The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet was a German rocket-powered short-range fighter/interceptor aircraft, designed by Alexander Lippisch, which took its first flight on 1st September 1941 and which was introduced for use by the Luftwaffe in 1944. Of revolutionary design it is the only rocket-powered fighter aircraft ever to have been operational and a German test pilot of the time achieved a speed of 700 mph, an unofficial airspeed record which was unrivalled for almost a decade. Its official top speed was 959 kmph with a range of 40 kms. Over 300 aircraft were built and although the concept should have lead to a highly successful combat plane against the Allies, it proved to be too little, too late and early teething troubles which made it volatile and unstable were not ironed out in time to change the course of the German defeat in the air. Upon take-off the rocket fuel enabled the Komet to climb to 30,000 feet in just a few seconds but its speed made it very difficult to aim and fire accurately at the enemy convoys of aircraft. Landing was even more dangerous as the Komet only had 9 minutes of fuel from take-off to combat and its return journey necessitated gliding powerlessly back to the airfield.
Jagdgeschwader 400 (JG 400) was the only frontline Luftwaffe fighter wing squadron to fly the ME 163 rocket fighter operationally and under the supervision of their notable Commander Wolfgang Spate, first flew the aircraft on 16th August 1944. Its limited successes were almost equalled by its losses. The squadron - and with it the operational life of the ME 163B - was disbanded in April 1945.
Here we see ‘White 54’ in dark red brown and green camouflage scheme with white Luftwaffe markings and mottled grey fuselage to the upper body. The underside is painted in plain grey with black/white Luftwaffe markings.
Several Me 163Bs exist in museums around the world as many were brought out of Germany after the end of the war for evaluation though none flown out!
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