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"Russian Combat Experiences with the FW-190" from Tactical and Technical Trends

A translated Russian article from "Red Fleet" describing Russian aerial tactics against the German FW-190, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 37, November 4, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


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 Mediterranean.

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."

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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 cannon.

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.


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