Hasegawa 1/48 FW-190A-3
In the fall of 1941, just as the RAF was beginning to get a handle on dealing with the Messerschmitt Bf-109F in its “Non-Stop Offensive” (called by the Germans with good reason “The Nonsense Offensive”), a new player arrived on the scene: a low wing, highly-maneuverable, speedy radial-engined fighter. In his autobiography, “Wing Leader,” Johnny Johnson recorded that pilots were outraged when RAF “Intelligence” tried to explain away this new super-fighter as being old Curtiss Hawk 75s previously operated by the French Air Force that had been taken over by the Germans as a result of their “fighter shortage.” The only maneuver a Spitfire V could perform better than the new fighter was turning, and as Wing Leader Al Deere commented, “turning doesn’t win battles.” The airplane was Kurt Tank’s Fw-190, known to the Germans as “the second iron in the fire.” Goering, who was afraid the British might learn of the airplane if one crashed in England, issued an order in June 1942 forbidding an Fw-190 pilot from flying further from France than the midway point of the English Channel.
The Fw-190 was so clearly superior to the Spitfire Mk.V that RAF Fighter Command was forced to curtail operations between November 1941 to March 1942, and again from 13 June 1942 because of unacceptably high losses that were reminiscent of the losses 25 years earlier over the Somme during “Bloody April,” against the Luftwaffe's new "Butcher Bird". The British were so keen to get hold of one and learn its secrets that there was serious planning for a commando raid on a German Channel airfield, to capture one and have test pilot Jeffrey Quill fly it back to Britain.
On June 23, 1942, Leutnant Armin Faber, Gruppe Adjutant of III/JG 2, saved them the effort. Faber, whose staff job kept him out of the cockpit more than he liked, talked his way onto a flight when 7./JG 2 scrambled to respond to a British air raid of 12 Bostons and their escorting Spitfires. On takeoff he discovered his radio was out, but he continued on. The British force was intercepted and a wild fight developed over the Channel with the escorting Spitfires. Trying to get back to France but actually flying north toward England, Faber was attacked by Sergeant František Trejtnar of 310 Squadron. Faber flew north over Exeter in Devon, trying to get away. Finally Faber pulled an Immelman turn into the late afternoon sun and shot down Trejnar in a head‑on attack. Trejnar baled out safely, but Faber, disoriented, mistook the Bristol Channel for the English Channel and flew north instead of south. Believing he was over France instead of South Wales, he turned towards the nearest airfield, which turned out to be RAF Pembrey. Those on the ground couldn’t believe their eyes when Faber executed a victory roll over the field, lowered his gear and landed.
In the control tower, F/Sgt Jeffreys, the Pembrey Duty Pilot, grabbed a Very pistol and ran across the field and jumped onto the wing of Faber's aircraft as it taxied in. The amazed Faber climbed out with his hands held high.
Faber’s airplane was so new it still had the “new airplane smell” in its cockpit, with the Werke nummer 313. It was disassembled and trucked to Farnborough after Group Captain Hugh Wilson refused the duty after he was asked to fly it from Pembrey to Farnborough under the guarantee not to crash.
Testing and evaluation of the airplane began on July 3, 1942 at the Royal Aircraft Establishment. Nine flying hours were recorded over ten days, which provided the RAF with extremely valuable intelligence. The airplane could indeed outmaneuver and outfly the Spitfire V in everything but turning radius, and was so closely matched to the new Spitfire IX that the outcome of any fight between the two types would depend on individual pilot skill. Adding insult to injury was the discovery that the BMW 801 engine had been de-rated from 1,650 to 1,400 h.p. to prolong the life of the engine!
The Fw-190 was then transferred to the the Air Fighting Development Unit for tactical assessment. It was flown 29 times between July 3, 1942 and January 29, 1943 after which it was partially dismantled and tests done on engine performance at Farnborough. It was struck off charge and scrapped in September 1943.
There has long been controversy over this story, with some sources alleging that Faber actually defected with his airplane as part of a plot pulled off by British Intelligence. However, the facts are that Faber became a POW and was transferred to Canada, where he made two unsuccessful escape attempts and then managed to convince his jailers that he suffered from epilepsy. He was repatriated to Germany in 1944, where he rejoined the Jagdwaffe and resumed flying combat.
The forward part of the Faber Fw-190 cockpit was preserved and later obtained by the Shoreham Aircraft Museum at Shoreham Village near Sevenoaks, Kent where it is on display. On September 21, 1991 Armin Faber visited the Museum and donated his Officer’s dagger and pilot’s badge for the display.
Hasegawa first released the Fw-190A-3/4 in 1995; the kit was basically the Dragon kit with a new shorter nose cowling and gun bay cover and gear leg doors. That limited release disappeared for several years, and then in around 2003 it reappeared; this time it had been modified from the Dragon original with the fuselage modified to not have the large lower open area which had meant modelers needed to put in spreader bars to get the proper wing/fuselage join. The gear legs had also been modified to make them only able to be attached in the right alignment (failing to get the alignment right on Fw-190 kits has been the downfall of many modelers who put in lots of effort on their model, only to lose in a competition at the first run-through for this common mistake), and the ailerons were separate. Two different sets of horizontal stabilizers were included along with the forward part of the upper fin, which allowed a modeler to complete the kit as an Fw-190A-3 or Fw-190A-4.
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