Since we already talked about the winner of the capsule competition for serial production, it makes direct sense to pay attention to the loser. It is clear that the winner is the Ne-219, the aircraft is more than worthy and advanced in technical terms, and the loser is here. Fokke-Wulf Ta-154.
I will allow myself to go back a little and just recall how all the fuss with heavy twin-engine fighters began in general.
It all started in fact with two problems: the first was the lack of such aircraft at the Luftwaffe and the presence of the Mosquito at the British Royal Air Force. Yes, the flying wooden structure (“British plywood”) made of balsa simply made an indescribable hemorrhoids to the German command, since the radars took Mosquito badly, and the fighters simply did not catch up.
In general, the Luftwaffe urgently needed a plane that could catch up with or find the Mosquito and destroy it. And for the sake of this, a whole program was developed.
At one time, the merry and optimistic German Goering said: "Not a single bomb will fall on Germany." Bombs fell, and from the very beginning of the war. And despite the fact that Tanks and dive bombers confidently conquered the countries of Europe, at night the British fugaski regularly fell on the houses of residents of German cities.
But this did not diminish optimism, however, on the orders of Goering, Colonel Kammhuber began to create nightly anti-aircraft forces. But, given what Kammhuber did this according to the residual principle, recruiting both pilots and materiel according to the principle “I blinded him from what was”, no special progress was observed at first.
True, with the accumulation of experience and further development, night air defense began to really disturb the crew of British bombers.
I must say that in the years 1940-1941 it all looked pretty peculiar. According to the then accepted standards, night planes were transferred to aircraft, which had nothing to do during the day. Whitley, Wellesley, Windsor. Slow-moving and slightly armed, and even the tactics were simple, like a Lee-Anfield rifle.
The British bombers simply took off from their airfields and flew whoever was what they were, almost on their own. As a result, when German night fighters met such an extended system (I note that they themselves were not masterpieces of aircraft construction: Bf. 110, Do-17, Do-215), then the British quite expectedly suffered losses that reached 10%.
Kammhuber’s desire to equip the night air defense forces with modern specialized aircraft did not meet support. The Luftwaffe believed that it makes no sense to spend time and resources on night fighters, if all the emphasis is on day aircraft, which will help to conquer everyone and everything.
In November 1941, under the influence of the "successes" of the Luftwaffe in the USSR and Africa, the Reich Commissioner ended his life and career. aviation Ernst Udet. Replacing it, Erhard Milch was a sharp opponent of the development of night aviation, arguing that the existing types of aircraft do their job perfectly, and the industry is obliged to make up for the loss of daytime aviation on the Eastern Front and in North Africa.
A cold shower and complete sobering for the German command came on the night of May 31, 1942. Neither the Kammhuber Line with floodlights and air defense batteries, nor night fighters, on ground radars could provide at least some resistance to the armada of British aircraft that smashed Cologne into rubble.
The British command gathered everything that could fly: the Hampden, Whitley, Stirling, Lancaster, Wellington, Manchester, Halifax. 1047 bombers dropped 1455 tons of bombs on Cologne, and only 43 British aircraft were able to shoot down all air defense (both fighters and artillery), which amounted to less than 4%.
Suddenly it became obvious that the Luftwaffe could not oppose anything to the British bombers.
Realizing that not everything is as beautiful as it seemed before, the Ministry of Aviation decided to nevertheless attend to the problem of a normal night fighter, which will be properly equipped and will replace the flying junk like the 110s Messerschmitt and 15th and 17th Dornier ".
The technical department issued an urgent task for the development of specialized night fighters to the Junkers, Heinkel, and Focke-Wulf firms.
Specialists from Junkers did not invent a bicycle; there was enough work to convert night bombers into night fighters. So they took the Ju-188 project as a basis, on the basis of which they developed the Ju-188R night fighter, the prototype of the future Ju-388J.
Ernst Heinkel and the company simply returned to the Kampfzerstorer P.1060 project two years ago, on the basis of which he created the miracle of the German aircraft industry He-219.
But Kurt Tank and Focke-Wulf had their own way. Fascinated (as, however, by many in the Luftwaffe) with the successes of Mosquito, Tank proposed the creation of a double night attack aircraft, in the image and likeness of Mosquito. Wooden.
The project was first rejected by officials of the ministry as unnecessary, but now Tank was ordered to make an anti-mosquito plane based on the German variation Mosquito. There was no particular problem here, especially since there was enough wood in Germany, a desire to save strategic aluminum, too, and there was already an engine for the aircraft, Jumo211.
Work on the project began in September 1942. By October 14, the developers carried out all the necessary calculations, and another five days later a draft design was submitted for consideration by the commission.
The fighter was offered in single and double variants of an all-weather fighter capable of operating at any time of the day. The glider was to be built on 57% of wood, 30% of steel, and only 13% accounted for aluminum alloys and other scarce materials. The defense of the project was successful, and in November the company received an official development contract with the highest priority.
The aircraft was named Ta. 154 - in honor of the merits of Kurt Tank. The final refinement of the aircraft was assigned to the senior engineer Ernst Nipp, chief engineer Ludwig Mittelhuder, aerodynamics Gottold Matthias and Herbert Wolft.
The team worked as Stakhanovites, given the very tight deadlines set by the ministry: eight months. So it is not surprising that the design, strength tests and assembly of prototypes went simultaneously or in parallel.
In the course of the work, it turned out that not everything is as smooth as we would like. The tree was not always ready to withstand such stresses that were on the shoulder of the metal. And here the Germans made a small technological miracle: Ta.154 was the first aircraft in the power set of which were used elements from Lignofol L90 or Dynal Z5 plastics. These materials had a modulus of elasticity close to the tree and, as it turned out, were able to replace the tree in conjunction with metal.
The tests began also quite peculiarly. The specialists of the Graf Zeppelin Aviation Research Center, the same ones with airships, developed a method for measuring resistance in water to determine the loads on the aircraft structure.
"Tsepellinovsky" it was found that dynamic loads acting on a body moving with high speed in air can be modeled with a certain accuracy at significantly lower speeds in a denser aqueous medium.
And in the spring of 1943, tests of the bow of the fuselage on an underwater stand began on the Bavarian Lake Alatsee. It was suspended under a floating structure with measuring instruments and pulled under water at various speeds using winches.
In parallel, tests were carried out on all other structural elements and, it must be said, the first major problems went.
The main thing was that the plane was rapidly gaining weight and it became clear that the Junkers Jumo211F engine that was originally selected was completely unsuitable. Even the Jumo211N, which was 160 hp more powerful (1500 hp), could not provide the ordered characteristics. The only chance was to urgently bring to the series the latest Jumo213, which had a power of 1776 hp.
So in anticipation of the Jumo213, the Ta.154 made its first flight on the Jumo211F. The flight took place on July 1, 1943, even two weeks earlier than the allotted eight-month period.
The plane was piloted by Hans Zander, a test pilot at Focke-Wulf, and the flight test engineer Walter Schorn was in the operator’s place.
The flight, which took place in the presence of Kurt Tank, was not without incident. Immediately after take-off, the aircraft began to fall into the left roll, which forced Zander to exert a fair amount of effort on the handle and right pedal until the behavior of the machine was adjusted by trimmers. The nose support was not completely removed either, and since the readings of the pressure gauges of the hydraulic system indicated insufficient pressure, Zander did not try to release and remove the chassis again and continued flying with the semi-retracted front strut. Soon, the pressure in the hydraulic system dropped to zero, so when approaching, I had to resort to the help of an emergency landing gear and flap release system.
With further flights, there was simply a mountain of “children's” problems and diseases, but you must admit, this is normal for a machine designed in such a short time.
Under certain flight conditions, exhaust gases entered the cabin, cracks appeared on the radiators due to vibration, and coolant leaked, and problems with the hydraulic system required a change in the composition of the hydraulic mixture. Kurt Tank himself tried to fly around his creation on July 7 and was also forced to finish the flight ahead of time due to a failure of the hydraulic system.
Test pilot Zander left very flattering reviews about the aircraft. In general, Ta.154 turned out to be a very pleasant airplane to fly, it could gain altitude even on one engine.
In a number of sources in the West (and some of us repeat it), there is a statement that the Ta-154V-1 accelerated in horizontal flight to 700 km / h. However, official reports and reports indicate that the maximum speed that could be squeezed out of the plane was 626 km / h at an altitude of 6850 m. This was a good, but not outstanding indicator.
November 26, 1943 one of the prototypes of the aircraft (third) was personally shown to Adolf Hitler. This happened in Instenburg (today Chernyakhovsk). The Ta.154 show together with Me.262 went just fine, the Fuhrer liked the plane.
The second prototype with the same engines was distinguished by the presence of flame arresters and a FuG.212 Lichtenstein S-1 radar with emitter holders in the form of four horizontal rods. Radar elements reduced the speed of the aircraft by 20 km / h, but everyone was ready for such a result. Without radar, a night fighter is not a night fighter.
Work was carried out on the installation on a FuG.220 "Liechtenstein SN-2" radar with "deer horns".
The armament was installed on the plane: four 20-mm MG151 / 20EC guns ammunition. Installation weapons led to an increase in take-off weight to 8700 kg, which of course affected the flight characteristics of Ta.154.
In a combat configuration, the plane was circled by Lieutenant Bruning at the Rechlin Test Center on February 3, 1944. The Rekhlin tester did not really like the plane. Criticized in particular limited view from the cab back and sideways. In his opinion, this seriously hindered the visual detection of targets at night and made Ta.154 practically unsuitable for daytime battles with their complicated air situation.
By this time, in service with the fighter groups of the American Air Force, a large number of modernized R-51V and C appeared, seriously complicating the work of the Luftwaffe interceptors.
In addition, replacing FuG.212 with FuG.220 with its multi-lobed antenna system was accompanied by some loss of longitudinal stability, which made accurate aiming difficult. There were some difficulties when shooting - the vibration and shock waves that occurred during the operation of the shutters of the guns caused failure of the screws and locks of the hatches, as well as damage to the plywood sheathing of the bow.
However, despite this, the plane gave out at altitudes of 6-8 thousand meters 620 km / h, which was still enough for a night fighter.
As a result, the Ministry of Aviation issued an order for 250 serial copies, with the prospect of producing so many planes every month!
For combat tests, the special squadron Erprobungskommando 154 was created, armed with aircraft from the first pre-production batch.
During a few sorties, the pilots quickly found out that the armament of the four 20-mm guns was already insufficient for a night fighter, the main targets of which were the English four-engine bombers “Lancaster” and “Halifax”.
Pilots complained of limited visibility and low fuel supply. The Fokke-Wulf design bureau quickly responded to complaints and, instead of two MG.151 guns, placed two 30 mm MK.108 guns.
It was very serious. MK.108 equipped with fighter Bf.109G and FW-190A, which were part of the Reich air defense. An analysis of the photographic machine gun films showed that in most cases two to three hits are enough to destroy the American four-engine Flying Fortresses and the Liberators. Two MK.108 significantly enhanced the combat capabilities of Ta.154.
Meanwhile, the situation in the sky over Germany was increasingly tense. To balance the situation, on March 1, 1944, the Fighter Headquarters was created, which was headed by one of the leaders of the Nazi party, Otto Zaur, who received the broadest powers. Zaur was a very active person, but not very adequate. He eventually managed to slightly increase the Ta.154 release, but it was very far from the declared 250 cars per month.
Then Milch joined the Ta.154 case. The head of the ministry, who did not hide his hostility to Ernst Heinkel, did everything so that Ta.219 and Ju.154J went into the series instead of He.388. And Milch managed to ensure that the release of He.219, with might and main fought in the night sky of Germany, was stopped.
The Luftwaffe night pilots protested, because they liked N.219, but did not listen to them. However, the industrial rake hit Milkh very hard. In June 1944, new problems arose with the release of the Ta-154A, and it soon became clear that before the start of 1945 it was not necessary to wait for the serial Ju-388J.
Milch eventually received the full program, and the production of He219 was resumed. As for Ta. 154, the release of aircraft was still delayed.
Even before the first production vehicles left the assembly lines, Kurt Tank found out that some influential figures in the Ministry of Aviation were in favor of ending the program.
The funniest thing about storiesthat Milch, who received a drag from the highest authorities, who had recently supported the creation of this machine, now preferred the He-219.
The tank rushed into intrigue, trying to save the plane. He even asked his friend, commander of the Luftwaffe fighter aircraft, Lieutenant General Adolf Galland and night fighter inspector Colonel Werner Shtribe to personally fly around the Ta-154.
On June 2, 1944, both aces made one flight on the Ta-154V-14 from the Berlin-Staaken airfield. But not one of these famous pilots was impressed by the fighter, and Galland later expressed the view that the fully loaded Ta.154 was not able to counter the Mosquito strike.
By the way, the opinion of Galland was soon confirmed in practice.
And then Tank was set up in full. Things even reached the tribunal, where Goering himself presided. It was about several aircraft accidents caused by low-quality components. The funny thing is that those who produced low-quality adhesives were brought to the Tank as soon as they stopped production at the request of the Tank.
However, the tribunal figured out and Tank was rehabilitated, and Goering apologized to him.
Another funny moment: during the tribunal, it turned out that Goering until the last moment considered the Ta-154 a fast bomber (!), Which would act with impunity against England in response to Mosquito attacks on the cities of the Reich.
Tank and Milch with difficulty managed to convince Goering that Ta.154 was a night fighter.
Until the last moment, the Tank hoped to continue work on the aircraft. But in November 1944, the so-called "emergency fighter program" was adopted, according to which the production of all twin-engine aircraft with piston engines was discontinued, with the exception of the Do-335.
This was the last nail in the lid of the tomb of Ta.154.
Before the closure of production, 10 serial Ta-154s were produced: two in Erfurt and eight in Polish plants. Thus, a total of 31 aircraft were built: prototypes and pre-production - 21, serial - 10. There were no reliable data on the production of Ta-154, and in reality pre-production aircraft could be slightly larger, so the total number of aircraft built was probably close to 40.
So Ta.154 nevertheless went into battle, although in a very small number. The factories in Poznan were destroyed by bombing after literally several planes were fired. The Messengeland facility burned down on April 9, 1944, and the Kraising factory was destroyed on May 29.
There are very few documents confirming the combat use of Ta.154. The crew of the reconnaissance "Mosquito", performed on February 22, 1945 aerial photography of the Stade air base near Hamburg, where the NJG3 was based. Two Ta.154 along with Ju.88 and He.219 were distinguishable in the photographs. The British pilots noticed two more cars on March 9 - one on the basis of calibration of compasses, and the other on the shooting range. Several Ta.154 were transferred to the Einsatzkommando (EKdo) Ta-154, which was part of the NJGr10 for the purpose of studying, but there are no documents confirming their participation in the battles. A number of aircraft fell into a motley company of aircraft assigned to E / JG2, formed at the end of 1944 in Southern Germany.
The first combat flight on Ta.154 was carried out by sergeant-friend Gottfried Schneider on November 19, 1944. According to some reports, the English “Lancaster” became his prey, but then the Mosquito bombers accompanying him imposed a night duel on him, during which he chose to leave the battlefield. There is no clear evidence of a downed Lancaster.
In general, the German Anti-Mosquito could not become a competitor to Mosquito. Ta.154 simply could not catch up with the Mosquito bomber, nor flee from the Mosquito fighter. In fact, Ta.154 pilots could use only one method of dealing with British aircraft. Taking off at the signal, the Focke-Wulfs caught up with the British aircraft, approached from the bottom in the middle and launched an attack. At best, one.
Further, the Mosquito, guarded by the bombers, entered the battle, and the Fokke-Wulfam was no longer up to the bombers. Yes, excellent maneuverability saved, but not enough to neutralize the Mosquito and continue beating the bombers.
What was this airplane like?
Freestanding monoplane with an upper wing of a normal aerodynamic design with a single-tail vertical tail. The engines were located in wing nacelles.
The two-spar wing, of an all-wooden structure, one-piece, was a single unit. Mounting to the fuselage - with four bolts. In the nose of the wing between the nacelle and the fuselage housed cartridge boxes.
The fuselage is also wooden. The lining of the nose of the fuselage and hatches are metal panels, the rest of the lining of the fuselage is plasticized plywood. The cockpit was in the bow. The crew of two was housed in tandem, the radar operator sat facing forward. Crew protection was provided by 50 mm frontal, 30 mm side bulletproof glass, 12 mm armored plate on the first frame and 8 mm armored plates on the sides. The radar operator’s seat had an armored head. The cabin reservation weight is about 150 kg.
Chassis. The tricycle with the nose wheel has a hydraulic cleaning-release system. The telescopic front strut retracted back into the fuselage, while the wheel rotated 90 degrees and lay flat under the pilot's seat. The main struts of the lever circuit with a remote shock absorber retracted into the engine nacelles. The low height of the landing gear made it possible to serve the aircraft without ladders.
Power point. The Ta154 was equipped with piston 12-cylinder engines with direct injection of liquid-cooled fuel: Jumo211 F, N and R, as well as Jumo213A (had the same cylinder volume as Jumo-211 - 35 liters, but the compression ratio, boost and speed were increased ) The engines were equipped with two-speed superchargers.
Armament. Two 20-mm MG.151 / 20 cannons were mounted on the fuselage from above with 200 rounds of ammunition per barrel and two 30-mm MK.108 cannons were mounted under the MG.151 / 20. Ammunition MK.108 amounted to 110 shells per barrel. Cartridge boxes for MG151 / 20 were located in the wing, and for MK108 - in the fuselage. Aiming was carried out using a collimator sight Revi16B.
Ta.154 carried a very decent set of radio equipment:
- VHF radio station FuG.16ZY with radio compass unit ZVG16;
- FuG.25a friend-or-foe identification system with a range of up to 100 km for interaction with Wurzburg-type air defense radars;
- radio altimeter FuG.101a;
- blind landing equipment FuB12F;
- PeilG6 radio navigation system with APZ A-6 radio compass.
Types of radars used: FuG.212C-1, FuG.22OSN-2 or FuG.218 Neptun. FuG.350 Naxos Z receivers may have been installed on individual machines, picking up the signals emitted by the H2S British radar bomber sight.
Wingspan, m: 16,30.
Length, m: 12,55.
Height, m: 3,60.
Wing Area, m2: 31,40.
- normal take-off: 8;
- maximum take-off: 9 560.
Engine: 2 x Junkers Jumo 213E x 1750 hp
Maximum speed km / h:
- near the ground: 530;
- at height: 646.
Cruising speed, km / h: 520.
Practical range, km:
- with nominal fuel: 1;
- with 2x300 l additional tanks: 1 850.
Rate of climb, m / min: 750.
Practical ceiling, m: 10 900.
Crew, people: 2.
- Two 20-mm MG 151 guns with 200 shells per barrel;
- Two 30 mm MK 108 guns with 110 rounds per barrel.
What can be said as a result? Despite the fact that the Ta.154 was very good in control, simple and balanced, showed very high combat maneuverability, it did not live up to expectations regarding speed. Which, in fact, sentenced him like a fighter.
But here the fault is not so much Kurt Tank and Fokke-Wulf, as the very situation in the Third Reich, in which anti-Mosquito was created. Plus already forgotten technologies for working with wood, which affected the production of the aircraft.
The intrigues that laced around the aircraft even at the very end of the war in the bowels of the Ministry of Aviation also played, if not a key, then quite a significant role in the fate of the aircraft.
If circumstances had turned out differently and fate would have been more favorable to this rather good aircraft, perhaps he could have contributed to the defense of the night sky of Germany. Especially at the final stage of the war.
But alas, complete strife in the aviation industry of Germany and frankly idiotic intrigues of Milch simply did not give Ta.154 a chance to prove themselves in battle.
However, this can be said of many German combat aircraft, the creation and deployment of which began in the second half of World War II.