JG 400 Emblem: Baron Münchausen's cannonball ride
|Size||Air Force Wing|
Jagdgeschwader 400 (JG 400) was a Luftwaffe fighter-wing of World War II. JG 400 was formed on 1 February 1944 in Brandis with Stab only for the Messerschmitt Me 163 rocket fighter, as the only military aviation unit of any size in history, to actively use rocket-powered combat aircraft in wartime. Major Wolfgang Späte, of JG 54 was transferred into the experimental flying unit Erprobungskommando 16 at Bad Zwischenahn in Northern Germany, where the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet was under development and tactical testing. Once the Me-163B was declared operational in July 1944, Späte was given command of the formally raised JG 400, ultimately the only front-line unit to use the Me-163 operationally. Due to the meteoric rate of climb and limited endurance of the Komet, the Luftwaffe intended to locate individual Staffeln of Komets at strategic points in Germany to intercept Allied bomber formations en route to targets. JG 400 was initially based at Venlo, Netherlands before moving to Brandis near Leipzig, Germany.
JG 400 in action
The Me 163B-1a fighters first flew operationally on 6 August 1944, 2 Me 163s reportedly claiming 3 P-51 Mustangs of the 352nd Fighter Group. JG 400 intercepted formations of B-17 Flying Fortress bombers for the first time on 16 August 1944. Leutnant Hartmut Ryll engaged the B-17s but was shot down and killed by two P-51s of the 359th Fighter Group.
On 24 August 1944, Several B-17's were attacked, with Fw. Siegfred Schubert claiming two B-17s downed (another is claimed by other pilots). His wingman also downed a B-17. One Komet was shot down by bomber gunners. On 11 September 7 aircraft attacked a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) bomber formation, and 3 B-17's were claimed shot down. On 7 October two B-17s were claimed, but two more Komets were lost.By 24 September JG 400 had 11 serviceable Me 163s available, but was short of competent pilots to fly them. The Komets flew operationally on 5 days during the month, but highest number of rocket fighters involved was on 28 September, when 9 were committed. During the same month the two main factories producing the volatile fuel were seriously damaged in bombing raids, and the resulting shortage of fuel would hamper JG 400 for the rest of the war  Tactics were soon developed; typically to zoom through the bomber formations up to an altitude of 40,000 feet (12,000 m), and then to power-dive down through the formation again. This theoretically gave the pilot two chances to aim and fire a few bursts of 30mm cannon fire before gliding back towards the home airfield. Allied fighter formations countered the Komet in several ways; the extremely short endurance was soon noted, and once in a glide the Komet was highly vulnerable to any escort fighter. Brandis was quickly identified as JG 400's home airfield and strafing attacks curtailed operations. Many other tactical issues faced the JG 400 pilots apart from the inherent instability of the aircraft and its fuel. It was found very difficult to aim and fire the guns accurately at such high approach speeds. A number of solutions were tried out, the most innovative being fitting a battery of six 50mm mortars, firing upwards. The mortars were fired by activation by a photocell in the upper surface of the aircraft. When the Komet flew under the bomber, the shadow of the aircraft above triggered the mortar rounds to be fired. Research suggests this arrangement was only used once in combat, reportedly destroying an Royal Air Force (RAF) Halifax bomber.
Although over 300 Me 163B's were produced (including a few Me 163-Cs with increased fuel), only 9 confirmed air victories were credited to JG 400 by the end of the war, for 14 Komets lost from all causes ( mainly crashes and accidents). I./JG 400 was disbanded at Brandis in April 1945, while II. Gruppe disbanded at Husum.
Oberleutnant Adolf Niemeyer flew a more than 30 combat missions in the Komet, developing the variant equipped with 24 R4M rockets mounted under the wings. Fw. Kurt Schiebeler flew 20 missions in the Me 163, gaining two victories both B 17s in September–October 1944.
Fw. Rolf "Bubi" Glogner claimed a single aerial victory in the Me 163 when he claimed to have shot down a DeHavilland Mosquito over Leipzig on 16 March 1945. The Mosquito however (NS795 of No. 544 Squadron, flown by P/O R.M. Hays) was able to escape and force-landed in France, according to Hayes' report in "Coastal Command Review, Vol.IV, No. 3, March, 1945".
Fw. Siegfried Schubert was considered the most successful pilot with 3 four-engine-bombers confirmed. He was killed in action 7 October 1944.
Lt. Fritz Kelb claimed a B-17 with JG 400 on 10 April 1945, and also claimed a victory flying the Me 262, before being killed on 30 April 1945.
- Major Wolfgang Späte, 1 February 1944 – March 1945
- Hauptmann Rudolf Opitz, 1 January 1944 – May 1945
- Oberleutant Franz Medicus, 21 July 1944 – 13 October 1944
- Last year of the Luftwaffe; Alfred Price, 1991
|This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).|