Kit No. 4678
Decals: Two versions, both Luftwaffe: 1) aircraft of 9./KG40 based at Avard, France, Summer 1944 with mottle camouflage scheme of dark green/green over hellblau/light blue; 2) aircraft of 7./KG 40 based in Norway, Spring 1945 with splinter camouflage scheme of green-black green over hellblau.
Comments: Engraved panel lines; highly detailed control surfaces; highly detailed cockpit, rear cabin, and defensive gun turret assemblies; detailed gondola; three 250 kg bombs
Dubbed “the Scourge of the Atlantic” by Winston Churchill, the Focke Wulf Fw 200 Condor was a four-engined, long range reconnaissance aircraft that worked in conjunction with German U-boats whose mission it was to strangle Great Britain’s seaborne supply lines during the early years of World War II. As part of this mission it was pressed into the role of bomber, although it was originally designed as a airliner for Lufthansa, and it could independently attack convoys in addition to radioing their coordinates to German submarines. Dependent on a variety of imports even in peacetime, Britain desperately needed war materials and other supplies to stay in the fight against the Nazis, and from the start of the war through the beginning of 1943, she was particularly sensitive to Kriegsmarine efforts to destroy her convoys of supply ships from North America. For the merchantmen aboard these vessels, a Condor sighting was a sure sign of trouble – and possible disaster.
The brainchild of aircraft designer Kurt Tank, the graceful Focke Wulf Fw 200 took its maiden flight on July 27, 1937, piloted by Kurt Tank himself. The Condor, as it became known, ushered in a new era of four-engined, long-range transports, with its four BMW 132 G-1 radial engines of 720 hp each. The Condor was specifically designed for Lufthansa, which wanted an airliner for a route to South America, and was concerned that the Junkers Ju 52 had lost its competitive edge to the American Douglas DC-3. The Condor had a high aspect ratio, long-span wing that was characteristic of long-range aircraft, sail planes, and the bird for which it was named. Its modern, flush-riveted light alloy construction aimed for maximum aerodynamic efficiency.
Originally outfitted with four American-made Pratt & Whitney Hornet S1E-G engines, the Condor was later powered by BMW 132L engines (license-built Hornets). Loaded with up to 4360 liters of fuel, the Condor was intended to fly 26 passengers over long distances, and demonstrated its ability as an airliner in August 1938 with a non-stop flight from Berlin to New York – a distance of 4,075 miles – in 24 hours, 55 minutes. It was this feat that would soon give rise to fears that the Condor or similar aircraft would be used by the Nazis as an “Amerika Bomber.” But even the Condor did not have the 8,000 mile range needed to attack the U.S. and return safely to Europe without refueling.
Production began in 1938 with the Fw 200A-0 transports. One of them became Hitler’s personal aircraft, D-2600 Immelmann III. Other aircraft went to Lufthansa, the Condor Syndicate (a German-owned airline in South America), and the Danish DDL. Focke-Wulf followed up with the more powerful, heavier Fw 200B and the Fw 200D that had even greater fuel capacity. Meanwhile, the Condor was being developed for military applications.
German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop used a specially outfitted Condor, “Grenzmark” as his personal plane on his two flights to Moscow in 1939, during which he negotiated the Non-Aggression Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, which led directly to the outbreak of World War II. Condors also served as the personal transport of Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler.
The Imperial Japanese Navy expressed an interest in a long-range reconnaissance version of the Condor, so Tank modified a Fw 200B-1 to create the Fw 200V10 prototype, with more fuel, three machine guns, a short ventral gondola with fore-and-aft gunner positions, and other additional equipment. The Japanese never took delivery; in 1939 the Luftwaffe decided that the Fw 200 could meet its own requirement for a long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, and instructed Focke-Wulf to develop the Fw 200V10 into a more robust aircraft with a bomb-carrying capacity.
This led to the Fw 200C, which had modest structural reinforcements, improved cowlings containing 850hp BMW 132H-1 engines with three-bladed propellers, and bomb crutches on the wings. A longer ventral gondola, with a bomb bay, was planned but not fitted to the first production aircraft. When fitted, the gondola, which was offset to starboard, housed a 20mm MG FF cannon in front and a 7.9mm MG 15 machine gun aft. Another MG 15 was in a position above and behind the cockpit, and one in a dorsal position. The bomb capacity was 250kg in the gondola, two 250kg bombs under the outboard engine nacelles, and two more under the outer wing panels. The aircraft had a five-man crew.
Fw 200s were delivered to Kampfgruppe 40, which from June 1940 operated from Bordeaux-Merignac in France. Systematic anti-shipping operations began in August. Flights began over the Bay of Biscay, around Ireland, and ended in Norway. The sinking of 90,000 tons of shipping was claimed in the first two months, and 363,000 tons by February 1941. Condor attacks were carried out at extremely low altitude in order to “bracket” a targeted ship with three bombs; this almost guaranteed a hit. The success of these attacks led Prime Minister Winston Churchill to make his famous “Scourge of the Atlantic” remark.
Despite its effectiveness, the Fw 200 was not uniformly popular with its aircrews. The C-1 had a tendency toward structural failure in its dorsal area upon landing, literally breaking its back. At least eight Fw 200Cs were lost when the fuselage collapsed in this way, just aft of the wing. The C-1’s airframe was not strong enough to withstand the additional weight of its modfications. The Fw 200C was always an improvised combat aircraft, with many deficiencies. The crews also complained about inadequate armament and a vulnerable fuel system.
The Fw 200C-3 introduced structural reinforcements, although still insufficient, a gun turret to replace the fairing above the cockpit, two beam guns, an increase in bomb load, and an additional crew member. It was also fitted with more powerful 1200hp BMW 323-R2 engines to compensate for the weight increase. Soon a number of variations in armament appeared, as the MG FF and MG 15 were replaced by far more powerful 15mm and 20mm MG 151 cannon, or the 13mm MG 131. With these changes, the later Condors were very well armed.
For offensive operations the Fw 200C was equipped with the low-altitude Revi bombsight, or the Lofte 7D sight for attacks from between 3500 to 4000 meters. Radar appeared on the Fw 200C-4, in the form of Rostock or Hohentwiel anti-shipping radars. These modifications increased the weight and reduced the speed yet again. The maximum speed of the Fw 200C-4 in level flight was a very unimpressive 330km/h (205 mph) at 4800 meters, down to 280km/h (173 mph) at sea level. Under no circumstances could pilots exceed 450km/h (279 mph), even in a dive, and brusque evasive maneuvers could result in structural failure. Endurance was 14 hours, for a range of about 3860km (2,398 miles), or 18 hours if additional fuel tanks were carried instead of bombs, and cruising speeds were kept to around 250km/h (155 mph). The common bomb load on long-range missions was just four 250kg (551 lb.) bombs.
In mid-1941 a change of tactics occurred. The Fw 200 crews were instructed not to attack, and to evade all combat unless unavoidable. The Condors were used solely to report allied shipping movements. To guide the U-boats to the convoys, Condors would shadow them and transmit a direction finding signal, but they did not directly communicate with the submarines. This was a more effective use of the available numbers, and it also helped to conserve the aircraft: Production was low, and some Fw 200s were diverted to other roles, notably VIP transports. But worse was to come. On September 20, 1941 a Condor was lost when it attacked a convoy escorted by HMS Audacity, the first escort carrier. During the second voyage of the carrier, four Condors were shot down. Although the Audacity was primitive, and soon sunk by U-751, it announced the beginning of the end. The vulnerable Condor was increasingly confronted by enemy fighters, Fulmars or Sea Hurricanes based on catapult-equipped merchant ships (CAM ships), merchant ships with small flight decks (MAC ships), or small escort carriers.
In late 1942 the Condors were recalled to be used as transports on the Eastern front, during the Battle of Stalingrad. They later returned to the Atlantic coast, but only a few continued to serve as maritime reconnaissance aircraft. In this role, the Condor was now being replaced by the Ju 290. The Fw 200s returned to anti-shipping strikes. For this purpose, the Fw 200C-6 and C-8 were equipped with the Henschel Hs 293A anti-ship missile, but the type’s career was clearly over. The Condor served until the end of the war, but mainly as a transport aircraft. Production ceased in early 1944, after the Luftwaffe had received 263 out of a total production of 276.
Revell-Germany’s Fw 200 Condor is injection molded in pale grey-green and consists of 211 parts, including 25 clear plastic parts for the gondola, gun turret, cockpit and defensive armament stations. This kit, initially released in 2010, is no re-issue of Revell’s venerable 1965 rendition of the Condor, but a completely re-tooled kit replete with engraved panel lines, detailed and delicate molding of the control surfaces, highly detailed cockpit and rear cabin interior, as well as a detailed quartet of radial engines with an option for open cowlings. Cockpit features include detailed seats and twin control yokes, and both engraved detail and raised relief for realistic looking instrument panels. There is also a separately molded side door for the rear cabin.
The landing gear are exquisitely detailed but quite delicate; the main gear in particular will require special care in handling as the struts are extremely thin and at a glance, appear capable of breaking easily. The fuselage interior bears internal ribbed detail in the cockpit and rear cabin areas, and the glazing over the cockpit includes an option for open hatches directly over the pilot and copilot’s seats. The parts for the gondola, with the exception of its doors, are entirely clear plastic, and the gondola’s bomb bay doors for one of the three 250 kg bombs comprise a single part which will have to be cut in half along its engraved center panel line to depict them in the open position.
The kit markings are made in Italy and appear to be of good quality, but they have a flat sheen which may concern some modelers, as this can affect the final look of the decals once applied and treated. It may be necessary to lay down a slightly heavier than normal clear gloss layer with the airbrush once the decals are applied, to ensure that “painted on” look. A light misting of clear flat lacquer afterwards can prevent it from looking too glossy. Markings are provided for two versions. The first machine is an Fw 200C-4 of 9./KG 40, based at Avard, France in the Summer of 1944; it sports a splinter camouflage scheme of RLM 72 dark green/RLM 73 green over RLM 65 hellblau (light blue). The second is an Fw 200C-4 of 7./KG 40, based out of Norway in the Spring of 1945; it bears a mottled camouflage pattern using the same colors, RLM 72 dark green/RLM 73 green, with RLM 65 under surfaces.
This is an excellent kit of the Condor. The new tooling is predictably and pleasingly a quantum leap above Revell’s 1965 release of this kit. My only cautionary note would be the finish on the decals, which I expected to have a least a semi-gloss finish. Overall, this kit is well worth what may be considered a hefty asking price of $40.00. Highly recommended.
- The Focke-Wulf Fw 200: Profile Publications Number 99, Copyright 1966