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Junkers Ju 388 (Stortebeker)

Multi-Role Heavy Fighter Aircraft

Nazi Germany | 1944

"Roughly 100 of the Junkers Ju 388 multi-role heavy fighters were produced before the end of World War 2 in 1945."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 06/02/2017 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The Junkers Ju 88 became a workhorse medium bomber for the German Luftwaffe during World War 2 (1939-1945). The type emerged in the mid-1930s to fulfill a standing requirement for a fast bomber and went on to find tremendous success in the conflict - outfitted in a myriad of ways to fulfill a myriad of roles. The type flew as a level bomber, dive bomber, reconnaissance platform, tank-buster, heavy fighter, and night-fighter during the course of its wartime service life.

In 1943, a greater Allied commitment to the bombing campaign soon pushed new requirements for the Luftwaffe. A charge was laid down for a new fast bomber / heavy fighter with good performance at high altitude and capable of carrying a useful payload. Part of the driving force of this new design were rumors emerging from the United States of a new high-altitude heavy bomber - this to become the Boeing B-29 "Superfortress". With cabin pressurization, advanced systems, and a hefty bomb load, the B-29 severely threatened the German war effort and required a direct counter to be at the ready.

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This provided the impetus for a new Junkers design based on the classic Ju 88 airframe. From this aircraft was also evolved the Ju 188 which served as a useful tactical bomber and reconnaissance platform from February 1943 onward and was produced to the tune of 1,234 aircraft. Junkers engineers modified a Ju 188T-0 for high altitude work and three prototypes followed, each mimicking a special mission version - photographic reconnaissance, night-fighter, and general bomber. Cabin pressurization assured high altitudes were reachable. The twin engine arrangement of the Ju 88/Ju 188 were retained and heavy glazing was used at the cockpit to promote excellent vision. The defensive armament featured in early Junker bomber marks were removed as a weight-saving measure. To cover the aircraft's critical "six" position, a remote-controlled turret fitting 2 x 13mm MG 131 heavy machine guns was added. The turret was added to the tail section and directed via a periscope arrangement in the cockpit. The standard operating crew numbered between two and three depending on mission type. Power was served through 2 x BMW 801J 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines developing 1,810 horsepower each and maximum speed reached 385 mph with a service ceiling of 44,100 feet. Rate-of-climb equaled 1,240 feet per minute.

Three primary production models were finalized, these as Ju 388J, Ju 388K, and Ju 388L. The J-model featured 2 x 20mm MG 151/20 series cannons along with 2 x 30mm MK 103 or MK 108 30mm cannons in a fixed, forward-firing underfuselage gun pod. This was in addition to the 2 x 13mm MG 131 machine guns carried in the remote turret at the rear. The design was intended as the definitive heavy fighter model and could be further outfitted with the necessary equipment and armament to undertake night-fighting sorties. The K-model held 2 x 13mm MG 131 machine guns in the remote turret as standard and could manage a bomb load of up to 6,615 lb - to serve in the medium bomber role. The L-model featured just the 2 x 13mm machine guns in the tail turret, the rest of its onboard storage used for camera equipment in the reconnaissance role.

Ju 388M was a proposed torpedo bomber model based on the Ju 388K general bomber model. This design was not significantly furthered.

The Ju 388 carried the name of "Stortebeker", named after one Klaus Stortebeker (1360-1400), a privateer of Wismar in Northern Germany.

First flight of the series was recorded on December 22nd, 1943. Controls were deemed good and improved some over the original Ju 88 and Ju 188 offerings. With further testing and some revisions pressed, the aircraft was formally adopted into service with the definitive production models becoming the Ju 388L airframe. This was decided upon when it became apparent that the B-29 would first be committed to the Pacific Theater against the Japanese mainland and not over Europe as originally expected by the Germans. Six total prototypes and 20 L-0 pre-production vehicles formed the Ju 388 finalization process. First-batch production became 10 x Ju 388K-0 models. 1944 saw 46 Ju 388L-1 aircraft completed with some eight or more following in 1945. Exact total production numbers proved elusive in the post-war years though it is believed that around 100 total Ju 388s were completed.

Availability of the Ju 388 over the fluid European fronts were scarce and only a few sorties are thought to have been undertaken before the end of the European side of the war completed in May of 1945. The series was primarily used in the high-altitude reconnaissance role. In at least one recorded action, a sole Ju 388 fell to the guns of a high-flying Supermarine "Spitfire" fighter who brought down the marauding aircraft over English Channel airspace from underneath (it could not match the Ju 388s altitude).

At least five German squadrons featured the Ju 388 at some point in the war. Nachtjagdgeschwader 2 managed four preproduction models. The Ju 388 - along with other more advanced German aircraft of the war - may also have had its blueprints sent to Japan for serial production - though none were realized by war's end. Captured German Ju 388 examples were tested at length by the Allies following the war. The Smithsonian Institution (National Air Museum) holds one airframe in storage awaiting restoration for proposed display at the Udvar-Hazey Center.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Junkers Ju 388J Multi-Role Heavy Fighter Aircraft.
2 x BMW 801J 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines developing 1,800 horsepower each.
383 mph
616 kph | 333 kts
Max Speed
44,094 ft
13,440 m | 8 miles
Service Ceiling
1,240 ft/min
378 m/min
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Junkers Ju 388J Multi-Role Heavy Fighter Aircraft.
53.4 ft
16.29 m
O/A Length
72.2 ft
(22.00 m)
O/A Width
14.3 ft
(4.35 m)
O/A Height
22,928 lb
(10,400 kg)
Empty Weight
32,353 lb
(14,675 kg)
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Junkers Ju 388 (Stortebeker) Multi-Role Heavy Fighter Aircraft .
Ju 388J:
2 x 20mm MG 151/20 cannons
2 x 30mm MK 103 OR MK 108 cannons in underfuselage gunpack.
2 x 13mm MG 131 heavy machine guns in remote-controlled tail turret.

Ju 388K:
2 x 13mm MG 131 heavy machine guns in remote-controlled tail turret.
Up to 6,600lbs of internal stores.

Ju 388L:
2 x 13mm MG 131 heavy machine guns in remote-controlled tail turret.
Notable series variants as part of the Junkers Ju 388 (Stortebeker) family line.
Ju 388 - Base Series Designation
Ju 388J - Heavy Fighter / Night Fighter Variant
Ju 388K - High-Altitude Bomber Variant
Ju 388L - Photographic-Reconnaissance Variant
Ju 388M - Based on Ju 388K model; proposed torpedo bomber variant; never produced.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Junkers Ju 388 (Stortebeker). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 100 Units

Contractor(s): Junkers - Nazi Germany
National flag of modern Germany National flag of Nazi Germany

[ Nazi Germany ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (383mph).

Graph Average of 300 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
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Image of the Junkers Ju 388 (Stortebeker)
Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Junkers Ju 388 (Stortebeker) Multi-Role Heavy Fighter Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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