The Focke-Wulf Ta 152
The Focke-Wulf Ta 152 was a World War II German high-altitude fighter-interceptor. The Ta 152 was a development of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 aircraft, but the prefix was changed from "Fw" to "Ta" to recognize the contributions of Kurt Tank who headed the design team. The number 152 was chosen in the German air ministry's list of numbers allocated to German aircraft companies, and was not related to the designer's previous projects or achievements. It was intended to be made in at least three versions — the Ta 152H Höhenjäger ("high-altitude fighter"), the Ta 152C designed for slightly lower-altitude operations and ground-attack using a different engine and smaller wing, and the Ta 152E fighter-reconnaissance aircraft with the engine of the H model and the wing of the C model.
The first Ta 152H entered service with the Luftwaffe in January 1945. Total production - including prototypes and pre-production aircraft - is wrongly estimated in one source at about 220. But only some 43 production aircraft were delivered until the end of the war. This was too late to allow the Ta 152 to have a significant impact on the war effort.
Due to the difficulties German interceptors were having when battling American B-17s, and in light of rumors of new B-29 bombers with better capabilities, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (German Air Ministry, or "RLM") requested proposals from both Focke-Wulf and Messerschmitt for a high-altitude interceptor. Messerschmitt answered with the Bf 109H, and Focke-Wulf with the Fw 190 Raffat-1, or Ra-1, (fighter), Ra-2 (high-altitude fighter) and Ra-3 (ground-attack aircraft), which developed into the Fw 190 V20 (Ta 152A), V30 (Ta 152H) and V21 (Ta 152B) prototypes, all based on the then successful Fw 190D-9 but with varying degrees of improvement. The V20 used the same Jumo 213E engine as the Fw 190D-9, while the V21 used the DB 603E. Neither of these offered any significant improvement over the Fw 190D-9, and so further development of the Ta 152A and B was cancelled. The V21 airframe, however, was further modified as the V21/U1 and became the prototype for the Ta 152C.
Kurt Tank originally designed the Ta 152 using the Daimler-Benz DB 603 engine as it offered better high-altitude performance and also a greater developmental potential. The DB 603 had been used in the Fw 190C with many problems and was considered too difficult to implement in the Ta 152 by RLM officials. With this in mind, Tank focused his efforts on the Junkers Jumo 213E as the Ta 152H's power plant. However, he insisted that the Daimler-Benz DB 603 remained for the Ta 152C versions and as an option for later versions of the Ta 152H.
The Ta 152's fuselage was an extended version of the Fw 190D-9 fuselage with larger tail surfaces, and hydraulic rather than electrically-controlled undercarriage and flaps. Due to the changes in the center of gravity and overall balance, the nose was also lengthened. Wingspan was changed from the Fw 190's 10.51 m (34 ft 5 in) for both versions. The H had a span of 14.44 m (48 ft 6 in) and the C a wing span of 11.00 m (36 ft 1 in).
The Ta 152 also featured the FuG 16ZY and FuG 25a radio equipment (some aircraft were issued with FuG 125 Hermine D/F for navigation and blind landing, LGW-Siemens K 23 autopilot, and a heated armorglass windscreen for bad-weather operations).
Fuel capacity was 595 L (157 US gal) for the H-0 model, with the option of a 300 L (80 US gal) drop tank on the centerline. The H-1 model carried an additional 454 L (120 US gal) of fuel in six unprotected bag tanks in the wings; typically, one of these tanks was used to hold the MW 50 methanol-water mixture and another for GM-1 nitrous oxide. The H-1 could also carry a 300 L (80 US gal) underbelly drop tank.
Design for high-altitude performance
The aircraft had an increased wingspan compared to the previous Fw 190 design, as a further accommodation towards better high-altitude performance. Due to the war's impact on aluminum availability, the wing was built around two steel spars, the front extending from just past the landing gear attachment points, and the rear spar spanning the entire wing. The wing itself was designed with 3° of washout, from the root to the flap-aileron junction, to prevent the ailerons from stalling before the center section of the wing. This design allowed the pilot to maintain roll control during a stall and extreme flight envelope manoeuvres.
The Ta 152H boasted excellent high-altitude performance, using a Jumo 213E engine (a high-altitude version of the Jumo 213A/C used in the Fw 190D), a two-stage, three-speed supercharger and the MW 50 methanol-water mixture engine boost system.
In late 1944, Kurt Tank reported that while flying an unarmed Ta 152H to a meeting at the Focke-Wulf plant in Cottbus, he saw two P-51 Mustangs. He made his escape by engaging the MW 50 boost, opening the throttle wide to gain maximum speed to escape the enemy fighters, and left the two Mustangs behind him. There is no evidence from Allied reports that these P-51s ever saw him.
III./Jagdgeschwader 301, initially a Luftwaffe Wilde Sau unit, was ordered to convert to the type in January 1945, which it did (and flew them operationally for a short time). In the end, available Ta 152s were pooled in a special Stabstaffel JG 301, first based at Alteno, then at Neustadt-Glewe in Mecklenburg.
An early Ta 152 combat occurred on 14 April 1945 when Oberfeldwebel Willy Reschke tried to intercept a De Havilland Mosquito over Stendal, but failed to catch up due to engine trouble.
On the evening of that same day, Reschke was to demonstrate that the Ta 152H could be used as a low-altitude fighter. A section of four Hawker Tempest Vs of 486(NZ) Squadron were out on patrol. After attacking a train near Ludwigslust, the section split up into pairs; Wing Commander Brooker ordered the Tempests flown by Flying Officer S.J. Short and Warrant Officer Owen J. Mitchell to make their own way back to base. On the way back, this pair, which was strafing targets along the railway tracks near Ludwigslust, was spotted by lookouts posted at Neustadt-Glewe. Three Ta 152s - flown by Reschke, Oberstleutnant Aufhammer and Oberfeldwebel Sattler - were scrambled, catching the Tempests by surprise. Reschke declared:
Mitchell (a rookie with just a month and half of experience on the front-line) was flying the Tempest and was killed on impact with the ground. It is thought that Stattler had been shot down by either Short or Bill Shaw of 486 Sqn, who claimed a Bf 109 in the same area (the Ta 152s were mistaken for 109s).
Operational missions were flown in April 1945 from Neustadt, mostly escorting close support aircraft to the Battle of Berlin.
On 24 April, Reschke claimed two Yakovlev Yak-9s near Berlin. It seems that three often reported victory claims by Obfw. Walter Loos, on 24, 25 and 30 April, can't be attributed to Ta 152 (Loos himself denied that, stating that he never shot down a single enemy fighter while flying the Ta 152.
At the end of the war the Ta 152 score was likely seven victories and four losses in air combat (a little degree of uncertainty about those numbers does exist).
Four victories were achieved by Josef Keil, from 1 March 1945 to 21 April 1945. Statement he had five victories on Ta 152 is unsubstantiated and denied by matching score table and dates, since the Ta 152 was delivered to JG 301 on 27 February 1945 and the first Ta 152 combat action against American bombers happened on 2 March 1945, so his victory against a B-17 on 20 February 1945 couldn't have been achieved flying that type of fighter. This is an incorrect reading of published sources such as Lowe because JG 301 had the Ta 152 in service from late January 1945, and individual missions such as Keil's could well have been flown. At least three victories were achieved by Willi Reschke.
The four losses in air combat were: Hptm. Hermann Stahl, KIA on 11-4-45; Obfw. Sepp Sattler, KIA on 14-4-45; two unknown JG11 pilots, downed by Spitfires in the last days of April 1945 during transfer from Neustadt-Glewe to Leck airfield.
The total Ta 152 production is not well known but 43 are identified, (H-0 and H-1) with c.6 prototypes. Of these, it is possible that more than half were destroyed by the Allies before they could be delivered to the Luftwaffe.
Ta 152 C-0
The sole survivor
Specifications (Ta 152 H-1)
Web Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Focke-Wulf_Ta_152
This webpage was updated 15th September 2012
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