Focke-Wulf Ta 152

The Focke-Wulf Ta 152 was a World War II Luftwaffe high-altitude interceptor fighter aircraft. 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. It was made in two versions - the Ta 152 H Hoehenjaeger, and the Ta 152 C designed for slightly lower altitude operations using a different engine and smaller wing. The first Ta 152 entered service with the Luftwaffe in October 1944, and only 67 production aircraft were delivered. This was too late in the war to allow the Ta 152 to have a significant impact on the war effort.

Focke-Wulf Ta 152
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Focke-Wulf
Origin Germany
Country Name Origin Year
Germany 1944
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Germany View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Focke-Wulf 150 View

Due to the difficulties German interceptors were having when battling American heavy bombers at altitudes above 20,000 feet, and in light of rumors of new B-29 bombers with better altitude 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).

These designs developed into the Fw 190 V20 (Ta 152A), V30 (Ta 152H) and V21 (Ta 152B) prototypes, all based on the then successful Fw 190 D-9 but with varying degrees of improvement. The V20 used the same Jumo 213E engine as the Fw 190 D-9, while the V21 used the DB 603E. Neither of these offered any significant improvement over the Fw 190 D-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 44.52 litre displacement 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 be retained 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 190 D-9 fuselage with wider-chord fixed vertical tail surfaces (especially the top half), 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 wingspan 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).

By October 1944, the war was going very badly for Germany, and the RLM pushed Focke-Wulf to quickly get the Ta 152 into production. As a result, several Ta 152 prototypes crashed early into the test program. It was found that critical systems were lacking sufficient quality control. Problems arose with superchargers, pressurized cockpits leaked, the engine cooling system was unreliable at best due in part to unreliable oil temperature monitoring, and in several instances the landing gear failed to properly retract. A total of up to 20 pre-production Ta 152 H-0s were delivered from November 1944 to Erprobungskommando Ta 152 to service test the aircraft. It was reported that test pilots were able to conduct a mere 31 hours of flight tests before full production started. By the end of January 1945, only 50 hours or so had been completed.

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. The Stabstaffel never had more than 15 Ta 152Hs available, both H-0s and H-1s. Since the usual transfer system had broken down, replacement parts became nearly impossible to obtain.

An early Ta 152 combat occurred on 14 April 1945 when Oberfeldwebel Willi 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 Sepp Sattler—were scrambled, catching the Tempests by surprise. Reschke recalled:

We reached the position at an altitude of 200 metres, just at the moment when both Tempests after diving started climbing again. Just as the dogfight was developing Sepp Sattler, on our side, was hit and his plane fell like a stone out of the sky ... The Tempest which I attacked quickly reached the same height as me and was approximately 10 o'clock before me. The dogfight began between 50 and 100 metres above ground level and very often the wing tips passed close over the treetops ... The whole fight was executed in a left-hand turn, the low altitude of which would not allow for any mistakes. Ever so gradually I gained metre-by-metre on the Tempest and after a few circles, I had reached the most favourable shooting position ... I pressed my machine gun buttons for the first time ... I could see the Tempest for a short moment in straight ahead flight displaying slightly erratic flying behaviour. But immediately she went straight back into the left turn ... I sighted the Tempest very favourably in my cross hairs and could not have missed, but my machine guns experienced feeding problems. I therefore tried to shoot it down with my cannon and forced her into a tight left-hand turn from where she tipped out over her right wing and crashed into a forest.

(A more detailed and slightly different account of this incident, also by Reschke, is given in 'Fw190 Aces on the Attack' published by Osprey)

Warrant Officer Owen J. Mitchell (a pilot with only 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 Sattler was shot down either by 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. Reschke claimed two Yakovlev Yak-9s near Berlin on 24 April. It seems that three often reported victory claims by Obfw. Walter Loos, on 24, 25 and 30 April, cannot be attributed to Ta 152.) Loos himself stated he never shot down a single enemy fighter while flying the Ta 152.).

The Ta 152 score at the end of the war was likely seven victories and four losses in air combat, although a degree of uncertainty about those numbers exists. Four victories were achieved by Josef Keil, from 1 March 1945 to 21 April 1945. 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 could not have been achieved flying that type of fighter. Alternatively, this results from 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 April 1945; Obfw. Sepp Sattler, KIA on 14 April 1945; 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. By February 1945, all Ta 152 production had ceased.

Role Interceptor
Manufacturer Focke-Wulf
Designer Kurt Tank
Introduction January 1945 (service entry)
Primary user Luftwaffe
Number built 43 identified, with six prototypes
Developed from Focke-Wulf Fw 190


General characteristics

  • Crew: One
  • Length: 10.82 m (33 ft 11 in)
  • Wingspan: 14.44 m (48 ft 6 in)
  • Height: 3,36 m (13 ft 1in)
  • Wing area: 23.5 m (253 ft)
  • Empty weight: 4,031 kg (8,640 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 4,625 kg (10,470 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 5,217
  • Powerplant: 1 x Jumo 213E liquid-cooled inverted V-12, 1,287 kW (1,750 hp, 2050 hp with MW-50)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 759 km/h at 12,500 m using GM-1 boost (472 mph at 41,000 ft using GM-1 boost)
  • Range: 2,000 km (1,240 miles)
  • Service ceiling 14,800 m using GM-1 boost (48,550 ft using GM-1 boost)
  • Rate of climb: 19.2 m/s using MW-50 (3,445 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 202 kg/m (41.4 lb/ft)
  • Power/mass: 0.276 kW/kg (0.167 hp/lb)

Armament

  • 1 x MK 108 30 mm cannon
  • 2 x MG 151/20 20 mm cannons

End notes