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Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet

Discussion in 'The Messerschmitt Range' started by Spitfire XIV-E, Aug 22, 2007.

  1. Spitfire XIV-E

    Spitfire XIV-E New Member

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    The Me 163 was designed by Alexander Martin Lippisch. It was the first military aircraft designed to use a rocket engine and it was the fastest aircraft produced during WW2 by any nation. However this speed came at a cost because of the dangerous fuels needed to power the rocket motor. With a powered flight of only 8 minutes it could only be used if Bombers were nearly overhead. If the Bombers didn't come it was virtually useless.

    Development

    Work on the design started at DFS (German Institute for the Study of Sailplane Flight). Their first conversion was the Lippisch Delta IV which was used for conventional Glider Tests to study the aerodynamics of the airframe. This was designated the DFS 39. A larger version with a small propeller engine was then designed and this incorporated small wingtip rudders which Lippisch thought would cause problems in High Speed Flight. He redesigned the aircraft with a conventional tailplane and rudder. This was called the DFS 194. A number of features from it's Glider heritage were retained, including a skid for landing which could be retracted in to the underside of the aircraft once airborne. Because of the weight of the fuel a conventional Landing Gear was not fitted. Instead a "Dolly" with a cross axle was used which the pilot jettisoned on take off. It was intended to move on to the Walter R-1-203 Cold Engine of 400 kg thrust when this became available.

    Heinkel had also been working with Walter on his Rocket engines, being fitted to the He112 and then the first Rocket Powered Aircraft, the He176. Heinkel had also been selected to work on the DFS 194 fusealge, as it was felt that a wooden fuselage could be dangerous and might react with the fuel. Work continued under the codename - Project X

    However the division of work between DFS & Heinkel led to problems. DFS were seemingly unable to deliver a prototype fusealge. Lippisch grew frustrated and asked to transfer all work to Messerschmitt in Augsburg. On January 2 1939, Lippisch and his entire team moved to Augsburg along with the partially completed DFS 194 fuselage. The delay allowed engine development to catch up and it was decided to skip the propeller driven version and go straight to Rocket Power. The move to Messerschmitt paid off and the Airframe was completed and shipped to Peenemunde West in early 1940 for the fitting of the Rocket Engine. Although unreliable the Engine was capable of propelling the Aircraft at speeds up to 342 mph on one test flight.


    Me 163A

    Production of a prototype series was started in early 1941 and called the Me 163. Secrecy was such that the number 163 was originally given to the Bf 163, a 2 seat light aircraft that was to compete against the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch for a production contract. It was thought that any reference to 163 would be perceived by Allied Intelligence to relate to the earlier design. The Me 163A V1 was moved to Peenemunde for the fitting of an updated engine and on 2nd October 1942 a successor aircraft the Me 163A V3 set a new world speed record of 623.8 mph. This would not be surpassed until post war by the early Allied Jet Fighters and the Douglas Sky Streak turbojet powered research aircraft in 1947. 5 prototype V aircraft were produced followed with a series of 8 production models - Me 163A-0. Problems with the jettissonable Dolly proved to be a serious issue as it would sometimes rebound off the ground and strike the underside of the aircraft. The hydraulic dampers in the skid would sometimes fail leading to serious back injuries to the pilot and once the Komet touched down on landing it could not be steered to avoid obstacles. It also needed a special tracked vehicle to recover the aircraft once landed and at a stand still. The superior Gliding ability of the Me 163's swept wings also proved a liabilty because the slightest updraft would lift it back in to the air, a problem that would remain throughout the program despite the fitting of landing flaps to help. Performance was fantastic though and plans to put Me 163 bases all over Germany in 25 mile rings were put forward. Plans for a production version were now given serious consideration.


    Me 163B

    Meanwhile Walter had moved on to a new Rocket Motor - the HWK 109-509 Hot Engine which used a Hypergolic Fuel Formula of C-Stoff (Hydrazine Hydrate & Methanol) & T-Stoff (Hydrogen Peroxide) which added thrust. This resulted in the significantly modified Me 163B of late 1941. The Reich Air Ministry required that the Engine be throttleable so the otherwise simple design became more complicated and less reliable. The new fuel choice proved unfortunate as well because Hydrazine Hydrate was also used for the Launch Mechanism of the V1 Flying Bomb and was in short supply from 1943 - 1945. 2 prototypes were built followed by 30 Me 163B-0's armed with 2 MG151/120 Cannons and then 400 Me 163B-1's armed with 2 Mk 108 Cannons. The performance of the Me 163 was far superior to any piston engined aircraft. After taking off and jettisoning the dolly it would be travelling at 200 mph at the end of the runway then pull straight up in to an 80 Degree climb. It could reach the Bomber's altitude very quickly and if need be could climb to 40,000 feet in an unheard of 3 minutes !!. It would then level off and cruise at a speed of around 550 mph which no allied aircraft could hope to match. It's swept wings made it an efficient Glider by necessity because once the fuel ran out it had to glide back to a landing. It also suffered from Compressability problems especially in a powered dive, a phenomenon not experienced in many piston powered aircraft. This could be disconcerting for pilots of the Me 163. By this time Messerschmitt was completely overloaded with production of the Bf 109 & the introduction of the Me 210. Production of the Me 163 was at first switched to Klemm but after Quailty Control problems was switched to Junkers who were under utilised at the time. Other problems surfaced with the Mk 108 Cannon. It's low muzzle velocity meant that hitting a slow moving Bomber could prove difficult because of the high speed of the Me 163, 3 hits usually being needed to bring down a B17 for example. To counter this a unique system was developed for less experienced pilots called Sondergerat 500 Jagerfaust. This consisted of 5 wing root mounted 50mm recoilless shells which used a photo-electric cell. Once under a bomber the change in light would fire the weapon upwards, hopefully destroying the bomber. However only one kill is recorded using this weapon, A Halifax Bomber. In an effort to increase efficiency & Powered Flight, 2 of the Me 163 B prototypes V6 & V18 were fitted with the new HWK 109-509C engine in 1944. V18 broke the World Speed Record again on 2nd July 1944 with a speed of 702 mph at the hands of Test Pilot Heini Dittmar. The new engine would offer about double the endurance of the original giving about 9 minutes of powered flight after the initial climb to altitude. Other versions were then planned with a retractable landing gear but as with so many other German projects in the late war period there were not enough resources available to bring them to fruition so they only made it to prototype or drawing board stage.


    In Service

    Only one unit was ever equipped with the Me 163 - JG 400. It was used for point defense of Synthetic Fuel plants starting in 1944. Because of the short powered flight of only 8 minutes the Me 163 was a disappointment in real terms. This was far less than had been hoped for by Walter. It took an experienced pilot who was also a good shot to get hits with the Mk 108 Cannons and pilots also had to go on special Low-Fibre diets because of flying close to the stratosphere in High Altitiude climbs, otherwise the build up of gases in the body could cause serious problems as they expanded in the low air pressure. They also had to have Pressure Chamber training to harden them against the rigours of doing this regularly, the Me 163 not having a pressurised cockpit. More Me 163's were lost in landing accidents and on the ground in accidental explosions than they actually shot down enemy aircarft. The volatile fuels were also hazardous to those who had to handle them and rigorous Wash Out procedures of the rocket motor & internal parts had to be carried out after each flight or risk an explosion, they were also corrosive if they got on to the skin. However the Me 163 would be another stepping stone towards the future and another nail in the coffin of propeller driven aircraft. Alexander Lippisch, like many other top German Scientists was whisked off to America at the end of the war where he worked on Supersonic Delta winged Aircraft for Convair.





    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Me 163A-1, Taking off with the Dolly jettisoned, Me 163B-2


    [​IMG]

    Me 163 in Full Flight

    [YOUTUBE]DGFMlvWpjME[/YOUTUBE]

    A short film about the Me-163
     
  2. 10cents

    10cents New Member

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    H!

    It bears a striking resemblance to the stealth, eh? If Hitler had a group of super aryans willing to die for their master, the Komet would have made a nice. although rather expensive, suicide plane, like a Kamikaze.
     
  3. Spitfire XIV-E

    Spitfire XIV-E New Member

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    The Japanese produced a "Suicide" Rocket Powered Bomb called the "Okha" or Cherry Blossom. Not many were used successfully but they did cause some damage to US Navy warships. See the Mitsubishi G4M thread for a picture one being launched.

    The Yokosuka MXY-7 "Okha" was based on the German Fiesler Fi 103 Flying Bomb. The difference being that the Okha had a pilot.

    Allied servicemen dubbed the Okha - "Baka", the Japanese word for "Stupid" or "Idiot".

    Have now done a thread on the "Okha" in the Axis Bomber Aircraft Section
     

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