Focke Wulf FW 190, vol. II


A veritable air force of pre-production Focke Wulf 190s, designated A-0 were tested by the manufacturer before the type entered service (Focke Wulf in Bremen was the sole factory building the FW 190 up until the A-2 variant). Some of these aircraft were subsequently converted to A-1 standard and other examples were provided with Umrüst Bausätze and served as trials machines. Initial operational evaluation of the design was carried out by the Erprobungsstaffel 190 at Rechlin in March 1941 using personnel from II./JG 26, the first Luftwaffe fighter Gruppe to re-arm with the type. An initial complement of pilots coverted onto the machine at Le Bourget, Paris, under Gruppenkommandeur Hptm. Walter Adolph, assigned FW 190A-1 WNr. 028 during August 1941. The summer of 1941 saw the RAF making more and more daring escapades to the continent and, in excellent weather conditions, the FW 190s sortied alongside Bf 109Es and Bf 109Fs. With the launch of Barbarossa in the East, Jagdwaffe forces in the west comprised just two Geschwader (JG 26 and JG 2). Perhaps to camouflage the fact that fighter units had been removed from the Kanalfront for the invasion of Russia, the Focke Wulf 190 aircraft of JG 26 based in northern France never carried their famous Schlageter S script badge. Equally later on, the FW 190s of JG 2 would never be adorned with the Richthofen badge below the cockpit. In the event the new machine would prove a timely addition to the defenders along the Channel Front. On August 14, the Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 26 Oblt. Schneider and Lt. Schenk shot down two Spitfires in a dogfight with the Polish 306 Sqn, achieving the first victories on the FW 190. Paradoxically, it was Heinz Schenk himself who became the first frontline loss in a Focke Wulf. After a fight with Spitfires on August 29, Schenk came within range of German flak near Dunkirk, which immediately opened fire on him. The hit FW 190 (W. Nr. 008) crashed on a beach south of town, killing the pilot.
The II./JG 26 pilots were careful at first in dealing with the new machine. Aware of the fighter’s teething troubles, few risks were taken in initial encounters with the enemy. This may be one reason why their adversaries who saw the unfamiliar radial-engined fighter reported clashes with American Curtiss Hawk 75s. It was thought that the Germans were pressing the Hawks into service following the fall of France in order to fill the gaps in the strength of their own units. The early combat history of the FW 190 was punctuated by problems with the revolutionary new engine management system (Kommandogerät) and frequent engine fires, with the overheating problems only cured some six months down the line with the introduction of the A-4. The first serious accident occurred on August 21 when Ofw. Meyer of 6./JG 26 crash-landed near Overheluestraat in his “Brown 2” (W. Nr. 002). The badly wounded pilot was dragged from the wreckage and taken to Courtrai hospital by Belgian farmers.
British fighters managed to shoot down their first FW 190 on September 18. The Kommandeur of II./JG 26, Hptm. Walter Adolph, was leading nine Focke Wulfs on shipping escort duties. While patrolling off Ostende on the Belgian coast, three Blenheims appeared near Blankenberge covered by Spitfire Mk.Vs of 41 Sqn. Ofw. Roth shot down a bomber in a short fight, but Adolph himself failed to return. Nobody had seen him go down. A search proved fruitless, and his body was found only three weeks later on a Belgian beach. It turned out that 88 Sqn lost two Blenheims in this engagement, the second having fallen to Adolph, who was attacked by F/O Babbage and shot down at once while circling above his own victim. The Blenheim he shot down would have been his 26th kill. In the event, the English pilot reported having downed a radial-engined aircraft, possibly a Curtiss Hawk (or an FW 190).

 

Fighting USAAF bombers, it was often possible to fight twice. Pilots landed to rearm and refuel at their base after the first sortie and then returned into battle. Shown here is a quick rearming and refueling of a JG 11 machine. [Kagero's Archiwum]


The truth about the existence of the new machine came out on October 13 when the RAF engaged German fighters while flying a two-formation Circus 108. The famous Polish 303 Sqn was part of this operation. Near Hardelot, F/O Jan Zumbach dealt quickly with a Bf 109F, before latching onto the tail of an unfamiliar aircraft. He shot it up with two short bursts and claimed damage to an unidentified fighter. His gun camera shots aroused the interest of intelligence officers, for whom this was the first opportunity to see Kurt Tank’s creation. In this engagement the new Kommandeur of II./JG 26, Hptm. Joachim Müncheberg, claimed his first victory with the FW 190. The Spitfire that he shot down near Samer was the 57th enemy plane to fall to this skilled pilot.
In the meantime, on October 19, III./JG 26 under Hptm. Gerd Schöpfel left Liegescourt airfield for the winter base of Coquelles, south-west of Calais on the Channel coast. There, the personnel took instruction in the maintenance of the FW 190, while the pilots began training flights.