The Me 262 was perceived by many as a last ditch Wonder Weapon by the Germans to try and save the dire situation they were in following reversals on both Eastern & Western Fronts by 1944. This however is not the case as the original design was started back in 1939 and it was not realised until too late that it could actually be a war winning weapon. Also because many High Ranking German Officials earlier in the war believed that conventional propeller driven aircraft could win the war, funding was also lacking as the money went in to other Aviation projects. In August 1938 when Sir Frank Whittle's experimental Turbojet was being ignored by the Air Ministry in Britain, Messerschmitt was given the task of designing an Aircraft to take advantage of the new Axial Flow Turbojets then under development at BMW. By 1940 Junkers had overtaken BMW with it's Jumo 004 engine. But in the event the 262 was ready far ahead of the intended engines and was rebuilt to fly with a Piston Engine (Jumo 210) in the nose. The first test flight was on 18th April 1941 with this configuration. 2 BMW 003 Turbojets were then fitted but still retaining the nose mounted engine for safety. Just as well because the first test flight undertaken with the BMW engines on 25th March 1942 resulted in both Turbojets failing and the Pilot landing with the conventional engine. But on July 18th 1942 Test - Pilot Wendel made a perfect flight with the 3rd Prototype, fitted with the Junkers Jumo 004 engines, after discovering that he had to touch the brakes to get the tail up, at this time the aircraft had a tail wheel rather than the later Tricycle arrangement. In April 1943 Adolf Galland (Head of German Fighter Forces) flew the 4th Prototype and soon reported that in his view all other Fighter production except the Fw 190 should be terminated and the available capacity switched to produce the 262, unofficially called Schwalbe (Swallow). More fuel was needed and this demanded a Tricycle Landing Gear which also solved ground handling and take off problems. On 2nd November 1943 a special organization was set up to speed development of this potentially vital military aircraft, and on the same day Goering visited Messerschmitt and told him that the Fuhrer wished to know if the aircraft could carry bombs. There followed months of vacillation. Hitler flying in to a rage at the slow progress and Junkers failing to make the engine reliable. This was to haunt the 262 throughout because Germany lacked access to the special metals required to manufacture Jet Engines, principally Titanium. The 004B engine was finally released for production in June 1944, but this time the resources behind the engine and aircraft were considerable. The 1st Me 262A-1a fighter was delivered to Special Unit EprobungKommando 262 in July 1944, about the same time as the British Gloucester Meteor went to 616 Squadron. Unlike the Meteor though the German aircraft had a very advanced airframe and offered a tremendous advantage of performance over all other fighters (Except the dangerous Point Defence Me 163B Komet which was rocket powered). In contrast to the Bf 109G the 262 was a beautiful aircarft to fly, but many problems remained, including basic engine reliability and short life span, not being able to fly in formation because of the limitations of the engines at that time, and gun sight aiming due to the tendency to yaw. The first 262's to see action are unrecorded but 2 F5 reconnaisance Lightnings and a PR Mk IX Mosquito were the 1st to be claimed in July 1944. On the 25th July 1944 an RAF Mosquito crew managed to evade several firing passes from a 262. In August a detachment of KG 51 became operational with the Me 262A-2a "Sturmvogel" Bomber version, one of these being shot down near Brussels on 28th August by P-47 Thunderbolts. On 3rd October Kommando Nowotny was formed to operate the Me 262A-1a Fighter version, and though it achieved many successes it lost 2 aircraft to Lt U.L. Drew's P-51 Mustang on 7th October and Nowotny himself was killed a month later. Late in 1944 JG 7 scored many kills but also suffered many losses, and although the 262 was fitted with 4 30mm Mk 108 cannons, their low muzzle velocity and constant jamming were grave drawbacks. About half the Aircraft delivered were the Me 262A-2a "Sturmvogel" (Storm Bird) Bomber version but these failed to cause the predicted havoc on the Allies. A handful of Me 262B-1a/U1 Nightfighter versions saw action in 1945 but it was too little too late. Left to Right - Me 262A-1a, Me 262B-1a/U1 Night Fighter & Me 262A-2a "Sturmvogel" captured by the Allies at War's end.