The arrival of the Focke Wulf 190 on the Channel coast during the late summer of 1941 was a game-changer in terms of air fighting. Now, the RAF needed to urgently get their hands on a specimen for evaluation purposes, and so Operation ‘Airthief’ was hatched. As Andy Saunders explains, events rather overtook an audacious plan to steal one.
When Hptm. Walter Adolph’s II Gruppe, JG.26, took delivery of its first Focke Wulf 190 around 7 August 1941, the aircraft over which RAF intelligence had fretted was finally in service. Once initial glitches were sorted, and the Gruppe’s pilots had been familiarised with operating the type, it didn’t take long for the aircraft to be declared operational. By mid-September of that year they were in action, and the RAF’s desire to get their hands on an example for evaluation intensified.