Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Focke Wulf Fw 190 V18 - Hobbyboss 48th scale

 The Focke Wulf Fw 190 V18 was a high altitude fighter prototype using the latest DB 603 in-line bomber engine which featured a large Hirth exhaust-driven turbocharger located in a fairing under the fuselage. The required piping ran along the wing roots, partially buried in fillets. This "pouch" led to the so-called "Känguruh" (Kangaroo) nickname for these models. The V18 was later modified to the V18/U1, with a "downgraded" 603A engine, but a new DVL turbocharger - four additional prototypes based on the V18/U1 followed: the V29, V30, V32 and V33.

The problem with this Hobbyboss kit is that it doesn't know which variant it really wants to be. It doesn't help that the box-art is rather more detailed than the kit itself. Missing in the kit are the Hirth turbocharger exhaust fairings on the fuselage and upper wing while the cowl features the apertures seen on the V15 (the first prototype to test the turbocharger ducting).  The exhaust-driven turbocharger unit is included but can only be seen through the rather bare and open wheel well, while the ends of the pipework need to be drilled out. The cockpit appears to be over-sized while the rear cockpit decking is 'open' and was covered with some Eduard etch.

Below; my completed Hobbyboss Fw 190 V-18 in 48th scale, Focke Wulf's 'first' Höhenversuchsjäger or 'high altitude fighter test-bed'. Like most of this company's products this is a neat kit, which is nicely detailed and easy to assemble but which is a little way from being an accurate scale replica. The striking grau/aluminium finish and the turbo exhaust ducting makes for an 'exotic' looking machine and I guess we should be glad that a reasonable replica is available in kit form and not just as some short-run resin. Incidentally while the kit decals work well, the stencils (German language) are full of typos/spelling mistakes!

Focke Wulf spent virtually two years trying to turn the Fw 190 into a high performance high-altitude fighter. You can read some favourable comments regarding the V18 on the web - but the V18 was another example of failed rather than innovative German engineering, one of those 'failures' that have acquired a charisma of their own (..certainly with the scale model fraternity .... like the He 219 ). While it could manage 400+ mph at 31,000 ft, it could only do it intermittently. The fact remains that this Hirth turbo-charged DB 603-engined test bed had no better performance than the standard DB 603 installation on the Fw 190 A airframe (Fw 190 V-15) and as such was a developmental cul-de-sac that delivered little, despite the amount and length of testing undertaken. (see Dietmar Hermann in "Focke Wulf Höhenjäger", VDM 2002). 'Dienstgipfelhöhe' (service ceiling) of the V-18 was 12,750m, similar to the V15 with a rate of climb that was no better and a lower top speed.

 A Focke Wulf internal report stated, " ..bei Betrachtung dieser Flugleistungsgegenüberstellung kann die Frage aufgeworfen werden, ob sich der Turbineneinbau in die Fw 190 in der jetzigen Ausführung überhaupt lohnt.."  - in other words, "..taking into consideration the comparison in performance the question must be asked as to whether the Turbo installation in the Fw 190 as seen in the current version is worth the effort at all.."

Not only was there little or no performance increase the V18 presented only drawbacks in terms of aerodynamic efficiency and stability, the tail-heavy aircraft being a difficult machine to pilot as Heinrich Beauvais' account of a test flight on 27 March 1943 makes clear. Testing of the V18 ended in late November 1943 after 66 flights and 42 hours flying time. The RLM had already decided not to proceed with a DB 603-engined version of the Fw 190 which was in Hermann's view a critical mistake - the DB 603s went to the Me 410 (1160 Me 410s built between 1943-44 accounting for some 2320 DB 603 engines) which could not hold their own against Allied escort fighters over the Reich. Neither could the standard BMW 801-engined A versions of the Fw 190. It was only when Me 410 production was halted that Focke Wulf was able to consider production of a high performance DB 603-engined fighter in the form of the Ta 152 C...but by then it was too late.