|Fw 190A-3 of Stab. 7./JG2, June 1942[a]|
|First flight||1 June 1939|
|Produced||1941–1945 (65 produced post-War for French Air Force)|
|Number built||Over 20,000|
|Developed into||Focke-Wulf Ta 152|
The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (nicknamed Würger;[b] English: Shrike) is a German single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank at Focke-Wulf in the late 1930s and widely used during World War II. Along with its well-known counterpart, the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Fw 190 became the backbone of the Jagdwaffe (Fighter Force) of the Luftwaffe. The twin-row BMW 801 radial engine that powered most operational versions enabled the Fw 190 to lift larger loads than the Bf 109, allowing its use as a day fighter, fighter-bomber, ground-attack aircraft and to a lesser degree, night fighter.
The Fw 190A started flying operationally over France in August 1941 and quickly proved superior in all but turn radius to the Spitfire Mk. V, the main front-line fighter of the Royal Air Force (RAF), particularly at low and medium altitudes. The 190 maintained superiority over Allied fighters until the introduction of the improved Spitfire Mk. IX. In November/December 1942, the Fw 190 made its air combat debut on the Eastern Front, finding much success in fighter wings and specialised ground attack units (Schlachtgeschwader – Battle Wings or Strike Wings) from October 1943.
The Fw 190A series' performance decreased at high altitudes (usually 6,000 m (20,000 ft) and above), which reduced its effectiveness as a high-altitude interceptor. From the Fw 190's inception, there had been ongoing efforts to address this with a turbosupercharged BMW 801 in the B model, the much longer-nosed C model with efforts to also turbocharge its chosen Daimler-Benz DB 603 inverted V12 powerplant, and the similarly long-nosed D model with the Junkers Jumo 213. Problems with the turbocharger installations on the -B and -C subtypes meant only the D model entered service in September 1944. These high-altitude developments eventually led to the Focke-Wulf Ta 152, which was capable of extreme speeds at medium to high altitudes (755 km/h (408 kn; 469 mph) at 13,500 m (44,300 ft)). While these "long nose" 190 variants and the Ta 152 derivative especially gave the Germans parity with Allied opponents, they arrived too late to affect the outcome of the war.
The Fw 190 was well-liked by its pilots. Some of the Luftwaffe's most successful fighter aces claimed many of their kills while flying it, including Otto Kittel, Walter Nowotny and Erich Rudorffer. The Fw 190 had greater firepower than the Bf 109 and, at low to medium altitude, superior manoeuvrability, in the opinion of German pilots who flew both fighters. It was regarded as one of the best fighter planes of World War II.
Between 1934 and 1935 the German Ministry of Aviation (RLM) ran a contest to produce a modern fighter for the rearming Luftwaffe. Kurt Tank entered the parasol-winged Fw 159 into the contest, against the Arado Ar 80, Heinkel He 112 and Messerschmitt Bf 109. The Fw 159 was hopelessly outclassed and was soon eliminated from the competition along with the Ar 80. The He 112 and Bf 109 were generally similar in design but the 109's lightweight construction gave it a performance edge the 112 was never able to match. On March 12, 1936, the 109 was declared the winner.
Even before the Bf 109 had entered squadron service, in autumn 1937 the RLM sent out a new tender asking various designers for a new fighter to fight alongside the Bf 109, as Walter Günther had done with his firm's follow-on to the unsuccessful He 100 and He 112. Although the Bf 109 was an extremely competitive fighter, the Ministry was worried that future foreign designs might outclass it, and wanted to have new aircraft under development to meet these possible challenges. Tank responded with a number of designs, most powered by a liquid-cooled inline engine.
However, it was not until a design was presented using the air-cooled, 14-cylinder BMW 139 radial engine that the Ministry of Aviation's interest was aroused. As this design used a radial engine, it would not compete with the inline-powered Bf 109 for engines, when there were already too few Daimler-Benz DB 601s to go around. This was not the case for competing designs like the Heinkel He 100 or twin-engined Focke-Wulf Fw 187, where production would compete with the 109 and Messerschmitt Bf 110 for engine supplies. After the war, Tank denied a rumour that he had to "fight a battle" with the Ministry to convince them of the radial engine's merits.
At the time, the use of radial engines in land-based fighters was relatively rare in Europe, as it was believed that their large frontal area would cause too much drag on something as small as a fighter. Tank was not convinced of this, having witnessed the successful use of radial engines by the U.S. Navy, and felt a properly streamlined installation would eliminate this problem.
The hottest points on any air-cooled engine are the cylinder heads, located around the circumference of a radial engine. In order to provide sufficient air to cool the engine, airflow had to be maximized at this outer edge. This was normally accomplished by leaving the majority of the front face of the engine open to the air, causing considerable drag. During the late 1920s, NACA led the development of a dramatic improvement by placing an airfoil-shaped ring around the outside of the cylinder heads (the NACA cowling). The shaping accelerated the air as it entered the front of the cowl, increasing the total airflow, and allowing the opening in front of the engine to be made smaller.
Tank introduced a further refinement to this basic concept. He suggested placing most of the airflow components on the propeller, in the form of an oversized propeller spinner whose outside diameter was the same as the engine. The cowl around the engine proper was greatly simplified, essentially a basic cylinder. Air entered through a small hole at the centre of the spinner and was directed through ductwork in the spinner so it was blowing rearward along the cylinder heads. To provide enough airflow, an internal cone was placed in the centre of the hole, over the propeller hub, which was intended to compress the airflow and allow a smaller opening to be used. In theory, the tight-fitting cowling also provided some thrust due to the compression and heating of air as it flowed through the cowling.
As to the rest of the design philosophy, Tank wanted something more than an aircraft built only for speed. He outlined the reasoning:
The Messerschmitt 109 [sic] and the British Spitfire, the two fastest fighters in the world at the time we began work on the Fw 190, could both be summed up as a very large engine on the front of the smallest possible airframe; in each case armament had been added almost as an afterthought. These designs, both of which admittedly proved successful, could be likened to racehorses: given the right amount of pampering and easy course, they could outrun anything. But the moment the going became tough they were liable to falter. During World War I, I served in the cavalry and in the infantry. I had seen the harsh conditions under which military equipment had to work in wartime. I felt sure that a quite different breed of fighter would also have a place in any future conflict: one that could operate from ill-prepared front-line airfields; one that could be flown and maintained by men who had received only short training; and one that could absorb a reasonable amount of battle damage and still get back. This was the background thinking behind the Focke-Wulf 190; it was not to be a racehorse but a Dienstpferd, a cavalry horse.
In contrast to the complex, failure-prone fuselage-mounted main gear legs of the earlier Fw 159, one of the main features of the Fw 190 was its wide-tracked, inwards-retracting landing gear. They were designed to withstand a sink rate of 4.5 metres per second (15 ft/s; 890 ft/min), double the strength factor usually required. Hydraulic wheel brakes were used. The wide-track undercarriage produced better ground handling characteristics, and the Fw 190 suffered fewer ground accidents than the Bf 109. (The Bf 109's narrow-track, outwards-retracting landing gear hinged on its wing root structure to help lower weight, but this led to inherent weakness and many failures and ground loops.) The Fw 190's retractable tail gear used a cable, anchored to the "elbow" at the midpoint of the starboard maingear's transverse retraction arms, which ran aftwards within the fuselage to the vertical fin to operate the tailwheel retraction function. The tailwheel's retraction mechanical design possessed a set of pulleys to guide the aforementioned cable to the top of the tailwheel's oleo strut, pulling it upwards along a diagonal track within the fin, into the lower fuselage; this mechanism was accessible through a prominently visible triangular-shaped hinged panel, on the left side in the fin's side sheetmetal covering.[c] On some versions of the Fw 190 an extended tailwheel oleo strut could be fitted for larger-sized loads (such as bombs or even a torpedo) beneath the fuselage.
Most aircraft of the era used cables and pulleys to operate their controls. The cables tended to stretch, resulting in the sensations of "give" and "play" that made the controls less crisp and responsive, and required constant maintenance to correct. For the new design, the team replaced the cables with rigid pushrods and bearings to eliminate this problem.[d] Another innovation was making the controls as light as possible. The maximum resistance of the ailerons was limited to 3.5 kg (8 lb), as the average man's wrist could not exert a greater force. The empennage (tail assembly) featured relatively small and well-balanced horizontal and vertical surfaces.
The design team also attempted to minimize changes in the aircraft's trim at varying speeds, thus reducing the pilot's workload. They were so successful in this regard that they found in-flight-adjustable aileron and rudder trim tabs were not necessary. Small, fixed tabs were fitted to control surfaces and adjusted for proper balance during initial test flights. Only the elevator trim needed to be adjusted in flight (a feature common to all aircraft). This was accomplished by tilting the entire horizontal tailplane with an electric motor, with an angle of incidence ranging from −3° to +5°.
Another aspect of the new design was the extensive use of electrically powered equipment instead of the hydraulic systems used by most aircraft manufacturers of the time. On the first two prototypes, the main landing gear was hydraulic. Starting with the third prototype, the undercarriage was operated by push buttons controlling electric motors in the wings, and was kept in position by electric up and down-locks. The armament was also loaded and fired electrically. Tank believed that service use would prove that electrically powered systems were more reliable and more rugged than hydraulics, electric lines being much less prone to damage from enemy fire.
Like the Bf 109, the Fw 190 featured a fairly small wing planform with relatively high wing loading. This presents a trade-off in performance. An aircraft with a smaller wing suffers less drag under most flight conditions and therefore flies faster and may have better range. However, it also means the aircraft has a higher stalling speed making it less maneuverable, and also reduces performance in the thinner air at higher altitudes. The wings spanned 9.5 m (31 ft 2 in) and had an area of 15 m2 (160 sq ft). The wing was designed using the NACA 23015.3 airfoil at the root and the NACA 23009 airfoil at the tip.
Earlier aircraft designs generally featured canopies consisting of small plates of perspex (also known as Plexiglas) in a metal "greenhouse" framework, with the top of the canopy even with the rear fuselage; this was true of the IJNAS Mitsubishi A6M Zero, whose otherwise "all-around view" canopy was still heavily framed. This design considerably limited visibility, especially to the rear. The introduction of vacuum forming led to the creation of the "bubble canopy" which was largely self-supporting, and could be mounted over the cockpit, offering greatly improved all-round visibility. Tank's design for the Fw 190 used a canopy with a frame that ran around the perimeter, with only a short, centerline seam along the top, running rearward from the radio antenna fitting where the three-panel windscreen and the forward edge of the canopy met, just in front of the pilot.
The eventual choice of the BMW 801 14-cylinder radial over the more troublesome BMW 139 also brought with it a BMW-designed cowling "system" which integrated the radiator used to cool the motor oil. An annular, ring-shaped oil cooler core was built into the BMW-provided forward cowl, just behind the fan. The outer portion of the oil cooler's core was in contact with the main cowling's sheet metal. Comprising the BMW-designed forward cowl, in front of the oil cooler was a ring of metal with a C-shaped cross-section, with the outer lip lying just outside the rim of the cowl, and the inner side on the inside of the oil cooler core. Together, the metal ring and cowling formed an S-shaped duct with the oil cooler's core contained between them. Airflow past the gap between the cowl and outer lip of the metal ring produced a vacuum effect that pulled air from the front of the engine forward across the oil cooler core to provide cooling for the 801's motor oil. The rate of cooling airflow over the core could be controlled by moving the metal ring to open or close the gap. The reasons for this complex system were threefold. One was to reduce any extra aerodynamic drag of the oil radiator, in this case largely eliminating it by placing it within the same cowling as the engine. The second was to warm the air before it flowed to the radiator to aid in warming the oil during starting. Finally, by placing the radiator behind the fan, cooling was provided even while the aircraft was parked. The disadvantage to this design was that the radiator was in an extremely vulnerable location, and the metal ring was increasingly armoured as the war progressed.
From mid-1943, Fw 190s were also used as night fighters against the growing RAF Bomber Command offensive. In mid-1943, one of the earliest participants in the single-engine, ground controlled, night-fighting experiments was the Nachtjagdkommando Fw 190 (Night Fighter Command Fw 190), operated by IV. Gruppe (4 Group), Jagdgeschwader 3, (Fighter Wing 3, or JG 3). The main Nachtgeschwader (Night Fighter Wings) were keen to adopt a new fighter type as their twin-engine fighters were too slow for combat against increasing numbers of de Havilland Mosquito night fighters and bombers. Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG 1) and NJG 3 kept a pair of Fw 190s on standby to supplement the Messerschmitt Bf 110 and Junkers Ju 88. The considerable performance advantage of the Fw 190 over the other two types was more than offset by the difficulties of operating at night. Few, if any, aerial successes can be attributed to these operational tests.
One of the first purpose built units to use Fw 190s in this role was Stab/Versuchskommando Herrmann, a unit specifically set up in April 1943 by Major Hajo Herrmann. Herrmann's unit used standard A-4s and A-5s borrowed from day fighter units to intercept bombers over or near the targeted city, using searchlights and other visual aids to help them find their quarry. The first use of "Window" by the RAF during the Battle of Hamburg in July 1943, rendered the standard nightfighter Himmelbett procedures useless and brought urgency to the development of Herrmann's Wilde Sau (Wild Boar) technique, pending the development of new nightfighting strategies. Instead of restricting the Fw 190s to ground control interception protocols, the Fw 190s were given a free hand to over-fly bombed areas to see if they could locate bombers using the ground fires below. These tactics became an integral part of the nightfighter operations until May 1944.
St/V Herrmann was expanded to become Jagdgeschwader 300 (JG 300, or Fighter Wing 300), JG 301 and JG 302. All three units initially continued borrowing their aircraft from day fighter units. The day fighter units began to protest at the numbers of their aircraft which were being written off because of the hazards of night operations; the numbers soared with the onset of winter, with pilots often being forced to bail-out through being unable to find an airfield at which to land safely. Crash landings were also frequent. Eventually all three Wilde Sau units received their own aircraft, which were often modified with exhaust dampers and blind-flying radio equipment. Another unit was Nachtjagdgruppe 10 (NJGr 10), which used Fw 190 A-4/R11s through to A-8/R11s; Fw 190s modified to carry FuG (Funkgerät) 217 or FuG 218 radar mid-VHF band equipment.
The appearance of United States Army Air Forces heavy bombers caused a problem for the German fighter force. The B-17 Flying Fortress in particular was especially durable, and the armament of the Bf 109 and Fw 190 were not adequate for bomber-destroyer operations. The B-17's eventual deployment in combat box formations provided formidable massed firepower from a hundred or more Browning AN/M2 .50 caliber machine guns. In addition, the Luftwaffe's original solution of Zerstörer twin-engine Messerschmitt Bf 110G bomber destroyers, while effective against unescorted Allied bomber formations, lacked maneuverability and were eviscerated by the USAAF's fighter escorts in late 1943 and early 1944.
Two of the former Wilde Sau single-engined night fighter wings were reconstituted for their use, such as Jagdgeschwader 300 (JG 300—300th Fighter Wing) and JG 301. These units consisted of Sturmböcke. However, JG 3 also had a special gruppe (group) of Sturmböcke.
The Fw 190, designed as a rugged interceptor capable of withstanding considerable combat damage and delivering a potent 'punch' from its stable gun platform, was considered ideal for anti-bomber operations. Focke-Wulf redesigned parts of the wing structure to accommodate larger armament. The Fw 190 A-6 was the first sub-variant to undergo this change. Its standard armament was increased from four MG 151/20s to two of them with four more in two underwing cannon pods. The aircraft was designated A-6/R1 (Rüstsatz; or field conversion model). The first aircraft were delivered on 20 November 1943. Brief trials saw the twin cannon replaced by the MK 108 30mm autocannon in the outer wing, which then became the A-6/R2. The cannons were blowback-operated, had electric ignition, and were belt fed. The 30mm MK 108 was simple to make and its construction was economical; the majority of its components consisted of just pressed sheet metal stampings. In the A-6/R4, the GM-1 (nitrous oxide) Boost was added for the BMW 801 engine to increase performance at high altitude. For protection, 30 millimetres (1.2 in) of armoured glass was added to the canopy. The A-6/R6 was fitted with twin heavy calibre Werfer-Granate 21 (BR 21) unguided, air-to-air rockets, fired from single underwing tubular launchers (one per wing panel). The increased modifications, in particular heavy firepower, made the Fw 190 a potent bomber-killer. The A-7 evolved in November 1943. Two synchronized 13mm (.51 caliber) MG 131 machine guns replaced the twin cowl-mount synchronized 7.92mm (.318 cal) MG 17 machine guns. The A-7/R variants could carry two 30mm MK 108s as well as BR 21 rockets. This increased its potency as a Pulk-Zerstörer (Bomber Formation Destroyer). The A-8/R2 was the most numerous Sturmbock aircraft, some 900 were built by Fiesler at Kassel with 30mm MK 108s installed in their outer wing panel mounts.
While formidable bomber-killers, the armour and substantial up-gunning with heavier calibre firepower meant the Fw 190 was now cumbersome to maneuver. Vulnerable to Allied fighters, they had to be escorted by Bf 109s. When the Sturmgruppe was able to work as intended, the effects were devastating. With their engines and cockpits heavily armored, the Fw 190 As attacked from astern and gun camera films show that these attacks were often pressed to within 100 yds (90 m).
Willy Unger of 11.(Sturm)/JG 3 (11 Staffel (Squadron) of Sturmgruppe (Storm group) JG 3) made the following comments:
Advantages; wide undercarriage, large twin-row radial engine which protected the pilot from the front, electric starter motor and electric trim system. Disadvantages; there was a danger of turning over when braking hard on soft or sandy ground. In combat against enemy fighters, more awkward because of the heavy armour plating. Strong at low altitude, inferior to the Bf 109 at higher altitude. In my opinion the Fw 190, in this version, was the best aircraft used in the formation against the Viermots.
Richard Franz commented:
When we made our attack, we approached from slightly above, then dived, opening fire with 13mm and 20mm guns to knock out the rear gunner and then, at about 150 metres, we tried to engage with the MK 108 30mm cannon, which was a formidable weapon. It could cut the wing off a B-17. Actually, it was still easier to kill a B-24, which was somewhat weaker in respect of fuselage strength and armament. I think we generally had the better armament and ammunition, whereas they had the better aircraft.
The number of heavy bombers destroyed by the Fw 190 is impossible to estimate. However, below is a list of the top scoring Sturmbock pilots:
|Name||Total victory claims||Heavy bomber claims||B-17 claims|
|Georg-Peter Eder||78||Est. 36||unknown|
|Anton Hackl||192||Est. 34||Unknown|
|Egon Mayer †||102||26||21|
|Hugo Frey †||32||25||19|
|Hans Ehlers †||55||24||18|
|Werner Gerth †||27||22||16|
|Friedrich-Karl Müller †||140||23||15|
Main article: List of Focke-Wulf Fw 190 variants
A total of 13,291 Fw 190 A-model aircraft were produced.
A-6, A-7, and A-8 were modified for Sturmböcke bomber-destroyer operations.
Tank started looking at ways to address the altitude performance problem early in the program. In 1941, he proposed a number of versions featuring new powerplants, and he suggested using turbochargers in place of superchargers. Three such installations were outlined
Main article: Focke-Wulf Fw 190 operational history
The Fw 190 participated on every major combat front where the Luftwaffe operated after 1941, and did so with success in a variety of roles. The Fw 190 first tasted combat on the Western Front in August 1941, where it proved superior to the Mk V Spitfire. The Spitfire's main advantage over the Fw 190, and the Bf 109 as well, was its superior turn radius. Beyond that, the Fw 190 outperformed the Spitfire Mk. V in most areas, such as roll rate, speed, acceleration, and dive performance. The addition of the Fw 190 to the Jagdwaffe allowed the Germans to fight off RAF attacks and achieve local air superiority over German skies until the summer of 1942, when the improved Spitfire Mk. IX was introduced. In June 1942, Oberleutnant Armin Faber of JG 2 landed his Fw 190 A-3 at a British airfield, allowing the RAF to test the Mk. IX against the 190 and learn tactics to counter it.
A 0.40 km2 (99-acre) Focke-Wulf plant east of Marienburg was bombed by the Eighth Air Force on 9 October 1944. In addition, one of the most important sub-contractors for the radial-engined Fw 190s was AGO Flugzeugwerke, which from 1941 through to the end of the war produced enough Fw 190s to earn it major attention from the USAAF, with the AGO plant in Oschersleben being attacked at least five times during the war from 1943 onwards.
|Fw 190 A-1||102||1941 June – 1941 October|
|Fw 190 A-2/A-3||909||1941 October – 1943 August|
|Fw 190 A-4||975||1942 June – 1943 August|
|Fw 190 A-5||1,752||1942 November – 1943 August|
|Fw 190 A-6||1,052||1943 May – 1944 March|
|Fw 190 A-7||701||1943 November – 1944 March|
|Fw 190 A-8||6,655||1944 February – 1945 February|
|Fw 190 A-9||930||1944 September – 1945 February|
|Total (including prototypes and pre-production aircraft)||13,291||—|
|Fw 190 F-1/F-2(A-4)||18 & 271||1942 May – 1943 May|
|Fw 190 F-3(A-5)||432||1943 May – 1944 April|
|Fw 190 F-8(A-8)||6,143||1944 March – 1945 February|
|Fw 190 F-9(A-9)||415||1944 September – 1945 February|
|Fw 190 G-1(A-4)||183||1942 August – 1942 November|
|Fw 190 G-2(A-5)||235||1942 July – 1943 May|
|Fw 190 G-3(A-6)||214||1943 June – 1943 December|
|Fw 190 G-8(A-8)||689||1943 August – 1944 February|
|Fw 190 D-9||1,805||1944 August – 1945 April [nb 1]|
|Fw 190 D-11||20||1945 February – 1945 March|
|Fw 190 D-13||1||1945 April – 1945 April|
|Fw 190 S-5 converted from A-5 or built||c. 20||1944 late|
|Fw 190 S-8 converted from A-8 or built||c. 38||1944 late|
|Ta 152 V/H-0||18/26||1944 December – 1945 January|
|Ta 152 H-1||25||1945 January – 1945 April|
|Total (all variants)||23,823||—|
Main article: List of surviving Focke-Wulf Fw 190s
Some 28 original Fw 190s are in museums or in the hands of private collectors around the world.
In 1997 a German company, Flug Werk GmbH, began manufacturing new Fw 190 models as reproductions. By 2012, 20 had been produced, most flyable, a few as static display models, with airworthy examples usually powered by Chinese-manufactured Shvetsov ASh-82 twin-row, 14-cylinder radial powerplants, which have a displacement of 41.2 litres, close to the BMW 801's 41.8 litres, with the same engine cylinder arrangement and number of cylinders.
The nearly intact wreck of an Fw 190 A-5/U3 (Werknummer 151 227) that had crashed in a marsh in a forest near Leningrad, Soviet Union, 1943 was located in 1989. After restoration in the US, the Fw 190 flew again (with the original BMW 801 powerplant) on 1 December 2010. Following the successful test flight, the aircraft was then trucked up to the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum in Everett, Washington, where it was reassembled in April 2011 and returned to airworthy condition.[better source needed]
At least five surviving Fw 190A radial-engined aircraft are known to have been assigned to the Luftwaffe's JG 5 wing in Herdla, Norway. More German fighter aircraft on display in museums in the 21st century have originated from this unit than from any other Axis Powers' military aviation unit of World War II.
The Turkish Air Force retired all of its Fw 190A-3 fleet at the end of 1947 mostly because of a lack of spare parts. It is rumored that American-Turkish bilateral agreements required retiring and scrapping of all German-origin aircraft, although that requirement did not exist for any other country. According to the Hürriyet Daily News, all of the retired Fw 190s were saved from scrapping by wrapping them with protective cloths and burying them in the soil near the Aviation Supply and Maintenance Center at Kayseri. All attempts to locate and recover the aircraft have been unsuccessful, which suggests the story is probably a hoax or myth.
Data from Fw 190 A8,
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era