The full sTory of The lufTwaffe’s mosT versaTile fighTer
focke-wulf fw 190
Armed and armoured to fight US bombers
The secreT of oTTo KiTTel’s success
high flierS Brought low Ta 152 in defence of the Reich
Beating the Spitfire – The baTTle for aerial supremacy
Rise of a legend – the origins of Focke-Wulf
Close support – Fw 190F and G
A false start with the Fw 159
The 190 abroad
War horse – early development of the Fw 190
Beasts of the East
Secrets revealed part III: in Soviet hands
Sturmovik killer Otto Kittel
First encounters with the RAF
Secrets revealed part I
Secrets revealed part II
Evolution under ﬁre
High altitude failure – Fw 190B and C
Best in the West
BE RI 9 C 12 BS E SU PAG Flug Werk 190A-8/N WNr. 990001 ﬂies with Supermarine Spitﬁre Mk.IXc PV270 over New Zealand. Gavin Conroy
Long-nose Dora – the stopgap
Fw 190 Sturmbock
Last defence of the Reich
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100 Final ﬁghter – Ta 152
Libby Fincham Simon Duncan
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108 Special weapons and unusual variants
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114 A legend reborn
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122 After the war 126 Survivors
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The importance of the Focke-Wulf Fw 44 Stieglitz cannot be overstated – it saved the company from ﬁnancial uncertainty, established designer Kurt Tank’s reputation and served as an exceptional trainer for thousands of pilots who would later serve in the Luftwaffe. Marcus Kress
Rise of a
The origins of Focke-Wulf The Focke-Wulf company was founded in 1924 by idealistic aircraft designer Henrich Focke, pilot Georg Wulf and businessman Walter Naumann. A decade later one of them was dead and another sidelined, the company had changed beyond all recognition and there was a new man at the top – Kurt Tank. 8 Rise of a legend
enrich Focke was almost the archetypal postwar aviation pioneer – a First World War veteran with bright ideas but little business sense. Born in Bremen, north-west Germany, in 1890, he became fascinated by the exploits of the Wright brothers as a schoolboy and began making model aeroplanes. By the time he was 18 he had developed a restless urge to explore the possibilities of ﬂying and built a glider with his brother Wilhelm – who had already designed a pusher aeroplane in 1908 and had one of his designs constructed by the Rumpler company in 1909.
Henrich began to study mechanical engineering at the Technical University in Hanover in 1912 and worked on another pusher design with his brother based around an 8hp NSU engine they had been given. The lack of power meant that the aeroplane failed to become airborne however. Undeterred, Henrich came up with a new design based on the same NSU unit, this time with the propeller at the front, and worked on it with his friend Hans Kolthoff rather than his brother. The Kolthoff-Focke A 4 was a similarly underpowered failure but the friends were then joined by a 17-year-old apprentice called Georg Wulf.
Henrich Focke, co-founder of Focke-Wulf, and company test pilot Cornelius Edzard in front of the second ‘tail-ﬁrst’ F 19 Ente in 1930.The ﬁrst example had been destroyed in a crash three years earlier, killing Focke’s fellow co-founder Georg Wulf. Editor’s collection
Drawing on their hard-won experience the trio built a single-seat monoplane, the A 5, which was ﬂown successfully for the ﬁrst time by Kolthoff towards the end of the year. The A 5 became the trio’s workhorse and it was altered repeatedly to test new adjustments and conﬁgurations. Wulf taught himself to ﬂy and after a year of trial and error a second successful aeroplane, the A 6, was completed. When the First World War began in August 1914, both Focke and Wulf volunteered to join the German Army but Focke was initially rejected after being diagnosed with a weak heart. A few months later however he was accepted into Infantry Regiment ‘Bremen’ (1 Hanseatic) No. 75 and served brieﬂy on the Eastern Front. With the help of a friend, in 1915 he secured a transfer to the German air force as an engine mechanic. He served at Torun in Poland and Kovno in what is now Lithuania before coming down with malaria and being invalided back to Germany. Having recovered he rejoined the air force but less than two years later at Rheims, while ﬂying as a passenger aboard a two-seater DFW C.V during a mechanical ﬂight check, he was involved in a serious crash. A trip to hospital followed and then work with the German government’s directorate of aircraft production at Berlin as the war drew to a close. In the immediate aftermath of the conﬂict, and in the interests of stripping the enemy of weapons, the victorious Allies made it illegal to produce aero engines in Germany. The country’s aviation industry all but collapsed and Focke took the opportunity to return to university and ﬁnally received his engineering diploma in 1920. He got a designing water and gas systems for the Bremen-based Francke Company. The manufacture of new civil aircraft was eventually permitted but performance was strictly limited. Types could not exceed 170kph, ﬂy higher than 4000m, go further than 300km or carry a cargo heavier than 600kg.
Aviation pioneer Henrich Focke. Editor’s collection
Decaffeinated coffee magnate Ludwig Roselius was one of the wealthiest men in Germany and indulged his passion for aviation by investing in, and exercising control over, Focke-Wulf. Ludwig Roselius Museum
Focke, now reunited with his friend Georg Wulf, constructed the Focke-Wulf A 7 Storch (Stork) in 1921 – a two-seater monoplane that continued their prewar experiments. Unlike those experiments however, the A7 was approved for the German civil register by the Inter Allied Control Commission and received the registration D-264 in 1922. Initially powered by a 50hp Argus engine, it was rebuilt with a 55hp Siemens Sh 10 following a crash. Despite its initial shortcomings, the upgraded A 7 impressed a group of Bremen businessmen so much that they agreed to bankroll Focke and Wulf in the establishment of a new aviation ﬁrm, the Bremer Flugzeugbau AG on October 23, 1923. The name was changed to Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau AG on January 1, 1924, and the company
shared premises at Bremen aerodrome with the Deutsche Aero Lloyd airline. The company’s ﬁnancial backers were led by wealthy aviation enthusiast Dr Ludwig Roselius, founder and owner of Bremen based Kaffee HAG – a hugely successful company which had pioneered the world’s ﬁrst commercial decaffeination process. Roselius’s injection of 200,000 marks got the company off the ground but also gave him a very strong say in how it was run. Nevertheless, it was a dream come true for Focke. He became the company’s technical director with his friend Wulf as the test pilot. An associate of Dr Roselius, Dr Werner Naumann, was brought on board as the commercial director. The faith of Dr Roselius was rewarded when Focke came up with ➤ Focke-Wulf Fw 190 9
war horse Early development of the Fw 190 Focke-Wulf was contracted to develop a front line single-seat ﬁghter to operate alongside the Messerschmitt Bf 109 in 1938 and designer Kurt Tank was determined that it would be a ver y different breed from its stablemate.
hen Willy Messerschmitt created the Bf 109 in 1934 there was very little else in the world to match its simple yet highly efﬁcient design. It wasn’t perfect but it surpassed its contemporaries in almost every respect. By the time Kurt Tank and his team came to design the Fw 190 in 1938, the Bf 109 had seen action in the Spanish Civil War and its imperfections had become readily apparent.
The Germans had also become increasingly concerned about the British Supermarine Spitﬁre. It was feared, with some justiﬁcation, that this advanced ﬁghter was already able to outperform the Bf 109. Therefore, Tank set out to develop an aeroplane that would not only address the Bf 109’s ﬂaws but also have a reasonable chance of besting the Spitﬁre – a tall order. It helped that Tank was given leave to examine production Bf 109 machines up close and in detail before getting started.
Describing the design philosophy behind the Fw 190, Kurt Tank told aviation historian Dr Alfred Price: “The Messerschmitt 109 and the British Spitﬁre, the two fastest ﬁghters in the world at the time we began work on the Fw 190, could both be summed up as a very large engine on the front of the smallest possible airframe; in each case armament had been added almost as an afterthought. “These designs, both of which admittedly proved successful, could be likened to racehorses: given the right amount of pampering and an easy course, they could outrun almost anything. But the moment the going became tough they were liable to falter. “During the First World War, I served in the cavalry and in the infantry. I had seen the harsh conditions under which military equipment had to work in wartime. I felt sure that a quite different breed of ﬁghter would also have a
Test pilot Hans Sander ﬁres up the engine of Fw 190 V1.The metal panel behind the BMW 139 engine’s exhausts has already become heavily blackened. Editor’s collection
A wooden model of the Fw 190 V1 built in 1938. It is marked up to show how the aircraft itself will be constructed. Editor’s collection
Focke-Wulf chief designer and chief executive Kurt Tank seated in an Fw 190. While Tank approved the aircraft’s basic layout, he readily acknowledged that the detail design work and ongoing development was carried out by his team. Editor’s collection
place in any future conﬂict: one that could operate from ill-prepared front line airﬁelds; one that could be ﬂown and maintained by men who had received only a short training; and one that could absorb a reasonable amount of battle damage and still get back. “This was the background thinking behind the Focke-Wulf 190. It was to be not a ‘racehorse’ but a Dienstpferd, a cavalry horse.” The Fw 190 would be tough and dependable but it would also have to be able to keep up with the ‘racehorses’ where it mattered. The airframe would be sturdy enough to carry heavier weapons than the Bf 109 could manage but not so heavy that it incurred a performance penalty. The need for good all-round visibility was also a key consideration. The Bf 109’s cockpit canopy featured heavy frames and the rearward view was less than satisfactory, therefore Tank’s team came up with a sloping frameless ‘bubble’ canopy.
The almost-completed airframe of Fw 190 V1 at Focke-Wulf’s Bremen factory. Editor’s collection
For the powerplant, an air-cooled radial engine was chosen because it could soak up battle damage without failing – where a damaged liquid-cooled unit might rapidly run dry and seize – and because Tank already had one in mind, the 14-cylinder BMW 139. With Junkers’ Jumo 210 design reaching the limits of its potential, its follow-on the Jumo 211 being ﬁtted to the Ju 87, Ju 88 and Heinkel He 111 and Daimler-Benz’s DB 601A already earmarked for the Bf 109 and Bf 110, it also made sense to choose an engine that was not committed elsewhere. The BMW 139 was designed with two rows of seven cylinders positioned back to back. Compared with an inline design such as the
DB 601, it had a higher power to weight ratio but at the cost of generating an enormous amount of heat in a small area. Tank said: “So the air-cooled radial engine was ﬁtted to the Fw 190. When the ﬁghter went into action the resilience of this type of power plant was proved again and again. There were several occasions when these ﬁghters returned home and made normal landings, having had whole cylinders shot away. “Once its cooling system had been pierced and the liquid allowed to drain away, the running life of the equivalent liquid-cooled engine would have been about three minutes.” With all these requirements in mind, Tank’s design team submitted a series of ➤ Focke-Wulf Fw 190 21
Fw 190A-3 versus spitFire iX rAe compArAtive report
Climb: During comparative climbs at various heights up to 23,000ft, with both aircraft ﬂying under maximum continuous climbing conditions, little difference was found between the two aircraft although on the whole the Spitﬁre IX was slightly better. Above 22,000ft the climb of the Fw 190 is falling off rapidly, whereas the climb of the Spitﬁre IX is increasing. When both aircraft were ﬂying at a high cruising speed and were pulled up into a climb from level ﬂight, the Fw 190 had a slight advantage in the initial stages of the climb due to its better acceleration.This superiority was increased when both aircraft were pulled up into the climb from the dive.The differences between the two aircraft are only slight and in actual combat the advantage in climb will be with the aircraft that has the initiative. Dive: The Fw 190 is faster in a dive, particularly during the initial stage.This is not so marked as with the Spitﬁre Vb. manoeuvrability: The Fw 190 is more manoeuvrable than the Spitﬁre IX except
in turning circle, when it is out-turned without difﬁculty.The superior rate of roll of the Fw 190 enabled it to avoid the Spitﬁre IX if attacked when in a turn by ﬂicking over into a diving turn in the opposite direction, and as with the Spitﬁre Vb, the Spitﬁre IX had great difﬁculty in following this manoeuvre. It would have been easier for the Spitﬁre IX to follow the Fw 190 in a diving turn if its engine had been ﬁtted with a negative G carburettor, as this type of engine with the ordinary carburettor cuts very easily. The Spitﬁre IX’s worst heights for ﬁghting the Fw 190 are 18,000-22,000ft and below 3000ft. At these heights the Fw 190 is a little faster. Both aircraft ‘bounced’ one another
to ascertain the best evasive tactics to adopt.The Spitﬁre IX could not be caught when ‘bounced’ if it was cruising at high speed and saw the Fw 190 when well out of range. When the Spitﬁre IX was cruising at low speed its inferiority in acceleration gave the Fw 190 a reasonable chance of catching it up and the same applied if the position was reversed. The initial acceleration of the Fw 190 is better than the Spitﬁre IX under all conditions of ﬂight, except in level ﬂight at such altitudes where the Spitﬁre has a speed advantage and then, providing the Spitﬁre is cruising at high speed, there is little to choose between the two aircraft. The general impression gained by pilots taking part in the trials is that the Spitﬁre IX compares favourably with the Fw 190 and that provided the Spitﬁre has the initiative, it has undoubtedly a good chance of shooting the Fw 190 down.
Fw 190A-3 versus mustAng 1A (p-51A)
rAe compArAtive report
Climb: The climb of the Fw 190 is superior to
that of the Mustang 1A at all heights. The best climbing speed for the Mustang is approximately 10mph slower than that for the Fw 190; the angle is not nearly so steep and the rate of climb is considerably inferior. When both aircraft are pulled up into a climb after a fast dive, the inferiority in the initial stage of the climb is not so marked, but if the climb is continued the Fw 190 draws away rapidly. Dive: Comparative dives have shown that there is little to choose between the two aircraft and if anything the Mustang is slightly faster in a prolonged dive.
manoeuvrability: The manoeuvrability of
the Fw 190 is better than that of the Mustang except in turning circles where the Mustang is superior. In the rolling plane at high speed the Mustang compares more favourably with the Fw 190 than does the Spitﬁre. The acceleration of the Fw 190 under all conditions of ﬂight is slightly better than that of the Mustang and this becomes more marked when both aircraft are cruising at low speed. When the Fw 190 was attacked by the Mustang
36 secrets revealed – part i
in a turn, the usual manoeuvre of ﬂicking into a diving turn in the opposite direction was not so effective against the Mustang as against the Spitﬁre, particularly if the aircraft were ﬂying at high speed. The fact that the engine of the Mustang does not cut during the application of negative G proved a great asset and gave the Mustang a reasonable chance of following the Fw 190 and shooting it down. It must be appreciated, however, that much depends on which aircraft
vs Fw 190A-3 versus Lockheed P-38F Lightning has the initiative and that obviously the Fw 190 can escape if the Mustang is seen well out of range. The Fw 190 in this case will almost certainly utilise its superior climb. Trials were carried out to ascertain the best manoeuvre to adopt when ‘bounced’. If the Mustang was cruising at high speed and saw the Fw 190 about 2000 yards away, it usually managed to avoid it by opening up to full throttle and diving away, and once speed had been built up it was almost impossible for the Fw 190 to catch it. When the Mustang was ‘bounced’ by the Fw 190 when ﬂying slowly, it was unable to get away by diving and was forced to evade by means of a quick turn as the Fw 190 came into ﬁring range. When the Fw 190 was ‘bounced’ by the Mustang, it could evade by using its superiority in the rolling plane and then pull up violently from the resultant dive into a steep climb which left the Mustang behind. If the Mustang is not seen until it is fairly close, it will get the chance of a short burst before it is out climbed. Against the Fw 190 the worst heights for the Mustang 1A were above 20,000ft and below 3000ft where the Fw 190 is slightly superior in speed. The best height for the Mustang was found to be between 5000ft and 15,000ft.
rAe comPArAtive rePort
Climb: The climb of the P-38F is not as good as that of the Fw 190 up to 15,000ft. Above this height the climb of the P-38F improves rapidly until at 20,000ft it becomes superior.The best climbing speed for the P-38F is about 20mph less than that of the Fw 190 and the angle is approximately the same. The initial rate of climb of the Fw 190 either from level ﬂight or a dive is superior to that of the P-38F at all heights below 20,000ft and above this height the climb of the P-38F becomes increasingly better. Dive: Comparative dives between the two aircraft proved the Fw 190 to be better, particularly in the initial stage. During prolonged dives the P-38F on occasion was catching up slightly with the Fw 190, but during actual combat it is unlikely that the P-38F would have time to catch up before having to break off the attack. manoeuvrability: The Fw 190 is superior to that of the P-38F particularly in the rolling plane. Although at high
speed the Fw 190 is superior in turning circles, it can be out-turned if the P-38F reduces its speed to about 140mph, at which speed it can carry out a very tight turn which the Fw 190 cannot follow. The acceleration of the two aircraft was compared and the Fw 190 was found to be better in all respects. When the Fw 190 ‘bounced’ the P-38F and was seen when over 1000 yards away, the pilot’s best manoeuvre was to go into a diving turn and if it found the Fw 190 was catching it up, to pull up into a spiral climb, ﬂying at its lowest possible speed. Although time did not permit trials to be carried out with the Fw 190 being ‘bounced’ by the P-38F, it is thought that the P-38F would stand a reasonable chance of shooting down the Fw 190 provided it had a slight height advantage and the element of surprise. If the pilot of the Fw 190 sees the P-38F when it is just out of range, a quick turn in one direction followed by a diving turn in the opposite direction will give the P38F a most difﬁcult target, and as the acceleration and speed of the Fw 190 in a dive builds up very rapidly it is likely to be able to dive away out of range. Focke-Wulf Fw 190 37
Beasts of the East
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 on the Eastern Front When the Luftwaffe’s ﬁghter force set out in support of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, it did so almost exclusively ﬂying the Messerschmitt Bf 109F. A quick victor y failed to materialise, however, and a year later the rugged and powerful Fw 190 was badly needed in the east…
oviet forces were caught completely off guard and off balance at the beginning of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa and paid a heavy price for it. Three German army groups, North, Centre and South, and their Luftwaffe support punched through Soviet defences with ease – annihilating the enemy formations in their way – and drove east. Opposing the German Bf 109Fs were large numbers of obsolete ﬁghters, such as Polikarpov I-15 biplanes and the I-16, which had been introduced in 1934. Advanced Soviet ﬁghters had entered production, such as the MiG-3, LaGG-3 and Yak-1, but they were only available in small numbers and few pilots had been trained to ﬂy them. Soviet pilots in general were inexperienced, poorly trained and had not been expecting an invasion. In fact, when German ground attack aircraft reached Soviet forward air bases, they often found the aircraft lined up in neat rows – and destroyed them one after the next on the ground.
Those that did get airborne often had no radios and no ﬁre control. As such, they were slaughtered by the Luftwaffe’s highly trained and well coordinated ﬁghter forces. By the summer of 1942, the picture had changed dramatically. The advanced ﬁghters were being churned out in huge numbers by the Soviet industrial machine and by the summer’s end they had been joined by another, perhaps the best yet – the Lavochkin La-5, essentially the LaGG-3 with a much more powerful engine. The heavily armoured Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik ground-attack aircraft had also been introduced and was appearing in worryingly large formations over the front line to attack German infantry and armour. They were given various nicknames by the Luftwaffe, including ‘zementers’ or ‘cementers’ because they were so tough it was as though they were made out of cement. Fearing the collapse of their ally in the east, the western powers had also sent over hundreds of aircraft to bolster the Soviet
A pair of Fw 190A-5s from I./JG 54 in ﬂight over Russia bearing the Geschwader’s familiar grüne Herz or ‘green heart’ insignia. Editor’s collection
effort. The Luftwaffe on the ‘Ostfront’ therefore found itself ﬁghting Supermarine Spitﬁres, Hawker Hurricanes, Bell P-39 Airacobras and Curtiss P-40s. It was inevitable, with the Western Front proving comparatively quieter and with adequate numbers now being produced, that the Fw 190 would be introduced in the east. The ﬁrst unit to receive it was I./JG 51, which was withdrawn from its base in Orel, 200 miles southwest of Moscow, to Königsberg, East Prussia, at the beginning of August 1942. By the time a swift programme of training had been completed it was equipped with one Fw 190A-1, 10 A-2s and 32 A-3s. Before the month was out, JG 51 had begun moving back to Russia with its new charges, now based at Ljuban, near Leningrad, and the whole of I./JG 51 was in place by September 6. Deliveries of the new Fw 190A-4 to the front began in October 1942, just as the ﬁrst La-5s were reaching Soviet air force units. II./JG 51 was withdrawn to East Prussia on October 7 so that it too could begin
One of the best photographs in existence of Fw 190s in active service on the Eastern Front, this image shows a trio of A-5s from 5./JG 54 being readied for operations in northern Russia. Editor’s collection
A Fw 190A-4 of 2./JG 54 on ﬁnal approach to a snowy airﬁeld in Russia. Editor’s collection
Left: A rare photograph from the same roll of ﬁlm as the image on the opposite page shows the same two aircraft but without their fuselage numbers – presumably lost during colourisation. Editor’s collection
converting to the Fw 190 but with training still under way most of the Gruppe was suddenly transferred to the Mediterranean. Only 6./JG 51 remained behind to complete its conversion. November 12 saw III./JG 51 also being moved back to East Prussia to begin working up on the Fw 190. While all this had been going on, Soviet forces had been grinding down their German opponents at Stalingrad and by November 22 the German 6th Army was completely surrounded and cut off within the devastated ruins of the city. The Soviets now marched north with the intention of wiping out Army Group Centre. German air forces in the area were I. and III./JG 51 with their new Fw 190s, plus IV./JG 51 and II./JG 3 with their Messerschmitt Bf 109s. The Luftwaffe’s key objective was to prevent Soviet bombers and ground-attack aircraft from weakening Army Group Centre still further – the ﬁrst test of the Fw 190 in a major operation on the Eastern Front. The Russians deployed their usual large formations of Sturmoviks on December 4, 1942, and both the Stabstaffel and I. Gruppe of JG 51 ﬂew to intercept them. It was a resounding success, with 31 Il-2s destroyed. The joint highest scoring German pilots were the unit commander, Hauptmann Heinrich ‘Gaudi’ Krafft, Oberleutnant Edwin Thiel and Oberleutnant Heinz Lange, who each shot down ﬁve.
Just 10 days later, on December 14, the Russians had their revenge on ‘Gaudi’ Krafft. His Fw 190A-3 ‘Black <<’ was hit by ﬂak near Kurkina and he crash-landed. It has been suggested that Krafft survived only to be stripped naked, apart from his Knight’s Cross, and beaten about the head by Soviet soldiers until he died. A unit of Panzer Grenadier Regiment 25 certainly recovered his body from the crash scene but the source of the ‘murdered’ story has never been veriﬁed. The same month, another Eastern Front Gruppe was re-equipped with the Fw 190 – I./JG 54, the Grünhertz or ‘Green Hearts’. It was withdrawn to East Prussia and began training on the A-4, this being completed by January 1943. It was just in time for the new Fw 190s to be used against Sturmoviks that were supporting an attempt to relieve the besieged Soviet forces in Leningrad. It was now decided that the highly experienced Fw 190 pilots of JG 26 would begin transferring from France to the Eastern Front. I./JG 26 led by Major Johannes Seifert and 7./JG 26 were the ﬁrst to go and they were replaced in France by III./JG 54, which was still ﬂying Bf 109s. Arriving at its new base at Rielbitzi in northern Russia on February 15, 1943, JG 26 had been re-equipped with the new Fw 190A5. It was now a part of Luftﬂotte 1, providing support and air cover for Army Group North.
Its pilots soon found that battling the Russians was very different from ﬁghting the RAF over Western Europe. The Soviets generally ﬂew at lower altitudes so most battles against them tended to be below 10,000ft. In addition, the much larger areas and distances involved meant that smaller formations of Fw 190s had to be used. The standard combat formation was a Schwarm of four or just a Rotte of two. The certainty of safe haven in bases anywhere in temperate France, and even the ability to bail out and be relatively sure of landing among friends, was replaced with the worrying uncertainty of ﬂying over not only hostile terrain but also over a constantly moving front line. It was often difﬁcult for pilots, particularly those trying to land damaged machines, to work out whether they were likely to be picked up by friends or enemies on the ground. One of I./JG 26’s ﬁrst tasks in this harsh new environment was to operate in a ﬁghterbomber capacity against Russian ground forces attempting to crush the Demyansk salient – a pocket of German forces surrounded by the Red Army south of Leningrad. The salient had been formed during early 1942 but had lingered on for almost a year, with the Russians now close to victory. JG 26 mounted attacks every day, straﬁng supply columns, and attacking vehicles wherever they could be found. ➤ Focke-Wulf Fw 190 71
Final fighter Ta 152 –
from development to combat The Fw 190 had reached the limit of its potential by 1944 but Focke-Wulf chief designer Kurt Tank was already working on a successor. Held back by the ver y reorganisation that was rescuing the German aircraft manufacturing industr y, the Ta 152 was nevertheless one of the most powerful and capable aircraft to see combat during the war.
he original all-new replacement for the Fw 190, the Ta 153, was rejected in April 1943 owing to the disruption its introduction would cause on existing production lines. A redesigned version, designated the Ta 152 in May 1943, was to share far more parts with the Fw 190. Focke-Wulf started work on two standard ﬁghter versions with different engines, the Ta 152A and the Ta 152B. The former was to have a Jumo 213A and the latter a Jumo 213E, with the Daimler-Benz DB 603G available – assuming it was available – as a backup for either. It was intended that the ﬁnished ﬁghter, whatever its engine, would be able to function as either a ﬁghter or ﬁghter-bomber. Standard armament was to be a single MK 103 or MK 100 FINAL FIGHTER
ABOVE: Focke-Wulf drawing of the Ta 152C – intended to be the standard ﬁghter/ﬁghterbomber version of the ultimate Fw 190 development. It followed on from the cancelled Ta 152A and stalled 152B. By the time its development began, the high-altitude version of the Ta 152, the ‘H’, was already well advanced. GDC
108 ﬁring through the nose and MG 151s in both the wing roots and outer wing positions, for a total of ﬁve guns. The Ta 152A/B took the basic A-8 airframe and lengthened the forward fuselage by 0.772m to accommodate either new engine and an engine mounted MK 108 cannon. This fuselage extension was bolted directly to the A-8’s engine attachment points. The wing was moved forwards by 0.42m to adjust the centre of gravity and the rear star junction and fuselage bulkhead were
correspondingly moved. The rear fuselage was lengthened with the ﬁtting of a 0.5m section into it. This was used to house the Ta 152’s oxygen bottles and the compressed air bottles necessary for the engine mounted cannon. The undercarriage was the same as the A-8’s but with larger 740 by 210mm wheels. The wings were slightly enlarged to a span of 11m, from the Fw 190A’s 10.5m, by inserting an extra 0.5m section into each one. This was so that the larger wheels could be moved outboard by 0.25m each for propeller clearance.
The second prototype to test components for the Ta 152A was Fw 190 V20 TI+IG. It was ﬁrst ﬂown on November 23, 1943 – a month before any prototypes of the Ta 152H had been ordered by the RLM and two months before the Fw 190D was even suggested. Had the Ta 152A not been cancelled due to a lack of faith in its Juno 213 powerplant, it might well have entered service before either of them. Editor’s collection
Three existing aircraft were modiﬁed to become the Ta 152A prototypes – Fw 190s V19, V20 and V21. There were no Ta 152B prototypes since the Jumo 213E engine had been seriously delayed. The work was carried out at Focke-Wulf’s Branch Plant 8 at Adelheide, near Bremen, which had been established solely to build experimental airframes and prototypes. V19 ﬁrst ﬂew with its Jumo 213A on July 7, 1943. It had a new tail, later to be seen on the Fw 190D-9, and a 50cm fuselage extension but no armament. Its initial task was to investigate engine performance and handling. Flight testing was carried out at another Focke-Wulf site, Hanover-Langenhagen, so aircraft constructed at Adelheide usually took their ﬁrst ﬂight in that direction. Focke-Wulf applied for permission to give the Ta 152A development priority on October 8, 1943, but this was denied. The second prototype, Fw 190 V20 TI+IG, made its ﬁrst ﬂight on November 23, 1943, with a Jumo 213 CV engine. This unarmed airframe was used for engine checks, speed trials, fuel system and hydraulic tests. The Ta 152 was now in competition with a Messerschmitt design – the Me 209, not to be confused with the prewar racer of the same name. This was an attempt to update the Bf 109 with a wide-track undercarriage, bubble canopy and a Jumo 213A engine in place of the familiar Daimler-Benz unit. The ﬁrst 209 prototype, V5 SP+LJ, had ﬁrst ﬂown on November 3, 1943. Early testing, however, showed that the aircraft gave a less than satisfactory performance with its new engine. Just two days later, another Bf 109 variant, the Bf 109H prototype V54 PV+JB, made its ﬁrst ﬂight.
The Bf 109H was an attempt to wring yet more life out of the Bf 109G and had enlarged wings. Unfortunately this modiﬁcation to the original design resulted in serious vibration and ﬂutter. The Bf 109H also handled very poorly during tests. Tank had been considering a high-altitude version of the Ta 152 to compete with the Bf 109H and shortly after he submitted plans for the Ta 152H to the RLM, on December 7, 1943, the ministry ordered six prototypes. It stipulated, however, that these should be built from standard A-8 airframes with the minimum possible number of changes. The Ta 152H had the same A-8 airframe alternations as the 152A but the fuselage centre section was designed as a pressurized chamber with a volume of about one cubic metre, sealed with DHK 880 paste. The sliding cockpit canopy was sealed with a tube partly ﬁlled with foam rubber. When the pilot activated it, a one litre compressed air bottle pumped up the tube. In order to get out of the aircraft, the tube had to be emptied ﬁrst – which meant it would be difﬁcult for the pilot to escape in an emergency. In addition, wingspan was increased to 14.4m (47ft 3in) from the standard Fw 190A’s 10.5m (34ft 5in). In light of the RLM’s renewed interest in the Ta 152, on December 20, 1943, Tank resubmitted his request for the Ta 152A to be given development priority but this was again denied. Tank’s efforts to persuade the RLM of the aircraft’s merits resulted, at a meeting on January 13-14, 1944, in the Fw 190D-9 being approved as an interim measure while further development was undertaken. The ﬁrst Ta 152A test airframe, V19, crashed on February 16, 1944, when the right
A page from the Ta 152 parts list showing some of the electrical systems, top, and operational equipment, below.The latter includes the fuselage-mounted camera intended for the Ta 152E-1. GDC
undercarriage leg locking bolt failed, but the damage was repaired and testing was resumed. By now, the Jumo 213E engine planned for the Ta 152B had been subject to serious delays so another powerplant, the DaimlerBenz DB 603 L, was identiﬁed for the aircraft under the designation Ta 152C. Like the A and B, this was proposed as a ﬁghter and ﬁghterbomber, depending on armament. The Ta 152C had the same fuselage extensions and larger wheels as the other members of the 152 family and the same wings as the Ta 152A/B but without outer ➤ Focke-Wulf Fw 190 101
The aircraft’s tail ﬁn and rudder with triangular vertical access hatch visible. Paul Le Roy
Interior bulkhead separating the cockpit and battery compartment from the rear fuselage. Paul Le Roy
The view inside the FW 190’s fuselage, looking towards the rudder. Stowage space is visible to the top left of the picture. When units needed to move airﬁelds quickly – such as just after the Normandy invasion – mechanics or even civilians could ride in the rear section. Paul Le Roy
The rounded rectangular hatch in the side of the Fw 190’s fuselage gave access to its interior. Paul Le Roy
Focke-Wulf’s ofﬁcial photographers were known to ride inside the fuselage of a Fw 190 by climbing in through this hatch and then take air-to-air photographs from it. Paul Le Roy
Inside the FW 190’s tail. Paul Le Roy
WNr. 990001 reposing within its hangar. Paul Le Roy Focke-Wulf Fw 190 121
French and Soviet Fw 190s –
and their eventual fate
When Germany was ﬁnally defeated, there were hundreds of Focke-Wulf Fw 190s left lying around Europe. Some were wrecks, some had been deliberately blown up but still more were intact or could be made complete with only a little work. Both France and Soviet Union seized upon this golden opportunity…
hortly before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, French aircraft manufacturer Lioré et Olivier began to establish a new factory in a disused underground limestone quarry at Cravant near Auxerre in the Yonne region – southeast of Paris. The quarry was huge, around 35 hectares with ceiling up to 20m high in places, making it ideal for large scale construction activities. Lioré et Olivier was only part way through construction, including building a small air strip and concrete shelters, before the site was overrun and captured by the advancing German army.
It remained vacant until 1943 when Allied bombing forced the relocation of the Luftwaffe’s Focke-Wulf Fw 190 repair workshops. The German military and civil engineering group Organisation Todt was brought in, under the supervision of FockeWulf contractor Ago Flugzeugwerke, to establish a new central underground workshop facility for Fw 190s of all types in France at Cravant. Work began in late 1943 and was completed on February 6, 1944. It was given the name Sonderreparaturbetrieb G L & Elbag Lager 918 Auxerre or Forward Operational Repair Centre 918.
Barges were used to transport damaged Fw 190s to the facility, where a large supply of spares was amassed, before they were ofﬂoaded using a crane and taken inside the workshop via a small railway system. The Lioré et Olivier airstrip was expanded to become a full concrete runway and the quarry’s main entrance was enlarged to allow the passage of completed aircraft. The workshop was manned by local French civilians plus Polish and Spanish prisoners of war who were reportedly well treated. Just six and a half months after it opened, however, on August 18, 1944, the workshop was abandoned by the Germans as they
The broken remains of Fw 190 ‘Black 3’ lie abandoned. Hundreds of similar wrecks were collected up and scrapped at the end of the war, alongside pristine newly built examples and everything in between. Editor’s collection
Around 70 NC.900s like this one were built but it is uncertain whether they were based on intact airframes abandoned by the Germans at Cravant or other airframes brought to the facility at a later date. Editor’s collection
retreated ahead of advancing British and American forces. They tried to blow up the caves but although this caused a lot of damage the resulting ﬁres went out due to oxygen starvation before they had completely done their work. The Allies arrived on August 20 and secured the site before making an inventory of its contents on October 18, 1944, detailed in a report issued the following day. This found the largely complete fuselages of two Fw 190A-2s, one A-3, two A-3/U4s, four A-4s, three A-5s, three A-5/U3s, one A-5/U8, one A5/U12, ﬁve A-6s, nine A-7s, three A-7/R6s, 14 A-8s, one A-8/R1, six A-8/R6s, one F-2, one F3, one F-8/R1, one G-2, ﬁve G-3s and one G-8. This made a total of 65 useable airframes and another 47 airframes were found either severely damaged by ﬁre or completely stripped of useable components. A further eight burned or crushed Fw 190 wrecks were littered around the airstrip outside. In addition, the investigators found 156 undamaged pairs of wings, 106 stabilisers, 81 ﬂaps, 37 rudders and eight propellers. At the end of August, newly appointed French minister Charles Tillon had visited the site and assessed its contents for himself. Under President Charles de Gaulle, the French were keen to prevent their much more powerful Allies from setting up a government on their behalf and did their best to re-establish
French pilots allocated the NC.900 hated ﬂying the ﬁghter of their defeated enemy.There were a number of ‘incidents’ and the type was brieﬂy grounded before being returned to service. Gilles Pouillaude collection
their own sovereignty, identity and power. Part of this was rapidly building up French military forces as quickly and cheaply as possible. Buying a Supermarine Spitﬁre from the British was to cost 12 million Swiss francs – the reserve currency in France at the time – but it was estimated that refurbishing, reassembling or otherwise rebuilding a former Luftwaffe Fw 190 would cost just 1.5 million Swiss francs. The Cravant facility, ﬁre damage aside, was already set up to turn out completed Fw 190s, and many local people had been taught at least some of the skills necessary to do it. Therefore, in November 1944, La Société Nationale de Construction Aéronautique du Centre de Cravant (SNCAC) was established with around 80 workers. This rapidly multiplied until some 1400 people were involved in the project under the supervision of plant manager Roland Echard. It is unknown how many of the bits and pieces found at Cravant were actually used in the construction of the ‘new’ aircraft however, since they are usually referred to as being a combination of Fw 190A-5 and A-8 components – rather than a hodgepodge of numerous different types. It is possible that abandoned aircraft from elsewhere in France were brought to Cravant and simply reconditioned. In any case, the ﬁrst French Fw 190, the type being rechristened the NC.900 AACR for
As a money-saving exercise, equipping French pilots with ex-Luftwaffe aircraft was a disaster.The squadron given them, GC III/5 ‘Normandie-Niemen’, wanted Spitﬁres instead and eventually ended up with de Havilland Mosquitos. Editor’s collection
After the war, the French reconditioned dozens of Fw 190s at Cravant, an underground former Luftwaffe repair centre.The aircraft were extensively tested before entering service with the French air force as the AACr NC.900 and had substantial spares backup. Gilles Pouillaude collection
‘Atelier Aéronautique de CRavant’ (Aircraft Workshop of Cravant), was rolled out on March 16, 1945, more than a month and a half before the end of the war. It was given the simple serial No. 1. The ﬁrst test ﬂights were made by a pilot assigned to the plant, a Monsieur Lepreux. Further tests were carried out by Britishtrained French test pilot Colonel Constantin Rozanoff and at least three other pilots. As this work progressed, plans were drawn up to bring the type into service with the Normandie-Niemen, a veteran French unit that had fought the Luftwaffe with the Soviet air force ﬂying Yak-3 ﬁghters. The unit was renamed Groupe de Chasse GC III/5 ‘Normandie-Niemen’ after transferring from the Russian front to Le Bourget airﬁeld near Paris to a heroes’ welcome on June 20, 1945. Delivery of the ﬁrst batch of completed NC.900s was stalled when No. 28 broke up in mid-air on January 2, 1946, but by January 30 the assessors were conﬁdent that the type was fully ﬁt for service. Seven NC.900s arrived at Le Bourget on February 1 with another seven arriving on February 15. It soon became apparent, however, that the NC.900 wasn’t quite the value for money aircraft that it ﬁrst appeared. There was a series of incidents and accidents involving the type’s BMW 801D-2 engine. These had been ➤
NC.900 No. 23. After their rejection as a front line ﬁghter by the French air force, the NC.900s were used for training or sold to Turkey, which still maintained active squadrons of Fw 190s until 1948. Editor’s collection
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 123
FOCKE-WULF Fw 190 When it appeared in the skies over Europe in 1941, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 was the best ﬁghter in the world. It was more than a match for the best Spitﬁres the RAF could ﬁeld and began shooting them down in everincreasing numbers. Only the introduction of the Spitﬁre IX with its two-stage supercharged Merlin overturned its supremacy. Alongside the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Fw 190 is the iconic ﬁghter of the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. It was hugely adaptable and fought on nearly all fronts, proving to be a formidable opponent. It was used for the Mistel ﬂying bomb combination and as a test aircraft for the Ruhrstahl X-4 wire-guided air-to-air missile, and later developed into the ‘long nose’ Fw 190D-9. Its ﬁnal development was the powerful Ta 152 ﬁghter, designed to defeat the most advanced Allied piston-engined ﬁghters such as the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, Spitﬁre XIV, Hawker Tempest and P-51 Mustang. Today there are no more than two dozen surviving original aircraft.This issue tells the Fw 190’s remarkable story with a wealth of new artwork, hundreds of period photos and a selection of original design drawings produced by Focke-Wulf.
Aviation Classics 26 Focke-Wulf preview.