The Messerschmitt Autogyro
In the summer of 1940 the Kriegsmarine issued a request for an aircraft capable to defend its surface ships against enemy air attack. As Germany didn’t have any carriers available, the first thought was of a catapult launched aircraft which would ditch into the sea at the end of its mission. This idea was more or less similar to the use of the Hurricane as a catapult launched fighter by the British navy.
Proposals were made for catapult launched Messerschmitt Me-109’s and Heinkel He-112 fighters. The big drawback of this scheme was the loss of the aircraft after the mission and the risk for the pilots involved.
A number of engineers from Focke Wulf proposed a different approach. The company had gained a large experience with autogyro’s in the thirties by the license production of the Cierva autogyro. The formulated a proposal for a autogyro fighter based on the Messerschmitt Me-109E fighter. The Kriegsmarine showed sufficient interest in the scheme for Focke Wulf to decide to decide to go ahead with the project and construct a prototype. The internal designation for this aircraft within the company was Me-109K (for Kriegsmarine). Had the fighter gone into production, the official designation would have been Focke Wulf Fw-169A.
The Messerschmitt company provided to Focke Wulf for the structural changes necessary for this project.
In September 1940 a standard production Me-109 E-3 was taken from the factory and delivered to Focke Wulf for conversion. The Messerschmitt company designated this machine the Me-109 V-27. Since this was a private project of the Focke Wulf company, the machine received a civil registration D-IRTW.
The wings were clipped just outboard of the wheel wells. This meant that the wing mounted machine guns were deleted too. Only the two machine guns over engine remained. A auto rotating rotor was fixed to a stand over the cockpit. A drive shaft was coupled to the rear of the DB601 engine to provide an initial rotation of the rotor blades at take-off. Because of this the engine mounted canon had to be deleted.
The rest of the airframe remained unchanged.
The first attempted flight was made on January 26th 1941. The engine was started and the aircraft began to taxi. No attempt was made to kick-start the rotor-blades via the drive shaft. During taxiing however a gust of crosswind tilted the aircraft on its narrow undercarriage and the rotor hit the ground, shattering on impact.
After repairs were made, a further attempt was made on February 21st. After a short take-off run the aircraft rose about 20 feet into the air. At this height the pilot reduced the throttle and the aircraft settled down gently.
During March more flights were made. The kick-start mechanism was also successfully tested. The flight performance was disappointing however. The top speed was no higher than 250mph. At higher speeds attained during dives there was a very severe rotor vibration.
Visibility from the cockpit was severely restricted by the construction supporting the rotor and the drive shaft directly in front of the pilot.
Several rotor configurations were tested, including three and four bladed rotors but the problem was never really solved. Also the aircraft was very sensitive to gusty winds, something which made it very difficult to envisage a successful operation from a ship at sea.
Since the performance was too low to form an effective protection for ships at sea, the project was cancelled in November 1941. The sole prototype was scrapped.
Before the cancellation of the project a number of versions had been envisaged:
Fw-192A: Ship borne fighter powered by a DB601N, armed with two engine mounted machine guns.
Fw-192B: Similar to “A” but with an additional gun pod under the fuselage with three MG FF machine guns
Fw-192C: Almost completely new design with a BMW-801 engine and a wide track undercarriage