High altitude fail­ure – Fw 190B and C

Fw 190B and C

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

The Fw 190A boasted su­pe­rior per­for­mance at low and medium al­ti­tudes when it first en­tered ser­vice, but above about 20,000ft it be­gan to strug­gle. This was no cause for con­cern un­til it be­came clear that the RAF was de­vel­op­ing high altitude bomber and re­con­nais­sance air­craft that could cruise well out of its reach. So be­gan pro­tracted at­tempts to pro­duce a high-fly­ing in­ter­cep­tor Fw 190.

In­tel­li­gence about Bri­tish high-altitude pro­to­types be­gan to reach the RLM in early 1942 and by late spring it had be­come a source of con­sid­er­able con­cern. As a re­sult, the min­istry called a meet­ing at the Messer­schmitt fa­cil­ity in Augs­burg on May 20 and in­vited rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Fock­eWulf along. Here it out­lined a re­quire­ment for a new Höhen­jäger – a fighter ca­pa­ble of achiev­ing air su­pe­ri­or­ity at high altitude. Af­ter­wards, Willy Messer­schmitt and his team started work on adapt­ing the most ad­vanced devel­op­ment of the Bf 109 avail­able – the Me 209 – into a ma­chine that could ful­fil both this re­quire­ment and an­other to pro­duce a new naval fighter for the Graf von Zep­pelin air­craft car­rier which was then still un­der con­struc­tion. This be­came the Me 155, with the high altitude vari­ant be­ing the Me 155B. It was de­signed, ini­tially, to share many com­po­nents with the Bf 109G but had a wide track un­der­car­riage, a new en­gine and much longer wings. Kurt Tank de­cided to in­ves­ti­gate three po­ten­tial so­lu­tions as part of wider ef­forts to im­prove the Fw 190’s per­for­mance – mostly cen­tred on its pow­er­plant. Firstly, he had his team look at ways of boost­ing the per­for­mance of the stan­dard BMW 801 pow­ered Fw 190. Se­condly, the Fw 190 would be ex­per­i­men­tally fit­ted with a tur­bo­su­per­charged ver­sion of the liq­uid­cooled in­line Daim­ler-benz DB 603 en­gine. Work on this idea had al­ready been un­der way since March 1941. Thirdly, a Fw 190 fit­ted with a Jumo 213 en­gine would be tried. This too was al­ready un­der con­sid­er­a­tion, although it was deemed un­likely to sur­pass the per­for­mance po­ten­tial of the other two should they prove suc­cess­ful. The first line of en­quiry quickly re­sulted in the Fw 190A-3/U7. The air­craft’s BMW 801 D2 had its Kom­man­dogerät man­age­ment sys­tem re­moved to al­low finer man­ual con­trol at high altitude, larger air in­takes pro­truded from the en­gine cowl­ing ei­ther side of it and it also had ad­justable cool­ing flaps. Ar­ma­ment was re­duced to just two MG 151 can­non in the wing roots to save weight. A trio of pro­to­types were built and the first flew on Au­gust 16, 1942. Tests demon­strated only a small per­for­mance ad­van­tage over the stan­dard A-3, in the or­der of 5-6mph at altitude. It had been planned to fit a tur­bo­su­per­charger but the only mod­els avail­able at the time sat di­rectly be­hind the en­gine and would have ex­hausted di­rectly in front of the Fw 190’s cock­pit. A dif­fer­ent tack was needed and it was there­fore de­cided to add longer wings to a stan­dard A-3 in­stead, plus the pres­surised cabin and GM-1 ni­trous in­jec­tion for the en­gine. This was to be­come the Fw 190B. Wingspan was duly en­larged from 34ft 5¼in to 40ft 8¼in on Fw 190 V12 but work on this was halted and a quar­tet of A-0s were con­verted in­stead as Fw 190B-0s. The first Fw 190B-0 was used to begin pres­sure cabin tests. Th­ese proved prob­lem­atic be­cause the glaz­ing on the cabin, which was sup­posed to be a uni­form 6mm thick, proved to be 4.4-5.3mm thick in­stead – caus­ing it to blow out un­der rel­a­tively low pres­suri­sa­tion. Fur­ther prob­lems fol­lowed and it wasn’t un­til Jan­uary 9, 1943, that a suc­cess­ful flight test took place with stan­dard sized wing. More testing re­vealed that the glaz­ing was in­ef­fec­tive at keep­ing the cold out, so a dou­ble-glazed ver­sion was de­vel­oped that was heated us­ing warm air from the en­gine. The first Fw 190B-0 was then fit­ted with the new length­ened wing and tests con­tin­ued into June. The stan­dard wing was then re­fit­ted in Oc­to­ber. Mean­while, the sec­ond Fw 190B-0 had be­gun flight testing in March with the new dou­ble-glazed canopy and a dif­fer­ent ar­ma­ment con­fig­u­ra­tion – a pair of MG 17s over the nose join­ing the two wing root mounted MG 151s. While the guns caused no prob­lems, the dou­ble glazed canopy was found to suf­fer from ex­ces­sive con­den­sa­tion, lim­it­ing visibility. The third B-0 was ready to go by early April. It first flew on April 6 with the dou­ble glazed canopy, MG FF can­non in the outer wing po­si­tions and a new heater de­signed to pre­vent the for­ma­tion of ice on the cock­pit at high al­ti­tudes. The fourth B-0 was used to test the in­stal­la­tion of GM-1 equip­ment to boost en­gine power and had a 115 litre tank of ni­trous ox­ide fit­ted be­hind the pi­lot. Be­fore th­ese tests were even be­gun, back in Jan­uary 1943, it was en­vis­aged that a se­ries of six Fw 190B-1 pro­duc­tion air­craft would be pro­duced but this idea was dropped dur­ing the sum­mer since the pro­gramme was show­ing lit­tle prom­ise of meet­ing the RLM’S re­quire­ment. Only a sin­gle Fw 190B-1 was built and did not fly un­til Jan­uary 21, 1944.


Ef­forts to pro­duce Fw 190s pow­ered by DB 603 and Jumo 213 en­gines were col­lec­tively given the Fw 190C des­ig­na­tion. The DB 603 had been un­der devel­op­ment at Daim­ler-benz since 1936 and pro­pos­als to fit it to the Fw 190 dated back to March 21, 1941 – 14 months be­fore the RLM called Focke-wulf to its meet­ing at Augs­burg. The pro­tracted devel­op­ment of the en­gine con­tin­ued, how­ever, and the first flight of the Fw 190 V13 test­bed did not take place un­til Fe­bru­ary 1942. Test pi­lot Hans San­der, who flew it, was un­happy with the en­gine’s throt­tle and its cool­ing sys­tem. Fur­ther testing was car­ried out and a sec­ond air­craft, V15, had joined the pro­gramme by the time the May 21 meet­ing took place. The Focke-wulf rep­re­sen­ta­tives meet­ing with the RLM must there­fore have felt fairly con­fi­dent that they al­ready had the win­ning sub­mis­sion to the con­test in hand. How­ever, en­gine prob­lems per­sisted and work on testing the Jumo 213 had not yet be­gun – since that en­gine was sim­i­larly mired in devel­op­ment dif­fi­cul­ties. It had been planned to fit Fw 190 V17 and V18 with the Jumo 213 but by July 1942, af­ter the RLM de­cided to re­move V15 and the sim­i­lar V16 from Focke-wulf and send them for testing at Rech­lin, it was de­cided to fit them with DB 603s in­stead so in-house testing could con­tinue. Plans were drawn up to cre­ate two pro­duc­tion ver­sions of the DB 603 Fw 190 – the C-1 and C-2. The for­mer would have an un­pres­surised cock­pit and an ar­ma­ment of two MG 131s on its nose and two MG 151s in the wing roots. The lat­ter would get a pres­surised cabin and an en­gine-mounted MG 151, MK 103 or MK 108 fir­ing through the spin­ner. In Au­gust 1942, a fur­ther devel­op­ment of the DB 603 pow­ered Fw 190 was pro­posed, this time with the ad­di­tion of an un­der­slung Hirth TK 11 tur­bo­su­per­charger. This was ex­pected to re­sult in an air­craft with 2000hp. It would also get larger wings and a pres­surised cabin. The mod­i­fi­ca­tions were made to Fw 190 V18, now fit­ted with its DB 603, which was re­des­ig­nated Fw 190 V18/U1. It first made two short flights on De­cem­ber 20, 1942, and test pi­lot San­der re­ported: “In the static test, there were no par­tic­u­lar dif­fi­cul­ties. The en­gine runs very smoothly and qui­etly, but the coolant tem­per­a­ture level is sig­nif­i­cantly higher than the en­gine with­out a tur­bo­su­per­charger. “Even at 1700rpm the av­er­age tem­per­a­ture is still over 122ºc. While parked, steam rises from the air­craft and there is some wa­ter loss. The flights were short due to bad weather and a strong ten­dency for the air­craft to over­heat. “Fly­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics were not ob­served, but the air­craft is very tail heavy. Af­ter take­off, low en­gine power is no­tice­able (lack of boost pres­sure, and pre-warmed air).” Other mod­i­fi­ca­tions to V18/U1 in­cluded a sig­nif­i­cantly en­larged tail­fin, sim­i­lar to that later fit­ted to the Ta 152, and a large VDM four-bladed pro­pel­ler. Hirth ex­pe­ri­enced se­ri­ous and on­go­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in de­vel­op­ing its tur­bo­su­per­charg­ers ow­ing to a crit­i­cal short­age of raw ma­te­ri­als to pro­duce suf­fi­ciently heat-re­sis­tant al­loys. The US, how­ever, had no such prob­lem and made tur­bo­su­per­charg­ers a fea­ture of air­craft such as the P-47 Thun­der­bolt. An or­der for 727 Fw 190Cs was placed by the RLM in De­cem­ber 1942 but on Jan­uary 26, 1943, this was can­celled and Focke-wulf was told to cease devel­op­ment of the DB 603pow­ered ver­sions and con­cen­trate on mak­ing the Jumo 213 work in­stead. This de­ci­sion would re­sult in the devel­op­ment of the Fw 190D which is cov­ered in more de­tail else­where.

The com­pany per­sisted with its testing of V18/U1 how­ever, and by May 1943 it was able to achieve a very re­spectable 416mph at 36,100ft us­ing its tur­bo­su­per­charger. With this switched off, how­ever, per­for­mance was di­min­ished to 385mph at 31,150ft. Still, th­ese re­sults were enough to war­rant an­other five be­ing fit­ted with the Hirth TK 11. The first of th­ese was Fw 190 V29, which was fit­ted with a DB 603 S unit and sent to Hirth in June for use as a static tur­bo­su­per­charger devel­op­ment air­frame. V30 got a fur­ther devel­op­ment of the DB 603, the S-1, and first flew on Oc­to­ber 22, 1943. Fur­ther test flights fol­lowed. V31, mean­while, was writ­ten off al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter it over­turned on land­ing fol­low­ing its first flight. V32 was com­pleted in Novem­ber 1943 and was also pow­ered by a DB 603 S-1. It served as an ar­ma­ment test­bed, be­ing fit­ted with two MG 151s in the wing roots. V33 ar­rived too late, how­ever, be­cause by this time all re­main­ing Hirth tur­bo­su­per­charger test air­craft were be­ing con­verted for use in an­other devel­op­ment pro­gramme that would re­sult in Fock-wulfe’s Fw 190 suc­ces­sor – the Ta 152.

Ober­stleut­nant Hannes Traut­loft flew this Fw 190A-4 with Stab/jg 54 from Staraya Russa in the USSR dur­ing April 1942.Traut­loft had al­ready had a lengthy and dis­tin­guished ca­reer as a fighter pi­lot by then, hav­ing joined the Deutsche Verkehrs­fliegerschule at Sch­leis­sheim in 1931, aged 19, and un­der­gone se­cret mil­i­tary train­ing, iron­i­cally in the USSR, the fol­low­ing year. He later fought on the side of Franco’s na­tion­al­ists dur­ing the Span­ish Civil War, fly­ing Heinkel He 51s, and to­gether with fel­low pi­lot Kraft Eber­hardt, scored the first Ger­man vic­to­ries of the con­flict – each of them shoot­ing down a Breguet XIX on Au­gust 25, 1936. When the first Bf 109 pro­to­types were de­liv­ered to the na­tion­al­ists, Traut­loft flew them and helped to de­velop the aerial tac­tics that saw the type go on to huge suc­cess dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. He fought dur­ing the in­va­sion of Poland, and the Battle of Bri­tain, and be­came the Kom­modore of JG 54 on Au­gust 24, 1940 – a post he still held by April 1943. His 58th and fi­nal victory of the war had been over an Ilyushin Il-2 the pre­vi­ous month – his ninth Stur­movik kill. His front line ca­reer ended on July 6, 1943, when he was ap­pointed In­spizient Ost with the Gen­eral der Jagdflieger’s of­fice.

The Fw 190A-6 of Leut­nant Heinz-gün­ther Lück, fly­ing with 1./JG 1 from Dee­len, Hol­land, in Septem­ber 1943. Lück scored just six vic­to­ries but ev­ery sin­gle one of them was a Boe­ing B-17 bomber. He de­stroyed his first Fly­ing Fortress on July 26, 1943. Fur­ther claimed ‘kills’ fol­lowed on July 30, Au­gust 19, Oc­to­ber 8 and Novem­ber 26. He was in­jured in a mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent at Dee­len on Novem­ber 30, 1943, but is still cred­ited with an­other victory on Jan­uary 5, 1944. It seems that one of th­ese claims was re­jected, how­ever, since his fi­nal tally stood at five. He was ap­pointed as Staffelka­pitän of 1./JG 1 on Jan­uary 24 and con­tin­ued in the post un­til he was wounded in ac­tion on April 9. His Fw 190A-8 was dam­aged in com­bat with Amer­i­can bombers in poor weather and he crashed on the Dan­ish is­land of Aeroe. He never flew again and was as­signed to var­i­ous staff po­si­tions.

Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

The enor­mous Hirth TK 11 tur­bo­su­per­charger unit fit­ted be­neath this ex­per­i­men­tal Fw 190 air­frame,v18/u1, even­tu­ally gave the air­craft a more than ac­cept­able top speed of 416mph at 36,100ft but it couldn’t be run con­stantly. Even­tu­ally the pro­gramme was su­per­seded by the Fw 190D and Ta 152.

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

A side view of Fw 190 V13 promi­nently dis­plays the length­ened nose needed to house its DB 603 en­gine.v13 was writ­ten off af­ter five months due to crash dam­age sus­tained on July 30, 1942. A close up view of the DB 603 as fit­ted to Fw 190 V13.the en­gine had been in devel­op­ment for more than six years by this point and was far from ready for full scale pro­duc­tion. Fit­ted with an early DB 603 A-0 en­gine, Fw 190 V13 re­quired a large in­take be­neath the en­gine cowl­ing for its oil cooler.the air­craft first flew in Fe­bru­ary 1942.

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

Fw 190 V15 was used to test the ex­tremely long ex­haust pipes later fit­ted to V18/U1. The V16 ex­per­i­men­tal air­frame, fit­ted with the DB 603 and sim­i­lar to V15 but with­out the long ex­hausts, was used for tests by Daim­ler-benz it­self at Stuttgart-ech­ter­din­gen dur­ing the lat­ter part of 1942. Focke-wulf’s first ef­fort at a high-altitude in­ter­cep­tor ver­sion of the Fw 190 was the A-3/U7.THE Kom­man­dogerät man­age­ment sys­tem was re­moved from its BMW 801 D-2 and it had large ex­ter­nal air in­takes fit­ted.three were built but per­for­mance was dis­ap­point­ing. A for­ward view of Fw 190 V16. It was in­tended that the air­craft would be fit­ted with a mo­torkanone, pos­si­bly a MK 103 or MK 108, fir­ing through the cen­tre of the hol­low pro­pel­ler hub. The DB 603 as fit­ted to V16.the en­gine never saw ac­tive ser­vice with a Fock­eWulf air­craft but did power the Heinkel He 219, Dornier Do 335, Messer­schmitt Me 410 and Focke-wulf Ta 152C – the last of which ar­rived too late to be flown against the Al­lies.

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

From the front, the huge ground­skim­ming Hirth su­per­charger hous­ing of Fw 190 V18/U1 is even more ev­i­dent. The lengthy ex­haust of Fw 190 V18/U1 re­quired a faired-in hous­ing all the way down the side of the air­craft’s fuse­lage. Fw 190 V18/U1 was never given a full paint job and re­tained its nat­u­ral metal fin­ish through­out testing. De­spite its tur­bo­su­per­charger-en­hanced per­for­mance, it was still too un­re­li­able for full pro­duc­tion and the de­sign was dropped in favour of more promis­ing types.

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