Se­crets re­vealed part III: in Soviet hands

Se­crets re­vealed – Part III

Aviation Classics - - CONTENTS - Art­work by Claes Sundin Art­work by Claes Sundin

Just like the Bri­tish and Amer­i­cans, the Sovi­ets were keen to get their hands on a Fw 190 and test its abil­i­ties against their own top fighters. An op­por­tu­nity to do this pre­sented it­self in un­likely cir­cum­stances…

Bat­tling four Rus­sian Cur­tiss P-40 Kit­ty­hawks just out­side Len­ingrad on Jan­uary 13, 1943, Un­terof­fizier Hel­mut Brandt of 2./JG.54 was not hav­ing a good day. His Fw 190A-4 was strug­gling to cope with the arc­tic tem­per­a­tures and as the aerial com­bat against the 158th Fighter Avi­a­tion Reg­i­ment fighters pro­gressed, he opened fire with his nose mounted MG 17 ma­chine guns and was hor­ri­fied when their bul­lets shot off his own pro­pel­ler blades. The syn­chro­niser gear had failed and Brandt was left with an ef­fec­tively pow­er­less ma­chine. He at­tempted to glide back to Ger­man lines but didn’t get very far and was forced to make a belly land­ing on the frozen sur­face of Lake Ladoga. Jump­ing down from the cock­pit, Brandt opened the side fuse­lage hatch of his ma­chine and drew out the skis he had been car­ry­ing for just such an even­tu­al­ity. He put them on and hastily tried to es­cape, leav­ing his air­craft out on the ice, but to no avail – he was picked up by a Soviet pa­trol and the Rus­sians had their first Fw 190, WNR. 142310. Re­al­is­ing what they had, the Sovi­ets quickly hauled the air­craft on to dry land and took it to the nearby 1st Re­pair De­pot at Len­ingrad, where its shot-off pro­pel­ler was re­port­edly re­placed with an­other sal­vaged from a Junkers Ju 87. Next it was put on a train bound for Moscow and the Re­search In­sti­tute of the Soviet Air Force – Naoochno-issle­dova-tel’skiy in­sti­toot Voyenno-voz­doosh­nykh (NII VVS) at nearby Schelkovo, ar­riv­ing on Jan­uary 16. This was the main cen­tre for study­ing and testing cap­tured Ger­man air­craft through­out the war. En­gi­neer-cap­tain P S Ono­priyenko was as­signed to get the A-4 air­wor­thy again and flight tests were con­ducted by Ma­jor Yuriy A An­tipov. This process con­tin­ued for nearly six months, with a to­tal of 37 flights be­ing made by the ma­jor. An­tipov’s of­fi­cial con­clu­sion, and that of other pi­lot’s who flew WNR. 142310, was that the Fw 190 lacked the per­for­mance edge nec­es­sary to de­feat the lat­est Soviet de­signs – the Yakovlev Yak-9 and the Lav­ochkin La-5. A top speed of just 379mph at 19,680ft was recorded for the Focke-wulf.

On the other hand, the Rus­sians en­joyed the A-4’s au­to­matic en­gine man­age­ment sys­tem, which sub­stan­tially re­duced pi­lot work­load com­pared to Soviet types, the good undis­torted visibility of­fered by the canopy and the Fw 190’s su­pe­rior struc­tural strength. Han­dling the Fw 190 was ap­par­ently more dif­fi­cult than han­dling the Yak-9 and La-5, how­ever. Soviet air­craft de­sign­ers also took the op­por­tu­nity to ex­am­ple the lat­est Ger­man fighter at close quar­ters. Se­myon A Lav­ochkin was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in the BMW 801D’s cool­ing ar­range­ments and cowl­ing. Since he spe­cialised in pro­duc­ing air­craft with air-cooled en­gines, he was fas­ci­nated by the Fw 190’s cool­ing fan and oil cooler sys­tem. Some of the ideas he saw in the A-4 later found their way into Lav­ochkin de­signs. Once it had been doc­u­mented in ev­ery con­ceiv­able way, in 1944 Un­terof­fizier Hel­mut Brandt’s Fw 190A-4 was put on dis­play at BNT TSAGI, Moscow’s New Equip­ment Bureau, along­side com­pa­ra­ble Soviet types. As for Brandt him­self, he had even less luck as a POW than he did as a pi­lot – end­ing up mur­dered in the pri­son camp where he was be­ing held be­fore the end of the war.

Later cap­tives

Two fur­ther A-4s were cap­tured dur­ing the spring of 1943 – WNR. 2362 and WNR. 2367 of IV./JG.51. Th­ese too were tested by Soviet pi­lot, who were quick to of­fi­cially tes­tify that they were in­fe­rior to their own ma­chines. They found the cock­pit con­di­tions too cramped and dis­missed the Fw 190’s per­for­mance as sec­ond rate. The air­craft was over­weight and ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity was in­ad­e­quate, par­tic­u­larly when com­pared to the Luft­waffe’s other main fighter on the Eastern Front at that time, the Messer­schmitt Bf 109G-2. They did, how­ever, find some­thing to praise in the form of the air­craft’s tail-wheel cas­tor­ing lock ar­range­ment. Soviet designer Alek­sandr S Yakovlev took note and a sim­i­lar mech­a­nism was used on the Yak-1m, the pro­to­type of the Yak-3. The next ma­chine to be cap­tured, in July 1943, was Fw 190A-5 WNR. 1154. This suf­fered en­gine prob­lems and gave an even poorer per­for­mance over­all than the A-4s. How­ever, the A-5 was also found to have ad­di­tional ar­mour plates on the lower parts of the wings and the en­gine cowl­ing which, it was thought, were likely to im­prove its sur­viv­abil­ity in com­bat. A pair of Fw 190A-8s were cap­tured and tested at NII VVS later in the war, Wnrs. 682011 and 580967. The first of th­ese was fit­ted with ei­ther the R2 or R8 field mod­i­fi­ca­tion be­cause it had MK 108 can­non in its outer wing po­si­tions. The Sovi­ets pre­sumed that, rather than be­ing used for down­ing bombers, the can­non were there for ground-attack pur­poses. The heavy Stur­mjäger was clearly ill-suited to aerial com­bat against Soviet fighters but it was re­garded as be­ing a se­ri­ous threat to the Red Army. There­fore, the A-8/R2 (or R8) and WNR. 580967 were test flown in a way to sug­gest that they were pre­par­ing to attack ground troops and the VVS’S fighters, an La-7, Yak-3 and Yak-9u, were sent up to in­ter­cept them – and for­mu­late tac­tics for do­ing so in the field. WNR. 580967 was also flown in mock dog­fights against the same Soviet ma­chines, un­en­cum­bered as it was by the ex­tra ar­mour and guns of its coun­ter­part, but was found like all the Fw 190s that pre­ceded it to be a poor match for the Yakovlev and Lav­ochkin de­signs. Be­yond the A-4s, A-5 and A-8s, nu­mer­ous fur­ther Fw 190’s fell into Soviet hands but many were dam­aged in one way or an­other and there was lit­tle to be gained from fur­ther tests on sim­i­lar ma­chines, even when they were found to be in good con­di­tion. As the war drew to a close, the Sovi­ets cap­tured a num­ber of Fw 190D-9s and sub­jected them to the usual bat­tery of tests. How­ever, th­ese are fur­ther dis­cussed on p122-125.

The Fw 190F-3 flown by Haupt­mann Alexander Gläser of Stab II./SG 77, from Kali­nowka, USSR, dur­ing Oc­to­ber 1943. Gläser was a Junkers Ju 87B Stuka pi­lot of con­sid­er­able ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing fought in the in­va­sion of France, the Battle of Bri­tain and the in­va­sion of Cze­choslo­vakia with Sturzkampfgeschwader 77 (STG 77). When Op­er­a­tion Bar­barossa be­gan, he was a Ket­ten­führer (for­ma­tion leader), and his unit suc­cess­fully pro­vided close air sup­port for the Ger­man army as it plunged ever deeper into the Soviet Union. STG 77 flew mis­sions over Stal­in­grad be­fore the The Fw 190A-7 flown by Ober­leut­nant Otto Kittel with 3./JG 54 from Riga-skulte, Latvia, on June 23, 1944. The pre­vi­ous month he had re­ceived the Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross from Adolf Hitler per­son­ally at the Wolf’s Lair in East Prus­sia.there is no known pho­to­graph of the Fw 190A-8 Kittel was fly­ing eight months later when he was shot down 3.7 miles south-west of Džuk­ste. He died when his air­craft broke up on hit­ting the ground and it was not un­til last year, 2013, that the crash site was fi­nally dis­cov­ered. Ac­cord­ing to Ruedi­ger Kauf­mann, who con­ducted the search:“we found all parts of the air­craft in the earth and iden­ti­fied them, en­abling us to rebuild the sit­u­a­tion of the crash in Fe­bru­ary 1945.

tide of battle turned and Ger­man forces were forced into retreat. Most of STG 77 be­came SG 77 in Oc­to­ber 1943 and be­gan con­vert­ing to the Fw 190F. Gläser was ap­pointed Grup­penkom­man­deur of II./SG 77 in Fe­bru­ary 1944 and led the group for the rest of the war. His unit at­tacked over­whelm­ing Soviet for­ma­tions to de­fend the cross­ings over the Oder and when the war ended, Gläser suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­ated the sur­ren­der of his men to the Amer­i­cans – when the usual prac­tice was for them to turn Ger­mans who had fought on the Eastern Front over to the Sovi­ets. He died in 2003. “Af­ter be­ing shot down at about 450ft, Otto Kittel must have opened his safety belt and the har­ness of his parachute, so he must have still been alive be­fore the crash to pre­pare for an emer­gency land­ing.the canopy was still closed so he did not have time to open it us­ing the spe­cial Focke-wulf sys­tem. He came down in an un­lucky down­hill area.the plane was to­tally bro­ken into thou­sands of pieces by the trees and ex­ploded when it came to rest.the BMW 801 en­gine was thrown about 230ft into the woods. “The bro­ken parts of the 12mm ar­moured pi­lot seat show that Kittel must have been killed im­me­di­ately af­ter pass­ing the first small trees when the cock­pit sec­tion of the plane was bro­ken off.” * Kittel’s life and ser­vice ca­reer are cov­ered in more de­tail on pages 80-85.

Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

by the Sovi­ets, WNR. The first­focke-wulf Fw 190 to be cap­tured the orig­i­nal was shot off by 142310 with re­paired pro­pel­ler af­ter its own guns. WNR. 142310 painted in full Soviet colours – red stars on white. A very sorry look­ing Fw 190A-4. WNR. 142310 with its ru­ined pro­pel­ler and un­der­side dam­age from Un­terof­fizier Hel­mut Brandt’s belly land­ing on Lake Ladoga.this photo was taken on Jan­uary 16, 1944, three days af­ter the air­craft came down.

Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

One of the best Rus­sian air­craft in early 1943 was the Yakovlev Yak-3. Smaller and lighter than the Fw 190, it was nev­er­the­less slower and poorly armed. Soviet of­fi­cial re­ports, how­ever, cast it in a glow­ing light com­pared to the Focke-wulf ma­chine. Soviet pi­lots who tested the cap­tured Ger­man Fw 190A-4 re­ported that it lacked the per­for­mance edge to over­come the lat­est fighters from their own air force – such as the Yak-9. How far they re­ally be­lieved this and how far their re­port was made in the ‘pa­tri­otic spirit’ to avoid at­ten­tion from po­lit­i­cal of­fi­cers re­mains to be seen. The Lav­ochkin La-7 was pow­ered by a 1650hp Shvetsov ASH-82FN ra­dial en­gine based on an Amer­i­can de­sign.this gave it ex­cel­lent per­for­mance and the Sovi­ets be­lieved it was far su­pe­rior to the Fw 190, though less so when com­pared to the Bf 109G.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.