Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (Wurger) Single-Seat Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft
The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter is regarded by many to be the best German fighter aircraft of World War 2.
Authored By Dan Alex; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
While the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter/fighter-bomber became the iconic German fighter of World War 2 (1939-1945), the Luftwaffe fielded a potent "one-two" punch that included the classic Focke-Wulf Fw 190 "Wurger" ("Shrike") aircraft making up the second component of this aerial lethality. The Fw 190 is regarded by most observers as the finest of the German fighters featured in the whole of the war as it was used to finally wrestle the mantle of air superiority from the famous British Supermarine Spitfire V mark which held firm for short time. The Fw 190 saw production reach over 20,000 aircraft by war's end - several hundred short of total Spitfire production while several thousand ahead of the equally famous North American P-51 "Mustang"
With such available numbers, the Fw 190 was featured in a myriad of battlefield variants to fulfill a variety of roles - from fighter/fighter-bomber and general bomber interception to ground attack and torpedo bombing. First flight of the series occurred on June 1st, 1939 just months before the official start of World War 2 (September 1st). Introduction followed in August of 1941 with a combat debut arriving in 1942. While German Luftwaffe examples managed an operational existence only to the end of the war in 1945, the Turkish Air Force - recipients of some Fw 190s from Germany during the conflict - flew their stock until 1949.
Despite the short operational tenure, Fw 190s left an undeniable impression on observers during and after the war. Indeed even famed American aviator and aviation pioneer Chuck Yeager remarked on how the Fw 190 was the only aircraft to match the P-51D Mustang following post-war flying of the German design. The evolution of the Fw 190 also forced the British to continually evolve their own Spitfires
which ultimately produced the Spitfire IX mark capable of matching the latest Fw 190s.
Origins of the Fw 190 come from a 1937 German Air Ministry endeavor to couple their new Bf 109 fighters with an interception-minded form. Kurt Tank (1898-1983) from the Focke-Wulf concern had become convinced of the merits of a well-streamlined fighter fitting a radial-piston engine to compete with any then-known inline engined fighter types - including Germany's own Bf 109
. Additionally, radial aircraft offered more simplicity in manufacture and operation when compared to the complexity required of the liquid-cooling function of inline engine fighters. Additionally, there was an understanding that two frontline fighters would be competing for a single stock of Daimler-Benz DB601 inline engines so selection of a radial engine for the new Focke-Wulf fighter would be radial in nature, bypassing any powerplant competition with the Messerschmitt product.
The Fw 190 In Action
First combat actions involving Fw 190s were in February of 1942 when the nimble little fighters were called to cover the retreats of several prominent German naval warships escaping to friendly ports for self-preservation. Attacking British torpedo bombers were dealt with swiftly as they attempted to damage and sink the German vessels which brought a taste of the firepower and capabilities inherent in the new German design. Fw 190s proved highly agile and fast, capable of tangling with all known Allied fighter types of the period. In August of 1942, the Fw 190 was used in anger against invading Allied forces during the Dieppe Landings that proved a disastrous endeavor for the enemy - ninety-seven RAF aircraft were claimed in the operation with Fw 190s playing their part to perfection.
As the war moved on, the Fw 190 was in constant contact with incoming streams of enemy bombers and for this armament was improved by way of more cannons and support for underwing rockets. Only when Allied fighter escorts were given added range did a floating defense network follow the formations to and from targets deep within German-held territories. Bomb racks were eventually fitted to the Fw 190 airframe both under the fuselage and under the wings to broaden the fighter line into a fighter-bomber form suitable for attacking ground targets.
By the end of the war, fighter airfields were pressed further towards Berlin which forced the Fw 190 more and more into the ground attack/support role as German air supremacy dwindled into the final days. Regardless, beleaguered German aircrews fought on with their Fw 190s despite mounting losses and the arrival of the jet fighter. The Allied bombing campaign ultimately served to sever numbers of Fw 190s available en mass and pilot attrition only made a bad situation for Germany worse. In the end, the fighter had played its role and was eventually undone along several fronts beyond its control - though its end only came through the formal surrender of Germany itself.
Production totals benefitted the Fw 190 line as a whole and the type saw service on all the fronts that the German military committed to. Despite the availability and general excellence of the competing Bf 109, pilots tended to score their Fw 190s higher between the two German fighters - such was the respect given the product. Fw 190s fought in the Mediterranean, Eastern, and Western theaters during their war time tenure which went generally undetected by the Allies for a greater part of 1941 and 1942. This all changed when a German pilot mistakenly landed his Fw 190 at an English airfield - providing the needed bounty of information for the Allies as examination and study of the new German fighter ensued. The Allies would now understand what they were up against and work feverishly to counter it.
Fw 190 Walk-Around
During the aircraft's design phase, German engineers elected for a rather unique, though essentially conventional, design form when it came to the Fw 190 product. The radial piston engine was encased in a tubular forward section of the aircraft as normal while the cockpit was installed just aft. The position of the cockpit was such that vision was generally relatively poor in early-form Fw 190s due to the high instrument panel ahead, raised fuselage spine aft, and the location of the wing mainplanes underneath. The empennage was conventional through a single, small-area vertical tail fin and low-mounted horizontal planes. The wing mainplanes were situated well-forward of amidships and of a straight design with clipped wing tips. The undercarriage was of the typical tail-dragger arrangement with the main legs retracting under the wings. Ground running was something of a challenge for greenhorn pilots due to cockpit vision but the wide track of the main legs aided this somewhat. The engine drove a three-bladed propeller assembly at front capped by a large spinner at center. Compared with the competing Bf 109, the Fw 190 was a decidedly different approach to the German fighter need.
Variants - The Protoypes
The Fw 190 series began with the "BMW 139" prototypes in the Fw 190 V1 and the Fw 190 V2. The pair featured the BMW 139 14-cylinder, twin-row radial piston engine of 1,529 horsepower in a streamlined engine cowling with V1 making its maiden flight on June 1st, 1939. V2 followed on October 31st, 1939 and featured a new spinner assembly with new cooling fan. This pilot model was armed with 2 x 7.92mm MG 17 machine gun and 2 x 13mm MG 131 machine gun at the wing roots (synchronized as they fell within the arc of the spinning propeller blades). While planned, prototypes V3 and V4 were ultimately abandoned ventures.
Prototype Fw 190 V5 appeared with the new BMW 801 14-cylinder, twin-row radial piston engine offering more power. An engine management system was also installed in the cockpit, one of the earliest uses of such a feature in a combat aircraft and it helped manage engine boosting and propeller pitch as required. The Fw 190 V5k offered a shortened wing span and first flew in early 1940 but reflected that the new wings - coupled with the stated V5 additions - made for a poorer-handling fighter than initially envisioned. This led to the Fw 190 V5g prototype which included lengthened wings providing increased agility than the preceding V5k but becoming slightly slower overall. The design's wings were officially adopted for the upcoming production Fw 190A fighters.
Fw 190A Models
The A-model series began with the pre-production Fw 190A-0 model of 1940. Nine of these early-batch aircraft still featured the "small wing" approach of the V5k as finalization on the long wing models was still ongoing. Standardized armament became 6 x 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns with two installed at the engine cowling, two in the wing roots and two in the wings proper. Of the six, the cowling and wing root machine guns were synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades - the outboard wing guns sitting just outside of the propeller arc. 28 total aircraft of this mark were eventually completed.
Come June of 1941, the Fw 190A-1 model series was introduced and these aircraft fitted BMW 801 C-1 series radial engines of 1,560 horsepower. Armament was varied slightly in this mark as the two outboard MG 17 machine guns were replaced by 2 x20mm MG FF/M cannons. The Fw 190A-2 followed in June of 1942 with the BMW 801 C-2 series radial engine and changes included the wing root machine guns being replaced by 2 x 20mm MG 151/20E cannons.
The Fw 190A-3 included several subvariants to its name. A-3 models introduced the BMW 801 D-2 radial engine of 1,677 horsepower while fielding the same machine gun/cannon armament as the A-2 models. Subvariants of the mark included the Fw 190A-3/U1 with lengthened engine mounting, the U2 variant with provisions for underwing rocket-launching rails, the U3 in a fighter-bomber form (centerline, up to 1,100lbs of ordnance), and the U4 reconnaissance-minded Fw 190. The U3 included the standard armament seen in prior Fw 190 models but lost its outboard MG FF cannons. For the U4 reconnaissance variant, 2 x RB 12.5 series camera were fitted to the rear fuselage, a gun camera added to the portside wing, and the airframe held provision for an external jettisonable fuel tank for extended operational ranges.
Fw 190A-3a were seventy-two aircraft delivered to the Turkish Air Force to help woo the country into supporting the Axis powers. Turkey eventually maintained a neutral position for most of the war before committing in the final months to the Allied side. The aircraft began arriving in the Turkish inventory during October of 1942.