Focke-Wulf Fw 190

Specification (D-9)

Type: single-seat fighter / fighter-bomber;
Powerplant: 1 x 1,776hp Junkers Jumo 213A 12-cylinder inverted-vee piston engine;
Performance: 426mph / 685kph at 21,655ft  / 6,600m (maximum speed), 19,685ft in 7 minutes 6 seconds (climb), 39,370 ft / 12,000m (service ceiling), 519 miles / 835km (maximum range); Weight: 7,694lbs / 3,490kg (empty), 10,670lbs / 4,840kg (maximum take-off);
Dimensions: 34ft 5.5in / 10.5m (wing span), 33ft 5.5in / 10.02m (length), 11ft / 3.35m (height), 196.99sq.ft / 18.3m.sq (wing area);
Armament: 2 x 13mm (0.51in) MG131 machineguns and 2 x 20mm MG151 cannon plus 1 x 1,102lbs (500kg) SC500 bomb;
Used: Germany, Hungary, Turkey.

History

Focke Wulf Fw 200 Condor
Focke-Wulf Fw 190

Focke Wulf Fw 200 Condor
Focke-Wulf Fw 190

Focke Wulf Fw 200 Condor
Focke-Wulf Fw 190

Focke Wulf Fw 200 Condor
Focke-Wulf Fw 190

Focke Wulf Fw 200 Condor
Focke-Wulf Fw 190
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-5 in US Hands, March 1944
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-5 in US Hands, March 1944

The Focke-Wulf Fw190 is generally acknowledged to be a superior aircraft to the only other single-seat fighter the Luftwaffe fielded during World War II, the Bf109 and indeed one of the best fighters of the war. The Fw190 was developed under a contract placed by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) in the autumn of 1937. In response, Kurt Tank submitted two proposals for a single-seat fighter equipped on the one hand with a liquid-cooled Daimler Benz DB 601 engine, and on the other, the new air-cooled BMW 139 radial engine. The radial engine was selected and in the summer of 1938, detailed design work was undertaken under the project leadership of O R Blaser and produced a cantilever low-wing monoplane of stressed-skin design. The first prototype Fw190 V1 was rolled out in May 1939, with the first flight taking place in Bremen on 1 June 1939 with Flugkapitän Hans Sander at the controls. A second aircraft, the Fw190 V2 flew in October 1939 and was armed with two 13mm (0.51in) MG131 and two 7.92mm (0.31in) MG17 machineguns. By this time however, the decision had been taken to replace the BMW 139 with the longer and heavier BMW 801 engine. Both prototypes were fitted with large ducted spinners to reduce drag but both suffered overheating problems and a NACA cowling was substituted. The new engine would necessitate a number of major changes, including strengthening the airframe and the relocation of the cockpit further aft. The latter change had the added bonuses of solving a centre of gravity problem and improving the pilot's experience by drastically reducing his exposure to fumes and heat while in the cockpit. The third and fourth prototypes were abandoned and the Fw190 V5, with the new engine installation, was completed in early 1940. Later in the year, the aircraft was fitted with a wing of great span (3ft 3.5in or 1m) than originally fitted. This modification slowed the aircraft by some 6mph (10kmh) but made it much more manoeuvrable and gave it a greater climb performance. It was re-designated the Fw190 V5g as opposed to the short-span version, now designated the Fw190 V5k. The first preproduction batch of Fw190A-0 aircraft consisted of nine with the shorter span wings and twenty-one with the wider span. During February 1941, the first aircraft were delivered to Erprobungskommando 190 at Rechlin-Rogenthin for service testing and evaluation while in March 1941, Jagdgeschwader 26 prepared for the aircraft's entry into Luftwaffe service.

The initial production version was the Fw190A-1 with longer span wings, equipped with a 1,660hp BMW 801C-1 radial, a FuG 7a radio and armed with four 7.92mm (0.31in) MG17 machineguns. It was this version which was flown by 6/JG26 when they first clashed with RAF Spitfires on 27 September 1941, leaving little doubt that the armament of four 7.92mm machineguns was less than adequate. This deficiency was dealt with firstly, by the Fw190A-2 that was powered by an improved BMW 801C-2 engine, having two 7.92mm (0.31in) MG17 machineguns above the engine and two 20mm MGFF cannon mounted in the wing roots, often augmented by two MG17 machineguns in the outer wing panels. The Fw190A-3 featured the 1,800hp BMW 801Dg engine and had the MGFF cannon moved to the outer wing panels, being replaced by faster-firing 20mm MG151 cannon in the wing roots. Sub-variants included the Fw190A-3/U1 and U3 close support aircraft and the U4 reconnaissance aircraft. The modifications usually involved the removal of the outer weapons and their replacement by either ETC500 bomb racks or Rb12 cameras. The first major operation the Fw190 was involved in, was protecting the warships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen as they sailed from Brest to the safety of North German ports. From 11.00 on 12 February 1942 when the ships were first spotted by RAF reconnaissance aircraft, they were covered by the BF109s from Jagdgeschwader 1 and 2, and the Fw190s from Jagdgeschwader 26. Fw190s from the latter unit destroyed six Swordfish torpedo bombers led by Lt Cdr E Esmonde who was later awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. Deliveries of the Fw190A-4 began in the summer of 1942 with this variant introducing the MW-50 water-methanol injection system that boosted the output of the BMW 801D-2 engine (on a temporary basis) to 2,100hp and raised the aircraft's maximum speed to 416mph (670kph) at 21,000ft (6,400m). The Fw190A-4/Trop was generally similar but adapted for use in the Mediterranean and North African theatres, using tropical filters to protect the engine. It also carried a single 551lbs (250kg) bomb under the fuselage. The Fw190A-4/R6 had the MW-50 removed but carried two under-wing 210mm (8.27in) WGr.21 rocket tubes. The Fw190A-4/U8 had its fixed armament reduced to two MG151 cannon but could mount a 1,102lbs (500kg) bomb and was given an extended range through the use of two sixty-six Imp gal (300-litre) drop tanks underneath the wings. Another major engagement was Operation Jubilee, the British and Canadian landing at Dieppe on 19 August 1942. Although the Luftwaffe's initial reaction was slow, by mid-morning Fw190s from JG 26 were engaging RAF fighters over the beaches and the fighter-bombers from 10/JG 2 and JG 26 were flying sorties against Allied landing craft. During the day, the RAF lost some 106 aircraft with JG 2 claiming fifty-nine and JG 26 claiming thirty-eight.

All the variants mentioned so far, still had a tendency to overheat in certain circumstances. This was overcome, starting with the Fw190A-5 that had a new engine mounting positioned six inches further forward. This variant was introduced in early 1943 and built in many sub-variants, including the Fw190A-5/U2 which was armed with two MG151/20 cannon, an ETC501 bomb rack, was able to carry 66 Imp gal (300 litres) drop tanks and was equipped with flame-damping equipment for night operations. The Fw190A-5/U3 was very similar but could carry a 1,102lbs (500kg) bomb under the fuselage and a 254lbs (115kg) bomb under each wing. The Fw190A-5/U4 was equipped with two Rb12 cameras for use in the reconnaissance role. Additional variants included the Fw190A-5/U6 and U8 which were optimised for ground attack, while the Fw190A-5/U11 carried 30mm MK103 cannon beneath each wing. The Fw190A-5/12 was heavily armed with a fixed armament of two MG151/20 cannon and two MG17 machineguns, supplemented by two WB151A pods, each containing a pair of MG151/20s. The Fw190A-5/U14 and U15 were torpedo bombers, able to carry a LT F5b or LT950 torpedo respectively, while the U16 carried a 30mm MK103 in the outboard wing position as fixed armament.

In June 1943, a new version was introduced, the Fw190A-6 (derived from the experimental Fw190A-5/U10) featuring a new redesigned, lightweight wing that could hold four 20mm MG151/20 cannon and was the forerunner of the Fw190A-6/R1 with its six 20mm MG151/20 cannons, the Fw190A-6/R2 with two 30mm MK108 cannon in the outer wing positions, the Fw190A-6/R3 that added an MK108 beneath each wing and the Fw109A-6/R6 variant which had a 210mm (8.27in) rocket tube beneath each wing. Following this, the Fw190A-7 had the 7.92mm (0.31in) MG17 machineguns replaced by 13mm (0.51in) MG131s, and while this aircraft appeared in December 1943, it was only produced in small numbers. It was followed however by the Fw190A-8 that was built in large numbers and featured a larger internal fuel capacity (increased by 25.3 Imp gal (115 litres)) and manufactured in variants that were similar to the Fw190A-6. Additional variants included the Fw190A-8/R7 with armour protection for the cockpit, the R11 which was an all-weather fighter with a heated canopy and PKS12 radio navigation equipment, the U1 which was a two-seat trainer (first flown on 23 January 1943) and the U3 which was part of the Fw190/Ta154 Mistel composite aircraft.

By this point in the war, experience had shown that the Fw190 had been a very effective aircraft when combat took place at or below 22,965ft (7000m) but above that altitude, the BMW 801s output started to suffer. A development programme was started to remedy this deficiency, beginning with the modification of three Fw190A-1s, the first of these being re-designated Fw190B-0 and given a wing with increased area, a pressurised cockpit and a GM-1 water-methanol injection system was added to the BMW 801D-2 engine. The other two (designated B-1 and B-2) had a standard wing and were armed with two MG17 machineguns and two MG151/20 cannon. This was followed by the Fw190C, a small number having 1,750hp Daimler-Benz DB 603 engines with Hirth 9-2281 turbochargers in large ventral fairings which gave rise to the nickname of 'Kanguruh'. Extensive flight testing proved that the turbochargers were unreliable and so the programme was abandoned in favour of the Fw190D series which commenced in late 1943 when several Fw190A-7 aircraft were modified by the installation of Junkers Jumo 213A engines to create the Fw190D-0 prototypes. Using this engine necessitated the use of a 1ft 7.75in (0.5m) rear fuselage plug to compensate for a 2ft (0.6m) lengthening of the nose – the fin was increased in area as well. All this translated into the Fw190D-9 production aircraft, which was known as the 'long nose 190' or the 'Dora 9'. It had two wing-mounted MG151/20 cannon and two MG131 machineguns above the engine, as well as MW50 water-methanol injection system to boost the engine's output temporarily to 2,240hp and the ability to carry a 66 Imp gal (300-litre) drop tank or 551lbs (250kg) bomb under each wing. Later aircraft had bubble canopies, introduced with the Fw190F series. Two Fw190D-9 airframes were converted to the D-10 standard by installing the Jumo 213C which allowed a 30mm cannon to fire through the propeller shaft and spinner replacing the two MG131 machineguns but it didn't go into production. This was the fate of the D-11 variant, which had a total of seven prototypes built with Jumo 213F engines, two MG151/20 cannon in the wing roots and two MK108 cannon in the outer wing panels. Final variants of this remarkable aircraft included the Fw190D-12 which was a ground attack aircraft fitted with additional armour around the engine, was armed with two MG151/20 in the wings and a single MK108 cannon firing through the propeller shaft, while the D-13 had a MG151/20 replacing the MK108.

The introduction of the Fw190D-9 provided the Luftwaffe with a fighter aircraft that was regarded by many pilots to be superior to any other the Luftwaffe fielded but by the time the aircraft had been introduced in large numbers, it was early 1945 and the shortage of aviation fuel was limiting its deployment. The Fw190D had however, been preceded into service by the Fw190F-1, a specialised ground attack version that was introduced in early 1943. It was generally similar to the Fw190A-4 but had additional armour around the cockpit and engine, the 20mm cannon in the outer wing panels deleted and an ETC501 bomb rack underneath the fuselage. In the same way, the Fw190F-2 was related to the Fw190A-5 but had a bubble canopy, while the Fw190F-3 followed the Fw190A-6 in being able to carry a 66 Imp gal (300-litre) drop tank or a 551lbs (250kg) bomb beneath the fuselage, with sub-variants R1 and R3 that had four ETC50 bomb racks under the wings or two 30mm MK103 cannon in a similar position. The Fw190F-8 was based on the Fw190A-8 with two 13mm (0.51in) MG131 machineguns above the engine and four ETC50 under-wing bomb racks and had the sub-variants U2 and U3 that had the TSA bomb sight for the anti-shipping role and were armed with either 1,543lbs (700kg) or 3,086lbs (1400kg) BT1400 weapon respectively. The Fw190F-9 was introduced in mid-1944 and represented the last of the F series – it was in fact an alternate version of the F-8 powered by the BMW 801TS/TH engine. The final production series was the Fw190G and was designed as a specialised ground attack aircraft. The Fw190G-1 was derived from the Fw190A-5 but carried a 3,968lbs (1,800kg) bomb which meant the introduction of strengthened landing gear, the wing armament was reduced to two MG151/20 cannon and the Junkers-designed wing racks held two 66 Imp gal (300-litre) drop tanks. The G-2 and G-3 versions were essentially the same but carried Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf designed wing racks respectively. The final production variant of all was the Fw190G-8 which incorporated the modifications introduced in the A-8 and was powered by a 1,800hp BMW 801D-2 engine.

No accurate production figures exist for the Fw190 but it is estimated that over 19,500 were built by Focke-Wulf in their facilities at Tutow/Mecklenberg, Marienburg, Cottbus, Sorau/Silesia, Newbrandenburg and Schwerin, as well as by Ago at Oschersleben, Arado at Brandenburg and Warnemunde, Fieseler at Kassel, Dornier at Wismar and by Weserflugzeugbau. The Fw 190 was possibly the most advanced fighter operated by any nation at the time of its introduction into service during the autumn of 1941 and continued development enabled to hold its own until the surrender of Germany in May 1945.

Bibliography

Fw190 Webpage at http://www.world-war-2-planes.com/fw_190.html, active as of 6 August 2007.
Gunston, Bill. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Combat Aircraft of World War II, Salamander, London, 1978.
Kay, A L & Smith, J R. German Aircraft of the Second World War, Putnam Aeronautical Books, London, 2002.
Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II, Bounty Books, London, 2006.

Photos courtesy of:
http://www.flugwerk.de/diary.shtm
http://www.world-war-2-planes.com/fw_190.html
http://www.warbirdsresourcegroup.org/LRG/fw190.html

Luftwaffe Mistel Composite Bomber Units, Robert Forsyth . Starts with a brief look at the pre-war origins of the idea of guiding one aircraft from another one mounted above it, before moving on to the German development of this into a potentially potent weapon, and finishing with a detailed account of the very limited impact the Mistel weapons actually had in combat (so typical of German wartime weapons programmes). [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Antill, P. (9 August 2007), Focke-Wulf Fw 190, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_fw_190.html

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