Focke-Wulf Fw 57 - Nazi Germany, 1936
Detailing the development and operational history of the Focke-Wulf Fw 57 Prototype Fighter-Bomber.
Entry last updated on 12/17/2013; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The Focke-Wulf Fw 57 was being developed as a fighter-bomber for Germany prior to World War 2 - only three prototypes emerged.
The Focke-Wulf Fw 57 was born during a period of military aviation history when the enemy bomber required a direct counter in the form of the heavy fighter. For the German Luftwaffe, these designs existed under the "Zerstorer" ("Destroyer") label which included the like of the more famous Messerschmitt Bf 110. The Fw 57 was actually in competition with the Bf 110 through a new Reich Air Ministry (RLM) specification calling for a bomber destroyer. The requirement appeared in 1934 and put three designs in the lead from Focke-Wulf, Messerschmitt and Henschel as the Fw 57, Bf 110 and Hs 124 respectively. The Bf 110 eventually won out to become the bomber destroyer of choice and led a lengthy service career throughout World War 2 - though outmoded by war's end. The Fw 57 failed in its attempt due to its weight and handling characteristics. As a bomber destroyer, the type was to exhibit fighter-like qualities to content with enemy fighter types of the day while carry armament suitable for downing larger enemy bombers. A bomb-carrying capacity was also assumed for light bombing sorties. While the Bf 100 managed a strong production run of 6,170 aircraft, the Fw 57 was constructed in just three prototype examples. The Hs 124 fared worse with two prototypes completed and ultimately lost to history.
At its core, the Fw 57 was a large, twin-engined aircraft. It featured a crew of three to include the pilot, navigator and dedicated machine gunner. The fuselage exhibited a running length of 54 feet with a wingspan of 82 feet and height of 13.4 feet. Empty weight was listed at 15,000lbs with a loaded weight nearing 18,300lbs. The fuselage was a stepped, smoothly contoured shape, tapered in a teardrop shape to the single-finned empennage (with its requisite horizontal tailplanes). Heavy framing was used throughout the cockpit which sat the three crew inline. The main wings were low-mounted along the fuselage sides with each engine nacelle at the wing leading edge. Power was served through 2 x Daimler-Benz DB 600A series inverted V12 engines developing 910 horsepower each and driving three-bladed metal propellers. This allowed the aircraft a top spe3ed of 250 miles per hour with a cruising speed closer to 230 miles per hour. Its service ceiling was 29,900 feet. Construction incorporated metal skin which proved a departure from the age of canvas-over-wood designs.
Armament was at the heart of the design. Two 20mm MG FF series cannons were installed in the nose assembly and controlled by the pilot. A single 20mm MG FF cannon was installed in an electrically-powered turret provided by the Mauser concern. The use of a powered turret was something lacking from most Luftwaffe aircraft during World War 2 so this was certainly a unique design quality of the Fw 57. The turret made up the third crewman position. In addition to its conventional standard armament, the Fw 57 was cleared to carry 6 x 220lb drop bombs in the bombing role. All told, the Fw 57 held the capability to tangle with both fighters and bombers while also supporting ground offensives.
On paper, the Fw 57 was a sound aeroplane though during its testing phase it proved the opposite. Despite the power generated from its twin engines, the aircraft proved heavy and sluggish and was well-beaten by its competitors. At least three prototypes - designated in the usual German V1, V2 and V3 markings - were completed and used into 1936. The Luftwaffe eventually settled on the more promising Bf 110 submission which left the Fw 57 and Hs 124 out in the cold. Both of these programs were eventually abandoned by their respective companies.