Designed by Willy Messerschmitt, the first prototype of the Bf109 took to the air in October 1935 with combat ready aircraft entering service during the Spanish Civil War in 1937.
With numerous variations and modifications over its eight year production life, the Bf 109 was to become the most widely operated and versatile fighter aircraft of all axis forces during WWII.
Luftwaffe pilots found it a fast and snappy fighter whilst the German High Command appreciated it’s relatively ease of manufacture and low production costs but even as early as 1938, they had already concluded that it would not be long before the Bf 109 was outperformed and out-gunned by more advanced Allied fighters.
Also concerned about possible shortages of the liquid cooled, Daimler-Benz DB601 engines powering the Bf 109s, the Luftwaffe decided to hedge their bets and commissioned another low-wing monoplane fighter powered by the new BMW air-cooled radial engine.
Introduced into service in the spring of 1941, the Focke-Wulf FW 190's high speed, excellent manoeuvrability at low and medium altitudes and its heavy cannon armament took the Allied forces completely by surprise.
With two 7.9-mm (0.3-inch) machine guns in the engine cowling, two 20-mm (0.8-inch) cannons on the wing roots, and two 20-mm cannons at mid-wing, the Fw 190 not only outmatched the Spitfire and slower Hurricane fighters of the RAF, it was also instrumental in turning back the USAAF's unescorted, daylight bombardment offensive during the summer and autumn of 1943.
Its dominance in the air against all allied fighters and the US bomber fleet was to continue right up until the introduction of the Spitfire IX, high-altitude fighter and the drop-tank equiped, P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolt bomber escorts in late 1943.
With their high performance, turbo-charged engines, the US fighters quickly turned the tables on the Focke-Wulf which had always struggled at altitudes above 30,000ft.
Later, with the appearance of the P-51 Mustang in large numbers, the Focke-Wulf’s fate was quickly sealed and its effectiveness in holding back allied raids was significantly reduced.
On the Eastern front however, the Focke-Wulf still enjoyed air dominance and its ability to carry far heavier loads than the smaller Bf109 saw it achieving great success as day fighter, fighter-bomber, ground-attack aircraft and to a lesser degree, night fighter.
The Focke-Wulf was a far more robust and heavily engineered fighter than the Bf 109 with a significantly strengthened and widely spread undercarriage which handled the muddy and pock-marked fields of the Eastern Front far more safely than the 109’s light weight, close-set undercarriage.
Equipped with a central drop tank to increase range and additional underwing tank-busting cannons the FW 190 also boasted push rod controls rather than the more common cable linkage which stretched over time which gave it tighter and more responsive handling control.
Unlike the Bf 109, Focke-Wulf pilots also enjoyed a greatly improved all-round visibility with the introduction of a full bubble-blown, sliding canopy and with later variants being equiped with more powerful engines, as the war progressed, the aircraft slowly clawed back its way back as a formidable fighter.
With the introduction of the last variants, the FW 190F and G, in early 1945, the Luftwaffe were now on parity with most Allied fighters but it was all too little, too late and with almost 24 hr allied bombing raids targeting the remaining German aircraft factories, their introduction did little to forestall the Allies victory in Europe.
All Focke-Wulf Fw190 Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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