Me 163B V1 KE+SX

The first Me 163B prototype (V1) KE+SX is an obscure aircraft in terms of photographic coverage: it appears that no wartime photos survived. The second prototype VD-EL is the one that appears in illustrations as the prototype B-model. But amazingly a few post-war photos of KE+SX exist. The only dedicated Komet reference to show some of these photos is Ransom & Cammann's Me 163 Volume 2, hidden on page 414. In only one of the captions to these shots is Me 163B V1 KE+SX specifically identified as the subject. It is this same photograph that also appears in 'Junkers Ju 388' by Christoph Vernaleken & Martin Handig, and that was sent to us by Mike Furline, and discussed below.

History

The Stammkennzeichen KE+SX is in sequence with the first Me 163A prototype (V4), KE+SW, and confirms its early place in the Komet development program. VD-EK and VA+EO have also been are also reported as the identity of V1. Adding to the confusion is that both 'V-1' and 'V-1a' designations are used, suggesting that two airframes were used. A comment on the latter is that the 'a' suffix could possibly identify the airframe as designed for the Walter rocket motor; in that case the 'b' would indicate the BMW rocket motor. A similar system was used for the Me 262: the Me 262A-1a was powered by Junkers Jumo 004, engines, the Me 262A-1b had BMW 003 engines. But it is not confirmed that this also applies to the Komet.

In Ransom & Cammann's Me 163 Volume 1, the history of the aircraft is briefly discussed on page 90, and the flight logs on page 206 shed some more light on the history of KE+SX. Its Werknummer was 16310010, and the aircraft made its first (unpowered) flight on 26 June 1942. It was subsequently used by the factory for various flight tests. It appears an engine was never installed, since all known flights are towed glider flights. KE+SX was transferred to EK16 at Bad Zwischenahn in January 1944, and to ErgSt/JG400 at Brandis in July 1944. The last flight recorded in Ransom & Cammann is on 14 August 1944. Amazingly, it survived the war, and was captured by American troops and taken away for examination.

The aircraft also appears in Heini Dittmar's flying logs, as reproduced in the AJ Press book by Belcarz & Peczkowski and Ransom & Cammann's 'Me 163 Volume 1' (page 91). His logs show flights starting at 23 September 1943, with the aircraft type identified as 'ME163V1'. Unfortunately Dittmar's flight logs are difficult to understand, since they appear to be very incomplete. But Dittmar's logs support that KE+SX was the first Me 163B prototype.

Merseburg or Kassel-Rothwesten (?) April 1945

Mike Furline kindly sent the photo below. The caption reports: "The Allies were obviously interested in the Ju 388's pressurized cockpit. Here one is seen next to a Me-163B rocket powered fighter, which has been made ready for transport. The photo was possibly taken in Brandis or Merseburg. (Haubner/Misna Collection)". Since all Komets at Brandis were blown up, Merseburg is the more likely location. Why and how it got there is an unanswered question. It appears that KE+SX has been prepared for shipment, with tape sealing all panel lines. The tape and the removed tail root fairing makes the 'X' difficult to read, and it is easily read as an 'R'.


It is also possible that the photograph was taken at Kassel-Rothwesten, as reported in Kenneth Merrick’s 'German Aircraft Interiors Volume One'. On page 249 it contains another photo of the same aircraft, and the caption identifies the location as Kassel-Rothwesten. It seems that six (seven?) Me 163’s were captured by US forces at Merseburg (see the truck photo that was probably made at Merseburg), and were ferried to Kassel-Rothwesten. Here two were selected for transfer to the US.

The photo shows several interesting details. The rear view windows are of the first type: the forward edge follows the contour of the canopy. The tailcone is plugged with a spherical cap, and the are no cooling slots in the real fuselage. The mostly empty gun bay is noteworthy. The camouflage on the top side is of the 'snake' type instead of the usual mottling. The lower fuselage appears very dark compared to other Komets, like it's mottled very densely.

Not visible in the photo above, but clearly seen in the photo from Kenneth Merrick's 'German Aircraft Interiors Volume One' is that KE+SX lacked the miniature propeller for electrical power generation.



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