Rocket-powered fighters



The first rocket-powered aircraft was the Lippisch Ente, which made a successful maiden flight in March 1928.[2] The only pure rocket aircraft ever to be mass-produced was the Messerschmitt Me 163 in 1944, one of several German World War II projects aimed at developing rocket-powered aircraft.[3] Later variants of the Me 262 (C-1a and C-2b) were also fitted with rocket powerplants, while earlier models were fitted with rocket boosters, but were not mass-produced with these modifications.[4]

The USSR experimented with a rocket-powered interceptor in the years immediately following World War II, the Mikoyan-Gurevich I-270. Only two were built.

In the 1950s, the British developed mixed-power jet designs employing both rocket and jet engines to cover the performance gap that existed in existing turbojet designs. The rocket was the main engine for delivering the speed and height required for high-speed interception of high-level bombers and the turbojet gave increased fuel economy in other parts of flight, most notably to ensure the aircraft was able to make a powered landing rather than risking an unpredictable gliding return. The Saunders-Roe SR.53 was a successful design and was planned to be developed into production when economics forced curtailment of most British aircraft programs in the late 1950s. Furthermore, rapid advancements in jet engine technology had rendered mixed-power aircraft designs like Saunders-Roe's SR.53 (and its SR.177 maritime variant) obsolete. The American XF-91 Thunderceptor (which was the first U.S. fighter to exceed Mach 1 in level flight) met a similar fate for the same reason, and no hybrid rocket-and-jet-engine fighter design has ever been placed into service. The only operational implementation of mixed propulsion was Rocket-Assisted Take Off (RATO), a system rarely used in fighters.

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