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From this low altitude, the Condor could search an area of approximately 320x120km (200x75 miles), with several of its crew scanning the horizon with binoculars. In decent weather, which was rare in the Atlantic, the observers might be able to spot a convoy up to 15–20km (10–12 miles) away, but cloud cover could reduce this by half. In 1941, improved Condors with longer range had four hours on-station time, increasing the search area by about 25 percent. When the Condors gained a search-radar capability with the FuG 200 Hohentwiel radar in December 1942 and their on-station endurance doubled, their search area increased to nearly four times the size it had been in 1940.

Around 1937, Petersen became a member of Oberstleutnant Theodor Rowehl’s special long-range reconnaissance unit and participated in covert missions around Great Britain and in the Baltic. In the years before radar was operational, Rowehl successfully used civilian airliners and pilots working for the Luftwaffe to penetrate foreign airspace and photograph naval bases and other potential targets. Fliegerkorps as a maritime reconnaissance specialist. With this background, Petersen was a natural choice to lead the first Fw 200 Condor unit when it was formed in October 1939.

These makeshift weapons were all dismal failures and never claimed a Condor or seriously interfered with KG 40’s anti-shipping attacks. However, it was the widespread installation of 20mm Oerlikons on convoys in 1942 that provided effective defense against low-level strikes. The Oerlikon had the range and muzzle velocity to engage Condors out to 2,000m and its API-T ammunition was perfect for setting the Fw 200’s vulnerable fuel tanks ablaze. The Condors regained some immunity with mid-level attacks in 1943 but this was soon redressed by the 40mm Bofors gun, which could engage aircraft up to 3,000m.

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Air Defense Weapons by John Nicholas


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