Me 262 B-1a/U1 Red 8

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dornier 335 Nachtjäger – prototype M10


Although the night fight role was, among other roles, envisaged for the Dornier Do 335 as early as November 1943, only on 10.10.1944 did the RLM finally decide that this type was exclusively  prioritized as a night fighter. Dornier Flugzeugwerke subsequently published a construction description (Baubeschreibung ) for the night fighter under the A-6 designation on November 20, 1944. The Dornier Do 335 A-6 provided for a radar operator housed in a separate compartment behind the pilot. To accommodate this second seat within the regular fuselage, the fuselage tank size was reduced to half, and a flush fitting, transparent cabin cover, see drawing below .


 Despite past (Green 1970; p.) and recent (Ringelstätter 2010; p.62) interpretations of Do 335 versions A-10 through A-12 with an elevated second seat as a night fighter, there is no support in primary documents for any other role than a trainer for these variants.

As far as we know, only one aircraft was built under the A-6 specification, with another two completed as prototypes for the B-6 night fighter version. It is documented that the Dornier factory delivered the airframe of the 10th prototype, W.Nr. 230010, CP+UK to Heinkel Süd in Wien-Schwechat (Hermann 2008; p.25). The Do 335 M10, also referred to as V10, was possibly completed November 15, 1944 (Hermann 2008; p.19), but no maiden flight date is confirmed. The aircraft underwent modifications to its undercarriage at the Dornier facility in Oberpfaffenhofen in December 1944, and was next mentioned in the  January 24, 1945 protocol of the commission for night and all weather fighters as undergoing testing at Diepensee (Smith & Creek 2007; p. 92; with a translation of the protocol at p.90). Hermann (2008, p.25) claims that commencement of its flight testing on January 24, 1945 took place at the Erprobungsstelle Werneuchen, which obviously contradicts the above protocol. The aircraft next appears in a status report to the commission for night and all weather fighters on February 23, 1945, at the Telefunken facility at Diepensee near Berlin.

Manfred Griehl mentions that Stab /NJG3 received a Do 335 for testing purposes on February 8, 1945. Various malfunctions resulted in a cancellation of these test by the end of February (Griehl 2004). Smith & Creek (2007, p.84) cite eyewitnesses confirming a Do 335 in March/April in Stade near Hamburg, possibly operated by NJG3. It may be recalled that I. /NJG3 tested the Ta 154, from October 1944 onwards and had at least one aircraft, D5+HD, W.Nr. 320009 on strength, which crash landed April 30th, 1945 (Kruse 1988; p. 56). A Do 335 at Stade finds confirmation in the recollections of Fw Gottfried Schneider, who transferred and flew the Ta 154 at 3. /NJG3 at Stade.  Schneider recalls that after the fatal accident of Helmut Lent, his successor as Kommodore of NJG3, Oberst Radusch showed no interest in the Ta 154 and had a Do 335 delivered for operational testing in its stead* (Hermann 2006; p. 162). 



So far, no photographic evidence has been found for the presence of Do 335 M10 at Stade and its final camouflage and equipment status. However, the above photograph from Peter Coleman/Tammy Lynn Photography has "Dornier Do 335 dual control" written on its back according to the owner. The photograph was taken by Peter Coleman of RAF at Stade airfield near Hamburg in August 1946. Special thanks to the copyright owner for the permission to publish his photograph on this blog.

Analysis of the photograph confirms the description as a two seater aircraft. The accommodate the second seat for the radio operator or trainer, the large fuel tank at the back of the cockpit was reduced in size and the former tank hatch was replaced by new parts: for the night fighter by a flush-fitting cover with a transparent part which served as canopy of entrance and exit; for the trainer by a new elevated fuselage section with a front canopy and a receding ending.

Despite the aircraft´s wrecked appearance, the visible and remaining fuselage behind the pilot´s cockpit can be distinguished into a narrow, trapezoid section and an adjacent panel. As far as I can tell, this panel and the forward section are closely connected, indicating a continuation of the fuselage covers. This suggests that this aircraft had instead of the large tank hatch panel a new fuselage section. Otherwise, it seems reasonable to assume that the regular dorsal tank panel would have been completely removed and lost leaving only the narrow fuselage portion as seen on several photographs of other derelict or partially assembled Do 335. This makes it a two seater Dornier 335, but due to the relevant section being completely destroyed without clearly revealing which of the two seater models, the night fighter or trainer.

Close examination reveals a couple of additional details of this aircraft.

The design of the front window frame clearly identifies this aircraft as one of the prototypes or one of the A-Series; one of the main visible differences between the A and B series was the front screen which consisted of five sections in the A series and of four sections with additional armor in the B series.

It is noteworthy that this aircraft apparently lacked the two MK103 guns in the nose. The two circular openings in the front bulkhead are definitely closed where normally the barrels of the machine guns would protrude through.

The pilot seat is apparently provided as an ejection seat, a standard feature for the Do 335 pilot´s cockpit.

Within the debris of the center fuselage, a part which has almost the shape of a seat can be discovered; hopefully experts can shed some more light what this actually represents.

The fuselage Balkenkreuz consists of the standard four white rectangles which covered the exhausts of the rear DB 603. No markings can be identified.

An analysis of the camouflage scheme in my view reveals darker areas on the fuselage sides, e.g. behind the rear engine bay and in the front. There could also an argument be made that it actually has darker mottles as can be interpreted from the area below the cockpit and at the rear, although this could well be noise within the digital version of the photograph.  Finally, there is a discernible undersurface color at the rear fuselage, backwards from the lower air intake to the tail plane. This color is lighter than the two surface colors and it seems to cover the air intake as well, a feature seen at a few Do 335 aircraft.

For an interpretation of the actual colors, the wings and fuselage of the Bf 109 K-4 in the back may serve as a reference.  It seems that the base color of the Dornier is a shade darker than the lighter  color of the Bf 109 sides. This becomes most apparent in the contrast between the white Balkenkreuz and the surrounding camouflage of the two fuselages. That color is also darker than the undersurface camouflage in the rear of the Dornier´s fuselage. The darker color seems ot have the same shade on the Do 335 and the Bf 109 K-4.

The Bf 109 displays a camouflage scheme repeatedly photographed on K-4 versions, although with a wide variety of combinations apparently used. This particular Bf 109´s lighter colored areas of the fuselage and wing have been identified as RLM77 (hellgrau)  and the darker as RLM83 (Dunkelgrün) (Gaemperle 2011; p. 27). Other aircraft with this scheme are described as RLM75 and RLM82 (Merrick & Hitchcock 1980; p.33) or RLM75 and RLM83 (Hermann & Wunderlich 2012; p.50 and p. 51, Crandall 2003; p. 16 and p. 19). A color photograph of Bf 109 K-4 W.Nr. 332579 in Flugzeug Classic (March 2012, p. 48) reveals the darker color with a strong green component and the lighter color as brown, making this possibly RLM82 (hellgrün, appearing as a lighter color) and RLM81 (braunviolett).

Since the darker color of the Do 335 and the Bf 109 seem to match, this is likely one form of late war green. The lighter color however seems to be darker than the grey applied to the Messerschmitt and may therefore be considered braunviolett (RLM81) rather than grauviolett (RLM75).

Generally, the Dornier 335 camouflage scheme was rather consistently applied to known prototypes, pre-production and production aircraft. It consisted of a combination of RLM81 (braunviolett, or dunkelgrün) and RLM82 (hellgrün), as described in the 8-335 A-1 Flugzeug-Handbuch, and as can best been seen in a color photograph of Do 335 A-05, W.Nr. 240105, found at München Riem, Smith & Creek 2006; p.134. Ullmann 2000, provides an excellent analysis of the actually used colors and their respective hues, and especially illustrates the confusion around RLM83 used for Do 335. His research does not contradict above conclusion that the photographed aircraft carried a combination of RLM75 on the undersurfaces with RLM81 with an olive drap and a green color, either RLM82 or a shade of RLM83.

Therefore, the case could be made that the derelict Dornier Do 335 at Stade carried the standard camouflage scheme of this type and did not receive an special camouflage scheme at a Werft or Frontschleusse.

As fascinating this photographed Do 335 two seater is, it does not resolve the question whether this actually is the Do 335 M10 or whether it was used in operational trial with NJG3. Although it is proof that at least one Do 335 ended the war at Stade, it is necessary to recall that Erprobungsstelle Werneuchen was transferred to Stade end of March 1945, as reported in the war diaries of April 4th, 1945 of TLR, the technical air armament office within the RLM, with the possibility of aircraft of that E-Stelle being flown to Stade. A list of all Dornier Do 335 Werknummern in Smith & Creek reveals that from the potential six night fighter prototypes two were most likely not completed (W.Nr. 230021 and 230022), M17 is well documented and was only finished after the war, M15 and M16 may have been at Werneuchen in March 1945, but photographs of them exist which distinguish them from the above wreck, compare Smith & Creek (2006; p. 64 for M15 and p. 65 for M16). Although a few trainer Do 335 were flown at Rechlin for testing, there was little reason to deliver them to Werneuchen which was the test facility for radar and radio equipment.

This makes Do 335 M10 rather likely the object of this photograph and as such it is another piece of information about this very interesting aircraft.

To draw on the vast expertise of Luftwaffe researchers and enthusiast, I have simultaneously published parts of this blog at the Luftwaffe Experten Message Board, Do335 V-10 coded CP+UK - operational testing with NJG3?, through which I hope to kick off additional interest in this aircraft as well as to receive critical reviews of my assumptions.

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* Original German text: "Als die Ausrüstung mit der Ta 154 anlief und ich deshalb nach Langenhagen geschickt wurde, um die erste Ta 154 abzuholen, verunglückte Lent tödlich (Anm. 7.10.1944). Der Nachfolger von Lent war Oberst Radusch. Er wollte von der Ta 154 nichts wissen und ließ sich später die Do 335 auf den Platz stellen. Die übrigen Ta 154 habe ich dann von Detmold nach Stade überführt."

References

Crandall, Jerry, 2003. Wings of the Black Cross Number One, Eagle Editions, Hamilton
Gaemperle, S. Roger, 2011. Captured Eagles Volume 1, Eagle Vintage Publishing,
Green, William, 1970. Warplanes of the Third Reich, Doubleday & Company, New York
Griehl, Manfred 2004. Dornier Do 335, 435, 635: Kampfflugzeug - Aufklärer - Zerstörer - Nachtjäger, Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart
Hermann, Dietmar, 2006. Focke-Wulf Nachtjäger Ta 154 "Moskito", Stedinger Verlag, Lemwerder
Hermann, Dietmar, 2008. "Do 335 - Der "Wundervogel" beim Erprobungskommando", in Flugzeug Classic November 2008, p. 18 to 23, GeraMond Verlag, Munich
Hermann, Dietmar 2008. "Do 335 A-6-  Der improvisierte Nachtjäger" in Flugzeug Classic November 2008, p. 24 to 25, GeraMond Verlag, Munich
Hermann, Dietmar & Wunderlich, Markus 2012. "Bf 109 K - die finale Serie" in Flugzeug Classic March 2012, GeraMond Veralg, Munich
Kruse, Herbert 1988. "Einsatzerfahrungen mit der Ta 154" in Flugzeug 1988/I (part 1) and 1988/II (part 2), Verlag, Illertissen
Merrick, A. Kenneth & Hitchcock, H. Thomas 1980. The Official Monogram Painting Guide to German Aircraft 1935 to 1945, Monogram Aviation Publications, Boylston
Ringelstätter, Herbert, 2010. Deutsche  Nachtjäger 1939 - 1945, Flugzeug Classic Spezial 6, GeraMond Verlag, Munich
Smith, J. Richard & Creek, J. Eddie, 2006. Dornier Do 335 Pfeil Arrow, Ian Allan Publishing, Hersham
Ullmann, Michael 2000. Camouflage of the Do 335: A Critical Re-evaluation,  http://www.clubhyper.com/reference/do335camomu_1.htm

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

70th anniversary of Messerschmitt 262 jet flight


On July 18 1942, Messerschmitt 262 V3 PC+UC  took off from Leipheim airfield, for the first time solely powered by its Jumo 004 jet engines. To commemorate this major step, the following is attempting a brief summary of the initial concepts, trials and the beginning of operations by Me 262 in a night fighter role.

In Manfred Boehme´s essential history of Messerschmitt 262 development and deployment with Jagdgeschwader 7*, it is well laid out that it took more than two years after the ground braking maiden flight and at least until late 1944 before Me 262 aircraft were technically advanced and reliable enough to commence their operational service in Luftwaffe units in considerable numbers. Whereas much has been published about the decision which led to the initial use of Me 262 A-2a as a bomber rather than a fighter, little and if, inconsistent information can be found about the initial concepts to fly night missions with this jet.

It appears as if the use of jet aircraft in a night fighter role was initially considered by official authorities and industry only in summer 1944. Based on RLM suggestions, Messerschmitt and  Arado both started to work on a night fighter design of their respective models; Such developments are first documented by Arado mid July 1944 (Griehl 2003; p. 122, 123), whereas the first document about a two seater Me 262 night fighter appears in a Messerschmitt development meeting, Protokoll Nr. 40 of September 1, 1944 (Smith & Creek 2000; p. 488).

According to some authors, initial trails were performed by the Messerschmitt 262 program´s liaision officer Maj. Siegfried Behrens and Obst. Hajo Hermann  in autumn 1944 to test the suitability of the single seat Me 262 A-1a for night combat, (e.g. Ringelstätter 2010; p. 67; Foreman & Harvey 1995; p. 131). Behrens is said to have undertaken several test flights for night operations with a Me 262 A-1a with Stammkennzeichen KD+EA, W.Nr. 170095 at E-Stelle Rechlin (Ringelstätter, 2010; p. 67). Foreman & Harvey (1995; p. 131) claim that a modified  radar equipped Me 262 A-1a was used for these trials. The only single seater Me 262 with radar equipment known so far is V2, W.Nr. 170056 of which various photographic records exist during trials by Messerschmitt.

Other sources state that Lt. Kurt Welter, then a member of 10./ JG300, a designated mosquito hunting Staffel, was ordered to evaluate the Me 262 in September 1944 in Rechlin (Boiten 2008; p. 193). Given Welter´s background is seems reasonable to assume that he primarily evaluated the Me 262 with regard to intercepting Mosquito bomber and reconnaissance aircraft in a Wilde Sau fashion.

A recent article by Hermann and Wunderlich (2012; p. 14 - 21) made public a report and proposal by Hptm. Gerhard Stamp, then Gruppenkommandeur I./ JG300, with his assessment of the various most suitable Me 262 fighter roles. He recommended the Me 262 for day,  all weather and night fighter roles and commented on the latter:  "Similarly urgent as during day light is a successful combat of [night] intruder missions which according to reports of operational headquarters (Führungsstab-Ic) grow in intensity and size, and which threaten to evolve into terror attacks due to increased Mosquito production. ... The speed of Mosquito and Me 262 demand doubtlessly refined or different methods to guide the aircraft than those in current  usage by the Nachtjagd because pursuit over longer distances rather than interception should be conducted. The addition of search equipment needs to be resolved, the question of a second seat for the radio operator has been solved, and the conversion to a larger cabin is planned for. "**, proposal by Gerhard Stamp, August 25, 1944 to German Air Force headquarters, (in Hermann & Wunderlich 2012; p. 20).

The standard history of German Nachtjagd by Gebhard Aders covers this by stating that Oberstleutnant Siegfried Knemeyer of  Technial Air Armament (Technische Luftrüstung, TLR), proposed in September 1944 to establish a new short range night fighter force which should make use of jet aircraft. Due to the lack of designated two seater night fighter, Knemeyer proposed to use interim conversions of single seat jets; he recommended the Ar 234 for its longer flight time and easier handling (Aders 1978; p.289). Discussions between Knemeyer and the managing director of Arado, Professor Walter Blume, took place September 12, 1944, with regard to the suitability of Ar 234 as a night fighter (Griehl 2003; p. 123). According to Aders (1978; p. 290), it took another two months and the establishment of a special development commission for night and all weather fighters under the chairman Prof. Kurt Tank to confirm Knemeyer´s assessment which resulted in an order by Göhring on December 11, 1944 to establish two experimental combat units (Erprobungskommando or EKdo), one with Arado 234 led by Hptm. Josef Bisping, and one with Messerschmitt 262, led by Oblt. Kurt Welter. Foreman & Harvey (1995; p. 131) attribute the first command of the experimental Me 262 combat unit to Gerhard Stamp who was soon succeeded by Kurt Welter.  In his history of the Arado 234, Griehl (2003; p. 127) identifies the 12th of December 1944 as the formation of the experimental combat units.

Aders account is contradicted by others who date the establishment of EKdo Welter as early as November 2, 1944 (Williams 2006; p. 143; as well as Smith & Creek 2003; p. 452). This date may stem from the redesignation of Welter´s unit, 10./ JG300 to become the core of II. /NJG11 in accordance to Oberkommando Luftwaffe, OKL, ordinance of November 1st, 1944. An alternative source for this date may be the records of RAF bomber crews who reported combat with jets during a Düsseldorf raid during the night of November 2 /3, 1944 (Boiten 2008; p.  173). From such claim, the existence of a night fighter jet unit may have been incorrectly deducted.

Several website identify November 11, 1944 as the creation of EKdo Welter. For example Petr Kacha (2007) who gives a detailed account of Kurt Welter´s career, although there is no further explanation where this information comes from. 

Theo Boiten assigns the beginning of December to the formation of the Kommando and assumes the first successful interception of a Mosquito by Kurt Welter during the night of December 11/12 1944 (Boiten 2008; p. 193) after an apparent nonoperational period between October 27, 1944 and that December date (Boiten 2008; p. 170, 193).

Few details are known to me as to the initial period of EKdo Welter: subordination, ground support and staff, pilots other than Welter, allocated aircraft, etc.  Its obvious objective was to gather operational experience with Me 262 aircraft in night missions. Practically, the unit flew Wilde Sau sorties over Berlin with Me 262 A-1a mainly against Mosquito bombers, with occasional day sorties against reconnaissance Mosquitoes.   In late January 1945, EKdo Welter became 10./ NJG11 and thus officially evolved from an experimental combat to a full combat unit. Exact dates vary from January 25th (Smith & Creek 2003; p. 453; Williams 2006; p. 143; Meyer & Stipdonk 2008; p. 130) to January 28th (Boiten 2008; p. 193) and to even February (Aders 1978; p. 291). Although the number of pilots and sorties grew, the unit continued to operate like EKdo Welter did before and flew  Wilde Sau missions over Berlin.

The final development of the Me 262 night fighter role came with the availability of two seater Me 262 B-1a/U1 with FuG218, initially delivered to 10./ NJG11 on March 22, 1945, see account of Lt. Herbert Altner (Smith & Creek 2003; p. 464; Williams 2006; p. 187). The two seater jets were deployed in operator guided and radar assisted interception of Mosquitoes which required experienced pilots and radar operators of which hardly any were assigned to 10./ NJG11.

In comparison to its day operational role, the concept of the Me 262 as a night fighter was developed rather late at the end of summer 1944. In difference to it, the mission was from the beginning clearly identified as intercepting the fast De Havilland Mosquito bomber, pathfinder and reconnaissance aircraft. The Wilde Sau operations were borne out of necessity, but followed the direction set by Knemeyer to focus on close range, over the target interception. The operation of Me 262 B-1a/U1 with a radio operator and equipped with the FuG218 refined this concept. With its mission objective, technical equipment and tactics, the night fighter Me 262 B became the predecessor of the modern all weather jet interceptor. Although very few saw operational service, they successfully demonstrated their suitability for that role. According to Boiten (2008; p. 350) three victories over Mosquitoes during five sorties against one aircraft loss due to technical problems can be accounted for.

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* Boehme, Manfred, 1984. Jagdgeschwader 7 - Die Chronik eines Me 262-Geschwaders 1944/45, Motorbuch Verlag Stuttgart

** Original German text: "Nicht minder dringlich wie am Tage ist die wirksame Bekämpfung der Störeinflüge, die laut Führungsstab-1c-Berichten an Umfang und Stärke zunehmen, ja, sogar in absehbarer Zeit aufgrund der gesteigerten Mosquito-Produktion Terrorangriffen gleichzukommen drohen. ... Die Schnelligkeit der Mosquito und der Me 262 bedingen zweifellos verfeinerte oder andere Leitverfahren als die bisher in der Nachtjagd üblichen, denn es soll keine Objektjagd, sondern eine Verfolgungsjagd über weite Strecken betrieben werden. Der Suchgeräteeinbau muss eine entsprechende Lösung erfahren, die Frage des zweiten Sitzes für den Suchfunker ist bereits geklärt, der Einbau einer etwas vergrößerten Kabine ist vorgesehen." Hermann & Wunderlich (2012, p. 20), quoting Gerhard Stamp.

References

Aders, Gebhard, 1978. Die Geschichte der deutschen Nachtjagd 1917-1945, Motorbuch Verlag Stuttgart
Boiten, Dr. Theo E. W.  & Mackenzie, Roderick J. , 2008. The Nachtjagd War Diaries, Volume 2, Red Kite Publishing
Foreman, John & Harvey Sid E., 1995. The Messerschmitt Me 262 Combat Diary, Air Research Publications
Griehl, Manfred, 2003. Strahlflugzeug Arado Ar 234 "Blitz", Motorbuchverlag, Stuttgart
Hermann, Dietmar & Wunderlich, Markus, 2012. "Gebt uns die Me 262!" in Flugzeug Classic Februar 2012, p. 14 to 21, GeraMond Verlag
Kacha, Petr, 2007. Kurt Welter, Aces of the Luftwaffe,  www.luftwaffe.cz
Meyer, Michael & Stipdonk, Paul , 2008. Die Deutsche Luftwaffe - Zerstörer- und Nachtjägerverbände, Teil 3, VDM Verlag Nickel
Ringelstätter, Herbert, 2010. Deutsche  Nachtjäger 1939 - 1945, Flugzeug Classic Spezial 6, GeraMond Verlag
Smith, J. Richard & Creek, Eddie, 2003. Messerschmitt Me 262, Volume 3, Classic Publications, Crowborough
Williams, David P. , 2006. Luftwaffe Colours - Nachtjäger Volume 2, Classic Ian Allan Publishing

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 Yellow 7 N of II./ JG302


In my post Focke Wulf 190 A-7 / R11 Green 5 N of JG300 I claimed that apparently only aircraft of II. Gruppe JG300 were using the letter "N" to identify their night fighter designation. I was wrong.

Neil Page´s excellent blog, FalkeEins - The Luftwaffe blog, discusses an article by Jean-Yves Lorant about Luftwaffe attempts to combat the De Havilland 98 Mosquito "wooden wonder", Moskito hunting in the Luftwaffe (2) (Bf 109 nightfighters - wilde Sau). It includes a picture of a Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 flown by Fw. Fritz Gniffke marked Yellow 7 with the letter N. According to Gniffke´s own account, he was assigned to 6. Staffel JG302 on September 10, 1943. The photograph caption reads that with Yellow 7 N, Griffke claimed a B-24 shot down on April 12, 1944 during a day sortie. As with the other Wilde Sau units, JG302 was flying increasingly day sorties starting January 1944, as Willi Reschke recalls in his book Jagdgeschwader 301/302 "Wilde Sau", p.39 (German edition, 1998).

There appear however, a few inconsistencies: JG302 was only formed in early November 1943, Willi Reschke, ditto, p. 31. II. Gruppe was formerly I./ JG301 which itself became operational in September 1943. Also, according to Willi Reschke´s account, Fritz Gniffke was assigned to 5. Staffel JG302. He states the date of the successful mission as April 11, 1944, not April 12, 1944. To add to the confusion, in Jagdgeschwader 301/302 "Wilde Sau", the name Gniffke is written in two different ways: Gniffke and Gnifke.

If Lorant deducted Gniffke`s Staffel affiliation from the colour of his aircraft`s personal marking, Yellow being assigned to 6. Staffel, then Reschke account does not support the validity of such conclusion: he lists aircraft with white personal markings as allocated to 6. Staffel , e.g. Fw. Andreas Hartl, White 7, page 53, Uffz. Heinrich Amerkamp, White 4, p. 64. Furthermore, he reports that Fritz Gniffke flew his last mission for 5./ JG302 in a Bf 109 G-6 Red 7 on May 13, 1944 when he crash landed his aircraft with Werknummer 411924.

Assuming that the original photograph supports the claim that the number "7" was yellow - as well as the letter "N" - it requires additional documentation to determine the correct affiliation of Fritz Gniffke within in II. Gruppe JG302.

With the conversion of Wilde Sau Jagdgeschwader from night fighters to day fighter units effective May 25, 1944, pilots of JG301 and JG302 were given the choice to remain night fighters or join day fighters, Lorant & Goyat, Jagdgeschwader 300 Wilde Sau, Vol.1, p. 172. Since Gniffke flew with NJG11 in September 1944, he apparently chose the former.



Saturday, January 28, 2012

Messerschmitt 262 B-1a at Schleswig-Jagel - Part 1

No book about German night fighters lacks the photograph of Me 262 lined up at Schleswig-Jagel in May 1945, including two FuG218 Neptun equipped two-seat Me 262 B-1a/U1 (e.g. Smith & Creek, Me 262 Volume 3, p. 454). However, in no known instance are all the aircraft identified.

Closer examination for the photograph reveals six Me 262: two night fighters of 10./ NJG11 on the right side, two single-seat Me 262 A-1a on the left side, another two-seat Me 262 B-1a and, behind the latter, the very dark nose and front wheel of another Me 262 aircraft.

Although quite a few photographs of Me 262 B-1a/U1 night fighters exist, these were taken over a rather long period of time during which the aircraft were tested by British and American teams. There is, however, only a small number of photographs which originated from May, and possibly early June 1945 and which picture the aircraft with their Luftwaffe markings rather than RAF or fantasy ones, as does the above mentioned photograph.

Two of the aircraft can clearly be identified:
  • Me 262 B-1a/U1, W.Nr.110306, Red 9 of 10./ NJG11, and
  • Me 262 B-1a, W.Nr.110165, a two-seat trainer. It is unknown to me which unit 110165 belonged to. 10./ NJG11 seems a reasonable guess, as this former Kommando Welter Staffel flew Wilde Sau sorties with Me 262 in the closing months of the war. Although as late as early March 1945 introduction of 10. Staffel pilots to their new jet aircraft were conducted by single-seat Me 262 A-1a, according to the recollection of Lt. Herbert Altner in Smith & Creek, Me 262 Volume 3, p. 461, the unit may have received a two-seat trainer later. Alternatively, the aircraft may have belonged to EJG2 which was using Schleswig-Jagel as its final base, however, was officially dissolved April 25, 1945 (J. Zapf in Jet&Prop 1/2009 p. 16).
  • One Me 262 A-1a has been identified as W.Nr. 500443, Smith & Creek, Me 262 Volume 3, p.454. Forsyth identifies this aircraft as Yellow 6 of I./ JG7 (R. Forsyth, Jagdgeschwader 7 Nowotny, Osprey Publishing, p. 124). Other sources attribute this W.Nr. to Yellow 5 of 3./ JG7 flown by Unteroffizier Anton Schöppler and surrendered on May 8, 1945 at Fassberg to British troops (Morgan & Weal, German Jet Aces of World War 2, Osprey Publishing, p. 94) . A third interpretation is given by M. Murphy, possibly quoting H. H. Stapfer, Me 262 in Action, Squadron Signal: W.Nr. 500443 marking was White 5, but altered after capture at Schleswig-Jagel to White or Yellow 6 with the application of British markings, see LEMB USA 1 Messerschmitt Me262A1-a.
  • Upon closer examination, I assume that the other Me 262 B-1a/U1 is W.Nr.110635, Red 10 of 10./ NJG11. Of four Me 262 B-1a / U1 night fighters exist photographic records: W.Nr. 110305, Red 8, W.Nr.110306, see above, W.Nr.111980, Red 12 and W.Nr. 110635. The nose of Red 8 wore the last three digits 305 clearly visible, excluding it as a candidate. To the right of the officer standing in front of the aircraft, the external fuel tanks as well as a small part of the left engine cowling can been seen: the fuel tank tips seem to be of rather light color, whereas the engine cowling appear dark below and bright on the top. Comparing photographs of Red 10, ditto p. 462, with Red 12, ditto p. 468, they show distinguishable details in this regard: the drop tanks of Red 12 are black without any discoloring whereas those of Red 10 show their metallic shine through heavy wear. Equally, the left engine of Red 12 has a replacement ring in a metallic or bright color with a patch of dark green, RLM 83, on top extended from the wing´s surface. In contrast, the engines of Red 10 are apparently of the same color as the upper fuselage, RLM 76 with black undersurfaces.
The remaining two aircraft´s identity can only be guessed.
  • The aircraft behind W.Nr. 110165 seems unusually dark, almost black. Based on a photograph published in David E. Brown, Ales Janda, Tomas Poruba, Jan Vladar, Messerschmitt Me 262s of KG & KG (J) units, JaPo Publishing, p. 165 the aircraft could be a Me 262 A. As this photograph shows Me 262 B-1a, W.Nr. 110165 still in German markings, it might have been taken at the time of the line-up of Me 262 aircraft in Schleswig-Jagel.
  • The Me 262 A-1a at the very left end of the line-up seems to have dark undersurfaces. This puts it into accord with the two-seat night fighters of 10./ NJG11.