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Junkers JU 87 Stuka

Junkers JU 87 Stuka

The Stuka Dive Bomber

The Junkers 87 was known as the Stuka dive bomber. The Junkers 87 first saw action in the Blitzkrieg attack on Poland in September 1939.

Ju 87 Bs over Poland, September/October 1939

The Stuka was the most famous of all planes used by the Germans as a sturzka mfflugzeug (dive bomber). Against a poorly equipped enemy, the Junkers 87 did well with its pinpoint bombing accuracy.

Against a more formidable opponent, such as the Spitfire and Hurricane during the Battle of Britain, it did not do as well.

Ju 87 was Ugly, Sturdy, Accurate yet Vulnerable

The Stuka was designed strictly as an army cooperation dive bomber at the urging of General Ernst Udet.

The Ju 87 was a two-man (pilot and rear gunner); It was ugly but sturdy and accurate. But unfortunately the lack of speed and the fact that it was instantly recognizable with its inverted gull-wings, and fixed undercarriage made it vulnerable to enemy fighters.

Junkers Jumo 211 inverted V12 power-plant on an aircraft undergoing repair (North Africa, 1941)

The Germans learned in the Battle of Britain that its use demanded air superiority. It was too slow, unmaneuverable and underarmed, but its effectiveness in destroying vehicles, fortifications or ships, or just scaring people, was undoubted.

Its accuracy was high when in a full dive that was up to 80 degrees. Once the bomb was released it used an automatic pull-up system to ensure that the plane pulled out of the dive even if the pilot blacked out from the high G forces.

Ju 87 diving procedure

The Germans fitted the wheel covers with sirens that were used once the planes went into a dive to shatter the morale of enemy troops and civilians.

By the end of the war, more than 5,700 Stukas had been built.

Nicknamed Sturzkampfflugzeug in German

Junkers 87 Stuka gotits nickname from the German word Sturzkampfflugzeug or dive bomber. The idea for a dive-bomber first started in 1934.

The first prototype was powered by a Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine but due to a design fault (a double rear fin), the plane crashed. The next prototypes had a Junkers Jumo 201A engine fitted.

When war broke out on September 1st 1939, the Luftwaffe had 336 Stuka dive bombers available. In the initial phases of the war, the Stuka proved to be extremely effective at pin point bombing of a target.

By diving nearly directly onto its target, the Ju 87 guarantee a direct hit and its tell-tale gullwings gave it this ability to dive at such a steep angle. Straight wings would have been ripped off by the sheer force put on them.

Ju 87B-2 Stuka dive bomber

The Downfall of the Stuka

However, the shape, so effective in Poland and Western Europe, was to be its downfall as it hindered its speed when confronted with faster enemy fighter planes in the Battle of Britain.

The 255 mph (410 km/h) Stuka was no match for the Spitfire or Hurricane and suffered so many losses that it was withdrawn from campaigns in Western Europe for the rest of the war.

It did make an initial impact on the radar bases right on the British southern coastline. But once it had to venture further inland, its lack of speed and manoeuvrability showed up and many were shot down.

Junkers Ju 87D dive bombers over Yugoslavia, October 1943. SG 3 (Fighter-Bomber Wing 3)

When used in Operation Barbarossa, the Stuka had many successes, but again, it was up against an ineffective enemy. But by the time of the Russian advance in 1943, it was no match for the Stormaviks and other Russian fighter planes (including Hurricanes sent out in the Arctic convoys).

For a short period of time, the Stuka proved a very successful tank buster on the Eastern Front but this version again fell victim to more advanced and faster Russian fighter planes.

Wings of the Luftwaffe – Ju-87 – Stuka
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