v1.0.1 / 01 jun 02 / greg goebel / public domain
* The burden of air combat for Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe fell mainly to two fighter aircraft: the Messerschmitt "Bf-109" and the Focke-Wulf "FW-190". Of the two, the FW-190 was the more advanced and potent aircraft, and served not only in air to air combat, but as a fighter-bomber, a close-support aircraft, and reconnaissance aircraft. This document provides a short history of the FW-190.
* Professor Kurt Waldemar Tank started out in the aviation industry in 1924 as an engineer at the Rohrbach company, changing jobs in 1930 to work for Willy Messerschmitt in Augsburg. The Messerschmitt concern fell on hard times in 1931, and so Tank left to join the Focke-Wulf company in Bremen, where he became technical director.
Tank designed a number of aircraft for Focke-Wulf, including the "FW-200 Kondor" long-range airliner, which would be used as a ocean patrol aircraft in the war. Although the Kondor would be a terrible nuisance to the Allies in the conflict, they would be even more threatened by one of his later innovations, the radial-engine fighter known as the "FW-190".
In the spring of 1938, the Messerschmitt Bf-109 was filling up the ranks of the Luftwaffe as the service's first-line fighter. The Bf-109 was an excellent aircraft and had not yet reached its full potential, but the German Air Ministry (ReichsLuftMinisterium / RLM) wanted to hedge their bets and have an alternate fighter in case future improvement of the Bf-109 ran out of steam sooner than expected.
The RLM issued a request for such an advanced fighter. The Focke-Wulf company responded with a number of designs based on the Daimler-Benz "DB-601" 12-cylinder inverted-vee water-cooled engine, which was to be the main production engine for the Bf-109. The RLM rejected these designs as they didn't offer that much new over the Bf-109, which was to be allocated all the DB-601s built anyway.
Tank had a different idea up his sleeve, a design that featured a "BMW-139" two-row 18-cylinder air-cooled radial engine with 1,550 horsepower, contrary to the general preference of German fighter designers for inline water-cooled engines. Tank chose the BMW radial engine because he believed it offered high reliability, greater horsepower in the long run, and was in principle available to support volume production of a new type of aircraft.
The RLM was interested in Tank's concept, and in the summer of 1938 awarded Focke-Wulf an initial contract for three prototypes, followed by authorization of a fourth in the spring of 1939. The RLM's enthusiasm over the type was so great that the manufacture of 40 pre-production aircraft was authorized as well, even before any of the machines had flown.
* The "FW-190-V1" (V1 meaning "Versuchs 1 / Prototype 1") flew from the Bremen airport on 1 June 1939 with test pilot Hans Sander at the controls. Tank himself, a skilled pilot and definitely a "hands-on" engineer, performed some of the test flights. He gave the machine the name "Wuerger (Butcher Bird / Shrike)".
Early test flights demonstrated some problems, including leakage of carbon monoxide fumes into the cockpit; failure of the landing gear to lock up when being raised; and engine and cockpit overheating. The first two problems were quickly resolved, but the overheating troubles proved harder to fix.
The V1 originally featured a three-bladed variable-pitch propeller with an oversized prop spinner. The spinner fitted flush to the edge of the engine cowling for streamlining, with a central duct surrounding a ten-bladed fan for airflow, but this configuration didn't cool the rear set of cylinders very well. The oversized prop spinner was replaced by a conventional prop spinner, which didn't do much to eliminate the overheating problem but demonstrated no real reduction in performance, and so was retained for all following FW-190s.
The cockpit overheating remained a serious nuisance. Temperatures reached up to 55 degrees Celsius (130 degrees Fahrenheit), and Sander complained that sitting in the cockpit "was like having your feet in a fire!" Unfortunately, the canopy couldn't be opened in flight to cool off, as the open canopy set up too much turbulence over the tail.
The difficulties did not disguise the fact that the new fighter was fast, powerful, and agile. Sander demonstrated the V1 at the Luftwaffe flight test center at Rechlin in early July 1939, including a show for Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering, who was so enthusiastic that he endorsed mass production of the type, saying it should be "turned out like hot rolls!" Luftwaffe test pilots were also enthusiastic about the new machine, stating that it handled better than the Bf-109.
However, the BMW-139 engine was clearly unsatisfactory. Even before the initial flight of the V1 prototype, the decision had been made to go to a different engine. Although the "V2" prototype was too near completion to be modified, the BMW-139-powered "V3" and "V4" prototypes were both cancelled, with prototype construction moving on to a "V5" prototype with an air-cooled 14-cylinder two-row "BMW-801" providing 1,600 horsepower, fitted with a 12-blade cooling fan.
* The BMW-139-powered V2 prototype performed its first flight in October 1939. It had the oversized prop spinner and was the first FW-190 to be armed, with two MG-17 7.9 millimeter machine guns fitted in the cowling in front of the cockpit, and an MG-17 fitted in each wing root, for a total of four guns. Unfortunately, after only 50 hours of test flights, the crankshaft of the BMW-139 engine broke and the aircraft crashed.
The V5 performed its first flight in April 1940. The BMW-801 provided more horsepower than the BMW-139, but it was also heavier, and to maintain center of gravity the cockpit of the V5 was shifted back along the fuselage. This reduced the cockpit overheating problem and provided greater space in the nose for armament.
The weight increase was substantial, 635 kilograms (1,400 pounds), leading to higher wing loading and reduced agility. As a result, following a collision with a ground vehicle in August 1940 that sent the V5 back to the factory for major repairs, the aircraft was rebuilt with larger wings and a modified tailplane and redesignated "V5g" (where "g" stood for "grosser / bigger"). The new wing provided much better handling.
* By this time, the Luftwaffe was evaluating pre-production "FW-190A-0" aircraft with BMW-801 engines, following initial deliveries of this subvariant in March 1940. The first seven A-0s had the original short-span wing, with the larger wing evaluated on the V5g fitted on the eighth, to become production standard.
Although the BMW-801 was a major improvement over the BMW-139, the service evaluation was plagued by engine failures and fires, to the extent that pilots were reluctant to fly the FW-190A-0s very far from their airfields. Arguments and finger-pointing between Focke-Wulf and BMW became as hot as the engines, and the RLM even threatened to cancel the program.
Focke-Wulf and BMW then put their differences aside as best they could and focused on getting the engine problems under control. After 50 modifications to fix the engine problems, the FW-190 was approved for series production in mid-1941, with several factories tooling up to build the machines. Deliveries of the first formal production model, the "FW-190A-1", began in June 1941. 100 were built.
* The FW-190A-1 was a tidy, muscular, sturdy, aggressive-looking aircraft, powered by a "BMW-801C" engine with 1,600 horsepower driving a three-bladed variable-pitch propeller, with a low-mounted wing and "taildragger" landing gear. The flight control surfaces provided large area for high maneuverability, and also featured an unusual system of control connections. Traditionally, flight surfaces had been moved by a system of wires and pulleys connected to the cockpit controls, but the wires tended to stretch over time, leading to slop. The FW-190 replaced the longer connections with a system of rods to correct this problem.
The landing gear had been designed to be stronger than required by the aircraft's expected maximum take-off weight to give some margin for future weight growth. The main gear hinged in the wings to retract towards the fuselage, giving the aircraft a wide, comfortable track for ground handling, while the tailwheel was semi-retractable. However, the taildragger configuration and the big radial engine gave the pilot a terrible forward view while taxiing, leading to accidents. Pilots would learn to taxi with a ground crewman sitting or lying on the wing to give them directions.
The FW-190 was one of the first aircraft to feature a one-piece plexiglas canopy to give the pilot all-round vision. The canopy slid backwards to open. When it proved very difficult to jettison the canopy in an emergency at high speeds, an ejection mechanism was designed to pop the canopy up into the airstream, where it would be pulled off by the draft.
Armament consisted of four MG-17 7.9 millimeter machine guns, with two in the top of the engine cowling and one in each wing root. All four guns were synchronized to fire through the propeller arc. The cockpit was fitted with armor plate for pilot protection.
Performance and maneuverability of the "Anton", as Luftwaffe pilots called the A-series, were excellent, though the machine did have a few eccentricities that caused problems for inexperienced pilots, and its performance fell off at altitudes above 6,000 meters (20,000 feet). The reliability of the BMW-801 engine also remained unsatisfactory for the moment.
The FW-190 was designed in a modular fashion, to allow dispersal of sub-assembly production among many different manufacturers, and simplify maintenance by permitting rapid replacement of aircraft assemblies in the field. The FW-190 was very well thought out from all points of view. Tank, who had been in the cavalry during World War I, called the FW-190 a "cavalry horse", built to endure rough field conditions, as opposed to other fighters built mostly with performance in mind, which he called "racehorses".
* The British Royal Air Force (RAF) first encountered the FW-190A-1 in air combat over the coast of northern France in September 1941. The new German aircraft was more than a match for the Spitfire V. British intelligence was initially puzzled by reports of the new German fighter, with some speculation that the type might actually be a captured French Curtiss Hawk 75 or the Bloch 151 fighter, both of which were radial-engine machines with a vague resemblance to the FW-190. By the end of the year, the British had no doubt that they were up against something much more formidable.
The dogfights had shown the FW-190A-1's four 7.9 millimeter guns lacked killing power. The Focke-Wulf design team was aware that the FW-190's armament was inadequate, having settled on the four machine guns due to temporary difficulties in obtaining heavier armament, and in fact the A-1 was basically regarded as an operational evaluation type that was not entirely fit for real combat.
The next A-series subvariant, the "FW-190A-2", replaced the MG-17 machine gun in each wing root with a more potent Mauser belt-fed MG-151/20 20 millimeter cannon with 200 rounds per gun, providing a total armament of two machine guns and two cannon. Replacement of the wing root machine guns with the cannon required fit of a shallow blister on the top of the wing near the fuselage.
Many of the A-2s were fitted with an MG-FF 20 millimeter cannon, a copy of the Swiss Oerlikon design, in each wing outboard of the landing gear, for a powerful total armament of two machine guns and four cannon. The MG-FF was drum-fed, with 55 rounds in a drum.
Some sources state that the MG-FF, not the MG-151/20, was also used in the wing root station. Admittedly the mix of cannon types was a bit odd, all the more so because the two used incompatible ammunition, but the same odd combination would be used in the next subvariant, the A-3, and is well documented. In addition, pictures of what is described as the A-2 show a long-barreled cannon in the wing root position, consistent with the MG-151/20, which was about half again as long as the MG-FF.
The A-2 also featured an improved "BMW-801C-2" engine. Deliveries of the A-2 began in the fall of 1941. All the fighters were sent to the English Channel front for the moment, as the Luftwaffe had been intimidated by the Spitfire V and wanted to put the RAF in their place.
* In February 1942, FW-190s of Adolf Galland's JG-26 squadron escorted the battle cruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU on their famous "Channel Dash" from France to the Baltic, with the Focke-Wulf fending off attacks by RAF Hurricanes and Spitfires, and shooting down all of a flight of six Swordfish torpedo-bombers that courageously pressed their attack despite the odds.
By spring, Focke-Wulf had shifted production to the next version of the Anton, the "FW-190A-3". The A-3 featured an uprated "BMW-801D-2" with 1,700 horsepower, plus the four wing cannon as production standard, and minor cowling modifications. The BMW-801D-2 was the first really reliable variant, largely eliminating the engine problems that had dogged the FW-190, and would be retained in following A-series production. Following initial production, the A-3's FuG-7 HF radio was switched to the FuG-16 VHF radio, with more power and longer range.
The FW-190 was proving such a menace to the RAF that that a risky commando mission named "Operation Airthief" was planned to steal one from a French airfield, but the operation was called off because on 23 June 1942, Oberleutnant Armin Faber got a little confused and landed his A-3 on an RAF airfield by mistake. Flight evaluation of the captured Focke-Wulf showed it to have a few weaknesses, just not very many. The RAF rested their hopes in matching the FW-190 with the new "Spitfire IX", which was a Spitfire V hastily fitted with a new "Merlin 61" engine.
The Spitfire IX went into service in July 1942. The RAF hoped to give the Luftwaffe a bloody nose during the "practice invasion" at Dieppe in August 1942, which was partly intended to lure the FW-190s up to fight. Unfortunately, the Dieppe operation was badly planned, badly executed, and the FW-190s were more than willing to accept the RAF's challenge, inflicting disproportionate losses on the Spitfires. One FW-190 pilot, Josef Wurmheller, shot down seven Spitfire Vs in one day over Dieppe.
The Spitfire IX did help even the odds over the long run, but Focke-Wulf was still churning out better versions of the Butcher Bird. The "FW-190A-4" went into production in late 1942, the primary improvement being the addition of an "MW-50" water-methanol power boost system for the BMW-801 engine. The MW-50 injected water into the engine's cylinders to raise the engine's redline limit for a short period of time. The methanol was mainly intended as anti-freeze.
The A-4 also introduced a small but distinctive modification in the form of a short radio aerial mast mounted on top of the vertical tailplane. This item would be retained in later production. The A-4 was the first FW-190 subvariant to see real service on the Eastern Front.
In April 1943, the production lines began turning out the the next subvariant, the "FW-190A-5", which was almost indistinguishable from the A-4 but added a lengthened engine mounting to increase strength and reduce vibration. The new mounts stretched the aircraft by about 15 centimeters (six inches) and became production standard.
* These new subvariants were produced in a number of modifications, the details of which are a confusing subject. Some of the modifications were straightforward. For example, the "Trop (Tropicalized)" modification provided engine sand filters and a survival kit for desert warfare.
However, in most cases, the subvariant modifications were provided initially in the form of factory upgrade kits, known as "Umrust-Bausatz" and given "U"-series modification codes, and later field upgrade kits, known as "Rustsaetze" and given "R"-series modification codes, and the variations are bewildering. For example, the tropicalized A-4 was an "FW-190A-4/Trop"; the "FW-190A-3/U1" featured a factory upgrade kit with a bomb rack for use a fighter-bomber ("Jagd-Bomber" or "Jabo"); and the "FW-190A-4/U4" featured two cameras in the rear fuselage for service as a reconnaissance fighter.
Documenting the subvariant modifications is troublesome, not merely because there were so many of them, but because the modification codes could have different meanings when applied to different subvariants, and aircraft were sometimes fitted with multiple upgrade kits. Poking around in the subject in detail is a headache.
In any case, the upgrade kits reached full expression with the A-5, with at least sixteen different modifications, though no more than half actually saw combat. Modifications did see operational service included:
The rockets were inaccurate and more a distraction to USAAF bomber crews than a real threat, helping to scatter bomber formations but rarely scoring a kill. In contrast, the heavy cannon armament proved highly effective. Incidentally, "Doedel" is a slang term for "penis", and was clearly given to the rockets for their phallic shape.
Later subvariants of the Anton would have bomber-destroyer modification kits that provided packs with two MK-108 30 millimeter cannon instead of two MG-151/20 cannon. The MK-108 was a short-barreled, low-velocity weapon that fired high-explosive "mine" shells. It was maybe just a step up from a grenade launcher and had short range, but a few hits from the mine shells would send a bomber down.
* In the Jabo role, the FW-190 could carry a 500 kilogram (1,100 pound) bomb, or combinations of other stores, such as fragmentation bombs or cluster bombs. A 1,000 kilogram (2,200 pound) SB 1000 bomb could be carried if one of its tailfins was removed, though it was a cumbersome load.
Jabo FW-190s armed with 250 kilogram (550 pound) bombs were used to make "hit-and-run" daylight attacks on British towns in 1942 and 1943. Most of these were nuisance attacks on coastal towns in ones or twos, but on 31 October 1942, 30 FW-190s hit Cantebury in reprisal for RAF raids on German cities.
The FW-190 bomber destroyers provided an important component of the Reich's air defense system after the US Army Air Force (USAAF) began daylight raids in late 1942. The Luftwaffe quickly learned that USAAF B-24s and B-17s were not easy targets, as both bombers could soak up many hits before going down and had heavy defensive armament.
At first, Luftwaffe pilots used "tail-chase" tactics, but then it was realized that the bombers were much more vulnerable to fire from the front, and also had weak forward defensive armament. The result was a switch to "head-on" attacks, which allowed the fighters to exploit these weaknesses. The high relative speed of the interceptors as they passed through the bomber formations from front to back also complicated the lives of American gunners.
However, the head-on attacks also gave Luftwaffe pilots little time to score hits or to react to a looming head-on collision. The new tactics were much more effective for good fighter pilots, but less effective for mediocre ones. Despite this, FW-190s smashed up a raid on Regensburg and Schweinfurt on 14 October 1943 so badly that the Americans gave up daylight bombing over Germany until the long-range P-51B/C Mustang escort fighter came into service.
Even when escorts arrived, the FW-190 was never a pushover for any Allied pilots, anywhere. Many Luftwaffe pilots racked up large numbers of kills, particularly on the Eastern front. The Luftwaffe's fourth highest scoring pilot, Oberleutnant Otto Kittle, who scored 267 victories, got 220 of his kills in FW-190A-4s and A-5s, making him the high scorer with the type. Other German aces, including Walter Nowotny, Heinz Baer, Herman Graf, and Kurt Buhligen, all scored over a hundred kills in the FW-190.
The FW-190 was also pressed into service as a night fighter against RAF bombers, using "Wilde Sau (Wild Boar)" tactics championed by Major Hajo Hermann. Although the FW-190s used in Wilde Sau sorties had few or no optimizations for night fighting, the glare of fires below and searchlights highlighted the attackers, allowing the fighters operating above the bomber stream to see target aircraft beneath them.
After the British started dropping "window" (chaff) to jam German radars in July 1943, Wild Sau suddenly acquired a new importance and priority. Wilde Sau was effective but troublesome, since getting back to base and landing in the dark, particularly in poor weather, was difficult and dangerous. By early 1944, the Luftwaffe had been able to compensate for an extent to Allied radar countermeasures, and the Wilde Sau squadrons were generally returned to day combat.
* As is often the case with aircraft that evolve through a long series of variants, the FW-190 suffered from "weight creep", and so a new, bigger, lighter wing was designed, going into production in the "FW-190A-6" subvariant in June 1943.
The new wing featured a standard fit of an MG-151/20 cannon in the wing root and the outer wing, replacing the MG-FF in that position, for a total of four cannon, along with the MG-17 machine guns in the cowling. The A-6 was primarily designed for the battlefield close-support ("Schlacht / Slaughter") role, and also featured increased armor.
In Schlacht operations, the FW-190 carried such warloads as eight SC-50 50 kilogram (110 pound) bombs, with four on the wings and four on the centerline rack, and also the AB-250 250 kilogram (550 pound) cluster bomb canister. The AB-250 could be filled with a range of submunitions, such as SD-2 two kilogram (4.4 pound) anti-personnel fragmentation "butterfly bombs",or SD-4 four kilogram (8.8 pound) hollow-charge anti-armor bomblets.
The cannon of the FW-190 also proved effective in attacks on ground targets, and the aircraft was rugged enough to take punishment, as well as dish it out. The FW-190 would gradually become the backbone of the Schlacht force, displacing the antiquated and overly vulnerable Junkers Ju-87 Stuka.
As with the A-5, upgrade kits were developed for the A-6. However, while the A-5 was fitted with factory upgrade kits, the focus for the A-6 was field upgrade kits, so that the aircraft could be adapted on the front line to different roles as the tactical situation demanded.
* The primary improvement in the "FW-190A-7", which went into production at the end of 1943, was the replacement of the two 7.92 millimeter MG-17 machine guns in the cowling with 13 millimeter MG-131s and a new gunsight. While most of the Anton subvariants were built in quantities of hundreds, only about 80 A-7s were built, with the aircraft configured as bomber destroyers, fitted with underwing rockets or additional cannon packs.
The next subvariant, the "FW-190A-8", turned out to be the most heavily
produced of all FW-190 subvariants, with over 1,300 built. It was
essentially an A-7 with the option for either GM-1 nitrous-oxide engine boost
for high-altitude operation, or an additional internal fuel tank, and many
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spec metric english
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wingspan 10.5 meters 34 feet 5 inches
length 8.96 meters 29 feet 5 inches
height 3.96 meters 13 feet
empty weight 3,470 kilograms 7,650 pounds
max loaded weight 4,900 kilograms 10,800 pounds
maximum speed 657 KPH 408 MPH / 335 KT
service ceiling 10,300 meters 33,800 feet
range 800 kilometers 500 MI / 435 NMI
_____________________ _________________ _______________________
The "R8" was an improved bomber destroyer, nicknamed the "Sturmbock (Battering Ram)", with armor protection for the pilot and around the front of the engine, plus an MK-108 30 millimeter cannon in each outboard wing position instead of an MG-151/20. The armor allowed the Sturmbock to close in on a bomber and then kill it with the MK-108 cannon, using tail-chase tactics.
There were other experiments with heavily-armed bomber destroyers, but the increasing presence of escort fighters presented the Luftwaffe with a nasty dilemma. If they increased the FW-190's armor and firepower to deal with the bombers, the Focke-Wulf would then find itself outclassed in air combat with Allied fighters. If they reduced armor and armament, the FW-190 could hold its own, but it would then find it difficult to take on bombers.
As a result, the Luftwaffe established the "Sturmgruppe" tactic, in which a mass of FW-190s Sturmbocks would attack a bomber formation from behind, while they were protected from Allied escort fighters by Bf-109Gs optimized for dogfighting. Sturmgruppe pilots often wore "whites of the eyes" jacket patches, with two white crescents set side-by-side, to indicate their dedication to point-blank attacks.
The first Sturmgruppe missions were conducted in July 1944 and proved devastating. However, the USAAF quickly adapted to the tactic, sending escort fighters in the lead of the bomber formation to pounce on Sturmgruppe formations and break them up, and scheme gradually ceased to be effective.
* In fact, by the fall of 1944 the decline of the Luftwaffe was obvious. Hobbled by a lack of fuel and well-trained pilots, completely outnumbered by Allied fighters, the Luftwaffe made fewer and fewer sorties, and with those flights the rewards continued to diminish, while the losses increased. They fought on until the end, but all they could do was delay the inevitable.
German factories continued to produce FW-190s as well, if with increasing difficulty, but the A-8 turned out to be the last production Anton. The "FW-190A-9" was an A-8 with a BMW-801F engine with 2,000 horsepower. Some sources also claim the A-9 was fitted with an armored wing leading edge for service as a "Rammjaeger", knocking down bombers by ramming them. Home defense squadrons had been encouraged to use this tactic late in the war with earlier FW-190 subvariants, though it appears few pilots did so.
The "FW-190A-10", was a Jabo subvariant that was to feature an improved BMW-801TS or BMW-801TH engine. Neither of these subvariants got out of prototype evaluation.
* The "FW-190B" and "FW-190C" were experimental variants that did not reach production, and are discussed in a later section. The "FW-190D" was an production FW-190 derivative with a inline engine, which did reach production and is also discussed later. The "FW-190E" was to be a specialized reconnaissance variant, but modifications of FW-190As proved adequate for this role, and the FW-190E never even reached the prototype stage.
The "FW-190F" series did see service in numbers. The FW-190F was essentially an Anton tweaked as battlefield close support aircraft, or "Schlachtjaeger", with armor plate under the engine and cockpit for protection against ground fire, stronger landing gear to support greater take-off loads, and other modifications. The type was difficult to distinguish from an FW-190A, and in fact the series prototype was the "FW-190A-5/U17", a modification optimized for the Shlacht role.
Although their optimizations for the Schlacht role hampered their performance somewhat, they were still dangerous adversaries in air combat and racked up their own long lists of kills.
The "FW-190F-1" subvariant was based on the FW-190A-4. Only a small number were built, for evaluation purposes. The F-1 had reduced gun armament, with two MG-17 7.92 millimeter machine guns in the cowling and a 20 millimeter cannon in each wing, for a total of four guns. In compensation, it had racks under the fuselage to allow carriage of one 500 kilogram (1,100 pound) or four 50 kilogram (110 pound) bombs, plus an optional rack under each wing for a single 250 kilogram (550 pound) bomb or two 50 kilogram bombs.
The "FW-190F-2" was a derivative of the A-5 and featured a new "bulged" canopy to improve pilot vision, with the first of this series rolling off the production line in early 1943. The "FW-190F-3" was similarly derived from the A-6, with first deliveries in the summer of 1943.
Work on "F-5", "F-6", and "F-7" subvariants was abandoned near the end of 1943 to allow focus on the G-series, discussed below, but the F series was revived in 1944 as the "F-8", based on the A-8. The F-8 was the most heavily produced of the F-series, and reached service in the fall of 1944. It was much like the F-3, but had underwing stores racks as standard, an improved bomb-release system, and MG-131 13 millimeter cannon in place of the cowling-mounted MG-17s.
The F-8 was followed by the "F-9", which had a turbocharged BMW-801TS offering 2,000 horsepower and optional MW-50 water-methanol boost, but this subvariant did not reach service.
* The "FW-190G" was a long-range Jabo variant, built in parallel with the F-series, and generally similar except for the deletion of cowling guns to decrease weight and extend range. In fact, the G-series actually entered production before the FW-190F, initially seeing action in North Africa at the end of 1942.
Like the F-series, the G-series were basically equivalent to A-series aircraft fitted for the Schlacht role. The "G-1" was based on the A-4, while the "G-2" was based on the A-5. The "G-3" was bit more of a custom item, with an autopilot and a fuel injection system. The G-8 was based on the A-8.
* Although the BMW-801 radial engine was very powerful, as well as very rugged, its high-altitude performance was poor. As the GM-1 water-methanol boost system provided only a modest improvement in high-altitude performance, Kurt Tank's engineering team decided to see what might be done with water cooled inline inverted vee-12 engines, including the Junkers Jumo 213 and the more powerful Daimler-Benz 603.
The "FW-190B" series of prototypes Focke-Wulf's first attempts to build a high-altitude version of the Butcher Bird and featured test fits of the DB-603 engine, as well as the BMW-801 with GM-1 nitrous oxide boost. Some of the prototypes were also used to evaluate a pressurized cockpit, but these tests did not go well, and as the FW-190B didn't quite have the high-altitude reach that the RLM desired, the effort was abandoned in late 1942.
Focke-Wulf then concentrated on an improved high-altitude fighter variant, the "FW-190C", with the DB-603 inline engine. Following an initial prototype adapted from an FW-190B, six FW-190C prototypes were built. They featured a DB-603 inline engine, an annular radiator that gave the engine the appearance of a radial installation, and a four-bladed propeller. The six final prototypes featured an elaborate turbocharger installation, with two fitted with a Hirth 9-2281 turbocharger and four with a DVL TK-11 turbocharger.
The turbocharger scheme had some similarities to that on the US Republic P-47 Thunderbolt but wasn't as clean, resulting in a large assembly on the belly that gave the type the nickname "Kangaruh (Kangaroo)", since it suggested a kangaroo's pouch. The program was finally abandoned in the fall of 1943, as the turbocharger systems proved unreliable.
* Tank's engineering team was also working on another inline-powered variant, the "FW-190D", in principle for the high-altitude fighter role. The FW-190D was fitted with a Jumo 213A-1 engine providing 1,775 horsepower, or 2,240 horsepower for short periods with MW-50 water-methanol boost.
Development began in the spring of 1942, with prototype development based on modifications of FW-190A-0 fighters, the first of six flying in March 1942. These machines were given a rear fuselage extension to compensate for the lengthened nose, which had been stretched to fit the Jumo 213 engine, and were armed with twin MG-17 machine guns in the cowling and an MG-151/20 cannon in each wing root.
Some problems were encountered, but the type seemed promising enough for the RLM to authorize the construction of "FW-190D-0" preproduction prototypes in late 1943. These machines were similar to the development prototypes, but were based on FW-190A-7 airframes.
In the meantime, Tank was moving forward on the first full-production subvariant, the the "FW-190D-9". Exactly what happened to the "D-1" through "D-8" subvariant codes is a bit of a puzzle. In any case, the D-9 went into production in June 1944, with initial service deliveries in August.
The D-9 different from the prototypes in having a bigger vertical tailplane to improve yaw stability; two MG-131 13 millimeter cannon replacing the two MG-17 guns in the cowling; and a belly rack for carriage of a 500 kilogram (1,100 pound) bomb, as well as an optional stores rack under each wing. An MW-50 water-methanol boost system could also be installed. After initial production, the type was fitted with a bulged canopy to give better all-round visibility. A range of modification kits were provided for the type.
Tank made it plain that he regarded the Jumo-powered FW-190D-9 as an "interim
solution", leading Luftwaffe pilots to believe that they were going to get an
indifferent and clumsy lashup. Once they got their hands on the machine,
they found out that the "Dora-Nine", as they called it, was a superb
aircraft. It was faster, climbed more rapidly, and handled better than an
Anton, and almost certainly the best piston fighter to be fielded in numbers
by the Luftwaffe. The Dora-Nine proved to be a nasty handful for American
P-51Ds and late-mark RAF Spitfires. Tank was just being fussy.
FOCKE-WULF FW-190D ("DORA-NINE"):
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spec metric english
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wingspan 10.5 meters 34 feet 5 inches
length 10.19 meters 33 feet 5 inches
height 3.36 meters 11 feet
empty weight 3,490 kilograms 7,695 pounds
normal loaded weight 4,300 kilograms 9,480 pounds
max speed at altitude 685 KPH 425 MPH / 370 KT
service ceiling 12,000 meters 39,400 feet
range 840 kilometers 520 MI / 450 NMI
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Despite this, Focke-Wulf continued to work on other subvariants of the D-series, though none of these others ended up being built in any numbers, if at all. For example, the "D-12" deleted the two MG-13 cannon in the cowling and replaced them with an MK-108 30 millimeter cannon firing through the propeller spinner, plus a more powerful Jumo 213F engine with 2,060 horsepower.
* Tank continued to tweak the inline-powered designs, resulting in the "Ta-152" series, with work along this line begun in late 1942. The "Ta" stood for "Tank", in honor of his contributions to the Reich. A confusing number of different Ta-152 variants were considered or built in prototype form in 1943 and 1944, converging on two types, the short-wing "Ta-152C" and the long-wing "Ta-152H", where the "H" stood for "Hoehenjaeger (High Altitude Fighter)."
The Ta-142C very much resembled the Dora-Nine, but featured a modified fuselage with the cockpit moved back. While early "Ta-152A" and "Ta-152B" prototypes were fitted with different models of the Jumo 213 engine, the Ta-152C featured the DB-603 engine. Armament was an MK-108 or MK-103 cannon firing through the prop spinner, along with two MG-151/20 cannon in the cowling and one in each wing root. Only about five Ta-152Cs were completed, the first flying in November 1944, as the decision was made to focus on the Ta-152H.
The Ta-152H was, as its name suggests, intended for the high-altitude interceptor role. It featured a modified fuselage like that of the Ta-152C, as well as extended wings with a span of 14.5 meters (47 feet 7 inches), and a Jumo 213E engine with a three-speed supercharger and 1,880 horsepower. It was armed with an MK-108 cannon firing through the propeller spinner and an MG-151/20 cannon in each wing, and was fitted with a centerline stores rack.
Initial service delivery of the Ta-152H was in November 1944. Only about 150 Ta-152Hs were completed. They saw very limited combat, when fuel could be found to fly them. A turbocharged "Ta-153" series was also considered, but never got out of the development stage.
Despite the fact that Tank regarded the DB-603 as the best possible inline powerplant option for his fighter, and some sources claim the DB-603 powered FW-190 prototypes had excellent performance if the turbocharger problems were ignored, no DB-603 powered variant reached production. This may have been due to limited availability of the engine, which did enter mass production and was built in the thousands, but was heavy and allocated to twin-engine aircraft like the Me-410 and the Do-335.
* A total of over 20,000 FW-190s of all types were built during the war. The type saw limited foreign service:
A number of FW-190s survive today on static display in various museums around the world, but it does not appear that any are flying at this time. The "FlugWerke" group of Munich does sell a flight-worthy replica in kit form, however.
* Given the large number of FW-190s built, unsurprisingly there were many odd experiments and offshoots of the type:
It is unclear if these FW-190 modifications saw much service, though it appears that late in the war the Luftwaffe special-operations group, KG-200, used FW-190s carrying BTs in operations against the Soviets. There are also stories of such long-tailwheel aircraft carrying SC-1800 1,800 kilogram (3,970 pound) bombs, if with great difficulty and stripped of everything that could be removed. They were apparently used to try to destroy the Remagen bridge that the Allies seized in early 1945.
The BT series of munitions were also built in 200 kilogram (440 pound), 400 kilogram (880 pound), and 700 kilogram (1,540 pound) versions. They appear to have been unpowered, their shape having been designed to allow the bomb to remain on its drop trajectory even after it entered the water. A special bombsight was fitted to allow the pilot to drop the weapon so that it would shoot underneath a vessel and explode, it seems using a delayed-action fuze. The BT bombs could be used for attacks on ground targets.
Early experiments involved firing the "Panzerschreck" infantry anti-tank rocket, a scaled-up copy of the American "Bazooka" rocket, from triple tubes mounted under each wing. As the Panzerschreck had inadequate range, it was followed by the "Panzerblitz I", which took the hollow-charge warhead from the Panzerschreck and fitted it with an improved rocket motor. They were mounted in fours under each wing in a wooden launch rack.
Since Panzserblitz I couldn't be fired while flying at top speed, it led in turn to "Panzerblitz II", which used a similar warhead but the even larger rocket motor of the "R4M" folding-fin unguided air-to-air rocket. These rockets were mounted on racks under each wing, with six or seven rockets per rack.
Finally, there was an experimental fit of 280 millimeter Werfer-Granate 28/32 barrage rocket, carried with one or two under each wing. These various rockets were evaluated on the FW-190 and some may have seen limited operational service late in the war.
There were apparently a number of variations on vertical-firing armament, but the details are now very unclear.
The X-4 never saw combat. The "eyeball" control scheme seems a little dubious by modern standards, particularly since the pilot couldn't maneuver his fighter and guide the missile at the same time, but the X-4 had a "stand off" range of several kilometers and a large warhead with both impact and proximity fuzes. It might have been effective against attacks on bombers in large formations, which was apparently its intended use.
It seems the Germans were also working on an acoustic-homing seeker to allow it to zero in on a bomber's engines, though this would have been vulnerable to simple countermeasures, which the Allies were very good at devising.
* Development prototypes:
* A-series ("Antons):
* F-series and G-series:
* Other variants:
* Sources include:
* Revision history:
v1.0.0 / 01 may 02 / gvg
v1.0.1 / 01 jun 02 / gvg / Minor update.