WW2 Aerial Reconnaissance Studies
A new runway at Landau-Isar appeared to be in an early stage of construction on 19 April 1945 (Graphic 25) two days after the field was reporterdly visited by elements of KG 51.
A study of Munich Riem Airfield from imagery from 25 April 1945 showcases 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.
The runway at Memmingen (Graphic 22) was extended to approximately 1600 meters early in 1944; the airfield was used by KG 51 in April 1945.
Three new runways were built at Essen-Mülheim --primarily a civil airport-- in 1943 (Graphic 21). Although the longest of the runways was only about 1600 meters in length, the airport was used by KG 51 between January and March 1945.
Revised Oct 2021
The airfield at Burg-bei-Magdeburg (Graphic 27) was used by both Ar 234 (KG 76; conversion training August 1944 - March 1945) and Me 262 (NJG 11, JG 7, and NAGr 6 ) units until operations were ended by a raid on 10 Apri 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. Of at least 20 aircraft only five in revetments near the runways appeared to be undamaged.
Ar 234s from KG 76 operated from Achmer in February and March 1945. In August 1944, one runway was being lengthened to approximately 2000 meters (Graphic 17).
The runway of Brandis airfield was lengthened to approximately 1800 meters by mid-1944 (Graphic 24). The airfield was used by JG 7 in April 1945.
KG 76 also operated from Marx Airfield in March and April 1945. One of three runways appeared to have been lengthened to about 1700 meters by 23 March (Graphic 18).
The runway at Parchim was lengthened to approximately 2500 meters (Graphic 16). JG 7 operated from Parchim in February and April 1945 and on 23 April as many as 11 of the aircraft were in dispersal areas. The airfield had been recently bombed and was not operational.
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 an 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. 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). There were no runway improvements at two other Messerschmitt production facilities, Regensburg-Prüfening and Augsburg Gablingen. A new Me 262 production facility was planned for 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 1942, an approximately 700 meter extension was under construction and the finished section had been camouflaged (Graphic 10).
Runways at Rheine-Bentlage and Hopsten were lengthened by October 1943 and May 1944, respectively (Graphics 12 - 14). Two of three runways at Rheine were extended to approximately 1800 and 1500 meters and the one at Hopsten appeared to have been lengthend to a very long 3000 meters. Elements of KG 51 operated from Rheine-Bentlage and Hopsten from mid-1944 through March 1945. On 16 August 1944, four Me 262s were in a dispersal area at Rheine; this may be slightly earlier than previously known.
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 31 airfields where probable jet-related runway lengthening took place.
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 10). One of the runways supporting the Arado Headquarters at Brandenburg-Briest was extended to about 1800 meters by May 1944 (Graphic 11).
A new approximately 2100 meter runway at Lübeck-Blankensee (Graphic 19) was used beiefly by both KG 76 and KG 51 at the end of the war.
A new 1600 meter runway was under construction at Gibelstadt (Graphic 23) in May 1944; the airfield was used by KG 51 in March 1945.
Eventually, Me 262 and Ar 234 units (including KG 51, JG 7, KG (J), NAG 6 and KG 76) would be forced to operate from all of the R&D and production airfields. However, beginning in 1943 the Luftwaffe initiated a program to upgrade a number of airfields for jet operations. Analysis of available imagery reveals runways at the following airfields were lengthened or entirely reworked to accommodate the new aircraft:
Coverage of Zerbst Airfield revealed a 2500 meter new runway (Graphic 20). The runway, which was possibly still under construction, was operational and had not yet been bombed. One possible 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.
The first airfields to undergo runway improvement were those supporting jet R&D and production. At about the same 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 (1900 & 1700 meters) to accommodate the new aircraft (Graphic 4). The runways --one with signs of possible lengthening--were operational in October 1943. The Messerschmitt airfields, 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.
Five other airfields were being prepared for jets, but apparently did not see any use. Two airfields In Poland were prepared for jet operations. The runway at Brieg, Silesia (Brzeg, Poland) was being extended to approximately 2100 meters in September 1944 (Graphic 32). Brieg served mainly as a reconnaissance base, suggesting it was being readied for use by Ar 234 or Me 262 reconnaissance units. The runway at Warsaw Okecie (added June 2021) had been extended to 1900 meters (plus a 100 meter overrun) by July 1944 (Graphic 33). It appears the lengthening took place in two phases; during the last phase, high-speed on-off ramps were added at northwest end of the runway. 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 34). In similar fashion, a very long approximately 2600 meter runway was constructed at Karup, Denmark. On 7 April 1945, two new parking/dispersal areas with aircraft shelters were being built Graphic 35). An entirely new runway was planned near the village of Wutzow and 11 km east-northeast of an operational field at Altengrabow (not covered; Graphic 36). By 25 April 1945, construction the 1800 meter runway had ended in mid-stage, but part of the foundation had been finished. No construction support facilities were in the vicinity, suggesting workers may have come from the nearby Altengrabow POW camp (not covered). At Bad Zwischenahn in northwest Germany, an approximately 450 meter extension extension constructed between September 1944 and March 1945 lengthened the NW/SE runway to approximately 1750 meters (Graphic 37). The lengthening was probably intended to support jet operations. Me 163s operating from Bad Zwischenahn in the fall of 1944 appeared to use the unextended NNE/SSW runway.
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 38). 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; construction of most new jet-capable runways, took place during or after 1943.
A new 1800 meter runway was under construction at Fürstenfeldbruck, a Luftwaffe pilot school, in mid-1944 (Graphic 26). This suggests the school may have been 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. An Me 262 was on the east end of the runway on 25 April.
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 28) by September 1944 and by 1 April 1945 the surface of the extension appeared had been oiled Graphic 29). Analysis of recently available coverage of two Czech airfelds, Prague/Ruzyne and Saaz (Zatec), revealed runways at both had been lengthened (Graphics 30 & 31). The runway at Prague had clearly been lengthened to around 1900 meters. The runway at Saaz, at least 1700 mters 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.