When we see the latest USAF planes in the form of the X-15 and 16, one may not realize that these planes were a follow-up  on the research of the Germans, who launched the first jet fighter in the world in 1945. It's a tribute to German engineering skill and technology that they were able to launch a jet plane months before the Allies had anything like it. The jet fighter was developed by Messerschmitt, the German aircraft company which had built the ME 109 fighter earlier. The plane was ready for use in 1944. It was at least 100mph faster than the best American or British fighter and despite having lost air superiority accounted for 562 Allied aircraft against 100 losses. A creditable performance.

Plane in WW II

The development of the jet plane was commenced before the onset of war. But problems with the engine delayed its induction. In addition, Hitler wanted a bomber to combat the allied bombing raids and that further delayed its induction. The plane when it appeared made a telling impact in combat, but it needed concrete runways and the Allies, in particular, bombed them to make the ME 262 difficult to operate. The ME 262 was superior to any fighter the allies had and had a top speed of 540 mph and a range of 650 miles. It carried the flag of the Luftwaffe into combat, but numbers were few and it was inducted at a time when the Germans had lost air superiority over German skies. Despite this, the plane surprised American pilots flying the giant B-29 as its greater speed made it almost invincible against the slower American fighters. However, it was lightly armed with 4 cannons and 2 550 lb bombs.

Aftermath of the war

The end of the war saw the allies capture plans and development sheets of the ME 262. The Americans were extremely happy to lay their hands on a few ME 262s. They studied the technology and incorporated it in their famous F-86 Sabre Jet, that was used extensively in the Korean war. In all about 1400, Me 262 were built and many survived the war and are part of museums. Most of the scientists and engineers at Messerschmitt fell in American hands and they benefited the US aircraft industry. The ME 262 was the world's first jet fighter and thus has a place in the history of military aviation