The Focke-Wulf FW 190A Vs the Lavochkin La-5

16

The FW 190A Vs the La-5 from the German perspective

In the summer of 1943, a brand-new La-5 made a forced landing on a German airfield providing the Luftwaffe with an opportunity to test-fly the newest Soviet fighter. Test pilot Hans-Werner Lerche wrote a detailed report of his experience. He particularly noted that the La-5 excelled at altitudes below 3,000 m (9,843 ft) but suffered from short range and flight time of only 40 minutes at cruise engine power. All of the engine controls (throttle, mixture, propeller pitch, radiator and cowl flaps, and supercharger gearbox) had separate levers which served to distract the pilot during combat to make constant adjustments or risk suboptimal performance. For example, rapid acceleration required moving no less than six levers. In contrast, contemporary German aircraft, especially the BMW 801 radial-engined variants of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 front line fighter, had largely automatic engine controls with the pilot operating a single lever and electromechanical devices, like the Kommandogerät pioneering engine computer on the radial-engined Fw 190s, making the appropriate adjustments. Due to airflow limitations, the engine boost system (Forsazh) could not be used above 2,000 m (6,562 ft). Stability in all axes was generally good. The authority of the ailerons was deemed exceptional but the rudder was insufficiently powerful at lower speeds. At speeds in excess of 600 km/h (370 mph), the forces on control surfaces became excessive. Horizontal turn time at 1,000 m (3,281 ft) and maximum engine power was 25 seconds.

13

The La-5 had a slightly better climb rate and smaller turn radius, however the Fw-190A-8 was faster at all altitudes and had significantly better dive performance. As a result Lerche’s recommendations for Fw190 pilots were to attempt to draw the La-5FN to higher altitudes, to escape attacks in a dive followed by a high-speed shallow climb, and to avoid prolonged turning engagements. Utilizing MW 50 the German fighter had superior performance at all altitudes.

The La-5 had its defects. Perhaps the most serious being the thermal isolation of the engine, lack of ventilation in the cockpit, and a canopy that was impossible to open at speeds over 350 km/h. To make things worse, exhaust gas often entered in the cockpit due to poor insulation of the engine compartment. Consequently, pilots ignored orders and frequently flew with their canopies open.

14

In general, Soviet pilots appreciated the La-5 as an effective fighter. “That was an excellent fighter with two cannons and a powerful air-cooled engine”, recalled pilot Viktor M. Sinaisky. “The first La-5s from the Tbilisi factory were slightly inferior, while the last ones from the Gorki plant, which came to us from Ivanovo, were perfect. At first we received regular La-5s, but then we got new ones containing the ASh-82FN engine with direct injection of fuel into the cylinders. It was perfect. Everyone was in love with the La-5. It was easy to maintain too.” Nevertheless La-5 losses were high, the highest of all fighters in service in USSR, not considering those of the Yak-1. In 1941-45, VVS KA lost 2,591 La-5s, 73 in 1942, 1,460 in 1943, 825 the following year and 233 in 1945.

11

The La-5 Vs the FW 190A from the Soviet perspective

FW-109A fighter is a single seat low wing metal monoplane with retractable gear and retractable tail-wheel.

German Luftwaffe command used this fighter primarily on the Western front against the British in the beginning of the war. The FW-190 appeared on the Russian front at the end of 1942.

18

FW-190 has a 14-cylinder air cooled, twin-row radial engine. The engine fan is located at the front of the fuselage and is connected to the engine spinner. The fan rotates at three times the speed of the propellor. The engine generates 1,460 hp at nominal power and 1,760 hp at full power. It can only work at full throttle for no more than 1 minute.

The fighter has two machine guns and four cannons, situated as follows:

  •  Two synchronous 7.92 mm MG-17 machine guns in upper engine housing. Machine guns fire at 800 rounds per minute. Each machine gun has 750 rounds.
  • Two synchronous MG-151 cannons in the wing by the fuselage, firing through the propeller. Cannons fire at 500 rounds per minute. Each cannon has 250 rounds.
  • Two synchronous MG-FF 20 mm cannons in the wing, firing outside the propeller diameter. Cannons fire at 520 rounds per minute. Each cannon has 90 rounds.

Guns can be fired simultaneously, or from each of the group separately (machine guns or cannons). Gun fire is selected electrically, by pressing buttons on the pilot control column. The cockpit is equipped with gun round counters. In addition, the FW-190 can carry one 250 kg bomb or a fuel tank.

19

Armour on the FW-190 is located in the following areas: the pilot is protected by the engine and 60 mm of armored glass. The nose of the aircraft enclosing the oil radiator is made of 5 mm of armored plate; the rest of the nose comprises 3 mm of armor plating.

There is also an 8 mm armored seat that covers the pilot up to the level of the shoulders. There is room at the base and back of the seat for the parachute. A 5 mm armored plate behind the pilot seat fills the full fuselage profile except the area for the parachute depression. A 12 mm headrest protects pilot’s head and shoulders. There is no armor protecting pilot from the side or below.

Two fuel tanks are located directly under the pilot’s cabin, starting from the rudder pedals and back for a total length of 1.9 meters. Both fuel tanks have a total fuel capacity of 520 liters.

8

Russian La-5 pilots that fought the FW-190 successfully are certain that an La-5 has a faster climb-rate and smaller turn-radius than the FW-190. The FW-190s are marginally faster at higher altitudes and possess a better dive rate. Do not engage a FW-190 which has a superior altitude to you, in this situation, the FW-190 is likely to dive from altitude and attempt to attack from the rear in one pass, using the element of surprise. The La-5 has a better performance than the FW-190 at lower altitudes; draw the FW-190 into a turning fight at altitudes below 4,000 meters (13,000 ft.) where the La-5 can easily outmaneuver the FW-190.

The following information about German tactics is derived from experience of our pilots that fought the FW-190:

The enemy mostly stays in obsolete formations when flying, i.e. closely spaced pairs, etc.

5

Germans will position their fighters at different altitudes, especially when expecting to encounter our fighters. FW-190 will fly at 1,500-2,500 meters and will attempt to close with our fighters hoping to get behind them and attack suddenly. If that maneuver is unsuccessful they will even attack head-on relying on their superb firepower.

The FW-190 will commit to the fight even if our battle formation is not broken, preferring left turning fights. There have been cases of such turning fights lasting quite a long time, with multiple planes from both sides involved in each engagement.

FW-190 will dive, sometimes inverted, when threatened by our fighters getting on his six. There has never been an occasion of FW-190s attempting to climb away in such situations.

FW-190s will most often fight in separate pairs. The leader will roll and dive to attract our fighters when they get close. The wingman usually climbs away and watches our planes. If our fighters dive after the leader, the wingman will ‘boom-n-zoom’ our fighters and attempt to form up with his leader.

6

Enemy fighter tactics are mostly built on individual engagements. This fact has been confirmed by captured FW 190 pilots. Thus, Germans will try everything to break up our formations or at least force single planes to break off from the main groups. As one captured pilot said, “we count on the slow ones”.

Captured FW-190 pilots are familiar with specifics of all our planes, and consider Yak-1, Yak-9 and La-5 to be superior to theirs. It must be however pointed out that FW-190s have not been fighting on our front for long and thus their tactics are still being developed. They are more than likely to change drastically very soon.

Yak-1s, Yak-7s and La-5s fighting the FW-190 have all the factors necessary to win. Our fighters are almost as fast as the FW-190, turn and climb better and have formidable firepower.

The FW-190 has a lot of vulnerable areas. The pilot is exposed during all but the perfect 12 and 6 o’clock attacks. The fuel tanks are not at all protected and are located directly under the pilot. The area in front of the engine housing the oil tank and radiator is most vulnerable as well. The engine fan works at extremely high rotations, if the oil system or fan is knocked out, it will inevitably cause the engine to overheat and flame out or malfunction.

7

The electric control circuit for weapons selection is located behind the pilot armor and is not protected. Damage to it will prevent all guns from firing.

The best position for attacking the FW-190 is from its 3 or 9 o’clock. The standard Luftwaffe inverted dive evasion tactic is the most beneficial maneuver to us as it immediately exposes all of the FW-190’s vulnerable areas, namely the fuel tanks and the pilot. Numerous FW-190 fighters have been shot down precisely at the moment they went inverted; planes usually explode in the air when shot down in this manner. It is however not at all easy to catch the FW-190 right at the precise moment it goes inverted.

The rest of the tactics when fighting FW-190 should be no different from any other enemy fighter. The element of surprise and altitude advantage is of course very important, and all other important tactics mentioned above should be considered as well.

4

Editor’s Note:

It is unsurprising to observe that both the Germans in their commentary on the La-5 and the Russians in their views on the Focke-Wulf 190A favour their own aircraft’s capabilities in terms of performance, power and armament.

An impartial observer would perhaps conclude that: the La-5 possessed a superior rate of climb and tighter turning radius; whereas the Focke-Wulf 190A held an advantage in speed at all altitudes (although this could be considered a fraction faster when comparing the specifications below) and a superior diving rate from altitude.

Despite both reports, the FW 190A does enjoy an advantage over the La-5 in terms of firepower. The La-5 carries 2 × 20 mm ShVAK cannons with 200 rounds each whilst the FW 190A has 4 × 20 mm MG 151/20 E cannon with 250 rpg, synchronized in the wing roots and 140 rpg free-firing outboard in mid-wing mounts in addition it has 2 × 13 mm (.51 in) synchronized MG 131 machine guns with 475 rpg over the engines which gives the aircraft a considerable ‘punch’.

However, it is my consideration, that on balance, both aircraft are fairly evenly matched and the outcome of any one-on-one engagement would be determined by the quality of the pilots and of tactics employed by the respective combatants.

2

Specifications

The Focke-Wulf FW 190A-8

General characteristics

Performance

Armament

  • Guns: * 2 × 13 mm (.51 in) synchronized MG 131 machine guns with 475 rpg
  • 4 × 20 mm MG 151/20 E cannon with 250 rpg, synchronized in the wing roots and 140 rpg free-firing outboard in mid-wing mounts.

FW 190A-8 3-view

 

The Lavochkin La-5

General characteristics

Performance

Armament

  • 2 × 20 mm ShVAK cannons, 200 rounds each
  • 2 × bombs up to 100 kg (220 lb) each.

La-5 3-view

 

References

Lavochkin La-5

  • Abanshin, Michael E. and Nina Gut. Fighting Lavochkin, Eagles of the East No.1. Lynnwood, WA: Aviation International, 1993. ISBN unknown.
  • Bergström, Christer. Bagration to Berlin – The final Air Battle in the East 1944-45. Hersham UK, Classic Publications, 2008. ISBN 978-1-903223-91-8.
  • Bergström, Christer. Kursk – The Air Battle: July 1943. London: Chevron/Ian Allen, 2007. ISBN 978-1-903223-88-8.
  • Bridgman, Leonard (ed.). “The La-5”. Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946. ISBN 1-85170-493-0.
  • Drabkin, Artem. The Red Air Force at War: Barbarossa and the Retreat to Moscow – Recollections of Fighter Pilots on the Eastern Front. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword Military, 2007. ISBN 1-84415-563-3.
  • Glancey, Jonathan. Spitfire: The Illustrated Biography. London: Atlantic books, 2006. ISBN 978-1-84354-528-6.
  • Gordon, Yefim. Lavochkin’s Piston-Engined Fighters (Red Star Volume 10). Earl Shilton, Leicester, UK: Midland Publishing Ltd., 2003. ISBN 1-85780-151-2.
  • Gordon, Yefim and Dmitri Khazanov. Soviet Combat Aircraft of the Second World War, Volume One: Single-Engined Fighters. Earl Shilton, Leicester, UK: Midland Publishing Ltd., 1998. ISBN 1-85780-083-4.
  • Green, William. Warplanes of the Second World War, Volume Three: Fighters. London: Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1961 (seventh impression 1973). ISBN 0-356-01447-9.
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. WW2 Aircraft Fact Files: Soviet Air Force Fighters, Part 1. London: Macdonald and Jane’s Publishers Ltd., 1977. ISBN 0-354-01026-3.
  • Liss, Witold. The Lavochkin La 5 & 7 (Aircraft in Profile number 149). Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1967.
  • Stapfer, Hans-Heiri. La 5/7 Fighters in Action (Aircraft in Action Number 169). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89747-392-2.
  • Stapfer, Hans-Heiri. LaGG Fighters in Action (Aircraft in Action Number 163). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1996. ISBN 0897473647
  • Veštšík, Miloš and Jirí Vraný. Lavočkin La-5 (in Czech/English). Prague, Czech Republic: MBI Books, 2006. ISBN 80-86524-10-8.

Focke-Wulf FW 190A

  • A Butcher Bird’s Tale: the Story of the Focke Wulf 190 (DVD). Retrieved: 3 April 2008.
  • Caldwell, Donald L. JG 26: Top Guns of the Luftwaffe. New York: Ivy Books, 1991. ISBN 0-8041-1050-6.
  • Caldwell, Donald L. The JG26 War Diary, Vol. 2: 1943–1945. London: Grub Street Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1-898697-86-8.
  • Caldwell, Donald and Richard Muller. The Luftwaffe over Germany: Defense of the Reich. London: Greenhill Books, 2007. ISBN 978-1-85367-712-0.
  • Caygill, Peter. Combat Legend Focke-wulf Fw 190. Ramsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing Limited, 2002, ISBN 978-1-84037-366-0
  • Donald, David, ed. Warplanes of the Luftwaffe. London: Aerospace Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1-874023-56-5.
  • Forsyth, Robert. JV 44 The Galland Circus. Burgess Hill, Sussex, UK: Classic Publications, 1996. ISBN 0-9526867-0-8.
  • Griehl, Manfred. Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Varianten: Flugzeug Profile 45. Stengelheim, Germany: UNITEC Medienvertrieb E.K., 2008. ISBN 969-0-00005-295-9.
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. The Focke-Wulf 190: Fw 190. Newton Abbot, UK: David & Charles, 1976. ISBN 0-7153-7084-7.
  • Gurney, Gene (Major, USAF). The War in the Air: A Pictorial History of World War II Air Forces in Combat. New York: Bonanza Books, 1962.
  • Jackiewicz, Jacek and Robert Bock. Captured Butcherbirds, Vol. 1. Warsaw, Poland: Ajaks, 2009. ISBN 978-8-39249-142-2.
  • Jackson, Robert. Aircraft of World War II: Development, Weaponry, Specifications. Edison, New Jersey: Chartwell Books, 2003. ISBN 0-7858-1696-8.
  • Janowicz, Krzysztof (with Neil Page). Focke-Wulf Fw 190, Vols 1 & II. London: Kagero Publications, 2001. ISBN 83-89088-11-8.
  • Jessen, Morten. Focke-Wulf 190: The Birth of the Butcher Bird 1939–1943. London: Greenhill Books, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-328-5.
  • Lowe, Malcolm. Production Line to Front Line #5, Focke-Wulf Fw 190. London: Osprey, 2003. ISBN 1-84176-438-8.
  • Manrho, John and Ron Putz. Bodenplatte: The Luftwaffe’s Last Hope: The Attack on Allied Airfields, New Year’s Day 1945. Ottringham, UK: Hikoki Publications, 2004. ISBN 1-902109-40-6.
  • Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II. London: Bounty Books, 2006. ISBN 0-7537-1460-4.
  • Nowarra, Heinz J. The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Fighters, Bombers, Ground Attack Aircraft. West Chester, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publications, 1991. ISBN 0-88740-354-9.
  • Page, Neil. “Focke Wulf 190: Part One-the Fw 190A-series fighter variants.” Scale Aircraft Modelling, Vol. 24, No. 9, November 2002.
  • Page, Neil. “The Sturmgruppen—Bomber Destroyers 1944.” Scale Aircraft Modelling, March 2001.
  • Price, Alfred. Focke Wulf Fw 190 in Combat. London: Sutton Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-7509-2548-5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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