[Drawing of Me.163C]

The Messerschmitt Me.163B production aircraft was acknowledged, almost before it entered service, as being under-powered; not in the sense that the aircraft was lacking in power to weight, but lacking power endurance. Walterwerke had an extensive programme of development work, and were working on a motor with an additional, lower thrust combustion chamber slung below the main (take-off) combustion chamber. The smaller "auxilliary" chamber was for cruising at height. This was to improve the performance of the Me.163, but more importantly, improve the range and endurance. To coincide with a redesign of the motor, a redesign of the airframe was needed.

Under the stewardship of Dr Waldemar Voigt in the design office at Messerschmitt, Oberammergau had been reworking the shape of the Lippisch Komet design. The Me.163B wing shape was retained, although where the wing joined the fuselage at the root there was a broadened fillet section to increase the overall span and area.

The fuselage was enlarged to make space for additional fuel and for the new motor which Walterwerke was promising as an answer to the endurance problem, the HWK 109-509.C. Although the new design, the Me.163C, had many elements of the original production airframe, as can be seen it was longer and heavier with a pressurised cockpit and an improved vision canopy.

Despite being larger and heavier than the production model "B" Komet, the Me.163C was predicted to be capable of 590mph at altitude and a ceiling of up to 52,000 feet, with full power endurance increased to over six minutes.

However, it retained one of the more eccentric features of the Komet, the landing skid, with all the attendant problems for landing and ground handling. For a sophisticated interceptor, this was a serious design flaw.

There were only three prototypes of the aircraft produced V1, V2 and V3. The production airframe was to be designated the Me.163C-1a. It is believed that one protoype was flown, but I have not discovered if it was flown under power. Beeton seems to suggest that the HWK 109-509.C motor was not flown, so maybe the Me.163C prototype was test flown as a glider.

With the rapid advance of the Russians all three Me.163C prototypes were destroyed to stop them falling into Soviet hands. However, further work was continuing on an extension to this design as a new project, which eventually became the Messerschmitt Me.263.


The Messerschmitt Me.163D


In a bid to alleviate the difficulties associated with the skid design, the Komet was additionally reworked. Messerschmitt had ordered the construction of a new model, the Me.163D, from Focke Achgelis GmbH at Delmenhorst at the same time as the Me.163C was in development.

The picture here is of the Messerschmitt Me.163D V1, completed in the Summer of 1944. Although this picture is not particularly clear, you can see that the Me.163D is not an extension of the Me.163C, it is a completely different model. Based on an existing Me.163B V18 production Komet, the Me.163D had an extra section added ahead of the engine to lengthen the fuselage. The basic Komet wings were retained, moved rearwards.

The most instantly obvious feature of the "D" model is the new tricycle undercarriage, a definite move towards improving the performance of the aircraft on the airfield. The longer fuselage to accommodate this also adds more space for increased fuel tankage. Built around December 1944/January 1945 this airframe was apparantly used for aerodynamic testing of the new fuselage, and taxying tests of the new undercarriage. It is extremely unlikely that aerodynamic tests were conducted with the Walter motor.

However, Willi Messerschmitt was apparantly not keen on the Lippisch tailless designs, and this, together with all the other committments at the Messerschmitt facility, led the Me.163C developments being turned over to Junkers at Dessau. Once Junkers acquired the project, there was a complete revamp of the airframe and the project acquired the designation the Junkers Ju.248.

With thanks to Grzegorz Plonski for information on the Me.163D

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