Thursday, 24 March 2011

Atlantic reconnaissance (1) - Fliegerführer Atlantik, Junkers Ju 290

The Junkers Ju 290 peformed most of its service flying long-range reconnaissance missions with Fernaufklärungsgruppe 5. Formed at Achmer during May 1943, FAGR 5 was established by the Fliegerführer Atlantik on behalf of the Befehlshaber der U-boote as a long range maritime recon group to scout out and locate Allied Atlantic convoys and then shadow them until U-boats could be assembled and close in for the kill. It was intended that the unit would have a complement of some forty Ju 290's - which it never attained. 2. Staffel was the first to complete its training and moved to Mont de Marsan on the French Atlantic coast during November 1943. It was followed by 1. Staffel about two weeks later, the crews being quartered in requisitionned houses on the road between the airfield and the town of Mont de Marsan. During May 1944 both Staffeln had around 8/10 aircraft and 12/14 crews each, while the Gruppenstab had 2/3 aircraft on strength. From its first sorties flown during November of 1943 up until mid-August 1944 FAGR 5 flew 191 missions and located some twenty convoys, losing some nine Ju 290 A's and 91 Offiziere and men. Of these, two were shot down on 16 February 1944 off Northern Ireland by Beaufighters and later that same month one Ju 290 narrowly escaped the close attentions of a Spitfire in poor weather conditions some 200 kilometres west of Ireland by diving down to wave-top height. Ju 290s of the unit were equipped with FuG 200 Hohentwiel radar and the Neptun 216 (later 217) rear warning radar to defend against approaching Allied fighters.

During the night of 25/26 May 1944 two Ju 290s of 1./ FAGR 5 departed Mont de Marsan on a convoy hunting sortie, reporting a contact at around 08h00 on the morning of 26 May. Shortly after 09h00 two more FAGR 5 crews were ordered up to take over the 'shadowing' of the convoy, reporting its composition and course, including Junkers Ju 290 coded '9V+GK' which was equipped with FuG 200 Hohentwiel radar and carried at least one Schwann D/F buoy. Having been airborne for some six hours '9V+GK' came under attack from Hurricanes even before the convoy had been sighted. The tail gunner and rear dorsal gunner opened fire but in a firing pass from astern which seriously wounded the pilot, the Hurricane managed to set an engine alight and damaged the port wing. The Junkers was successfully ditched and five survivors from the crew of ten were picked up a Royal Navy vessel and brought to the UK for interrogation.  Data extracted from A.D.I.(K) report No. 243/1944, courtesy James S. Photo below of '9V+EK'.