The Focke Wulf 190 was perhaps the single most effective aircraft produced by Germany during the Second World War. The Fw-190 served as a fighter, bomber destroyer, and a fighter-bomber, with each successive version being more effective than the previous models.
The Fw-190 was the product of the famous German designer Kurt Tank and was developed in 1938. The prototype flew in June of 1939, and despite a cooling problem that almost roasted the feet of the test pilot, the Luftwaffe found that they had a superb fighter on their hands.
The Fw-190 first saw action in August of 1941(just after the Battle of Britain) over England, and its first appearance gave the RAF a very rude shock. At 390 M.P.H at altitude, the 190 was over 20MPH faster than the famed Spitfire, and the Fw190’s fearsome armament of four 20mm cannons and two 13mm machine guns meant that the Fw190 could destroy even heavily armored B-17’s with only a couple of seconds of firing time. The aircrafts speed and armament were also complimented by a canopy that gave the pilot superb all-around visibility, and enough armor plating that Allied fighter pilots and bomber gunners had a hard time shooting down the durable fighter. The Fw190 was also very fast at low level, and throughout the war, the Fw190 would make fast, low level raids on the English coast that the Allies were hard pressed to counter.
Due to the stunning performance of the Fw-190 against the RAF by 1942, the British came up with a detailed and complex plan to send agents into France in order to steal an Fw190 to bring back for evaluation by the Allies. As it turned out, the elaborate scheme never was used because a German pilot mistakenly landed his Fw190 at a British airfield thinking it was his home field. With this newfound windfall, the Allies wasted no time in taking the Fw190 apart piece by piece, documenting everything, and then reassembling the aircraft and putting it through a detailed and very thorough evaluation which confirmed that the Fw190 was as good a fighter as had been reported, and also taught the Allies how to counter the Fw190.
Although the Fw-190 dominated the European skies in 1941 and 1942, improvements to the Spitfire and the arrival of the P-51 Mustang (the P-51D was one of the few Allied fighters that could match the Fw190’s speed.) meant that the Fw-190 was no longer the dominant fighter in the air, but with a skilled pilot (which the Germans lacked by 1944), the Fw-190 could hold it’s own against almost anything else in the sky.
Installation and Documentation
The Fw-190 is available only as a download for $29.99 from Shockwave Productions’ website. The main file and the v1.11 patch total a little under 77 MB, and Shockwave has fast enough servers that high-speed connections will only need a few minutes for the download, but on dial-up, it will take awhile.
After the download finishes, opening the .zip file leads to a very straightforward installer which will require the activation code that is sent via E-mail when you purchase the product.
Before flying the Fw-190, I highly recommend reading through the manual included with the product. The manual is a whopping 133 page long PDF that tells you everything you would ever need (or want) to know about both the FS rendition of the Fw-190 as well as the actual aircraft. Tthis is one of the most informative and interesting manuals that I have ever seen in an FS release.
Whereas many payware manuals only give a basic history of the aircraft that is being simulated, the Fw-190 manual contains over 30 pages devoted to the history of the Fw-190 as well as Allied evaluations and flight reports of the actual aircraft accompanied by scans of original drawings and documents related to the Fw-190.
One of the best features of the manual, is that it isn’t necessary to hunt around to find a specific bit of information. The manual is laid out in sections that provide specific checklists, cockpit and panel layouts, a brief history and performance figures for each variant separately which makes it very simple to reference information for just the desired version.
External Model and Textures
The Butcher Bird pack comes with an impressive eight separate models (some of which have different sub-models), and all of them are of extremely high quality. The models cover the evolution of the Fw-190 from the first combat A-3 model to the high altitude A-9 model and the ground attack F-8 model which, with it’s 800lbs of armor, was the heaviest of the Fw-190 line. All of the models show an impressive attention to detail, and the changes between models (such as the slightly longer nose on the A-5 compared to the A-3) are well represented. In addition to an excellent job of representing differences among variants in the Fw-190 line, the WOP team have also paid a great amount of attention to small details such as a very detailed pilot (who thankfully doesn’t spring from the miniature pilots in the bomber package) and very detailed bombs and drop tanks.
The Fw-190 pack includes all of the expected animations for a modern FS model, but not much else. All of the control surfaces and gear move smoothly and correctly, as does the canopy and prop pitch, but I feel the package could have really benefited from animated drop tanks and bombs (which have already appeared on some freeware releases). **See Reviewers Note.
Textures can either make or break an FS model in terms of looking believable, and the Fw-190 has textures to match the high quality of the visual model. Most of the models only have one texture, which is a bit of a letdown, but given the sheer number of models included and the quality of the included textures, extra textures would have led to a massive file size, so this is forgivable. The textures that are included are of extremely high quality, and rival some of the best photoreal textures available for FS. Most of the textures are variants on the green and gray camouflage that is almost synonymous with Luftwaffe fighters of WW2. Although the textures all follow the same basic color scheme, there is considerable variation in how the camouflage is applied and each aircraft also carries what I assume to be warnings or instructions for ground crews on the fuselage and drop tanks (I say assume since I don’t know German) as well as unique squadron markings for each aircraft. The only flaw I found in the textures is that the textures on the horizontal stabilizers seem to be mirrored on the left and right sides, which lends an out of place symmetry to the otherwise asymmetrical camouflage patterns.
Although the textures themselves are very well done, I thought that the most impressive part of the textures was the weathering. All of the textures incorporate a very nice weathering effect that makes the aircraft look like they have actually seen combat and aren’t flying wrecks or brand new aircraft. The weathering includes worn paint, with primer visible beneath, exhaust blackened fuselage sides, and smoke stained shell ejection ports and gun muzzles.
Despite the impressive amount of detail present in both the visual model and the textures, framerates on my fairly middle-of-the-road PC were only slightly below my locked settings (35FPS), and there was no stuttering or hesitating that I was able to notice.
VC and 2-D Panel
Given the impressive exterior model of the Fw-190, I was hoping that the 2d panel and virtual cockpit would be up to that same level of quality, and for the most part they are.
Because the Fw-190 series was based on a common airframe with few major changes from version to version, the cockpit remained basically the same, so although there are eight models, the 2d panels for many of them look very similar with just some minor changes in instrumentation with the later models.
The 2d panels are generally very well done, but they do have some small flaws. The panel bitmap is quite detailed and conveys the stepped nature (the top part of the panel overhangs the lower section) of the Fw-190’s panel quite well. Given the somewhat disappointing 2d panel perspective of the WOP P-51, I was very pleased to see that Shockwave did a much better job on the Fw-190. The 2d panel strikes a good balance between functionality and having a realistic forward view (which isn’t much).
The gauges on the 2d mostly work like they should, although it takes some getting used to the fact that everything is in metric. The one hiccup I noticed with the operation of the instruments is that the altimeter, which should read in meters, reads in feet if US units are used, while every other gauge reads in the appropriate metric value (the altimeter reads correctly if metric settings are selected in FS). The other bug I noticed with the gauges, is that from time to time the edges of some gauges would disappear and flick on and off for some reason that I was unable to determine. I suspect this last glitch may have been unique to my system though.
The 2d panel has several popups that provide radios, fuel controls, and electrical controls, to name a few. For the most part the popups are well done, but for some reason the electrical and fuel popups have the switches’ German labels covered with handwritten English labels. While I guess this makes life easier for some users, it looks very out of place since none of the paint schemes are for a captured aircraft (which is the only reason I can think of for the re-labeled switches), and the electrical popup doesn’t match the electrical panel in the VC, which doesn’t have the English labels present (the fuel panel isn’t visible in the VC).
Since the Fw-190 has a fairly simple panel (compared to the MFD laden panels of modern aircraft), I was expecting almost no drop in framerates, and my expectations were fulfilled in that respect.
Virtual cockpits have become one of the biggest benchmarks by which payware is measured, and the Fw-190 delivers a superb VC.
Like their 2d counterparts, the VC’s of the models are very similar, with only a few changes instrumentation changes between models. The VC’s are very well modeled with no gaps, visible seams, or disjointed animations. Almost everything in the VC is clickable, and the only items that aren’t clickable are those that serve no function in FS. Despite the high degree of interactivity with the VC, 2d popup windows are still necessary to gain access to the fuel and radio controls, but it is still possible to fly the aircraft from the VC since all of the essential controls are interactive. The gauges in the VC are very well done and move as smoothly as the gauges in the 2d panel, which makes instrument flying possible without having to guess what the gauges will do when they next refresh.
Visibility from the VC is quite poor on the ground (a trait of almost all WW2 fighters), but once in the air, it is obvious how much of an advantage the Fw-190’s canopy gave it over rival aircraft that used. The eyepoint in the VC was set a little close for my taste, but setting the zoom to .75 cured that problem and also offers a better simulation of peripheral vision, which is essential in taxing a taildragger.
The only issue I saw with the VC was that the low altitude warning light, once it had illuminated and extinguished once, tended to look very strange, as though the texture wasn’t being rendered correctly. I think this may have been an issue with my system, but I was never able to get a response on Shockwave’s forum about it.
Framerates in the VC were very good, and were on par with the default FS aircraft, if not slightly better.
The Wings Of Power series is known for very accurate simulations WW2 aircraft, and the Fw-190 continues this tradition of excellent flight dynamics.
The Fw-190, like many other fighters of its era, was not an easy aircraft to fly, but with considerable practice, it could be made into one of the most deadly fighters in the world.
Takeoff in the Fw-190 is where the challenging flight model begins to make itself known. Taildraggers are inherently less stable on the ground than a tricycle-geared airplane, and when this inherent instability in combined with a heavy fighter that is powered by a 2000HP engine, takeoff becomes interesting to say the least. Taking off in the Fw-190 requires a mix of patience and fast reactions to keep the aircraft from going whizzing off the left side of the runway. To take off, the throttle must be opened smoothly to takeoff power while right rudder is being fed in to counteract the torque and slipstream from the engine and prop. As the Fw-190 gains speed, the tail can be gently raised, and once the aircraft reaches sufficient speed, a gentle pull on the stick will result in a smooth climbout. During takeoff, if rotation is attempted before the aircraft has enough speed built up, the Fw-190 will roll over to the left and will most likely strike the left wing on the ground and crash.
Once airborne, the Fw-190 begins to show why it was such
an effective fighter. After a brisk climb to about 20,000 feet (the engine
begins to lose power
above 20,000 ft), the Fw-190 will accelerate up to its maximum cruise speed
kilometers per hour indicated, which works out to about 320 knots true
airspeed. In cruise, the Fw-190 does need some trim to get flying straight
but once it is trimmed out, it will hold course and altitude with just
a bit of correction
The Fw-190’s biggest advantages are its tremendous speed, its ability to retain energy, and its phenomenal roll rate. In combat, the Fw-190 required a steady hand and a skilled pilot to be truly effective, and this is conveyed very well in the FS version. Simply rolling the Fw-190 on its side and yanking the stick back will result in a nasty surprise as the aircraft will snap into a spin with almost no warning (the real Fw-190 was infamous for stalling and spinning with little or no warning). By using smooth, coordinated control inputs, the Fw-190 can be made to do almost any maneuver possible. Although the Fw-190 lacked the tight turning radius of the Spitfire and Hurricane, its turn rate was on par with the P-51D, which is what many pilots compared it to in almost every aspect of combat. To counteract the turn radius, the Fw-190 has a truly amazing roll rate (about 360 degrees per second) which means that the Fw-190 can make rapid direction changes, which combined with its high speed, made it a very difficult opponent if flown by a capable pilot. The Fw-190 is easiest to fly at high speeds, and in WW2, Fw-190’s used fast, “boom and zoom” tactics to swoop in, fire a quick burst, and then zoom away as fast as possible to avoid any fire from their targets.
Since the Fw-190 went through many changes during its life, the WOP team has done a noteworthy job of showing the effects of those changes on the Fw-190. While the early Fw-190 A3, 4 and 6 are excellent fighters that can be put through most aerobatics very easily, the ground attack F8, with its 800lbs of extra armor, feels very heavy and will snap into a stall/spin if flown like a fighter.
Landing the Fw-190 is almost as interesting as taking off in it. The approach is fairly straightforward, but if full flaps are deployed too soon, a large amount of power will be required to prevent the aircraft from developing a high sink rate and potentially stalling. Considerable attention has to be paid to keeping the aircraft in coordinated flight, since the somewhat high power setting used on approach will cause the aircraft to try and yaw to the left.
Actually getting the Fw-190 on the ground is somewhat challenging in calm winds, and if a healthy crosswind is present, it can be almost impossible to make a smooth landing. The Fw-190 has a very stiff suspension, so a hard landing will most likely result in an impressive bounce that if not corrected properly, will lead to the Fw-190 bouncing down the runway like a deranged grasshopper until it finally breaks the gear or rolls over.
Unlike the previous Wings of Power releases that had flying copies of the simulated aircraft for reference, there are no flyable Fw-190’s in the world. So the WOP team had to make a custom sound for the BMW radial, and the results are very impressive.
The external and internal sounds are both top notch and are very convincing and believable. The engine has the characteristic rumbling of an idling radial that increases smoothly to a full power growl smoothly with no looping or rough transitions from one power setting to another. In addition to the engine sounds, there are also a very nice set of environmental sounds from the rumble of the tires on the runway, to the thump of the gear moving, and a wind noise that gradually gets louder the faster the aircraft goes.
Support for the Fw-190 is handled via the Shockwave Productions forum, and most questions seem to be answered within 12 hours or less. Shockwave has also shown that they will support the product, as is evidenced by the fact that they released a patch for a patch, where some payware vendors won’t even patch their products once.
Summing It Up
The Wings of Power Fw-190 is a very impressive rendition of one of the great fighters of WW2. Although it doesn’t really push the envelope in terms of new features, the Fw-190 is still a great product and I think it is well worth the money.
The 1.2 update refined the flight models, making the already excellent FM better with a number of small tweaks. Droppable bombs and external tanks (my biggest complaint with the reviewed 1.11 release) have been added and work very well, with the dropping affecting speed and agility in a realistic manner.
The 1.2 update made other changes, but they were minor.
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