Close support – Fw 190F and G
Fw 190F and G
A fighter-bomber role was envisioned for the Fw 190 fighter as early as the A-0 series and it quickly gained a reputation as a capable all-rounder. So when the Ju 87 Stuka and Henschel Hs 123 groundattack aircraft needed replacing, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to see the 190 filling their roles too.
The very emblem of the Blitzkrieg, the gull-winged Ju 87 Stuka, had terrified Allied troops when it saw service on the front line during 1939 and 1940 but by 1942 it was becoming an easy target for high performance enemy fighters. In contrast, the tough open-cockpit biplane Henschel Hs 123 was still performing well as a dive bomber and close support platform by 1942 but had been out of production for two years. Every time one was lost there could be no prospect of a replacement. The solution was to take a modern Luftwaffe fighter already subject to mass production and convert it to take over from these types. This had been tried with a variant of the Messerschmitt Bf 109E but its lightweight construction, small wings and narrow track landing gear had conspired to make it a less than ideal aircraft for ground-attack duties. The Fw 190 proved to be the answer that the Luftwaffe was looking for. The type had already proven to be a capable fighter-bomber with minor modifications adding extra racks and equipment for a variety of air-dropped and air-launched ordnance. Developing these versions to take on an even more specialised ground-attack role was a logical next step and resulted in the Fw 190F. In addition, it was decided that the Fw 190’s fighter-bomber role could be made more useful, particularly over the huge wide-open spaces of the Eastern Front, with the addition of more fuel tanks to give a better range. This became the Fw 190G.
FW 190 FRIEDRICH
The first attempt to create a dedicated Schlachtflugzeug (ground-attack aircraft) had been the Fw 190A-3/U3, devised in May 1942. This had extra armour plates fitted around and beneath the engine, on the sides of the fuselage and on the undercarriage doors. A variety of different armament options were proposed, ranging from bombs to under-wing cannon pods. Just 12 examples were constructed. By the time the A-3/U3 configuration had been finalised however, the A-3 series was over and the A-4 had taken its place on production lines. Therefore, an A-4/U3 setup, featuring the same armour and weapon options as its A3 based predecessor was established. This time, however, the A-3/U3’S centreline ETC 501 bomb rack was enhanced by the addition of the ER-4 adapter, which allowed the Fw 190A-4/U3 to carry a set of four SC50 bombs. Again, only a handful of these aircraft, perhaps a dozen, are believed to have been made. Next came another small-run type, the A5/U3. This had two ETC 50 racks under each wing and a hefty total armour weight of 794lb. The A-5/U3 was scheduled for limited production in December 1942 with the ultimate goal of using it as the pattern aircraft for the full production Fw 190F ground-attack aircraft, scheduled to enter production in June 1943. Everything proceeded according to plan until April 1943, when Focke-wulf changed its mind. The A-4/U3 became officially known as
the Fw 190F-1, while the remaining A-5/U3S became Fw 190F-2s. A total of up to 270 are believed to have been produced. The template for true mass production of the Friedrich became, instead, the A-5/U17 which was built as the F-3. This was similar to the A-5/U3 but had its outer wing gun positions entirely deleted. Armament was fixed at a pair of MG 17s on the nose and MG 151 20mm cannon in the wing roots. It also had a FUG 16 ZS radio which used army frequencies, allowing the pilot to communicate effectively with the forces on the ground that he was supporting. Most F-3s left the factory – they were all built by Arado – with a modification pack already fitted. The Fw 190F-3/R1 had an ETC 501 bomb rack with ER 4 adapter under its fuselage plus two ETC 50s under each wing it could carry up to eight SC50 50kg bombs. These could be dropped all at once or in pairs using a control device fitted to the aircraft’s cockpit known as the kleine Abwurfelektrik (small electrical release). The extra weight of the bombs caused the aircraft to become extremely unwieldy and top speed dropped dramatically to just 326mph. Therefore, most had their nose mounted machine guns removed during bombing missions. Other modification packs were planned for the F-3 but few saw action. The F-3/R2 would have seen the aircraft fitted with a podded MK 103 cannon under each wing as a tankbuster but in tests it was found that the MK 103’s ammunition was incapable of piercing the Soviet T-34 tank’s armour – making it unable to fulfil its primary function. The R3 was the same as the R2 but with a modified gun fairing and there is thought to have been an R4 but full details of what it might have involved have never been discovered. The R6 was to carry the usual R6 underslung WGR 21 mortar tubes. F-3/U3, U5 and U14 involved the fitting of specialised racks to enable the aircraft to carry different types of air-launched torpedo. Most of the 432 F-3s produced were built between April and December 1943. Produced then dropped to a trickle but continued until the last five were built during March 1944. The first units to receive them were I./SKG 10 in France, I./SG 1 and II./SG 1 in Russia and II./SG 2 in Sicily. With in-service experience in hand, FockeWulf set about working on the next Friedrich, the F-4, which was essentially an F-3 with a refined released system which allowed bombs to be dropped one at a time. However, with the Fw 190A-8 now in prospect the A-5 airframe on which the F-4 was to be based was becoming increasingly outdated. Therefore, the F-4 was cancelled before it could enter even the prototype stage and a revised version was designed based on the A-8, to be known as the F-8. This had the same armament as the A-8 but without the outer wing positions. The F-8 also differed from the A-8 in having a modified injector on its compressor which gave enhanced performance during low level flying for several minutes.
A handful of conversions and upgrades had been made available for previous Friedrichs but the vast and unprecedented scale of F-8 production – almost on a par with A-8 production – meant the type had a wide range of kits added and modifications made to it. There were more F-8s than there was fuel to fly them and many ended up as testbeds for armament configurations, unusual anti-tank weapons, rockets and missiles. They were also used for Mistel combinations detailed elsewhere in this publication. The G series outlined below was similarly upgraded to G-8 standard with the introduction of the A-8 but after only a small production run it was abandoned in favour of the first F-8 Umrüstbausätze modification – the F-8/U1. This saw the F-8 fitted with a pair of ETC 503 bomb racks, one under each wing, enabling it to carry a pair of sizeable SC250 250kg bombs, with the centre-mounted ETC 501 for a drop tank. This could also, however, be used for a single SC500 bomb but fitting one exceeded the Fw 190’s maximum weight limit and dramatically reduced performance. The F-8/U2 had an ETC 503 rack under each wing and was intended to carry a pair of BT 400 torpedo-bombs on them. A specialised bomb aiming device, the TSA 2A, was installed in the cockpit to enable the pilot to deliver them effectively. The aircraft’s only other armament was to be the cowlingmounted MG 131 machine guns. Test conversions were made but the U2 never entered full scale production. The U3 was another torpedo carrying type, this time intended to carry a much larger weapon. It never entered service either. Only one U4 was built, a night version of the F-8 with autopilot and improved electrical systems, and the U5 was similarly an upgrade of electrics only. In addition to the Umbau conversions, there were seven Rüstsatz field modification kits – R1 was the form in which most F-8s were produced, with a pair of ETC 50 or 71 racks under each wing. R2 saw a pair of 30mm MK 108 cannon fitted in the outer wing positions but only two aircraft were modified this way, by Dornier. In contrast, up to 60 machines were modified with R3, which had a 30mm MK 103 cannon slung under each wing. It is possible that some R13s were made, a night groundattack type with shields to mask engine exhausts from both the pilot and the enemy, and a small number of aircraft modified to R14, with a torpedo rack entered service with 11./KG 200. This last modification involved substantial changes to the F-8. The usual tail was replaced with the much larger item used on the Ta 152, the tailwheel was lengthened significantly to provide enough space for the underslung torpedo and the BMW 801 TS engine was used in place of the 801D-2. Armament was just two MG 151 cannon, one in each wing root. F-8/R15 was effectively the F-8/U3 renamed and the R16 was developed from the U2 and only a handful entered service. Overall, an incredible 3614 Fw 190F-8s were built, 2264 of them by Arado and 1350 by Norddeutsche Dornier. The development of the Fw 190F did not end here, however. The F-9, powered by the BMW 801 TS, was a ground-attack variant of the A-9 with two cowling-mounted MG 131 machine guns and two MG 151s in the wing roots. It had the usual fitment of an ETC 501 centreline rack, two ETC 50s under each wing and a FUG 16 ZS radio set to enable communication with units on the ground. It also featured the bulged canopy fitted to late-built A-8s and A-9s. Production began in January 1945 and it is estimated that some 400 were built, though exact figures are unknown. There were five Rüstsatz – R1 switching the ETC 50 racks for ETC 71s and R13, R14, R15 and R16 matching those of the F-8. The Fw 190F-10 was to have been the ground-attack version of the A-10 but this was never built. Focke-wulf then jumped over the numbers 11-14 and began work, at the end
of 1944, on the F-15. This was similar to the F-9 but had larger wheels. The main wheels were 740 x 210mm (up from 700 x 175mm) and the tail wheel was 380 x 150mm (up from 350 x 135mm). The F-15, too was ditched before it ever reached production, in favour of an improved version of the design, the F-16. This was to be fitted with the BMW 801 TH, an improved radio set and the bigger wheels. The fuselage rack was the advanced ETC 504 and the wing racks were four ETC 71s or a pair of ETC 503s. Two prototypes were built but the war ended before production could begin. Finally, and perhaps incredibly, an F-17 was also planned. This was to have the larger tail of the Ta 152 and a BMW 801 TS or TH engine. Production was optimistically scheduled for August 1945. More than 4000 Fw 190Fs were built and the majority of them served with units operating on the Eastern Front.
Fw 190 Gustav ‘Jabo-rei’
While the Fw 190F ground-attack aircraft was under development during the autumn of 1942, Focke-wulf also worked on a long-range fighter model that it called ‘Jagdbomber grosser Reichweite’ (literally fighter-bomber long range), Jabo-rei for short, which was based on the earlier A-4/U8, which had a centreline ETC 501 bomb rack but also had all armament removed except for the MG 151 cannon in the wing roots. The deletion of any nose mounted weapons allowed for the installation of an additional oil tank to improve the endurance of the aircraft’s BMW 801D-2 engine. A critical factor in the Fw 190G’s design was the ability to carry a drop tank under each wing and since Focke-wulf did not have the appropriate racks to enable this, it bought in faired racks from Weserflug that had been designed for use on the Ju 87 Stuka – known as the VTR. Ju 87. While they certainly did the job, these racks reduced the aircraft’s speed to an appalling 298mph. Two examples of the A-4/U8 were flown, the first on October 19, 1942, and the second on January 8, 1943, before the type was redesignated the Fw 190G-1. A different, fairing-less, wing rack was then trialled in the hope of reducing the performance penalty imposed by the Weserflug type – one designed and built by Messerschmitt. This consisted of metal stabiliser bars that fell with the tank when it was dropped – leaving only the wing-mounted release unit behind to cause drag. A prototype based on the A-5/U8 was fitted out with the Messerschmitt racks and tests showed a dramatic reduction in the amount of speed lost. With the tanks dropped the aircraft, WNR. 1488, was only 2mph slower than the standard A-5/U8. This design became the Fw 190G-2.
This was so promising that a night version was also built as the Fw 190G-2/N, based on the A-5/U2. It was fitted with glare screens on the sides of the fuselage to prevent the pilot from being blinded by flames from his own engine’s exhaust. It also had covers over the exhausts both on the sides of the fuselage and underneath to prevent the exhaust flames from giving away the aircraft’s position when flying in darkness. The G-2 entered production and the first examples were allocated to SKG 10 in France in June 1943. However, even though the installation of the Messerschmitt rack had been a resounding success, Focke-wulf still felt that there was room for improvement and developed its own purpose-built rack – which resulted in an 11mph loss of speed with only the racks fitted. Nevertheless, the G-3 entered production with its Focke-wulf fittings and was also built in a night version similar to the G-2/N. Conversions to G-3/U3, U5 and U14 were all devised to allow the G-3 to carry torpedoes. The G-3/R1 gave the aircraft the same armament as the A-6/R1 – a pair of podded MG 151/20 cannon under each wing, four in total. Perhaps even more extreme, the G-3/R5 reinstated the nose mounted machine guns, MG 131s and added a pair of ETC 71 racks under each wing to create an aircraft that was more like a Fw 190F than a G. All 550 G-3s were built by Focke-wulf and the type was operated by SKG 10, SG 4 and SG 10. Plans were then drawn up to develop the next upgrade, the G-4, but these were dropped when it became clear that a major production drive would be made centred on the new A-8.
The G-8 was to have the familiar ETC 501 centreline bomb rack plus an ETC 503 rack beneath each wing for the 300 litre drop tanks. The advanced ETC 503 only caused a speed loss of 4mph – an acceptable compromise. As with previous Gustavs, armament was reduced to the wing-root MG 151s and the F-8’s bulged canopy was also fitted. Focke-wulf built all 146 G-8s as G8/R5s in March and April 1944. These had a pair of ETC 50 or 71 racks under each wing. Some Fw 190Gs were field modified to carry very large payloads of 1000kg, 1600kg or even 1800kg. This was managed by modifying the landing gear oleo struts and using reinforced tyres. Experiments were carried out to fit the Fw 190G with water-methanol injection to boost performance and a night time version, the G8/N, got as far as tests with a prototype but when production of the G-8/R5 drew to a premature conclusion in April 1944, the Gustav was wound up in favour of further Fw 190F developments. G-9 and G-10 variants had been pencilled in but these were scrapped. Around 1300 Fw 190Gs of all types had been built by the end of the war, though some of these were composites made using, for example, the undamaged wings from one wrecked aircraft and the undamaged fuselage of another. As with the Fw 190F, most of these served on the Eastern Front.
The Fw 190A-5/U8, along with the A-4/U8, became the basis for Focke-wulf’s ‘Jabo-rei’ long range fighter-bomber.the aircraft pictured here is an A-5/U8 with the faired Ju 87 wing racks used for the Fw 190G-1.the two views show the aircraft at rest on a runway and with the engine running on grass. Unusually, the drop tanks have been painted with camouflage.
Most of the Fw 190F-3s produced left the factory in R1 configuration, which featured twin racks under each wing in addition to the centreline rack.this aircraft was also fitted with tropical filters – essential for flying on the Russian steppe. A Focke-wulf Fw 190F-2 carrying eight 50kg bombs.these could be dropped either all together or in pairs. LEFT: This Focke-wulf factory test aircraft shows how a 500kg SC500 bomb could be loaded beneath the fuselage of a 190 for ground attack operations.the under-wing fitments, faired-in drop tank attachment points or podded cannon positions, have been removed, revealing wings’ interior.
The planned development of the Fw 190F-1 is made clear on this November 1942 Focke-wulf type sheet – A-4/U3 October 1942, A-5/U3 December 1942, F-1 June 1943. Scribbles are contemporary.
The image is grainy but shows a Fw 190F-3/R1 taxiing with a full bomb load – a pair of SC50S under each wing plus an SC250 on the centreline rack. The end of the line for the Friedrich – an F-9 captured by the Allies in Italy, May 1945. Further extensions of the F series were planned but none reached full production, let alone front line service. When the ETC 501 centreline rack provided insufficient room for the required bomb payload, an ER4 adapter could be used.the first photo shows the rack empty, while the second shows it with a load of four SC50 bombs. The ubiquitous ETC 501 under-fuselage rack, as fitted to most of Focke-wulf’s fighterbomber and ground-attack types. A 500kg SC500 bomb fitted to the ETC 501 rack underneath an Fw 190F-2.
The lower stabiliser fin of this 1000kg SC1000 bomb had to be removed before it could be fitted beneath this Focke-wulf test aircraft.the bomb is never believed to have been used in service this way but the photo serves to demonstrate the enormous number of different configurations tried out on the adaptable Fw 190. Twin racks positioned just outboard of the landed gear were a hallmark of the F series but were also fitted to some Gs.this photo shows the most common type used, the ETC 50. Drop the drop pod off a Fw 190G-1 and this is what you see – the internal workings and attachment points of the Weserflug Ju 87 wing rack. A clear progression from the A-4/U8 to the A-5/U8 and then the G-1 is planned on this Jagdbomber grosser Reichweite type sheet, produced by Focke-wulf at the end of November 1942. The first Gustav – a Fw 190G-1 Jabo-rei long range fighter-bomber with 300 litre drop tanks fitted to its faired Weserflug racks, which had been designed for the Ju 87. A Fw 190G-2 with drop tanks attached using the Messerschmitt rack.
When Focke-wulf finally finished its own underwing rack it was a masterpiece of engineering but it wasn’t quite as effective as the company had hoped and still resulted in an unwanted performance penalty for the aircraft to which it was fitted. The Fw 190G-2 was fitted with skeletal Messerschmitt-built wing racks, which proved to be both efficient and effective. Focke-wulf still intended to come up with its own design, however. It was planned to fit the G-3/N with a streamlined glare screen under the fuselage, just in front of the centreline rack. Preventing the G-3/N’S exhaust glare from giving its own position away was a tricky problem and part of the solution was to fit screens or baffles over the exhaust. The G-3/N night version of the long-range Jabo-rei fighter-bomber. Note the glare shield on the side of the cockpit to prevent the pilot from being blinded by his own exhausts.