Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Mosquito hunting in the Luftwaffe (1) - Me 262s of 10./NJG 11 Kommando Welter

Album pg 19 ME 262_1

During 1944 Staffeln of JG 300 and NJGr. 10 had been tasked with countering the growing threat posed by RAF de Havilland Mosquito units. The radar equipped fighter versions of 100 Group, Bomber Command were taking an increasing toll of the Luftwaffe's night fighters, and the 'Oboe'-equipped Pathfinder and light bomber versions were ranging with quasi-impunity over northern Germany. During late 1944 NJG 11 brought together the various single-seat high speed units into one Nachtjagdgeschwader to unify these efforts. In December 1944 the piston-engined elements of NJG 11 gave up sustained anti-Mosquito operations and confined itself to illuminated target defence night fighting against the heavy bombers of the RAF.
It was during December 1944 that 10./NJG 11 under Hauptmann Kurt Welter, an experienced 'Wilde Sau' ace, commenced operations using a handful of single-seat Me 262 jets. By April 1945 a number of twin-seat night fighter variants, designated Me 262B-1a/U1, were available. To make room for the radar operator fuselage fuel capacity was sacrificed, and a pair of 66 gallon drop tanks were fitted beneath the nose. Following trials with radar fitted to a single-seater the two-seaters were equipped with the FuG 218 Neptun V radar, with prominent aerials on the nose reducing the top speed by about 30 mph. From January 1945 to the end of the war the Me 262's of 10./NJG 11 claimed some 43 Mosquitoes by night and five P-38 and Mosquito photo-reconnaissance aircraft by day - although only a handful of these claims tally with known Allied aircraft losses.

The best source for 10./NJG 11 is Manfred Jurleit's 'Strahljäger im Einsatz' (which translates as 'Jet fighters in Combat' - Transpress 1993) largely exploited by everyone else since, especially Kagero in their 'Me 262 units' (Air Miniatures No. 33). Jurleit lived behind the wall and was able to interview 10./NJG 11 veterans living and working in the former DDR, including Kurt Lamm who flew airliners with Interflug postwar. The first jet Nachtjagd victory over a Mosquito was achieved on 27 November 1944 by Welter flying out of Rechlin-Lärz - a congratulatory telegram was sent from I.Jagdkorps commander Generalleutnant Huth to Oberst Petersen, Kommandeur of the Erprobungsstelle. Fw. Karl-Heinz Becker recalled;

" The first attempts at night-fighting in jets took place during November 1944. Welter had trialed night interceptions over Berlin flying out of Rechlin-Lärz in a single-seat Me 262. He would land at airfields around Greater Berlin at the end of his sortie and would fly back to Lärz during the day. He achieved several victories during these flights. At the time I was at Strausberg with the Ergänzungsgruppe für Tagjagd , the day fighter operational training wing, on a conversion course after coming from 'heavy' nightfighters, but after a phone call from Welter on 13 December 1944 I joined him at Rechlin-Lärz. It was here that the (jet night-fighting) Staffel was being establshed and in January we moved to Burg (bei Magdeburg). It was from here that we flew our first night jet training sorties and from mid-February the first 'sharp' combat flights.."  (..to be continued..)

Album pg 19 ME 262_2

Album pg 19 ME 262_3