DOGFIGHT – P-51 v Me262

I went down in a screaming dive, pushing everything forward – throttle, emergency throttle, propeller control and all. The Me262 had a good start, but I had the advantage of several thousand feet more altitude, and was gaining speed by diving. The wind shrieked against my windshield as the Packard Merlin engine bellowed, while the airspeed indicator needle moved steadily around its dial and on up past the four hundred miles an hour mark. The Mustang controls became heavier as we shot down like a dart. As I drew close to the first 262, I pulled back on the control column to bring my guns to bear on the wing section, knowing that if I hit an engine I could partially disable or even destroy the 262 with one pass. Even with a slight pull on the stick I could feel the g effects and my vision blur ever so slightly. I ended up being was a little way behind the 262 when I got down to his level, but I was gaining on him fast, because of the extra speed I had from my dive. I was holding my thumb over the firing button now and keeping my eyes glued to the unmistakable 262 silhouette ahead, except for an occasional glance at the rear vision mirror to see that I wasn’t being chased too. I could feel my heart pounding away in my chest as I got within firing range. The 262 grew steadily larger in the circle of my gun sight as I drew closer. I could tell its distance by the amount of space it covered in my sight. After strafing a B-17 and badly damaging it, the Me262 must have spotted me and began to turn. However, the Mustang could out turn a 262, I just had to ensure that I did not bleed off too much speed and could bring my guns to bear down in the next few seconds. My sights centered on it turning, as I banked slightly to my right and brought the guns to the correct firing position for a deflection hit. I squeezed the firing button with my thumb. B-r-r-rup-pup-u-pup! The sound came to me muffled by my heavy helmet; but it was a venomous sound, and I could feel the Mustang shudder and slow down slightly from the recoil as the six 0.50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns growled and spat out at least one hundred rounds in the one second burst of fire.

I felt the Mustang judder slightly as I hit the wake of the 262, most of which was caused by its jet engines on full power, I could hear them screaming away, as I pulled the stick, and brought the Mustang back on target for a final pass before the 262 could escape due to its greater speed. As it was already starting to pull away. I lined up and hit the fire button for another 1 second burst and scored a fatal hit, smoke began to belch out from the 262s port engine along with a quite obvious wing fire. I did not stick around, not wanting to be hit by debris, should the 262 explode and broke right to put some distance between myself and the 262.

With some distance I could now see the 262 had gone into a shallow dive and was in a slight spiral with flames emanating from the port wing. I have no idea to this day if the pilot managed to escape or not. I just saw the explosion, as the 262 hit the ground and I had chalked up my fourth confirmed kill.

Due to its speed the Me262 was a worthy adversary and if you got bounced, could do some serious damage with its four 30 mm MK 108 cannons.

I must have hit a rookie, as on other occasions I have not been able to catch a 262, but get them in a slow turn and the Mustang had the advantage. The Rookie 262 pilot had slowed down too much to hit a B-17 then had to wait for his engines to spool up and pick up speed. A real ‘schoolboy’ error that I had been able to take advantage of. My only other 262 kill had been on the ground just as it took off and was picking up speed. This, coupled with the low thrust at slow speeds and high chance of a flameout if the throttle was worked too aggressively, resulted in Me262 pilots being very vulnerable at takeoff and also being told to avoid low speed dogfights with the Allied piston-engine fighters.

The high speed of the 262 also presented its own problems for pilots when engaging allied aircraft, the high-speed convergence, allowing 262 pilots little time to line up their targets or acquire the appropriate amount of deflection. This same problem faced any aircraft that approaches another from behind at much higher speed, as the slower aircraft in front can always pull a tighter turn, forcing the faster aircraft to overshoot. The 262 faced this problem frequently as its cruising speed alone was up to 120 mph faster than that of any piston-engine fighter of the period. Luftwaffe pilots eventually learned how to handle the 262’s higher speed, and the 262 soon proved a formidable air superiority fighter, with pilots such as Franz Schall managing to shoot down 12 enemy fighters in the Me262, 10 of them American P-51 Mustangs. We were lucky that the number that entered service was not enough to turn the tide on the war and the lack of experienced pilots and reliability hindered the 262 further.

262 Pilots soon learned though that the 262 was quite maneuverable at higher speeds, despite its high wing loading and lack of low-speed thrust, especially if attention was drawn to its effective maneuvering speeds. The controls were light and effective right up to the maximum permissible speed and perfectly harmonized. The inclusion of full span automatic leading-edge slats, used on other Messerschmitt fighters dating back to the original Bf 109’s on outer wing slots of a similar type. These slats helped increase the overall lift produced by the wing by as much as 35% in tight turns or at low speeds, greatly improving the aircraft’s turn performance as well as its landing and takeoff characteristics. 262 pilots also found that due to the 262s clean design like all jets, it held its speed in tight turns much better than conventional propeller-driven fighters, which was a great potential advantage in a dogfight as it meant better energy retention in maneuvers.

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