Nazi Germany (1942)
Jet Fighter Concept – None Built
The Fw 190 Strahljäger (Jet Fighter) was a conceptual turbojet fighter and the Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau firm’s first attempt to design a jet-powered fighter. First mentioned in a report dated November 5, 1942, the Fw 190 Strahljager would have seen the BMW 801 radial engine replaced by a Focke-Wulf T.1 turbojet engine capable of producing 1,300 lb / 600 kg of thrust at most. Short-lived and canceled mere months after its conceptualization, the Fw 190 Strahljäger is quite mysterious in many aspects, such as how the engine would have performed while mounted. Unfortunately, due to the unique nature of the design, the Fw 190 Strahljäger has been the victim of falsification and malicious misinformation. One of the most popular claims on this aircraft was that it was built. This is almost assuredly false, as no primary sources support this claim. A photo does exist which purports to show a Fw 190 with the jet engine, but this photo is definitely a fake as there are too many discrepancies and questionable content, such as the plastic model looking landing gear. Nonetheless, the Fw 190 Strahljäger is quite an interesting design from 1942 that shows Focke-Wulf’s attempts to remedy the powerplant issues of their Fw 190.
When first fielded in August of 1941, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger (Shrike) made a positive impression with Luftwaffe pilots. Seemingly equal or superior to most contemporary Allied fighters, the Fw 190 gained a fearsome reputation among the Allied pilots, who at first did not even realize the Fw 190 was a new aircraft model. Despite the success of the Fw 190, there were several problems with the aircraft’s design. For one, the air-cooled 14-cylinder BMW 801 radial engine which powered the aircraft was prone to overheating due to inadequate cooling systems and, as a result, would produce fumes which would seep into the cockpit and suffocate the pilot. This issue was somewhat addressed in subsequent production variants, but the problem was never snuffed out. In an attempt to address this issue, the Bremen-based Focke-Wulf firm began to look into the possibility of changing the powerplant. However, it was not until late 1942 that the firm launched several design ventures for a new design. In the spring of 1942, the Focke-Wulf firm received a considerable amount of funds from production orders for the Fw 190 by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM / Ministry of Aviation). The goal of the design venture was to provide a successor to the Fw 190 by replacing the BMW 801 with more promising engines being developed at the time.
One of the designs which resulted from this venture was the Fw 190 Strahljäger (jet fighter), a curious design that first appeared in documents on November 5, 1942. This design explored the feasibility of replacing the BMW 801 with a Focke-Wulf designed turbojet engine. Even before 1942, the Focke-Wulf firm looked into the possibility of replacing the BWM 801 with a turbojet. Dr. Otto Pabst, a Focke-Wulf engineer, told British officials after the war that he attempted to design a jet engine which would be used for the Fw 200 Condor bomber before the Second World War started. The report which entails his interview states: “Dr. Pabst had also worked on a gas turbine engine to be constructed by Focke-Wulf, which consisted of a double entry radial compressor and a single stage axial flow turbine with a single annular burner chamber which was expected to produce 600 kg (1,300 lb) thrust at 11 km (7 mi) or 2 kg (4 lb) thrust at sea level.“ The 4 lb / 2kg thrust at sea level is likely an error by the document author, and the more realistic thrust would be 440 lb / 200 kg. The engine in question was the Focke-Wulf T.1, and this same engine was envisioned to power the Fw 190 Strahljäger.
Much of the Fw 190 Strahljäger’s developmental history is unknown due to poor documentation and the project’s short lifespan. It would appear that the Fw 190 Strahljäger was designed with the intent of making the turbojet nose easily adaptable to standard Fw 190 airframes. Surprisingly, estimated performance graphs on the Fw 190 Strahljäger exist and demonstrate improvement over the standard Fw 190 A variant. Despite this, however, the Fw 190 Strahljäger’s top speed was lower than the Heinkel firm’s He 280 jet fighter and the Messerschmitt firm’s Me 262 fighter. As such, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium decided that the project was not worth pursuing and priority was given to the other firm’s jet fighter programmes. As such, the Fw 190 Strahljäger project would come to an end either in very late 1942 or early 1943, after only two or three months of development time. The original intent to replace the BMW 801 with a turbojet failed, and the Fw 190 program would evolve to utilize improved and reliable conventional reciprocating engines and propellers.
With the mysterious and unique nature of the Fw 190 Strahljäger design, several online publications from recent times have made several claims about the project, with the most important being that a Fw 190 was actually converted to test the turbojet. This claim is certainly false, as primary documentation and credible historians show that the project did not even make it past the drawing stage. Although the Focke-Wulf firm could have easily taken a factory fresh Fw 190 off of the production lines to test this, just because they could does not mean they did.
There does exist a photo which claims to be evidence that a Fw 190 Strahljäger was built, but there are several discrepancies which suggest that it is fake. For one, the landing gear seems rather plastic, and the shadows are questionable. The shadow of the main wing suggests it is evening or morning and the sun is off to the left, while the shadow from the tailplane is projected as if the sun is behind the plane. Furthermore, it appears that two Werfer-Granate 21 rocket launchers are hung beneath the wing. If a hypothetical aircraft was converted to test the engine, it would make no sense for it to retain the launchers especially when it takes little time to remove them. Lastly, it seems that the nose exhaust is at the wrong angle relative to the fuselage. In conclusion, this appears to be a photo of a model which has been bleached to give the black and white effect. FotoForensics (used to detect photoshopped images) does not appear to suggest that the photo was modified, but this could possibly be due to the image not being the original one.
Other than that, a curious nomenclature which has surfaced in recent times suggests the turbojet-powered Fw 190 would be called the Fw 190 TL (TurboLader Strahltriebwerk – Turbocharger Jet Engine). However, this claim is questionable as official documents only state the name was “Fw 190 Strahljäger”. This can possibly be chalked up to misinformation.
The Fw 190 Strahljäger was a 1942 project to mate a Focke-Wulf designed turbojet engine with a standard Fw 190 A airframe. According to credible secondary sources and an interview with former Focke-Wulf engineer Otto Pabst, the engine which would power the Fw 190 Strahljäger “consisted of a double entry radial compressor and a single stage axial flow turbine with a single annular burner chamber which was expected to produce 600 kg (1,322 lb) thrust at 11 km (6.8 mi) or 2 kg (4 lb) thrust at sea level”. As mentioned earlier, the 4 lb / 2 kg thrust was likely an error and the actual engine would produce 440 lb / 200 kg of thrust at sea level. The engine was the Focke-Wulf T.1 turbojet. The exhaust of the turbojet would be passed through a ring-shaped outlet between the engine and the fuselage. The exhaust passed through the side and bottom, but not the cockpit on the top. The engine would be accompanied by 370 gal / 1,400 l fuel, which the engine uses at 309 gal / 1,170 l per hour. This would give the Fw 190 Strahljäger a total flight time of 1.2 hours or 72 minutes.
The Fw 190 Strahljäger’s armaments consisted of two 7.92x57mm Rheinmetall-Borsig MG 17 machine guns mounted on the engine cowl and two 20x82mm Mauser MG 151/20 cannons, one in each wing. It is unknown whether or not the aircraft would have been able to carry ordinance.
Official graphs of the Fw 190 Strahljäger’s estimated performance exist. Some fundamental specifications are listed in the Specifications Table below.
- Nazi Germany – The Fw 190 Strahljäger was intended to replace the Fw 190’s troublesome BMW 801 engine, but the design did not go into production due to several factors.
* – Information taken from “Das Focke-Wulf Strahltriebwerk wird an die vorhandene Zelle Fw 190 angebout” published in 1942 by the Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau AG and “Luftwaffe: Secret Jets of the Third Reich” published in 2015 by Dan Sharp
|Wingspan||34 ft 5.78 in / 10.51 m|
|Wing Area||197 ft² / 18.3 m²|
|Engine||1x single stage axial flow turbine Focke-Wulf T.1 turbojet|
|Engine Ratings||4 lb / 2 kg at Sea Level*
1,300 lb / 600 kg at 7 mi / 11 km
* – Likely an error in the document, the more realistic thrust would be 440 lb / 200 kg
|Armor Weight||205 lb / 93 kg|
|Flight Weight||8,267 lb / 3,750 kg|
|Fuel Capacity||370 gal / 1,400 l|
|Fuel Consumption||309 gal / 1,170 l – Per Hour|
|Flight Endurance||72 Minutes / 1.2 Hours|
|Climb Rate||29,527 ft / 9,000 m in 7.7 minutes|
|Speeds||467 mph / 752 km/h at Sea Level
512 mph / 824 km/h at 29,527 ft / 9,000 m
|Armament||2x 20x82mm Mauser MG 151/20 cannon
2x 7.92x57mm Rheinmetall-Borsig MG 17 machine gun
Illustrations by Ed Jackson
- Das Focke-Wulf Strahltriebwerk wird an die vorhandene Zelle Fw 190 angebout (Rep. ?). (1942). Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau AG.
- Nowarra, H. J. (1993). Die Deutsche Luftrüstung 1933-1945 (Vol. 2). Koblenz: Bernard & Graefe Verlag.
- Sharp, D. (2015). Luftwaffe: Secret Jets of the Third Reich. Horncastle, Lincolnshire: Mortons Media Group.