Work on the design started under the aegis of the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug (DFS) - the German Institute for the Study of sailplane flight. Their first design was a conversion of the earlier Lippisch Delta IV known as the DFS 39 and used purely as a glider testbed of the airframe.
A larger follow-on version with a small propeller engine started as the DFS 194. This version used wingtip-mounted rudders, which Lippisch felt would cause problems at high speed. He later redesigned them to be mounted on a conventional vertical stabilizer at the rear of the aircraft. The design included a number of features from its glider heritage, notably a skid used for landings, which could be retracted into the aircraft's keel in flight. For takeoff, a pair of wheels, each mounted onto the ends of a specially designed cross-axle, together comprising a takeoff "dolly" mounted under the landing skid, were needed due to the weight of the fuel, but these were released shortly after takeoff. It was planned to move to the Walter R-1-203 cold engine of 400 kg (880 lb) thrust when available.
Heinkel had also been working with Hellmuth Walter on his rocket engines, mounting them in the He 112 for testing, and later in the first purpose-designed rocket aircraft, the He 176. Heinkel had also been selected to produce the fuselage for the DFS 194 when it entered production, as it was felt that the highly volatile fuel would be too dangerous in a wooden fuselage, with which it could react. Work continued under the code name Projekt X.
However the division of work between DFS and Heinkel led to problems, notably that DFS seemed incapable of building even a prototype fuselage. Lippisch eventually requested to leave DFS and join Messerschmitt instead. On 2 January 1939, he moved along with his team and the partially completed DFS 194 to the Messerschmitt works at Augsburg.
The delays caused by this move allowed the engine development to "catch up". Once at Messerschmitt, the decision was made to skip over the propeller-powered version and move directly to rocket power. The airframe was completed in Augsburg and shipped to Peenemünde West[q] in early 1940 to receive its engine. Although the engine proved to be extremely unreliable, the aircraft had excellent performance, reaching a speed of 342 mph (550 km/h) in one test.
The Me 163 in Aces High II
First unveiled at the Aces High convention, the Me 163 didn't arrive in the game until almost half a year later. Based on a later version of the Me 163, the model we have is simply a man powered missile. Packing big guns with incredible climb and speed, it was destined from the outset to be a perk plane with limited use so as not to unbalance the arena. The Me 163 really is one of those "wow" types of planes that really didn't make an impact in WW2, yet was actually flown and used. Many of the vices of the original are not accurately modelled in AH, but the plane itself is simply fun to fly. Limits on the position and number of airfields that have this plane enabled only allow for rare use, usually in defense of the HQ.
It's hard to really describe the Me 163 engine performance when comparing it to anything else in the game. It is rocket powered, imparting incredible speed and climb, but of very limited duration. Full throttle fuel range is only 6.5 minutes, but in that time you can cross a whole lot of territory. This means that to get farther you should go around 350mph and use full throttle only in combat dogfights. I would expect that there really are only two throttle settings, engine on with full throttle, and engine off and gliding. Sea-level speed is in excess of 525mph, while at altitude it can actually go much faster than that. Max stable airspeed seems to be in the range of 620mph, after which compression is very evident and the controls are mostly frozen. It is still possible to recover from a dive using trim, but as I will mention later, even that is dangerous. Climb rate is simply out of this world, over 30K/minute according to the gauge, but I think it takes a little more than that to actually reach that altitude. Top altitude is in excess of 50K, though if you go that high you are likely to be all alone. On auto-climb, be careful of a "dead-zone" that starts at about 17K where the plane starts to shallow out the climb and pick up speed. You can over-ride this, keep the nose high, and climb faster than if you decide to allow auto-climb to continue. Also, while you can re-arm/re-fuel, once you let your wheels go on take-off, you can no longer taxi and have insufficient thrust to start the Me 163 moving again on the ground.
The Me 163 has heavy firepower with a pair of forward mounted 30mm cannons with 60 rounds/gun. This gives very hard hitting shots, which is good because in most cases your firing opportunities tend to be extremely short. The 30mm cannons take a little practice to get used to and are best used at very short ranges. Getting to short range is not really a problem since most of your time in an Me 163 is likely to be spent in excess of 500mph.
Manueverability is excellent at all speeds, with or without the engine operating. The plane itself weighs in around 9,500 pounds but feels more like half that. The unique layout of the highly swept wing gives good performance at high speeds up to about 600mph, and at low speeds even around 150mph. It is very easy to overstress the aircraft, or simply pull so many G's that you black out, with almost no effort at all. The Me 163 seems pretty strong to excessive flight forces though be careful, it is very easy to overstress the pilot, instantly killing yourself and sending you back to the tower. Watch out for pulling too many G's when under powered flight. Roll rate is excellent, gun stability is very good, cornering performance is wonderful. Even at low speeds, if you have engine power, you can turn with Spitfires and then pull away with acceleration they have no hope of matching.
Flap speeds are 400, 275, 225, 180, and 165 IAS.
Fighting in the Me 163
The Me 163 is totally unlike any other aircraft in the game. Part of that is because of the limited availability at only certain airfields. The other reason is, it is a plane with almost a 1:1 thrust to weight ratio. It can climb at angles up to 70 degrees or more and accelerate from 200mph to 400mph in seconds. It's more guided missile than aircraft.
Typical use includes a climb to altitude above you target, with the engine being turned off or throttled completely back. Then BnZ style passes at very high closing speeds and 30mm shots at very short range. You only have 60 rounds per cannon so you can't afford to really waste them on longer ranged shots. Also, the seated position in the cockpit makes for some difficult visibility of targets. Save your fuel for your climbing and extension periods while you use gliding attacks if you don't need more speed. Excessive speed actually can hamper you since your firing window will be very brief and collisions could be a problem. Climb above, dive in at 400-550mph, get close and take your shot, extending away before the enemy can really retaliate. Steep angled attacks from above and below often present the safest approaches, and climbing from below is not a problem since your engine can likely bring you near vertical from underneath with no problem.
Always watch your fuel condition. Your climb is likely to cost you 1/3 or more of your total fuel. If you have transited any distance to your target, you have likely used up another significant portion, and then your return to base may take even a little more. The Me 163 is an excellent glider, so you likely don't need much fuel to get back to base if you have some altitude under you wings, but you don't want to land short so keeping that last 1/8th of a tank for landing might be wise.
The only time you should be slow is at the top of zooms or during landing. At all other times make sure to keep your speed such that defense against fighters is not really a problem. If they can't catch you then they are limited to fleeting crossing shots at extreme speeds, which are rarely successful. Don't dive away from fighters with similar speed since they may be able to nearly match you in a dive if they started with an advantage. Climb away if possible, there is no way they can match even 1/10th of your potential climb rate at most altitudes and you will leave them in the dust.
A couple of final notes, with the very high speeds that the Me 163 is capable of in powered and unpowered flight, be very careful to not overstress the aircraft or yourself. You can put G's on very quickly, and it is almost mandatory at times to get a little blacked out on attack, but if you pull too hard you are likely to kill yourself or break up the aircraft. Even trimming actions to pull out of dives at very high speeds can be enough to kill you. If you miss an attack, rather than force a bad situation, instead climb back up and make another pass. I've seen in upwards of 50% of Me 163 losses caused by overstressing with nary an enemy hit.
Fighting against the Me 163
Good luck, if one is stupid enough to slow down for you then you might have a chance, but only a brief one, before he firewalls the throttles and zooms away. Don't Head-On one, they have twin 30mm's that will make it a losing situation for you, plus, they are small targets moving very quickly and are hard to hit. If you get a fleeting shot, take it, it might be the only shot you'll see. If you can simply deny them a good shot, that might be the best you can do. Make violent maneuvers that will cause them to pull excessive G's. Remember, they are likely travelling very quickly and it can be difficult for the Me 163 pilot to adjust to a maneuvering target. If the Me 163 does maneuver, it may be blacking out the pilot, or maybe even overstressing the airframe causing his death.
The most vulnerable time for the Me 163, as was classicly the case with planes like the Me 262 also, is during landing and approach. Most Me 163 pilots are going to be fuel dry when they start their glide back to base. Now, the glide may start out very fast, but eventually they have to slow down to land and that is the time to hit them. Without any power because of lack of fuel, they are easy pickings. Follow them until they slow down and then force the fight.
Soda's Aircraft Evaluations