The FW190 controversy

Has there been a flight simulator that didn’t have a controversy about the FW190? In War Thunder some have claimed that it’s been an overpowered wrecking machine. In the original IL-2 it was a stall prone, weak damage model, strong damage model, over powered, or underpowered mess depending on who you ask and what their perspective is. The FW190 still has controversy surrounding it in the new generation of IL-2 as well!

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The problems

At various times over the last couple of years, the FW190A-3 model that is in IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad, has had a couple of problems that the community has talked about with a great deal of passion.

Tests by the community showed that the FW190 had issues with climb rate being lower than it should have been at higher altitudes. This started an effort to try and find better information on climb rates and other data associated with it. The climb rate issue was largely solved thanks to new data, however, it also caused a new controversy.

New lift/drag information was found by community members which was used to adjust the FW190s flight model. Unfortunately, that also had an impact on the stall of the FW190. Without getting into the details (some I frankly don’t understand), the FW190s critical angle of attack angle and its overall stall behavior changed. It became much more difficult to put the FW190 in challenging maneuvers without stalling, spinning, or worse.

Players also lamented the return of “the bar”, an infamous problem from the first IL-2, with the armored glass at the front of the FW190. This was a problem before and it is still a problem now and it has to do with the thickness of the glass, light refraction, and modeling aircraft to their blueprints.

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The modeling is really accurately done from what people have been able to determine. The problem is more in the interpretation as the 3D engine does not calculate light refraction and the FW190 has a very thick set of armored glass mounted in the front window. Other types with armored glass have the same problem, however, none are as pronounced as the FW190s is.

As you can see, there are some fairly substantial issues that the community is concerned about.

Understanding why

Like the virtual version of it, the real FW190 has a complex reputation. Reputation is a complicated thing because virtual fliers read about the exploits of real pilots and try and live that experience in the simulator. That always leads to problems but it seems to be more problematic for the FW190 than many.

Designed to be small, lightweight, sturdy and pilot friendly, Kurt Tank’s FW190 design was a stroke of aviation genius creating a fighter and fighter-bomber that served the Luftwaffe well during the war. It was able to pack tremendous firepower in a very small space and had excellent speed. With electrically powered systems and a sophisticated engine control system that made many engine management issues automatic. The FW190 was well liked by its pilots with a comfortable seat, ergonomic controls, and an effective control rod method (eschewing the usual cables) that made controlling the fighter light and easy.

It had some deadly downsides too with a notably violent snap roll stall that surprised and sometimes killed more than few pilots. It also had a higher landing speed than many were previously used to through its wide track undercarriage was a substantial improvement on the Bf109s narrow gear.

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Multi-page disputes that could probably be stuffed into an academic journal have happened on forums for at least a decade worth of my time in the simulator world around the issue of the FW190s maneuverability.

Called a highly responsive and maneuverable fighter by some, a great deal of debate and discussion has taken place around just how agile the Focke Wulf should be and just what agility means. Debate has also surrounded by the relative ease of stick forces in a FW190 versus the Bf109 or Spitfire has also come up. If I were to summarize, I would say that I learned more about how an aircraft flies through the air by reading the debates on this one plane than any other plane that I’ve ever read about.

The reason that the FW190 has proven difficult to simulate from real world to PC flight simulation is complex and multifaceted. I would say that its complex aerodynamics and design along with a legendary reputation that transcends its own history are the two biggest contributors. Where perception meets reality is always a complex debate and none more so than with aircraft with a legendary reputation like the FW190, Spitfire or the P-51 Mustang.

Are fixes coming?

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The answer to that is a resounding ‘probably’.

Word has been passed through the community forums more recently that the developers are once again going to examine the flight model of the FW190 after popular community discussion. Though the discussion has sometimes been less than productive, there is still merit to checking thoroughly through the numbers to see if anything is amiss.

When is this supposed to happen? Likely not for some time as 1CGS is a small team with an active project to develop the new IL-2: Battle of Kuban. When the production team reaches the FW190A-5 they will then be faced with a scenario where they will be modeling not just the A-3 model but also the slightly improved A-5 model and this version will go beyond the Collector Plane into the standard product.

When the developers do reach the period in their production schedule where the FW190A-5 is next in line for production, be sure that they will be looking closely over their flight modeling systems to ensure that both A-3 and the very similar A-5 model are accurately modeled.

My personal take?

Something seems wrong with the FW190A-3 right now. Its an excellent fighter and you can do well with it but its stall seems so aggressive as to take it beyond just a negative attribute into dangerously unfit for certain types of combat. I continue to fly it and learn its vices but it does seem to be extremely challenging to keep in the air under anything but simple flight conditions.

Interestingly, flying the A-3 right now reminds me of flying the FW190A-4/5/8/9 from the first release (version 1.0) of IL-2: Forgotten Battles. A great aircraft hindered by the most sensitive and aggressive of of stalls. History often repeats itself and it does that too in PC flight simulators.

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