As a result, the Me 262 was already under development as Projekt 1065 (P.1065) before the start of World War II.
The project originated with a request by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM, Ministry of Aviation) for a jet aircraft capable of one hour's endurance and a speed of at least 850 km/h (530 mph; 460 kn).
The Me 262 was faster and more heavily armed than any Allied fighter, including the British jet-powered Gloster Meteor.
The Allies countered its effectiveness in the air by attacking the aircraft on the ground and during takeoff and landing.
This was almost nine months ahead of the British Gloster Meteor's first flight on 5 March 1943.
Its retracting conventional tail wheel gear (similar to other contemporary piston powered propeller aircraft), a feature shared with the first four Me 262 V-series airframes, caused its jet exhaust to deflect off the runway, with the wing's turbulence negating the effects of the elevators, and the first takeoff attempt was cut short.
The aforementioned initial four prototypes (V1-V4) were built with the conventional gear configuration.
Changing to a tricycle arrangement—a permanently fixed undercarriage on the fifth prototype (V5, code PC UE), with the definitive fully retractable nosewheel gear on the V6 (with Stammkennzeichen code VI AA, from a new code block) and subsequent aircraft corrected this problem.
The elliptical nose derivatives of the NACA airfoils were used on the horizontal and vertical tail surfaces.While BMW's and Junkers' axial compressor turbojet engines were characterised by a sophisticated design that could offer considerable advantage – also used in a generalized form for the contemporary American Westinghouse J30 turbojet – the lack of rare materials for the Jumo 004 design put it at a severe disadvantage compared to the "partly axial-flow" Power Jets W.2/700 turbojet engine which, despite its own largely centrifugal compressor-influenced design, provided (between operating overhaul interval of 60–65 hour) an operational life span of 125 hours.Frank Whittle concludes in his final assessment over the two engines: "it was in the quality of high temperature materials that the difference between German and British engines was most marked" Operationally, carrying 2,000 litres (440 imperial gallons; 530 US gallons) of fuel in two 900-litre (200-imperial-gallon; 240-US-gallon) tanks, one each fore and aft the cockpit, and a 200-litre (44-imperial-gallon; 53-US-gallon) tank beneath, Fuel consumption was double the rate of typical twin-engine fighter aircraft of the era, which led to the installation of a low-fuel warning indicator in the cockpit that notified pilots when remaining fuel fell below 250 l (55 imp gal; 66 US gal).Wings were of single-spar cantilever construction, with stressed skins, varying from 3 mm (0.12 in) skin thickness at the root to 1 mm (0.039 in) at the tip.In mid-1943, Adolf Hitler envisioned the Me 262 as a ground-attack/bomber aircraft rather than a defensive interceptor.
Sweep was added after the initial design of the aircraft, when the engines proved heavier than originally expected, primarily to position the center of lift properly relative to the center of mass.