Search this Blog & the WWW

Pages

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Me 163 Komet (Video & feature)

The explosive (literally and figuratively) Me 163 was the first fighter to incorporate swept wings.

video

This is a short clip of the ME 163 Komet, the world's first operational rocket fighter plane as flown by Germany in WW2.

The Me 163 Komet was perhaps the most unique aircraft design of the Second World War. German scientists, always on the cutting edge of evolving war technology, developed a rocket-powered aircraft based on testing completed with an engine-less glider design. The resulting research produced the one-man, swept back fighter that was equally dangerous to pilot and Allied bomber formations alike.
The Me 163 was originally a product of Dr. Alexander Lippisch from 1939, who pioneered a great deal of information through research of glider designs (in the form of the DFS 193 glider). With the base Walter rocket motor in place, and a volatile but explosive combination of two substances known simply as T-Stoff and Z-Stoff, the aircraft could utilized the chemical reactive explosion in a controlled environment to propel their new aircraft airframe.

The diminutive Me 163 was piloted by a single crewman and featured swept-back wings (a major wartime development in itself) and a single rudder plane at rear. The Me 163 would take off through the use of a dolly which was jettisoned upon take-off, fly to the required attack altitude and swoop down onto oncoming and unsuspecting bomber formations. Landing was accomplished by utilization of a single centerline skid, to which added even more lethality to the pilot himself upon landings.

In theory, the idea of this small one-man aircraft tearing holes into bombers was sound as no Allied aircraft could remotely catch the 623 miles per hour Komet. In reality, an array of dangers faced the Komet pilot. The fuel mixture itself was known to self-combust as both elements were highly volatile, destroying the aircraft and killing the test pilot. The airframe could also become uncontrollable at extreme speeds (changes incurred later in the design process would iron some of this issue out). In regards to the 7.5 minutes of flightime that the fuel mixture afforded the pilot, the Me163 was to then glide in a controlled freefall back to base. As such, range of the Me163 was extremely limited as was the onboard ammunition as 60 rounds per cannon.

Initial combat of the Me 163 found that the aircraft approached a flight of B-17 Flying Formations too fast, thus not allowing the Me 163 pilots a chance to properly aim their guns and consequently overshooting the target. It was then discovered that the Me 163 could be used more effectively by conducting a steep climb upon takeoff and achieving a desired attack altitude until the motor fuel ran dry. From there, Me 163's could conduct a more controlled approach through two or three dives at the bomber formations, utilizing gravity and drag in the process. Ultimately, the system could then settle down to rest at a home base. Landing provided it's own share of danger as this was the greatest window of vulnerability for the Me 163 system. Without fuel or much momentum, the aircraft became a sitting duck to Allied fighters in the area. As mentioned above, landing was accomplished through a spring-loaded skid running centerline on the fuselage.

Me 163 Komets were credited with destroying just 9 B-17 Flying Fortresses throughout the war, with about 300 Me 163s produced. The Empire of Japan tried unsuccessfully to procure the design from Germany when one of two subs transferring the Me 163 plans was sunk by Allied ships. The Japanese did, in fact, develop their own working variant of the Me 163 with the surviving set of plans but the aircraft never went into operational service.

No comments:

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails