Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau AG was a German manufacturer of military aircraft
used by the Luftwaffe during World War II. Many of the company's
successful fighter aircraft designs were slight modifications of the
Focke-Wulf Fw 190.
The company was founded in Bremen on 23rd October 1923 as Bremer
Flugzeugbau AG by Prof. Heinrich Focke, Georg Wulf and Dr. Werner Neumann.
Almost immediately, they renamed it Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau AG. Initially
it produced several commercially unsuccessful aircraft, typically with
thick wings mounted high over bulky fuselages. Test piloting one of these,
Georg Wulf died on 29th September 1927.
In 1931, under government pressure, Focke-Wulf merged with with
Albatros-Flugzeugwerke of Berlin. The resourceful engineer and test pilot
Kurt Tank from Albatros became head of the technical department. He
immediately started work on the Fw 44, the company's first commercially
successful design, launched in 1934.
The first fully controllable helicopter (as opposed to autogyro) was the
Focke-Wulf Fw 61, demonstrated by test pilot Hanna Reitsch in 1936 in
Berlin. In 1937 shareholders ousted Heinrich Focke, and he founded, with
Gerd Achgelis, Focke Achgelis to specialise in helicopters. Meanwhile Tank
had designed and produced the passenger-carrying Fw 200 "Condor", which
could fly the Atlantic non-stop.
The Fw 190 Würger (butcher-bird), designed from 1938 on, and produced in
quantity from early 1941 to 1945, was a mainstay single-seat fighter for
the Luftwaffe during World War II.
Other Focke-Wulf military aircraft included
Fw 159 prototype fighter (never went into full production)
Fw 187 Falke (Falcon) heavy fighter
Fw 189 ground-attack
Fw 200 Condor transport and maritime patrol-bomber
Ta 152 fighter based on the Fw 190D but with longer wings
From 1940 the Focke-Wulf premises in Bremenwere naturally a British
bombing target; this had been foreseen and buildings were bomb-hardened.
Mass production moved to plants in eastern Germany and Poland, using many
foreign and forced labourers, and from 1944 also prisoners of war. Only
office personnel remained in Bremen.
As part of Germany's military-industrial machine, Focke-Wulf was not
allowed to continue production for several years at the end of the war.
Kurt Tank, like many other German technicians, continued his professional
life in Latin America. The Argentine Government offered him a job at its
aerotechnical institute, the Instituto Aerotécnico in Córdoba. He moved
there, with many of his Focke-Wulf co-workers, in 1947.
The Instituto Aerotécnico later became Argentina's military aeroplane
factory, the Fábrica Militar de Aviones. It employed the Focke-Wulf men
until President Juan Peron fell from power in 1955; then they dispersed,
many to the United States, and Tank to work on supersonic aircraft in
Restricted plane production was permitted again in Germany in 1951, and
Focke-Wulf began to make gliders. Production of motorised planes began
again in 1955, with the manufacture of trainer aircraft for the post-war
In 1961, Focke-Wulf, Weserflug and Hamburger Flugzeugbau joined forces in
the Entwicklungsring Nord (ERNO) to develop rockets. Focke-Wulf formally
merged with Weserflug in 1964, becoming Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke (VFW).