The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe ("Swallow") was the world's first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. Design work started before World War II began, but engine problems prevented the aircraft from attaining operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944. Compared with Allied fighters of its day, including the jet-powered Gloster Meteor, it was much faster and better armed.
In combat, when properly flown, it proved difficult to counter due to its speed. Me 262 pilots claimed a total of 509 Allied kills (although higher claims are sometimes made) against the loss of about 100 Me 262s. The design was pressed into a variety of roles, including light bomber, reconnaissance and even experimental night fighter versions.
The Me 262 is considered to have been the most advanced German aviation design in operational use during World War II. The Allies countered its potential effectiveness in the air by relentlessly attacking the aircraft on the ground, or while they taking off or landing. Maintenance problems and a lack of fuel during the deteriorating late-war situation also reduced the effectiveness of the aircraft as a fighting force. In the end, the Me 262 had a negligible impact on the course of the war due to its late introduction and the small numbers that were deployed in operational service.
Source: Wikipedia, "Messerschmitt Me 262", available under the CC-BY-SA License.
As Described In
Aces Over Europe: The first jet fighter ever to see combat, the Me-262 shocked the Allies whenever they encountered it. With a top speed of 540 mph, it could outrun anything in the sky. It served in limited numbers starting in late 1944.
Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe: Tested as a fighter, it proved superior in flight and excelled at the interceptor role. However, production was held up again while completed Me 262 fighters were converted to Sturmvogel bombers, at Hitler's insistence. Not until October of 1944 did the first Me 262 jet fighter unit become operational. But for the next seven months, until the end of the war, the Me 262 proved to be outstanding in combat; it was simply too fast for Allied fighters and bomber gunners. However, its superior speed was sometimes a liability to its pilots, who found it difficult to hit targets at high speeds, and Me 262s were sometimes shot down after the pilot had slowed to attack.