The Focke-Wulf FW 190

Designed by Kurt Tank the Focke-Wulf 190 was a nasty surprise to the RAF in September 1941. Only a little over 200 were completed in 1941, but in 1942 1,850 were built, which amounted to about 40% of German single seat fighter production.

Powered by a BMW 14-cylinder twin row air cooled radial engine that put out 1,760 hp, the FW 190 had excellent handling qualities and gave the early FW 190A models a clear superiority over the RAF’s Spitfire Mk V. Many German aces   flew  the FW 190. Georg-Peter Eder, who spent a lot of time in the cockpit of the FW 190, ran up 78 confirmed victories plus 40 probables. 36 of his confirmed kills were 4-engine bombers. He himself was shot down 17 times and wounded 14 times. Intercepting the American heavy bomber “streams” was dangerous work indeed.

Eder started  flying  the Bf 109 early in the war like so many of the top German aces and later transitioned to the FW 190. Many of the 107(!) Luftwaffe aces to score over 100 confirmed victories  flew  both types and many also  flew  other types as well, such as the Me 262 jet fighter. An example would be Gunther Rall, the 3rd highest scoring ace of the War (275 victories). Between 1939 and 1945, Rall  flew  the Bf 109 (his personal favorite), the FW 190, the “long nose” FW 190D and the Me 262 jet. He also had the opportunity to  fly  captured Allied fighters, including several versions of the Spitfire, the P-38, P-47 and P-51. His favorite allied fighter was the Spitfire, by the way.

The 190A was known as a “pilots airplane”, meaning she was a sweet ship to  fly , light and easy on the controls (unlike the Bf 109, which was a handful). The FW 190s speed, climb, dive and roll rate were superior to the Spitfire Mk V. The FW pilot benefited from a canopy with an fine all-around view. There was also excellent armor protection for the pilot. The FW 190 had a wide-track landing gear, which made it much less prone to ground loops than the Bf 109 and it could absorb more battle damage.

The FW 190 was also more heavily armed than the Spitfire (or the ME 109). Typical armament was two 7.9mm machine guns in the upper engine cowling, two Mauser 20mm cannon in the wing roots (each of which could fire 700 rounds per minute, much faster than the equivalent British cannon), plus two more slower firing (450 rounds per minute) Oerlikon 20mm cannon farther out in the wings.

Mass production began with the FW 190A-1 and A-2 models, of which about 528 were built. These used the 1,600 hp BMW 801C-1 and C-2 radial engines. Armament was two cowl mounted 8mm machine guns, two wing root mounted 8mm MG and two wing mounted 20mm cannon.

The early 1942 FW 190 model was the A-3. This used the BMW 801D-2 radial engine used by all subsequent FW 190 A-series fighters. The wing root MG was replaced by 20mm cannon in the A-3 and this change was also carried over in subsequent 190s. Later in 1942, the FW 190A-4 model fighter came along, which had a methanol-water injection system for the engine which boosted power to 2,100 HP for a 10 minute period on demand and substantially improved performance at the lower altitudes. This model also introduced an improved radio. Top speed was 416 MPH at 21,000 feet. Other A-4 models included tropical, night fighter and fighter-bomber versions that had fuselage racks for 550 lb. or 1100 lb. bombs. There was also an extended range version with racks under the wings and fuselage for drop tanks or munitions.

The FW 190A-8 of 1944 became the most numerous of the A-series 109’s. The equivalent “G” series to the FW 190A-8 was the FW 190G-8, the last of the FW 190G series. The G-8 was what we would call a multi-role fighter, for while designed primarily for close air support of ground troops it served in both the close support and general purpose fighter roles. Power came from a BMW 801-D2 radial that produced 1,800 horsepower. Internal armament remained two cowl mounted 13mm machine guns and two 20mm cannon mounted in the wing roots.

The basic BMW radial engine had clearly reached its maximum performance limits. What was needed was a new power plant to keep the FW 190 competitive with the latest Allied fighters. Experiments mating the FW 190 airframe with liquid-cooled Daimler Benz and Junkers inverted Vee engines had started back in 1941 as a means to improve high altitude performance. By early 1944 the experiments were successful and the FW 190D (or “Dora”) was the result.

The FW 190D used the standard Focke-Wulf 190 wings and tail plane with an extended rear fuselage and a longer and heavier Junkers Jumo 213A-1 inverted V12 engine. An annular radiator was designed that made the Dora resemble a radial engine fighter, but the long nose and the row of six exhaust stacks on each side of the lower cowl gave away the type’s V-12 powerplant.

The new engine developed 2,240 war emergency HP with water-methanol injection. In August 1944 the first production version, the FW 190D-9, joined the Luftwaffe. The D-9’s top speed was 357 mph at sea level and 426 mph at 21,650 feet. Climb to 19,685 feet took 7.1 minutes. The range on internal fuel was 520 miles. Underwing racks allowed carrying two 66-gallon drop tanks or two 550-pound bombs. Internal armament remained two wing mounted 20mm cannon and two cowl mounted 13mm MG. Altogether just short of 700 FW 190D models were produced before the end of the war.

These “long nose” models were reportedly more of a handful to  fly  than the radial engine 190s, but they still handled fairly well. And they kept the Focke-Wulf right up there in performance with the best allied fighters until the end of the war. In the hands of a good pilot the long nose FW 190D interceptor was serious and deadly competition for the P-51D Mustang, the Allies premier escort fighter.

In all, nearly 20,000 FW 190 aircraft of all types were completed by the end of the war and the type was used by the air forces of Turkey, France (as the NC 900) and various of Germany’s allies as well as the Luftwaffe.

Source by Michael Russell