The FW-190A3, newest and "hottest" German fighter plane, is an extremely good craft, but it does not live up to the claims made for it by Nazi officialdom. In fact, both British and American planes can, as has been proven in combat, more than hold their own against it.

Nevertheless, many points of interest and value to the designer, the production man and the maintenance chief have been brought out by inspection and flight tests of British engineer, whose reports have recently been made available. This close study was made possible when a German pilot was forced down in England and captured before he could destroy the plane.

Created by Kurt Tank, builder of the Focke-Wulf Condor, long range four-engine bomber and the FW-189, short range reconnaissance plane, the 190 was designed for quantity production and extensive subcontracting.

It is a low-wing cantilever monoplane with a 34-ft 5-in span and length of 29 ft 4 in. Wing construction is of conventional two-spar type, with the wing being built in one piece. While this has effected a material saving in weight, it has made maintenance more difficult. Wing trim tabs are small perforated plates on the ailerons and are adjustable only on the ground.

Split flaps are electrically controlled by push buttons to three positions: closed; down 10° for takeoff, and down 60° for landing.

Unlike modern Allied craft which have elevator and rudder trim tabs, the Focke-Wulf stabilizer is adjustable, making it more vulnerable to concentrated fire power.

The fuselage is also built in one piece and is very well streamlined, narrowing vertically practically all the way back from the engine. The entire cockpit cover, including rather long fairing, slides back but it cannot be opened in flight. Emergency exit in flight can only be accomplished by pushing a button which detonates a cartridge which breaks the supporting member, allowing the entire cover to blow away.

All the fuel is carried in the fuselage in two self-sealing tanks, one of 64 gal immediately behind the pilot's seat, another of 51 gal under the seat.

The electrically operated full retracting landing gear has a tread of 12 ft, apparently made necessary by the high landing speed — approximately 110 mph. It is also set well forward to permit heavy braking without nosing over. An interesting feature of the landing gear is the tail wheel retraction, a cable attached to one of the front wheel automatically pulling the tail wheel up into its well.

Power Plant

Power is supplied by a BMW 801D 14-cylinder radial, air-cooled engine developing lightly under 1,600 hp at 2,700 rpm for takeoff and just over 1,750 hp at 3,000 rpm at 18,000 ft. Cowling is extremely close-set, the diameter being but 52 in, necessitating installation of a large fan set just behind the propeller. The oil radiator is set just inside the nose of the cowling, cooling been effected by a reverse flow through the radiator and out through a narrow opening at its front. Extensive baffling distributes the air to all the cylinders with the heated air being exhausted through long louvres cut in the cowling sides. Unlike the BMW 801A, there are no facilities for sliding the nose ring or cowling at the back of the motor to adjust the flow of air.

The electrically operated, three-blade, constant speed VDM propeller is of rather small diameter — due to landing gear restrictions — but the blades are of long chord almost all the way to the tips.

Armament and Armor

Armament consists of two 7.92-mm machine guns mounted atop the fuselage firing through the propeller; two 20-mm Mauser cannon mounted in the wings, also firing through the propeller; and two 20-mm Oerlikon cannon also in the wing but firing outside the propeller arc. Despite the fact that four of the six guns fire through the propeller, the fire power totals about 3,500 rounds per minute — 1,200 for the machine guns; 1,400 rounds for the inboard cannon and, strangely enough, but 900 for the outer cannon. Effectiveness of the fire power is curtailed due to the short range of the machine guns and low muzzle velocity of the Oerlikons.

Provision is also made for attachment of a 550-lb bomb beneath the fuselage for very short range operations.

The plane is well armored. A 5-mm plate protects the oil radiator in the nose ring cowling and the aft portion of the cowling is fitted with 3-mm plate. Cockpit windshield has 2¼-in-thick bullet-proof glass and a bulkhead behind the pilot's seat is 8 mm thick. A 14-mm-thick panel is fitted behind the pilot's head in the movable cockpit cover.

Performance Not Outstanding

Performance range of the 190 is limited, its most effective altitudes being above 15,000 ft and below 25,000 ft. Its top speed at 4,500 ft, for example, is but 326 mph compared with 375 at 18,000 ft. It can, however, do 390 mph at 20,000 ft for one minute by means of a booster. Reports from American bomber crews indicate the Focke-Wulf does not perform well near its reported service ceiling of 37,000 ft. British fighters are understood to be able to turn inside the 190, even at its most effective altitudes.

Specifications and performance data are as follows:

Wing span34 ft 5 in
Length29 ft 4 in
Wing area203 sq ft
Wing loading42.2 lb/sq ft
Power loading5.3 lb/hp
Gross weight8,580 lb
Weight empty6,240 lb
Maximum speed (18,000 ft)375 mph
Landing speed110 mph

This article was originally published in the October, 1942, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 41, no 10, pp 233, 306, 308.
This article is included in the Fw-190 PDF. It includes 2 photos and 2 detail drawings, and the data table above.
Photos credited to International News.