Aircraft of the Luftwaffe
Junkers Ju 87 Stuka
Messerschmitt Bf109E       Messerschmitt Bf110
Junkers Ju88        Heinkel He111       Dornier Do17

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
Type Anti-Tank Aircraft/Anti-Shipping Strike Aircraft
Power Plant Junkers Jumo 211Da 1,400hp
Unladen weight 9,700lbs (4400Kg)
Laden weight 14,550lbs (6600Kg)
Max Speed  Approx 195 mph (314 kph)
Cruising Speed Approx 118 mph (190 kph)
Rate of Climb Not known
Max range 199 miles (320 kms)
Service Ceiling Not known
Armament  2 x fixed MG81 machine guns + 1 removable MG81
Wingspan 49ft 2½in (15m)
Length 37ft 8¾in (11.50m)
Height 12ft 9¼in (3.90m)
Wing Area 362.6 sq ft (33.69m²)

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