Focke-Wulf Fw 190A

The Focke-Wulf Fw 190A was the most important fighter version of the aircraft, and was one of the best fighters in the world when it first entered service in 1941-42. It remained a dangerous opponent for the rest of the war, although was less effective at high altitudes, and didn’t improve as much as its main Allied opponents, mainly because of the limited further development of its BMW 801 engine.

Overview

Fw 190A-0

This was the pre-production batch, with 40 aircraft ordered but perhaps only 28 completed. Powered by the BMW 801C-0 or 801C-1 and armed with four 7.92mm MG 17s, two in the fuselage, two in the wing roots

Fw 190A-1

The first production version, armed with four 7.92mm MG 17s and probably with two slow firing 20mm MG FF cannon in the outer wing panels. Mainly powered by the BMW 801C, although some got the BMW 801D. About 100 produced.

Fw 190A-2

The first to get the improved 20mm MG 151/20 cannon, which replaced the machine guns in the wing roots. The standard gun load thus became two 7.92mm machine guns, two 20mm MG 151/20 cannon and two 20mm FF cannon. About 400 produced over the winter of 1941-42.

Fw 190A-3

The A-3 saw the BMW 801D-2 engine become the standard, solving early over-heating problems. Kept the same guns as the A-2, but could also carry a ETC 501 rack under the fuselage, carrying either a 500kg or 250kg bomb or a 300 litre drop tank, the start of the conversion of the Fw 190 into a fighter-bomber. About 500 built in 1942.

Fw 190A-4

Plans of Focke Wulf Fw 190A-4
Plans of Focke Wulf Fw 190A-4

Cutaway of Focke Wulf Fw 190A-3
Cutaway of Focke Wulf Fw 190A-3

Very similar to the A-3, with the same engine and guns and optional ETC 501 bomb rack. Some gained a MW-50 methanol fuel injection system. This version saw the first significant use of the R numbered field conversion kits, and more use of the U numbered factory kits, allowing it to carry an increased range of weapons. Around 1,500 probably produced.

Fw 190A-5

The A-5 saw the engine moved 6in forward to improve the balance of the aircraft, increasing the gap between the engine and cockpit. Could carry the ETC 501 bomb rack below the fuselage and optional ETC 50 bomb racks under the wings. The A-5 could use an wider range of R field conversion kits than earlier versions. It was in production in the second half of 1943.

Fw 190A-6

The A-6 saw the introduction of a new lighter but stronger wing. The outboard MG FFs were replaced with a second pair of 20mm MG 151/20s. As with the A-5 could take the ETC 501 and a wide range of R kits. An uncertain number were used, with figures ranging from 569 up to 3,200 quoted.

Fw 190A-7

The A-7 saw the 7.92mm machine guns replaced with a pair of 13mm MG 131. It also kept the four MG 151/20s of the A-6, and the under-fuselage ETC 501 bomb rack. It used the same R kits as the A-6.

Fw 190A-8

The A-8 was the final production version of the Fw 190A, and was a generally refined version of the A-7, with more fuel, and the same armament as the A-7 (two 13mm machine guns and four 20mm MG 151/20 cannon). Around 1,300 were produced in 1944, but many were grounded by a lack of fuel. The A-8 could take a large number of R kits, some shared with the A-6 and A-7.

Fw 190A-9

Probably a proposal for a high altitude, high performance version of A-8, reaching prototype form.

Fw 190A-10

Ground attack, no agreement on details.

Detailed Histories

Fw 190A-0

The pre-production Fw 190A-0 was powered by the BMW 801C-0 or BMW 801C-1 (probably starting with W.Nr.0010, which had the C-1), and armed with four 7.92mm MG 17s – two in the fuselage just behind the engines and two in the wing roots. Early examples used the same wing 31ft 2in (161.46 sq ft) wing as the early prototypes, but after seven or eight had been completed a new 3ft 3.5in long wing, with an area of 196.99 sq ft, was introduced. This reduced top speed by 6mph, but improved manoeuvrability and climb rate.  The A-0 had tear shaped bulges on either side of the cowling, with curved tops and bottoms, covering part of the engine fittings.

The sources disagree on the total number of Fw 190A-0s that were built. Some give a total of twenty (nine with the small wings and eleven with the large wings). Most give a total of forty. Aviation Classics 26 says 29 not counting the four prototypes, 11 with the short wing and 18 with the long wing. Osprey’s Production Line to Front Line gives a total of 40 ordered and 28 completed, supporting this with work numbers (W.Nr.0008 to 0035). The first seven of these aircraft had short wings, while aircraft from W.Nr.0015 onwards had the longer wings. W.Nr.0006, normally listed with the prototypes, was also sometimes seen as a A-0.


Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-5 in US Hands, March 1944
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-5 in US Hands, March 1944

These aircraft were completed in the first half of 1941, with the first being completed in the autumn of 1940 at Bremen.

The Fw 190A-0 was initially evaluated by a special formation, Erprobungstaffel 190, which was forced at Rechlin-Roggenthin using a mix of Focke-Wulf test pilots and service personnel from II/ JG 26, which had been chosen as the first unit to convert to the new fighter. This test programme revealed the problems with the BMW 801 engine, which was dangerously prone to over-heating, but failed to solve most of them.

On 1 August 1941 the test programme moved to Le Bourget, where a detachment from II/ JG 26 was to operate it in operational conditions. This was to include mock combat against captured Hurricanes and Spitfires. These tests almost doomed the entire project. The BMW engine proved to be incredibly unreliable, making it very difficult to evaluate the aircraft. A commission from the RLM even recommended cancelling the entire project. However they were persuaded to given BMW and Focke-Wulf more time to solve the problems, and around 50 changes were made to the design.

The Fw 190A gained a great deal of flexibility from the use of factory and field conversion kits. The factory kits, or Umrüst-Bausätze, were mainly installed in the factory or on occasion by Focke-Wulf technicians in the field. The field conversion kits, or Rustsatz, were designed to be easier to install and could be installed or removed by normal Luftwaffe ground crew. A wide range of U and R numbers were allocated, with some shared across different versions of the aircraft but others unique to particular variants. In addition there are some numbers that only appear in one source and others where there is no agreement between modern sources (and in at least one case between German documents, as numbers could be reused. Some of these kits were mass produced, while others were allocated to prototypes, individual aircraft or allocated but never produced. 

It was also possible for an aircraft to have several of these kits, giving individual aircraft very lengthy designations. A Fw 190A-4 powered by a BMW 801C-2 engine and carrying 21cm rockets under the wings would thus be the Fw 190A-4/U1/R6.

The following factory conversions are listed in the very detailed Aviation Classics 26, Focke-Wulf Fw 190. They will have been experimental versions of the pre-production series aircraft.

Fw 190A-0/U1

This was the designation given to aircraft armed with four 7.92mm MG 17s, two in the wing roots and two in the fuselage.

Fw 190A-0/U2

This designation was given to aircraft armed with two 7.92mm MG 17s above the engine and two 13mm MG 131 machine guns in the wing roots.

Fw 190A-0/U3

The U3 carried a FuG 25 IFF (identify friend of foe) radio set.

Fw 190A-0/U4

The U4 carried a 300 litre drop tank. A single aircraft with this designation may have been used in early experiments with using the Fw 190 as a fighter-bomber.

Fw 190A-0/U5

The U5 carried two 7.92mm MG 17s above the engines and two 15mm MG 151 machine guns in the wing roots.

Fw 190A-0/U6

The U6 would have been powered by a Wright Cyclone engine, but never got beyond the prototype stage.

Fw 190A-0/U7

The U7 was used to test an early version of the BMW 801D engine

Fw 190A-0/U8

The U8 got a composite BMW 801C/D engine.

Fw 190A-0/U9

The U9 was to have been powered by a BMW 801C-1, but wasn’t completed.

Fw 190A-0/U10

The U10 carried two 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns in the fuselage, two 15mm MG 151 machine guns in the wing roots and two 20mm MG FF cannon in the outer wings.

Fw 190A-0/U11

The U11 was powered by the BMW 801C-1.

Fw 190A-0/U12

The U12 was powered by the BMW 801C-1 with GM-1 nitrous oxide injection.

Fw 190A-1

The Fw 190A-1 was the first production version of the aircraft. Production of the type began in the spring of 1941, and the first aircraft were completed at Marienburg in June, so they didn’t include the modifications recommended after the operational tests at Le Bourget.

There is some disagreement about the armament carried by the Fw 190A-1. All sources agree that it carried four 7.82mm machine guns, two in the fuselage and two in the wing roots, as carried in the A-0. Some sources state that these were the only guns, making the A-1 rather under-gunned, but most also give it a pair of 20mm MG FF cannon carried in the outer wing panels. Photographic evidence proves that some A-1s carried the cannon, and it was probably fairly coomon.   

Although the MG FF itself dated to 1936, it was based on much older designs, and suffered from a low rate of fire (520rpm), low muzzle velocity (585 m/s) and limited ammo in its drums. The guns used the Fw 190 only carried 55 rounds each (even with the ‘low’ rate of fire, this was only enough for a 6 second burst). In contrast the Hispano cannons used in the Spitfire V were belt fed, with a rate of fire of 750rpm and muzzle velocity of 840 m/s.

The A-1 was powered by the 1,660hp BMW 801C-1 radial, had the long span wings, and carried a FuG 7a radio. They had a twelve bladed cooling fan. Some were probably given the more powerful BMW 801D. The bulges on the side of the cowling were altered to give them a straight upper edge and curved lower edge.

The first aircraft went to 6./JG 26 in late July-early August 1941. By September II/ HG 26 was fully equipped with the type, followed soon afterwards by III/ JG 26. The entire batch of 100 aircraft had been completed by October 1941.  

Fw 190A-1/U1

There are two alternatives for the A-1/U1 - either powered by the BMW 801D or with fittings for eight SC 50 bombs.

Fw 190A-2

The Fw 190A-2 was the first up-armed version of the aircraft. The machine guns in the wing roots were replaced with MG 151/20 20mm cannons, which required a bulged plate on the upper wing surface to make space for the larger weapon. The MG 151/20 was an upgraded version of the MG 151/15 and entered service in 1941. It had a higher rate of fire and muzzle velocity than the MG FF, and was belt fed. A bulged panel had to be installed above the MG 151 to make space for the larger gun.

The A-2 retained the MG FFs in the outer wing, although these were sometimes removed to save weight, and the machine guns in the fuselage.

The A-2 was powered by the BMW 801C-2 (although some also got the BMW 801D), which had a power boost system that could be used for one minute, giving a potential top speed of 412mph when boosted, and 382mph normally. The normal speed was slightly lower than on the A-1, but still outperformed the Spitfire V.

Just over 400 examples of the A-2 were produced between the autumn of 1941 and the spring or summer of 1942, when it was replaced by the A-3. The A-2 was produced by Focke-Wulf, Arado and AGO, making it the first model to be produced by firms other than Focke-Wulf.

The A-2 began to enter service with II/ JG 26 in November 1941. I/ JG 26 was next, and by March 1942 the entire group had converted to the new type.

The Fw 190A-2 was the main German fighter in use during the ‘Channel Dash’ of 12 February 1942, which saw the Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen successfully escape from Brest to German waters, after catching the British by surprise by moving in daylight. A series of desperate attacks were made, including a suicidal attack by a formation of Swordfish torpedo bombers led by Lt Commander Eugene Esmonde. Adolf Galland’s JG 267 shot down most of the almost 50 British aircraft lost during the dash, and helped wipe out Esmonde’s force.

Fw 190A-2/U1

The A-2/U1 was given the Patin PKS 11 directional control system. Later all-weather aircraft used the PKS-12.

Fw 190A-2/U3

The A-2/U3 was a reconnaissance version, with two Rb 12.5/7 x 9s cameras in the rear fuselage, and an EK 16 robot camera in the port wing leading edge.

Fw 190A-3

The main improvement on the A-3 was the use of the 1,800hp BMW 801D-2 engine as standard, which added cooling louvers behind the exhaust outlets and redirected the exhaust pipes away from the engine, and solved the over-heating problems. The D-2 produced 1,700hp at take off.

The A-3 carried the same guns as the A-2, with two 7.92mm machine guns in the fuselage, two 20mm MG 151 cannons in the wing roots and two 20mm MG FF cannon in the out wing panels, with the MG FF cannon often removed to save weight.

The A-3 was the first version that could carry extra external stores or weapons, using a ETC 501 rack fitted under the fuselage. This could carry a 500kg/ 1,102lb bomb, a 250kg/ 551lb bomb or a 66 gallon/ 300 litre fuel drop tank.

The A-3 was thus the first version of the Fw 190 to be used on ‘tip and run’ raids, low level daylight raids that caused the British many problems in 1942-43. At first these were carried out exclusively with Bf 109s, as the Germans didn’t want to risk a Fw 190 falling into British hands. On 7 July two Fw 190s from 10/ JG 2 carried out the first Fw 190 ‘tip and run’ raid, an attack on shipping off the Isle of Wight. After that the number of Fw 190s in use quickly rose, and both units involved in the raids, 10/JG 2 and 10/JG 26 converted to the type.

The A-3 entered service with II/ JG 26 in March 1942, soon after the Channel Dash. JG 2 also converted to the A-2 and A-3 in this period, but III/ JG 26 then had to convert back to the Bf 109F because of a shortage of Fw 190s. 

The A-3 was also used by IV/ JG 5 and JG 1, part of the home defence of Germany.

Over 500 A-3s were built during 1942 (with production overlapping with the A-2), before it was replaced by the A-4. The A-3 was built by Focke-Wulf, Fieseler, Arado and AGO. During 1942 around 1,900 A-3s and A-4s reached the Luftwaffe.

During 1942 the Germans actually exported 75 Fw 190A-2s to Turkey, where they remained in use until 1948. Somewhat ironically the Turkish aircraft operated in mixed units alongside the Spitfire V.

The Fw 190A-3 was the first version of the aircraft to fall into British hands. On 23 June 1942 Oberleutnant Arnim Faber, the adjutant of III/ JG 2 became disoriented after a combat over the Channel, and believed he was heading south towards France when he was actually heading north towards Wales. He carried out a victory roll and then landed at RAF Pembrey near Swansea!

The captured aircraft was used in tests against a series of Allied aircraft. It outclassed the Spitfire Mk VB in speed at all altitudes, rate of climb, diving speed and manoeuvrability, apart from its turning circle, where the Spitfire came out on top. However the Fw 190 could use its superior roll rate to dive away from the Spitfire. The Spitfire Mk IX was slightly faster than the Fw 190 at most altitudes, and out-climbed it at high altitude. The Fw 190 was still more manoeuvrable. The Mustang Mk 1A was about the same speed as the Fw 190 and faster between 10,000-15,000ft, but the Fw 190 outclimbed it and was more manoeuvrable. The Fw 190 outclassed the P-38F Lightning in everything apart from climb rate above 15,000ft. The overall conclusion was that the Fw 190 was a formidable low and medium altitude fighter, and that Allied fighters should fly at high speed in any areas where the Fw 190 was known to be operating. One problem that the Fw 190s would face was that the Spitfire Mk V and Mk IX couldn’t easily be identified in flight, so all Spitfires had to be treated as if they had the higher performance. Brief tests were carried out against the prototype Griffon powered Spitfire, which appeared to be generally superior to the Fw 190A-3, but by this point its BMW engine was causing problems so the tests weren’t considered to be especially valid.

On the very same day Captain Philip Pinckney of the Commandoes had submitted a rather harebrained plan to capture a Fw 190 (Operation Airthief), which was to have involved himself and Supermarine’s chief test pilot Jeffrey Quill landing on the French coast, finding a Fw 190 airfield, sneaking past the security, capturing a Fw 190 while the ground crew were warming up the engine and then flying it back to Britain. Quite how the RAF would have responded to the risk of handing Supermarine’s chief test pilot over to the Germans in this way is unknown, as the operation was luckily never required.

Fw 190A-3/U1

The sources provide two versions of the U1. In some a single aircraft, W.Nr.130270, was designated as the A-3/U1, and was used as the prototype for the Fw 190A-5, with its longer fuselage.

Other sources state that this was a close support fighter-bomber, carrying the ETC 500 bomb rack and with the MG FF cannon removed. It is of course possible that both are true, and that the A-5 prototype also carried the bomb rack, or that the designation was reused.

Fw 190A-3/U2

One airframe was used to test tube-launched RZ 65 75mm anti-aircraft rockets, but that type of rocket wasn’t adopted for operational use.

Fw 190A-3/U3
 
There appear to have been two versions of the A-3/U3. The first was a reconnaissance aircraft, carrying two Rb 12.5/7 x 9 cameras in the rear fuselage.

The second, and more common, was a ground attack version. This had extra armour around the nose. It had an ETC 501 bomb rack under the fuselage, may have carried small under-wing bomb racks and had tropical air intakes. Several test aircraft were produced – probably a total of twelve, starting in May 1942.

Fw 190A-3/U4

The Fw 190A-3/U4 was a reconnaissance fighter. It had the outer MG FF cannon removed, but kept the wing root cannon and fuselage machine guns. It carried two RB 12 aerial cameras in the aft fuselage, and could also carry a gun camera in the port wing. It entered service with Nahaufklarungsgruppe 13 (Army Reconnaissance Group 13) in France, and was probably used by the tactical operation training Staffel  of 9./H Lehrgeschwader 2 (advanced training group 2).

Fw 190A-3/U5

The A-3/U5 was a proposal for a high altitude version that would have had all armour removed, the engine moved 6in forward and all but the MG 151 wing root guns removed.

Fw 190A-3/U6

The A-3/U6 was a second proposal for a high altitude version that would have kept the pilot seat armour and eliminated the engine move, but was otherwise similar to the U5.

Fw 190A-3/U7

The A-3/U7 was a high altitude fighter. It was given open-faced air intakes carried on the lower side of the cowling, to provide more air for the supercharger and to cool the rear row of cylinders. The same air intakes, but with sand filters, were used on the tropical conversions for use in Italy and North Africa. All but the wing root MG 151 machine guns were removed to save weight.

Aviation Classics list this as a version using the BMW 801D-2 engine but without the engine management system, to give finer manual control of engine at high altitude. It had the external air intakes listed above, and all but the wing root MG 151 guns removed. Three were produced, and were later re-designated as the A-4/U7. First flies 16 August 1942; llittle improvement in performance

Fw 190A-4

The Fw 190A-4 was very similar to the A-3. It used the same BMW 810D-2 engine, although some machines were completed with a MW-50 methanol fuel injection system, that could boost power to 2,100hp for short periods, giving a top speed when boosted of 416mph at 21,000ft. The FuG 7 radio was replaced by a FuG 16Z, which used a vertical antenna mast on top of the tail fin.

The A-4 was in production from the summer of 1943 until early in 1943. Around 900 Fw 190A-4s were built. Some of these may have been re-built older models

The Fw 190A-4 was used by a wide range of units, including the fighter groups JG 1, 2, 5, 11, 26 51, 54 and 300 and the ground attack groups SG 1, 2, 4 and 10. However the balance of power in the air was turning against the Luftwaffe. The Fw 190A-4 entered service at about the same time as the Spitfire Mk.IX, which had very similar flight characteristics to the Fw 190A. American fighters were also appearing in increasing numbers so the brief dominance of the skies that the Fw 190 had enjoyed over the winter of 1941-42 was soon lost. Even so it remained a dangerous opponent throughout the war.

Around 200 A-2s, A-3s and A-4s were in service by the time of the Dieppe landings, where the new Spitfire IX and Typhoon didn’t quite redress the balance – at first the British through they had won an aerial victory at Dieppe, but the RAF actually lost 106 aircraft, while German loses were much lower. Most of the RAF aircraft were lost to the Fw 190.

The various fighter bomber types were used on ‘tip and run’ daylight attacks on southern England, which tied down large fighter force and were hard to intercept.

Either the A-3 or A-4 was the first version to be issued on Eastern Front, when I/JG 51 was the first to convert. The unit returned to the Eastern Front with its new aircraft on 6 September 1942, operating on the northern front around Leningrad. The rest of JG 51 had also converted by the end of 1942 (although III./JG 51 later had to return to the Bf 109). The Fw 190 quickly proved to be the ideal fighter for the Eastern Front, where most flying was at low altitude.

Fw 190A-4/Trop

This version had tropical filters on its large air intakes, and was meant for service in the Mediterranean. The Fw 190A joined I./SG 2 in North Africa as a ground attack fighter during 1942.

Fw 190A-4/ R1

The A-4/R1 was fitted with the FuG 16 ZE radio, which could be identified by a ventral Morane type mast below the port fuselage wing. This radio was used by formation leaders and allowed them to guide other aircraft.

Fw 190A-4/R6

The Fw 190A-4/R6 carried two 210mm/ 8.27in Werfer Granate 21 (WGr.21) rocket tubes, one under each wing. These were fired into the heavily armed formations of American bombers from outside the range of their 0.5in guns, and were designed to either damage bombers or break up their formations, allowing the German fighters to get closer. These rockers were very effective against the early unescorted US bomber formations, but when American fighter escorts began to appear deep inside Germany the impact on the Fw 190’s performance was too much and they had to be abandoned.

Fw 190A -4/U1

The sources give different versions of the A-4/U1. The most common is that it was a fighter bomber, with all but the MG 151 wing root guns removed, and an ETC 501 bomb rack under the fuselage. The second is that it was powered by the BMW 801C-2 engine. This second option appears to be a misunderstanding of production problems caused by a shortage of D-2 engines. 

The first A-4/U1s go to 10.(Jabo)/ JG 27 in the early summer of 1942, followed by 10.(Jabo)/ JG 2. During the Dieppe raid of 19 August these two units sank or damaged many British landing craft.

Fw 190A-4/U3

The A-4/U3 was a ground attack aircraft. It had extra armour around the nose and the undercarriage doors removed, and didn’t carry the outer wing guns. It could carry an ETC 501 bomb rack under the fuselage, which could carry one 500kg bomb or one 250kg bomb or an ER 4 multiple bomb pallet capable of carrying four SC 50 110lb/ 50kg bombs. A small number of aircraft of this type were produced. In April 1943 the remaining aircraft were designated as the Fw 190F-1.

Fw 190A-4/U4

This was a photographic reconnaissance version. The outboard FF cannons were removed and two internal downward facing cameras were installed in the aft, controlled from a pylon below the instrument panel. It was used by 2.(F)/123 on the Western Front and others units.

Fw 190A-4/U5

The A-4/U5 was a high altitude version similar to the A-3/U5, and was also only a proposal.

Fw 190A-4/U6

The A-4/U6 was a high altitude version similar to the A-3/U6, and was also only a proposal.

Fw 190A-4/U7

The A-4/U7 was the second designation given to the A-3/U7.

Fw 190A-4/U8

The A-4/U8 was a fighter bomber variant, which later became the basis of the Fw 190G-1. All sources agree that it had an ETC 501 rack under the fuselage, which could carry one SC 500 1,102lb/ 500kg bomb or one SC 250 550lb/ 250kg bomb or one AB 500 weapon container or a pallet to carry four SC50 50kg bombs. The 20mm cannon in the outer wing were removed.

There is less agreement about what could be carried under the wings, with some sources giving it a bomb rack capable of taking one 250kg SC 250 bomb or two 50k SC 50 bombs under each wing and others giving it a faired mount for 66 gallon/ 300 litre drop tanks under each wing.

By end of 1942 was being used for low level ‘tip and run’ attacks on targets in southern England, tying down large numbers of RAF fighters

Fw 190A-5

The Fw 190A-5 was similar to the A-4, but with a slightly longer fuselage. The engine was moved forward 6in, increasing the gap between the engine and cockpit, increasing the size of the fuselage armament space and moving the location of the centre of gravity forward, allowing the aircraft to keep its balance when carrying heavy payloads further back. A small fillet was introduced in front of the wing root to compensate for the increase in length.
 
It carried the same basic guns as the A-4 – two 7.92mm machine guns in the fuselage, two 20mm MG 151 cannons in the wing roots and two optional 20mm MG FF cannon in the outer wing panels. The MG FF could be replaced with a gun camera on the port wing.

The Fw 190A-5 could carry a ETC 501 rack below the fuselage, which could take up to a 500kg bomb or 66 gallon/ 300 litre drop tank. This could be replaced by a simple fuel tank rack. It was also possible to add two ETC 50 bomb racks below the out panel of each wing, to allow the aircraft to carry four 50kg/ 110lb bombs.

The A-5 was in production from early in 1943 until late in the year, when it was replaced by the A-6. It was produced at the same time as the Fw 190F-2 and Fw 190G-2, and the exact number produced is thus rather hard to tell - over 1,800 of the three types were built.  At least 723 A-5s were completed,

Fw 190A-5/ R1

The R1 appears to have been a change of radio, to the FuG 16Ze, for use guiding fighter formations.

Fw 190A-5/R6

This was a field conversion kit that allowed two under wing WG21 8.27in (21cm ) rockets to be carried, for use against the B-17 and B-24. On 14 October 1943 during the Schweinfurt raid a force of A-5/R6s of JG 1 and JG 26 were able to use their rockets to break up the formation of B-17s, allowing the Luftwaffe to inflict the heaviest losses of a single raid on the USAAF.

Fw 190A-5/U1

The sources give two versions of the A-5/U1, both experimental models. Some say that the A-5/U1carried two Rheinmetall-Borsig 30mm MK 103 cannons in underwing trays. It was an experimental model, and didn’t enter full service with the A-5. The alternative is that it was a single aircraft powered by the BMW 801C-2 engine

Fw 190A-5/U2

The Fw 190A-5/U2 was a night long range fighter bomber (Nacht Jabo-Rei). The outboard MG FF cannon were removed and it was given exhaust flame shields on the forward fuselage (to block the pilot’s view of the exhaust flares), flame dampers, a landing light and gun camera. It carried the ETC 501 fuselage rack and could take one 66 gallon drop tank under each wing, carried on N-braced racks designed by Messerschmitt that were lighter and simpler than the Junkers faired fuel racks used on earlier models. The U2 was used as a night fighter on moonlight nights at Bomber Command’s raids became increasingly effective, and in Hajo Hermann’s ‘Wild Boar’ tactics. In that role it was said to have claimed around 200 RAF heavy bombers in the second half of 1943. It was similar to the Fw 190G-3/N.

Fw 190A-5/U3

The A-5/U3 was a fighter bomber that became the basis of the Fw 190F-2. It carried extra armour and an ETC 501 bomb rack under the fuselage. It also had bomb racks under the wings, although once again there is some disagreement on what types. Most sources say the aircraft could carry up to 1,000kg/ 2,205lb of bombs, which would require it to be able to carry 250kg under each wing. However the type appears to have carried two ETC 50 bomb racks under each wing, for a total of four 50kg bombs under the wings. This would give the U-3 a total payload of 700kg.

The A-5/U3 was to enter production in December 1942 and become the basis of the Fw 190F, which was originally expected to enter production in June 1943. This plan was changed in April 1943, when the A-5/U3 was re-designated as the Fw 190F-2.

Fw 190A-5/U4

This was a reconnaissance version, with two RB 12 cameras in the rear fuselage and the outboard MG FF cannon removed.

The A-5/U4 was originally planned to be the basis of a dedicated reconnaissance version, with the designation Fw 190A-7. This was then allocated to the first standard fighter to replace the 7.92mm machine guns in the fuselage with heavier guns. The reconnaissance aircraft became the Fw 190E-1, but none of this model were produced.

Fw 190A-5/U6

Fighter-bomber version

Fw 190A-5/U7

This was a test bed for two external 30mm MK 103 or two internal 30mm MK 108 cannon

Fw 190A-5/U8

This was a long range fighter bomber version that became the basis of the Fw 190G-2. It had the standard bomb rack under the fuselage, and could carry a 66 gallon drop tank under each wing, greatly increasing the aircraft’s range. It probably only carried the wing root MG 151s.

Fw 190A-5/U9

This was a test bed for the use of fuselage mounted 13mm MG 131 machine guns in place of the 7.92mm guns used on earlier versions of the aircraft.

Fw 190A-5/U10

The A-5/U10 was effectively the prototype for the Fw 190A-6, and saw the outboard 20mm MG FF cannon replaced with the superior 20mm MG 151/20E cannon. Several were produced by AGO.

Fw 190A-5/U11

The A-5/U11 carried a 30mm MK 103 cannon in a pod under each outer wing section. This later became the R3 conversion kit used on the A-6, A-8, F-3 and F-8 versions of the aircraft.

Fw 190A-5/U12

The Fw 190A-5/U12 was an armament test bed for the WB 151 weapons container. One WB 151 could be carried under each wing, each containing two 20mm MG 151/20E cannon with 145 rounds per gun, giving the aircraft a total of six MG 151s. The fuselage machine guns were retained, but outboard MG FFs probably removed. On later models of the FW 190 this became the R1 kit.

Fw 190A-5/U13

The A-5/U13 was a fighter bomber variant, similar to the U8 but with a heavier payload. It could take the ETC 501 bomb rack under the fuselage and carry an SC250 bomb under each wing, for a total payload of 1,000kg. It became the basis for the Fw 190G-3.

Fw 190A-5/U14

The A-5/U14 was one of many torpedo carrying versions of the Fw 190 and Ta 152, none of which were terribly effective. This version had an ETC 502 bomb rack, enlarged vertical fin and rudder and longer undercarriage leg and could carry an LT F5b torpedo. W.Nr.871 (TD+SI) may have been the only example of the U14.

Fw 190A-5/U15

This was a second torpedo carrying version, capable of carrying a 950kg (2,094lb) LT 850 torpedo. At least one was produced late in 1943, and there may have been as many as three.

Fw 190A-5/U16

The A-5/U16 carried a 30mm MK 108 cannon in the outer wing positions. It became the basis of the A-6/R2 conversion kit.

Fw 190A-5/U17

The Fw 190A-5/U17 was the prototype for the Fw 190F-3, the most numerous version of the armoured ground attack version of the aircraft. The U17 was similar to the A-5/U3, with armour around the engine, an ETC 501 rack under the fuselage and two ETC 50 bomb racks under each wing. It could thus carry one 500kg and four 50kg bombs or eight 50kg bombs if the ER 4 adaptor was used on the ETC 501 rack. The outer gun position was removed from the wings, giving it two 7.92mm MG 17s in the nose and two 20mm MG 151 cannon in the wing roots. It also carried a FuG 16 ZS radio to allow the pilot to communicate directly with the Army.

Fw 190A-5/U18

The A-5/U18 had the MW 50 methanol injection system.

SNCA NC 900

During the war the Germans had built a Fw 190 factory at the SNCA du Centre in Cavant, France. After the end of the war the French assembled sixty four Fw 190A-5s and A-8s at Cavant after the end of the war as the NC 900, and briefly used them to equip the Armee de l’Air. One of the units to use the NC 900 was GC 111/5 Normandie Niemen, a French volunteer unit that had fought on the eastern front. Production of the NC 900 was completed early in 1946 and the aircraft were soon replaced with more modern designs.

Fw 190A-6

The Fw 190A-6 was produced in response to an increase in loaded weight as more and more kit was added to the Fw 190. It was given a new lighter but stronger wing, and had the outboard MG FFs replaced with 20mm MG 151/20s with 125 rounds per gun. The A-6 kept the fuselage mounted 7.92mm machine guns. Most had either the MW 50 methanol-water or GM-1 nitrous oxide boosting system. The A-6 could carry the ETC 501 rank below the fuselage, although some were delivered without it as pure fighters.

The A-6 was produced between the summer of 1943 and early 1944. At least 569 were built by Arado, AGO and Fiesler.

A-6 made up most equipment of JG 1, JG 5, JG 26, JG 51 and JG 54 when they defeated the USAAF daylight raid on Regensburg and Schweinfurt on 14 October 1943, destroyer 79 and damaging 121 aircraft out of 228

The Fw 190A-6 was mainly used on the Western Front and for the Defense of the Reich. There is little agreement on the number produced, with some saying that Arado, AGO and Fiesler built 659 by the end of 1943, others going as high as 3,200 starting in June 1943.

Fw 190A-6/R1

The Fw 190A-6/R1 carried one WB151 weapons contain under each wing, each carrying two MG 151/20Es with either 125 or 145 rounds per gun. This gave the aircraft a total of eight MG 121/20 cannon, making it a powerful bomber destroyer, but the weapons pods added weight and drag and were rarely used.

Fw 190A-6/R2

There is some uncertainly about the R2 kit. It have originally been used for aircraft with extra internal fuel tanks, but it was also used for aircraft that carried short barrelled 30mm MK 108 cannon in the outer wings. This would be its use on later models of the Fw 190.

Fw 190A-6/R3

The Fw 190A-6/R3 carried one long barrelled 30mm Mk 103 in a weapons pod under each wing, each with only 32 rounds. The weapons pods had a significant impact on performance and the effectiveness of the 30mm cannon was in some doubt, so only a limited number of R3s were used.

Fw 190A-6/R4

This version was probably powered by a BMW 801D-2 engine with GM-1 nitrous oxide boost system.

Fw 190A-6/R6

The Fw 190A-6/R6 was a bomber destroyer, with one WGr.21 rocket projectile under each wing. Most had their outer guns removed.

Fw 190A-7

The original plan for the Fw 190A-7 was for it to be a high speed photo reconnaissance version, while an up-gunned fighter was to become the A-8. However by 1943 the Germans needed fighters and fighter-bombers, and the photo recon A-7 was cancelled. The up-gunned A-8 then became the A-7, and the A-8 designation was used for a more advanced version.

The A-7 was the first version to replace the fuselage mounted 7.92mm machine guns with more powerful weapons, in this case the 13mm MG 131 machine gun. This and later models can be identified by the twin bulges just in front of the windscreen. The A-7 carried two 20mm MG 151/20 cannon in each wing. It was given an upgraded Revi 16B gun sight. It could carry a ETC 501 rack under the fuselage. The A-7 entered production in December 1943 and some sources say that only 80 were built before work moved onto the A-8. However others give a figure of 620 at Focke-Wulf, Ago and Fieseler. The lower figure seems to be most reliable.

The A-7 used the same Rüstsätze kits as the A-6. These included the R1 with a WB151 gun pack under each wing, the R2 with the short-barrelled 30mm Mk 108 in the outer wing position, the R3 with one 30mm Mk 103 cannon under each wing and the R6 with one WGr.21 rocket under each wing.

Fw 190A-8

The Fw 190A-8 was the final major production version of the Fw 190A, and contained a number of refinements over the A-7. The compartment behind the pilot’s compartment could now carry a 30.3 gallon/ 115 liter fuel cell or a supply tank for the MW 50 methanol-water or GM-1 nitrous oxide engine boost systems. The ETC 501 rack was moved 20cm forward to balance the new fuel tank. The inboard undercarriage doors were removed as standard, as they got in the way of some of the payloads carried on the bomb rack. They were armed with two fuselage mounted MF 131 machine guns and four wing mounted MG 121/20E cannons.

The total number of A-8s built is unclear. Focke-Wulf built at least 1,579 and the total may have been as high as 5,100, with aircraft built by WFG, Heinkel, Weserflug, Fieseler, Arado, Concordia, LBB, Ago and Norddeutsche Dornier, after the German aircraft industry began to focus heavily on a few types of fighters. Production only ended when the factories were overrun. However despite these impressive production figures, the Luftwaffe was now desperately short of fuel, and most of the aircraft were thus unable to take to the air.

The A-8 replied on the Rustsatze for alternative configurations. Some were shared with the A-6 and A-8, including the R1 (one WB 151/20 gun pack under each wing), R2 (one short barrelled Mk 108 30mm cannon in the outer wing), R3 (one long barrelled Mk 103 30mm cannon under the outer wing) and R6 (one WGr.21 rocket under each wing).

Fw 190A-8/ R4

The R4 was either the designation for those aircraft that carried one of the engine boosting systems, or for aircraft with an equipment pack for more MG 151 20mm cannon or for aircraft that carried the Mk 103 cannon inside the wing.

Fw 190A-8/R5

The R5 designation might have been used for aircraft with the 115 litre fuel cell behind the cockpit.

Fw 190A-8/R7 Sturmjager (assault fighter)

The Fw 190A-8/R7 was given extra armour for use against the heavily armed US bombers. The fuselage MG 131 bay was given 4mm armour below the guns and 15mm at the rear. 5mm plates were added to the side of the fuselage. The side of the canopy and the windshield quarterpanel were given 30mm of armoured glass and the forward windshield 50mm of armoured glass.

Fw 190A-8/R8

The Fw 190A-8/R8 combined the armour of the R7 with the 30mm Mk 108 cannons in the outboard wing position. It was produced because although the Mk 108 was very effective at destroying enemy bombers, it had a low muzzle velocity making it inaccurate at long range. The attacking fighters thus had to get within range of the USAAF’s bombers heavy defensive firepower to have a chance to win victories.

The R8 and to a lesser extent the R7 were used by Rammjager or Sturmstaffel anti-bomber units. These were groups manned by volunteers who signed a declaration that they wouldn’t return from a mission without destroying at least one enemy bomber, by ramming if required. The first (Sturmstaffel 1) was formed in the spring of 1944. Because these heavily armed and armoured fighters were rather too vulnerable to attack by American escort fighters, they were normally escorted into action by Bf 109s. The idea was for the Fw 190 to attack the middle of the bomber stream, attacking from close range, while the Bf 109s kept the Mustangs away. It was tested against a large formation of B-17s and B-24s on 7 July 1944, when they shot down all eleven B-24s in the 492nd Bomb Group’s Low squadron and the Americans lost 28 bombers in all. The Germans lost nine fighters. However this was the high-point of the Sturmstaffel operations. The Americans began to send large fighter formations ahead of the bombers to break up the cumbersome attack formations, which meant that the Sturm attacks then had to be abandoned.
 
Fw 190A-8/R11

The Fw 190A-8/R11 was an all-weather fighter, with heated cabin windows, a PKS 12 radio navigation system, FuG 16ZE and GuG 125 radios and BMW 801TU or TS engines. The type made its first flight on 23 January 1944. At least one was given the FuG 216 radar set and tested as a night fighter with NJG 10 late in 1944.

Fw 190A-8/R12

The R12 combined the all-weather equipment of the R11 with the 30mm Mk 108 outboard cannon.

Fw 190A-8/U1

The A-8/U1 was a two-seat conversion trainer, also known as the Fw 190S-8. It was used to convert Ju 87 pilots to the single seat Fw 190.

Fw 190A-8/U2

This was a proposal for a version carrying a TSA 2 bombsight.

Fw 190A-8/U3

This was the director component of the Fw 190/Ta 154 Mistel composite aircraft

Fw 190A-8/U11

This was an anti-shipping version with the BT700 (1,543lb/ 700kg) torpedo. It may have been used in combat against the Russian Black Fleet Sea in February 1944, a rare example of active service for the torpedo armed Fw 190s.

Fw 190A-9

The Fw 190A-9 was the last version to enter production. It was a high altitude version, using the BMW 801TS/TH, a complete mounting for the BMW 801E, which was rated at 2,000hp. The new engine was tweaked to produce more power at higher altitudes, and had a larger oil cooler and oil tank, protected by thicker armour than on earlier models. Two prototypes, V35 and V36, were produced. The A-9 had the same guns as the A-8, and some gained the ‘blown hood’ cockpit canopy used on the ground attack versions. The A-9 is known to have been produced by Focke-Wulf, Arado and Dornier , starting in August 1944. 

Fw 190A-9/R11

This version had a turbo-charged BMW 801TS engine

Fw 190A-9/R12

This was imilar to R11 but with two 30mm guns

Fw 190A-10

This was a design for a ground attack version. A Focke-Wulf drawing of June 1943, which appears to have suggested various armament options, showed it with 15mm guns in the fuselage, 20mm cannon in the wing roots, two short barrelled 30mm cannon in one wing and one long barrelled 30mm cannon in the other. Later plans have it powered by the BMW 801TS/TH engine, but the type never entered production.

Stats

Fw 190A-3
Engine: BMW 801D-2 twin row 14 cylinder air cooled radial
Power: 1,700hp
Crew: 1
Span: 34ft 5in
Length: 28ft 10in
Height: 12ft 11in
Empty weight: 6,393lb (2,899.8kg)
Maximum take-off weight: 8,770lb (3,987kg)
Max speed: 418mph at 21,000ft
Climb Rate: 12 minutes to 26,240ft
Service ceiling: 34,775ft
Range: 497 miles
Endurance:
Armament: Two 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns in fuselage, two 20mm MG 151/20 cannon in wing roots with 200-250 rpg, two 20mm MG Ff cannon in outer wing with 55 rpg.
Bomb load:

Fw 190A-8
Engine: BMW 801D-2 twin row 14 cylinder air cooled radial
Power: 1,700hp
Crew: 1
Span: 34ft 5in
Length: 29ft 4in
Height: 12ft 11in
Empty weight: 7,652lb (3,470.9kg)
Maximum take-off weight: 10,800lb (4,898.8kg)
Max speed: 408mph at 20,670ft
Climb Rate:
Service ceiling: 33,800ft (37,400ft with MW 50 or GM-1 boosts)
Range: 497 miles normally, up to 942 with maximum external fuel load
Endurance:
Armament: Two fuselage mounted 13mm MG 131 machine guns, four 20mm MG 151/20E wing mounted cannon
Bomb load: Varied

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 June 2019), Focke-Wulf Fw 190A, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_focke-wulf_Fw_190A.html

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