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According to Speer, Hitler felt its superior speed compared to other fighters of the era meant it could not be attacked, and so preferred it for high altitude straight flying.
Although the Me 262 is often referred to as a "swept wing" design, the production aircraft had a leading edge sweep of only 18.5°, too slight to achieve any significant advantage in increasing the critical Mach number.
The Messerschmitt Me 262, nicknamed Schwalbe (German: "Swallow") in fighter versions, or Sturmvogel (German: "Storm Bird") in fighter-bomber versions, was the world's first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft.
Design work started before World War II began, but problems with engines, metallurgy and top-level interference kept the aircraft from operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944.
As a result, the Me 262 was already under development as Projekt 1065 (P.1065) before the start of World War II.
Changing to a tricycle arrangement—a permanently fixed undercarriage on the fifth prototype (V5, code PC UE), with the definitive fully retractable nosewheel gear on the V6 (with Stammkennzeichen code VI AA, from a new code block) and subsequent aircraft corrected this problem.
Test flights continued over the next year, but engine problems continued to plague the project, the Jumo 004 being only marginally more reliable than the lower-thrust (7.83 k N/1,760 lbf) BMW 003.
Airframe modifications were complete by 1942 but, hampered by the lack of engines, serial production did not begin until 1944, and deliveries were low, with 28 Me 262s in June, 59 in July, but only 20 in August.
Test flights began on 18 April 1941, with the Me 262 V1 example, bearing its Stammkennzeichen radio code letters of PC UA, but since its intended BMW 003 turbojets were not ready for fitting, a conventional Junkers Jumo 210 engine was mounted in the V1 prototype's nose, driving a propeller, to test the Me 262 V1 airframe.
The V1 through V4 prototype airframes all possessed what would become an uncharacteristic feature for most later jet aircraft designs, a fully retracting conventional gear setup with a retracting tailwheel—indeed, the very first prospective German "jet fighter" airframe design ever flown, the Heinkel He 280, used a retractable tricycle landing gear from its beginnings, and flying on jet power alone as early as the end of March 1941.It is debatable to what extent Hitler's interference extended the delay in bringing the Schwalbe into operation; Albert Speer, then Minister of Armaments and War Production, in his memoirs claimed Hitler originally had blocked mass production of the Me 262, before agreeing in early 1944.