Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me 262 'Sturmvogel'

Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel' Stormbirds:
The Messerschmitt Me 262 'Sturmvogel'
with Mike Haught & James Brown

Few planes in history have changed everything we had previously understood. The Messerschmitt 262 was one such aircraft, ushering in a whole new era of fighter design.
In less than 40 years, the field of aviation had gone from flimsy fabric-covered aircraft to metal jet-engineed fighters.

Learn more about the Me 262 A2a 'Sturmvogel' miniature here...
In mid-1944 the air war over Europe had been going pretty much the same way as it had always been going for the previous few years. Sleak piston-driven aircraft tore through the skies in high-speed dogfights, multi-engined bombers, armed to the teeth with machine-guns and several thousand pounds of bombs, released their deadly cargo as they lumbered over their German targets. Fast reconnaissance flights sped through the air with impunity taking photographs of the bombers’ next objective. By 1944, the Allies owned every bit of the word ‘superiority’ over the skies of Germany. However, that was soon to be challenged in a way that would not only cause serious concern amongst Allied pilots, but would also usher in a whole new era in aviation.

The jet engine was developed in the late 1930s in both Germany and Great Britain. The world’s first jet aircraft, the Heinkel He 178, took off on the morning of 27 August 1939, just five days before the start of the Second World War. The success of this singleengine plane led to the development of the twin-engine He 180 which took to the air on 30 March 1941. Heinkel was poised to become the world’s leading jet manufacturer. However, their competitor, under the guidance of Professor Willy Messerschmitt, had begun working on his own design, the Me 262. Heinkel was quickly pushed aside due officially to ‘technical difficulties’ with their aircraft, though a fair degree of political influence was used to get the jet program switched to Messerschmitt’s design.

Below: Me 262A-2a WkNr. 110813 of Messerschmitt AG, Memmingen and Leipheim, January 1945.
Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel'
Illustration by Jim Laurier from COM 83, Me 262 Bomber Reconnaissance Units. © Osprey Publishing Ltd.
The first prototype Me 262 V1 took off on 18 April 1941. It was powered by a single piston engine mounted to the nose with pair of BMW 003 turbojets slung underneath the wings to test the airframe. It worked, and on 25 March 1942, the V1 lifted off once more with all three engines powered up. The two BMW engines flamed out and the test pilot, Fritz Wendel, completed a single circuit before being forced to land under the power of his piston engine. The BMW engines were discarded and replaced with more powerful and reliable Junkers Jumo 004 turbojets. Several new prototypes were developed and by 1944 the Me 262 was ready for action.

The first Me 262s entered Luftwaffe (air force) service as air superiority fighters, that is to say aircraft that were designed to eliminate enemy planes so that ground attack planes could focus on supporting the troops. The Me 262 A1 variants had a variety of weapon configurations, usually based around four 30mm MK108 cannon in the nose. Anti-bomber rockets were also tested with some success on the A1 models. They chased down reconnaissance fast planes, engaged enemy ground attack planes, and chewed up Allied bombers with their cannon.

My first kill on the Me 262 came about almost by accident, you could say. I had taken off in an attempt to intercept a high-flying reconnaissance Lightning. Cround-control vectored me on the target faultlessly. Not that he was difficult to spot, for he was drawing a nice broad condensation trail in his wake.

I approached out of the sun from behind and slightly above. When about 80m (262ft) distant I ducked into the condensation trail, casting a quick glance down to check my instuments and gun indicator lights. When I looked up again a split second later, the Lightning was filling my windscreen. I tried desparately to pull up above him, but it was too late. There was an almighty crash, and then he disappeared.

I waited for a few seconds, expecting a wing to fall off, or an engine to flame out. But nothing of the sort happened. Just a few nasty dents, but my crate continued to fly.

~ Hauptmann Georg-Peter Eder, 7. Jagdgeschwader.
During a demonstration in June 1943, Hitler asked if the Me 262 could be fitted to carry bombs. The design team reported that with some easy modifications this could be done and Hitler immediately authorized a ground attack version be made. Soon the Me 262 A2 variants were rolling off the production line. These models gave up two of the 20mm cannon and added a bomb rack for two 250kg (550lb) bombs.

The first to receive the new ground attack aircraft was 51. ‘Edelweiss’ Kampfgeschwader (also known as KG 51, a veteran bomber group) in May 1944. The group sent nine Me 262 A2 planes to France after the invasion of Normandy, but weren’t able to make much of an impression there. Soon 54. ‘Totenkopf’ Kampfgeschwader joined them in September, but by now Hitler had reversed his position and ordered that the Me 262 be used exclusively as fighters.
Below: Me 262A-2a Mk-Nr. 170096/'9K+BH' of 1./KG 51, Rheine, Autumn 1944.
Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel'
Illustration by Jim Laurier from COM 83, Me 262 Bomber Reconnaissance Units. © Osprey Publishing Ltd.
The fighter-bomber pilots found it difficult to adapt to the fighter interceptor role and their losses were heavy. KG 54 lost over 225 aircraft while claiming only 50 Allied planes. Eventually dedicated fighter units, such as 7. Jagdgeschwader (or JG 7, the only dedicated Me 262 fighter group) were set up to take the pressure off of the ground attack wings. JG 7 caused serious damage on the Allied airforces, with at least 136 claims.

One colourful unit was 44. Jagdverband (or JV 44, a special fighter formation), established in Feburary 1945, under the command of Generalleutnant Adolf Galland. This special unit combined the experience of veteran Luftwaffe pilots with arguably the world’s aircraft of the time. It was truly the most elite fighter group ever assembled. To get in you had to be an Experten, or Ace, and the top five aces of JV 44 had a combined total of over 1000 kills! The group had 25 jets, but fuel was so scarce that only six aircraft could be put in flight at a time. Still the pilots claimed 47 Allied aircraft from April to May 1945.
Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel' 51. ‘Edelweiss’ Kampfgeschwader
51. ‘Edelweiss’ Kampfgeschwader (51st ‘Edelweiss’ Bomber Group) was formed in December 1939. Armed with He 111 and Ju 88 bombers, the group took part in the battles for France, Britain, and the Balkans in the strategic bombing operations. During the invasion of the Soviet Union, the group added close-air support to its mission, claiming at least 20 Soviet aircraft, 22 tanks, 705 other vehicles, 10 trains, and 8 ships (one of which was a heavy cruiser).

In December 1943 the group was disbanded, only to be reformed once more in February 1944. Half of the group was formed a Fw 190 squadron, while the rest formed a Me 262 squadron. The group trained as fighter-bombers, but were employed as interceptors instead, a mission that the pilots were not trained for. During January 1945, the group took part in Operation Bodenplatte, hitting Allied airbases in Eindhoven with JG 3 and contributing to the mission’s 116 kills.
Four other Kampfgeschwader were scheduled to be converted into Me 262 groups, but the Luftwaffe’s problem wasn’t a lack of aircraft but a severe shortage of fuel. In the end, the Sturmvogel’s legacy would never save Germany, but instead it changed aerial combat forever. Both the Western and Soviet engineers salvaged what they could to further their own jet airplane designs. The Me 262 soldiered on after WWII in the service of the Czechoslovakian air force until the mid 1950s before it was finally retired.
Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel'
Painting The Me 262
The following suggested colour schemes list the standard RLM colours of the Reichsluftfartministerium, the German Air Ministry, followed by the closest Vallejo equivalent in bold.
Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel' Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel'
Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel' Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel'
1. This example shows a very common camouflage scheme for Me 262s, a late-war fighter scheme of RLM 81 Brown Violet (Sherman Drab (FWP321)) and RLM Bright Green (Tankovy Green (FWP341)). The underside of the aircraft, and often much of the tail, was ‘sky’ colour – (White (FWP301) Infantry Blue (FWP400) mix). 2. Another common camouflage scheme for fighters was RLM 83 Dark Green (Heer Green (FWP340)) and RLM 82 Bright Green (Tankovy Green (FWP341)). An airbrush makes painting soft-edge camouflage much easier, but it can also be painted quite effectively by hand, taking time to carefully mix and blend the colours.
Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel' Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel'
After painting the camouflage, adding tactical markings is a good way to add colour to the model. If you want to, you can research the correct markings for specific historical units. Osprey Publishing has several books available on the subject, with plenty of expertly researched detail.
An airbrush is the perfect tool for painting soft-edge camouflage, but it is easier than you might think to paint it freehand if you don’t have one. Mix a little of the camouflage colour with Infantry Blue (FWP400) and use a stippling technique to paint it on in two or three successively smaller blobs, adding a little more camouflage colour to each stage. (Airbrushed model painted by Evan Allen)
Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel' Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel'
Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel' Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel'
3. Some reconnaissance squadrons used a distinctive ‘scribble’ camouflage pattern of RLM 81 Brown Violet (Sherman Drab (FWP321)) and RLM Bright GreenTankovy Green (FWP341)) over RLM 76 Light Blue (Infantry Blue (FWP400)). This particular scheme is obviously a lot easier to apply using an airbrush. 4. In the very late stages of the war, an unknown number of aircraft were delivered unpainted, with grey filler used to seal between panels. This is a fairly easy effect to achieve. Paint the whole aircraft silver – an airbrush or spray can makes this a lot easier. Then carefully paint along the panel lines with a medium grey such as Bunker Grey (FWP304).
Stormbirds: The Messerschmitt Me262 'Sturmvogel'
There are several different ways of dealing with the solid canopies on Battlefront’s aeroplane models. The easiest approach is to simply paint the canopy black. If you want to spend a bit more time, try painting a suggestion of reflected clouds. Finish with a coat of gloss varnish.

~ Mike & James.

Last Updated On Wednesday, July 8, 2015