The following is an attempt to sketch the production of the Me 163. Details were extracted from 'Messerschmitt 163 Komet - Entwicklung und Einsatz des ersten Raketenjägers' by Jeffrey Ethell. It was later extended with the information from Ransom's 'Flugplatz Brandis 1935-1945' and other sources. This sometimes resulted in conflicting data.
Three Me 163A prototypes (then simply known as Me 163) were ordered, and built in the Messerschmitt factory at Augsburg. Later two more were ordered. The glider test flying took place at Augsburg (Messerschmitt factory) and Lechfeld (a nearby Luftwaffe airfield). Rocket flying appears to be performed solely at Peenemünde.
Note that Me 163A V-numbering is rather confusing. For reasons of security, numbering started at V-4 instead of V-1. This was an attempt to make the project look like a continuation of the Bf 163 program. According to 'Willy Messerschmitt' by Ebert, Kaiser & Peters, the RLM ordered three Bf 163 prototypes in 1935. The design bureau took up the task of designing this VSTOL aircraft, but due to commitments in the Bf 108, 109 and 110 design the work was passed on to Rohrbach Metallflugzeugbau (Berlin), a company in the proces of being absorbed into Weserflugzeugbau (Lemwerder). The design was finalised in 1937. The first prototype (D-UICY) first flew on 19 February 1938. The Fieseler Storch meanwhile was in series production, and after some test flying it was sent to a technical school to serve as an instructional airframe. The other two prototypes (V2 and V3) were never finished.
The strange Me 163A numbering explains much of the confusion around the Me 163A actually produced, and the disagreeent between sources. The lists below still have to merged!
|......||KE+SW||V-1||Messerschmitt||Winter 1940||Construction completed||Eth|
|Messerschmitt||Spring 1941||First glider flight at Lechfeld||Eth|
|Messerschmitt||June/July 1941||To Peenemünde||Eth|
|?||13 August 1941||First rocket powered flight at Peenemünde||Eth|
|.....||CD-IL||V-2||Messerschmitt||Winter 1940||Construction completed||Eth|
|.....||CD-IM||V-3||Messerschmitt||June/July 1941||To Peenemünde||Eth|
|?||2 October 1941||First rocket powered flight at Peenemünde, during which 1004 km/h was reached||Eth|
|.....||CD-IN||V-4||Messerschmitt||February 1941||In use by Messerschmitt factory as glider||Eth|
|Messerschmitt||17 April 1942||Sent to Peenemünde||Eth|
|?||After 29 April 1942||First rocket powered flight||Eth|
|.....||CD-IO||V-5||?||8 November 1941||First glider flight||Eth|
|?||After 29 April 1942||First rocket powered flight||Eth|
Eight Me 163A-0's were built by the Wolfgang Hirth factory. They were equipped with a rocket engine, and were used for the training of Me 163B pilots. Other sources (Lippisch, Nowarra, Van Ishoven) claim that 10 were built (possibly confusing the two extra prototypes with A-0's) and that they were not equipped with a rocket engine. The detailed pilot's stories in Ethell's book, and the picture of a burnt example contradict this.
|....||GG+..||Erprobungstelle||burnt out at Peenemünde (photo)||Eth..|
|....||..+..||EK16||30 December 1943||crashed during landing at Bad Zwischenahn||Eth..|
|1630000001||KE+SW||V-4||Messerschmitt||13 February 1941||First fliding flight at Lechfeld||DreXX, EthXX|
|Messerschmitt||June/July 1941||To Peenemünde||EthXX|
|Messerschmitt||10 August 1941||First rocket-powered flight (Ethell reports 13 August)||DreXX, EthXX|
|1 October 1941||Record flight with a speed of 1004 km/h||DreXX|
|1630000002||GG+EA||V-5||Messerschmitt||8 November 1941||First fliding flight||DreXX|
|Messerschmitt||29 April 1942||First rocket-powered flight||DreXX|
|Messerschmitt||burnt out at Peenemünde (photo)||Eth..|
After a pre-design study, the design of the Me 163B was started on 1 December 1941. Two prototype Me 163B were ordered from Messerschmitt and built at the Augsburg factory, and given Stammkennzeichen VD+EK and VD+EL. This was followed by an order for seventy aircraft to be built by Messerschmitt in the Regensburg-Obertraubling factory (not the Augsburg factory in which the two prototypes were built). This batch is usually reported to have consisted of 40 B-0 pre-series equipped with 20 mm MG 151/20 guns (if at all), that protrude from the wing root, and 30 B-1 production aircraft equipped with 30 mm MK 108 cannons, that did not protrude from the wing. Installation of Walter rocket engine and armaments was to be performed by Klemm Technik in Stuttgart-Böblingen. Eleven B-0's were lost in a USAAF bombardment of the Messerschmitt Regensburg-Obertraubling factory on 17 August 1943. The gaps in the Werknummern list appear to agree with the eleven lost in the bombardment.
The production of the Walter engine lagged behind considerably, and in January 1944 all B-0's and half of the B-1's were ready, but no engines were available. However, the first delivery of an engined aircraft took place in the same month. Roughly the first half of the batch appears to have been used by Messerschmitt for test flying and development, and roughly the second half was delivered to EK16. The aircraft were not rocket test flown at Stuttgart-Böblingen due to secrecy and the lack of special fuel. The first twelve aircraft were delivered to EK16 without being test flown, and had to be test flown by the unit itself. Thereafter, the finished aircraft were moved to Jesau (near Königsberg, now Kaliningrad) by train. There they were test flown by civilian factory pilots. This took place from February 1944 on.
The Regensburg-Obertraubling factory was needed for the production of Bf 109, and Me 163B production was completely transferred to Klemm Technik in late 1943. The production of the series model was taken over by Klemm Technik in Stuttgart-Böblingen. Important subcontractors were Dornier at Oberpfaffenhofen and Bachman von Blumental in Fürth. The build quality of the Klemm aircraft was much lower than those of the Messerschmitt built examples. The relative inexperience of the Klemm company with metal aircraft was the main reason. The aircraft were partially built by French slave workers, who reportedly sabotaged the aircraft. It is usually reported that Klemm built some 300 Me 163B's before production was ordered to be stopped. Total 1944 deliveries appear to be 327 (including the Regensburg built examples), while 1945 deliveries (solely Klemm) were 37. Production test flying continued to be performed at Jesau. It must have come to a halt in late 1944 because of advancing Russian troops.
A word about the version designations. Many sources use the designations B-0 for the first 40 built (MG 151/20 guns), Ba-1 for the remaining 30 of the Messerschmitt-built batch (with MK 108 canons), and B-1a for Klemm-built series examples. However, these designations do not agree with those mentioned in the 1944 'Me 163B Flugzeug-Handbuch D.(Luft)T.2163B', crash reports or Messerschmitt factory drawings. The first two mention B-0, B-0/R2 and B-1 as version designations. Which designation applies to which production block and installed equipment remains largely unclear however. For example, 440003 and 440184 from the first Klemm production batches are noted as B-0's in crash reports. 191111 from one of the last batches is noted as a B-0/R2. The 'Me 163B Flugzeug-Handbuch D.(Luft)T.2163B' handbook shows that the electrical systems of the B-0/R2 and B-1 are identical. Without further data the version designations are useless, and only 'Me 163B' will be used here unless sources identify the subversion explicitly.
Earlier it was written on this page that the 'Ba-1' and 'B-1a' designations were not be found in any German wartime document, and that they were post-war inventions. This was not correct, as was pointed out by Thomas Hitchcock of Monogram Aviation Publications. He has seen such a designation used in one wartime document. The question remains what the 'a' signifies. There are several possibilities. Firstly, in the early 40's Messerschmitt used the 'a' for 'ausland' (foreign) versions, an example being Bf 109Ga-4. This appears rather unlikely in the case of the Komet; however, it should not be forgotten that the Komet was to be built in Japan too. Secondly, in 1943, while developing the Me 262, lower case suffixes 'a' and 'b' were used to designate different engine types; the Me 262A-1a had the Jumo 004, the Me 262A-1b was fitted with the BMW 003 engine. It is quite well possible that this system was also used for the Komet: the 'a' suffix designating the version(s) equipped with the Walter HWK 109-509, the 'b' for those version(s) fitted with the alternative BMW P 3330A engine. Note that these two engines appear to have had a similar status in the early phase of the Me 163B's development. But since the BMW engine was installed in only one aircraft (V-10) and later dropped from the program, the use of the 'b' suffix would have been very limited. From that point on, only one engine (Walter's) was considered, and the need for the 'a' suffix probably disappeared. This could explain why it is not found in the 'Me 163B Flugzeug-Handbuch D.(Luft)T.2163B'. Still, this is only speculation, and proof has yet to be found.
Listed below are all known production Me 163B details. The list is compiled from Ethell's book, and is currently extended using Ransom's and Ziegler's data. The list is ordered by the production sequence: the first 70 Messerschmitt built have 310... numbers, followed by Klemm-built batches in the 440..., 190... and 191... series. The Klemm production sequence was deducted from the first appearances of aircraft from these production blocks. There are different interpretations of the 310... Werknummern: old Luftwaffe documents often show 10... or 100-.. numbers, whereas Ransom quotes 16310... numbers. In this list these numbers are standardized to 310...
The sources are often unclear about the painted-on identities of the aircraft. The Werknummer were never seen to be applied to uncamouflaged examples. The camouflages examples sometimes had it applied to the left side of the tail. The factory-assigned registration (Stammkennzeichen) is often still listed for operational aircraft, although it is very likely that they were overpainted after delivery to operational units. EK16 did probably fly some of their aircraft with the Stammkennzeichen and/or Versuchsnummer still applied. It is also unclear whether all aircraft that were assigned a Versuchsnummer actually wore this number.
|....||VD+EK||V-1||Messerschmitt||April 1942||Construction finished||Eth|
|Messerschmitt||26 June 1942||First glider flight (Lippisch and Van Ishoven claim 26 May 1942)||Eth|
|?||24 June 1943||First rocket powered flight at Peenemünde||Eth|
|....||VD+EL||V-2||Messerschmitt||July 1942||Shipped to Peenemünde||Eth|
|?||June 1943||Rocket motor installed||Eth|
|......||VD+EM||V-3||Destined for Walter for engine tests||Eth|
|July 1942||To Peenemünde||Eth|
|EK16||April 1944||in use||Eth|
|EK16||May 1944||in use||Eth|
|......||V-4||Destined for radio tests||Eth|
|......||V-6||Destined for performance testing||Eth|
|Held available for pressure cabin modifications||Eth|
|June 1944||HWK 109-509C rocket motor installed to serve as Me 163Ca-1 prototype at Lechfeld||Eth|
|......||VD+ER||V-8||21 February 1943||First powered flight with old HWK R II-209 rocket motor||LipXXX|
|For 30 mm MK 108 cannon tests||Eth|
|......||V-9||For radio and armaments tests||Eth|
|310019||VD+ES||V-10||Testbed for alternative BMW P 3330A rocket motor.||Eth|
|?||I/JG400||19 November 1944||in use||Ran92|
|310020||VD+ET||V-11||Held available for Argus 109-014 pulse-jet engine (of V-1 fame).||Eth|
|?||I/JG400||5 November 1944||in use||Ran92|
|310021||VD+EU||V-12||Held available for Argus 109-014 pulse-jet engine (of V-1 fame).||Eth|
|?||I/JG400||2 October 1944||in use||Ran92|
|......||V-13||April 1945||Found derelict at Brandis by US troops||Eth|
|......||VD+EW||V-14||EK16||January 1944||Delivered, one of the first operationally equiped aircraft||Eth|
|12 October 1944||Record height flight to 15,000 meter||Eth|
|......||V-16||1./JG400||21 April 1944||accident||Eth|
|......||VA+SP||V-18||EK16||19 April 1944||In use||Eth|
|June 1944||HWK 109-509C rocket motor installed to serve as Me 163Ca-1 prototype at Lechfeld||Eth|
|6 June 1944||Record flight with speed of 1130 km/h||Eth|
|......||V-21||20 July 1943||Rocket powered flight from Peenemünde, repeated on 30 and 31 July||Eth|
|?||I/JG400||2 October 1944||in use, training flight||Ran92|
|310044||GH+IN||V-35||EK16||In use (photos/film)||Eth|
|310048||V-40||EK16||20 May 1944||In use||Eth|
|310050||PK+QL||V-41||EK16||13 May 1944||First operational mission with Me 163B, in all-red paint scheme (quickly removed)||Eth.., Zie213|
|PK+QL||V-41||EK16||2 July 1944||Test flight by M. Ziegler at Bad Zwischenahn||Zie213|
|310054||PK+QP||V-45||In use for testing at Peenemünde||Eth|
|C1+05||EK16||December 1944||Modified for Jägerfaust air-to-air rockets||Eth|
|C1+05||EK16||24 December 1944||Crashed while testing Jägerfaust||Eth|
|?||1./JG400||11 October 1944||shot down||Ran92, Eth229|
|?||I/JG400||28 September 1944||crash landing Brandis||Ran92|
|White 9||I/JG400||4 August 1944||transferred to 14/JG400 (14/EJG1)||Ran92|
|?||I/JG400||20 July 1944||transfer flight Wittmundhafen - Brandis||Ran92|
|?||14/EJG1 (14/JG400)||14 October 1944||transfered from I/JG400||Ran92|
|?||1./JG400||7 October 1944||Destroyed during start (take-off or engine start?)||Eth..., Ran92|
|310071||White 7||I/JG400||7 October 1944||Destroyed by Mustangs after emergency landing near Borna||Eth..., Ran93|
|440003||BQ+UF||1./JG400||2 November 1944||shot down in dogfight near Brandis||Eth230, Ran93|
|440006||BQ+UI||I/JG400||20 February 1945||Crash landing at Brandis||Ran93|
|440007||BQ+UJ||2./JG400||2 November 1944||shot down in air combat||Eth230, Ran93|
|440009||2./JG400||26 July 1944||damaged in crash landing Venlo||Eth p228|
|440013||BQ+UP||2./JG400||7 October 1944||Ethell: crashed during landing Brandis, Ransom: destroyed in air combat / crashed during landing after air combat
Ethell reports BQ+UO, Ransom UP; UP fits the sequence
|440014||Otto Böhmer photograph|
|440015||BQ+UR||I/JG400||9 February 1945||Destroyed in accident||Ran93|
|Blue 12||I/JG400||28 September 1944||Transfered to 13./EJG2 (13/JG400)||Ran93|
|?||13./EJG2 (13./JG400)||17 December 1944||Crashed near Tschenstochau (Poland)||Ran93|
|440165||2./JG400||7 October 1944||damaged 65% during crash landing||Eth229, Ran93|
|440172||1./JG400||19 November 1944||crashed during landing, 50% damage||Eth230, Ran93|
|440184||DS+VU||I/JG400||20 September 1944||Flight at Oranienburg||Ran93|
|White 2||I/JG400||10 February 1945||destroyed in accident||Ran93|
|White 8||1./JG400||2 November 1944||shot down and crashed near Siester||Eth239, Ran93|
|190573||?||I/JG400||11 February 1945||Destroyed in accident||Ran93|
|190576||?||I/JG400||8 March 1945||Destroyed in accident||Ran93|
|190578||?||I/JG400||20 February 1945||Destroyed in accident||Ran93|
|190593||?||I/JG400||15 February 1945||Crashed near Böhlen||Ran93|
|190598||?||I/JG400||?||in use at Brandis||Eth175|
|White 10||I/JG400||22 February 1945||test flight||Ran93|
|191095||II./JG400||May 1945||captured at Husum. See the National Aviation Museum page for post-war history||Eth p235, Int|
|White 22||1./JG400||11 February 1945||damaged in air combat (10%)||Eth231, Ran93|
|191190||II./JG400||May 1945||captured and used by USAF as parts donor for 191301/FE-500.||Eth p234|
|191301||II./JG400||May 1945||captured at Husum. See the NASM page for post-war history||Eth p234, 235|
|191316||II./JG400||May 1945||captured at Husum. See the Science Museum page for post-war history||Eth p235, Int|
|191454||II./JG400||May 1945||captured at Husum and shipped to the UK||Eth p234, 235|
|191614||II./JG400||May 1945||captured at Husum. See the Cosford page for post-war history||Eth p...|
|191659||II./JG400||May 1945||captured at Husum. See the East Fortune page for post-war history||Eth p...|
|191660||II./JG400||May 1945||captured at Husum. See the Duxford page for post-war history||Eth p...|
|191904||II./JG400||May 1945||captured at Husum. See See the Berlin-Gatow page for post-war history||Eth p...|
|191907||II./JG400||May 1945||captured at Husum. See See the Australian War Memorial page for post-war history||Eth p...|
|191916||II./JG400||May 1945||captured at Husum. See the National Aviation Museum page for post-war history||Eth p...|
The history of the models following the Me 163B is sketchy, and no attempt is here undertaken to list their history (yet!)
Steve Polyak sent me this interesting picture of an actual part plate from an Me 163. Steve collects parts from WWII German aircraft and has a number of identification plates (Typenschild) from these aircraft.
It's hard to read, but the following information is stamped into the aluminum plate:Sach N: 8.163 118
Steve reports: the '8' in the sach number (part number) indicates that it is from an airframe part, and not systems or weapons. It was attached with metal rivets so it wasn't directly on a wooden part. It is painted an exterior green, so it was likely on the outside of the airplane. The 118 is the 'sach number', a part reference number. Looking at the Drawings list, it seems that the part was to be found somewhere on the center fuselage. The a manufacturer's code 'hlo' is for 'Klemm, Hans, Flugzeugbau, Leichtflugzeugbau Klemm, Bobingen/Wurtthbg'. The part therefore must have belonged to a completely Klemm built Me 163B, and not a Messerschmitt built airframe. The plate was removed shortly after the war from a JG400 aircraft captured by the British, most likely at Husum, home of II/JG400. It's nicely painted with a dark (late war) green color.