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Originally designed as a long-range record-breaking aircraft, the Me 261 had an extremely slender fuselage, but two DB606 engines - each consisting of two coupled DB601 V-12s. Work continued even during the war, because of their advanced design. With their cramped fuselages they had little military value, however. Three were built, one was used for reconnaissance flights in 1
The Me 261 "Adolfine "
Me 261 Adolfine Messerschmitt Me 261 V2, BJ+CQ, in Lechfeld, 1945, following damage in an air raid Role Long range reconnaissance aircraft Manufacturer Messerschmitt First flight 23 December 1940 Introduced Never introduced Primary user Luftwaffe Number built 3
The Messerschmitt Me 261 Adolfine was an aircraft, laid out along the lines of the smaller Bf 110, designed in the late 1930s as a long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft. However, it was not put into production.
The Design & Development Of The Me 261
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In 1937, Messerschmitt began Projekt P. 1064, a study for a long-range reconnaissance aircraft, and took basic design of the Bf 110 twin-engine heavy fighter as its basis. The P. 1064 had a long, slim fuselage with two wing-mounted engines. Planned from the outset as a record-breaking aircraft, after becoming convinced that the aircraft was capable of taking the world long-distance flight record, the Air Ministry approved the project and gave it the designation of 8-261.
The intended goal of the project was for a completed example of the aircraft to carry the Olympic Flame from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (site of the 1936 Winter Olympics) to Tokyo, Japan for the 1940 Summer Olympics in what would be a record-breaking nonstop flight. The plan captured the imagination of Adolf Hitler at an early stage in its design and in tribute, the aircraft carried the unofficial name: Adolfine.
The Me 261 incorporated a number of features which were highly advanced for its day. The single-spar all-metal wing was designed to serve as a fuel tank and its depth at the wing root was only slightly less than the height of the fuselage.The fuselage itself was of virtually rectangular section, with space for five crew members, consisting of two pilots seated side-by-side with the radio operator, directly behind in the front compartment while a navigator and a flight engineer were housed in the rear fuselage under a stepped, glazed station.
Power came from four Daimler-Benz DB 601 engines, coupled together in pairs in a "power system" known as the DB 606, originally developed for the Heinkel He 177 strategic bomber. Each pair drove a variable pitch propeller through a shared gearbox, generating 2,700 PS apiece.
The Me 261 had a conventional, retractable tail-wheel landing gear, although it had unusually large and bulky low-pressure tires, much like modern day aircraft tundra tires, which prevented the aircraft from becoming bogged down on rough grass landing strips. The main gear's design appears to use main struts that rotated through 90º during their rearwards retraction sequence, that had the sizable main wheels resting atop the retracted struts, much like the production examples of the Junkers Ju 88 already used. Even the tail-wheel was a larger-than-average, low-pressure pneumatic tire.
The Operational History Of The Me 261
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The construction of three prototypes began at Messerschmitt's Augsburg works during the spring of 1939, but progress was slow due to the realisation that war would probably soon break out and the 1940 Summer Olympics would be cancelled. The Me 261's original design brief as a long-range reconnaissance aircraft had been forgotten and it was viewed as non-strategic and was nearly abandoned, with all work stopping in August 1939.
However, the Air Ministry realised that it could be a useful vehicle for evaluating long-range operations and work resumed in the summer of 1940.
- Me 261 V1
The first flight of the Me 261 V1 was on 23 December 1940, flown by Messerschmitt's test pilot Karl Baur. Willy Messerschmitt wrote to Ernst Udet in early 1941 with the results of the first flight, predicting a range of over 20,000 km (12,000 mi) for the type. The decision to use the DB 606 engine was a problem because only a few were available for development projects, as most were needed for types already in production such as the Heinkel He 177. The Me 261 V1 was badly damaged during an Allied bombing attack on Lechfeld in 1944 and eventually scrapped.
- Me 261 V2
The first flight of the Me 261 V2 was in early 1941. By now official thinking saw the Me 261 as a long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft. Messerschmitt had realised that the fuel-carrying nature of the aircraft's wings ruled out fitting armaments to them, and so both prototypes were tested for endurance through to 1943. There was a suggestion that one or both be used to drop propaganda leaflets on New York City, but nothing came of the idea. The Me 261 V2 was damaged during the same Allied bombing attack as the V1 and like it was later scrapped.
- Me 261 V3
The V3 differed from its predecessors in being powered by two DB 610 engines (another paired engine design) and room for two additional crew members. The first flight of the Me 261 V3 was in early 1943. This aircraft had the longest series of flight tests. On 16 April 1943, the Me 261 V3 was flown by Karl Baur over a distance of 4,500 km (2,800 mi) in an elapsed time of 10 hours, setting an unofficial endurance record which could not be confirmed due to war conditions. In July 1943, the Me 261 V3's hydraulics failed on landing and the port undercarriage leg collapsed. The V3 was transported to Oranienburg for repairs, and after that used on a few long-range missions for the Luftwaffe's reconnaissance division. Its ultimate fate is unknown.
Specifications (Me 261 V3)
Data from Warplanes of the Third Reich
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Daimler-Benz DB 610
- Crew: 7
- Length: 16.68 m (54 ft 8¾ in)
- Wingspan: 26.86 m (88 ft 1¾ in)
- Height: 4.71 m (15 ft 5¾ in)
- Wing area: 76 m² (817.76 ft²)
- Powerplant: 2× Daimler-Benz DB 610A/B 24-cylinder inverted-vee engine, from two coupled DB 605 engines each, 2,133 kW (2,900 PS) each
- Maximum speed: 620 km/h at 3,000 m (385 mph at 9,840 ft)
- Range: 11,024 km (6,850 mi)
- Service ceiling: 8,260 m (27,100 ft)
- Donald 1994, p. 290.
- Green 1986, p. 617.
- "Developing history of the Messerschmitt ME 261." economypoint.org, 5 July 2006. Retrieved: 9 June 2010.
- Smith 1971, p. 99.
- Green 1986, p. 618.
- Donald, David, ed. Warplanes of the Luftwaffe. London: Aerospace Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1-874023-56-5.
- Green, William. Warplanes of the Third Reich. New York: Galahad Books, 1986. ISBN 0-88365-666-3
- Gunston, Bill and Tony Wood. Hitler's Luftwaffe. London: Salamander Books Ltd., 1977. ISBN 978-0517187715.
- Philpott, Bryan. The Encyclopedia of the German Military Aircraft. London: Bison Books, 1980. ISBN 0-85368-447-2.
- Smith, J. Richard. Messerschmitt: An Aircraft Album. New York: Arco Publishing, 1971. ISBN 0-668-02505-5.