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What if Germany had introduced the Me-262 earlier in the War?

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: May 21, 2010 
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 Aviation History Reader Poll

Germany introduced the Messerschmitt Me-262 jet to combat late in World War II, after the Allies had already gained air superiority. How might the air war have been different if the 262 debuted a year or more earlier as planned?

Give us your thoughts in the comments box below.


25 Responses to “What if Germany had introduced the Me-262 earlier in the War?”


  1. 1
    James says:

    Such an introduction might have made all the difference, even as late as early 1944. They might have made a huge difference in the brutal air battles that began in March.

    The problem, however, lies in the uses to which the aircraft was put. If it has been used soley or largely to regain air superiority, especially if were specially equiped for such a mission, it might have succeeded in that role. But the use of them as ground support and for ground interdiction roles from late 1944 to the end of the war was a gross misuse of them.

  2. 2
    Bob says:

    For awhile they would have dominated the skies but due to their engines not lasting long, their numbers would have dropped off plus training pilots on jets would have been short, meaning there would have been many lost due to accidents.

  3. 3
    Gunner says:

    I do not believe it would have mde much difference. They was more to Germany's defeat than the air war. The Easten Front would not have been changed; The Allies would have stil landed in France; the Allied Navies still controlled the seas; the allied leadership was quickly outpacing the German leadership due to Hitler's ineptude of relieving and killing his best leaders. No, the plane wouldn't have made much difference.

  4. 4
    Andy says:

    Just how early are we talking about? And under what conditions? The Me-262 was an astonishing plane, but it had limited air time because of fuel consumption. The jet was also misused in a ground-attack role by the Nazi high command. If the Messerschmitt had improved range, air time, purpose, and numbers, then of course things may have changed…somewhat.

    I still believe the Messerschmitt would've been a strictly defensive warplane. Improved factors would have contributed to pushing back the Allied bombing effort. The superior Allied numbers and German lack of resources, however, would have led to the same outcome–just at a later time.

  5. 5
    Sensemaker says:

    According to wikipedia, Me262 damages its first enemy aircraft on the 26th of July 1944. If we make this happen a year earlier it would be in late July of 1943. By that time the "turning point" battles of Stalingrad and El Alamein has happened and it is too late for this aircraft to have any impact on the important battle of Kursk the allied invasion of Sicily (operation Husky) in July and August. The battle of the Atlantic and the battle in the Pacific have also turned. Thus I conclude that it would not have an effect on the actual outcome of the war, it would not make Germany win the war.

    However if you look at the air war specifically or at the general time table of the war (id est at what time Germany would be defeated), the picture becomes different. By July of 1943 Germany was fighting the allied air offensive back quite efficiently. The Schweinfurt-Regensburg mission in particular demonstrates that deep penetration was very, very costly for the allied bombers. What changed this was the appearance of the P51 Mustang that could escort it. However a Me 262 could easily outrun a Mustang by more than 100 mph so it would have offered little effective protection for the bombers against Me 262.

    The air offensive against Germany would have become much less cost effective -it would pretty much remain what it was in 1943 all the way through 1944. The invasion in Normandy would have had to be made in an air superioirty situation rather than a still an air supremacy situation making it harder but still doable. With less damage to their industry Germany would have been able to put up a stronger resistance in Russia and Italy but you don't win a war by resisting.

    Sensemaker

  6. 6
    jbird says:

    over all the jets would not have made to much difference. also there was the mustang, yes it was somewhat slower but not that much it was an exceptional aircraft and our fighter piolets were an exceptional lot. then there is also all the facts already stated and never forget that god was along for the ride in those mustangs.

  7. 7
    OldPOP says:

    I believe that Goerings cancelling of the 004 engine research, missiles and the Me-262 project, lost to Germany, her technological advantage that she had at the beginning of the war. This was a management issue. However, it must be understood that Germany needed to focus her industries on war production because this was going to be a war of attrition. Wonder weapons were not going to help. They all used special metals and technology, none of which the German's could produce in sufficient quantity. I am reminded of Lenin's words: Quantity has a quality of its own.

  8. 8
    Galand says:

    Introduce the 262 in 1943 in force, and the entire war would have changed. The 262 was light years ahead and would have devestated the allied bomber forces.

    Germany would have control of the skies and be able to blast anything out of the sky at will.

    One of the biggest blunders by Germany during the war, not to utilize their superior technology.

    One of the big what if questions of WW 2.

    • 8.1
      Larry C says:

      I do not agree with this. How many P-51's did the 262 knock out of the ski? How many 262 were knocked out of the ski by P-51's? Now repeat this about the Spitfire. The German 262 pilot had much less training on type. That is very significant. Do the math. The bombers would have suffered significantly.
      Numerous P-51 pilots would loiter very high near German airfields and totally unexpect at the airfield would catch the 262 coming in with little fuel and knock them out. At times it was a turkey shoot.
      In the end the Allied fighter would have won.

      • 8.1.1
        Ken says:

        Had the ME 262 and the Dornier 335 come out 15 months earlier (say late 1942 or early 1943) and continued in sufficient quantity, there was have been no successful allied bombing campaigns or terror raids over German or greater German industrial airspace. the P-51 while great would have been no match for these in the air. It is hard to hit a target that can exceed 600MPH. The point is German industry and ability to produce material and fuel would have been able to continue to wage the war and that would have provided all the difference on the fronts before they were reversed.

      • 8.1.2
        Douglas says:

        By the time the P-51s (and more prevalent Hawker Typhoons and Republic P-47s) were able to loiter about LW airfields in search of Me262s, the Siegfried line had been pierced, the Red Army was on the Oder river, and the war was all but won anyway. Even the Soviet ace Ivan Kozehdub bagged himself one near Stargard in Feb '45.
        Being able to deploy the Me262 in '43 assumes that they'd solved the jet engine development AND had adequate supplies of strategic metals for same, which competed with things like tank armor and cannons. That's why Germany held on in the Dniepr bend , even allowing a "mini-Stalingrad" there to squeeze out as much production of nickel from the Nikipol mines as they could ("lose Nikopol and we lose the war" said Hitler). For being the first combat jet plane the 262 was a fairly good effort, with its advanced swept-wing technology. Still, it had limited range and its manueverability was mediocre, so it was more an interceptor than a dogfighter. It would have made the butcher's bill higher for Allied bomber crews, but the role of strategic bombing in the defeat of Nazi Germany has long been overrated anyway. The Brits had the Glouster Meteor going as well (and wisely relegated it to catching V-1s), and we had the P-80 in development. I can imagine that the LW would have kept the 262s stationed about key strategic war production facilities, but would have been unable to stop the Allied air offensive against the Atlantic Wall prior to and in direct support of Overlord. It was that diversion, BTW, that enabled the Germans to ramp up their war production in '44 to the highest levels ever. The Allies were only able to resume the strategic bombing once the European weather turned too bad for close air support (which made the Battle of the Bulge possible), and even then, the real death blow came from roving fighters and light bombers that shot up trains and virtually anything that moved, from bases on the Continent. The Me262 could have done little to impede that.

  9. 9
    SL4636 says:

    It would probably bought Germany a little more time, but the British had the Gloster Meteor and the Vampire coming and the U.S. would have had the Lockheed P80 by early 1945.

  10. 10
    DENIS hIGGINS says:

    In Korea we had early jets and props and the props proved far more useful in ground support missions. Air combat was minimal. Thank God for the Corsair and the guys who flew them in ground support. BASEBALL LEGEND tED wILLIAMS WAS ONE OF THESE PILOTS.

  11. 11
    Kendall Lacey says:

    The 262 could have drastically hindered the allies on both fronts in the air . The Russians wouldn't have been slowed much and probably gained all of Germany. With communism strong in Franceand possibly Italy. The effort to invade France may have been far more costly because of the air balance and the need to keep the Russians from grabbing all of Europe. It is very possible that the atom bomb's first target would have been in Europe. British night bombingagainst 262 night fihters would have increased the losses ,already nearly 100 airplanes per mission and the daylight bombers would have been decimated. The P-51 was intrduced AFTER the jets could have been in service. Only a massive and lengthy effort to produce our own jets would have countered the 262 and what would have stopped the V-1s and V-2s without boots on the grround to overrun their launch sites?. History would have been greayly altered. Hitler ,in many ways , helped our ca /se immensely

  12. 12
    dallan007 says:

    It's also possible that deploying the 262 in numbers in 1943 would only have pushed the development and deployment of the Meteor and the P-80. It might have delayed the invasion of Normandy, which could have allowed the Russians to take the entirety of Germany.

  13. 13
    krb says:

    An earlier intro of the ME-262 would not have prevented the inevitable. Germany would have had to fill the skies with them and the technoloy was just too new and cutting edge to allow for that to happen. It might have prolonged the war for maybe 6 months at best, but with England and the US developing their own jet aircraft, it was just a matter of time before that threat would have been neutralized.

    The interactives of war spurs development of counter measures to every threat. The bombing campaign would have slowed but not stopped until effective escort aircraft could come online. Plus, the US development of the A-bomb might would have been directed toward Germany had the war lasted longer.

  14. 14
    Barrie says:

    since the Jet engines were not available earlier and still had some problems when it was first introduced it just wasn`t possible, also after early encounters by RAF pilots it was felt not to be too much of a threat to fighter aircraft, and if it had been the Gloster Meteor was flying and I know it had straight wings, but still held the world speed recoed after the war and the Me 262 swept wings were only about 18 degrees, not enough to help and only done to move the engines back a little to improve weight distribution.

    • 14.1
      Larry C says:

      This is correct. The 262 was faster but the Spitfire and P-51 were far more manuverable. They could easily twist out of the way and once the Allied pilots go the feel of the 262, they quickly developed tactics to take out the 262. I personally knew a P-51 pilot that had a 262 kill in the air and not during the landing phase. He said that he looked forward to duking it out with 262's

  15. 15
    Stan says:

    The ME262 would have certainly made one big difference with an earlier introduction. That is as an air superiority fighter over the critical oil fields and refineries that kept the war industries and the armies running.

    As others above have said however, it would only have delayed the inevitable.

  16. 16
    Thomaz Vlanilev says:

    The 262 would have decimated the allied bombers AND fighters from the Europe skies in 1943. The moral effect is being 100% neglected on the above comments! Imagine you flying a fat ball of iron like the P47C when suddenly, out of nowhere, a 262 blast past you like if you're stalled on the air? The 200km/h+ difference was too much to overcome!

    Ppl mentioned the P51; that allied pilots would have 'learned' the 262; that they would invite the 262 to a turninng dog fight; that they would wait for the 262 to land; etc. Gee, don't you ever consider the german reaction to the above pointers? German pilots would NEVER EVER get into a turning dogfight with Spitfires/Tempests/P51/etc!!!!!!! Of course they would fight a vertical battle (climbing/diving) or just using their speed to get freed of ANY allied fighter!

    NOT to mention the german regular 109 and 190 fighters!! I can't believe how biased ppl are towards these great opponents… the germans would have 'learned' to use the normal fighters to scort the 262s during takoffs and landings! Not to mention alternative tatics like using 262s to lure away the escorting figthers and let the bombers east pray for the 109 and 190s…

    As for the west side of the war, the 262 would have delayed everything, if entered in regular service (that means, adequate number of planes ready for combat, with adequate pilots, trained and ready for battle) 1+ year before. Could you imagine all of the above if the 262 was delivered for regular services in as early as Jan/Feb 1943?? My "what if" answer towards the 262 on the West is that Germany would have avoided the great destruction it got off the carpet bombing, thus keeping its war production at a constant pace and keeping development of new technology.

    Now for the EAST, I think that the 262 would not have had a big impact as in the WEST, as Germany held the tech advantage over Soviet planes into as far as late 1944, when they were overcomed by the flood of (good) soviet fighters/bombers. Nonetheless in mid 1943 the Soviets were still learning how to fight off the Luftwaffe, what if a schwarm of 262s arrive at the scene? I thinkg the emotional effect would be greater than the 'material' one. However, due to the nature of the fighting in the EAST, my opinion is that it would have delayed by no more than 3/4 months the inevitable. What Hitler should have done on the EAST was to allow his great generals (like von Manstein) to freely operate all over the front, adopting flexible and mobile warfare tactics instead of concentrating on t strongpoints like the 'fortress cities', which the Soviets were good at overcoming.

  17. 17
    Mei says:

    I think an introduction of the ME-262 a year earlier would have either caused a stalemate in the war in Europe or would have caused the war to drag on into late 1945 or so with the dropping of atomic bombs on German cities. Germany had pretty much regained air superiority over most of Europe by the summer of 1943 and didn't really lose it until the beginning of 1944 with the introduction of the P-51.

    Had Germany been able to maintain air superiority, German industrial production would have been able to increase much more dramatically than it did. This in turn would have slowed or stopped the loss of territory, loss of materials from mining, given the Germans more time to bring even more advanced weapons online (think about the other aircraft being developed, and the new generation of u boats for example).

    Don't forget too that the development of the ME-262 would have continued with better and more powerful engines, a newer design, better pilot training etc.

    But the bottom line was that Germany was the sole Axis "super power" with the ability to fight a high tech total war, there were three "super powers" on the Allied side. Germany also had practically no ability to strike at the Allies industrial production while the Allies could devastate the Germans.

  18. 18
    Frank says:

    I agree with most of the posters that the war would have been delayed, possibly as long as a year or two. If proximity fuzes would have been fully developed, that and the ME262 would have been very influential. Imagine the Allied bombing effort, facing ME262s and then much more effective flak. That would have stopped "daylight precision bombing" and made night time area bombing much more costly. Would the increased war materials production, higher killing effect of artillery and air superiority through 1944 and 1945 in the East would have made a difference on the Russian front. I don't know. The poster who quoted Stalin "quantity has a quality all it's own" had it right. In the end, it may have allowed the Russians to occupy most of Germany but delayed it to 1946 or 47.

  19. 19
    Mikey says:

    The ME 262 would've made a big difference if it had been introduced anywhere from the beginning of the war to early 1943. but then again, England already had a jet fighter by the 1945, and the Americans were developing jets. And the Soviets were just destroying the Germans, and the 262 might've slowed them down, but I could see the 262 just buying Germany more time.

  20. 20
    Barrie says:

    More what if`s, the problem was the Me 262 was introduced late 1944 at first in small numbers, it could not have been introduced earlier becaise the Jumo engines were not available and even when it was in service not reliable. It was also found by RAF pilots to not be as dangerous as had been thought, Some 1400 were made and only about 200 ever flew. Fighters like the Spitfire and Tempest were able to deal with them. The Meteor F III when sent to Belgium never encountered any. The end result is they made no difference.

  21. 21


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