To look at, the Junkers Ju88 looks clumsy
and and all out of proportion. But as it was shown during the period of
the Second World War, it was perhaps one of the most versatile aircraft
of the period. It was first designed back in 1936 as a "Schnellbomber"
a fast daylight bomber and surprisingly had its first flight in that same
year and was soon to display its superior performance. With the demise
of Professor Junkers, the engineers saw the potential of this fast medium
bomber and felt that still improvements could be made that Germany could
produce an outstanding aircraft. Knowing the advantages of tactical dive
bombing, with the pilot aiming the aircraft at the target, tests were carried
out after dive brakes had been fitted. It was to prove that the Ju88 could
add another advantage over other bombers that had been produced in Germany
at the time.
Prior to the outbreak of the Second World
War, five variants had been produced but the Ju88 never saw service in
any of the early campaigns such as the Spanish Civil War or the invasion
of Poland, but tests were still being carried out during this period. By
March 1939, a fifth variant managed a speed of 517km per hour (321.2 mph)
over a 1.000 kilometre (621 miles) test and with a payload of 2,000 kilograms
(4409 pounds), set a record for a bomber of its type. When war did eventually
break out in September 1939, the Ju88A-1 was at last to enter service although
the first recorded mission was not flown until late in that month.
The introduction of the Ju88 was to boost
the strength of Germany's bomber forces which already had He111 and Do17
bombers already in service. The Ju88 was heavier than both the Dornier and the
Heinkel, but even with a bombload of two 500 or 250 kilogram bombs under
each wing, and twenty eight 50 kilogram bombs stored internally, the two
1,200 hp Jumo 211B engines made it faster than the other two bombers.
Although the Ju88 had an extensive array of machine guns for defensive
purposes, two in the rear fusalage, one underneath, one in the cockpit
and even one that could be operated by the pilot. The main problem was
that all forward machine guns had to be operated by the Flight Engineer
with the exception of the pilots gun. Impressive enough, it was adequate
in operations over northern France, but against the much faster Hurricanes
and Spitfires during the Battle of Britain that had been developed to superior
standards it was to prove inneffective against the British fighters as
casualty lists were later to prove. One of the aircrew of the Ju88 was the Flight Engineer who had the task of operating and firing four machine guns, always having to jump from one gun to another. This was possibly one of the worst faults of the Ju88 which was never improved.
The Ju88 gained success in the raids on
radar stations where it proved that its dive bombing capablities were to
prove successful. In many massed raids, the attrition rate was not to the
proportions of the He111 and Do17, this was possibly due to the fact that
when under attack, the Ju88 could break into as dive at considerable speed.
This was proved in a number of mass attacks by Ju88s during the Battle of Britain. One of the most successful of the Luftwaffe raids was and attack on Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight on August 12th 1940. They managed to carry out their attack successfully, then if they were intercepted by Britsh fighters as they were on this occasion, they were able to dive at high speed thus evading contact with the fighters.
The Ju88 remained unchanged during the Battle of Britain. But the following year the Ju88C was introduced and with its three MG machine guns mounted in the modified solid nose, as well as a 20mm Cannon, and two MG15 machine guns able to be fired from the fusalge it made the Ju88 almost a fighter rather than a bomber. Other variants included the Ju88D which was a long range recconnaissence aircraft, the Ju88 G was primarily developed for the night fighter role, and the Ju88H which had a lengthened fusalage and had an increased fuel capacity had to further variants, one as a fighter and the other as a reconnaissence aircraft.
As the war continued, and the British fighters became faster, more manoeverable and better armed, the Luftwaffe suffered badly. But still the Ju88 could claim that its losses were far less than that of the Heinkel and the Dornier. In all, over 15,000 Ju88s were built during the 1939-1945 war, and many historians claim that had more Ju88s been built and used during the Battle of Britain and in the Blitz on London, damage would have been far greater than it was.
Junkers Ju 88 Specifications
||Medium range bomber
||Junkers Jumo 211B 1,200hp
||Approx 286 mph @ 16,000
||Approx 239 mph
|Rate of Climb
||5,510 lbs (max)
||6 x 7.9mm machine guns (2
more lateral guns were added later)
||59 feet 10¾inch
||47 feet 1 inch
||15 feet 5 inch
||540 square feet