5 First Jet Fighters of the World, the Me-262 Schwalbe, Gloster G.40 Meteor, Bell P-59 Airacomet and Others
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5 First Jet Fighters of the World, the Me-262 Schwalbe, Gloster G.40 Meteor, Bell P-59 Airacomet and Others

5 First Jet Fighters of the World, the Me-262 Schwalbe, Gloster G.40 Meteor, Bell P-59 Airacomet and Others
             The evolution of the jet aircraft began with the conception of the jet engine. The jet engine’s origin at first had been shrouded in secrecy as the utilization of it definitely affects the balance of power among nations. History has it that Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle’s jet engine began with a patented design in the 1930s and Dr. Hans Von Ohain’s (Germany) own patent followed 6 years later (1936). Despite that Von Ohain’s jet design was the first to be tried and to power an aircraft, Sir Frank Whittle was hailed as the father of jet propulsion. The two great minds met each other after the war and became good friends yet what they had brought out to the world ultimately changed aviation and varied fields of human endeavour where the jet engine has direct applications.

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Messerschmitt Me-262 Schwalbe (1944) – The Me-262 Schwalbe (Swallow) was the world’s first jet engined fighter aircraft to come out of the Nazi’s inventory. The Heinkel He 178 was actually the world’s first jet-powered aircraft to demonstrate the effectiveness of the jet engine after taking the air in 1939 but then Luftwaffe chief Herman Göring favoured the efficiency of piston engines compared to the problems posed by the newly tried jet engines then in its crude stage. A mistake that only to be realized later when the Luftwaffe eventually reconsidered the use of jet engines at the near end of the war. Powered by two Junkers Jumo 004 B1 turbojets, the Me-262 has a maximum speed of 900 km/h (559 mph) to gain the speed advantage against existing Allied fighters. The Russian built Yak-3 (720 km/h), US built P-51 Mustang (703 km/h) and the British built Hawker Tempest (700 km/h) were the only Allied fighters that came close to the Me-262’s maximum speed but with a big 200 km/h difference. About 1,430 Me-262s were built the majority of which had been seized by the Allies at the end of the war leading to the spread of the design of the aircraft and the jet engine.

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Gloster G.40 Meteor (1944) – The Meteor was the first British built jet engined fighter to see action in World War II. Introduced just 2 months after  (July 1944) the Me-262 had shocked Allied fighters, it was however fairly slower than the Me-262 with its maximum speed of 660 km/h even slower than most Allied piston-engined fighters. About 3,947 Meteors were built which remained on post war duties in most Allied member countries’ Air Forces.

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Bell P-59 Airacomet  – The first US built jet fighter, the P-59 showed so much promise but didn’t lived up to its expectations. First flight was made in 1942, with a maximum speed of only 664 km/h it has complicated handling characteristics and engine problems beyond similar problems of its arch-rival (Me-262) and compared unfavourably against P-51 Mustangs. With 66 built, the aircraft didn’t lived to solve its existing operational problems thus there had been no record of it being placed under active duty even after the Nazis had initially gained advantage with the introduction of the Me-262.

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Nakajima Kikka (1945) – The Nakajima Kikka was just a Japanese attempt at keeping pace with the jet aircraft design race as compelled by a Japanese military attaché’s witnessing of an Me-262 trials in Germany in 1944. The aircraft eventually made its first flight in 7 August 1945 but was retired 8 days later with the deteriorating status of Japanese advantage on the war that culminated with Japan’s eventual surrender in 2 September 1945.

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Yakovlev Yak-15 (1947) – With the Nazi’s downfall and the seizing of available resources pertaining to German technology, it was well understood that each Allied countries had their individual share in every piece of “war souvenirs” that could be taken home for examination and modification for their individual motives. The Yak-15 (NATO reporting name: Feather) was a Russian materialization of the ongoing race for the jet age that undoubtedly set the new trend that would later be referred as the Cold War. Powered by 1 Tumansky RD-10 turbojet, it had a maximum speed of 700 km/h. About 280 of these aircraft were built which gave the Russians enough knowledge to lead their own experiments that paved way to their own standing as a formidable force during the Cold War.








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Comments (7)

Very good article. My dad was a private pilot. I flew with him from the time I was just a toddler and continued to fly with him until I was in my 20s. I always wanted to get my PPL, but never did. I would never pass the physical for a PPL now.... wish I could go around again and get it. I regret not getting it when my dad urged me to.

My dad's brother was a flying game warden in Colorado. Neither of them flew in the military. I have some books on the science of flying. You make me want to get them out and read them again.

Don't lose the drive to fly when you can, Charlene. If you heard about Jessica Cox, you will be amazed. Having a pilot father is already an advantage. I had my PPL 5 years ago and though I don't fly now, I still had it in my veins. You may wish to acquire a microsoft flight simulator just to enjoy flight even just on your desktop.

Never tired reading your flight articles Will, but i guess I must have this flight stimulator software to try flying even on a PC, thanks, no votes, just stumbled & tweet.

Great article. Deep Blue. Charlene, I received my private pilots license when I was nineteen-fixed wing,single-engine,VFR. I now have all kinds of ratings. Mufti-engine fixed wing with instrument. I'm also rotary wing rated. I became commercial rated some thirty years ago. I have two aircraft in my converted barn/hanger-a Cessna 310 and an old Bell Bubble helicopter. I don't fly as much as I use to, but I still take my birds up every chance I get. Last summer I took up hot air ballooning.

Fascinating. These planes don't get enough attention in WW2. I was not even aware of the Japanese version of the jet plane.

Great review of old jet fighters.