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Luftwaffe Jet Airfield Construction

By the time the Luftwaffe began deploying the Messerschmitt Me 262 and Arado Ar 234 jets in mid-1944, it had relatively few bases for the aircraft, which optimally required hard-surface runways 1800 meters in length. The photographic evidence shows that runway lengthening began at selected airfields as early as 1942 and continued through the end of the war.  Available coverage of Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Belgium and Denmark revealed 33 airfields where probable jet-related runway lengthening took place. 

map location of Me 262 and Ar 234 capable airfield construction

A study of Munich Riem Airfield from imagery from 25 April 1945 illustrates the hardships of constructing and maintaining jet-capable bases (Graphic 1).  By that time, a new runway on the grass landing area of the former Munich civil airport was in use by Me 262s of Adolph Galland's Jagdverband 44 (JV 44) and a fighter-bomber unit, KG 51.  One Me 262 was on the runway, two more were headed to the runway from the field's circular taxiway and at least four other possible Me 262s were in revetments.  A review of earlier coverage revealed that work on the new runway had begun by 24 March when an east-west runway had been defined on the grass landing area.  By 8 April, the turf surface was being removed, exposing a probable gravel base (Graphic 2).  On 25 April the removed turf was stacked along the edges of the runway which has been resurfaced in some areas (Graphic 3). Bomb craters from a recent attack had been repaired.  

Me 262 of Adolf Galland's JV 44 at Munich Riem airfield
  airfield construction for Me 262 at Munich Riem airfield
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Munich Riem Me 262

Production & Developmental Airfields


By 1943 the airfields supporting jet R&D and production were all undergoing runway improvement.   At about the same time the Me 262 made its first jet-powered flight from the grass surface of the Rechlin test center in July 1942, new runways (1900 & 1700 meters) were built at nearby Lärz to accommodate the new aircraft (Graphic 4).  The Lärz runways --one with signs of possible lengthening--were operational in October 1943. 

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Larz Rrechlin Me 262 Ar 234

The Messerschmitt airfields, which were concentrated in Bavaria, included Lechfeld, Leipheim, Schwäbisch Hall, Landsberg-Lech and Regensberg-Obertrabuling. At Lechfeld, the Messerschmitt test center, the first part of a new 2100-meter concrete runway was laid out in early May 1943; a second section was nearing completion in July 1944 (Graphic 5) and the runway was finished by November 1944. These dates coincide with the evaluation of the first Me 262 prototypes and the formation of the first Me 262 units at Lechfeld. ​The runways serving the Messerschmitt production facilities at Leipheim, Landsberg Lech and Schwäbisch Hall were also extended.  Leiphein's runway was lengthened to about 1800 meters in two stages between July and probably November of 1944 (Graphic 6).  A highway strip (not shown) using a 1900-meter stretch of the autobahn south of the Leipheim was probably operational by 2 June 1944, when a possible Me 262 was on the west end of the strip.  A camouflaged parking/dispersal area near the highway strip could also be accessed from Leipheim. 

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Lechfeld Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Leipheim Me 262 Ar 234

At Landsberg-Lech, where where bunkers for Me 262 production (WEINGUT II and DIANA II) were being constructed nearby, the runway had been extended to only about 1300 meters in January 1944; however, by November a graded 250-meter overrun had been added off the runway's west end. (Graphic 7).   A timeline for the runway work at Schwäbisch Hall is unknown, but the runway had been lengthened to about 1900 meters and was used by NAG 6 (Graphic 8).  Evidence that the Messerschmitt factory at Regensburg-Obertrabuling had been selected for Me 262 production could be seen on imagery from 1 September 1945, when the outline of a 2200 meter runway could be seen south of the factory's grass field (Graphic 9). 

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Lansberg-LechMe 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Schwabisch Hall Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Regensburg Me 262 Ar 234

Notably, there were no runway improvements at two other Messerschmitt production facilities, Regensburg-Prüfening and Augsburg Gablingen, but new Me 262 production facility was planned at Neuberg, where a new 1300-meter concrete runway and a complex of buildings for a production line were constructed in early 1942.  By 30 September of the same year, an approximately 700-meter extension was under construction and the finished section had been camouflaged (Graphic 10).

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Neuberg Me 262 Ar 234

The Arado facility at Alt Lönnewitz (Falkenberg) was used to test, produce and train pilots for the Ar 234. By late 1944 the runway had been extended to about 2100 meters had taken place and an instrument landing system installed (Graphic 11). One of the runways supporting the Arado Headquarters at Brandenburg-Briest was extended to about 1800 meters by May 1944 (Graphic 12).

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Falkenberg Alt  LonnewitzMe 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Brandenburg Briest Me 262 Ar 234

Operational Jet Airfields - Germany


Eventually, Me 262 and Ar 234 units (including KG 51, JG 7, KG (J), NAG 6 and KG 76) were forced to operate from all of the R&D and production airfields. However, the Luftwaffe did recognize the need for more jet-capable airfields and so in 1943 began an construction program that continued to the end of the war.  Analysis of available imagery reveals runways at the following airfields were lengthened or entirely reworked to accommodate the new aircraft:  

  • Rheine-Bentlage:  lengthened to1800m 

  • Hopsten:  lengthened to 3000m  

  • Parchim:  lengthened to 2500m  

  • Achmer:  probably lengthened 2000m  

  • Marx:  lengthened to 1700m  

  • Lübeck:  new runway, 2100m 

  • Zerbst: new runway, 2500m 

  • Essen-Mullheim:  new runways, 1600m  

  • Memmingen: lengthened to1600m  

  • Gibelstadt:  new runway, 1600m 

  • Brandis:  lengthened to 1800m  

  • Landau-Isar:  new runway, 1700m  

  • Fürstenfeldbruck – new runway, 1800m 

  • Burg-bei-Magdeburg - lengthened 1700m  

  • Linz-Horsching (Austria): lengthened to 2000m  

  • Prague Ruzyne (Czechoslovakia): lengthened to 1900m  

  • Saaz (Czechoslovakia): lengthened to 1900m  

  • Brieg (Poland) - lengthened to 2100m  

  • Liège-Bierstedt (Belgium) -  new runway 1900m  

  • Karup (Denmark)​– new runway, 2600m 

  • Wutzow-Altengrabow - new runway 1800m ​ 

  • Bad Zwischenahn - lengthened to 1700m  

  • Kedianiai North (Lithuania)- new runway 1800m (Oct 2021)

Rheine-Bentlage, Hopsten and Achmer in northwest Germany were used extensively by jet units (Graphics 13 -15). The runways at Rheine and Hopsten (1800- and up to 3000 meters) were lengthened by October 1943 and May 1944, respectively; work at Achmer (2000 meters) was taking place in August 1944. On 16 August 1944, four Me 262s were in a dispersal area at Rheine; this may be slightly earlier than previously known. Ar 234s from KG 76 operated from Achmer in February and March 1945.

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Rheine-Bentlage Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Hopsten Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Achmer  Ar 234

In March and April 1945 KG 76 also operated from Marx Airfield where one of three runways appeared to have been lengthened (1700 meters) (Graphic 16).  At the end of the war KG 76 and KG 51 operated from a new approximately 2100-meter runway at Lübeck-Blankensee (Graphic 17).  Finally, between January and March 1945 KG 51 operated from Essen-Mülheim a civil airport, where the longest of three runways was only 1600 meters (not shown). 

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Marx Germany Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Lubeck Me 262 Ar 234

Four airfields in northeast Germany --Parchim, Zerbst, Brandis and Burg-bei-Magdeburg-- underwent improvements (Graphics 17 - 19).  JG 7 operated from Parchim (2500 meters) in February and April 1945; at least 11 Me 262s were in dispersal areas on 23 April. JG 7 operated from Brandis (1800 meters) In April 1945. Runway construction at Zerbst (2500 meters) was possibly still in progress in April 1945, but the base was still operational; one Me 262 was being towed in the direction of a dispersal area. Zerbst was used by elements of KG(J) 54 and NAG 6 in April 1945.  

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Parchim Me 262 Ar 234
 Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Zerbst Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Brandis Me 262 Ar 234

Burg-bei-Magdeburg (Graphic 20) was used by both Ar 234 (KG 76; conversion training August 1944 - March 1945) and Me 262 (NJG 11, JG 7, and NAG 6) units until operations were ended by a raid on 10 April 1945.  Coverage of 25 April revealed the extent of the bomb damage, but also that both hard-surface runways had been lengthened to at least 1700 meters.  

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Burg-bei-Magdeburg Me 262 Ar 234

In the south, four airfields -- including Munich Riem-- supplemented jet-capable fields at the Messerschmitt facilities (Graphics 1, 21-23). The runway at Memmingen was extended to approximately 1600 meters) early in 1944 and another at Gibelstadt was under construction about the same time; both fields were used by KG 51. A new runway at Landau-Isar appeared to be in an early stage of construction on 19 April 1945 two days after the field was reportedly visited by elements of KG 51.

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Memmingen Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Gibelstadt Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Landau-Isar Me 262 Ar 234

 In mid-1944, a new 1800-meter runway was under construction at Fürstenfeldbruck, a Luftwaffe pilot school west of Munich (Graphic 24).  This suggests the school was marked for jet training, but at any rate, in March and April 1945 it was used by KG (J) (KG 54) elements converting to the Me 262; one of the aircraft was on the runway on 25 April.

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Furstenfeldbruck Me 262 Ar 234

KG 51 and JG 7 also operated from airfields in Austria and Czechoslovakia between April and May 1945.  ​​​In Austria, the runway at Linz/Hörsching had been extended to about 2000 meters (Graphic 25) by September 1944 and by 1 April 1945 the surface of the extension appeared had been oiled Graphic 26).

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Linz Horsching Austria Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Linz Horsching Austria Me 262 Ar 234

Analysis of available coverage of two Czech airfields, Prague/Ruzyne and Saaz (Zatec), revealed runways at both had been lengthened (Graphics 27 & 28). The runway at Prague had clearly been lengthened to around 1900 meters.  The runway at Saaz, at least 1700 meters in length, was reportedly built in 1944 specifically for jet operations.  An in-line taxiway at the east of the runway may have been built to effectively extend the runway.  

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Prague-Ruzyne, Czech Republic Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Zatec Saaz Czech Republic Me 262 Ar 234

Me 262s (KG 51 and Einsazkomanndo Schenck) and reconnaissance Ar 234s operated from Juvincourt, France (not shown) between 2 and 28 August 1944.  None of the three approximately 1600-meter runways had been lengthened specifically for jets by 30 August when the airfield had been rendered unserviceable by a bombing attack. 

Other Airfields


Imagery analysis has revealed seven other airfields were being prepared for jets, but apparently did not see any use.  In the east, the runways at Brieg (Brzeg, Poland) and Warsaw Okecie had been extended. The one at Brieg was being lengthened to approximately 2100 meters in September 1944 (Graphic 29) while the one at Warsaw had been extended to 1900 meters (plus a 100-meter overrun) by July 1944 (Graphic 30).  Brieg served mainly as a reconnaissance base, suggesting it was being readied for use by Ar 234 or Me 262 reconnaissance units. It appears the lengthening of the Okiecie runway took place in two phases; during the last phase, high-speed on-off ramps were added at northwest end of the runway.  


Perhaps most significantly, it appears the Luftwaffe even planned to deploy jet aircraft to the former Soviet airfield at Kedainiai, Lithuania, where an 1800-meter runway was under construction in September 1944 (Graphic 31).  A prewar Soviet runway (1000 meters) remained unfinished.  Previous coverage of Kedainiai from 5 November 1943 showed work on the new runway had not yet started.

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Brzeg Brieg Poland Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Warsaw-Okecie Poland Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Kediniai Lithuania Me 262 Ar 234

Elsewhere, coverage of Liege/Bierset Airfield on 6 October 1944 revealed that a new approximately 1900-meter runway had been graded out on the existing landing area and to the northeast necessitating the removal of a few aircraft shelters (Graphic 32). ​ In similar fashion, a very long approximately 2600-meter runway was constructed at Karup, Denmark (Graphic 33).  

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Liege-Bierstedt Belgium Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Karaup Denmark Me 262 Ar 234

Back in Germany, an entirely new runway was evidently planned near the village of Wutzow near an operational field at Altengrabow (Graphic 34).  By 25 April 1945, construction the 1800-meter runway had stopped in mid-stage, but part of the foundation had been finished.  There were no construction support facilities in the vicinity, suggesting workers may have come from a POW camp near Altengrabow.  At Bad Zwischenahn an approximately 450-meter extension begun by September 1944 lengthened the NW/SE runway to approximately 1750 meters (Graphic 35).  Me 163 rocket-planes operating from Bad Zwischenahn in the fall of 1944 must have used the un-extended NNE/SSW runway.

Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Wutzow Altengrabow Me 262 Ar 234
Luftwaffe Jet airfield construction Bad Zwischenahn Me 262 Ar 234 Me 163


  • Forsyth, Robert (2012). Me 262 Bomber and Reconnaissance Units. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84908-750-6.  ​​

  • ​Green, William  (1959). Famous Fighters of the Second World War-1. London: Macdonald & Co. No ISBN.  

  • Green, William  (1960). Famous Bombers of the Second World War-1. London: Macdonald & Co. No ISBN.

  • Luftwaffe Airfields 1939-1945, by Henry L. deZeng IV,

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