Time to take to the air again.

Meet the Me 263. To be specific, the second 263 as the first got a name change and became the Me 321. I’m not calling it a Messerschmitt because it was actually designed by Junkers.

The 263 was intended as a bigger, better but just as lethal (to enemy, pilots and ground crew) version of the rocket powered 163 which was a kind of cross between a firework and a fighter plane. The idea was you took off like a, well, rocket (it got to 12,000 m or 39,000 ft in three minutes, unheard of at the time) and flew up through your targets firing as you went and then took another go on your way down. Given that the rocket motor only kept alight for seven and a bit minutes that was your lot and you had to glide back home, hoping not to be shot down in the process and further hoping that the plane didn’t explode on landing (it was also prone to explode during refuelling, flight and just about any other time). As a weapon the 163 was a failure - few were ever used and more were lost (more by accident than enemy fire) than succeeded in shooting down enemy craft. One of its difficulties was that it was so much faster than the piston-engined bombers it was up against that pilots had very little time to aim and fire.

In the event the 263 never flew under its own power. One of the three prototypes built was destroyed by the Americans and the others went to the Soviet Union where they were reverse engineered to produce the I-270

We’ll never know what it would have been like to fly a 263 but Captain Eric Brown flew its predecessor (of course he did, he flew everything) and said that it was “like being in charge of a runaway train”.

Before you ask, the little propeller on the nose powered a generator.