Fi­nal fighter – Ta 152

Ta 152 – from devel­op­ment to com­bat

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

The orig­i­nal all-new re­place­ment for the Fw 190, the Ta 153, was re­jected in April 1943 ow­ing to the dis­rup­tion its in­tro­duc­tion would cause on ex­ist­ing pro­duc­tion lines. A re­designed ver­sion, des­ig­nated the Ta 152 in May 1943, was to share far more parts with the Fw 190. Focke-wulf started work on two stan­dard fighter ver­sions with dif­fer­ent en­gines, the Ta 152A and the Ta 152B. The for­mer was to have a Jumo 213A and the lat­ter a Jumo 213E, with the Daim­ler-benz DB 603G avail­able – as­sum­ing it was avail­able – as a backup for ei­ther. It was in­tended that the fin­ished fighter, what­ever its en­gine, would be able to func­tion as ei­ther a fighter or fighter-bomber. Stan­dard ar­ma­ment was to be a sin­gle MK 103 or MK

The Fw 190 had reached the limit of its po­ten­tial by 1944 but Focke-wulf chief designer Kurt Tank was al­ready work­ing on a suc­ces­sor. Held back by the very re­or­gan­i­sa­tion that was res­cu­ing the Ger­man air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, the Ta 152 was nev­er­the­less one of the most pow­er­ful and ca­pa­ble air­craft to see com­bat dur­ing the war.

108 fir­ing through the nose and MG 151s in both the wing roots and outer wing po­si­tions, for a to­tal of five guns. The Ta 152A/B took the ba­sic A-8 air­frame and length­ened the for­ward fuse­lage by 0.772m to ac­com­mo­date ei­ther new en­gine and an en­gine mounted MK 108 can­non. This fuse­lage ex­ten­sion was bolted di­rectly to the A-8’s en­gine at­tach­ment points. The wing was moved for­wards by 0.42m to ad­just the cen­tre of grav­ity and the rear star junc­tion and fuse­lage bulk­head were cor­re­spond­ingly moved. The rear fuse­lage was length­ened with the fit­ting of a 0.5m sec­tion into it. This was used to house the Ta 152’s oxy­gen bot­tles and the com­pressed air bot­tles nec­es­sary for the en­gine mounted can­non. The un­der­car­riage was the same as the A-8’s but with larger 740 by 210mm wheels. The wings were slightly en­larged to a span of 11m, from the Fw 190A’s 10.5m, by in­sert­ing an ex­tra 0.5m sec­tion into each one. This was so that the larger wheels could be moved out­board by 0.25m each for pro­pel­ler clear­ance.

Three ex­ist­ing air­craft were mod­i­fied to be­come the Ta 152A pro­to­types – Fw 190s V19, V20 and V21. There were no Ta 152B pro­to­types since the Jumo 213E en­gine had been se­ri­ously de­layed. The work was car­ried out at Focke-wulf’s Branch Plant 8 at Adel­heide, near Bre­men, which had been es­tab­lished solely to build ex­per­i­men­tal air­frames and pro­to­types. V19 first flew with its Jumo 213A on July 7, 1943. It had a new tail, later to be seen on the Fw 190D-9, and a 50cm fuse­lage ex­ten­sion but no ar­ma­ment. Its ini­tial task was to in­ves­ti­gate en­gine per­for­mance and han­dling. Flight testing was car­ried out at an­other Focke-wulf site, Hanover-lan­gen­hagen, so air­craft con­structed at Adel­heide usu­ally took their first flight in that di­rec­tion. Focke-wulf ap­plied for per­mis­sion to give the Ta 152A devel­op­ment pri­or­ity on Oc­to­ber 8, 1943, but this was de­nied. The sec­ond pro­to­type, Fw 190 V20 TI+IG, made its first flight on Novem­ber 23, 1943, with a Jumo 213 CV en­gine. This un­armed air­frame was used for en­gine checks, speed tri­als, fuel sys­tem and hy­draulic tests. The Ta 152 was now in com­pe­ti­tion with a Messer­schmitt de­sign – the Me 209, not to be con­fused with the pre­war racer of the same name. This was an at­tempt to up­date the Bf 109 with a wide-track un­der­car­riage, bub­ble canopy and a Jumo 213A en­gine in place of the familiar Daim­ler-benz unit. The first 209 pro­to­type, V5 SP+LJ, had first flown on Novem­ber 3, 1943. Early testing, how­ever, showed that the air­craft gave a less than sat­is­fac­tory per­for­mance with its new en­gine. Just two days later, an­other Bf 109 vari­ant, the Bf 109H pro­to­type V54 PV+JB, made its first flight. The Bf 109H was an at­tempt to wring yet more life out of the Bf 109G and had en­larged wings. Un­for­tu­nately this mod­i­fi­ca­tion to the orig­i­nal de­sign re­sulted in se­ri­ous vi­bra­tion and flut­ter. The Bf 109H also han­dled very poorly dur­ing tests. Tank had been con­sid­er­ing a high-altitude ver­sion of the Ta 152 to com­pete with the Bf 109H and shortly af­ter he sub­mit­ted plans for the Ta 152H to the RLM, on De­cem­ber 7, 1943, the min­istry or­dered six pro­to­types. It stip­u­lated, how­ever, that th­ese should be built from stan­dard A-8 air­frames with the min­i­mum pos­si­ble num­ber of changes. The Ta 152H had the same A-8 air­frame al­ter­na­tions as the 152A but the fuse­lage cen­tre sec­tion was de­signed as a pres­sur­ized cham­ber with a vol­ume of about one cu­bic me­tre, sealed with DHK 880 paste. The slid­ing cock­pit canopy was sealed with a tube partly filled with foam rub­ber. When the pi­lot ac­ti­vated it, a one litre com­pressed air bot­tle pumped up the tube. In or­der to get out of the air­craft, the tube had to be emp­tied first – which meant it would be dif­fi­cult for the pi­lot to es­cape in an emer­gency. In ad­di­tion, wingspan was in­creased to 14.4m (47ft 3in) from the stan­dard Fw 190A’s 10.5m (34ft 5in). In light of the RLM’S re­newed in­ter­est in the Ta 152, on De­cem­ber 20, 1943, Tank re­sub­mit­ted his re­quest for the Ta 152A to be given devel­op­ment pri­or­ity but this was again de­nied. Tank’s ef­forts to per­suade the RLM of the air­craft’s mer­its re­sulted, at a meet­ing on Jan­uary 13-14, 1944, in the Fw 190D-9 be­ing ap­proved as an in­terim mea­sure while fur­ther devel­op­ment was un­der­taken. The first Ta 152A test air­frame, V19, crashed on Fe­bru­ary 16, 1944, when the right un­der­car­riage leg lock­ing bolt failed, but the dam­age was re­paired and testing was re­sumed. By now, the Jumo 213E en­gine planned for the Ta 152B had been sub­ject to se­ri­ous de­lays so an­other pow­er­plant, the Daim­lerBenz DB 603 L, was iden­ti­fied for the air­craft un­der the des­ig­na­tion Ta 152C. Like the A and B, this was pro­posed as a fighter and fight­er­bomber, depend­ing on ar­ma­ment. The Ta 152C had the same fuse­lage ex­ten­sions and larger wheels as the other mem­bers of the 152 fam­ily and the same wings as the Ta 152A/B but with­out outer

wing gun po­si­tions. In­stead, pro­vi­sion was made to carry a pair of MG 151/20 ma­chine guns in the up­per cowl­ing above the en­gine. While this was go­ing on, on March 13, 1944, the third Ta 152A pro­to­type, Fw 190 V21 TI+IH, made its first flight with a Jumo 213 CV. It had the 50cm fuse­lage ex­ten­sion, an­other new tail type, the now familiar Ta 152 tail, no ar­ma­ment and gun port open­ings in its en­gine cowl­ing. It was used to test, along with V20, a glare-re­duc­ing flame damper over the en­gine ex­haust which was meant to al­low the Ta 152A to op­er­ate as a night fighter with­out spe­cial mod­i­fi­ca­tions. The damper, how­ever, im­posed such a se­vere per­for­mance penalty on the air­craft’s en­gine that it was aban­doned on April 18, 1944. Less than a month later V21 man­aged a top speed of 335mph at sea level and on May 5, 1944, it was trans­ferred to the Rech­lin test sta­tion for fur­ther tri­als. The Ta 152A was now ready for full pro­duc­tion – and was promptly can­celled by the RLM in July 1944. Also can­celled, how­ever, were the Me 209 and Bf 109H, which meant the DB 603L pow­ered Ta 152C and Ta 152H were ef­fec­tively the ‘win­ners’ and their devel­op­ment con­tin­ued. The Ta 152B stan­dard fighter de­sign was left in limbo as its Jumo 213E en­gine was still de­layed and the 152H, us­ing the same en­gine, was given higher pri­or­ity. This re­sulted in the odd sit­u­a­tion where, be­cause the Ta 152A was can­celled and the Ta 152B was stalled, the Ta 152C be­came the fo­cus of ef­forts to cre­ate a ‘stan­dard’ Ta 152 fighter. Its devel­op­ment, how­ever, had only just be­gun and was there­fore be­hind that of the spe­cialised Ta 152H which had been worked on since De­cem­ber 1943.

Test flights

The first air­frame in­tended to test com­po­nents and han­dling for the planned Ta 152H took place on July 13, 1944. But just 36 min­utes af­ter take­off for a fer­ry­ing flight from Adel­heide to Lan­gen­hagen, Fw 190 V33/U1, GH+KW crash landed. It came down some­where near Vechta and suf­fered 70% dam­age. The air­craft’s land­ing flaps and un­der­car­riage had been tested prior to take­off and had per­formed ex­actly as in­tended but once he was in the air, the pi­lot dis­cov­ered that he could not lock the right un­der­car­riage leg into the up po­si­tion be­cause the move­able wheel well cover jammed against the land­ing gear door. Fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the prob­lem proved im­pos­si­ble, how­ever, be­cause the dam­age was too se­vere. This was a ma­jor set­back for the Ta 152H. The Ta 152C pro­gramme also suf­fered a big set­back when one of its first pro­to­types, for­mer Ta 152A tester Fw 190 V20, be­ing con­verted into V20/U1, was de­stroyed in an air raid on Lan­gen­hagen on Au­gust 5, 1944. For­tu­nately, the RLM had or­dered six pro­to­types of the Ta 152H and work on the sec­ond one was nearly com­plete. Fw 190 V30/U1 GH+KT was able to make its first flight the day af­ter the air raid and testing with its early Jumo 213E en­gine com­menced. How­ever, the en­gine was still not ready – a fact which be­came clear as tests pro­gressed. Dur­ing one flight at 30,000ft, the third stage of the su­per­charger would not en­gage and fuel pres­sure dropped be­cause the pumps fit­ted were un­able to cope with the altitude. V30/U1 was trans­ferred to the Rech­lin test cen­tre on Au­gust 19 but dur­ing an­other high altitude flight with Flugkapitän Al­fred Thomas at the con­trols, the Jumo 213E caught fire. Thomas man­aged to bring the air­craft down but it crashed dur­ing a turn while land­ing and was to­tally de­stroyed. Thomas was killed. The de­struc­tion was so com­plete that it was not even pos­si­ble to work out what had caused the fire, or the re­sult­ing crash. Thomas had been un­able to make ra­dio con­tact ei­ther. The third Ta 152H pro­to­type, Fw 190 V29/U1 GH+KS, first flew on Septem­ber 24, 1944, and was sent to Rech­lin three days later to get the testing process quickly un­der way. Rech­lin’s pi­lots con­cluded that the air­craft re­quired trim changes, had ‘un­com­fort­able’ stall be­hav­iour and suf­fered poor sta­bil­ity in the ver­ti­cal axis but was oth­er­wise sta­ble. Novem­ber 3 saw the first Ta 152C test air­craft fi­nally tak­ing to the skies – Fw 190 V21/U1, for­merly used as part of the Ta 152A pro­gramme. With the planned DB 603L en­gine de­layed, it was pow­ered by a stop­gap DB 603E in­stead. Af­ter be­ing trans­ferred from Adel­heide to Lan­gen­hagen, on Novem­ber 18, V21/U1 was handed over to Daim­ler-benz it­self for con­ver­sion to the new DB 603LA en­gine. The much used and abused air­frame that was Fw 190 V18 – for­merly used to test the Hirth su­per­charger in ear­lier high altitude ex­per­i­ments – be­came the fourth Ta 152H test air­craft as V18/U2, start­ing with a first flight in its new con­fig­u­ra­tion on Novem­ber 19, 1944. Mean­while, now that the Jumo 213E was fi­nally prov­ing more re­li­able, the Ta 152B was re­vived. Since the Daim­ler-benz pow­ered Ta 152C al­ready oc­cu­pied the stan­dard fighter

role, it was en­vi­sioned that the 152B could be­come a Zer­störer (heavy fighter) to fill the role va­cated by the re­cently can­celled Me 410 – a suc­cess­ful air­craft axed due to a re­source-sav­ing re­duc­tion in the num­ber of dif­fer­ent types in pro­duc­tion in­sti­gated in the au­tumn of 1944. The Ta 152B-5 was in­tended to be sim­i­lar to the C but with a Jumo en­gine and a re­duced ar­ma­ment – one MK 103 in the en­gine and an­other in each wing root. It was planned that pro­duc­tion would begin at Erla in May 1945 and Gotha in July 1945.

INTO PRO­DUC­TION

The war sit­u­a­tion was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing rapidly, but suf­fi­cient testing had been done for the Ta 152H to en­ter full pro­duc­tion in late Novem­ber 1944, just 11 months af­ter the first pro­to­types had been or­dered. Neuhausen, near Cot­tbus in Bran­den­burg, on the far eastern edge of Ger­many, was cho­sen as the Ta 152 pro­duc­tion cen­tre and work be­gan slowly. While the fa­cil­i­ties were avail­able for mass pro­duc­tion, the ma­te­ri­als and com­po­nents were not. There were con­tin­u­ous de­lays at the fac­tory as miss­ing parts were tracked down for the first run of Ta 152H-0 air­craft. Focke-wulf chief test pi­lot Hans San­der flew the first ma­chine off the pro­duc­tion line, WNR. 150 001 CW+CA, on Novem­ber 24, 1944. He later re­called: “I had to put the first pro­duc­tion ma­chine down on its belly away from Cot­tbus be­cause while climb­ing out af­ter take­off the en­gine sud­denly stopped re­ceiv­ing fuel. A hy­draulic valve had some­how been in­stalled in the fuel line. I re­ceived a bot­tle of schnapps, hard to come by in those days, as com­pen­sa­tion. Ev­ery­thing was okay with the sec­ond ma­chine.” The sec­ond ma­chine was first flown on Novem­ber 29 and the third on De­cem­ber 3. A to­tal of 21 H-0s had been com­pleted by the end of De­cem­ber. Th­ese had no wing fuel tanks or MW 50/GM 1 boost. Pro­duc­tion was in full swing dur­ing Jan­uary but on Jan­uary 16, a group of 40 USAAF Light­nings and Mus­tangs at­tacked the air­field at Neuhausen, where the new Ta 152s had been gath­ered prior to de­liv­ery to III./JG 301, the first unit in­tended to op­er­ate them. Four­teen brand new 152s were com­pletely de­stroyed and an­other was dam­aged. In the mean­time, the Ta 152C pro­gramme was still forg­ing ahead. Three more pro­to­types had been con­structed, this time from scratch – Ta 152 V6 VH+EY, V7 CI+XM and V8 GW+QA – fly­ing on De­cem­ber 12, Jan­uary 8 and Jan­uary 15 re­spec­tively. Plans were now on the drawing board too for fur­ther vari­ants – a Focke-wulf pro­duc­tion sched­ule dat­ing from Jan­uary 1945 in­di­cates plans for a two-seater Ta 152S-1 based on the Ta 152C-1, to be built by Blohm & Voss from April 1945, the re­con­nais­sance ver­sion Ta 152E-1 with RB 75/30 cam­era in its fuse­lage, and Ta 152C-11 tor­pedo launch­ing air­craft. The war sit­u­a­tion, how­ever, was catch­ing up with Focke-wulf. Kurt Tank re­called: “On one oc­ca­sion dur­ing the closing stage of the war I was fly­ing a Ta 152. I had just taken off from La­gen­hagen near Hanover, on my way to a con­fer­ence at Cot­tbus. Sud­denly the con­trol tower called me and said there were ‘Zwei In­di­ana über dem Garten­zaun’ (two In­di­ans over the gar­den fence) – two en­emy fighters over the air­field. “This placed me in a dif­fi­cult po­si­tion be­cause, anx­ious to re­main a ‘civil­ian’, I never flew with loaded guns. One could hardly ex­pect the pi­lots of the two Mus­tangs to know that, how­ever, and it is doubt­ful whether they would have acted any dif­fer­ently if they had known. As they came bor­ing down af­ter me I rammed open the throt­tle and switched in the wa­ter methanol in­jec­tion. “My air­craft surged for­wards, ac­cel­er­at­ing rapidly. The Mus­tangs’ closing speed swiftly fell to zero, then they were mere specks in

the dis­tance. I have of­ten won­dered what those Amer­i­can pi­lots thought had hap­pened to their ‘sit­ting duck’.” An­other 20 Ta 152s, H-0s and H-1s, would be com­pleted in Jan­uary and three more in Fe­bru­ary be­fore pro­duc­tion ceased, giv­ing a to­tal of 43 pro­duc­tion ma­chines, plus 11 pro­to­type/ex­per­i­men­tal air­frames.

Into ser­vice

Pi­lots from the Er­probungskom­mando Ta 152 test unit at Rech­lin had been fly­ing the air­craft since Novem­ber 2, 1944, but the first unit to op­er­ate it was III./JG 301. The Gruppe was with­drawn from front line op­er­a­tions to begin con­ver­sion to the type on Jan­uary 27, 1945. Four days ear­lier, the or­der had been given to re­des­ig­nate the test unit Stab­sstaffel JG 301 but in prac­tice the Er­probungskom­mando took no part in front line ac­tiv­i­ties. III./JG 301 pi­lots were taken to Neuhausen by truck in the early hours on Jan­uary 27 and when they ar­rived were pre­sented with 12 Ta 152s parked in three rows of four. Af­ter a tech­ni­cal brief­ing last­ing half an hour they flew the air­craft to nearby Al­teno. One of those pi­lots, Feld­webel Willi Reschke, gave his first im­pres­sions: “The first un­pre­dictable sur­prises oc­curred dur­ing prac­tice flights over the air­field in the Ta 152, when air­craft from other Staffeln were en­coun­tered. Such en­coun­ters of­ten proved prob­lem­atic, for the out­line of the Ta 152 was vir­tu­ally un­known to Ger­man pi­lots. “In such en­coun­ters pi­lots also re­acted very dif­fer­ently. The vast ma­jor­ity im­me­di­ately dis­played de­fen­sive re­ac­tions or of­fen­sive in­ten­tions, but there were also pi­lots who re­acted to the en­counter with panic and tried to flee to safety. The pi­lots of the Ta 152 had to deal with th­ese re­ac­tions un­til the end of the war.” He said the Ta 152 gave a sense of “tremen­dous power” and gave im­pres­sive ac­cel­er­a­tion. It was also able to per­form well above 30,000ft, where the Fw 190A-8 would be los­ing power and be­hav­ing slug­gishly. Af­ter the ini­tial 12 had been trans­ferred, III./JG 301 re­ceived a fur­ther four Ta 152s over the next two months but none there­after. It there­fore only had 16 in to­tal, though it had been planned that it would re­ceive 35. The first was lost on Fe­bru­ary 1 when Un­terof­fizier Her­mann Dürr’s ma­chine en­tered a flat spin and crashed near Al­teno. As the con­ver­sion con­tin­ued into the mid­dle of Fe­bru­ary, all of III./JG 301’s pi­lots flew the Ta 152, while also con­tin­u­ing of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions with the unit’s Fw 190A8s and A-9s. On Fe­bru­ary 19, III./JG 301 was forced to aban­don Al­teno as Soviet forces ad­vanced to­wards it, re­lo­cat­ing to Sachau west of Ber­lin. It was while based at Sachau that the Ta 152 nearly made its first ‘kill’ – a Boe­ing B-17 Fly­ing Fortress claimed shot down by III./JG 301’s Ober­feld­webel Josef ‘Jupp’ Keil. In fact, no B-17s were lost that day, though some were dam­aged. An­other Ta 152 was de­stroyed af­ter stalling too close to the ground dur­ing the unit’s first few days at Sachau, killing pi­lot Ober­fäh­n­rich Jonny Wiegeshoff. Keil tried again on March 1, this time claim­ing a North Amer­i­can P-51 Mus­tang shot down. This seems more likely, since the US 8th Air Force lost seven Mus­tangs that day. On March 2, 1945, dur­ing a mission to es­cort Fw 190A-8 and A-9 Sturm­bocks at­tack­ing an Amer­i­can bomber for­ma­tion, a unit of Bf 109s at­tacked III./JG 301’s Ta 152s and forced them to take eva­sive ac­tion – abort­ing the mission. On March 13, the re­main­ing Ta 152s were formed up into a Stab­ss­chwarm (staff flight) at Sten­dal, away from their com­rades at Sachau. They moved again on April 10, this time to Neustadt-glewe air base – hid­den by wood­land in a se­cluded area. Their first mission from this new home, on the same day of the move, was to attack Amer­i­can forces that had just over­run Sten­dal. While pro­vid­ing top cover for this mission, Ober­feld­webel Keil claimed an Amer­i­can P-47 as a ‘prob­a­ble’ kill in his Ta 152, though this has proven hard to ver­ify. By April 14, Soviet forces had crossed the River Oder and were ad­vanc­ing on Ber­lin. In the late af­ter­noon, two Hawker Tem­pests were spot­ted at­tack­ing the rail­way line from Lud­wigslust to Sch­w­erin and three Ta 152s were sent up to in­ter­cept them – flown by Ober­feld­webel Sepp Sattler, Ober­feld­webel Willi Reschke and Ober­stleut­nant Fritz Auffham­mer. Reschke wrote in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy: “As our take­off was in the same gen­eral di­rec­tion as the rail­way line, we reached the Tem­pests’ attack area shortly af­ter leav­ing the air­field. I was fly­ing as num­ber three in the for­ma­tion, and as we reached the area where the Tem­pests were I saw Sattler’s Ta 152 go down for no ap­par­ent rea­son. Now it was two against two, and the low-level battle be­gan. “As I ap­proached my op­po­nent pulled up from a low-level attack and I at­tacked from out of a left-hand turn. Both pi­lots re­alised that this was a fight to the fin­ish, and from the out­set both used ev­ery tac­ti­cal and pi­lot­ing ploy in an at­tempt to gain an ad­van­tage. At that height nei­ther could af­ford to make a mis­take, and for the first time I was to see what the Ta 152 could re­ally do. “Twist­ing and turn­ing, never more than 50m above the ground, I closed the range on the Tem­pest. At no time did I get the feel­ing that my ma­chine had reached the limit of its per­for­mance. The Tem­pest pi­lot quite un­der­stand­ably had to un­der­take risky ma­noeu­vres to avoid a fa­tal burst from my guns. As my Ta 152 closed in on the Tem­pest, I could see that it was on the verge of rolling the other way; an in­di­ca­tion that I could not turn any tighter. “The first burst from my guns struck the Tem­pest in the rear fuse­lage and tail. The Tem­pest pi­lot re­acted im­me­di­ately by flick­ing his air­craft into a right-hand turn, which in­creased my ad­van­tage even fur­ther. There was no es­cape for the Tem­pest now. I pressed the fir­ing but­tons again, but my guns

re­mained si­lent. Recharg­ing them did no good: my guns re­fused to fire a sin­gle shot. “I can’t re­mem­ber whom and what I cursed at that mo­ment. Luck­ily the Tem­pest pi­lot was un­aware of my bad luck, for he had al­ready had a sam­ple. He con­tin­ued to twist and turn and I po­si­tioned my Ta 152 so that he al­ways had a view of my ma­chine’s belly. “Then came the mo­ment when the Tem­pest went into a high-speed stall: it rolled left and crashed into a wood. This com­bat was cer­tainly unique, hav­ing been played out at heights which were of­ten just 10m above the trees and rooftops. “Through­out I never had the feel­ing that my Ta 152 had reached its per­for­mance limit; in­stead it re­acted to the slight­est con­trol in­put, even though we were prac­ti­cally at ground level. Ober­stleut­nant Auffham­mer also gained the up­per hand against his Tem­pest, but in the end the en­emy suc­ceeded in es­cap­ing to the west. “As the com­bat had taken place just a few kilo­me­tres from the air­field, in the late af­ter­noon we drove out to the scene and dis­cov­ered that Ober­feld­webel Sattler’s Ta 152 and my Tem­pest had crashed within 500m of each other. The tree­tops had ab­sorbed some of the force of the crash and the Tem­pest looked like it had made a forced land­ing. “The dam­age in­flicted by my can­non shells was clearly vis­i­ble on the tail and rear fuse­lage and the pi­lot was still strapped in the cock­pit. It turned out that he was a New Zealan­der, War­rant Of­fi­cer Owen J Mitchell of 486 Squadron, Royal Air Force. The next day the two fallen pi­lots were buried with mil­i­tary honours in the Neustadt-glewe ceme­tery.”

Fight­ing Yaks

Now there was a grow­ing over­lap be­tween Soviet and Al­lied air forces. On April 21, 1945, the Stab­ss­chwarm’s Ta 152s en­coun­tered their first Yak-9s dur­ing a mission to cover Fw 190As fly­ing fighter-bomber mis­sions against Soviet tar­gets on the eastern side of Ber­lin. Ober­feld­webel Keil claimed two of them shot down. It was Reschke’s turn three days later. On April 24, the Stab­ss­chwarm put up two flights of Ta 152s – a pair and a trio. Reschke and Ober­leut­nant Stahl made up the pair and headed to­wards the north of Ber­lin be­fore swing­ing down the eastern side of the city, oc­ca­sion­ally drawing tracer fire from the ground. Reschke said: “We were fly­ing about 200m apart and the cloud base was still at about 1500m with scat­tered cloud be­low. We oc­ca­sion­ally lost sight of one an­other in this scat­tered cloud and the visibility in gen­eral was se­verely limited. It was prob­a­bly for this rea­son that we failed to spot Rus­sian fighter air­craft cross­ing our path from the right. The Sovi­ets ended up at our four o’clock and im­me­di­ately turned to­ward the Ta 152 flown by Ober­leut­nant Stahl, who was on my right. I alerted Stahl to the pres­ence of the en­emy fighters by ra­dio and turned to­ward them. “Stahl’s re­ac­tion took me by sur­prise, for in­stead of ini­ti­at­ing any sort of de­fen­sive ma­noeu­vre, he sim­ply put the nose down and dove away. I ra­dioed warn­ings and urged him to climb up into the clouds, be­cause the first red trac­ers were al­ready flash­ing past his Ta 152, but there was no re­ac­tion and he con­tin­ued his shal­low dive. “I was in fir­ing po­si­tion be­hind a Yak-9 when tracer went by my ma­chine. I had con­cen­trated on Ober­leut­nant Stahl’s crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion so much that I only now re­alised that mine wasn’t much bet­ter. I im­me­di­ately put my Ta 152 into a hard left turn and for the time be­ing shook off the Yak-9 be­hind me. Only then did I re­alise that it was an en­tire flight of un­fa­mil­iar air­craft. As I had lost some altitude fol­low­ing Stahl, I be­gan turn­ing with the Rus­sians. “Hav­ing never en­coun­tered Rus­sian fighters be­fore, I was un­fa­mil­iar with their tac­tics, but fig­ured that if I got in trou­ble I could still climb up into the clouds. The Rus­sians held their tight for­ma­tion, con­se­quently I was at first un­able to turn as tightly as I would have liked. “I soon went from be­ing in front of the en­emy fighters to be­hind them, fur­ther proof of the Ta 152’s ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity. Only af­ter I shot down the num­ber four air­craft did the Rus­sian for­ma­tion split up, and each tried to get me on his own. “Only one of the Rus­sians had the will to carry on, how­ever, and the other two with­drew. The re­main­ing pi­lot was prob­a­bly the leader of this small fighter unit, but his Yak-9 was hope­lessly in­fe­rior to my Ta 152. In the end he went down trail­ing smoke.” This was the last known flight of the Ta 152 in ser­vice. At a meet­ing of the RLM’S ar­ma­ments staff on March 29, 1945, it was de­cided to halt pro­duc­tion of the Ta 152 to con­cen­trate on the Fw 190D but this was a moot point since most of the pro­duc­tion ar­eas equipped to build the Ta 152 and its com­po­nents had al­ready been over­run by the en­emy. The fol­low­ing month, a com­plete set of Ta 152 blue­prints was sold to Ja­pan but no pro­duc­tion of the air­craft took place there.

The Ta 152 flown by Ober­feld­webel Willi Reschke of Stab/jg 301 from Neustadt-glewe, Ger­many, on April 14, 1945.The same age as Heinz Sach­sen­berg, Reschke joined the Luft­waffe in 1941 and un­der­went pi­lot train­ing un­til his first op­er­a­tional post­ing to I./JG 302 based near Vi­enna in June 1944. His first two vic­to­ries were scored the fol­low­ing month, on July 2, when he shot down a pair of Con­sol­i­dated B-24 Lib­er­a­tors over Bu­dapest. Five days later he was again at­tack­ing B-24s, this time over Slo­vakia, but his guns jammed so he dis­abled his tar­get by ram­ming it, be­fore suc­cess­fully bail­ing out of his ru­ined Bf 109G-6. By the end of Au­gust, he had de­stroyed 14 en­emy air­craft in­clud­ing seven B-17s, six B-24s and a sin­gle P-51 – his only fighter. I./JG 302 con­verted to the Fw 190A-8 in early Septem­ber and be­came III./JG 301 on Septem­ber 30. Reschke’s tally con­tin­ued to rise, tak­ing him to 21 ‘kills’ by the end of 1944. Nine­teen of th­ese were Amer­i­can heavy bombers. His 20th and fi­nal bomber was a B-17 he shot down on Jan­uary 1, 1945. He was trans­ferred to Stab./jg 301 in March and flew the Ta 152 for the first time in Jan­uary. On April 14, he downed a Hawker Tem­pest of 486 (NZ) Squadron flown by W/O O J Mitchell, who was killed. He ended the war with 27 vic­to­ries, three of them with the Ta 152, af­ter he shot down a pair of Yak-9s over Ber­lin. At the time of writ­ing, Reschke still lived in Ger­many, aged 92.

The Fw 190D-9 flown by Leut­nant Heinz Sach­sen­berg of JV 44 from München-reim, Ger­many, April 1945. Hav­ing learned to fly aged 20 in 1942, Sach­sen­berg was sent to fight on the Eastern Front with 6./JG 52 fly­ing Bf 109s. He scored his first victory on April 21, 1943, and by the end of July was an ace with 22 con­firmed ‘kills’ – most of them fighters such as the fast and ma­noeu­vrable Yakovlev Yak-1. By the end of the year he had 52. He con­tin­ued to rack up vic­to­ries through­out 1944 dur­ing the Ger­man retreat from the USSR but was se­ri­ously in­jured on Au­gust 23 when his Bf 109G-6 ‘Yel­low 1’ was shot up by Amer­i­can P-51s over Ro­ma­nia and he was forced to make a belly land­ing. In April 1945, he was or­dered to lead a unit of Fw 190D-9s pro­tect­ing Messer­schmitt Me 262 jets as they landed and took off and were at their most vul­ner­a­ble. With the huge num­ber of Al­lied air­craft over­fly­ing Ger­many by this time, there was a ten­dency for an­ti­air­craft gun­ners to shoot at any­thing with wings so Sach­sen­berg’s unit, JV 44, painted the un­der­sides of their air­craft in bright red with prom­i­nent white stripes for easy iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.the in­scrip­tion Sach­sen­berg had painted on the side of his D-9’s fuse­lage ‘Verkaaft’s mei Gwand I foahr in Him­mel!’ (Sell my clothes, I’m off to Heaven!) sums up the apoc­a­lyp­tic spirit of Ger­man servicemen at the time. Sach­sen­berg died in 1951, aged just 28, due to com­pli­ca­tions aris­ing from his wartime in­juries.

ABOVE: GDC

Focke-wulf drawing of the Ta 152C – in­tended to be the stan­dard fighter/fight­er­bomber ver­sion of the ul­ti­mate Fw 190 devel­op­ment. It fol­lowed on from the can­celled Ta 152A and stalled 152B. By the time its devel­op­ment be­gan, the high-altitude ver­sion of the Ta 152, the ‘H’, was al­ready well ad­vanced.

Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion GDC

The sec­ond pro­to­type to test com­po­nents for the Ta 152A was Fw 190 V20 TI+IG. It was first flown on Novem­ber 23, 1943 – a month be­fore any pro­to­types of the Ta 152H had been or­dered by the RLM and two months be­fore the Fw 190D was even sug­gested. Had the Ta 152A not been can­celled due to a lack of faith in its Juno 213 pow­er­plant, it might well have en­tered ser­vice be­fore ei­ther of them. A page from the Ta 152 parts list show­ing some of the elec­tri­cal sys­tems, top, and op­er­a­tional equip­ment, be­low.the lat­ter in­cludes the fuse­lage-mounted cam­era in­tended for the Ta 152E-1.

GDC Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

Focke-wulf drawing show­ing the ar­ma­ment planned for the Ta 152C. The type differed from its pre­de­ces­sors, the Ta 152A/B and H, in hav­ing cowl­ing-mounted MG 151s but no outer wing po­si­tions. A Ta 152 tail used for struc­tural testing at the Det­mold fa­cil­ity. Al­ter­nat­ing loads of 1600kg up­wards and 800kg down­wards were ap­plied to the sec­tion’s front at­tach­ment bracket. A side view of a Ta 152C air­frame be­ing used for struc­tural testing at Focke-wulf’s struc­tural re­search lab­o­ra­tory at Det­mold.testing was dis­persed to part of a fur­ni­ture fac­tory op­er­ated by Vere­ingte Mo­belfab­rik in 1943 fol­low­ing a se­ries of bomb­ing raids at the com­pany’s Bre­men head­quar­ters.

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

The third Ta 152C pro­to­type,ta 152 V7 CI+XM, was first flown on Jan­uary 8, 1945, by test pi­lot Bern­hard Märschel. It was used for gen­eral sys­tems checks, par­tic­u­larly hy­draulics. It was not fit­ted with the C’s ‘stan­dard’ Daim­ler-benz DB 603 LA en­gine un­til March. The enor­mous wingspan of the Ta 152H pro­to­type Fw 190 V30/U1 GH+KT is ev­i­dent in this photo. The fifth pro­duc­tion Focke-wulf Ta 152H-0, WNR. 150005 CW+CE on the compass-swing plat­form out­side the Neuhausen fac­tory near Cot­tbus in De­cem­ber 1944. Rather than be­ing de­liv­ered to III./JG 301, it was in­stead sent to Junkers at Dessau for en­gine tri­als and was re­port­edly still there on March 18, 1945. A side view of Ta 152H pro­to­type Fw 190 V30/U1 GH+KT.THE air­craft was de­stroyed in a crash on Au­gust 23, 1944, which re­sulted in the death of Focke-wulf test pi­lot Al­fred Thomas.

Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

The first pi­lot to shoot down an en­emy air­craft with a Ta 152 was Ober­feld­webel Josef ‘Jupp’ Keil. He is re­garded as be­ing the only Ta 152 ace of the war, with five kills made while fly­ing the air­craft.this tally has been called into ques­tion in re­cent years as at­ten­tion has fo­cused on match­ing up claims with ac­tual losses. The only known pho­to­graph of Ta 152s ac­tu­ally in ser­vice with III./JG 301.The im­age was taken at Al­teno on Jan­uary 27, 1945, im­me­di­ately af­ter the unit’s pi­lots took de­liv­ery of 12 air­craft.

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

Ta 152H pi­lot Ober­feld­webel Sepp Sattler was killed when his air­craft crashed shortly be­fore his com­rades en­gaged in com­bat with a pair of RAF Hawker Tem­pests.the cause of his air­craft’s crash was never dis­cov­ered. Ober­feld­webel Willi Reschke made the last known Ta 152H-1 sortie of the war, shoot­ing down two Yak-9s over Ber­lin. His air­craft was cap­tured by the Bri­tish shortly there­after. The sec­ond to last Ta 152H-1 known to have been pro­duced, WNR. 150168, af­ter be­ing cap­tured by the Bri­tish.this air­craft was flown by Ober­feld­webel Willi Reschke when he shot down a pair of Yak-9s over Ber­lin. It was scrapped af­ter the war. One of the last three Ta 152’s built, WNR. 150167, was cap­tured by the Amer­i­cans in fly­able con­di­tion at Er­furt-north on April 15, 1945. It is be­lieved to have been se­lected for con­ver­sion to Ta 152H-10 stan­dard – a high­alti­tude re­con­nais­sance ver­sion orig­i­nally des­ig­nated Ta 152E-2.

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