Evolution under fire
Developing the Fw 190A
Having begun at a leisurely pace, development of the Fw 190A speeded up dramatically as Germany’s fortunes took a turn for the worse. The versatile ‘A’ was called upon to fulfil an ever widening range of roles as the war progressed and its performance was continually improved. Here’s what changed from A-0 to A-9 and how to tell them apart.
The first serial production runs of the Fw 190, the A-0s were fitted with either the BMW 801 C-0 or C-1. The first 11 had smaller, shorter wings of 31ft 2½in compared to the 34ft 5½in wings of the remaining 18. Although these pre-production aircraft were frequently fitted with different armament loads for experimental purposes, they were generally armed with six MG 17 7.92mm machine guns – two on the nose, two in the wing roots and two more in the outer wing positions. The A-0 machines also had shorter spinners than later models, differently shaped armoured cowling rings and symmetrical teardrop-shaped bulges on the engine cowling to cover the interior air intakes for the engine. There were no cooling slots aft of the exhaust pipes on the sides of the aircraft either. The first A-0 was ready in June 1940 and the last was completed in October 1941. A total of 29 were made – not counting the V1, V2, V5 and V6 prototypes.
While only the later A-0s were fitted with the BMW 801 C-1, it was the standard powerplant of all A-1s. Armament was upgraded with the outer wing MG 17s being replaced with 20mm MG FF cannon. A new longer spinner was introduced and the cowling bulges over the engine air intakes became asymmetrical – a feature that would remain for the rest of the Aseries. The exhaust panels on either side of the aircraft remained unslotted, although some aircraft later had them retrofitted.
The A-1 saw the introduction of the cartridge-fired cockpit canopy emergency opening system and the pilot’s head armour was a different shape from that of the A-0. The first batch of four A-1s were completed in June 1941 and production continued until November 1941. A total of 102 were made.
The introduction of the new BMW 801 C-2 engine resulted in a new model number, the A-2. The engine featured a re-routed exhaust system devised by III./JG 26 technical officer Rolf Schröder which largely cured the overheating problems experienced by earlier versions. Ventilation slots were fitted to the exhaust panels on the sides of the fuselage as standard to further aid cooling. Armament was further upgraded from the A-1, with the wing root MG 17s being replaced with 20mm MG 151/20E cannon. The A-1’s gunsight, the Revi C12/C, was also upgraded to the C12/D. The first A-2s were built by Arado at Warnemünde, rather than Focke-wulf, in August 1941. Focke-wulf’s first examples followed in September and production by Focke-wulf, Arado and Ago at Oschersleben (from October) continued until August 1942 with a total of 426 being produced.
Another change of engine, this time to the more reliable BMW 801 D-2, resulted in another new model of Fw 190. The A-3 kept the A-2’s armament and was similar to it in most other respects. The first A-3 was produced by Focke-wulf in November 1941 and production continued in parallel to that of the A-2 for 10 months before the A-2 was finally dropped. A-3s continued to be made until June 1943, with Focke-wulf, Arado and Ago being joined by a third subcontractor, Fieseler at Kassel, from May to August 1942. A total of 509 A-3s were constructed. A-2s and A-3s are perhaps the most difficult Fw 190s to tell apart.
In June 1942, with production of both A-2s and A-3s still ongoing, yet another model joined the production lines of Focke-wulf and Ago – the A-4. Fieseler and Arado also began producing the new type in July. Armament remained the same – two nose mounted MG 17 machine guns, two MG 151 cannon in the wing roots and two MG FF cannon in the outer wing positions – but the big change was a new radio set, the FUG 16 Z, replacing previous models’ FUG VIIA. This required a small radio mast to be fitted atop the tail fin and made it easy to distinguish an A-4 from its predecessors since none of them had it. Some A-4s were also fitted with controllable cooling vents on the fuselage sides in place of the ordinary slots. Production of the A-4 ceased at Focke-wulf in November 1942 and at Fieseler in February 1943. It was dropped from the Arado production line in June 1943 and Ago continued to produce it until August 1943. A total of 896 A-4s were constructed.
With A-4 production halted, the A-5 entered production at Focke-wulf’s factories in November 1942, with Arado, Ago and Fieseler introducing it later. It was similar to the A-4 in most respects but had a 6¼in section inserted between the rearward edge of the engine cowling and the fuselage – moving the engine further away from the cockpit and improving the BMW 801’s cooling. With this new longer nose, the A-5’s length was 29ft 4½in compared to the A-4’s 28ft 9½in. The A-5 also got updated instrumentation in the cockpit and an Eka 16 gun camera. Shifting the engine further forward also altered the aircraft’s centre of gravity and enabled it to carry additional weight further aft. The A-5 kept the standard A-2 to A-4 armament but there was a wide range of Umbau factory-fit modifications and Rüstsatz field conversion kits produced which took full advantage of the aircraft’s ability to carry a greater ordnance load. The A-5 was built alongside the F-2 and G-2 versions of the Fw 190 (detailed on p62-67) which has resulted in confusion over precisely how many were built. The combined total of all three was 1863 up to August 1943 when Ago finally stopped building them.
‘GL+MY’ was a standard Fw 190A-5 – a type produced in larger numbers than any other apart from the A-8. Its nose was more than 6in longer than those of its predecessors in order to further improve engine cooling. Among the many Umbau modifications made to various A-5s, the U14 must be regarded as one of the oddest.the Fw 190 was ill-suited to work as a torpedo bomber but nevertheless, three prototypes were created. Note the jacked-up tailwheel to provide sufficient ground clearance for the torpedo. A Fw 190A-4 fitted with a pair of WGR 21 mortar tubes, one under each wing.this upgrade could be fitted in the field and was available for every subsequent type of Fw 190, except the A-9. Initially intended for use against heavy bomber formations, the WGR 21 launchers were also sometimes used against ground targets.the tubes had a significant negative effect on the aircraft’s performance but could be jettisoned once expended.
The first A-6 was produced by Ago in April 1943 and the type was built exclusively by Focke-wulf’s subcontractors, with the company itself producing none. The main difference from the A-5 was the replacement of the MG FF cannon in the outer wing positions with two more MG 151s. This meant armament was now two MG 17s on the aircraft’s nose, two MG 151s in the wing roots and two more in the outer wings. The bulker MG 151 required a bulge on the upper surface of the A-6’s wing as well as the bulge which had already been required on the lower surface to accommodate the MG FF. In addition, the MG 151’s longer barrel protruded further from the wing’s leading edge – another visual identifier. The updated FUG 16 ZE radio navigation system was installed too – requiring a small ‘teardrop’ base and loop aerial to be fitted under the rear fuselage, with an extra ‘whip’ shaped aerial behind it. In addition to Ago, Arado and Fieseler, a fourth subcontractor built a small number of Fw 190A-6s – 20 being completed by Norddeutsche Dornier at Wismar. When production ceased in February 1944, a total of 1137 had been built.
There was a further armament upgrade with the introduction of the Fw 190A-7 in November 1943 – with the two nosemounted MG 17 7.9mm machine guns finally being replaced with higher calibre 13mm MG 131s. These were about the same length but weighed more and had a lower rate of fire at 900rpm compared to 1200 for the MG 17. The A-7 also received an upgraded gunsight, with the Revi C/12d being replaced by the Revi 16b, and the tailwheel was enlarged from 13.8in x 5.3in to 15in x 6in. The A-7 had the briefest production run of any Fw 190A type – the last examples being built in March 1944, just five months after the first. It was manufactured by Focke-wulf (150), Ago (270) and Fieseler (200), with Arado out of the picture, being still heavily engaged in building the A-6 up to February 1944. A total of 620 were made.
The version of the Fw 190 built in the greatest numbers, the A-8, is seen as the ‘definitive’ 190 by many. It differed from the A-7 in having an additional 115 litre fuel tank fitted in the rear fuselage to improve range without the need to always carry a drop tank. This meant that the radio had to be relocated to just behind the pilot’s seat. It was also upgraded from the FUG 16 Z to the FUG 16 ZY, which required an aerial mounted beneath the port wing centre section. Mountings for the ETC 501 under-fuselage rack, which was an option on many previous models, had to be shifted 7.9in further forward due to the new rear fuselage fuel tank. In addition, mountings for WGR 21 rocket tubes were fitted as standard. Later examples of the A-8 were fitted with a bulged cockpit canopy which significantly improved visibility. As one of Germany’s two most important front line fighters, alongside the Bf 109, at a time when Albert Speer was radically reorganising aircraft production on a national
scale, the Fw 190A-8 was built in huge quantities at numerous dispersed sites. Focke-wulf itself made at least 1579 from the first examples in March 1944 to the end of the war. Other companies involved in manufacturing the A-8 were WFG, Heinkel, Weserflug, Fieseler, Arado, Concordia, LBB, Ago and Norddeutsche Dornier. A total of some 5100 are believed to have been produced but production figures are sketchy or entirely lacking for the period from December 1944 to April 1945.
Since the introduction of the 801 D-2, BMW had been attempting to produce a version with improved power output without a significant increase in engine size. It finally achieved this in mid-1944 with the 801 S (TS). It had the same capacity as the D-2 at 41.8 litres but produced 2000hp at 2700rpm at sea level, compared to just 1700hp in the same conditions for the D-2. To go with the BMW 801 S (TS) a more efficient radiator was fitted, along with a more heavily armoured oil tank. As a result the cowling was lengthened by 30mm. The first production A-9 was built by Focke-wulf at Cottbus in August 1944. Norddeutsche Dornier joined in during October and Heinkel started to produce it during November. Ago and Arado also began to build the A-9 from January 1945. Details of exactly how many A-9s were built are scant but estimates range in the region of 500 to 1000.
The final development of the Fw 190A series was intended to be the A-10. This was to have been powered by the same engine as the A-9 but would have had hydraulics in place of electrics for some systems. There were to be two versions built, the A-10 Ra-5 and the A-10 Ra-7. The Ra-7 would have had the standard Fw 190 wing but the Ra-5 would have had a new, larger, wing with space to fit heavy weapons such as the MK 103 internally. Neither version was ever built.
A colourised propaganda photograph of an early Fw 190 line-up.they are, from left, Fw 190 V5, Fw 190 V2 ‘RM+CA’, Fw 190A-0/U11 ‘KB+PQ’, Fw 190A-0 ‘KB+PQ’ and Fw 190A-0/U4 ‘SB+IB’.THE shorter nose housing the BMW 139 on Fw 190 V2 is immediately evident.
There were no cooling slots on the sides of the Fw 190A-1’s fuselage, aft of the engine exhausts, as seen on later models.‘ti+dq’ is an Fw 190A-1/U1. It was shot down on April 10, 1942, over Abbeville and the pilot, Lt Werner Michalski of 4./JG 26, was killed. Cooling ventilation slots were first introduced on the Fw 190A-2, an Ago-built example,‘ke+xv’ being pictured here. The Fw 190A-3, though externally very similar to the Fw 190A-2, was powered by the significantly upgraded BMW 801 D-2. Delivered to III./JG 1 during the summer of 1942, this Fw 190A3 continued in front line use until it was finally destroyed on April 3, 1944, while serving with I./SG 101.
Easily distinguished from its predecessors by the small radio mast on its tail, the Fw 190A-4 was also produced in greater numbers.this example has the factory-fit U8 modification, making it a long range fighter-bomber.the modification was later standardised as the Fw 190G-1. The ER-4 bomb rack hung low beneath the Fw 190’s fuselage. Here it is mounted on a Fw 190A-4.
Constant efforts were made to upgrade the Fw 190’s already considerable firepower throughout its service career and one of the heavier options for the A-6 was the R1 field-fit pack – two underwing pods, each containing two MG 151/20 cannon.this the prototype for the design, an A-5/U12. Relatively few Fw 190A-7s were made, this one being from 2./JG 1.The type had an enlarged tail wheel and heavier MG 131 machine guns on its nose. The primary reason for the existence of the A-6 was to accommodate a heavier cannon in the outer wing positions. It can therefore easily be told apart from previous models due to the sheer length of the MG 151’s barrels.this is actually the A-6 prototype, an A-5/U10.
The ubiquitous Fw 190A-8 – easily the most heavily produced Fw 190. The one pictured here flew with II./JG 26 from a temporary airfield at Boissy-le-bois in the immediate aftermath of D-day. It is being pushed under cover to protect it from roving fighter-bombers. The double cockpit of the Fw 190S-8 is evident in this photo, which also shows the dire shortages of fuel suffered by the Luftwaffe towards the end of the war. Another engine change, this time to the 2000hp BMW 801 S (TS), resulted in the Fw 190A-9 – the last of the A-series to see action. Note the bubble canopy and the broad paddle blades of the VDM-9 propeller.