Friday, 21 July 2017
Fw 190 versus Bf 109 Friedrich Rechlin test report - did the Focke Wulf 190 really pose a problem for the RAF in 1941 ?
"..When the German Focke Wulf Fw190 fighter burst onto the scene over France in 1941 it took the RAF by surprise, outperforming the Spitfire Mk V. At the time the RAF described the performance gap as a quantum leap.."
There is a lot of nonsense written on the Net and elsewhere about the arrival into service of the Focke Wulf 190. It is possible to read how it swept the RAF from the skies over northern France, how it managed to put the brakes on the RAF's 'Non-Stop Offensive', even how various RAF service orders curtailed incursions over France in 1941 for fear of coming up against the new 'super-fighter' - I'm afraid all of that simply does not stand up to examination. Incidentally the quote above is from the latest Fw 190 publication in English - the Haynes "Owners Manual"..
Above; Fw 190 A-1 "Brown 13" of 6./ JG 26. II./JG 26 was the first unit to receive the new fighter during the summer of 1941. Note the sheen of the paint finish - early reports from JG 26 complained - among other issues - of the poor quality finish on their Fw 190s and stated that simply polishing the upper surfaces was sufficient to increase top speed ( photo via Crow, text reference in Le Focke Wulf 190, Lorant, page 94)
Let's be clear. Arriving in the Channel Front Gruppen from mid-1941, the Focke Wulf 190 posed no problem for the RAF in 1941. In the first combat with the RAF the JG 26 pilots won 2-0, downing two Spitfires without loss. The Fw 190 A-1 was considered better than the Spitfire IIb in almost all respects. But the Germans had serious problems with the new type. Reliability of the early 1560 hp BMW 801 C engine was poor from the start and it took time to sort out. The early trials of the Fw 190 were horrendous with BMW and Focke Wulf at logger-heads over a variety of technical issues. The type's gradual introduction into service in the latter half of 1941 over the Channel coast resulted in some painful losses for the Germans themselves - including leading aces. To some the Fw 190 appeared to be no better than the Bf 109 F it was largely intended to supplant in the race for fighter dominance. The Germans' own comparison trials demonstrate this - but are of course mostly unexploited by non-German speaking authors.
Above; page two of a Rechlin report detailing comparison flights - Vergleichsfliegen -between the Bf 109 F-4 and FW 190 A-2 dated 10 December 1941 - source: BAMA Freiburg via beim-zugmeister.de. Note that this page states clearly the test flights and their evaluation were carried out by a Luftwaffe 'test' detachment incorporating the experiences and findings of combat pilots in Jagdgeschwader 26. It also clearly indicates that the test flights were not performed with special aircraft, but rather standard series machines at full combat weight..('mit vollem Einsatzgewicht').
In the Rechlin report the Fw 190 A 2 is flown against the Bf 109 F-4. The first variants of the Friedrich appeared in late 1940 and by early 1941 the F-2 was being delivered. By May 1941 production of the F-4 started and the variant entered service in June 1941, with the first loss reported on 1 July 1941 (a machine in JG 52 service quoted in Prien 'Bf 109 F/G/K'). For the RAF and by way of comparison, the Spitfire V entered service in Feb 1941 (one squadron) and a further four squadrons in May. The Bf 109 F-4 was the upgraded variant of the Friedrich powered by the new DB 601 E. Initially the 601 E could only be operated under certain restrictions (Notleistung was not allowed), the aircraft was capable of attaining 635 kmh on next best rating (Steig Kampfleistung). The F-4 started to appear in numbers from July/August of 1941 and by February 1942 - with no restrictions - the aircraft handbook indicates upper speeds attained of some 670 km/h.
In series production from June of 1941, only one hundred or so Fw 190 A-1s had been completed by late 1941 when the A-2 went into production. This was the variant tested at Rechlin by the test detachment including experienced aviators from JG 26 who had flown the type in combat. Comparison flight tests produced the following results.
The Fw 190 A 2 is not quite as fast as the F-4 and this becomes more apparent at higher altitudes, the difference amounting to as much as 20 km/h. At low level the Fw 190 may be slightly faster. Dive-performance on the other hand according to the report is excellent with the Fw 190 always able to pull away at all heights.
Climb performance of the Fw 190 is considerably inferior - "..stark unterlegen " - to the Bf 109 F-4, taking some six minutes longer to reach 10,000 m. The A 2's performance is 50% poorer at altitude -over 30,000 ft - than the Bf 109 F-4
..While roll rate is considered excellent and reprsents good progress in the Fw 190, it could not be established conclusively whether the Fw 190 can out-turn the Bf 109..
The engine powering the Fw 190 A 2 is "..so unreliable at the present time that in the view of Oberst Galland it has only limited combat capability and currently no missions over the Channel into England should be considered..." (December 1941). With so many modifications required (already some 20 at the current time) on the BMW 801 C and also the 801 D it will take at least another six months to iron out the bugs..
The report clarifies two facts. On the one hand the BMW 801 C was seen as not ready for service, so many modifications being required - it had at this time an average service life of just 25 operating hours (!!). In contrast the DB 601 E was evaluated as ready for service and 'mature'. Any initial problems with the DB 601 E had been remedied by the time of the comparison flights in November/December 1941 ( 'frontreif''). The report continues by stating that the technical difficulties encountered with the Fw 190 would persist well into the new year (ie 1942) and that at that time only the F-4 of these two machines could be considered truly combat-capable ('frontreif'). In addition the 801 C ran on B4 87 octane fuel and it was not until the 801 D appeared using using C3 100 octane fuel that performance was boosted accordingly - although even this engine had restrictions until mid-late 1942!
So why does the Fw 190 enjoy the reputation through 1941 that some attribute to it?
In the comparison testing carried out at Rechlin in late 1941 between the Bf 109 F-4 and early Fw 190 A-1/A-2 the Bf 109 F-4 was assessed as a "mature" and well tested and proven design, while the Fw 190 A-1/A-2 was a new design with a new engine just reaching the front with many issues not yet ironed out, engine reliability being an obvious one. Not that a new German fighter was really a surprise either. In England, "Flight" magazine published an article in October 1940 describing the Bf 109 Emil as "..a German design which missed being a success..the Luftwaffe probably expected to bomb its way to a quick victory..(so) it is unlikely that Germany will rest content with the Me 109 as its only single-seat fighter.." The Friedrich when it arrived on the scene presented a number of enhancements over the successive improvements introduced to the venerable "Emil" with which the Jagdwaffe had gone to war over Poland. The basic airframe had undergone a redesign with the aim of improving aerodynamic efficiency - especially in the area of the wing and tailplane. Both spinner and wingtips were rounded and more streamlined and the Emil's out-moded horizontal stabilizer brace supports had been eliminated. In addition the tailwheel was now fully retractable. However the Friedrich did not feature wing armament and weight of fire was thus reduced in comparison to the older sub-type.
The F-4 was of course a better machine than the Emil but it was also better than the F-1/2 - and a difficult opponent for the Spitfire V - and as the report above makes clear it was easily as good as the new Fw 190. The 'advantage' of the Fw 190 lay in the fact that it was visually different enough to make identification easy. Here was a new type for which new tactics might have to be developed. No RAF pilot could tell an early Friedrich from a late one visually and even though the RAF very quickly had an example of the Friedrich to evaluate when the Kommandeur of I./ JG 26 landed near Dover on 10 July 1941 it was a while before any test data could be passed on to front-line pilots. And with the DB 601 E initially operating under restrictions for a few months, then its initial introduction did not have that same impact. Elsewhere Hooten looks at Fighter Command's losses over France vs the Friedrich up to late 1941 and compares them with RAF losses in the four months up to mid-1942 with the Channel Front Geschwader almost fully re-equipped with the Fw 190 and concludes that RAF losses over France were falling following the introduction of the Fw 190.
The Fw 190 had a few performance advantages that were readily apparent and especially useful in combat, like the rapid rate of roll and dive performance - ".. die Rollwendigkeit ..die sich insbesondere im Luftkampf stark bemerkbar machte..." Nor was it announced to the British public until the spring of 1942. However, it was not until that time in 1942 and the introduction of the A-3 with the improved reliability of the BMW 801 D-2 with increased output from 1560 hp to 1750 hp and improved armament that the Fw 190 became a better fighter and not until the A-5 that the Fw 190 became a mature design design, having solved overheating and vibration issues better with a nose-plug extension and MW 50 power boosting. Taken from the very end of Dietmar Hermann's article in Jet and Prop 3/2012; "In this form it was surely the highest performing fighter in the west and the east 1942-1943..". But during the type's initial service it could hardly be said to have "burst on to the scene"..
Wednesday, 19 July 2017
7./ZG 1 Bf109 E-7 coded "S9+DR" W.Nr.4964 flown by Uffz. Hans Sennholz, downed near El Alamein on 31 August 1942.
Eduard 48th Emil with decals from the Rising Decals 'Unusual Emils' sheet, model built by Pierre Giustiniani
A recent issue of the excellent Flugzeug Classic magazine (July 2017) features the recollections of 5./JG 300 pilot Norbert Graziadei as he converts onto the Fw 190 in the summer of 1944 and flies some of the last Sturm sorties of the war - you can browse some pages at http://flugzeugclassic.de/
Markus and his team at Geramond.de continue to produce a high quality magazine featuring plenty of decent content for the Luftwaffe enthusiast.
The following image via Jean-Yves Lorant, author of the two volume history of JG 300 published by Docavia in France during 2005 - 'Bataille dans le Ciel d'Allemagne'. Norbert Graziadei (middle) with Hubert Engst of 6./JG 300 preparing for a spell of cockpit readiness during November 1944. On the left is Engst's wife Elisabeth. Note both pilots are wearing the Lederkombination leather flying suit with the 'Deutsche Luftwaffe' armband. These distinctive yellow armbands were introduced by the Luftwaffe in late 1944 to distinguish downed German aircrew from their Allied counterparts in German occupied territory - and presumably prevent them being shot or otherwise maltreated after bailing out.
Peter Cronauer's article focuses on Graziadei's last combat sortie of the war - 31 December 1944.
Graziadei, flying 'Red 14', not his usual 'Red 2' 'Moidl' (lit. 'girl') - claimed two B-17s on this sortie before he was shot down and seriously injured by RAF Tempests (sic);
"...A few moments later, we closed to within firing range of the Boeing B 17s. Around and especially above us, our Messerschmitts were now pitting themselves against the enemy escorts in a violent dogfight. It must have been around midday. The battle raged for long minutes over Rotenburg. Ahead of us, the bombers were rapidly growing ever larger. I sliced through the first boxes of bombers - their gunners putting up a fusillade of fire - leaving the field clear for the pilots that were following me. Closing on the bombers, I could see that some of them were attempting to jink erratically to make our aim more difficult. I selected a B-17 and closed on it from the rear with a clear height advantage. I unleashed short bursts. The first was for the upper gunner who immediately ceased streaming his fire at me. The other gunners soon gave up the fight when my second burst disabled the outer starboard engine which lost its oil and started to burn. Having fired my weapons a third time, I saw several of the crew bail out of the bomber, its starboard wing now ablaze. A few seconds later it entered a stall dive. Just at that moment, I pulled up the nose of my “Moidl” in order to stay inside the bomber box. I had caught sight of Thunderbolts in the sun clearly waiting for our attack to end before closing to intercept us! Their pilots evidently feared the Boeings' gunners too much to dare to approach any closer. A few seconds later, I had converged on another bomber and was no more than fifty meters above it. An ideal position... I throttled back, eased up on the stick and again opened fire with my cannon aiming for the cockpit. The B 17 reared up and went into a spin just meters from my 190, forcing me to break to starboard while ramming open the throttle. In this way I left the enemy bomber box, or what remained of it. It had taken me just a few seconds to destroy these two Boeings... I should mention that just prior to our assault, the bombers (around 60-80 aircraft) had jettisoned their bombs not far from Rotenburg. Their bomb bay doors were still gaping open as we ran in on our firing pass. Having practically exhausted my ammunition, I judged it preferable not to attempt to run the gauntlet of enemy fighters by flying another pass on my own through the bombers. This was not cowardice. Any other decision would have been sheer madness...."
Below; Graziadei log-book detail for 31 December 1944; two Abschüsse and a parachute bail out on his 25th combat sortie, 31 December 1944
More Sturmbock Fw 190 JG 300 pieces on this blog; (translation copyright Neil Page)
" ...but Bretschneider ordered us into a defensive circle, a manoeuvre no doubt dictated by prudence but hardly appropriate in the circumstances! But what else could my comrades do? They were mostly former blind flying instructors or ex-bomber pilots used to flying the Junkers 88 and were barely capable of performing the most basic fighter pilots' moves. They were there to bring down enemy bombers — American escort fighters permitting! There followed an intense and confused mêlée, during the course of which I was more fearful of a collision than enemy aircraft. Indeed there were more Focke-Wulfs than Mustangs around me. I recall catching sight of “Pimpf” Erhardt’s “Red 8” with a P-51 hard on his heels below my plane. I yoked brutally around to port and let myself “fall” in behind the American. My bursts struck home and hit by several shells, the Mustang disappeared from Erhardt’s tail and dropped out of my field of vision. Matthäus Erhardt had not been hit. Unfortunately his period of grace lasted only until the following 14 January, the day his knee took the full force of an explosive round fired by a B-17 gunner..."
Sturmbock JG 300 Bretschneider
"... At 10:30, II./JG 300 put its first Schwarm in the air from Schönfeld-Seifersdorf: five Focke-Wulfs of 5. Staffel and the Gruppenstab flown by Fhj.-Ofw. Richard Löfgen, Maj. Alfred Lindenberger, Ofw. Karl Rusack, Uffz. Walter Beuchel and Uffz. Karl Werner. Leading the Schwarm, Löfgen brought his small force down to 500 meters altitude as they arrived over the front. Having overflown the Oder, the pilots were unable to discern the slightest sign of enemy activity. Ofw. Löfgen throttled back and flew a series of wide weaving curves. The Russians had infiltrated woods and villages everywhere, yet there was nothing to betray their presence. In the skies the enemy air force was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, just as Ofw. Rusack made out the town of Steinau and the river Oder in the distance, a string of tracers flitted through the air around the German fighters..."
II./JG 300 on the Eastern Front
"..Suddenly all hell broke loose. The terse order “jettison drop tanks!” came through the earphones, and in the second that followed, numerous pale blue auxiliary tanks went tumbling down into the void. Löfgen had just peeled away, bunting over to the right and was diving between the box of Flying Fortresses that had just gone past below us and the following box which was looming — menacingly — ever larger. I tightened my turn a little to keep close to our number one. I now kept my eyes fixed on him, which meant that I couldn’t watch what was happening around us. Then, exactly 1,500 meters ahead of us, I counted 25 B 17s. Despite being well out of range at this enormous distance, their gunners opened up. The sky was suddenly streaked with thousands of sparkling pearls. Or at least this is how the tracers appeared in the dazzling blue sky. I was instantly reminded of the games that we played as children in our garden and how my brother Helmut would love to try and turn the water hose on me! Thousands of bright, sparkling drops just seconds from sluicing down on me. But I could only throw the briefest of glances forward, forced to keep station on Löfgen’s wing, and anxious, above anything else, not to collide with him.Another order came over the radio: “Pauke, Pauke, auf sieee, Rabazanella!” I had to pick out a bomber immediately. I quickly switched on the gun sight and flicked off the armament safety switch..."
'Red 19' Uffz Ernst Schröder Sturmgruppe 5./JG 300
"..As I peeled away, my Focke-Wulf flew through a hail of rounds hosed out by one of the gunners. At least three rounds smashed into the cockpit; the first one slammed into the instrument panel showering me in splinters of glass and metal, the second was stopped by my parachute harness buckle and the third shattered my left knee. I heard several explosions and could see that the cockpit was filling with smoke. As it dissipated a little, I realized that my left knee had gone. My leg and foot had slipped back off the rudder bar and through the enormous tear in my leather flying suit, I saw the blood bubbling from a terrible wound..."
Red 8 'Pimpf' 5./JG 300 Matthäus Erhardt
Friday, 7 July 2017
Ukranian AMG (Arsenal Model Group) have released a new early series Bf 109 ABCD in 72nd scale.
These early 109s are well overdue for an up-dated kit with etch as the Heller kit is more than a bit long in the tooth (raised panel lines) and the Avis one difficult to put together nicely. By all accounts. Let's hope this one addresses those short comings. Lay-out of the lower wing looks a little odd at first look, since it does not follow any regular join line, but cockpit is fully detailed as is the engine..
Tuesday, 27 June 2017
..from Dan Snow's Historyhit.tv on FB
".. Big day today. In partnership with historian Rob Schäfer we are taking 95-year old Luftwaffe ace Hugo Broch (81 Soviet aircraft kills in 324 combat missions) up in a Spitfire for the first time, flying from Biggin Hill airfield in Kent, England. He hasn't flown in a single-seater since 1960. We believe that this is the first time post-war that a German Luftwaffe ace has gone up in a Spitfire. He will be one of the very few men who have flown the Me 109 in combat and a Spitfire in peacetime. Looking forward to having his opinion of which was best!! "
I think we can guess what he said. He loved flying in the Spitfire, a joy to fly and handles better than the Bf 109, but would still take a Bf 109 over a Spitfire any day..
Well in the event Herr Broch declined to take controls....but watch the video below..
Sunday, 18 June 2017
pre-orders being taken, with free shipping until publication. Due October 2017.
Lehrgeschwader 1 – the Griffon Geschwader
Lehrgeschwader 1 (Experimental or ‘demonstration’ Bombing Wing 1) was one of the first units established in the new Luftwaffe shortly after 1933. Primarily equipped with the He 111 at the outbreak of the Second World War the unit was multi-purpose, deploying a Gruppe of Bf 110 Zerstörer and another of Ju 87 Stukas. It took an active part in the first Luftwaffe campaigns (Poland, Norway, France ...) before being re-equipped with Ju 88 bombers, which it retained exclusively until 1945. Deployed early on in the Mediterranean, LG 1 would immediately prove to be one of the most formidable and feared opponents of the Royal Navy. Under the orders of Kommodore Helbig, the Helbig flyers as they were dubbed were responsible for sending many Allied ships to the bottom. Notable actions included the sinking of three large transport vessels Clan Campbell, Clan Chattan and Rowallan Castle from the convoy MW 9, during attacks on 13–14 February 1941. On 22 May 1941 during the Battle for Crete, LG 1 Ju 88 pilot Gerd Brenner finished off the RN cruiser HMS Fiji with heavy loss of life (see below) III./LG 1 also damaged the Australian destroyer Waterhen on 9 July 1941, sinking it on 11 July. The Geschwader supported the Afrika Korps effectively in Libya and Egypt until 1942. Bombing raids were made on the Suez Canal, Cairo during this time. On 11/12 May 1942 I.(K)/LG 1 again led by Helbig were responsible for sinking HMS Kipling, HMS Jackal and HMS Lively in the Gulf of Sollum. This Volume I is a new updated French-language edition of Peter Taghon’s original German study with additional text and photos by acknowledged Luftwaffe expert Jean-Louis Roba. Volume 1 describes in detail the first years of combat of LG 1, the text being fleshed out with numerous rare personal accounts. Pre-order here
Below; Iro Ilk Staffelkapitän of 1./LG 1 during 1943 and bomber ace at the controls of his Ju 88. Both Ilk and his close friend in LG 1 Gerd Stamp were awarded the Knight's Cross with I./LG 1 for audacious attacks on British shipping in the Med, before going on to fly single engine night fighters with the wilde Sau. Ilk was shot down and killed by Spitfires as Gruppenkommandeur III./JG 300 on 25 September 1944. Post-war Stamp achieved high rank in NATO and married Ilk's widow.
The following is the text of a letter sent to HMS Fiji Survivor, ex-Boy Seaman Reg Verne by Gerd Stamp in 1986:
" Dear Mr Verne
Thank you very much for yours of 31st October 1986. Let me first mention that I admired your compilation of HMS Fiji news to a scrap book, from which every reader can learn a lot. I was about to write to Admiral William Powlett, but you say that he remembers almost nothing of the 22nd May 1941.
I saw your ship from above, and I dived at her during the early afternoon. However, I am not quite sure if it wasn’t the Gloucester. It must have been during that attack that the Fiji shot down one of our aircrew, who never returned.
The pilot was the son of a Luftwaffe general. Another pilot's JU 88 was hit by the Fiji’s anti-aircraft fire. He force landed near Monemvasia. He is still around and when I told him on the phone about my contacts to Fiji Members, he immediately replied that he was shot down by your anti-aircraft
His engines were fading and near Monemvasia he had to swim. The pilot, who dropped the final bombs on Fiji, was a close friend of mine. I enclose a photograph, but you will get a better one as soon as I shall have copies made. His name was Gerhard Brenner, born 1918 at Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart. He was a cheerful chap, full of humour. He loved girls and he was constantly fighting his 8 years older sister, who is still around.
On 14 June 1942 Brenner attacked a cruiser ‘Vigorous’ south of Crete. His JU 88 was forced to land north of the convoy in a high sea. We shadowed him for 3 days but had neither helicopters nor a ship to rescue him. Seaplanes could not land on the high waves. On the fourth morning the sea was calm and flat, the rubber dingy was empty. The only thing left is his voice on a tape.
I had no time yet to make a written transcript as he described his final raid against the Fiji, you will certainly get a copy.
My research is a one man band, and it takes time to answer all these letters. I got stuck in the middle of February 1941 as I had to move with all my documents and files into another flat, which is less spacious. 22nd May 1941 might became a book of its own, as it was the first great air-sea battle in the history of mankind ..."
below; Ju 88 of the Stab LG 1, September 1941
Sunday, 11 June 2017
The final part of Diego Quijano's "Encyclopedia of Aircraft Modelling techniques" is now published and provides a great excuse to show once again his stunning Hasegawa Fw 190 in 72nd scale
More on Diego's blog here
More on Diego's blog here