Focke-Wulf Fw-190 in Turkish service

Several European air forces flew small numbers of Focke-Wulf Fw-190 fighters after WWII, either leftover ex-Luftwaffe planes or (in France) a brief production run. The only military to fly original-order German factory-build Fw-190s in full squadron service after the war was Turkey.


In 1941, Germany made an arms export offer to Turkey which included aircraft to modernize the Turkish air force. The negotiations were led by Franz von Papen, who had been chancellor of Germany before Hitler and then shuttled off to an ambassadorship to keep him out of German politics. The negotiations were concluded in July 1942, and resulted in a barter deal whereby Germany would provide 72 Focke-Wulf Fw-190 fighters in exchange for chromium and high-grade iron.

The raw materials were badly needed by the German arms industry. Additionally, Hitler hoped to woo Turkey into the Axis to join the attack on the USSR, or, at least keep Turkey neutral with a favorable posture towards Germany. For Turkey, the deal was excellent, as it was getting a world-class plane without having to directly use cash for the buy. In 1941, the Fw-190 was certainly the Luftwaffe’s best fighter and was one of the top fighters in the world. It was at least a full generation ahead of the Curtiss Hawks which it replaced. A side benefit was that it goaded the western powers into making generous arms sales themselves to keep Turkey neutral; and the Fw-190s were soon joined by British Spitfires and American P-40 Tomahawks. The end result was that between 1941-1944, Turkey went from having one of Europe’s worst air forces to one of it’s best, in just 3 ½ years.

turkeywwii(The appearance of the Fw-190s as they were delivered, wearing Luftwaffe-style camouflage and Turkish markings. The red square insignia had previously been used by the Ottoman Empire in WWI and remained the Turkish air force’s roundel until the country joined NATO. During the 1974 invasion of Cyprus, Turkey briefly brought back the red square as it’s current red-and-white roundel was the exact shape and size of Greece’s blue-and-white roundel and was hard for jet pilots to distinguish.)

The Turkish planes were the Fw-190A-3 version which was top of the line. The factory designation was Fw-190Aa-3, with the “a” standing for auslandisch (foreign). These planes were powered by a BMW 801D-2 radial piston engine and had a top speed of 355 kts.The ceiling was 37,430′.

turkey3In almost all respects, the Turkish planes were Luftwaffe-standard. One change was the armament. The Turkish planes had four MG-17 machine guns but no 20mm cannons. However each wing had an internal slot whereby the Turks could have installed their own 20mm guns if they wished. The underwing RZ-65 rocket racks were omitted. The Turkish planes had Luftwaffe-standard, top-line FuG VIIa radios however as a security precaution the FuG-25 IFF system was deleted. The planes had the ETC-501 drop tank receptacle but no photos show the actual 80 gallon tanks in use so it’s possible they were never delivered.

The first Fw-190 arrived in Turkey in July 1942, and the last of the seventy-two in March 1943. The planes were assigned to the 5th Fighter regiment at Eskisehir airbase in the country’s interior, guarding central Turkey including the capital Ankara. The Fw-190 was immediately popular with Turkish pilots, who liked it’s good handling, wide landing gear, and of course speed and maneuverability.

turkey2Hitler’s efforts to form an alliance with Turkey failed, and the country remained neutral until February 1945 when Turkey itself declared war on Germany (by which time, WWII in Europe was nearly over). The Fw-190s did not see any combat.

After WWII

In the summer of 1945, with the war in Europe over, the Fw-190 still remained a potent fighter and it remained in Turkish use. The 5th Fighter Regiment was organized into four Filos (squadrons) nicknamed Sarybas (blondes), Karabas (brunettes), Albas (redheads), and Akbas (grey-haired). The Fw-190 pilots painted the propeller spinners in their Filo’s appropriate “hair color”. Beginning in the late autumn of 1945, the Fw-190s were repainted into all-around OD green.

turkeylate1945(Some of Turkey’s Fw-190s in late 1945, during the repainting phase.)


(A Turkish Spitfire in formation with two Turkish Fw-190s in early 1946. The two planes had, of course, been great rivals during WWII.)

The Fw-190s of the post-WWII Turkish air force flew alongside the Supermarine Spitfires, P-40 Tomahawks, and Hawker Hurricanes delivered during the early/mid-1940s. In early 1947, the Turkish air force conducted a review of the Fw-190. It was judged to be a still effective (if now second-line) interceptor, however Turkey traditionally tries to maintain ongoing relationships with overseas weapons manufacturers and as Focke-Wulf no longer existed, there was little economic point to keeping the fighters, which would be near the end of their airframe lives in a few years anyways. Meanwhile, with the Cold War starting, other opportunities were presenting themselves. In 1947, Great Britain sold Turkey a second batch of 170 Spitfire fighters, and in 1948 the USA followed with a sale of 180 P-47 Thunderbolts.

turkeyend(Turkish Fw-190s after the end of WWII, probably 1947-1948, near the end of their service lives.)

In 1948 Turkey began phasing out the Fw-190, a process completed in early 1949. The Fw-190 was the last German fighter used by Turkey, ending a relationship which the Ottoman air force had began before the First World War.

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