Aviation of World War II
Fw 190A. Combat Use.
Military trials of the new Focke-Wulf fighter began even before the start of serial production of the Fw 190A-1. In March 1941, on the basis of II / JG 26, an experimental test detachment "190" (bungskommando 190) was formed. Six pre-production Fw 190A-0 aircraft were transferred to its composition.
In August of the same year, the detachment received the Fw 190А-1 and flew to the Le Bourget airfield in France, where the personnel of II / JG 26 were the first in the Luftwaffe to prepare to master the new fighters.
Already on August 7, 1941, Lieutenant Walter Schneider won the first victories on the Fw 190, shooting down two Spitfires during the day. Until the end of the month, the German pilots from JG 26 announced 15 victories over the Spitfires. With the advent of the Focke-Wulf in service with the Luftwaffe, the losses of the British increased. The Germans, on the other hand, had no losses in the Fw 190 until September 18, when the commander of II / JG 26, Captain Walter Adolf, was killed in the battle over the English Channel.
The first massive use of the Fw 190 occurred in February 1942 during Operation Donnerkeil (Thunderbolt) against the air cover of the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. The Focke-Wulfs repulsed the attack of the English Fairy Swordfish torpedo bombers on a squadron of German warships. In air battles, the British lost 42 aircraft, including 20 bombers, 6 torpedo bombers and 16 fighters. The Germans missed three aircraft, of which two were Fw 190s from 9./JG 26.
The next major success of the Focke-Wulfs was the defeat of the English landing near Dieppe in August 1942. By that time, JG 2 and JG 26 had already completely moved to the Fw 190, and JG 1 began to master them. During August 19, 1942, the Germans shot down 106 enemy aircraft, including 88 Spitfires, while losing only 48 of their aircraft (of which 30 were bombers). JG 2 lost 12 Fw 190 fighters, and JG 26 - 6. At the same time, the pilots of JG 2 claimed 62 victories, and the pilots of JG 26 - about 38.
In the second half of 1942, fighter air units equipped with Fw 190A aircraft were actively used to intercept American bombers. Many Liberators and Flying Fortresses were shot down.
Since 1943, units of the Fw 190A fighters have been part of the German air defense system - "Wilde Sau". In February 1944, units of the "Wilde Sau" were reorganized into multi-purpose regiments capable of operating day, night and in non-flying weather. Usually, the Focke-Wulfs, well-armored and armed, engaged in direct combat with enemy bombers, while the Messerschmitts tied up the escort fighters in battle.
On the morning of January 1, 1945, almost all Fw 190 fighters on the western front took part in Operation Bodenplatte, which aimed to destroy the Anglo-American airfields on the continent. This last air "blitzkrieg" turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory for the Luftwaffe. The Germans exhausted all their reserves, while their opponents quickly made up for their losses.
The history of the Fw 190 fighters on the eastern front is connected mainly with the air regiments JG 5, 51 and 54, which had a mixed composition, flying Bf 109 as well. In addition, other units equipped with Fw 190A.
I group JG 51, armed with Fw 190, returned to the eastern front on September 6, 1942. It was sent near Leningrad, where German pilots were to gain experience by doing "free hunting". I/JG 51 was based near Lyuban, southeast of Leningrad. Sometimes the group was transferred to Lake Ilmen. In October, I / JG 51 was sent to the area of the Rzhev-Vyazemsky bridgehead. In December 1942, III Group and 6th Squadron JG 51 returned from Yesau to the eastern front, also receiving new Fw 190s.
The pilots of JG 51 tried to contain the growing pressure of the Red Army aviation along the entire central sector of the Soviet-German front. Groups, squadrons and even individual units constantly scurried along the defense line, heading for the most threatened areas.
In February - March 1943, the last hopes of the Germans to use the Rzhev-Vyazemsky bridgehead as a springboard for a throw on Moscow faded away. The German troops retreated and I and IV/JG 51 covered their retreat from the air. At this time, I / JG 51 had only eight combat-ready Fw 190s. After the front line straightened, IV Group JG 51 was withdrawn to the rear for replenishment and rearmament. Meanwhile, I/JG 51 moved to Bryansk, where the Battle of Kursk was brewing.
By the spring of 1943, the re-equipment of the second Luftwaffe unit (and the last one) on the eastern front, which received Fw 190 fighters, was completed. This unit was the air regiment (squadron) JG 54 "Grünes Herz" ("Green Heart"). In March 1943, I and II groups of JG 54 arrived near Leningrad at the snow-covered airfields in Siverskaya and Krasnogvardeisk. By the end of spring, JG 54 was stretched along the front from Leningrad to Orel.
In addition, two groups I and FV / JG 5, received in 1943 Fw 190, defended the coastline from the English Channel to Narvik in Norway. And the right flank of these Luftwaffe forces operated over the Soviet Arctic. True, the Foke-Wulfs appeared there only sporadically.
On the main sectors of the Eastern Front, the share of the Fw 190 in the total number of fighters remained insignificant and never exceeded 200 aircraft. In May 1943, there were only 189 combat-ready Focke-Wulfs on the entire eastern front, by June their number had increased to 196.
Four of the five air groups equipped with the Fw 190 were directly involved in Operation Citadel - the Battle of Kursk. I / JG 54, as well as I, II and IV / JG 51 (a total of 140 Fw 190, including 88 combat-ready) became part of the 6th Luftwaffe Air Fleet and were sent to support the 9th Army of Colonel General Walter Model (model). This was a rather powerful Luftwaffe grouping, and the Soviet Air Force, despite all efforts, did not manage to gain air superiority on the northern face of the Kursk salient.
Until the end of 1943, air groups JG 51 and 54, equipped with Fw 190, were constantly transferred from one sector of the Soviet-German front to another, where there was a threat of a breakthrough. German pilots often had to defend a front line up to 1000 km long. The situation became increasingly critical as Soviet air superiority grew and the Luftwaffe's strength dwindled.
Of the seven fighter air squadrons (Jagdgeschwader) that participated in Operation Barbarossa in 1941, only four remained by the end of 1943. Three were transferred to the Mediterranean. Soon, another formation was removed from the eastern front for the air defense of Germany. In 1944, the Germans could oppose the offensive of the Soviet troops with only three fighter air regiments - one each for the northern, central and southern sectors of the front.
Meanwhile, the defense of Germany from the air was no less unsuccessful. American bombers continued to bomb targets deep in the German rear. Production of the Fw 190 dropped and replacements were reduced to a bare minimum. IV/JG 51 were re-equipped with Bf 109G fighters.
After the defeat of the Wehrmacht near Orel, I and III / JG 51, armed with Fw 190, retreated to Bryansk. But soon they were transferred to Ukraine, where German pilots participated in an attempt to contain the next offensive of the Red Army.
By the end of 1943, the Luftwaffe began to feel a constant shortage of aircraft. The Focke-Wulf factories did not have time to make up for the losses of the western and eastern fronts, as well as the German air defense system. By the beginning of May 1944, all three JG 51 groups fighting on the eastern front had been re-equipped with Bf 109G aircraft.
Fw 190 fighters from I and II /JG 54, which were part of the so-called "fire support brigade", were constantly deployed along the entire eastern front, depending on where the Red Army struck next. During the last months of 1943, JG 54 lost 30 airmen. The layer of experienced aces of the famous Luftwaffe unit became thinner and thinner.
In mid-January 1944, a major Soviet offensive near Leningrad began. I and II / JG 54 were hastily withdrawn from the central and southern sectors of the front, respectively. While fighting, JG 54 retreated to the Baltic.
In June 1944, the offensive of the Red Army in Belarus began and the Baltic group of German troops was cut off from the main forces. At the same time, Soviet troops went on the offensive on the Karelian front, and I / JG 54 moved to Latvia, and 1 squadron of JG 54 went to Finland in Turku, to provide air cover for German ships. II/JG 54 also flew to Finland.
During 1944, the two air groups of JG 54 remained the only fighter units on the eastern front equipped with Fw 190s. In mid-October 1944, there were 56 combat-ready aircraft in both groups.
On June 30, 1944, IV/JG 54 returned to the eastern front for a short time, rejuvenated and replenished with Fw 190A-8 aircraft. She had to cover the retreat of the Wehrmacht in Belarus and Poland. After staying in the east for two months and suffering heavy losses, IV Group was again withdrawn to the rear in early September.
In January-February 1945, a new Soviet offensive began. The defeat of Germany became more and more obvious. The pilots of JG 54 decided to leave the Baltic and fly west to surrender to the Anglo-American troops. Together with the pilots, their mechanics also decided to flee to the west. About 50 Fw 190 aircraft took off from airfields in Courland. Everything that was possible was removed from the Focke-Wulfs, but on board each of them, in addition to the pilot, there were one, two or even three passengers.
Two Fw 190s landed in neutral Sweden. But most made it to Flensburg and Kiel in Schleswig-Holstein, where they fell into the hands of British-American troops.