Focke-Wulf Fw 190 History
When the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 first appeared in action over the coast of France during the autumn of 1941 it was certainly the most advanced fighter in the world. For the first time the Luftwaffe fighter pilots were to have an ascendency over the contemporary Spitfire, an ascendancy which they enjoyed at least until the introduction of the Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX during the autumn of 1942. The Fw 190 unofficially named Würger (Butcher Bird), was perhaps the most perfect radial-engine fighter ever built, influencing the design of such aircraft as the Hawker Fury fighter monoplane of the early 1950s.
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The far-reaching Luftwaffe requirement for a modern fighter aircraft that was drawn up in 1934 eventually led to the adoption of the legendary Messerschmitt Bf 109. Nonetheless, within both the Luftwaffe and the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) there was disquiet in some quarters about all the ‘eggs having being put into one basket’. Most rival major powers were busily developing more than one main fighter aircraft, while Germany had just one – with the attendant danger of being left with little modern fighter cover if problems were to surface with the Bf 109.
The first prototype – Focke-Wulf Fw 190 V1, D-OPZE, took-off from Bremen airfield on 1 June, 1939. It was powered by a fan-cooled 1,550 hp BMW 139 radial engine which was fitted with a special ducted spinner to reduce drag. Flugkapitän Hans Sander, Focke-Wulf‘s chief test pilot, was extremely impressed with the aircraft but complained that the engine overheated rapidly. During October 1939 a second prototype, the Fw 190 V2, was completed. Sander still complained that the engine overheated, and eventually the ducted spinner of the V 1 was removed and replaced by a new tightly-fitting NACA cowling.
The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 was a small low-wing monoplane with a fully retractable undercarriage. The bulky radial engine was neatly faired into the slim fuselage and an extensively glazed cockpit canopy afforded an excellent all-round view. The aircraft was built of metal with stressed duraluminium skin. The tall undercarriage leg retracted inwards, their wide track providing a considerable improvement in ground handling over that of the narrowly spaced mainwheels of the standard Bf 109 fighter.
The first major operation in which the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 was involved was the protection of the battle cruiser Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen as they attempted to flee from Brest to the safety of the safety of North German ports. From 11.00 hr on 12 February, 1942, when the warships first spotted by RAF reconnaissance aircraft, the Bf 109s from JG 1 and 2 and the Fw 190s from JG 26 were heavily engaged in preventing attempts by British aircraft to bomb them. One of the most notable actions was the destruction of six Fairey Swordfish torpedo-bombers from No. 825 Squadron by Focke-Wulf Fw 190s from III./JG 26.
|Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Specifications|
|wingspan: 34 ft, 5 in
|length: 28 ft, 10 in
|height: 12 ft, 11 in
|empty: 6,393 lb
|gross: 8,700 lb
|1 × 1,700 hp BMW 801 radial engine|
|maximum speed: 391 mph
|ceiling: 34,775 ft|
|maximum range: 497 mi|
|2 × 7.92 mm calibre machine guns|
|2 × 20 mm calibre cannons|
|up to 2,200 lb of bombs|