The Allies and Germany engaged in a little-remembered technological race throughout World War II that only ended with the war itself. It was the constant competition to field the most capable fighter. There were several changes of the lead over the years, and arguably the Germans won that particular competition with the first jet fighter to see active combat, the ME-262.
In mid-1942, however, long before the Me 262 appeared, the Germans were falling behind. The Messerschmidt Bf 109 was still capable and formed the backbone of the Luftwaffe fighter wings. However, it had been the primary German fighter since before the war and was getting a bit long in the tooth as the limits of its airframe were reached and the Allies learned all of its tricks. The latest Spitfire was at least its equal and perhaps its superior, with the proviso that every different aircraft type has its peculiar advantages, whether it be turning radius, climb rate, sheer speed or any of a number of attributes. Thus, a top pilot could take a slightly inferior fighter and still produce good results. It was undeniable, though, that the Bf 109 badly needed another fighter to share the load. The Bf 109 remained a mainstay of the fighter force right to the end of the war, but a brilliant new fighter did come along at just the right time.
FW 190 was superior to anything on the Allied side, that was a reasonable conclusion to draw. With the Royal Air Force and Luftwaffe in rough parity at the time, any change in the balance of power was of grave concern to either side.
|The Focke-Wulf 190 instrument panel, control stick and rudder pedals.|
The British were desperate to learn the capabilities of the mysterious new plane, and 1942 was a time of extensive special ops missions (such as the Dieppe Raid, the assault on the Saint Nazaire port facilities and the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich). A daring plan was formulated for Combined Operations by Captain Philip Pinckney of E Troop, 12 Commando to steal one of the new Focke-Wulfs from its base in France. Captain Pinckney planned to have a British pilot, most likely his friend Jeffrey Quill, smuggled into France to hijack an FW-190 and fly it back to England intact. It was a daring plan, one straight out of a Hollywood movie such as that year's "Desperate Journey" starring Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan.
|Captured German Focke-Wulf Fw-190D-9 fighter-bombers appropriated for use in the Russian army|
|FW 190 & Bf 109 Flying Heritage Collection, USA|
|"Fw 190A-3 JG 2 in Britain 1942" by RAF - This is photograph MH4190 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons|
|An advanced FW-190, the Focke Wulf Fw 190D9 JV44 Red 3 Waldemar Wubke, Germany, 1945.|