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Royal Air Force pilots patrolling the sky over northern France in 1941 had an unpleasant surprise in store for them. They were first to encounter the Focke-Wulf entry in the battle for aerial supremacy in the air over Europe. Generally conceded to be the best German fighter of World War II, the Fw-190 completed its maiden flight on June 1, 1939, but did not become operational until 1941. By that time Germany's Messerschmitt Bf-109 had been beaten decisively in the Battle of Britain by England's Spitfire fighter. Had the Fw-190, which was a better match for the Spitfire, been available in 1940, Hitler might not have been thwarted in his attempt to invade the British Isles.
Created by the brilliant German aeronautical engineer and designer Kurt Tank, the Focke-Wulf was a sleek, compact and highly versatile aircraft that functioned equally well as a fighter and as a fighter-bomber. In fact, it was used for hit-and-run bombing raids on English coastal towns prior to the Normandy invasion. Of some 20,000 Fw-190s produced during the Second World War, fully one-third were equipped as fighter bombers.
The Focke-Wulf fighter was not only fast (early models could easily top 400 miles per hour), but it was also very heavily armed. Normal armament included four 20-millimeter cannons and two machine guns, while later versions could also carry a 30-millimeter cannon firing through the propeller hub. Powered by an 1,800-horsepower air-cooled BMW engine, the Fw-190 was the first German monoplane fighter equipped with a radial-type engine. The radial was later replaced with a series of more powerful in-line liquid-cooled engines. The first of these liquid-cooled replacements was a Junker Jumo, which developed slightly in excess of 2,000 horsepower and produced a top speed of just over 450 miles per hour. A still later version of the Fw-190 was powered by a 2,300- horsepower Daimler-Benz engine that raised the fighter's top speed to better than 460 miles per hour.
The Fw-190 fought on all fronts -- from North Africa to
Russia. But it entered combat too late to stem the Allies' swift march across France
and into the heart of Germany.
The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
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Updated: March 12, 2004