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The Last Tank Ta-152
The Ta-152 at the Paul E. Garber FacilityClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Smithsonian's Tank Ta-152
The only known Ta-152 in existence is the one in the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum collection. The restoration team that will restore the Ta-152 has three other aircraft ahead of it so it will be many years before this aircraft will be restored. The aircraft is a Tank Ta-152H-0. According to the Smithsonian the serial number for this Ta-152 is 110003. This would indicate the aircraft is the prototype aircraft Ta-152V-3, which was later designated an H-0.
The Ta-152 was a development of the Focke-Wulf FW-190. The FW-190’s designer, Kurt Tank, persuaded the State Ministry of Aviation (Reichluftfahrtministerium, RLM) to designate this revised FW-190 as a Tank Ta-152.[i] The Ta-152 serial number 110003 was delivered for service evaluation in October 1944. The Ta-152’s first encounter with enemy aircraft may have been in 1944 when Kurt Tank flew a Ta-152 from Langenhagen to Cottbus. According to Kurt Tank some P-51 Mustangs attempted to intercept him. Kurt Tank deployed the Ta-152’s MW-50 methanol-water injection system and escaped from the P-51s.[ii]
The MW-50 system would give the aircraft a short term speed boost of about 20 miles per hour. This system worked up to an altitude of about 30,000 feet. For higher altitudes there was a nitrous oxide system named GM 1. [iii] This GM 1 system gave the Ta-152H-1 a top speed of 472 mph at 41,010 feet. A pressurized cabin enabled the pilot to function at these higher altitudes.
[i] The Warplanes of the Third Reich, by William Green, © 1970. Page 234.
[ii] Focke-Wulf: An Aircraft Album No. 7, by J. Richard Smith, © Ian Allan, 197. Page 86.
[iii] The Warplanes of the Third Reich, by William Green, © 1970. Page 236.
The Ta-152 in Air-Air Combat
The Ta-152’s became operational in January 1945. The few combat actions involving the Ta-152 serve as a microcosm of the Luftwaffe’s side of combat in 1945. On February 21, 1945 Oberfeldwebel[i] Josef Keil made a claim of shooting down a B-17. Neither the USAAF 8th Air Force nor RAF Bomber Command lost a heavy bomber on that day. The 8th Air Force had one B-17 damaged beyond repair and another 298 bombers receive lesser damage.[ii] Since the bombers made no claims against enemy aircraft it seems unlikely they encountered enemy aircraft on that day.
On March 1Oberfeldwebel Keil claimed a victory against a P-51 Mustang. The 8th Air Force lost 7 P-51s and had two more damaged beyond repair on that day. [iii] The next day the 8th Air Force launched 1,232 bombers with an escort of 774 fighters. The Luftwaffe also sent up a sizeable force. The Luftwaffe’s force included 12 Ta-152s. The Ta-152s were to take on the American fighter escort. They never engaged the Americans because they were attacked by Messerschmitt Me-109s[iv] The Ta-152s evaded the Me-109s’ attacks which demonstrated the Ta-152’s superiority over the Me-109. The 8th Air Force fighters claimed over 66 enemy aircraft shot down for a loss of 13 fighters. Two other P-51s returned but were damaged beyond repair. The 8th Air Force lost 14 bombers. [v]
On April 10, at about 7PM Oberfeldwebel Keil was in a flight of four Ta-152s when he spotted some P-47 Thunderbolts flying west. His flight commander balked at the opportunity to attack the enemy fighters. Oberfeldwebel Keil attacked the P-47s alone. The P-47s spotted him and went into a defensive circle. Keil believes he struck one of the P-47s and claimed a “probable”.
On April 14, Oberfeldwebel Willy Reschke attempted to attack a De Havilland Mosquito. Reschke’s aircraft developed engine trouble so he had to abort the mission. That evening three Ta-152s intercepted some Hawker Tempest Vs of Number 486(NZ) Squadron. The combat took place at low altitude. Flying Officer S.J. Short and Bill Shaw each claimed to have shot down a Me-109 in the combat. The Germans lost a Ta-152, flown by Oberfeldwebel Sepp Stattler who was killed. Josef Keil attacked a Tempest flown by Warrant Officer Own J. Mitchell. Keil’s machine guns jammed. Warrant Officer Mitchell apparently crashed while trying to evade Keil’s Ta-152.
On April 24, the Ta-152s had a dogfight with Soviet Yak-9s. Oberfeldwebel Reschke claimed two Yak-9s but Hauptmann Hermann Stahl was also shot down and killed. Oberfeldwebel Reschke attributed two other Ta-152 Yak-9 kills on that day to Oberfeldwebel Walter Loos. Oberfeldwebel Loos claimed he never shot down an aircraft while flying a Ta-152. At the end of April Spitfires shot down two Ta-152s as the Ta-152s were flying from Neustadt-Glewe to Leck.
The Ta-152’s limited combat history serves as a microcosm for those studying air combat in World War II. There are accounts of air combat that can’t be independently verified. There are cases where dates may be incorrect. There are conflicting accounts. There are cases of aircraft mis-identification. There are mechanical malfunctions. There is also a possible case of what the Germans termed “fear of fighters.”
[i] Roughly equivalent to a USAF Master Sergeant.
[ii] Mighty Eighth War Diary, by Roger A. Freeman, © 1981. Page 444.
[iii] Mighty Eighth War Diary, by Roger A. Freeman, © 1981. Page 452.
[iv] This aircraft’s technical designation is Bf-109 but both sides referred to the aircraft as an Me-109 during and after the war.
[v] Mighty Eighth War Diary, by Roger A. Freeman, © 1981. Page 454.
Falke Eins - The Luftwaffe Blogspot (http://falkeeins.blogspot.com)
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Maximum Speeds in Miles Per Hour
At Optimal Altitude & Power Boost
Ta-152 Performance Comparison
Spitfire Mk XVIII