Focke-Wulf Fw 190A

The arrival of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190A in the skies over northern France in the late summer of 1941 heralded a particularly difficult period for RAF Fighter Command. Already committed to a policy of taking the air war to the enemy, the performance advantage of the newcomer over the Spitfire V caused great anxiety in the upper echelons of the RAF. Ultimately, it led to losses not seen since the Battle of Britain. Initially, the Fw 190 was only in service in small numbers and was also beset by teething troubles, notably engine failures as a result of overheating. By early 1942, however, most of its problems had been rectified and the pilots of JG 26 had sufficient confidence in their new mount to extract its full potential.

By mid 1942, the level of dominance that the Fw 190 had achieved over the Spitfire V led some in the British military hierarchy to seriously consider acquiring an example by clandestine means. A seemingly outlandish scheme formulated by Captain Philip Pinkney, a Commando officer, involved stealing an Fw 190 from a Luftwaffe airfield in northern France. However, happily for all involved (not least test pilot Jeffrey Quill who had been ‘volunteered’ to fly it) the issue was suddenly resolved in an action that took place on the evening of 23 June 1942 over the western end of the English Channel.

Following a raid by Bostons of No. 107 Squadron on the airfield at Morlaix (No. 10 Group Ramrod 23), a number of Fw 190A-3s of JG 2 attacked the bombers and their Spitfire escorts over the Channel. In a blatant disregard of orders, two Fw 190s flown by III Gruppe adjutant OberleutnantArnim Faber and his wingman Unteroffizier Wilhelm Reushling followed the RAF formations to the south coast of England, harrying them all the way. Reushling shot down Wing Commander Alois Vasatko, leader of the Czech Wing, in BM592, but his moment of glory was short-lived, as his aircraft was damaged by debris from Vasatko’s Spitfire and he was forced to bale out. He was rescued from the sea off Brixham, but the body of the Czech was never found.

Meanwhile, Spitfires had been scrambled from Bolt Head, but only two managed to get airborne following a collision between two others prior to take-off. Flight Sergeant Frantisek Trejtnar in BL517 spotted a solitary Fw 190 flying north about 10,000 ft above him. He gave chase, but was still below his intended target when he had reached 18,000 ft. This was the Fw 190 flown by Faber, who had been watching the Spitfire in its climb. Choosing the right moment to strike, Faber dived to attack head-on, his fire hitting the Spitfire’s starboard wing and wounding its pilot in the right arm. Severely damaged, Trejtnar’s aircraft was pitched into a spin, which had still not been recovered at 5000 ft, at which point he baled out.

Having circled his victim as he descended on his parachute, Faber then made the elementary mistake of flying a reciprocal course, which took him north instead of south. Eventually a coastline appeared, which he assumed to be that along the English Channel, but in fact was the north coast of Devon. When land appeared after an appropriate amount of time, he was confident that he was back over northern France, but in reality he was flying along the south coast of Wales. Selecting the first airfield that presented itself, he performed an immaculate victory roll prior to landing at Pembrey, a training station near Llanelli, where he was promptly arrested. Not surprisingly, the arrival of one of the Luftwaffe’s prized fighters acted like a magnet for RAF fighter pilots in the area, including Wing Commander M.V. ‘Mindy’ Blake DSO DFC, leader of the Portreath Wing, and Flight Lieutenant Dave Glaser of No. 234 Squadron. Glaser later recalled that Faber offered to fly the Fw 190 on minimum fuel in mock combat with a Spitfire, but his offer was refused, as it was obvious that he would take to his parachute at the earliest opportunity.

Wearing RAF roundels and the serial number MP499, the Fw 190 was flown to RAE Farnborough the following month for a full structural examination. In the tradition of the German aircraft industry, the build quality was of an extremely high standard and as a second-generation monoplane fighter, it had a number of unusual features, including an electrically operated undercarriage. The fuselage was of stressed skin construction with twenty-one L-section stringers with one wide top hat section stringer at the top. Transverse formers (also of L-section) were used about 18 in apart. Two self-sealing fuel tanks were located in the lower front fuselage, containing 64 gallons and 51 gallons.

The wing main spar was a built-up I-section member of substantial construction in the centre section, but with rapidly tapering top and bottom booms, while the web was a solid plate of the same thickness throughout its length. Bending was taken entirely by the main spar (near the centre section) while further out, where the spar flanges became of negligible size, bending loads were shared by the many L-section stringers. Throughout the wing, shear forces were taken by the main spar and the trailing edge member, which also had a solid plate web. The ribs were small in number and consisted of plate webs with their edges turned over to form flanges riveted to the skin. The rib flanges were cut away to clear the stringers and the webs were pierced with lightening holes with turned-over edges for stiffening. The main spar and the trailing edge members formed a torsion box with the top and bottom wing skin.

The wings were assembled as one unit, the single main spar being continuous through the fuselage. The wing was attached to the fuselage at five points, two vertical bolts passed through attachments at the top of the main spar, and there were two horizontal pins at the roots of the light trailing edge members, which were not continuous. A further horizontal pin joint was located at the centre of the main spar bottom boom. This latter connection was made to support the bottom spar boom laterally, as the bottom central engine mounting tube was connected to the front side of the spar boom at this point.

Following its evaluation at Farnborough, MP499 was delivered to AFDU at Duxford for an assessment of its performance and handling characteristics, and for comparative trials. In its report, AFDU confirmed that, in most respects, the Fw 190 was greatly superior to the Spitfire V. The aircraft was found to be difficult to taxy due to excessive weight on the self-centring tailwheel when on the ground. For take-off, 15 degrees of flap was required and it was necessary to keep the control column back to avoid a swing developing during the initial stages of the run. Once airborne, however, the pilot immediately felt at home and the aircraft was pleasant to fly, all controls being light and positive. Retraction of the flaps and undercarriage was barely noticeable, although some sink occurred if the flaps were raised before a reasonably high airspeed had been attained.

The Fw 190 handled well during high-speed manoeuvres and an excellent feature was that it was seldom necessary to re-trim for differing flight conditions. The stalling speed was relatively high at approximately 110 mph with the undercarriage and flaps retracted and 105 mph with the gear and flaps down, but all controls remained effective until the point of stall. The best approach speed for landing was around 130–140 mph IAS, reducing to about 125 mph when crossing the edge of the aerodrome. Owing to a steep angle of glide, the view during the approach was good and the actual landing was straightforward, with touchdown occurring at approximately 110 mph. Once the Fw 190 was in the tail-down attitude the view was poor, but locking the tailwheel assisted in preventing a swing during the landing run. The landing run was similar in length to that of the Spitfire IX.

Only brief performance tests were carried out; but these showed a maximum speed of 390 mph TAS at 1.42 ata (atmospheres) boost, 2700 rpm, at the maximum power altitude of 18,000 ft. All flights at this power setting were for a duration of two minutes only. During the trial, pilots reported that the BMW 801D engine was running very roughly and as a result they had little confidence in its reliability. The AFDU report mentioned that interrogation of PoWs who had flown the Fw 190 had confirmed that the roughness of the engine was usual. German pilots also had little faith in its reliability and disliked having to fly the Fw 190 over the sea, not that this had stopped Faber and Reushling!

Fuel capacity amounting to a total of 115 gallons was carried in two self-sealing tanks, each tank being fitted with an immersed pump for use at altitude. There was also a protected oil tank containing 9 gallons. The approximate endurance under operational conditions, including dogfights and a climb to 25,000 ft, was 1 hour 20 minutes. A red warning light was fitted in a prominent position in the cockpit and illuminated when there was only fuel left for 20 minutes’ flying. The rate of climb up to 18,000 ft under maximum climbing conditions of 1.35 ata boost, 2450 rpm, and 165 mph was around 3000–3250 ft/min. The Fw 190 had a high rate of climb when the entry was made from a fast cruising speed and the climb angle was steep. When pulling up from a dive, the rate of climb was described as phenomenal. It was noted that the power of the BMW 801D began to fall away at around 22,000 ft and was considerably reduced at 25,000 ft.

The Fw 190 also had exceptional performance in the dive, with high initial acceleration. The maximum speed obtained in a dive was 580mph TAS at 16,000 ft and at this speed the controls, although slightly heavier, were still remarkably light. It was during diving tests that the lack of any need to re-trim was particularly noted and this characteristic was present at all times, even during the entry and subsequent pull-out. Due to the fuel injection system, it was possible to enter a dive by pushing the control column forward without the engine cutting.

During the trials AFDU pilots praised the canopy design of the Fw 190, which allowed lookout the like of which had not been seen before. The hood was of moulded plexiglas and offered an unrestricted view all round. Unlike most British fighters, there was no rear view mirror, but this was considered unnecessary as the view over the tail was so good. The hood was not to be opened in flight as tail buffeting was likely to occur and there was also the possibility that it might be blown off due to the slipstream. This was not a problem when flying in visual conditions as the quality of the plexiglas was so good, but it was an obvious disadvantage when flying in bad visibility or rain, or when the canopy had been contaminated with oil.

Although the Fw 190 was extremely light on the controls, it was reasonably easy to fly on instruments, but as it lacked an Artificial Horizon and Vertical Speed Indicator it had to be flown on a limited panel comprising gyro compass, turn and bank indicator, altimeter and air speed indicator, (ASI). With its excellent all-round view, particularly over the nose, the Fw 190 was well suited to low flying and ground strafing. Its gunsight was also depressed slightly, which tended to prevent pilots from flying into the ground during low-level attacks. Formation flying was easy, thanks to the excellent view and the aircraft’s wide speed range made regaining formation relatively easy, although it was slow to decelerate.

MP499 was not flown at night, but it was inspected with the engine running on a dark night with no moon. The exhaust flames when seen from ahead at a distance of 100 yards appeared as a dull red halo and from the side the flames could be seen up to 500 yards away. From astern, the flames could be seen up to a distance of 200 yards. Although the Fw 190 was fitted with sufficient instrumentation for night flying, it was considered that the exhaust glare would badly affect the pilot’s night vision, especially during take-off and landing. The cockpit lighting was adequate and did not reflect on the canopy.

In its conclusions, the AFDU report gave the Fw 190 credit for being a formidable low- to medium-altitude fighter. It was obvious that Kurt Tank, its designer, had given much thought to the environment in which the pilot had to work, as the cockpit was extremely well laid out and there was a general absence of large levers and unnecessary gadgets. The pilot was also given a comfortable seating position and was well protected by armour. Although it had advanced performance, its simplicity enabled new pilots to be thoroughly conversant with all the controls very quickly.

The engine was easy to start but required a lengthy run-up period, even when warm, before the oil temperature was within limits for take-off. This delay, compounded by difficulties experienced during taxying, meant that the Fw 190 was inferior to Allied fighters when it came to quick take-offs. Once in the air, however, it was a different story, one of the Fw 190’s most outstanding qualities being its remarkable aileron control. It was possible to change direction with incredible speed and when viewed from another aircraft, the change appeared as if a flick roll had been performed. If RAF fighters were to stand any chance against the Fw 190; they had to be flown at high speed when in a combat area to give them any chance of achieving an element of surprise or, more likely, to avoid being bounced.

The AFDU trial also made a comparative assessment of the Fw 190’s performance against several Allied fighters, including the Spitfire VB, Spitfire IX, and Mustang IA. Against the Spitfire VB, it came as no surprise to discover that the Fw 190 was 20–35 mph faster at all heights and also possessed a clear advantage in climb performance. Although the best climb speed of the two was very similar, the angle of climb of the Fw 190 was much steeper, so that its climb rate was approximately 450 ft/min better. When climbs were made from high cruising speed, or after a pull up from a dive, the Fw 190’s superiority was even more marked. When the two aircraft were dived, it was found that the Fw 190 could draw away with ease, especially during the initial stages of the dive.

In terms of manoeuvrability, the Fw 190 was superior in all respects, except that of turning circles. However, when it was attacked, even this deficiency could be overcome to an extent by using the Fw 190’s better rate of roll. Its large ailerons allowed very quick turn reversals that a Spitfire had great difficulty in following and if this was followed by a dive, the Focke-Wulf’s excellent acceleration often allowed it to increase range to the point where the Spitfire was forced to break off. Other than utilising the Spitfire’s superior turn performance, the most effective defence when attacked by an Fw 190 was to enter a high-speed shallow dive, which forced the Fw 190 into a long stern chase. Although it caught up eventually, a considerable distance was covered and it was thought that this tactic was liable to draw the Fw 190 too far away from its base. The only other crumb of comfort for Spitfire V pilots was that the Fw 190 was prone to flick during a high-speed stall, which could have dire consequences if it occurred at low level.

At the time of the AFDU trial the Spitfire V was still the mainstay of RAF Fighter Command, but the first examples of the Spitfire IX had already been delivered to No. 64 Squadron at Hornchurch. Powered by a two-stage, two-speed Rolls-Royce Merlin 61, much was required of the Spitfire IX and during comparisons with MP499, it lived up to expectation. Although the Fw 190 was 7–8 mph faster at 2000 ft, this situation had been reversed by 8000 ft and the Spitfire IX maintained its superiority up to 18,000 ft, where the Fw 190 held a slight advantage. At 21,000 ft the two aircraft were evenly matched but the Spitfire IX was 5–7 mph faster by the time that 25,000 ft was reached. In continuous climbs up to 23,000 ft, there was little to choose between the two, although at this height the performance of the Fw 190 was beginning to fall off, whereas that of the Spitfire IX was increasing. In climbs from high cruising speed and in a pull up from a dive, the Fw 190 held a slight advantage. Due to its particularly good acceleration, the Fw 190 was faster in the dive but this superiority was not as marked as with the Spitfire VB. In manoeuvring flight the Fw 190 once again held the advantage (except in turning circles), but if a Spitfire IX pilot decided to ‘cut and run’ the Fw 190 stood little chance of closing to gun firing range if it had been seen early enough and the Spitfire had been flying at a high cruising speed.

When measured against a Mustang IA, the Fw 190 had a slight speed advantage at 2000 ft but at medium levels (i.e. 10–15,000 ft) the Mustang was 15 mph faster. Above this height band, however, the initiative swung once more in favour of the Focke-Wulf, which was 5 mph faster at 20,000 ft and above. In the climb, the Fw 190 was superior to the Mustang at all heights, as the best climb speed for the latter was around 10 mph slower and its best angle of climb was not as steep. Performance was much more even in the dive, and if anything, the Mustang held a slight advantage. The Fw 190 was generally more manoeuvrable but, as with the Spitfire, it lost out to the Mustang when it came to turning circles. Against the Mustang, the Fw 190’s superiority in rate of roll was not as marked as it had been with the Spitfire. As a result, its initial defensive manoeuvre of a diving turn reversal was not as effective, particularly if both aircraft were flying at high speed. The best defence for the Mustang was once again to operate within the combat area at high cruising speed and to dive away at full throttle. As far as the Fw 190 was concerned, a dive was best followed by a steep climb, which the Mustang could not match.

Following the present of Faber’s Fw 190A, several other examples fell into the hands of the RAF. On the night of 16/17 April 1943 no fewer than three Fw 190A Jabos of SKG 10 arrived at West Malling following an attack on London. Of these, only A-4/U-8 Werke Nr 7155 flown by Feldwebel Otto Bechtold could be returned to the air. However, two more Fw 190As were acquired soon after when SKG 10 pilots landed in error at Manston on 20 May and 20 June 1943. The first to arrive was Unteroffizier Heinz Ehrhardt in A-4/U-8 Werke Nr 5843, which became PN999 and was used by the RAE before being sent to 1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight on 28 September 1943. During its time at RAE, PN999 was flown by Squadron Leader Johnny Checketts DFC, who at the time was OC No. 485 (New Zealand) Squadron at Biggin Hill. His impressions of the Fw 190 were given in a letter to 11 Group HQ dated 27 August 1943.

This flight was made by me to find the differences in the Fw 190 and the Spitfire LF.IX (Merlin 66) in regard to flying qualities. The Fw 190 number PN999 which I flew was not taken higher than 4,000 ft so that the experience I gained was very limited in the 30 minutes I flew. I found the cockpit and controls extremely well laid out and that every switch and all the flying controls were very convenient and easy to work. I should imagine that scramble times would compare with the Spitfire. Taxying is reasonably easy, but the toe brakes are strange after hand brake control and overall I think the Spitfire is much better for taxying.

The take-off was terrifying and I had considerable difficulty in keeping the aircraft straight in spite of the fact that I held the stick back to lock the tailwheel. I think I opened the throttle too slowly, because I saw the same aircraft take-off before I flew it in a perfectly normal manner. The electrical undercarriage is very simply raised and the tail trim is quite effective. The machine is beautiful to fly and quite fast at normal cruising revs and boost which I did not exceed. I had been warned about an extremely rough engine but under cruising conditions I found that the engine behaved perfectly and compared with most radials.

When I was about eight miles south of base, two Mustangs saw me and made attacks, dummy or real, I don’t know. I did not give these aircraft any chance but owing to their insistence I let them see my RAF roundels and they formated on me and then tried to play. In the resulting steep turns at maximum cruising boost and revs I found no difficulty in getting on the tail of these aircraft and could have easily shot them down. I found the Revi gunsight very pleasant to use and the gun buttons in a comfortable position on the control column. The rate of climb of the Fw 190 was greatly superior to the Mustangs but inferior to the Spitfire LF.IX. I should imagine that at lower than 22,000 ft the Fw 190 would be slightly better than the Spitfire IX with Merlin 61. When the Mustangs sheered off I tried rolls and general defensive flying. The Fw 190 is remarkable and really beautiful to aerobat in the rolling plane, but in the looping plane it is greatly inferior to the Spitfire. Visibility is exceptionally good all round and is greatly superior to that in the Spitfire. I found the cockpit slightly small for defensive fighting and the back parachute was uncomfortable, which might account for the fact that attacks on the Fw 190 from below and behind often catch the Fw pilot unawares.

On my first approach I found the vital actions easy and comfortable, although landing with the hood closed was strange. I was forced round again by a Spitfire cutting in and the overshoot procedure was normal and the aircraft behaved perfectly. On my second approach I came in at 130 mph and used motor. The landing position is very blind and uncomfortable, but if the aircraft is motored in at 120–130 mph, a three point landing is easily made although swing after landing is noticeable. I enjoyed the experience and should like to fly this aircraft at 22,000–30,000 ft to gain experience at its combat heights. I am convinced through experience that the Spitfire with the Merlin 66 engine is much superior at all levels, but the Fw 190 could be a very aggressive aircraft in the hands of an experienced fighter pilot.

The later examples of the Fw 190 that ended their days in RAF service were the fighter-bomber version that were employed in the west on hit-and-run attacks and, in the case of SKG 10, on night attacks aimed mainly on London. The Jabo variant of the Fw 190A was flown from Farnborough by Wing Commander Jamie Rankin DSO DFC, a vastly experienced fighter pilot, who identified several handling differences compared with the fighter version. On the Fw 190 bomber, much more tail trimming was required for climbs and dives and the lateral control, although still good, was not nearly as light at high speeds as in the fighter tested previously. Slight buffeting was also experienced on the elevators at speeds of more than 350 mph, possibly due to interference of the airflow by the fuselage bomb rack.

Following its initial evaluation and comparative testing, AFDU continued to use captured Fw 190s for further trials work, including tours of fighter airfields to show the aircraft to the resident pilots and allow them the chance to fly against it in mock combat. Flight Lieutenant Len Thorne was heavily involved in this work, taking over the responsibility from Flight Lieutenant H.S. ‘Susie’ Sewell when he was rested after a crash at White Waltham. Sewell and Thorne were carrying out fuel consumption tests in a Mosquito (HJ666) on 30 July 1943 when an engine cut. An emergency landing had to be aborted due to personnel crossing the perimeter track, but when full power was selected, the good engine also quit and the aircraft crash-landed on the airfield. Although both crew members were able to walk away from the accident, Sewell was badly affected by the crash and was off flying for some time. In contrast, Len Thorne was back in the air the very next day and went on to make over eighty sorties in Fw 190 PM679, amounting to over 100 hours flying time.

On 1 August 1943 I was made up to Flight Commander and given the job of flying the Fw 190 which I always thought of as ‘my’ 190. I spent two days looking at it because ‘Susie’ Sewell had gone, there was no-one else to ask about it and the Germans had very unkindly not left us a set of Pilot’s Notes. The time was spent going over it point by point, studying as much of it as I could but Squadron Leader Dyson, who was our C.O. at the time, got very impatient because I was taking so long to start the flying. The Air Ministry was getting hot under the collar as they wanted the demonstrations to start so I was put under some pressure and finally took it into the air.

The Fw 190 handled well and was a delight to fly, although it had to be watched on take-off and particularly on landing. If you held off too high, the stall when it came, was very sudden and it would literally fall out of your hands. With its high wing loading (44 lb/sq.ft) and high approach speed it was almost frightening after our docile Spitfires. Demonstrations and mock combats were carried out at North Weald, Northolt, Hornchurch, Kenley, Biggin Hill, Tangmere, Ibsley, Portreath, Exeter and Colerne. At Kenley I remember having to land on the short runway and at Biggin the Group Captain worked me so hard that I ended up landing on the flare path in the gathering gloom. Although I was normally escorted by two or more Spitfires, there were one or two ‘hairy’ moments. The Polish pilots were reputedly trigger happy and were apparently unimpressed by RAF roundels on a German aircraft. In the course of one of the dogfights, one of the Spitfires suddenly streamed black smoke and went straight down with an engine failure. I thought ‘Christ, they’ll think I’ve shot him down’ so I was more scared that day than most!

Some of the mock combats seemed very realistic to me. It was during one of these that the 190 showed its teeth when, without warning, it flicked off a tight turn into an inverted spin. Recovery was straightforward but took about 3–4,000 ft of altitude. At Hornchurch I arrived just as the Wing was returning from a Sweep. One of the Squadron Commanders arriving in the circuit saw this 190 below him and came screaming down behind me only to realise that I had my wheels and flaps down and a Spitfire on each wing tip. He hauled off at the very last moment but it was rather frightening all the same. After this episode I started to have four Spitfires as escort instead of two! At the request of the Army there were glorious (authorised) beat ups of various gun posts. The Army were always asking us to do these so they could train their light Ack-Ack crews. Having made your dive you then pulled up and in the 190 you could do seven or eight upward rolls before the speed fell off, so an approved beat up was something to look forward to. At Portreath the coastal defence guns opened up at me but fortunately they were way behind.

During a visit to Benson I had the honour of meeting a great gentleman in the person of Air Commodore John Boothman who was then AOC of the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (PRU). With the permission of the Air Ministry I showed him the taps and sent him off for a short trip in PM679, one of the two Fw 190A-4s which had landed in error at Manston. In return he allowed me to fly any of the various PRU aircraft so I rather foolishly chose a Spitfire XI instead of one of their P-38 Lightnings which would have been another type for my logbook. There followed further visits to Coltishall, Aston Down, Great Massingham, Syerston, Rednal and Eshott. It was during the flight to the latter that trouble developed. The BMW radial engine always felt and sounded a bit harsh, but on this flight it was really rough with considerable vibration. Despite hard work by the ground-crew there was no improvement. With some trepidation I flew the 190 back to Wittering [AFDU had moved to Wittering from Duxford in March 1943]. When the engine was stripped down one of the pistons was found to have a fist-sized hole through the crown. In spite of this the engine had continued to function with negligible loss of power.

The final visits were to North Weald and Hartford Bridge after two months of repairs and servicing. At the end of November 1943 it was back home at Wittering for a well-earned rest for aircraft and pilot. During the course of the foregoing exercises and demonstrations the 190 was flown against Spitfires, Typhoons, Tempests, Mosquitos and Bostons. At Benson the trials were carried out at heights above 26,000 ft against PRU Spitfires, Mosquitos and Lockheed P-38 Lightnings.

Having mastered the technique of take-off and landing, I thoroughly enjoyed the eight months of that assignment. The high cruising speed, well in excess of 300 mph, compared very favourably with the Spitfire and was similar to the Merlin-engined Mustang, Thunderbolt, Typhoon and Tempest. The cockpit was roomy, well laid out, and the tear-drop canopy gave excellent visibility. In my estimation the Fw 190A is classed with the Spitfire VIII and IX and the Mustang III. It was one of the best fighters of the Second World War.

On 18 March 1944 I did a comparative trial in PM679 against Spitfire XIV RB179 and at the end found the engine rougher than usual. After adjustments I took her up for an air test the following morning but suffered a near engine failure and successfully put down again at Wittering. There was a delay of several weeks and I believe a new engine was taken from one of the damaged arrivals. On 24 June I again tried an air test but as soon as I was airborne it was obvious that there was something dramatically wrong with the engine so I did a tight circuit and on the downwind leg the engine quit completely. I had no alternative but to do a ‘dead-stick’ landing and as I came over the airfield boundary I jettisoned the hood. This was operated by a cartridge system and when you fired it, the hood was blown straight off and away. Apart from that there was no damage to the aircraft as I managed to put it down without breaking anything. By then there were a number of other Fw 190s around so it was decided that they wouldn’t try to repair mine.

PM679 was not flown again and was used for spares for PE882 and PN999, which were in service with No. 1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight at Collyweston. Not long after, PE882 was written off in a crash on 13 October 1944, which claimed the life of the unit’s C.O., Flight Lieutenant E.R. ‘Lew’ Lewenden. It was seen to be on fire before coming down on the Stamford to Kettering road near the airfield, eventually coming to rest in the garden of a nearby house.

Like most other fighters of the period, the Fw 190 was constantly developed in terms of performance and weapons capability. After the prolific A-model, produced in numerous sub-variants to fulfil fighter, fighter-bomber and bomber-destroyer roles, the next major version was the Fw 190D, the first of the long-nosed Fw 190s. This version was powered by a Junkers Jumo 213A engine of 1750 hp, although this could be increased to 2240 hp with MW-50 water-methanol injection. Introduced in the autumn of 1944, the Fw 190D came as a nasty shock to many P-51 Mustang and Spitfire IX pilots, as the greatly increased power of the Jumo endowed a much better altitude performance when compared with the Fw 190A. The top speed was 426 mph at 21,336 ft and even at 33,000 ft (which could be attained in seventeen minutes) the Fw 190D-9 was still capable of 397 mph. The service ceiling was nearly 40,000 ft.

The ultimate Fw 190 was given a completely new designation, the Ta 152, after its designer Kurt Tank. Although it only saw service in small numbers, its performance was superior to every other piston-engined fighter of the time. With MW-50 and GM-1 nitrous oxide boost it was capable of 472 mph at 41,000 ft and its service ceiling was over 48,000 ft. It had a climb rate of around 3000 ft/min and possessed superb acceleration and agility, to the extent that some Luftwaffe pilots preferred the Ta 152 to the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. Had it been available a year earlier, the Ta 152 may well have had some influence on the air battles taking place over the Reich. As it was, its appearance caused little more than a minor irritation to the Allied air forces, although it did show what the German aircraft industry would have been capable of had the controlling authorities actively promoted the development of high performance aircraft, instead of relying for so long on outdated designs.


43. (Above) Fw 190A-4 PM679 carries out a low level beat up with a P-47D Thunderbolt of the 334th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, Eighth Air Force.

(Philip Jarrett)


44. One of the Fw 190A-4/U-8 Jabos of SKG 10, which landed in error after attacks on London in early 1943. (Author)

45. Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-4/U-8 PN999 is former, Werke Nummer 5843 of SKG 10. After testing by RAE Farnborough, it was flown by No. 1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight and was last recorded as being in store at 47 MU Sealand in November 1947. (Philip Jarrett)



47. The Buffalo’s extensive cockpit glazing is emphasized in this view of AS417. (Philip Jarrett)

46. Buffalo AS426 displays its unusual undercarriage and large aerial mast mounted on the forward fuselage.

(Philip Jarrett)


48. Buffalos of No. 453 Squadron lined up at Sembawang, Singapore with AN185 in the foreground.

(Philip Jarrett)



49. Although outclassed by contemporary fighters in the west, the Curtiss Mohawk performed well in the Far East and remained in first-line service in small numbers until early 1944.

(Philip Jarrett)

50. Mohawk III AR634 during testing at A&AEE and already looking somewhat weather-beaten. The aircraft is fitted with a ring and bead sight. (Philip Jarrett)



51. Mohawk IV, possibly AR645. The Mohawk IV was equivalent to the French Hawk H-75A-4 and was powered by a Wright Cyclone of 1200 hp. (Philip Jarrett)

52. A view of Airacobra I AH573 in the air. The protruding barrel of the 20 mm cannon firing through the propeller boss is clearly evident.

 (Philip Jarrett)


53. DS174 (formerly 40-2983) was one of three P-39Cs delivered in July 1941 for initial trials and flown by AFDU to assass the type for fighter operations. (Philip Jarrett)



Unusually for an American aircraft, the cackpit of the Airacobra was relatively cramped and tall pilots had little or no head room.

 (Philip Jarrett)

55. Bell Airacobra I AH573 was used for trials work at A&AEE and AFDU and was struck off charge on 11 Fbruary 1942. (Philip Jarrett)



56. The Tomahawk IIB was the equivalent of the USAAF P- 40C and was fitted with an American radio and oxygen system. It was also capable of carrying a 43-gallon drop tank. (Philip Jarrett)

57. A pleasant air-to-air view of Tomahawk I AH925. After testing at A&AEE it was used by No. 30 OTU and was withdrawn from use at the end of 1944. (Philip Jarrett)



58. Tomahawk I AH769 was one of the first ex-French machines to arrive in January 1941 and flew with No. 268 Squadron and No. 1686 Flight before being struck off charge on 31 May 1944. (Philip Jarrett)


59. Kittyhawk I photographed at Boscombe Down in January 1942. (Philip Jarrett)

60. Kittyhawk IIA FL 220 was powered by a Packard-Merlin V-1650-1 and was used by A&AEE in August 1942 for performance and handling trials. It was relegated to instructional use in August 1943. (Philip Jarrett)



61. Allison-engined Kittyhawk IV FX594, photographed in October 1944. (Philip Jarrett)

62. Kittyhawk IIIs of No. 260 Squadron at Castel Benito in early 1943. (Philip Jarrett)



63. Air-to-air view of Mustang X AM208, showing the original under-nose air intake position.

(Philip Jarrett)

64. AG346 was the second production Mustang I and flew with several units before being shot down by flak on 20 August 19944 when serving with No. 168 Squadron. (Philip Jarrett)


65. Mustang I AL 975/G was used as an engine test bed by Rolls-Royce for development of the Merlin-powered variants, and as such was re-designated Mustang X. It was also flown by AFDU and was finally struck off charge on 5 April 1945. (Philip Jarrett)



66. Mustang III FX 893 at Boscombe Down, fitted with a bulged Malcolm hood and underwing rocket rails. (Philip Jarrett)

67. A late production Mustang IV, showing the moulded bubble canopy that improved all-round vision. (Philip Jarrett)



68. Thunderbolt I FL844 (ex 42-25792) was used at Boscombe Down for evaluation and handling trials with various sizes of drop tanks. (Philip Jarrett)

69. KJ346 was a Thunderbolt II, which was equivalent to the USAAF P-47D-30-RE with bubble canopy. It is seen here shortly after roll out from the Republic plant at Farmingdale. A total of 830 Thunderbolts saw service with the RAF, of which 590 were of the Mark II variant.

(Philip Jarrett)



70. Thunderbolt I HD118. (Philip Jarrett)

71. Thunderbolt II HD265 RS-G of No. 30 Squadron fitted with long-range drop tanks.

(Philip Jarrett)



72. BJ513 was one of the initial batch of 91 ex-French Martlet Is. The downward vision panel can be seen in the bottom of the fuselage aft of the main wheels.

 (Philip Jarrett)


73. Martlet I BJ570. Note the forward rake of the aerial mast.

 (Philip Jarrett)


74. Martlet VJV337 was powered by a Patt & Whitney Twin Wasp and pictured in June 1943.(Philip Jarrett)


75. The Wildcar VI featured a taller fin and rudder, which significantly improved directional control. JV642 was the sixth production aircraft and was used for performance and handling trials at Boscombe Down in April 1944. (Philip Jarrett)

76. Hellcat I FN322 was used for brief performance trials at Boscombe Down from July to August 1943. (Philip Jarrett)



77. Hellcat IFN376. The Hellecat offered a significant improvement in performance over the Wildcat, being around 50 mph faster, with a much superior rate of climb.(Philip Jarrett)


78. Hellcat IIJV270 fitted with underwing rocket rails in March 1945. (Philip Jarrett)


79. The Hellcat II was powered by a Pratt & Whtiney R-2800-10W Double Wasp incorporating water injection. Deliveries of the Hellcat II to the Fleet Air Arm amounted to 930 out of a total of 1182. (Philip Jarrett)


80. A Corsair I in the air and seen here with the original canopy design. (Philip Jarrett)

81. An early Corsair I showing the flaps in the fully extended position. (Philip Jarrett)



82. A Corsair I showing the original rounded wing tip shape. To fit into the below deck hangars of British aircraft carriers, the wings had to be clipped by around 8 in. (Philip Jarrett)

83. Goodyear-built Corsair IV KD300 displays clipped wings, raised canopy and a lengthened tailwheel leg. (Philip Jarrett)


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