The Focke-Wulf Ta 152 was the final evolution of the Fw 190, and entered combat very late in the war as the high altitude Ta 152H, which was only available in tiny numbers and proved to be an impressive but unreliable fighter.
Kurt Tank began work on a replacement for the Fw 190 early in 1943, and by April 1943 he was ready to submit his new design to the RLM (German Air Ministry). This aircraft resembled the Fw 190, but had an entirely new airframe and was to be powered by an inline engine, either the Daimler-Benz DB 603 or the Junkers Jumo 213. Work had already begun on fitting these engines to the Fw 190 as part of the attempts to produce a high altitude version (the Fw 190C), but the new aircraft would have required rather more work. The Air Ministry gave the new design the designation Ta 153, counting down from the Focke-Wulf Ta 15, which had been under development for some time. The Ta 153 was then rejected on the grounds that it would have caused too much disruption on the production lines.
Tank’s next proposal was to produce a fighter that used more components from the Fw 190 but with the more powerful engines. In May 1943 this aircraft was designated as the Ta 152. Two versions were planned – the Ta 152A with the Jumo 213A (the main production version) and the Ta 152B with the Jumo 213E (with a three-speed two stage supercharger with intercooler, optimised for high altitude performance). The DB 603G was a backup option if either version of the Jumo failed.
In December 1943 a third version was suggested, as Messerschmitt struggled to produce a high altitude version of the Bf 109 (the Bf 109H and Me 155). This was the Focke-Wulf Ta 152H, and the Air Ministry responded with an order for six prototypes.
Work on the standard versions of the Ta 152 too on a lower priority in January 1944, after Tank suggested producing an interim version of the aircraft using the Fw 190A-8 airframe and the Junkers Jumo 213A engine. This aircraft entered production as the Fw 190D-9 ‘Long-nose Dora’, and was the last significant version of the Fw 190 family.
The standard Ta 152 was to be armed with a 30mm MK 103 or MK 108 cannon firing through the nose and four MG 151s in the wings. The A and B had a 77.2cm longer fuselage, to make space for the two alternative engines and the engine mounted cannon. The wing was moved forward by 42cm and the rear fuselage lengthened by 50cm. The wing span was increased by 50cm by adding an extra section to the inner panel. This was to make space for the larger 740mm wheels, required to cope with the heavier aircraft.
The first prototype of the Ta 152A made its maiden flight on 7 July 1943. On 8 October 1943 Tank asked the RLM to give the Ta 152A development priority, but the request was turned down. The second Ta 152A prototype made its maiden flight on 23 November 1943. On 7 December an order was placed for six prototypes for the Ta 152H, but on 20 December another attempt to get the Ta 152A development priority failed. In mid January 1944 Tank did impress the Air Ministry enough for them to authorise the development of the Fw 190D-9, which shared some features with the Ta 152, and would be the last version of the Fw 190/ Ta 152 family to see combat in significant numbers.
Early in 1944 work on the Ta 152B was being held up by problems with the Jumo 213E engine, so Tank began work on a DB 603 powered version, as the Ta 152C. Work on the Ta 152A appeared to be going well, but in July 1944 the Air Minstry cancelled it (along with the Me 209 and Bf 109H).
This left two versions of the Ta 152 under development. The high altitude Ta 152H was the most advanced, while work on the Ta 152C had just begun. Neither project went smoothly. The first test aircraft in the Ta 152H programme was lost in a crash on 13 July 1944. One of the first Ta 152C prototypes was destroyed in a bombing raid on 5 August. The second Ta 152H was lost in a fatal crash in August.
Despite these setbacks the Ta 152H eventually entered production at Focke-Wulf’s Cottbus factory. There were plans to do the same with the Ta 152C and the revived Ta 152B, but in the end only a handful of Ta 152Hs were actually completed (at least 43 production aircraft, and possibly just over 60, along with the prototypes).
Production of the H-0 series began at Cottbus in November 1944, and 21 had been completed by the end of the year. The first of these aircraft were allocated to III./JG 301 (largely made up of pilots from the recently disbanded ‘Wilde Sau’ night fighter unit I./JG 302, but on 16 January 1945 a force of 40 USAAF P-38 Lightnings and P-51 Mustangs attacked the airfield where they had been concentrated, destroying fourteen and damaging a fifteenth. Another 20 H-0s and H-1s were built in January 1944, and the unit collected its first twelve aircraft on 27 January 1945. Only four more were delivered in February-March, so only sixteen reached the unit. Of these aircraft many spent most of their time out of service, due to various problems with their construction, or a lack of spare parts to fix fairly basic problems.
One of these aircraft was lost in a crash on 1 February 1945, during the conversion process. On 19 February the unit was forced to abandon its base at Alteno, as it was about to fall to the Soviets, and fled west to Sachau west of Berlin.
The first victory claim came in late February when Josef ‘Jupp’ Keil claimed a B-17, the first of his five credited victories in the Ta 152H. However no B-17s were actually lost on that day. His second claim, for a P-51 Mustang shot down on 1 March, is more likely to be correct. However on the following day the unit was attacked by Bf 109s, after their pilots failed to recognise the new German fighter.
The unit never received enough Ta 152Hs to operate at full strength. On 13 March it was converted into a Stab (staff) unit and moved to Stendal, while the rest of the unit remained at Sachau with their Fw 190s.
The unit moved again on 10 April 1945, this time to a hidden airfield in woods at Neustadt-Glewe, just as the Americans captured Stendal. On the same day the unit clashed with American aircraft, and Keil claimed a P-47, although again this is doubtful.
On 14 April three Ta 152s clashed with two Hawker Tempests (or possibly P-47s). This was an inconclusive clash. One Ta 152 crashed before the fight even began. One Tempest crashed after a low level duel with a Ta 152 with faulty guns. The other Tempest escaped.
The unit’s last recorded combats came against Soviet Yak-9s during the battle for Berlin. On 21 April Keil claimed two Yak-9s during an escort mission. On 24 April two Ta 152Hs ran into a formation of Yak-9s. This time the Germans claimed two victories.
By the end of April 1945 Stab JG 301 officially had two operational Ta 152C-1/R31s on strength, but no Ta 152Hs. By now the end was near, and by 7 May JG 301’s surviving personnel had all been captured by the British. The few pilots who had been able to fly functional Ta 152s later reported being ere impressed with the aircraft, although some wartime reports were rather more critical, especially about the balance issues and build quality (partly due to the difficult circumstances toward the end of the war and partly due to the use of slave labour across the German aviation industry).
The Ta 152A was the original ‘standard’ version of the aircraft, and was to be powered by the Jumo 213C engine to allow it to carry an engine-mounted cannon. It was cancelled just as it was ready to go into production
The Ta 152B was the original ‘higher altitude’ version of the aircraft, with a Jumo 213E engine. Problems with this engine meant that the original Ta 152B was never built, but a B-5 ‘destroyer’ to replace the Me 410 did get to the prototype stage late in the war.
The Ta 152C was powered by the Daimler Benz DB 603 engine, and was on the verge of entering production when the Ta 152 was cancelled. At least two reached combat units.
The Ta 152E was a photographic reconnaissance version that only reached the prototype stage, and was cancelled in favour of modifying standard Ta 152C and Ta 152H aircraft.
The Ta 152H was a very high altitude version, with greatly lengthened wings, that due to delays to earlier models became the only type to certainly enter combat, although only in tiny numbers.
The Ta 152R was an obscure plan for a very long range version of the aircraft.
The Ta 152S was a two-man training version of the aircraft. It was ordered into production in large numbers, but none were ever completed.
Sorau Prototype Construction: 110001 to 110026
110001 – V1 H-0 cancelled
110002 – V2 H-0 cancelled
110003 – V3 H-0 cancelled
110004 – V4 H-0 cancelled
110005 – V5 H-0 cancelled
110006 – V6 VH+EY First C-0 prototype, then C-1 prototype
110007 – V7 CI+XM Second C-0 prototype, then C-1 prototype
110008 – V8 GN+CA Third C-0 prototype, then C-1 prototype
110009 – V9 Prototype of E-1, maiden flight 14 January 1945
110010 – Unknown
110011 – Unknown
110012 – Unknown
110013 – V13 Prototype for C-1, probably not completed
110014 – V14 Prototype of E-1, maiden flight 25 January 1945
110015 – V15 Prototype for C-1, probably not completed
110016 – V16 C-2 prototype to 15 December 1944, then C-3 prototype
110017 – V17 C-2 prototype to 15 December 1944, then C-3 prototype
110018 – V18 C-2 prototype to 15 December 1944, then C-3 prototype
110019 – V19 C-3 prototype to early 1945 then B-5/R11 prototype
110020 – V20 C-3 prototype to early 1945 then B-5/R11 prototype
110021 – V21 C-3 prototype to early 1945 then B-5/R11 prototype
110022 – V22 C-4 prototype, probably not completed
110023 – V23 C-4 prototype, probably not completed
110024 – V24 C-4 prototype, probably not completed
110025 – To replace prototype lost on 13 July 1944; as a H-2; dismantled and wings used on Fw 190 V32/U2 after H-2 cancelled
110026 – Allocated as E-2 prototype, converted to H-10 prototype, maiden flight March 45
Cottbus Full Production: 150001 to 150040 and 150160 to 150168
Aircraft listed as Tested may also have entered combat
150001 – V1 CW+CA First H series prototype, to H-1 standard, completed June 1944?
150002 – V2 CW+CB Delivered from August 44 in H-1 format, for flight testing from September
150003 – V3 CW+CC Third H-series prototype as H-1, completed Langenhagen late 1944
150004 – V4 Fourth H-series prototype, completed as H-1 autumn 1944
150005 – V5 CW+CE Cottbus built H-1 prototype, completed autumn 1944
150006 – CW+CF Tests until 2 March 1945, then with Jagdstaffel Ta 152
150007 – CW+CG Combat with JG 301
150008 – CW+CH Combat with Jagdstaffel Ta 152
150009 – CW+CI Combat with Jagdstaffel Ta 152 then Stab JG 11
150010 – H-0 (probably), Stab./JG 301
150011 – Combat Jagdstaffel Ta 152
150012 – Unknown
150013 – Tested
150014 – Tested
150015 – Tested
150016 – Tested
150017 – Tested
150018 – Unknown
150019 – Tested
150020 – CW+CT Tested
150021 – Tested
150022 – Combat with III./JG 301
150023 – H-0: crashed 9 February 1945 during ferry flight
150024 - Tested
150025 – H-0; landing gear collapsed; combat with III./JG 301
150026 – Unknown
150027 – Original V27, but then converted to C-3 prototype
150028 – Original V28, but then converted to C-3 prototype
150029 – Tested
150030 – Test bed for C-3 with MK 103 cannon
150030 – V27, H-1 development aircraft, lost in crash 2 February 1945
150031 – V28, H-1 development aircraft
150032 – Combat with III./JG 301
150033 – Unknown
150034 – Combat with III./JG 301
150035 – Combat with III./JG 301
150036 – Combat with III./JG 301
150037 – H-1; crashed 1 February 1945 during training flight with III./JG 301
150038 – Combat with III./JG 301
150039 – Combat with III./JG 301
150040 – Combat with III./JG 301
150167 – H-1, possibly to be converted to H-10
150168 – H-1/R11, flown by Stab./JG 301
150169 – Possible H, highest known number for completed aircraft