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Junkers Ju 87 (Stuka) Dive Bomber / Assault Aircraft (1937)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 3/25/2014

Performance limitations aside, the Ju 87 Stuka was an effectively devastating weapon for the German Luftwaffe.

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Before the Allies would gain air superiority over the skies of France and Germany, the Junkers Ju 87 "Stuka" dive bomber would reign supreme. The system, for a time, became the terror of both civilian and soldier alike, as the screaming howl of its "Jericho Trumpet" sirens filled the sky with a shriek before letting lose with the aircraft's payload. In essence, the dive bomber was, for the first time, being used to critical effect - an almost forecasting of the capabilities of today's direct-strike precision bombing.

The Ju 87 grew out of four similar prototypes fitted with slightly different powerplants and airframes. The final of the four prototypes of the Ju 87 V1 series would end up as the official and initial production models for service with the German Luftwaffe. The system, among other weapons and tactics, would be utilized to stunning effectiveness with Germany's participation in the Spanish Civil War - these particular Stukas would be flown by the famed "Condor Legion" from 1938-1939.

Once the invasion of Europe was in full swing, the Stukas appeared over the skies of Poland in the invasion of that country, laying waste to both military and civilian targets. The weapon earned its deadly reputation early on due to its ability to precision strike at will. The stage would ultimately be set for the Battle of Britain, where countless Ju 87 Stukas would be thrown into the fray.

The Battle of Britain exposed various performance and capability issues with the Ju 87 Stuka. British aircraft were capable of attacking the system at will unless the Ju 87 was supported by escort craft. As a result, the Ju 87's were temporarily withdrawn from aggressive service in the battle after heavy losses began to mount.

Not to be outdone, the Ju 87 was refined in the Ju 87D model and posted to the East Front and the North African Campaigns just a year later. The Ju 87G model was then conceived of as a "tank buster" and armed with twin 37mm cannons. This system would provide some much needed success to the series in what would later prove to be one of the most successful aircraft designs of the war.

The Ju 87 was crewed by a pilot and a rear-gunner situated in a rear cockpit position. The gunner maintained a twin-7.92mm machine gun arrangement and was charged mostly with defending the aircraft from rear-approaching aggressors. The Stuka flew with gears fixed in the down position and flaps were extracted when the bomber would enter into a dive.

To put the value of this war machine in perspective, Luftwaffe pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel would be credited with the downing of three major Allied navy ships - a battleship, a destroyer and a cruiser - on top of another 519 armored vehicles (mostly Allied tanks) destroyed. To that end, interest in dive bombing increased on the side of the Allies, resulting in several successful tries at such a weapon. In all, production of the Ju 87 Stuka series numbered some 5,709 aircraft in various makes and models making it one of the most recognizable of all the German aircraft - if not by name then by visual appearance.

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Specifications for the
Junkers Ju 87 (Stuka)
Dive Bomber / Assault Aircraft


Focus Model: Junkers Ju 87D-1 (Stuka)
Country of Origin: Nazi Germany
Manufacturer: Junkers - Germany
Initial Year of Service: 1937
Production: 5,752


Crew: 2


Length: 37.73ft (11.5m)
Width: 45.28ft (13.80m)
Height: 12.80ft (3.90m)
Weight (Empty): 8,598lbs (3,900kg)
Weight (MTOW): 14,551lbs (6,600kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Jumo 211J-1 inverted-V piston engine generating 1,400hp.


Maximum Speed: 255mph (410kmh; 221kts)
Maximum Range: 954miles (1,535km)
Service Ceiling: 23,917ft (7,290m; 4.5miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet per minute (0m/min)


Hardpoints: 2 or 3 (underwing and under-fuselage)
Armament Suite:
2 x 7.92mm forward-facing machine guns
2 x 7.92mm machine guns in rear-facing cockpit

Maximum external bombload of up to 3,968lbs including iron bombs under fuselage or wing positions, 2 x 37mm underwing anti-tank cannons and anti-personnel munitions.


Variants:
Ju 87 V1 - Prototype Model fitted with Rolls-Royce Kestrel V inline engine generating 640hp; endplate vertical surfacing; One of this type produced; second prototypes (2 constructed) fitted with Junkers Jumo 210Aa inline engine generating 610hp; fourth prototype featured increased vertical tail surface; this last prototype became base model for production series.


Ju 87A - Base Production Model of the fourth Ju 87 V1 prototype; fitted with Jumo 210C engine generating 640hp; 210 of this model produced.

Ju 87B - Fitted with Jumo 211D at 1,200hp; features included spats replacing the wheel farings and larger canopy.

Ju 87D - Official dive bomber and ground attack model fitted with Jumo 211J at 1,410hp engine; revised canopy and engine cowling, increased vertical tail surfacing, improved armament and redesigned landing gears.

Ju 87G - Anti-tank derivative featuring 2 x 37mm underwing cannons.

Ju 87H - Trainer variant based on the Ju 87D model but fitted with dual control systems.

Ju 87R - Long-range anti-shipping variant based on the Ju 87B model.


Operators:
Bulgaria; Croatia; Czechoslovakia; Nazi Germany; Hungary; Italy; Japan; Romania; Slovak Republic; United Kingdom; United States; Yugoslavia