Focke-Wulf Fw 200 (Condor) Long-Range Maritime Reconnaissance Bomber
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.
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:
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.