Type: long-range reconnaissance bomber
Powerplant: 4 x 1,200hp Bramo 323R 9-cylinder radial piston engines
Performance: 224mph / 360kph (maximum speed), 208mph / 335kph (cruising speed), 19,685ft / 6,000m (service ceiling), 2,212 miles / 3,560 km (maximum range)
Weight: 37,490lbs / 17,005kg (empty), 50,057lbs / 24,520kg (maximum take-off)
Dimensions: 107ft 9.25in / 32.85m (wing span), 76ft 11.25in / 23.45m (length), 20ft 8in / 6.30m (height), 1,290.10sq.ft / 119.85m.sq (wing area)
Armament: 4 x 13mm (0.51in) MG131 machineguns in dorsal and beam positions, either 1 x MG131 or 1 x 20mm MG151/20 cannon in a ventral gondola plus four 551lbs (250kg) bombs
While the British have always been famous for their ability to improvise, in the matter of anti-shipping aircraft, it was German that had to make do in World War II. Kurt Tank, the lead designer at Focke-Wulf, presented his ideas for a new transport aircraft for Deutsche Lufthansa to the Board of Directors of the airline on 16 July 1936, promising that the first examples would fly within a year. As it turned out, the Focke-Wulf Fw200 V1 (later named Saarland), the first of three prototypes, first flew on 27 July 1937, only just missing the year deadline, still a highly commendable performance. An all-metal, low-wing monoplane, the Fw200 was initially powered by four 875hp Pratt & Whitney Hornet radial engines and designed to accommodate up to twenty-six passengers in two cabins. The main wheel legs, which retracted forward into the engine nacelles, were of a rather unusual design, this being an attempt to produce an undercarriage, which, in the event of an emergency would extend with the aid of the slipstream. Of the two further prototypes (named Westfalen and Immelmann III respectively), the third became Adolf Hitler's personal transport, were each powered by four 720hp BMW 132G-1 radials. The fourth prototype (named Saarland while the first prototype was renamed Brandenburg) and four examples of the initial production Fw200A (Nordmark, Grenzmark, Friesland and Pommern) were delivered to Lufthansa, another two Fw200A aircraft went to DDL Danish Air Lines (Dania and Jutlandia) and two more went to Lufthansa's Brazilian associate, Syndicato Condor (Arumani and Abaitara). The first prototype (Brandenburg), was re-designated Fw200S-1 and made a number of record flights in late 1938. These flights began on 10 August when Lufthansa's Alfred Henke flew non-stop from Berlin to New York in a time of twenty-four hours, fifty-six minutes and returned on 13 August in nineteen hours, fifty-five minutes. It also flew on 28 November setting a forty-six hour, eighteen minute record for the journey between Berlin (via Basra, Karachi and Hanoi) to Tokyo. A number of additional aircraft were supplied to Lufthansa before the outbreak of World War II and a surviving aircraft (a Fw200B-2 D-ASHH) undertook the airline's last scheduled flight before the secession of hostilities between Barcelona and Berlin on 14 April 1945.
The prototype's flight to Tokyo resulted in an order for five Fw200B airliners from Dai Nippon KK and a single maritime reconnaissance aircraft for the Imperial Japanese Navy. However, none of these aircraft were supplied to Japan but three of the airliners were completed under the designation of Fw200B-2 and delivered instead to Lufthansa, equipped with 830hp BMW 132H radial engines. Lufthansa also received a single Fw200B-1 with four 850hp BMW 132DC radials. The requirement from the IJN for a long-range reconnaissance aircraft led to the construction of the Fw200 V10 military prototype that featured an increased fuel capacity and an armament of one 7.92mm (0.31in) MG15 machinegun in a dorsal turret as well as another two in the ventral gondola. There was initially almost no interest at all in this version of the aircraft but just before the outbreak of World War II the Luftwaffe decided to set up a long-range anti-shipping unit, with the Luftwaffe Chief of the Air Staff, General Hans Jeschonnek ordering Oberstleutnant Edgar Petersen, to form such a unit. The only aircraft that was immediately available and possessed the requirements for such a task was the Condor but it was by no means the most satisfactory as its structure was too weak for military operations. The Fw200 V10 was evaluated as a possible candidate and ten preproduction Fw200C-0 aircraft (with a
strengthened airframe) were ordered, being delivered in September 1939. The first four were unarmed and these, along with Lufthansa's four Fw200B aircraft equipped Kampfgeschwader zur besondern Verwendung (KGzbV – literally Battle (Bomber) Wing on Special Duties) 105 at Kiel-Holtenau in April 1940, taking part in the invasion of Norway. It was later re-designated 1. / KG40. After being transferred to Bordeaux-Mérignac the unit, now re-designated I / KG40 went into action against the British Isles, with Condors conducting experimental operations in mining the East Coast ports with 2,200lbs (1,000kg) mines. The initial production reconnaissance version was the Fw200C-1, armed with one 20mm MGFF cannon in the nose, one 7.92mm (0.31in) MG15 in the ventral gondola, as well as the rear and forward dorsal positions. Offensive armament included four 551lbs (250kg) bombs on under-wing racks and was equipped with 830hp BMW 132H engines. I / KG40 were re-equipped with this variant and during August and September 1940 sank over 90,000 tons of shipping. On 26 October 1940, Oberleutnant Bernhard Jope bombed the 42,000 ton liner Empress of Britain, the ship later being sunk by a U-Boat. Between August 1940 and February 1941, the unit claimed over 343,000 tons of ships sunk. The Fw200C-2 was generally similar and differed only in having the rear of the engine nacelles cut away and having streamlined bomb racks, allowing 551lbs (250kg) bombs or 66 Imp gal (300 litre) drop tanks to be carried.
The structural weakness of these two versions led to the improved Fw200C-3 introduced in 1941. As well as a strengthen airframe, the aircraft featured the more powerful 1,000hp Bramo 323R-2 radial engines and various armament changes accounted for various sub-variants including the Fw200C-3/U1 with an 15mm MG151 cannon in a power-operated forward turret and the nose-mounted MGFF cannon being replaced by an MG151. The Fw200C-3/U2 had the MG151/20 deleted to allow the inclusion of a Lofte 7D bomb sight, while the C-3/U3 carried an MG131 in each of the front and rear dorsal positions and the C-3/U4 accommodated an extra gunner and two additional beam-mounted MG131s. Despite the airframe strengthening, the weakness issue was never fully fixed and many Fw200s became casualties when their backs broke on landing. In 1942, production of the Fw200C-4 was started, essentially similar to the Fw200C-3, this version carried FuG Rostock search radar (later FuG200 Hohentwiel equipment) and was armed with an MG151 cannon in the forward dorsal turret, an MG151/20 cannon in the nose of the ventral gondola (unless a Lofte 7D bomb sight was required when it was replaced by an MG131 machinegun and MG15s in the other firing positions. Single examples were built of the Fw200C-4/U1 and Fw200C-4/U2 high-speed transports, one of which became Heinrich
Himmler's personal aircraft and had additional armour plate fitted. To provide an additional offensive capability, a number of Fw200C-3/U1 and Fw200C-3/U3 aircraft were modified, becoming the Fw200C6 series to serve as interim missile carrier, being equipped with two under-wing Henschel Hs293A rocket-propelled guided bombs and FuG203b Kehl missile control equipment. These started to enter service in November 1943 with III/KG40. A definitive version of the Fw200C-6 was built in small numbers, being designated the Fw200C-8 and added Hohentwiel radar to the onboard equipment, this being the final production version. No accurate production figures exist but it was never produced in huge numbers with around twenty-six Condors being delivered in 1940, fifty-eight in 1941, eighty-four in 1942, seventy-six in 1943 and eight in 1944, for a total of around 272 is being built and despite their small numbers, were the scourge of Allied shipping for much of the war before successful countermeasures were introduced, such as greater anti-aircraft defences and catapult aircraft. The Condor served until the end of the war but after 1942, was used more and more in the role for which it was originally built – that of a transport aircraft. Several Condors even saw service after the end of the war, for example, the Soviets captured a number of Fw200s at Tempelhof airport at the end of the war and one, a civilian aircraft with the registration N-500 was used at the Svernyy Polyus-4 (North Pole 4) arctic research station in 1949. Another aircraft, registration N-401 was used at Igarka, Northern Siberia in 1947 while still another example, with the registration N-400, was used in the Soviet arctic regions for ice reconnaissance.
Gunston, Bill. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Combat Aircraft of World War II, Salamander Books, London, 1977.
Kay, Anthony L and Smith, J R. German Aircraft of the Second World War, Putnam, London, 2002 (Rev Ed).
Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II, Bounty Books, London, 2006.