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Focke-Wulf Fw 200 (Condor) Long-Range Maritime Reconnaissance / Bomber (1938)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 7/9/2012

The Fw 200 was the lesser-known of the German World War 2 bombers, relegated to maritime anti-shipping duty and VIP transport.

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The German Fw 200 Condor was initially a trans-Atlantic passenger and cargo (mail) aircraft developed by Focke-Wulf and legendary designer Kurt Tank in 1936. Early prototypes were fitted with the Pratt & Whitney Hornet radial piston engines generating 750hp each. Subsequent wartime powerplants reverted to native BMW-series radials including the BMW 132G-1 and the BMW 132H. The trans-Atlantic passenger models were equipped to carry 26 flyers in two separate cabins. Fw 200A passenger models were delivered to the airliner Lufthansa along with air carriers in Brazil and Denmark for evaluation for commercial purposes.

With the advent of war, the Fw 200 Condor series was utilized as a successful maritime reconnaissance bomber and VIP transport (Hitler and Himmler were both reported users of the Fw 200 for this purpose). Excelling in disruption of Allied shipping lanes throughout the Atlantic and the Arctic, the Fw 200 Condor was fitted with anti-shipping armaments including anti-ship mines. Later variants, the Fw 200C-6 and 200C-8 would be fitted with the Henschel Hs 293 anti-ship guided missile controlled by an integrated missile control radio onboard.

Early models featured accommodations for five crewmen whilst later ones saw that increased to seven. Armament was standard for the most part (with exceptions made on later models) and featured a variety of 7.92mm machine guns and 13mm guns along with a 20mm cannon. Internal bomb load capacity was roughly 4,600lbs. An engineering defect in the aft fuselage tail section (the structural shortcomings contributed to many accidents) kept the Condor from reaching the legendary status like that of the Battle of Britain veterans - the Dornier Do 17 and the Heinkel He 111 (both detailed elsewhere on this site). Thusly the system was relegated it to the supplementary roles mentioned above.

In the end, production totals are reported to have been between 250 and 275 total aircraft. The addition of the Hs 293 missile system was a step towards the more advanced guided variants we see in today's bombers. Nevertheless, and despite its shortcomings, the Fw 200 Condor found its niche in the Second World War as a successful maritime reconnaissance aircraft for the Third Reich. Incidentaly, a C-series protoype was ordered by Japan but never delivered.

ADDENDUM:
A recent email alerted us to a little known fact that Britain acquired a sole Fw 200 Condor and nearly used it in action. The email - which we'll keep anonymous - reads as follows:

Gentlemen,

In passing, the UK immediately prior to WW2, had acquired a single FW 200 by 'back door' methods (dont ask!). One operation was planned using it, to land Commandos at Merignac airfield in occupied France, and destroy those identical German [aircraft] on the ground. The planning group did their planning work 'down the tunnel' at Maidstone in Kent. The plan involved a German Condor outbound from Norway being shot down by a flight of Spitfires specially based in the extreme north of the Shetland Islands, at an airstrip called Baltasound.

The plan was aborted when near to 'go ahead', as the recovery of the Commandos at the end of the [operation] was seen as far too problematical.

Authority: My Father, an R.A.F. S/Ldr., who was on the planning team.

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Specifications for the
Focke-Wulf Fw 200 (Condor)
Long-Range Maritime Reconnaissance / Bomber


Focus Model: Focke-Wulf Fw 200C-3 (Condor)
Country of Origin: Nazi Germany
Manufacturer: Focke-Wulf - Germany
Initial Year of Service: 1938
Production: 275


Crew: 7


Length: 78.25 ft (23.85 m)
Width: 107.74 ft (32.84 m)
Height: 20.67ft (6.30 m)
Weight (Empty): 37,479 lb (17,000 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 50,045 lb (22,700 kg)


Powerplant: 4 x BMW Bramo 323 R-2 Fafnir air-cooled radial engines generating 1,200hp each.


Maximum Speed: 224 mph (360kmh; 194 kts)
Maximum Range: 2,212 miles (3,560km)
Service Ceiling: 19,685 ft (6,000 m; 3.7 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet-per-minute (0 m/min)


Hardpoints: 2 (some models)
Armament Suite:
1 x 7.92mm machine gun in forward dorsal turret
1 x 7.92mm machine gun in aft ventral position
1 x 13mm gun in rear dorsal position
2 x 13mm guns in beam position
1 x 20mm cannon in forward position of ventral gondola

C-6 / C-8 Models:
2 x Henschel Hs 293 anti-ship guided missiles

Maximum bombload of 4,630lbs (2,100kg)


Variants:
Fw 200 V1 - Initial Prototype Model Designation


Fw 200 V10 - Militarized Prototype designation of Fw 200.

Fw 200 A-0 - Pre-Production Models consisting of fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eigth and ninth prototype examples.

Fw 200 B-1 - Transportation Model; fitted with 4 x BMW 132Dc series engines.

Fw 200 B-2 - Transportation Model; fitted with 4 x BMW 132H series engines.

Fw 200 C-0 - Pre-Production Maritime Reconnaissance Models of which 10 were produced (6 maritime reconnaissance and 4 transport versions).

Fw 200 C-1 - Production Reconnaissance Bomber Model featuring accommodation for five-person crew; Powered by 4 x BMW 132H 830hp (ea) engines; 1 x 20mm cannon in nose assembly with 3 x 7.92mm machine guns elsewhere.

Fw 200 C-2 - Aerodynamically Refined Variant.

Fw 200 C-3 - Featuring Bramo 323R-2 radial piston engines generating 1,000hp each; Improved airframe structure; Improved offensive and defensive armaments; Four sub-variants.

Fw 200 C-3/U1 - Fitted with 1 x 15mm MG 151 machine gun in dorsal turret; 1 x 20mm MG 151/20 cannon in place of 1 x 13mm MG 131 machine gun.

Fw 200 C-3/U2 - Fitted with 1 x 13mm MG 131 machine gun; Lotfe 7D bombsight.

Fw 200 C-4 - Radar implemented sub-variant of C-3 model; 11 and 14-seat passenger derivatives of this model were produced.

Fw 200C-6 - Provisions for Henschel HS 293 anti-ship missiles; Fitted with FuG 203b missile control radar system; Based on C-3 model.

Fw 200C-8 - Provisions for Henschel HS 293 missiles; Fitted with FuG 203b missile control radar system; Improved radar system.


Operators:
Nazi Germany; Brazil; Denmark; United Kingdom; Soviet Union; Spain