In all probability the Germans have used their FW-190s on the Russian
front to a much lesser extent than elsewhere, and the standards of air combat on
that front very likely differ from those over Western Europe and in the
The following translation of an article which appeared in the "Red Fleet"
compares some of the tactics used by the German and Russian fighter planes
(FW-190 and La-5). It should be pointed out that these observations apply
particularly to the Russian front and are not necessarily in line with experiences in
other European theaters. This translation is published without evaluation or
comment, purely for its informational value in presenting Russian opinion
concerning the FW-190, as printed in the "Red Fleet."
* * *
The FW-190 first appeared on the Soviet-German front at the end of 1942.
This is the first high-speed German fighter with an air-cooled engine. In
comparison with the Me-109 and its modernized versions, the Me-109F and the
Me-109G, the FW-190 is of a higher quality.
The speed of the FW-190 is slightly higher than that of the Messerschmitt;
it also has more powerful armament and is more maneuverable in horizontal
flight. The FW-190 has a large supply of ammunition, with 15 seconds of cannon
fire, and 50 seconds of constant machine-gun fire. For this reason the gunners
are not economical with their ammunition, and often open up the so-called
"frightening fire". The pilots have good visibility laterally, forward, upward
and rearward. A fairly good horizontal maneuver permits the FW-190 to turn
at low speed without falling into a tail spin. An armored ring on the front part of
the engine provides the pilot with reliable protection; for this reason, the FW-190's
quite often make frontal attacks. In this way they differ from the Me-109s.
One shortcoming of the FW-190 is its weight. The lightest model of this
plane weighs 3,500 kgs. (7,700 lbs), while the average weight is from 3,800
(8,360 lbs) to 3,900 kgs. (8,580 lbs). Since the FW-190 is so heavy and does not
have a high-altitude engine, pilots do not like to fight in vertical maneuvers.
Another weak point in the FW-190 is the poor visibility downward, both forward
and rearward. The FW-190 is seriously handicapped in still another way; there
is no armor around the gas tanks, which are situated under the pilot's seat and
behind it. From below, the pilot is not protected in any way; from behind, the
only protection is the ordinary seat-back with 15-mm of armor. Even bullets
from our large caliber machine guns penetrate this armor, to say nothing of
The main problem confronting our fliers is that of forcing the Germans
to fight from positions advantageous to us.
The FW-190's eagerly make frontal attacks. Their methods of conducting
fire in such cases is quite stereotyped. To begin with the Germans open fire
with long-range ammunition from the horizontal cannons at a distance of 1,000
meters (3,200 feet). At 500 or 400 meters (1,000 or 1,300 feet) the FW-190 opens
fire from all guns. Since the planes approach each other at an extremely great
speed during frontal attacks one should never, under any circumstances, turn
from the given course. Fire should be opened at a distance of 700 or 800 meters,
(2,300 or 2,600 feet). Practice has shown that in frontal attacks both planes are
so damaged that, in the majority of cases, they are compelled to drop out of the
battle. Therefore, frontal attacks with FW-190's may be made only when the
battle happens to be over our territory. Frontal engagements over enemy
territory, or even more so in the enemy rear, should be avoided.
If a frontal attack of an FW-190 should fail the pilot usually attempts to
change the attacks into a turning engagement. Being very stable and having a
large range of speeds, the FW-190 will inevitably offer turning battle at a
minimum speed. Our Lavochkin-5 may freely take up the challenge, if the pilot
uses the elevator tabs correctly. By using your foot to hold the plane from falling
into a tail spin you can turn the La-5 at an exceedingly low speed, thus keeping
the FW from getting on your tail.
When fighting the La-5, the FW risks a vertical maneuver only at high
speed. For example, let us assume that the first frontal attack of an FW failed.
The plane then goes on ahead and prepares for a second frontal attack. If it
fails a second time, the pilot turns sharply to the side and goes into a steep dive.
On coming out of the dive, he picks up speed in horizontal flight and engages the
opposing plane in a vertical maneuver.
Vertical-maneuver fighting with the FW-190 is usually of short duration
since our planes have a better rate of climb than the German planes, and because
the Germans are unable to withstand tense battles of any length.
The winner in present air battles must have an advantage in altitude. This
is especially true with regard to the FW-190. "Once a comrade of mine and I
engaged two FW-190's at a height of 3,500 meters (10,850 ft). After three energetic
attacks we succeeded in chasing the two FW-190's down to 1,500 meters (4,650 ft).
All the while we kept our advantage in height. As usual the German tried, out of
an inverted turn, to get away and below, but I got one in my sight and shot it down.
After that we immediately went up to 3,700 meters (11,470 ft) and met another
group of FW-190's as they were attacking one of our Pe-2 bombers. We made use
of our advantage in height and by vertical attacks succeeded in chasing the
Germans away and also shot one down."
When following a diving FW you should never dive below the other enemy
planes. When two planes dive the one following the leader should come out of the
dive in such a way as to be at an advantage over the leading plane in height and
speed. In this way the tail of the leading plane will be protected; at the same
time, the second plane will also be able to open up direct fire against the enemy.
In fighting the FW-190 our La-5 should force the Germans to fight by
using the vertical maneuver. This may be achieved by constantly making vertical
attacks. The first climb of the FW is usually good, the second worse, and the
third altogether poor. This may be explained by the fact that the FW's great
weight does not permit it to gather speed quickly in the vertical maneuver. After
two or three persistent attacks by our fighters the FWs completely lose their
advantage in height and in speed, and inevitably find themselves below. And
because of this, they are sure to drop out of the battle into a straight
dive (sometimes up to 90 degrees) with the idea of gaining height on the side, and then of
coming in again from the side of the sun with an advantage in speed and height.
At times it happens that the FW, after diving, does not gain altitude, but attempts
to drop out of the battle altogether in low flight. However, the FW-190 is never
able to come out of a dive below 300 or 250 meters (930 ft or 795 ft). Coming out
of a dive, made from 1,500 meters (4,650 ft) and at an angle of 40 to 45 degrees,
the FW-190 falls an extra 200 meters (620 ft).
A shortcoming of the FW-190 is its poor climbing ability. When climbing
in order to get an altitude advantage over the enemy, there is a moment when the
FW-190 "hangs" in the air. It is then convenient to fire. Therefore, when
following a FW-190 in a dive, you should bring your plane out of the dive slightly before
the FW comes out of it, in order to catch up with him on the vertical plane. In
other words, when the FW comes out of the dive you should bring your plane out
in such a way as to have an advantage over the enemy in height. If this can be
achieved, the FW-190 becomes a fine target when it "hangs". Direct fire should
be opened up at a short distance, 50 to 100 meters (150 to 300 ft). It should also be
remembered that the weakest spots of the FW-190 are below and behind--the
gasoline tanks and the pilot's legs, which are not protected.
Throughout the whole engagement with a FW-190, it is necessary to maintain
the highest speed possible. The Lavochkin-5 will then have, when necessary,
a good vertical maneuver, and consequently, the possibility of getting away from
an enemy attack or on the contrary, of attacking. It should further be kept in
mind that the La-5 and the FW-190 in outward appearance resemble each other
very much; therefore, careful observation is of great importance. We may
emphasize once more: never let an enemy plane gain an altitude advantage over
you and you will win the fight.