Focke-Wulf FW-190

The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger was a German single-seat, single-radial engine fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank in the late 1930s. It was used by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War in a variety of roles. Like the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Fw 190 was employed as a "workhorse", and proved suitable for a wide variety of roles, including air superiority fighter, strike fighter, ground-attack aircraft, escort fighter, and operated with less success as a night fighter.

When it was first introduced in 1941 it was quickly proven to be superior in all but turn radius to the Royal Air Force's main front-line fighter, the Spitfire Mk. V variant. The 190 wrested air superiority away from the RAF until the introduction of the vastly improved Spitfire Mk. IX in July 1942 restored qualitative parity. The Fw 190 made its air combat debut on the Eastern Front much later, in November/December 1942.

Soviet pilots regarded the Bf 109 as the greatest threat in combat on the Eastern Front. Nevertheless, the Fw 190 made a significant impact. The fighter and its pilots proved just as capable as the Bf 109 in aerial combat, and in the opinion of German pilots that flew both German fighters, the Fw 190 presented increased firepower and manoeuvrability as low to medium altitude. The Fw 190 became the backbone of Jagdwaffe (Fighter Force) along with the Bf 109. On the Eastern Front, owing to its versatility, the Fw 190 was used in Schlachtgeschwader (Destroyer Wings) which were specialised ground attack units. The units achieved much success against Soviet ground forces. As an interceptor, the Fw 190 underwent improvements to make it effective at high altitude allowing the 190 to maintain relative parity with its Allied counterparts. The Fw 190A series' performance decreased at high altitudes (usually 6,000 m (20,000 ft) and above) which complicated its use as a high-altitude interceptor, but these complications were mostly rectified in later models, notably the Focke-Wulf Fw 190D variant which was introduced in September 1944. In spite of its successes, it never entirely replaced the Bf 109.

In autumn 1937, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) ("Reich Air Ministry") asked various designers for a new fighter to fight alongside the Messerschmitt Bf 109, Germany's front-line fighter. Although the Bf 109 was at that point an extremely competitive fighter, the RLM was worried that future foreign designs might outclass it and wanted to have new aircraft under development to meet these possible challenges.

Kurt Tank responded with a number of designs, most incorporating liquid-cooled inline engines. However, it was not until a design was presented using the air-cooled, 14-cylinder BMW 139 radial engine that the RLM's interest was aroused. It was believed that because the Fw 190 used a radial engine it would not affect production of the Bf 109, furthering the RLM's interest in the Fw 190. At the time, the use of radial engines on land-based fighters was relatively rare in Europe, as it was believed that their large frontal area would cause too much drag on a design as small as a fighter. Tank was not convinced of this, having witnessed the success of radial engines as used by the US Navy, and felt a properly streamlined installation would eliminate this problem.

Tank's solution was to tightly cowl the engine in its entirety. Normally, radial engines would be left open at the front, in order to allow in sufficient air to cool the engine. Instead, Tank's cowl completely enclosed the engine. Cooling air was instead admitted through a hole in the front of an oversized propeller spinner. A cone in the middle of the hole was intended to compress the air, allowing the small opening to create sufficient airflow. In theory, the use of the tight-fitting cowling also provided some thrust due to the compression and heating of air at speed through the cowling.

Another revolutionary aspect of the new design was the extensive use of electrically-powered equipment replacing the hydraulic systems used by most aircraft manufacturers of the time. On the first two prototypes (described below) the main undercarriage was hydraulic. Starting with the third prototype, the undercarriage was operated by push-buttons in the cockpit controlling electric motors in the wings, and was kept in position by electric up- and down-locks. Similarly, the electrically operated landing flaps were controlled by buttons in the cockpit as was the variable incidence tailplane, which could be used to flight-trim the aircraft. The fixed armament was also charged and fired electrically. Tank believed that service use would prove the electrically-powered systems would be more reliable and more rugged than hydraulics, as well as being much easier to service when needed and the absence of flammable hydraulic fluids and vulnerable piping, which was usually prone to leakage, would reduce the risk of fire.

Tank also designed an extremely clean cockpit layout, aided by the use of the electrical equipment. The cockpit had most of the main controls laid out in a logical pattern and incorporated into consoles on either side of the pilot, rather than being placed on the fuselage skinning.

Although nearly all variants of the Fw 190 could carry bombs and other air-to-ground ordnance, there were two dedicated attack versions of the Fw 190. The Luftwaffe was looking for aircraft to replace the Henschel Hs 123 biplane, which was seriously outmatched in 1942, as well as the slow and heavy Junkers Ju 87. The Fw 190 was well-liked by its pilots. Some of the Luftwaffe's most successful fighter aces flew the Fw 190, including Otto Kittel with 267 victories, Walter Nowotny with 258 victories and Erich Rudorffer with 222 claimed kills. A great many of their kills were claimed while flying the Fw 190.

General characteristics
  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 9.00 m (29 ft 5 in)
  • Wingspan: 10.51 m (34 ft 5 in)
  • Height: 3.95 m (12 ft 12 in)
  • Wing area: 18,30 m² (196.99 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 3,200 kg (7,060 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 4,417 kg (9,735 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 4,900 kg (10,800 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1× BMW 801 D-2 radial engine, 1,250 kW (1,700 PS) , 1,471 kW (2,000 PS) with boost

  • Maximum speed: 656 km/h (408 mph) at 19,420 ft (5,920 m), 408 mph (657 km/h) with boost
  • Range: 800 km (500 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 11,410 m (37,430 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 13 m/s (2,560 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 241 kg/m² (49.4 lb/ft²)
  • Power/mass: 0.29-0.33 kW/kg (0.18-0.21 hp/lb)

  • 2 × 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns with 475 rpg
  • 4 × 20 mm MG 151/20 E cannons with 250 rpg in the wing root and 140 rpg

** Focke-Wulf FW-190 - Warbird Fare

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