|PRICE:||$42.95 MSRP for the FW-190A-5 kit (currently unavailable)|
|DECALS:||Eagle Edition markings used.|
|NOTES:||Montex K-32114 1/32 FW-190A-3 conversion set used ($79.95 MSRP)|
RAF pilots first reported encountering a new German radial-engine fighter on cross-Channel missions beginning in August 1941 and increasingly 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.
In February 1942, the RAF came up full against the Focke-Wulf during the “Channel Dash,” when the defending Germans decimated the British attackers. In March 1942, more of these phenomenal airplanes were encountered as the two Jagdgeschwadern on the Channel Front re-equipped with the airplane, and it appeared their performance was even better than those the RAF had first run across the previous fall. By April all of the German units opposing the RAF on the Channel coast 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 Focke-Wulf. 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 that Faber did not spend any time during the war as a POW, and was known to be an anti-Nazi, a status that was more widespread among Luftwaffe personnel than is generally known.
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 new 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 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.
Hans “Assi” Hahn:
Hans “Assi” Hahn - who became one of the leading early exponents of the Fw-190A - enlisted in the army on April 1, 1934 as an officer candidate, and was promoted to Unteroffizier on December 1. After attending the Kriegsschule at München from January to October 1935, Hahn was promoted to Oberfähnrich on October 1. That November, Hahn transferred from the infantry to the Luftwaffe, and took pilot training at Celle. He was promoted to Leutnant on April 1, 1936, and was assigned to 4./JG 134, based at Werl near Dortmund until he was transferred to the Jagdfliegerschule at Werneuchen as an instructor in October 1937, being made Staffelführer of 1. Staffel. He was promoted to Oberleutnant on February 1939 and was transferred to the Stabstaffel of I./JG 3. Oberleutnant Hahn was assigned JG 2 Richtofen on October 11, 1939 and assigned to the newly formed II./JG 2, based at Zerbst. On December 15, 1939, he was appointed Staffelkapitän of 4./JG 2. Hahn claimed his first two victories over RAF Hurricanes on May 14, 1940, in his first engagement with enemy aircraft, though only one claim was confirmed. He scored a total of 5 during the Battle of France and was particularly successful in the Battle of Britain, claiming three Spitfires shot down on August 31, 1940. After claiming his 20th victory on September 20, 1940, he was awarded the Ritterkreuz.
On October 29, 1940, Hahn was promoted to Hauptmann and appointed Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 2. By the end of 1940, his victory total had reached 22. Hauptmann Hahn became the 32nd German soldier awarded the Eichenlaub on August 14, 1941 for scoring 41 victories. He recorded his 50th victory on October 13, 1941 and his 60th on May 4, 1942. Hahn’s 66th, and last, victory over the Western front was a RAF Spitfire fighter shot down on September 16, 1942.
On November 1, 1942, Hahn was appointed as Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 54 “Grünherz”, based on the Leningrad front. In the three months following his arrival on the Eastern Front, he claimed an additional 42 victories, shooting down five Russian aircraft on December 30, 1942. He was to Major on January 1, 1943. His best day was on January 14, 1943, when he shot down seven La-5s. He scored his 100th victory on January 27.
On February 21, while leading III./JG54, Hahn encountered Russian fighters near Staraya Russa. He shot down a La-5 for his 108th, and last, victory. Immediately following this victory, he received hits in his left wing. Disengaging, he headed west but his engine soon overheated and he crash landed his Bf 109 G-2/R6 in enemy territory. Soviet sources claim Hahn was shot down by Starshiiy Leytenant Pavel Grazhdanikov, a 13 victory ace of 169 IAP, VVS, who was killed in action April 5, 1943. Hahn was captured and became a POW, being held captive until 1950.
Hahn made himself persona non grata to the newly-formed post-war Luftwaffe when he published a book in 1955 accusing several top German aces of collaborating with the Soviets during their captivity. He successfully entered international business after his return to Germany, eventually retiring in 1977 when he moved to southern France with his family. Hahn died on December 18, 1982, in München from cancer.
Hans Hahn was credited with 108 victories in 560 missions, with 66 victories over the Western Front, of which 53 were Spitfires. Of his 42 Eastern Front victories, seven were Il-2 Sturmovik ground-attack aircraft, a notoriously-difficult target.
The Hasegawa 1/32 Fw-190 has now been around for five successful years, releasing Fw-190A-5 and Fw-190A-8 and F-8 versions of the radial-engined version. Surprisingly, they have yet to take off 3/8 inch from the forward fuselage (which is even clearly delineated in panel lines) to create the Fw-190A-3 and Fw-190A-4.
It’s likely that some day in the foreseeable future Hasegawa will see fit to modify the fuselage of their 1/32 Fw-190A kit, and give us the “short nose” Fw-190A-3 and Fw-190A-4. That day could be tomorrow or it could be five years from now. Or never. But for those who can’t wait, Montex has produced a drop-fit resin fuselage conversion for the 1/32 Hasegawa Fw-190A-5 kit, that can produce either an early or late Fw-190A-3, or an Fw-190A-4.
The parts consist of two fuselage halves, two different sets of exhaust plates for the forward fuselage to create either the early or the late version A-3, and the correct-length gun bay cover, and the lower rear fuselage plate without the MW 50 installation. Additionally, there are resin horizontal stabilizers and elevators, a rudder, and ailerons, all of which can be posed dynamically.
The parts need a bit of clean-up and should be test-fitted, but I experienced no trouble with this kit as I proceeded to make an early Fw-190A-3.
Montex provides masks to do two different Fw-190A-3s if you don’t have a big enough decal spares box to come up with markings that can create an early Wurger. The kit markings are for an Fw-190A-3 of 8./JG 2 with the highly-stylized black and white “eagle” on the fuselage sides, and another A-3 from IV/JG 5 in Norway, in Eastern Front markings.
The resin parts were no problem, once I had sanded the lower centerline seam smooth to clean it up. Past that, the resin conversion was a “drop-fit” for the kit fuselage.
This conversion only works with the Fw-190A-5 kit, which is currently out of production. This kit provides the early gear doors, early cowling, extended pitot tube, and the bulged gun bay covers for the MG FF wing guns. The kits are still available at several online hobby shops and for reasonable prices at eBay. I thank the late kit collector who bought 6,000-odd kits he never built before he died, for providing this kit which I bought at the LHS for a non-collector price recently when his wife authorized a sell-off to clear out the storage facility.
I did manage to create some “operator error” when gluing the fuselage together with cyanoacrylate glue, resulting in a “tilted” vertical fin that I did not notice until I had attached the wing and was checking overall alignment. This called for some industrial-strength pushing, shoving and twisting, which resulted in cracks in the vertical fin. These were repaired with cyanoacrylate glue, covered with Mr. Surfacer, and finished with 10 minutes using sanding sticks and some re-scribing. If you are careful to align the rear fuselage halves before applying any glue, you’ll easily avoid this problem.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
The model was given a standard 74/75/76 camouflage scheme using Xtracrylix paints. The yellow areas were done with Tamiya “Flat Yellow” and masked before applying “pre-shading” and then doing the surface colors freehand.
Montex provides masks for this kit, but I am not a fan of doing markings that way (I am glad to note that their next full-resin kit, the Yak-1b, will have decals for all markings). I considered using the masks, but I had EagleCals Number 53 from their series “Assi Hahn: The Man And His Machines,” and I decided to do his well-known Fw-190A-3. The decals went on without trouble with a coat of Micro-Sol.
I did the Eduard seatbelts and attached them to the seat, which I then installed in the cockpit. I assembled and attached the landing gear, the flaps, and the prop, unmasked the canopy and attached it in the open position.
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 Montex conversion giving me an early “short nose,” I now have representative models of each of the major sub-types of this classic fighter, from Fw-190A-3 to Ta-152H-1, in 1/32. If you can’t wait for Hasegawa to get around to making up their mind about doing the early Wurger, this conversion from Montex is easy and the result looks great.
Thanks to Montex for the review kit. Hasegawa kit courtesy my billfold.
If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.
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