Focke-Wulf Ta 152 Armament
As the Ta 152 was intended to kill enemy bombers, she would require a heavy "punch" in the armament department. As such, armament centered around a 30mm Mk 108 series cannon mounted in the propeller hub and set up to fire through the center of the spinning propeller. This was further backed by a pair of 20mm MG 151/20 cannons, one mounted at each wing leading edge and located at the wing roots. This complement of armament ensured that the Ta 152 pilot need only a quick burst of all cannon against a critical component of an enemy bomber (the cockpit or engines for example) and the target would be knocked out of the fight or outright destroyed.
Focke-Wulf Ta 152 Operational Service
With the deteriorating war effort across the German realm, the Ta 152 was pressed into production and operational service as quickly as humanly possible. Of course this lent itself poorly to the Ta 152 project as a whole for numerous vital issues in her design soon arose - the complicated engine setup and cooling system proved generally unreliable and the pressurized cockpit was not always pressurized due to leaks in the seal. Nevertheless, a desperate Luftwaffe took delivery of at least 20 pre-production models in November of 1944 with Erprobungskommando for operational evaluation. III./Jagdgeschwader 301 was changed over to Ta 152s in January of 1945 (the only Luftwaffe squadron to field the Ta 152) but only operated them in limited quantities and with limited success, generally charged with protection of air bases for the developing jet fighters. JG 301 proved to be one of the last top-flight Luftwaffe squadrons to be fielded and was comprised of the advanced Ta 152 along with a collection of aces to include Walter Loos, Joseph "Jupp" Keil and Willi Reschke.
Many factors ultimately worked against Ta 152 and her pilots, with combat proving elusive for a time. In one such instance, a Ta 152 flown by Reschke was forced to abandon pursuit of a twin-engine Royal Air Force de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito when engine trouble took the Ta 152 out of the fight. Further action did net at least one speedy New Zealand Hawker Tempest fighter for Reschke at a later date, however, and Ta 152s were used in a support role during the critical Battle for Berlin against invading Soviet forces, where Reschke downed a pair of Soviet Yak-9 fighters in the process. Keil is credited with the downing of a North American P-51 Mustang and a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and at least three other kills while flying a Ta 152 - though some sources limit Keil's tally to just four aircraft while flying the Ta 152.
It is believed that, in all, Ta 152 airmen amassed a fairly meager amount of total aerial victories (sources vary but range between 7 and 10 enemy aircraft) to the loss of four of their own. By the time of Germany's formal surrender, just two Ta 152 examples were known to be operational. Spare parts, trained pilots and fuel/oil supplies proved a hard commodity to come by as Allied forces gained ground, conquered airfields, covered key bridges and owned vital supply routes. It is said that Ta 152 airmen barely received 20 minutes of flight time in a Ta 152 before being pressed into active service with their new mounts - hardly a recipe for success but such was the situation for the Luftwaffe.
Focke-Wulf Ta 152 Variants
The Ta 152 was produced in a few versions of note - prototypes included. This began with the Ta 152 C-0 pre-production model of which only a single example was built. This model was fitted with a Daimler-Benz DB503LA engine of 2,100 horsepower. The Ta 152 C-1 followed and sported a 30mm engine-mounted cannon with 4 x 20mm cannons - one pair in the engine cowling and the other in the wing roots. The Ta 152 C-2 was given improved radio equipment. The Ta 152 C-3 was similar to the C-1. The Ta 152 E-1 was a dedicated photographic reconnaissance platform based on the Ta 152C production fighter model. The Ta 152 E-2 was a high-altitude variant fitted with a Junkers Jumo 213E series engine and longer wingspan for high-level work. In the end, only a single product was completed. The Ta 152 H-0 model appeared in twenty pre-production forms featuring the high-altitude long wing. The Ta 152 H-1 remained the only official production model of the Ta 152 family. Again, this model was given the high-altitude long wings and armament consisted of the centralized 30mm cannon with only 2 x 20mm cannons.
The Japanese Ta 152
Like other German creations throughout the war, ally Japan was keen on obtaining the latest and greatest military arms that the Germans had to offer to better their own deteriorating situation in the Pacific. In April of 1945, the Empire purchased a production license to undertake the new Kurt Tank fighter on Japanese soil. However, no known production of a Japanese Ta 152 is thought to have occurred for the war was over for Germany in May of 1945 and Japan soon followed in August. As such, Germany remained the only real active operator of the Ta 152 during the whole of the aircraft's tenure.
The Focke-Wulf Ta 152 Today
Amazingly, a single Ta 152 survived the military purge in post-war Germany and currently resides in the backrooms of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. awaiting restoration. It is believed that this particular catch is a Ta 152 H-0 model.