Long-range Reconnaissance Aircraft
The long-range reconnaissance aircraft Me 261 was an all-metal low-wing aircraft with two engines on the wing and a two-fin vertical tail. The aircraft was created using proven technologies and had a simple and light all-metal construction, similar to the previous development of the Bf 110, but differing from it in large dimensions. The given range of the car was to be provided primarily by a large wing with a relatively thick profile, a single-spar design typical for Messerschmitt. The plane did not have slats.
The monocoque fuselage had a small cross-section; in its bow there was a leaky glazed cockpit with two pilots sitting side by side. Behind the pilots was the navigator / radio operator's workplace, and behind the wing spar passing through the fuselage, a separate cockpit for the flight engineer and navigator. There was also a small compartment for the crew's rest, in which, if necessary, passengers or cargo could be accommodated.
As the power plant of this rather large aircraft, 24-cylinder liquid-cooled engines Daimler-Benz DB 606A-1 / B-1 were chosen, each of them consisted of two DB 601 engines installed in parallel and working on a common gearbox. 606A-1 / B-1, which developed 2660 hp on takeoff, propelled four-bladed 4.6-meter VDM propellers with variable pitch, respectively, with the right and left direction of rotation. Oil coolers were located under the engine nacelles.
The total volume of fuel tanks, including the fuselage, was approximately 17,000 liters. The main landing gear was equipped with large wheels, which turned 90 ° during harvesting and retracted into the rear of the engine nacelles. The tail wheel was retracted into the fuselage.
The aircraft was originally created for ultra-long-range flights and even received the name Adolfine in honor of the Fuhrer, but the construction of the first prototype Me 261 V1 (military number BJ + CP) was completed only by the end of 1941. On December 23, the plane took off for the first time, by that time there were already purely military tasks and RLM and Messerschmitt still expected to find an application for an expensive development. As a result, plans arose to convert the aircraft into a long-range reconnaissance aircraft, whose tasks were to search for enemy ships and interact with Kriegsmarine submarines.
Thus, work on the program continued, as well as the construction of new prototypes. In the spring of 1942, the Me 261 V2 (military number BJ + CQ) took off, featuring a more voluminous fuselage and a completely redesigned rear (located behind the wing) crew compartment: the RLM required the installation of defensive weapons even by reducing the volume of the fuselage fuel tank. In addition, a small bomb bay (or place for a camera) appeared at the bottom of the fuselage. Despite these changes, the Me 261 still had an impressive range. In 1942-43, both prototypes, the Me 261 V1 and V2, performed a series of lengthy test flights.
The final version was the prototype Me 261 V3 (BJ + CR), equipped with new DB 610A-1 / B-1 engines (twin DB 605). These engines developed 3100 hp at an altitude of 2500 meters. Behind the wing of the Me 261 V3, space was provided for two more crew members, but the weapons were never installed. On April 16, 1943, V3 flew a closed route, covering 4,500 kilometers in 10 hours. However, during landing, one of the main landing gear collapsed, which led to damage to the aircraft structure. After repairs, the aircraft was transferred to the Air Force High Command reconnaissance group (Aufklärungsgruppe der Oberbefehlshabers der Luftwaffe) based in Oranienburg. In this unit, the Me 261 V3 performed ultra-long-range secret reconnaissance flights in the east and west. However, the Me 261 did not go into mass production, remaining in the number of three prototypes.
In 1944, Me 261 V1 and V2 were destroyed during the bombing of the Lechfeld airfield by Allied aircraft, the fate of Me 261 V3 remains unknown.