Messerschmitt Me 262B-1a/U1, W.Nr 110635 ‘Red 10’, Oberleutnant Kurt Welte
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Messerschmitt Me 262B-1a/U1, W.Nr 110635 ‘Red 10’, Oberleutnant Kurt Welter, 10/NJG 11, Burg bei Magdeburg ‘Mosquito Hunter’, April 1945
As the Allied air forces finally began to exert their authority in the skies above Germany during 1944, fighter pilots began to report the appearance of a strange new Luftwaffe aircraft, which appeared to have no propellers, yet possessed incredible performance. Finally committed to combat in August 1944, the Germans unleashed the fearsome Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe (Swallow) against USAAF bomber formations, which were virtually defenceless against their high speed attacks. As the world’s first operational jet fighter, the Me 262 was a significant leap forward in aviation technology and was not only capable of attaining speeds more than 100mph faster than the latest Allied fighters, but was also extremely heavily armed. Described by celebrated British test pilot Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown as the most formidable aircraft of the Second World War, the Allies were extremely fortunate that large numbers of Messerschmitt Me 262s could not be hurled against the attacking bomber streams, as their losses would have been significant. As it was, the tide of war had already turned in favour of the Allies and starved of aircraft, fuel and replacement pilots, the Luftwaffe were slowly being strangled into submission.
Oberleutnant Kurt Welter joined the fledgling Luftwaffe in 1934 and after qualifying as a pilot, began a long career as a flying instructor - it was not until the summer of 1943 that he transferred to an operational fighter unit and began flying interceptor missions against Allied air forces. An extremely capable pilot, Welter began claiming victories almost as soon as he became operational, although Allied aerial supremacy dictated that there would always be plenty of opportunities to hone his skills.
Welter would become notorious as a hunter of RAF Mosquito night intruders, which began mounting ‘light night’ strike raids against targets around Berlin in an attempt to demoralise the population of the city. As one of the most capable aircraft of the war, the De Havilland Mosquito was fast and manoeuvrable, able to deliver a similar bomb load to that of a USAAF B-17 and posed a serious threat to the Luftwaffe. Determined to halt this Mosquito menace, Welter was given command of a dedicated nightfighter unit, equipped with the new Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter, which was more than capable of catching the elusive British intruders, when serviceable. Welter claimed the first night victory of a jet powered fighter in December 1944 and went on to record a total of 63 combat victories, from just 93 missions flown. Although his victory claims have been challenged by historians over the years, his tally included no less than 33 night intruder Mosquitos.