The Focke-Wulf Ta 152H was designed as a high altitude version of the standard Ta 152, but as a result of a series of poor decisions by the German Air Ministry it became the only version of the aircraft to actually enter combat, and only in tiny numbers and too late to have any impact on the course of the war.
Although the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 had proved to be an excellent fighter after its entry into service in 1941, its designer Kurt Tank soon realised that its BMW 801 radial engine had limited potential for development, with most increases in power coming from various boost systems that involved injecting various supplements into the engine. Most examples of the Fw 190A used the same BMW 801D-2 engine, which performed well at low and medium altitudes, but not at high altitude. On the Allied side the later versions of the Rolls Royce Merlin at least equalled the BMW engine, with better high altitude performance, while the Rolls Royce Griffon equalled it when new, and continued to improve. Tank began work on a replacement for the Fw 190 that would use inline engines with better high altitude performance, in a new airframe. The RLM (Air Ministry) gave this design the designation Ta 153 (one down from the existing Ta 154), before rejecting it in April 1943 on the grounds that it would cause too much disruption on the production lines.
Tank responded with an updated version of the Fw 190, which would use more components from the earlier aircraft, but with either the Junkers Jumo 213 or Daimler Benz DB 603 inline engine. This was given the designation Ta 152 in May 1943 and work began on two versions. The Ta 152A was to use the Jumo 213A and was the low and medium level version, while the Ta 152B was to use the Jumo 213E, which had a three speed two stage intercooled supercharger and was optimised for higher altitudes. Both of these variants on the engine were under development at the time, so the DB 603G was chosen as a back-up engine.
Work on the Jumo 213E progressed very slowly, so the Ta 152B never got beyond the prototype stage. The 213A was at a more advanced stage, and several prototypes of the Ta 152A were produced. This had a lengthened version of the Fw 190A-8 fuselage, with an extra 77.2cm in front of the cockpit to carry the larger inline engines and heavy cannon, and a 50cm section begin the fuselage and the wing moved 42cm forward to balance the weight of the heavier engines. The wing span increased from 10.5m to 11m. The first prototype of the Ta 152A made its maiden flight on 7 July 1943. The new design appeared to be promising, but in October 1943 the Air Ministry refused to give it high development priority.
In the meantime two Messerschmitt designs for a high altitude aircraft, the Bf 190H and the Me 209, were both running into problems. The Me 209 made its maiden flight on 3 November 1943 and the Bf 109H on 5 November 1943, but both designs were failures (as were all of Messerschmitt’s attempts to replace the Bf 109).
With the rival team struggling, on 7 December 1943 Tank submitted a proposal for a high altitude version of the Ta 152 – the Ta 152H. This used the same airframe as the Ta 152A/B, but with a pressurised cockpit and much longer wings, with the wingspan increasing from 34ft 5in (10.5m) on the Fw 190A-8 to 47ft 3in (14.4m) on the Ta 152H. It was to be powered by the Jumo 213E with both GM-1 and MW-50 boost systems as standard. The Air Ministry approved development of this model, and ordered six prototypes. It was to be armed with a 30mm cannon in the engine and two 20mm cannon in the wing roots. Unusually for a member of the Fw 190/ Ta 152 family there was no provision to carry bombs.
The Ta 152H soon became the only version of the aircraft that had any chance of entering service. Although several more prototypes of the Ta 152A were completed, the project was cancelled in July 1944. Work on the Ta 152B had made little progress. Work on a DB 603 powered version, the Ta 152C, began in 1944, but only reached the prototype stage.
This just left the Ta 152H. In order to speed up development, Focke-Wulf took several existing prototypes that had been used to test the DB 603A with Hirth turbo-supercharger and gave them Jumo 213E engines, to produce V33/U1, V30/U1 and V29/U21. Another prototype was produced by modifying V32/U1, which had briefly been used as a Ta 153 prototype, turning it into V32/U2. V18/U1 was added to the plan in the spring of 1944 as V18/U2. In an attempt to speed up the development of the aircraft, work also got underway on putting the untested design into production, and the first Ta 152H prototype to be built from scratch, V1 W.Nr.150001, was completed in June 1944, before any of the development aircraft, although probably didn’t actually fly for several months.
The first prototype of this design, Fw 190 V33/U1, was completed by the summer of 1944 and made its maiden flight on 12 July 1944, but the aircraft was lost on 13 July 1944 while it was being flown from the prototype construction site at Adelheide to the testing site at Langenhagen. The aircraft suffered 70% damage, making it difficult to investigate the causes of the crash.
The second prototype, Fw 190 V30/U1, made its maiden flight on 6 August 1944. This was used to test the Jumo 213E, which proved to be problematic. The supercharger wasn’t reliable, and on 23 August, soon after the aircraft had been transferred to the RLM test sight at Rechlin it was destroyed after the engine caught fire in flight. The test pilot, Alfred Thomas, almost managed to land the aircraft but was killed while attempting to land. Once again the damage was too several to allow for investigation.
The third prototype, Fw 190 V29/U1, made its maiden flight on 24 September 1944 and went to Rechlin on 27 September. The initial test results weren’t terribly positive – the aircraft needed changes to its trim, was ‘uncomfortable’ around stalling speed and was unstable in the vertical axis. On the positive side the Jumo 213E was becoming more reliable.
The fourth prototype, Fw 190 V32/U2 (W.Nr.0057), was modified at Demlemhorst, then flow to Langenhagen on 15 August 1944.
The fifth prototype, Fw 190 V18/U2 (W.Nr.0040), made its maiden flight in this configuration on 19 November 1944.
There were two attempts to built a sixth prototype. The first aircraft, Ta 152 V25 (W.Nr.110025), was never completed, and its wings were then installed on Fw 190 V32/U2, which made its maiden flight in this configuration on 15 December 1944.
Despite these problems, the Ta 152H was ordered into production. The H-0 series was built at Cottbus in Brandenburg, dangerously close to Germany’s increasingly vulnerable eastern borders. Work on the first production aircraft began in November 1944, and the first production aircraft, (W.Nr.150 001) made its maiden flight on 24 November 1944. There was a brief delay when the Luftwaffe decided to convert all existing aircraft into Ta 152E reconnaissance types, but this plan was soon abandoned. These aircraft were completed without either of the standard boost systems (MW 50 and GM 1). The aircraft was still not entirely reliable, and the first flight of the first production aircraft ended with a belly landing after the fuel system failed. Production was slow, and only 21 H-0s had been completed by the end of 1944.
As with many details of later German aircraft production there is little agreement on the number of Ta 152Hs that were completed. Aviation Classics 26 gives a total of 44 production machines (mainly H-0s, with some H-1s – 21 in December 1943, 20 in January 1944 and 3 in February 1944) and 11 prototypes or experimental machines, for a total of 54. Other sources give higher figures – as high as 26 prototypes and 67 production aircraft (perhaps giving figures for all variants on the Ta 152 – this would appear to be the case in Close-Up No.24, which gives a total of 67 aircraft of all types between October 1944 and February 1945, with the peak only being 23 aircraft in January).
On 29 March 1945 the RLM decided to end production of the Ta 152H and concentrate on the Fw 190D, but by this point most of the production facilities had already fallen to the Soviets.
The first H-0s went to Erprobungskommando Ta 152 at Cottbus, arriving in October-November 1944. The tests showed the Ta 152H to be faster than the Fw 190, but with a slower rate of roll due to the larger wings. Faults were discovered with the right landing gear leg, the engine coolant cowl flap controls, loose controls, badly designed temperate designs and in some cases poor construction quality. The pressurised cockpit was ineffective, leaking in several places and without enough air pressure. When the compressor did work, it over-heated the cockpit. In combat most aircraft operated with the pressurization turned off.
Some of these aircraft reached III./JG 301 late in January 1945, so the type was briefly used in combat. It isn’t entirely clear how successful it was, as the unit’s victory claims don’t always match up with Allied loses. Its pilots appear to have been impressed with the Ta 152H, but it’s combat career only lasted from mid-February to the end of the war.
Other H-0s were used as test aircraft. The fifth production aircraft, W.Nr. 150005 was used for engine tests at Junkers.
The H-0 was armed with one engine mounted 30mm MK 108 cannon and two 20mm MG 151/20 cannon in the wing roots. It was to be equipped with the GM-1 boost system, but not the MW-50. In practise neither system was fitted. At least the first twenty of the Cottbus produced aircraft were completed as the H-0, although some were used as prototypes, somewhat confusing the picture.
The H-0 could be equipped with the R11 all-weather kit.
The Ta 152H-1 was to have been the main production version. Like the H-0, it was armed with one 30mm and two 20mm cannon and powered by a Jumo 213E engine. At least a dozen were completed.
The main different between the H-0 and H-1 was the addition of six extra fuel tanks in the wings, one carrying MW-50 boost and five carrying normal fuel. This increased the aircraft’s maximum take-off weight by almost 500kg. The H-1 was to be built with both the GM 1 and HW 50 boost systems. However in practise the GM 1 system caused too many problems and was often missing. The standard H-1 was completed a low pressure MW 50 system, later replaced with a high pressure system in the R21 and R31.
Production of the H-1 was to start in January 1945 at Focke-Wulf’s Cottbus factory, and in March 1945 at Erla and Gotha, but only Focke-Wulf ever completed aircraft.
Most H-1s were completed with the R11 Rüstsatz, to given them all weather capabilities. This gave them PKS 12 directional auto pilot, a defrosted windscreen, FuG 125 radio and LGW K 23 autopilot. The H-1 suffered from serious balance problems, caused by the extra fuel tanks. As a result from 9 March 1945 the H-1/R11 was completed without the GM 1 system.
The H-1/R21 gained a high pressure MW 50 system, but lacked the GM 1.
The H-1/R31 had ballast in the engine and limits on the amount of fuel that could be carried in the rear fuselage tanks, and had both the MW 50 high pressure system and the GM 1 system. However it is unclear if any of these aircraft ever reached combat.
The Ta 152H-2 would have been the same as the H-1, but with a FuG 15 radio in place of the FuG 16. Ta 152 V25 was to have been the prototype for this version, but it was cancelled in December 1944.
Ta 152H-3 to H-9
These probably had different engine and gun combinations, but were design studies only. .
The H-10 was a reconnaissance version of the H-0. The original plan had been to produce a dedicated reconnaissance version of the Ta 152, as the Ta 152E, with the E-2 using the long wings of the Ta 152H. One prototype was allocated to this project, Ta 152 V26 (W.Nr.110021?). This aircraft hadn’t been completed when the Ta 152E was cancelled in mid-February 1945 in favour of producing reconnaissance versions of the Ta 152C and Ta 152H. It probably made its maiden flight as the H-10 prototype in March 1945. As with most reconnaissance versions of the Fw 190/ Ta 152 family, it carried a camera in the rear fuselage, in this case one of the Rb 20/30, Rb 50/30 or Rb 75/30 models. Ta 152 W.Nr.150167 may also have been chosen for conversion to the H-10 configuration.
The H-11 would have been a reconnaissance version of the H-1
The H-12 would have been a reconnaissance version of the H-2
Engine: Junkers Jumo 213 E/B twelve-cylinder inverted V liquid cooled in-line engine
Power: 1,880hp at sea level, 2,250hp with MW-50
Span: 47ft 6.75in
Length: 35ft 5.5in
Height: 13ft 0in
Maximum take-off weight: 11,508lb
Max speed: 431mph at 35,000ft; 465mph at 30,000ft with MW-50; 472mph at 41,000ft with GM-1 and MW-50
Service ceiling: 48,560ft
Normal range: 745 miles at 372mpg at 32,800ft
Armament: One 30mm MK 108 cannon in spinner, two 20mm MG 151/20 cannon in wing roots