Pacific Coast Models 1/32 FW-190A-1

KIT #: 32011
PRICE: $69.95
DECALS: Six options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Three variant options: A-1/2/3


            RAF pilots first reported encountering a new German radial-engine fighter on cross-Channel missions in August 1941, with increasing numbers in September, though their main opponents were still Bf-109Fs.  Their reports of its incredible flying abilities were met with official disbelief on the part of RAF intelligence (which did in fact know about the airplane), and pilots were initially told they must have run across ex-French Hawk-75s being used by the Germans because they were “scraping the bottom of the barrel.”  In his book “Wing Leader,” Johnny Johnson relates that the intelligence officer was run out of the room by the pilots who had just survived an encounter with these “Hawk 75s” when that announcement was made, as the pilots exclaimed that no pre-war fighter could perform like the airplane they had just fought. RAF HQ finally admitted that the airplane was the new Focke-Wulf Fw-190.

            These first Fw-190s that arrived were Fw-190A-1 sub-types; they initially equipped II Gruppe of JagdGeschwader 26, one of two Geschwadern facing the RAF on the Channel Front in northern France.  The first aircraft arrived on July 1, 1941, and the Gruppe was completely equipped by September 1.  The Gruppenkommandeur, Hauptmann Walter Adolph, was the first pilot lost, during combat with Spitfires on September 18.  The armament of four MG 17 7.62mm machine guns in the fuselage and wing root, and two MG-FF cannon outboard of the landing gear, was really not optimal, with the slow-firing MG-FF being completely unsatisfactory for aerial combat.  During October 1941, III Gruppe began a slow conversion to the new fighter, which allowed them to take in the Fw-190A-2s that began arriving in December.  Trouble with the BMW 801C engine - which had originally been severe enough that the entire Fw-190 program was in jeopardy - kept serviceability rates low throughout the end of 1941.  

            In February 1942, the RAF finally came up against large numbers of the Focke-Wulf during the “Channel Dash,” when the defending Germans decimated the British attackers, in no small part due to the fact that III JG 26 was now partially equipped with Fw-190A-2s, which replaced the inboard machine gun with the excellent MG 151 20mm cannon.  In March 1942, more of these phenomenal airplanes were encountered as JagdGeschwader 2 re-equipped with the airplane.  These fighters appeared to have even better  performance than those the RAF had first run across the previous fall, which was due to the A-3 being powered by the BMW 801D-2. 

            By April, 1942, all of the German units opposing the RAF on the Channel coast - including JG1 in the Netherlands - were completely equipped with the new fighter, and their ascendancy over their RAF opponents was comparable to that of the Albatros D.III during “Bloody April” of 1917; in fact April 1942 saw some of the highest RAF losses of the entire war, with no fewer than 103 Spitfires shot down by the Fw-190s.  It was clear the fighter was superior to the Spitfire on all counts other than its turning capability, to which Wing Commander Al Deere commented, “turning doesn’t win battles!”

            After a battle on June 1, 1942, that saw 10 Spitfires of the Debden Wing, including the Wing Commander, shot down by JG 26, with another 10 Spitfires badly damaged - for what turned out to be no losses on the part of the Germans despite RAF claims of three shot down - the RAF was desperate to get hold of one of these airplanes and discover its secrets.  Plans were mounted for a commando raid on a German air base, with the goal of putting a top British test pilot in the cockpit, and stealing a Fw-190 to fly it back to England.

            The RAF got lucky on the evening of June 23, 1942, when the Portland and Exeter Spitfire wings returned from a support sweep over the Brittany Peninsula.  After a short encounter with Fw-190s of JG2 during withdrawal, the Spitfires broke off and returned across the Channel at low altitude.  No one realized that they were being trailed by Fw-190s of the Stab of JG2 and 7 Staffel, led by Egon Mayer, until the Germans dove on the British fighters over Star Point on the Devon coast.  The Wing Commander was lost in a head-on collision with one Focke-Wulf. At that point, all but one German turned back.  The lone Fw-190 proceeded over Exeter.  Four Spitfires were dispatched to intercept him, with two crashing on take off, one returning with a bad radio, and the fourth was shot down by the lone German.  The German fighter then crossed the Bristol Channel.

            The pilots and ground crews at RAF Pembrey were amazed minutes later to see a Fw-190 circle, drop its landing gear, and touch down on the field.  Before the German could realize his mistake, an RAF officer leaped on the wing and pointed a flare gun at him.  The RAF was now the proud owner of a brand-new Fw-190A-3, fully equipped.

             Rumors have surfaced over the years that the pilot of the Fw-190, Oberleutnant Arnim Faber, Adjutant of JG 2, had actually defected with his brand-new airplane, a victory for MI6. Nothing definitive has ever been proven regarding this claim, even though many other victories of British intelligence during the war have been revealed in the years since the revelation of Ultra in 1974, but it is interesting to note that Faber did not spend any time as a POW, and was known to be an anti-Nazi.

             The first thing RAF tests revealed was that this airplane had its engine derated by 200 horsepower to extend the life of the engine!  This was at a time when the RAF was souping up Merlin 45s in Spitfire Vs to the point where they were making complete engine changes every 50 hours after burning up the engine, in an attempt to keep up with the Focke-Wulf.  Adding insult to injury, tests demonstrated that the Fw-190 outperformed the Spitfire V on all points but turning circle below 25,000 feet, and that a Focke-Wulf pilot could break off combat at will with any Spitfire V.  Aerobatics at all speeds were crisp, with the fastest aileron roll of any fighter in the war, while controls remaining remarkably light in a steep dive. Even the new Spitfire IX - brought into service specifically to oppose the German fighter - was only marginally faster than the Fw-190, and only at certain altitudes, with the Spitfire IX only coming into its own above 25,000 feet. In maneuverability, the Fw-190 was superior, and could get away from the British rival with a dive at any point in a fight.  All the RAF pilots who flew it were amazed at its ability to flick roll equally well to left or right.

             The first Allied fighter that was fully capable of taking on the Fw-190 was the Merlin-powered P-51B Mustang, and even then the superiority was only marginal.  It was only with the deterioration in the quality of flying personnel that the Wurger was finally overcome.

             My friend Corky Meyer, who was a Grumman test pilot during the war, told me that when he first flew a captured Fw-190, his response was that it was the most amazing airplane he had ever flown.  Grumman’s chief of design, Robert Hall, was so impressed with the Fw-190 that he went and did his take on a “navalized Focke-Wulf”, which resulted in the F8F Bearcat.  The RAF was similarly impressed, with the Hawker Fury (later the Sea Fury) being directly influenced in its design by the Fw-190.  Every designer who ever saw the airplane was impressed that it had the most successful closely-cowled radial engine they had ever seen. 


            The Hasegawa 1/32 Fw-190 has now been around for five successful years, releasing Fw-190A-5, A-6, A-7, A-8 and F-8 versions.  Surprisingly, they have yet to produce two new fuselage halves 3/8 inch shorter (which is even clearly delineated in panel lines) to create the Fw-190A-1/A-2/A-3 and Fw-190A-4.  Fortunately, Pacific Coast Models has now stepped in with a kit that makes up into a very credible early Fw-190, of a quality sufficient it can sit next to one of the Hasegawa kits when finished and be taken for the mainstream kit. 

            Examining the kit, it is obvious that it is based on the Hasegawa Fw-190, in a limited-run production version.  As with most limited-run kits, fit is not so good as the mainstream kit, and there are no locating pins on any of the parts.  A good point here is that this kit has a cowling of an easier design for assembly than the Hasegawa kit, and that the cannon bulge on the lower wing is molded integral to the lower wing part, so there are none of those annoying plugs to be glued in and then filled and sanded to get rid of the seams.

            It is important to note that while the different cowling bulges are provided for a Fw-190A-0, one could only do the Fw-190V8 - the A-0 modified to have the MG-FF cannons in the outer wing - with the kit as it comes out of the box.

            The kit also differs from the Hasegawa kit in that the inner gear doors are molded shut, and the flaps are molded in the closed position.  This is accurate for the inner gear doors, which opened and closed in a manner similar to the P-51 Mustang - lowering to allow the gear to come down, then closing.  As with the Mustang, these gear doors “drooped” if they were not locked in position on shut-down, so it is accurate to see them in virtually any position from full up to full down.

            The very nice resin cockpit is also different, to cater to the differences specific to the cockpit of the early fighter.  The instrument panel is a pre-painted photo-etch “sandwich” from Eduard, and the seatbelts are a pre-painted simplified set from Eduard.

            Decals are provided for two aircraft of each sub-type.


            Everything goes together easily, once the parts are cleaned up and the joints sanded smooth.  All the seams will need Mr. Surfacer along them, to smooth them out and get rid of them.  I also note that for the Fw-190A-1, you need to change the shell ejection opening on the lower wing.  I used some Evergreen strip to close it off, then cut open the smaller chute that would be associated with the MG 17 weapons. The lower cowling panel needs care in test-fitting or you will have two seams in need of lots of filler.  I found that sanding down the mounting plate for the engine really helped get this part to fit.



        While many (including myself) have thought that all Fw-190As were in 74/75/76, "Mr. Focke-Wulf", Jerry Crandall, informs me he has parts of an Fw-190A-2 that are clearly in 71/02 upper colors.  According to Jerry, the early aircraft could have been delivered in either 71/02/65 or 74/75/76.  He points out that Arnim Faber's Fw-190A-3 was confirmed by the RAF in the earlier camouflage colors.  The color photo of an Fw-190A-1(clearly identifiably by the lack of the inboard cannon bulge on the upper wing) that appears on the cover of “Luftwaffe Colors, 1940-43" shows that it is in 74/75/76, though Jerry points out that the inboard wing color is likely 71 Dunkelgrun.  While I gave my model a standard 74/75/76 camouflage scheme, it could have been in the colors suggested in the painting instructions.  No one can really prove one way or the other since most photos are black and white.  I did mine  using Xtracrylix paints, after pre-shading with Tamiya “Flat Black.”  I painted the lower cowling and rudder with Tamiya flat white, masked them off, and then hand-painted those areas with Xtracrylix “Yellow 04" after the camouflage was applied.


             I used the kit decals to do the Fw-190A-1 flown by Oberleutnant Walter Schneider of 6th Staffel, II/JG 26, one of the first Fw-190s issued to the unit.


            I attached the seatbelts, then installed the seat in the cockpit.  I assembled and attached the landing gear, which does not have the “idiot-proof” alignment of the Hasegawa kit, and requires careful alignment in attaching it (I used a Hasegawa model as an alignment guide.  I then unmasked the canopy and attached it in the open position. I airbrushed heavy “BMW 801" staining on the fuselage sides and belly for the final touch of “weathering” on what was otherwise a virtually brand-new airplane.


             Personally, I like the Fw-190 better than the Bf-109.  I think it is aesthetically the best-looking radial-engined fighter ever built.  With this kit from Pacific Coast Models providing the early “short nose” sub-types, a modeler can now  have representative models of each of the major sub-types of this classic fighter, from Fw-190A-1 to Ta-152H-1, in 1/32.  This kit assembles easily and looks great.

 Thanks to Pacific Coast Models for the review kit.

Tom Cleaver

June 2010

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