Flight Journal

The Fw 190 on the Eastern Front


From a Luftwaffe pilot’s point of view, the Fw 190 was ideally suited to the Eastern Front for a number of reasons, not least its big radial engine. Its bulk offered a degree of protection for the pilot and it could absorb an enormous amount of damage which, in an arena where low-level operations were dominant and enemy ground fire was a constant hazard, provided considerab­ly improved survivabil­ity over the Bf 109. However, if the Fw 190 engine did fail, the aircraft possessed the gliding characteri­stics of a brick! Bailing out was recommende­d rather than attempting a dead-stick landing, although some pilots, including Otto Kittel, managed to crash-land successful­ly.

Another significan­t advantage of the Fw 190 on the Eastern front was its strong wide-track undercarri­age, which made for excellent ground handling on rough airfields and during the seasonal snow or boggy conditions.

The Fw 190’s performanc­e fell away at altitude, but as most actions on the Eastern Front took place at lower altitudes, this was not a particular disadvanta­ge. Combining ruggedness with maneuverab­ility and stability, the Fw 190 made an excellent dogfighter and a superb gun platform with formidable armament of four 20mm cannons and two 7.9mm machine guns (on the Fw 190 A-4).

As a dogfighter, the Fw 190 did have one potentiall­y lethal flaw: The stall was sudden and vicious. If the pilot let the speed reduce below 127mph in a hard turn, such that the aircraft stalled, the port wing would drop so violently that the Fw 190 would flick onto its back and enter an incipient spin.

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