Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Fighter

The WW2 German Lufftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190 was a favorite of schoolboys. They could say the F word without swearing which they thought was great fun. On a more serious note this sleek powerful single-seat, single-radial engine killing machine was designed by Kurt Tank in the late 1930s. The Focke Wulf FW190 fighter was deployed as an air superiority fighter, strike fighter, ground-attack aircraft, and in a limited roll as a night fighter.

It was introduced in August 1941 so the FW-190 was too late for the battle of Britain. It out classed the RAF Hawker Hurricane and gave a nasty shock to the Supermarine Spitfire Mk V pilots who were used to fighting the less powerful German fighter the Messerschmitt ME 109. It provided increased firepower and maneuverability at low to medium altitude. Later models, especially the FW190D were modified to make Focke-Wulf perform effectively at high altitude. The Allied designers were forced to go back and make changes to their aircraft so they could out fight this dangerous newcomer. It was the Tiger Tank of the air. It produced the same fear.

Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Fighter

Photograph taken at the RAF Museum, Hendon, London NW9 5LL England

It was only in July 1942 when the RAF introduced the vastly improved Spitfire Mk. IX in with a Rolls Royce Griffon rather than the original Rolls Royce Merlin engine that Spitfires could take on Focke-Wulff 190s with a prospect of winning an aerial dogfight. The Fw 190 was well-liked by its pilots. Some of the Luftwaffe's most successful fighter aces flew the Fw 190. These included Erich Rudorffer with 222 allied aircraft shot down, Walter Nowotny with 258 victories, and Otto Kittel with 267 victories. In spite of the Focke-Wulf's great success, it did not entirely replace the Bf 109.

The Focke-Wulff 190 story starts way back in the Autumn of 1937. The Messerschmitt ME 109 had proved a very successful fighter in the Spanish Civil war but with an eye on the future the German Reich Air Ministry (Reichsluftfahrtministerium) instructed a number of designers to construct a prototype for a superior fighter. The Focke-Wulff 190ís designer Kurt Tank went against the perceived wisdom that the planes nose had to be aerodynamic to be fast. He had noted the success of the large radial engines of the US Navy aircraft so decided to incorporate a large radial engine in a streamlined housing his design. In WW1 radial engines were exposed to the elements to keep them cool. Kurt added a hole in the front of an oversized propeller spinner allowing the small opening to create sufficient cooling airflow coupled with a large cooling fan.

Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Fighter cockpit

Photograph taken at the RAF Museum, Hendon, London NW9 5LL England

Kurt Tank also considered the operating wartime conditions in which this aircraft would be used. He realised he needed to design a fighter that could be flown from ill-prepared front-line airfields and maintained by ground-crew who had only received a few weeks training. It also needed to be strong enough to absorb a reasonable amount of battle damage. The ability of the pilot to see targets and threats is of paramount importance to a fighter pilot for succeeding in his mission and surviving. The new bubble cockpit canopy was a great improvement on the enclosed Messerschmitt canopy. It had to be a workhorse rather than a delicate racing thoroughbred like the Messerschmitt ME 109 or Supermarine Spitfire. Another important benefit of choosing a different type of engine was that it would not put extra demand or disrupt the production of the Messerschmitt Bf109's Daimler-Benz aviation engine.

The first version of the Focke-Wulf FW190 issued to the Luftwaffe Jagdgeschwader squadrons was the FW190A. It was plague by engine overheating problems. The engine was a BMW 801. it was armed with two fuselage-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s machine guns, two wingroot-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s and two outboard wing-mounted 20 mm drum-fed, aircraft autocannon MG FF/Ms. This aircraft could certainly cause a lot of damage if you got within it's gun sights.

Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Fighter nose section

Photograph taken at the RAF Museum, Hendon, London NW9 5LL England

The Fw 190A-2 variant appeared in October 1941. Extra side vents in the cowling were added as well as a better fan. These changes resolved the engine problems. The Fw 190A-3/U3 Jabo (Jagdbomber) was kitted out with an ETC-501 centre-line bomb rack able to carry up to 500 kg (1,100 lb) bombs or, with horizontal stabilising bars, one 300 L (80 US gal) drop tank. This Focke-Wulff kept the fuselage-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 inch) machine gun and the wing-mounted 20 mm cannons. The Outer wing machine gun was removed.

Fw 190 A-4/R6 were outfitted with underwing WGr 21 rocket mortars. The A-5/U8 was another Jabo-Rei outfitted with SC-250 centre-line mounted bombs, underwing 300-litre drop tanks and only two MG 151s; it later became the Fw 190 G-2. A special U12 was created to fight American and British bombers, outfitted with the standard 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 and 20 mm MG 151 but replacing the outer-wing 20 mm MG-FF cannons by two underwing gun pods containing two 20 mm MG 151/20 each, for a total of two machine guns and six cannons. The A-5/U12 was the prototype installation of what was known as the R1 package from the A-6 onwards. The A-5/R11 was a night-fighter conversion fitted with FuG 217 Neptun (Neptune) radar equipment with arrays of three dipole antenna elements vertically mounted fore and aft of the cockpit and above and below the wings. Flame dampening boxes were fitted over the exhaust exits. There were 1,752 A-5s built from November 1942 to June 1943.

Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Fighter nose section

Photograph taken at the RAF Museum, Hendon, London NW9 5LL England

Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau was a German company established before World War two who produced civil and military aircraft. It had no connection with the WW1 German Fokker fighter and bombers. Henrich Focke was born in Bremen in Northern Germany 8th October 1890. He became friends with Georg Wulf. In 1923 they both founded the Focke-Wulf-Flugzeugbau GmbH company. Wulf died in an aviation accident in 1927 in a F19 "Ente" canard monoplane. The new Nazi regime considered Henrich Focke as "politically unreliable" and got the board of directors to force him out. In 1931 engineer and test pilot Kurt Tank joined the company and designed the FW190.

Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Fighter markings

Photograph taken at the RAF Museum, Hendon, London NW9 5LL England

Focke-Wulf Fw 190 books


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