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Butcher Bird

Butcher Bird

Tale of the FW 190
In August 1941, a new shape appeared over the French coast: a blunt-nosed, elegantly pugnacious profile possessed of startling performance bearing black crosses. It was the product of a two-year program that immediately changed the Channel air war. Britain’s standard Spitfire Mk V could not compete with the Luftwaffe’s new Würger (shrike or “butcher bird”).

butcherbird

Legendary RAF leader Douglas Bader recalled the effect of the new fighter’s debut: “At first, we were told that the Jerries must have got hold of some old Curtiss aeroplanes, and we said ‘If that’s the case, could we get some of those old Curtiss aeroplanes, please?’”

The bogus report alluded to the Curtiss Hawk 75, an export P-36 that equipped French units in 1939–40. Even as a low-wing radial-engine fighter, the Hawk bore little resemblance to the new Focke-Wulf 190, but the mystery soon was cleared up. Spitfire pilots fought on the defensive for nearly a year until the Mk IX arrived, with an improved Merlin engine with two-stage supercharger. But even then, the new Spit largely matched the FW rather than beat it.

by Barrett Tillman

Read the article from German Airpower, special issue.

Buy the issue, click here.

Updated: December 14, 2015 — 10:48 AM

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