The Fw 190 would prove a revelation when it entered service with the Luftwaffe during 1941 and would turn the tide of the air war over the Western Front in favour of Germany for nearly a year.
Earning the nickname 'Butcher Bird' the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 could more than hold its own against Allied aircraft.
During the Autumn of 1937 the Reichsluftfahrtministerium issued a contract for a modern fighter aircraft to serve alongside the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Head of design at Focke-Wulf, Kurt Tank,
produced two proposals for consideration. One would see the new fighter powered by the air-cooled BMW 139 radial engine whilst the second would be powered by the liquid cooled Daimler-Benz DB601
engine. It was decided to use the radial engine design and with Obering R. Blaser leading, the following summer would see the aircraft design developed.
May 1939 would see the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 V1 rolled out. With its stressed-skin construction the Luftwaffe's new fighter was a cantilever low-wing monoplane design. With Flugkapitan Hans Sander
at the controls the 1st June 1939 would see the prototype make its maiden flight at Bremen. Four months later during October the Fw 190 V2 would fly and its armament consisted of a pair of 13-mm
MG 131 and a pair of 7.92-mm MG 17 machine-guns. To reduce drag both aircraft were originally installed with large ducted spinners, however due to overheating an NACA cowling was substituted.
Work on the third and fourth prototypes was progressing however due to a decision taken before the first flight of the first prototype work was discontinued on the pair. This new change of direction
would see the BMW 139 engine replaced by the BMW 801 engine. Whilst this new engine would provide more power it weighed more and was longer than its predecessor. This lead to the airframe having to
be re-designed so the new engine could be installed. These changes would see the cockpit moved back, which solved a couple of issues with the first two prototypes. Firstly the pilot wouldn't
have to contend with fumes and overheating, as the engine was further away. Secondly an issue with the aircraft's centre of gravity was sorted. The overall strength of the aircraft was also
improved and by early 1940 the Fw 190 V5 was ready.
Further development continued with the aircraft's original wing of 30 ft 2 in increased by a further 3 ft 3 1/2 in later on in the year. This version was known as the Fw 190 V5g, with the aircraft
fitted with the old wing known as V5k, and the new wing would make the aircraft more manoeuvrable and climb faster but the trade off was a loss of around 6mph. The next stage in the aircraft's
development saw 30 A-0 pre-production aircraft ordered. 21 would be fitted with the same wing as the V5g whilst the remaining nine would have the original wing. The next stage for this new
aircraft was to undergo service evaluation, so the first A-0 was sent to the Erprobungskommando 190 at Rechlin-Royenthin in February 1941. The following month would see Jagdgeschwader 26 start to
get ready for the entry into the Luftwaffe of the Fw 190. The A-1 would be the first production version and have its power supplied by the 1,660-hp BMW 801C-1 radial engine. Armament would consist
of four 7.92 mm MG 17 machine-guns.
The next version, the A-2, would be fitted with an improved BMW 801C-2 engine and have changes to its armament. Two MG 17 machine-guns were installed above the engine whilst in the wing two 20-mm FF
cannons were installed. Some examples would also have extra MG 17s installed in the outer wings. Fitted with the 1,800-hp BMW 801Dg engine the Fw 190 A-3 was the next aircraft in the lineage. This
version had MG 151s, which had a faster rate of fire, in place of its 20-mm FF cannons which were relocated to the outer wings.
The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 made its operational debut on the 14th August 1941 when a pair from JG 26 shot down two Supermarine Spitfires. Initial combat reports from Royal Air Force pilots sometimes
mistook the plane as captured Curtiss Hawk 75s. A revelation in service the Fw 190 was superior to the Spitfire Mk V in both the climb and dive and was more manoeuvrable except in the turn. This
lead to the Luftwaffe winning air superiority from the RAF over the Western Front for nearly a year until the introduction of the Spitfire Mk IX and Hawker Typhoon started to turn the tide back in
favour of the RAF.
In fact so concerned by the Fw 190 were the RAF that a number of ideas were considered in an effort to obtain an example. One such plan was to see a team sent to an airfield in occupied France with
Jeffrey Quill flying one back to England. In any case a stroke of luck on the 23rd June 1942 meant these plans would never have to be put into action when a Fw 190A-3 piloted by Oberleutnant Armin
Faber mistook the Bristol Channel for the English Channel and ended up landing at RAF Pembrey and an intact example was in the RAF's hands. This was then sent to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at
RAF Farnborough for tests. Allowing the RAF to compare the Fw 190 to its Spitfire, Typhoon, Lockheed P-38 Lightning and North American P-51 Mustang.
The Fw 190A-4 would appear during the Summer of 1942 powered by the BMW 801D-2 engine which featured a MW-50 water-methanol injection which enabled upto 2,100-hp to be produced for a limited time.
Whilst the Fw 190 was proving a success in service it wasn't until early 1943 and the introduction of the A-5 that a solution to the issue of overheating engines which effected the previous variants
was introduced. This would see the engine re-mounted further forward by 6 in. Further development of the type would see the A-5/U10 appear as an experimental aircraft which would provide the
basis for the A-6 introduced during June 1943. Featuring a re-designed lighter wing which could hold four 20-mm MG 151/20 cannons alongside the pair of engine mounted 7.92 MG 17 machine-guns. This
was followed by the A-7 in December 1943 which had a pair of 13-mm MG 131s in place of the 7.92mm MG 17 machine-guns fitted to its predecessor.
The next version the Fw 190 A-8 would be the most built version with around 5,100 produced. One of the main changes over the A-7 was the addition of a fuel tank that held an extra 25.3
imperial gallons installed in the rear fuselage. This would enable the aircraft to fly further and reduce the need to carry an external fuel tank. Latter versions of the type had visibility improved
thanks to the introduction of a bulged cockpit canopy. One of the most unusual variants was the A-8/U3 which was mounted on top of a Junkers Ju 88 to form a composite aircraft known as the Mistel.
The Fw 190 would be piloted with the Ju 88 filled with explosives. Once the aircraft had reached the intended target the Ju 88 would be released then the Fw 190 would return to its base.
Combat experience was showing that the Fw 190A models were competitive when combat was below 22,965 ft, however once combat went above this height the BMW 801 engine struggled and output would decrease.
In an effort to solve this problem three A1s were converted to Fw 190B aircraft and were changed as follows.
B-0 - Featured a pressurised cockpit and a wing with a greater area. BMW 801D-2 engine which had a GM-1 power boost system was installed.
B-2 and B-3 - Had a standard wing and featured a pair of MG 17 machine-guns and a pair of MG 151/20 cannons.
The B models would never enter production as attention turned to developing the Fw 190C, however this aircraft would be short lived as well. Powered by a 1,750-hp Daimler-Benz DB 603 engine which
featured a Hirth 9-2281 turbocharger fitted in distinctive ventral fairings, the turbocharger was found to be unreliable during testing. Development of the C was stopped. Neither the B or C models
would provide a solution to the types deficiencies at high altitude but would lead to the Focke-Wulf Ta 152 programme.
Modifications to a number of Fw 190A-7s in late 1943 to serve as D-0 prototypes would lead to the 'long-nose 190' D-9. With the introduction of the Junkers Jumo 213A inline engine, which had the
option of emergency boost thanks to a MW 50 water methanol injection system, a couple of changes to the airframe were needed. Firstly the nose would be lengthened 2 ft and a plug of 1 ft 7 1/2 in added
in the rear of the fuselage. The fin area was also increased. Armament for the type would consist of a pair of MG 131s above the engine and a pair of MG 151/20mm cannons in the wings. Either an
external fuel tank holding 66 imperial gallons could be fitted underwing or two 551-lb bombs. Bubble canopies would also be fitted to later production aircraft. When the Fw 190 D-9 entered service
with the Luftwaffe, pilots considered it better than any other aircraft the Lutfwaffe were operating at the time. However it wouldn't be until early 1945 that the type would be available in large
numbers, but by this time the tide of war had turned against Germany and as a result a shortage of fuel would limit the use of the type.
A number of aircraft would be modified to serve in the ground attack role. The Fw 190F-1 was one such aircraft. Based on the A-4 the new aircraft would have its outboard 20-mm cannons removed and a
bomb rack installed beneath the fuselage. Other changes saw extra armour for the engine and cockpit. These would start to see service during the early part of 1943. One of the last of the D models the
D-12 would also be produced to serve as a ground attack aircraft. Therefore extra armour protection for the engine was added and MG 151/20s in the wings were complimented with a Mk 108 cannon in
the spinner. With the replacement of the Mk 108 cannon by another MG 151/20 in the spinner the D-13 appeared.
The Fw 190 A-5 would serve as the basis for the fighter-bomber G-1 whose armament consisted of a pair of MG 151/20 cannons and a bomb weight of 3,968-lb. A pair of 66 imperial gallon external fuel
tanks could be fitted under the wings and due to the role it was undertaking the landing gear was strengthened. The final Focke-Wulf Fw 190 would be the G-8 which was powered by a 1,800-hp BMW 801D-2
engine and was similar to the A-8.
Like many other aircraft the Fw 190 would find itself serving in a wide variety of roles including anti-shipping, training and reconnaissance. Some examples would serve with the Hungarian Royal Air
Force and Turkish Air Force, whilst a single A-5 was sent to Japan. Whilst there is no exact figure at least 19,500 examples were built.