Before the World War 2 started, the German Luftwaffe requested a new development program: The Amerika bomber. The idea was to create a long range bomber that could reach New York City from bases in France or the Azores. One of the most promising designs was the Messerschmitt Me 264, but only three prototypes were created. However, it was deemed that Messerschmitt should focus on the development on new fighters, and the production of this promising bomber was abandoned in favor of the Junkers Ju 390 bomber.
A very slow Start
As early as 1937, the German military leaders saw the need to develop a long range strategic bomber that would boost their considerable air force. In order to do this, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium’s (the German Air Ministry) created the “Amerika Bomber” program. One of the entries for the new program was Messerschmitt’s Me 264 design.
The Me 264 was actually developed from the Messerschmitt Projekt 1062, which in turn was based on Projekt 1061. The P.1061 was a design for a four engine long range reconnaissance aircraft that would have a range of 20,000 km (12,428 miles). While this project was of interest to the Nazis, it received limited funding and the work on this particular project was done sporadically until late in 1940.
The P.1061 design was adapted, and the number of engines was reduced to two for the P.1062, but these engines were much more powerful Daimler-Benz DB 606 power system. Each DB 606 consisted of 2 Daimler-Benz DB 601 liquid cooled, inverted V12 engines, that were used in other Messerschmitt designs such as, the Bf 109 and the Me 261. DB 606 was used later to power the Heinkel He 177 A and its poor design and performance led to them being called derisively “welded-together engines” by the Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring.
While the progress was slow at the beginning, after the German declaration of war on the United States, a new, revised program was created in spring of 1942, which would focus on creating a new extreme range bomber, with six engines and a greater bomb load than the previous programs. Four major aircraft manufacturers have submitted their proposals for the new bomber designated as Junkers Ju 390, Focke-Wulf Ta 400, a redesign of the Heinkel He 277 that was never built, and the Messerschmitt Me 264B.
The reason for the six engine configuration was because the German engineers couldn’t develop a reliable power-plant that could generate 1500 kW or more, seeing as the DB 606 powerplant was prone to numerous life and mission threatening malfunctions. Since the Junkers Ju 390 was essentially based on the already existing Ju 290, most of the parts and components were already available and this design was chosen for development and production. However even though the other designs were dropped by the Luftwaffe, the Kriegsmarine (German navy) wanted a special long-range patrol aircraft design that would replace the older Fw 200 Condor that was in use at the time, and they decided to support the development of the Me 264 hoping that it could fill the required role.
This idea was further supported by a number of key Nazi command personnel, notably Generalmajor Von Gablenz and Generalfeldmarschall Erhard Milch, who believed that the Me 264 was a suitable choice for the Amerika Bomber due to this military sponsorship, despite initially being dropped, two prototypes were ordered for the Me 264A ultra long-range reconnaissance aircraft.
The Body and the Guts of a Plane
The Me 264 had an all metal frame, with a circular cross section and a very clean design in general. The nose housed a glazed stepless cockpit which was done in the style of the late war German bombers with no separate windscreen section for the pilot. Just beyond the cockpit was a fully stocked galley and rest area with bunks where the crew could sleep during the longer missions. The rest area was connected via a walkway to the rear area of the plane above enclosed bomb bay.
The overall design was slightly reminiscent of the allied B-29 design with the slightly swept back and tapered wings, twin tail fins and rudders and a large retractable undercarriage. All of the fuel was stored in its 43 m (141 ft) long shoulder mounted wings, which were reinforced by one main spar and two auxiliary bulkheads in order to transfer the loads. The whole outer surface was sanded all over in order to have the smoothest finish possible. The tail control surfaces were electrically adjustable during flight, but numerous control issues cropped up during the test flights. The plane was generally sluggish with bad climb performance, poor in-flight stability, and it needed high take-off and landing speeds. While the preliminary design had the DB 606 power-plant in mind, the first prototype, designated Me 264 V1, was equipped with 4 12 cylinder, liquid cooled Junkers Jumo 211J-1 engines, same kind that was used on the Ju 88A-4 fighters. However, these engines proved to be insufficiently powerful and were replaced by the the BMW 801G radials which delivered 1,290 kW (1,750 hp) each, a 25 percent increase in power compared to the 990 kW (1,340 hp) output of the Jumo 211 engines.
The bomber was supposed to be able to carry between 3,000kg and 13,200kg of bombs, depending on the altitude. Besides that, it would have had four 13 mm (0.51 in) MG 131 remotely operated turrets, and 2 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons. The cruise speed achieved during the test flight was 217 mph (350 km/h) with the maximum altitude 26,000 ft (8,000 m) and estimated range of 9,500 mi (15,000 km).
Yet Another Flop
The V1 prototype was ready for its first test flight on December 23, 1942, at Augsburg, while all the later tests were conducted at Lechfeld, which had a longer concrete runway. The Me 264 V1 was just a bare bones prototype with little armor and no weapons, but The Me 264 V2 prototype was supposed to have over 1,000 kg (2,200 lbs) of armor added to the most vulnerable areas and extended wing tips. The V2 was reportedly ready for the testing but it was destroyed during an allied bombing raid late in 1943.
Early in 1943, the Kriegsmarine interest in the Me 264 was lost as they shifted their attention to the already developed Ju 290 and the planned Ju 390. On the other hand, the Luftwaffe has already decided to pursue the Ta 400 and the Heinkel He 277 for their Amerika Bomber mission. All this led to the withdrawal of funding by both the German Navy and Airforce, which in turn forced Erhard Milch, one of the main proponents of the Me 264 to cancel all further development, in order for Messerschmitt to focus on developing the new jet fighter-bomber Me 262.
On 18 July 1944, the still surviving the Me 264 V1 was heavily damaged during another air raid, and the unfinished V3 was destroyed in the same raid. The V1 was never repaired after that, and the official cancellation of the project came on 23 September 1944
The Me 264 didn’t even leave the prototype stage so it is difficult to say what would be the effect this bomber would have on the German war effort. With the cancellation of both the Me 264 and the Heinkel He 277, the Amerika Bomber project was officially a failure. Nazi bombers never managed to reach the American coast.