The Messerschmitt Bf 109, a name synonymous with Luftwaffe might, wasn’t the only Nazi German fighter to dominate the skies of World War II. In 1941, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, nicknamed the “Würger” (Butcher Bird) for its aggressive tactics, arrived on the scene, clawing its way into the ranks of legendary warbirds.

This sleek, single-seat fighter, the brainchild of aircraft designer Kurt Tank, was a revelation.

Unlike the Bf 109’s Daimler-Benz inverted V-engine, the Fw 190 sported a powerful BMW 801 radial engine. This seemingly simple difference gave the Würger a distinct edge.

The radial engine provided superior visibility for the pilot, better handling at high speeds, and the ability to absorb significant battle damage and keep flying – a terrifying prospect for Allied pilots.

Focke-Wulf Fw 190: A Fearsome Dogfighter Takes Flight

Early variants of the Fw 190 boasted impressive performance, exceeding 400 miles per hour (644 km/h) and reaching altitudes over 35,000 feet.

This, coupled with its potent armament of four 20mm cannons and machine guns, made it a lethal dogfighter.

At A Glance: Technical Specifications

  • Wingspan: 10.5 m (34 ft 6 in)
  • Length: 9 m (29 ft 6 in)
  • Height: 4 m (13 ft)
  • Empty weight: 3,060 kg (6,750 lb)
  • Gross weight: 4,865 kg (10,725 lb)
  • Top speed: 644 km/h (400 mph)
  • Powerplant: One BMW 801 D-2 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine 1,700 PS (1,677 hp; 1,250 kW); prototypes were powered by BMW 139 14-cylinder two-row radial engine 1,550 PS (1,530 hp; 1,140 kW)
  • Airframe Material: Aluminum

The surprise arrival of the Fw 190 over the Eastern Front in 1941 sent a shockwave through the Soviet Air Force, who were used to facing the Bf 109.