The Focke-Wulf Ta 183 was a design for an advanced single-seat jet fighter that was under development towards the end of the Second World War. No prototypes were built in Germany, but Professor Kurt Tank did complete a modified example in Argentina towards the end of the 1940s.
The Design Process
Focke-Wulf began work on designing a turbojet fighter in 1942. The design team, led by Hans Multhopp, produced a long series of designs, with six main variants.
In July 1944 the new Fighter Staff issued a specification for a future jet fighter that was to replace the Me 262. The new aircraft was to use the upcoming Heinkel HeS 011 turbojet engine, a top speed of 1,000km/h (621mph), an endurance of 60 minutes at full throttle and an operating altitude of up to 29,500ft. It was to carry standard fighter equipment and be armoured against .50in machine gun fire. The new aircraft also had to be simple to build and avoid the use of rare materials as much as possible. Focke-Wulf, Heinkel, Messerschmitt and Blohm und Voss were all asked to produce designs.
The manufacturers met with the Fighter Staff for the first time on 8-10 September 1944. At this meeting they agreed that the new fighter should carry two 30mm MK 108 cannon. The Luftwaffe insisted on a fuel load of 1,200kg. The meeting then got drawn into a technical discussion of the mathematical formulas that would be used to compare the different designs. Focke-Wulf, Heinkel and Messerschmitt all put forward their first design proposals at this meeting.
At this stage Focke-Wulf were working on a design they called the Flitzer (No.4 in their series of fighter designs). Work on this series of designs began in December 1943. This design featured a twin rudder carried on tail booms, linked to a small span main wing. The engine was carried in the main fuselage, with air intakes on the side and the exhaust flowing between the booms (the same basic layout was used for the de Havilland DH.100 Vampire, which made its maiden flight on 20 September 1943). The 4th Design would be followed by a similar 6th Design in February 1944 (this time the air intakes were in the wing roots).
In January 1944 Focke-Wulf produced their 5th Design. This was a dramatic change of path. The aircraft has thin sharply swept-back wings, and a 'T' tail, with swept horizontal tail surfaces at the top of a swept-up narrow fin and rudder. In early model tests a number of problems were found with the 5th design and so work continued on the 6th Design version of the Flitzer.
In October 1944 Professor Tank realised that the 6th Design simply wasn't fast enough, and the 5th Design was resurrected. In March 1945 this project would be allocated the official designation Ta 183, and would become the main focus of work for the rest of the war,
A second meeting took place on 15 December in Berlin, where further designs were presented. This was followed by a technical meeting on 19 December where the formula question was discussed.
The mathematical problem was solved at a meeting on 12-15 January 1945, but on the day before the meeting the Luftwaffe changed its specification, and now wanted four 30mm cannon and two hours of endurance. All of the designs needed modifying as a result.
In January Focke-Wulf also submitted a simplified version of the Ta 183, with a conventional tail and less wing sweep back. This project was abandoned towards the end of February.
At the end of February the industry group (the Main Development Commission or Entwicklungshauptkommission (EHK)) suggested that the Focke-Wulf Ta 183 should be produced as an intermediate design, while work continued on a more promising Messerschmitt design.
In March the bureaucracy supported a modified version of the Ta 183 and Focke-Wulf received a contract to build a prototype (this with Allied armies closing in on Germany from east and west!).
A final meeting was held towards the end of March, but no decisions could be made as Professor Messerschmitt, the head of the fighter development committee, couldn't reach the meeting.
The Ta 183
The Ta 183 had a stubby main fuselage. The air intake was in the nose and the jet exhaust emerged just below the tail. It had thin swept back wings (swept back by 40 degrees) and a swept back fin and rudder (at 60 degrees) which took up about a third of the length of the aircraft. The horizontal control surfaces were mounted at the top of the rudder and were swept up. This tail caused some problems with flutter.
The fuselage and the vertical tail surfaces were to be built from steel and Duralumin. The swept back wing had a main spar built from two dural I-beams linked by steel flanges, with bonded wooded ribs and a plywood skin. The horizontal tail surface also used wood and plywood. The aircraft was made of 40% steel, 23% wood and 21% duralumin. It was expected to take 2,500 man hours to produce one fighter and production of 300 aircraft per month was planned.
Sixteen prototypes were ordered. The first three were to use the Junkers 109-004B turbojet. V4 to V14 were pre-production aircraft and V15 and V16 were static test aircraft.
Work began on the construction of the Ta 183 V1 although not all details of the design had been finalised. The V1 was to use a Jumo 004 engine and test a modified tail. It was meant to make its maiden flight in May or June 1945 and the first production aircraft were expected by October 1945. Work came to a dramatic end when British troops captured the Focke-Wulf design department at Bed Eilsen on 8 April 1945.
After the war Kurt Tank moved to Argentina, where he continued to work on the Ta 183 design. By the late 1940s this work resulted in the FMA IAe 33 Pulqui II. This had the same basic layout as the Ta 183, but had a longer fuselage (mainly due to the choice of engine). This meant that the rudder was rather more conventional - it was still swept back, but not to the extreme lengths seen on the Ta 183. The horizontal tail surfaces were still mounted on top of the rudder, but were now flat but swept back. The Pulqui II proved that the basic layout did work, although it wasn't adopted for production. Focke-Wulf's design work was also continued in the Soviet Union, where early MiG jets showed a clear family resemblance to the Ta 183.
Performance Figures are estimates
Engine: Heinkel HeS 011A turbojet
Power: 2,865lb static thrust
Span: 32ft 9.5in
Length: 30ft 2in
Height: 12ft 8in
Empty weight: 6,569lb
Maximum take-off weight: 11,243lb (including 4,409lb of fuel)
Max speed: 597mph at 23,000ft
Climb Rate: 79ft/ second
Service ceiling: 47,000ft
Endurance: 1.1hrs at maximum thrust, 4.25 hours at 40% thrust with 4,409lb of fuel
Range: 615 miles at 100% thrust, 1,335 miles at 40% thrust with 4,409lb fuel
Armament: Four 30mm MK 108 cannon
Bomb load: 1,102lb but with reduced fuel load