If ever there was to be an effective weapon
that could be termed as being successful as well as deadly, it would have
to be the Junkers Ju87, known to Germans as the Sturzkampfbomber, and better
known to the English as a dive-bomber or better still a "Stuka". No other
aircraft can make claim to the number of ships sunk and also it ranks second
to the number of enemy tanks destroyed during times of warfare.
The Junkers Ju87 was an attacking aircraft.
Normally carrying one 250 kg bomb (later 500 kg ) under the fuselage and
up to four 50kg bombs under the wings, a formation of Ju87 "Stuka" dive
bombers became a deadly cocktail, flying directly overhead their target,
then dive bombing at an angle of almost 90 degrees. During the campaigns
in Spain, Poland, the Low Countries these deadly formations were devastating,
but over the English Channel during the Battle of Britain they could not
compete against the superior Hurricane and Spitfire and they ceased to
become the attacking force that they were so well known for, and became
the victims themselves.
Although a technique of dive bombing
existed during the First World War, there was no aircraft designed primarily
for this purpose. The first known aircraft designed for the purpose of
dive bombing was the Junkers K47 which was being developed during the mid
1920's, and which flew for the first time in March 1928. It is believed
that of the fourteen built, two remained in Germany while twelve were sold
the China. Continuing research showed that such aircraft would be an effective
weapon when working in close support of ground forces. Advances would be
far more effective if concentrated aerial bombardment could pave the way
for mechanized troops and infantry and Germany made the decision to manufacture
aircraft suited for this role. In 1933, Henschel developed the Hs123 while
Junkers continued development of the K47.
Where the Hs123 was a biplane, the Ju87,
developed from the K47 was a single engined monoplane that differed from
all previous Junkers aircraft in that it did not have the corrugated ribbed
metal stressed skin appearance. Looking very similar to the "Stuka' of
the 1940's, the prototype had a fixed undercarriage and the gull-wing appearance
and was powered by a Rolls-Royce Kestrel power plant and made its first
flight in May 1935. Full scale production of the aircraft commenced in
1937. The first variant was the Ju87A-1 and had dive brakes added to the
outer wings, the kestrel engine was replaced by a Jumo 210Ca 640 horsepower
engine which drove a variable pitch three bladed propellor, and a single
tail fin replaced the twin fins of the original design. The Ju87A-1 and
Ju87A-2 (The A-2 differed by having larger fairings over the landing gear
and having a 680 hp Jumo 210Da engine) was delivered to StG163 which saw
action with the legion Condor in Spain and the Gruppen proved very effective.
By early 1939, all the A series were sent to training units and all the
Stukageschwäder were equipped with the more powerful Ju87B series.
These were powered by the Jumo 211A direct injection power plant that produced
1,200hp, had more streamlined spats over the landing gear, and was now
equipped with an automatic dive control.
This automatic dive control was was an
apparatus that was initially set by the pilot, allowing him to choose the
pull out height using a contact altimeter. The whole procedure became necessary
for the pilot to go through about ten different actions with the apparatus
before he opened up the dive brakes under the outer wings. This automatically
commenced the dive action of the aircraft, the pilot adjusting the dive
angle manually by indicator lines painted on the canopy of the aircraft.
the correct line was achieved by aileron control which was usually at about
90 degrees, and the pilot visually seeing his target by the marker on the
canopy. with the aircraft hurtling earthwards directly at the target, a
signal light on the contact altimeter would then come on and the pilot
would press the button on the top of his control column and the pull out
would commence as the bombs left their cradles. The bombs would continue
the same course as the aircraft had during its dive, towards the target
while the pilot would be suffering some 6g as the aircraft levelled out
ready for its climb skywards.
The accuracy of the bombing run was completely
in the hands of the pilot. Its defence were two MG81 belt fed machine guns.
The rear gunner operated a machine gun which was reasonably effective,
but it was the slow top speed of the aircraft and the poor rate of climb
that was to be the downfall of the Ju87. Over combat areas of Europe and
in Spain, they managed to hold their own, but they were no match for the
fast and maneuverable Hurricanes and Spitfires of the RAF. Whole Gruppen
were being destroyed on missions over the English Channel, and the Luftwaffe
had no alternative to withdraw them from operation duties during this period,
although as the war progressed, further variants were produced and the
Ju87 saw service in Europe and in the Mediterranean.
Junkers Ju 87B Stuka Specifications
||Junkers Jumo 211Da 1,400hp
||Approx 195 mph (314 kph)
||Approx 118 mph (190 kph)
|Rate of Climb
||199 miles (320 kms)
||2 x fixed MG81 machine guns
+ 1 removable MG81
||49ft 2½in (15m)
||37ft 8¾in (11.50m)
||12ft 9¼in (3.90m)
||362.6 sq ft (33.69m²)