Messerschmitt 163 B Komet

Place in history: The rocket-propelled Me 163 Komet was designed to destroy high altitude bombers, soaring up through the formation of bombers and then diving back through them, firing its cannons at each pass. Powered by an extremely volatile Walter rocket motor, the Me 163 had a tendency to explode in flight. It was remarkably agile at higher speeds, but difficult to handle at lower speeds. While few Me 163s went into combat due to the aircraft's many shortcomings, the Komet was the first operational rocket-powered aircraft and represented a major technological breakthrough.

This aircraft: One of twenty types of planes built by the Junkers Aircraft company in factories in Oranienberg, Germany, it was towed as a glider to Husum Luftwaffe base in Northern Germany, on December 18, 1944. At Husum it became part of the Jagdgeschwader (Fighter Wing) 400, but it is unknown whether it ever flew in combat. It was captured by the British on May 8, 1945 shipped to the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough, England. This is one of only a dozen Me 163 Komets still in existence.

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