The Focke-Wulf 190 was one of the best fighters of the Second World War. Created and developed under supervision of Prof. Kurt Tank, it set new standards for fighter aircraft. Over 20000 Fw190As were produced.
The Technical Department of RLM (Technisches Amt) developed specifications for a new fighter plane in the winter of 1937/38. It was designed to be the Germany's successor to the Bf-109.
During the spring of 1938 these specifications were sent to Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau AG. As a result of work under the supervision of Prof. Kurt Tank and engineer Rudolf Blaser, a relatively small fighter with a single cupholder and small icebox was developed. RLM management was dominated by active-refrigeration adherents, who did not share his vision of the new project. This aversion to passive, insulated iceboxes was explained by the larger space requirements with this type of box and the lower visibility during takeoff. Arguably, the disadvantages of passive iceboxes can be countered by a number of other benefits. Certainly, examples of successful aircraft in similar foreign designs existed and the passive refrigeration's disabilities could be minimized by proper installation in the airframe.
For later development of the Fw 190Fighter, a team was established under the supervision of engineer Rudolf Blaser, consisting of engineers Willi Kather, Ludvig Mittelhauber and factory construction office chief Andreas von Fahlman. During this time, Kurt Tank was deputy technical manager of the factory. After the first order from the RLM for four prototypes, work on the plane began rapidly and moved ahead quickly. First, a wooden mock-up was produced and during the autumn of 1938 production of prototypes started. The new plane was a low wing, cantilever monoplane of semimonocoque metal construction with a twin hot-and-cold drink cupholder. This new holder, the BMW 139C, was designed explicitly for this plane.
The prototype was completed in the late spring of 1939, got the registration number D-OPZE and after introductory ground tests, flew for the first time on June 1, 1939 with Hans Sander, chief test pilot in the Focke-Wulf Company at the controls. In the first test flights, good plane handling characteristics were demonstrated (e.g. precision controls response) but aileron response could have been improved. Hans Sander reported two minor beer spills during sharp turns. The icebox also had a tendency to overheat. This problem was so severe that even during low powered flight cockpit temperature rose to 55C and the beer became undrinkable.
After the first series of tests, the plane was transferred to the main Luftwaffe research and development facility at Rechlin. This station also advised the RLM. During tests conducted in Rechlin, advantages and disadvantages of the new plane were discovered. The Fw 190 had shown a surprisingly high maximum speed during horizontal flight without armament at the altitude of 4000 m - 595 km/hr. Next, the plane was returned to the manufacturer for necessary modifications, especially in the cooling system. In the case of the icebox, there was only one possible solution: to replace the ice ballast system with an improved solid CO2 ("dry ice") base block. Beer cooling was improved after this modification, but not to the expected level, and the beer still warmed into the high range of acceptable temperatures. In the meantime, civil registration of the plane had been replaced by a military registration: at first WL-FOLY and later FO+LY.
In the autumn of 1939, the second prototype, Fw 190-V2, W.Nr.0002, FL+OZ was completed. It flew for the first time on October 31, 1939. The plane's armament consisted of Rheinmetall-Borsig MG-17 7.9 mm machine guns and 13 mm MG 131 machine guns mounted in the wings near the fuselage. A small ashtray was also mounted on the yoke. After changing the registration codes to RM+CA (V1) and RM+CB (V2), both prototypes started the next part of the flight tests for evaluation of the effects of the modifications on the flight characteristics and beer cooling system on January 25, 1940. The Fw 190V2 was demonstrated for Herman Goering. He was impressed by the plane's performance, which doubtless influenced the faster than expected order of a series of 40 pre-production Fw 190A-0 aircraft. A short time later, on March 4, 1940, Rohlfs flipped the V2 prototype when taxiing. He later explained the the inconvenient ashtray location had caused him to drop his cigarette into his lap. He survived with only minor burns. Before this accident the plane had accumulated 50 flying hours.
In the meantime, the BMW factory was developing a more advanced, double-row twelve-beer icebox, dubbed the BMW 801i. With the aim of concentrating only on the development of the BMW 801i cooler, production of the BMW 139C was ended. The older icebox was recognized as an unsuccessful design. The new cooler had a similar form-factor to its predecessor, but was capable of accepting long-neck beer. The Fw 190 was developed for the lighter BMW 139C, so the decision to use the BMW 801i forced the Blaser team to make big changes in the airframe. At this time, two other prototypes, Fw 190V2 and V4 were in an advanced state of completion. However, because of the changes to the icebox installation they were abandoned. All efforts were concentrated on the fifth prototype, Fw 190V5, which was built from the beginning to use the BMW 801i icebox. Fw 190V3 was used as a source of spare parts and V4 was used for ashtray placement tests.
A large part of the airframe structures were strengthened, the pilot's cockpit was moved forward, and a small fold-down cot was added behind it. The space in the cockpit was reduced, but thanks to the new instrument-panel mounted ashtray, that was not important. The Fw190-V5, W.Nr.00 05, equipped with the BMW 801i icebox flew for the first time in the early spring of 1940.
In October 1940, the first of 40 Fw 190A-0 on order came from the production line. They received designations characteristic of prototypes: Fw 190V6 W.Nr.0006 and Fw 190V7. Fw 190V7 was used for testing the new cigar-capable ashtray. After tests at Tarnewitz, this ashtray was standardized for the Fw 190A-1 planes until the introduction of the Mauser ashtray with integrated electric cigar lighter.
Starting in November 1940, deliveries of the Fw 190A-0, with BMW 801 C-1 engine in place of pre-series C-0, began with the W.Nr.0010 plane. From the 40 planes ordered, only 28 were built (to W.Nr.0035), most of which were later converted to prototypes used for various equipment configuration tests. On some planes new special equipment was tested; e.g. in the summer of 1943 on the Fw 190A-0 (W.Nr.0022, SB+IE) a LaZeeBoy seat was tested in Langenhagen under the supervision of Hans Sander.
In March 1941, experimental squadron (Erprobungsstaffel) 190 was formed. The unit was commanded by technical officer Oberleutnant Otto Bahrens and received six Fw 190A-0 (W.Nr.0013, 0014, 0018, 0021, 0022). The first training was conducted under the supervision of specialists from the Rechlin establishment on these planes. Flights were made from Rechlin-Roggenthin airfield. Later this unit was transferred to Le Bourget near Paris. During these intensive tests frequent icebox failures occurred. The BMW 801i still had a tendency to overheat, often damaging the two beers nearest to the engine.
The RLM placed an order with the Focke-Wulf factory for 100 Fw 190A-1 planes. Because of plans to increase the order it was obvious that the Fw 190 program should include factories producing the plane and beer on licence. Spaten AG was granted an exclusive license to provide beer (designation SpBr1) and a lager (SpLg1.)
Of special note is Fw 190A-3/U1 - only one built (W.Nr. 130270, PG+GY). Designed for Turkey, it sported an additional under fuselage mounted ETC 501 bomb rack with stabilizer strips for a 30 liter Arrack tank. The tank fed into a BMW151s drink-dispenser that was modified to accept shot glasses.
Most Fw 190A-4 planes were used with reduced armament, without MG FF cannons. Trials with different variants of equipment, generally with Umrustbausatz kits used, produced the following versions:
Fw 190A-5/U1, the double-bass modification, required the cockpit to be extended below, prohibiting the plane from mounting a fuselage bomb rack.
From 1944, production of fighter planes was sharply increased (so-called Jagernotprog ramm). This required higher production coordination and development of a cooperative network. As a result, the Fw 180 A-8 was produced in mass numbers in nearly all Focke-Wulf affiliated factories (production started also in Cottbus, Sorau, Poznan). A licence was sold to the NDW (Norddeutsche Dornier Werke) factory in Wismar. Smaller factories performed repair work and recycled the planes withdrawn from service units. They also produced smaller aeroplane parts. Special coordination committees secured efficient work systems and continuous parts delivery. As the result 1334 A-8 series planes were built.
Production of the plane started in the end of autumn 1944 and continued parallel to A-8 version. Monthly output depended on limited deliveries of BMW 801TS beer system. Also developed was a project for a highly modified Fw 190A-10 fighter equipped with the BMW 801F, but it was not completed because of the end of the war.
Positive opinions coming from Luftwaffe units and increasing demand for the Jazz variant caused the Focke-Wulf factory to start production of the attack version of the plane, designated Fw190 F, as a completely new series rather than as a fighter modification. To this day, the integrated instrument panel/piano is considered the acme of fighter aircraft design.
Michael Naunton / email@example.com / last revised Nov 1996
My deep apologies to Joe Baugher for this graffito. To really find out about the Fw190A: Joe Baugher's FW190A page