Junkers Ju 87 “Stuka”

Believed to be invincible by the Luftwaffe, it was only after the Luftwaffe had superior fighter cover and air superiority was accomplished, for these dive-bombers that this was relevant. Of course in the early years of the air war over Europe there was not much opposition.

The first flight of the (Ju 87V) was early on in 1935: The next pre-production prototype was the (Ju 87A-O) which flew November1936: Number three of the prototypes (Ju87D-1) flew in 1940. The first prototype was powered by a British Rolls–Royce Kestrel engine, designed with a twin tail configuration. During the dive tests the tail collapsed and the aircraft was destroyed. The second prototype was a single tail design and was powered by thee Junkers Jumo 210A (610 hp). Further improvements to the third prototype led to and order of ten Ju87A-O, powered with the Jumo 210Ca engine (640 hp) At the beginning of WW11 the Germans had 336 Ju87B airworthy. Italy (known as the Picchiatello) Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary had numerous Ju 87’s on strength.

Even though production totals were not like some of the more popular aircraft there were still 5,709 built. The Stuka only had fourteen variants of which the Ju87D’s were the last and most popular. They were powered by the Junkers Jumo 211J-1 engine with 12-cylinders and (1,410-hp). The Ju 87B was the first production aircraft to have the Ju 211 engine installed, a great improvement over the Ju 210 engine. This new engine produced almost twice the horsepower of its predecessor. The Ju87B also had an automatic mechanism that pulled the aircraft out of steep dives at a predetermined altitude. The need for this was established by an unfortunate accident. While flying in Spain it was shown that pilots would actually black out and lose control of their airplane while attempting to pull up from a steep dive. A whole formation of Ju87’s were late in pulling up over misty ground and several hit the ground. Overall, the Ju87 was extremely effective as a close–support, tank buster in the low-lying countries such as Poland, Crete, Greece and parts of the Russian front.

Never has an aircraft had such a physiological effect not only on civilians but, seasoned troops as well. With its “Trumpets of Jerhico”sirens installed on the landing gear spats; this is what caused as much terror on the people as did the bombs, this terrible screaming sound was created while the aircraft was diving. The Ju 87’s were very effective and successful, for the first two years they operated with relative impunity, but only while under fighter protection. It was not until 1940, during the Battle of Britain, that this aircraft’s Achilles heel exposed. They were no match against the Hawker Hurricane or the Supermarine Spitfire. Between August 13 and 18 the Luftwaffe lost 41 Ju87’s during this epic battle It was always thought that this aircraft was invincible and almost legendary, but during this battle the bubble of invincibility was burst for ever.

It was then decided to withdraw the remaining intact aircraft and relocate them to the Eastern Front. In the Eastern Front it was successful in combating the increasing numbers of Russian tanks. The new Ju 87G “flying tank destroyer” was fitted with two massive37-mm cannons. One pilot Hans-Urlech Rudel’s personnel score was an amazing 519 Russian vehicles destroyed. However, for this score there was also a price to pay, as he was shot down 30 times. On each occasion he was shot down by ground fire and not through air combat. He also who flew 2,530 combat missions and continued to lead Stuka formations in daylight after other Strukagruppen units had switched to the Fw–190’s. For the rest of the war the Stuka’s reputation steadily declined as an aircraft to be feared. Eventually it was reduced to the role of skulking on dark nights just above ground.

The last role of the Stuka’s were night harassment patrols, its slow cruising speeds made it easy to avoid attacks by the Allied night fighters. These night forays were conducted usually only on moonlight nights and concentrated on railway stations, troop movements and road transport. Generally one the target was located a flare was dropped and the attack would usually commence. At the end of the War there were no more than 200 operational Ju 87’s left.