The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 was a single-seater, single-engine fighter aircraft of the Luftwaffe. Used extensively during WW II from 1941 over 20,000 were manufactured including around 6,000 fighter-bomber models.

The aircraft was designed around the radial air-cooled BMW 801 engine and it was a quite different aircraft to the Messerschmitt Bf 109.

The aircraft was ordered by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium in 1937 as an addition to the Bf 109. Design work began around two different engines, the BMW 801 and the liquid-cooled DB 601, although common thinking supported the 'stream-lined' radial design Ernst Udet supported the BMW 801. This was despite reliability problems with the early engines including a tendency to overheat, high cockpit temperatures (exceeding 55 C) and the leakage of exhaust gas into the cockpit.

The initial armament was unusually heavy, with four 20 mm cannon in the wings and two 7.92 mm (later 13 mm) machine guns above the engine the most common variation.

The first prototype was flown on June 1, 1939 and soon proved to have good qualities for such a comparatively small craft including excellent handling, good visibility and promising speed (initially around 610 km/hr), its wide landing gear made it a more versatile aircraft than the Bf 109 and a safer one. Examples were delivered to front-line squadrons in late 1940 but the aircraft did not reach combat units in any numbers until autumn 1941. Oddly the Allies were entirely unaware of the new fighter and initial reports were dismissed as "Mohawks captured from the French", they were soon disabused of this idea and when the English acquired an intact Fw 190 A3 in 1942 (either from a deserter or by mistake) they were quick to raid the aircraft for its technical secrets.

From around 1943 the newer RAF and USAAF fighter were gaining a distinct advantge over the Fw 190 in terms of speed. After high-altitude experiments in 1942 with new engines the long-nosed 'D' (or Dora) variant was fitted with the new liquid-cooled 1,800 hp Jumo 213, with MW50 injection the engine could produce 2,240 hp of emergency power. Armament in the 'D' was generally less than in the earlier aircraft, often only two MG151 and two MG 131, but the D-12 for example had a centreline 30 mm MK 108 cannon.

The main fighter-bomber variants were the 'F' and 'G', but early 'A' variants also carried bombs. Wing armament was sacrificed for two hardpoints and a third was added under the belly, extra armour was also added, the initial bomb load was around 500 kg (A4) but this was soon increased to 1000 kg (A5) and eventually a 1800 kg bomb could be carried (A10 on). These aircraft had a loaded weight almost four times higher than the 1941 aircraft.

After the 'D' later variants of the 190 were named 'Ta' in honour of Focke-Wulf designer Kurt Tank. The most promising design was the Ta 152, it used the liquid-cooled DB 603 engine, producing over 2,200 hp naturally and with greater wing area from extending the wing span to 14.5 m for better high altitude performance it was capable of speeds in excess of 700 km/hr and had a service ceiling of around 15,000 m. Armed with a single 30 mm cannon and two 20 mm cannon it could have been highly successful. But manufacturing problems, materials shortages and the disruption towards the end of the war resulted in very few Ta 152s being built, no more than 150 in total. Effort was also diverted into further prototype work, the lower altitude Ta 152C with a DB 603L engine and five cannon and the Ta 152H with a modified Jumo 213E and less armament for very high altitude flight.

Specifications (A8)

  • Length: 8.84 m
  • Wing span: 10.49 m
  • Height: 3.96 m
  • Weight: 3,200 kg (empty) 4,900 kg (full load)
  • Power: BMW 801D, 1,700 hp (2,100 hp with boost)
  • Speed: 640 km/h
  • Ceiling: 11,410 m
  • Range: 850 km (max.)
  • Crew: 1
  • Armament: Two MG 131 13mm machine guns, four MG 151/20 20mm cannon