Close sup­port – Fw 190F and G

Fw 190F and G

Aviation Classics - - CONTENTS -

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.


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.

Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

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.

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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 50kg­ese 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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