The Me 163B Komet, Development and Operational Experience 975627
Truly revolutionary in concept and execution, the tiny Messerschmitt Me 163B Komet interceptor was the world's first (and to this day represents the only) rocket-powered military combat aircraft to see operational service. It was the product of the integration of a series of progressive developments in flying wing aircraft and bi-propellant rocket motor technology that began in Germany prior to the Second World War. Spurred by the outbreak of the war, the Me 163 was developed as a short-range, point-defense interceptor intended to protect critical high value targets. Designed for horizontal takeoff and landing, the Me 163 incorporated many innovative features such as a jettisonable take-off trolley and retractable landing skid. In keeping with this concept, a number of ingenious items of ground support equipment were developed and fielded such as a post-landing all terrain aircraft recovery vehicle. Combat experience with the Me 163 involved numerous unusual aspects that provide some interesting insights into issues related to the operational use of this class of aircraft. This paper discusses the development of the Me 163 and focuses on the lessons derived from its operational employment.