|KIT:||Trumpeter 1/48 FW-200C-4 'Condor'|
As a warplane, the Focke-Wulf Fw-200 “Condor” wasn’t really suited to its role. Having begun life as a 26-passenger airliner of lightweight construction - the exact opposite of what the airframe needed to successfully carry out the mission of long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-shipping attack - the Condor constantly suffered from structural damage on operations that would have seen it cast aside had there been an alternative available.
That said, the Condor established a formidable reputation. The notorious “Focke Wulf,” as Churchill called it, was the scourge of the Atlantic for three crucial years of the war, and was responsible for the sinking of hundreds of thousands of tons of vital Allied shipping. Its depredations required an inordinate amount of effort on the part of its opponents to overcome. For a time, operating with the U-boat wolfpacks, it posed one of the major threats to Britain’s survival, and fully claimed the name “Scourge of the Atlantic.”
The Condor, designed by Kurt Tank to a specification for a long-range transport issued by Deutsche Lufthansa in 1936, first flew in July 1937 with Tank himself at the controls. The airplane was immediately successful, requiring few modifications, and two more prototypes had flown by the summer of 1938, when a series of long-distance publicity flights were successfully carried out. The first, on June 27, 1938, was accomplished by the Fw-200V2 “Saarland”, and involved a flight from Berlin to Cairo with an intermediate stop at Salonika. On August 10, the Fw-200V1 “Brandenburg” flew nonstop from Berlin to New York, covering 4,075 miles against strong headwinds in 24 hours at an average speed of 164 mph. The return journey three days later took 19 hours, 47 minutes, over a slightly more southerly route at an average speed of 205 mph.
The first nine Condors - all prototypes - constituted the “A” series and were delivered to Lufthansa for route-proving trials and crew training. One - D-2600 - became the official Fuehrermaschine, carrying an armored seat over an escape hatch with a parachute for Europe’s leading failed paperhanger. The “B” series utilized more powerful engines. Two were flown by the German-controlled Condor Syndicate in South America.
Interest by the Japanese in the possibility of modifying the Fw-200 for long-range maritime reconnaissance was the original basis on which the Fw-200C was created. After the Fw-200V-10 prototype flew in 1939, the Reichluftfahrtministerium ordered Focke-Wulf to place it in production, with suitable modifications to allow it to be used for anti-shipping attack as well as maritime reconnaissance. Twenty-five Fw-200C-1s were delivered during the second half of 1940 to Kampfgeschwader 40, equipping I Gruppe at Trondheim in Norway and responsible for operations in the far North Atlantic and around the west of Ireland, and III Gruppe at Bordeaux-Merignac flying over the Bay of Biscay and far out into the central North Atlantic.
This handful of airplanes - the Condor never had more than 30 aircraft total operational at any one time between November 1940 and the end of 1943 - gave the British fits. Operating beyond the range restrictions of British aircraft, the convoys didn’t have air protection, while the anti-aircraft weapons carried by the escorts and the merchant ships were inadequate for defense against the Condor’s attacks.
Structural weakness was the Fw-200's Achilles heel. The airplane had not been designed to carry the loads it was now required to, and aerodynamic loads that resulted from flying through bad weather and the extreme maneuvers that sometimes had to be undertaken during attacks could weaken the structure such that the fuselage would break right aft of the wing upon touchdown back at base. The Fw-200C-3, introduced in 1941, had a
stronger structure, but the problem was never really solved. The main production version was the Fw-200C-4, which appeared in 1942 with increased armament and ability to carry more bombs, at the cost of reduced performance.
The writing was on the wall for the Condor in September 1941, when the first British escort carrier, HMS “Audacity,” carrying six Grumman Martlet II fighters, accompanied a Gibraltar convoy. The fighters shot down two Condors on the outward voyage, damaging three others, while shooting down three on the return voyage. The ship was lost to a U-boat in November, but the effectiveness of carrier air support had been demonstrated. Over the course of the next two years, Martlets and Wildcats, along with long range Liberators and increasing patrols over the Bay of Biscay by Beaufighters and Mosquitoes, would end the reign of the Condor, which lacked the maneuverability and defensive armament to adequately meet these threats.
By mid-1943, the He-177 Greif was assuming the role of the Condors, while the Fw-200 reverted more and more to the role it had been originally designed for - transportation. Several were modified as transports for senior leaders, while some were used by KG 200 to drop agents and saboteurs; one was even prepared for a mission to the United States in late 1943, but the flight was called off. The Fw-200 was taken out of production in early 1944.
The Condor was one of the most effective warplanes used in the Second World War, in that it required a response out of all proportion to the resources invested in it on the part of its enemies to overcome its threat.
The only other 1/48 kits of the Fw-200 that are available is the very good vacuform from Koster Aero Enterprises that was released in 2001 and is still available, and an all-resin kit by MPM released the same year, which had severe quality-control problems and a design that had solid wings outboard of the engines which guaranteed that the wingtips would hit the ground within a few years of completing the model; coupled with a price over $200, I have never seen one completed. This new kit from Trumpeter will likely mean the end of the Koster kit.
With 301 parts, all molded to the usual exceptional quality one can expect of Trumpeter, the kit makes up into an Fw-200C-4, the most-produced sub-type of the Condor.
With Trumpeter, one always wonders at first about accuracy. Rest assured - the kit has been laid out on what modelers more anal on this topic than I am consider the most accurate drawings, and it measures out to the millimeter. The kit does still have the engraved rivet detail Trumpeter is known for, but it is very restrained and will look good under a coat of paint.
Very complete interior detail - including all the long-range fuel tanks that filled the cabin - is included. Unfortunately, most of this will be invisible once the fuselage is closed up. The complex landing gear looks very good, and I am informed by a modeler who has had the chance to build an advance copy of the kit that the gear is strong enough to support the completed model.
Decals are provided for two different aircraft serving with KG 40 during 1943.
The instructions call for the model to be painted in RLM70/71 dark green camouflage on the upper surfaces. This is incorrect. Maritime aircraft were painted with the upper green colors of RLM72 and RLM73, which have a bluish cast to them. This may be due to the fact the kit calls out colors for Gunze-Sangyo, which doesn’t produce these colors. I do know that Xtracrylix produces the colors, and I intend to use these on my model.
Modelers have been crying for years to get a 1/48 injected plastic state-of-the-art model of the Fw-200 Condor. One hopes this kit will fare better than those other two “most-wanted” models - the Junkers Ju-52 and PBY Catalina - which are also models of comparable quality to this Condor, and have been “shelf-sitters” from the day they were released.
This kit is accurate, and production design is such that any modeler of average ability who commits the treasonable act of actually following the instructions will end up with a show-stopper of a model. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Stevens International for the review kit.
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