighter jet in 1939. This was the He 178. It first flew on 27 August 1939 just 5 days before the attack on Poland. It was piloted by Erich Warsitz. He was a test pilot especially selected by the Luftwaffe. He died in 1983.

The plane was got ready for a demonstration before Herman Goering, Ernst Udet, and Erhard Milch. They were unimpressed because of their limited knowledge of the role of aircraft in a war. The result was the project never took off.

The top brass of the Luftwaffe had also no concept of strategic bombing which the USAF perfected. In June 1943, Nazi engineers produced the world's first jet bomber. This was the Arado Ar 234. The green signal for this plane was given very late and only 210 were built and the plane came into operation only in August 1944. It was initially used for reconnaissance missions and then tried out as a night fighter for a role it was not suited. It achieved no kills. As the Wehrmacht was retreating in the East at that time, its main role as a bomber was never put to use. The Germans also produced the Horten Ho229 but only 3 were built as by December 1944 the war situation had changed. This was a jet fighter-bomber.

British

The British had been researching a fighter jet. The Gloster appeared in 1941 but only 2 were built and this gave way to the Gloster Meteor. There were two versions the F1 and F3. The plane entered service in July 1944 and about 250 were built. But it was inferior in performance to the ME 262. Towards the end of the war, the British were able to put into the air the De Haviland Vampire. Only 12 were produced before VE Day and saw no combat experience.

Others

The United States during WW II was at the lower end of Jetfighter technology. They produced the Bell and the Curtiss but they never saw service during the war. Similarly, Japanese technology could not produce a viable jet fighter. Towards the end of the war they produced the Nakajima Kikka but it was never made operational. The Russian planes also appeared a few days before the end of the war but they have left no lasting impression.


Lockheed P80

Lockheed P80

Arado Ar 234

Arado Ar 234

Conclusion

Jet technology was in its infancy during World War 2 but the German had a fair amount of proficiency. In case their top brass had been a little more knowledgeable the war could have taken a different turn. Just imagine in case they had produced 3000 ME262 by 1943, what would have happened. This plane had the advantage of speed over the B-29 which would have been a sitting duck I have reviewed some of the main models but there were many other prototypes also. They are beyond the scope of an article maybe I will have to write a book on the subject.

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 06, 2020:

Thank you, Liz, yes the jet engine development started during World War II.

Liz Westwood from UK on December 06, 2020:

It seems like World War 2 was the catalyst for jet engine development. It has certainly taken off in the last 75 years.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 05, 2020:

Thanks, Umesh, will do the needful

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 05, 2020:

Thank you, Rajkumar, nice that you commented

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 05, 2020:

Very informative. Full of data. Nice work.

Emge, please correct the typo in the title. Replace Ii with II.

Wg Cdr Rajkumar on December 05, 2020:

As a flyer, I appreciate this article. Ina short article you have covered some important points. You are correct had the ME 262 been made operational in large numbers the bomber raids of the allies would have been a disaster.

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