The German Luftwaffe of World War 2 (1939-1945) operated several transport types from the Junkers aero-concern, one being the "Ju 290", a further development of the earlier Ju 90 and appeared across sixty-five production examples from work had during 1942 to 1946. Design work is attributed to Konrad Eicholtz and, after a first-flight of the prototype for was had on July 16th, 1942 (by way of Ju 290 V1), service introduction occurred in August of 1942 and the design was used to cover various over-battlefield roles including maritime patrol, general transport, and heavy bomber.
The Ju 390 (detailed elsewhere on this site) became a further evolution of the Ju 290 but never matched its success.
The Ju 90, a Junkers pre-war passenger airliner and itself born from the 1937 Ju 89 heavy bomber prototype (two examples completed), served as the framework for the soon-to-come Ju 290. This aircraft was flown for the first time in August of 1937 and eighteen aircraft followed in production, operated in their civilian guises by Deutsche Lufthansa once introduced in 1938. From this predigree, the Ju 290 would be granted exceptional range for its intended long-range transport role and was selected to succeed the vulnerable Focke-Wulf Fw 200 "Condor" four-engine aircraft in same role (though it failed in this regard).
The initial prototype was Ju 290 V1 with the airframe fashioned for the long-range transport role. This resulted in Ju 290 A-1 production models matching the standard. Following this were airframes completed for the maritime patrol role which were covered by the designation Ju 290A-2 (three under construction A-1s were converted as such) and fielded with radar for over-water work. The Ju 290A-3 added equipment, extra fuel stores, and defensive guns to the mix while Ju 290V-4 differed some in its armament fit. The Ju 290A-5 increased armor protection to vital sections of the airframe and enhanced the defensive gun network while also supporting early-form air-launched missiles. The Ju 290V-6 was completed as a passenger airliner and the Ju 290A-7 of 1944 encompassed thirteen airframes to be used in the long-range reconnaissance role. A single A-7 model was made to serve as Hitler's personal transport and delivered in 1944 but never officially used by the German leader and the airframe was bombed where it was parked in Munich-Riem airport.
High-altitude bomber forms were covered by B-1 and B-2, though the latter was never completed / fielded.
The general arrangement of the aircraft was quite conventional given the period. The cockpit sat over a glazed nose cone assembly with a commanding view of the terrain ahead. The fuselage proved tubular in its shaping, with windows running along each side, and the mainplanes were mounted low along the sides, tapering towards the tips and each member holding a pair of engine nacelles. The mainplanes were positioned just ahead of midships for proper balance of the aircraft. The tail unit comprised split horizontal planes, each capped by vertical fins.
Dimensions included an overall length of 94 feet, a wingspan of 137.9 feet, and a height of 22.4 feet. Empty weight was 53,000lb and MTOW reached 99,150lb.
Internally, a crew of nine was typically carried though this could depend entirely on battlefield role. As a bomber, the frame could support up to 6,600lb of drop stores and, eventually, three of the "Fritz X" or Henschel Hs 293 radio-guided air-launched missiles. When equipped, the radar fit was the FiG 200 "Hohentwiel" series unit.
For self-defense, the aircraft could carry a collection of machine guns and cannon. The typical configuration involved 2 x 20mm MG151/20 or MG151/15 automatic cannons in dorsal turrets, 2 x 20mm MG151/20 cannons at beam/waist positions (one cannon per fuselage side), 1 x 20mm or 30mm automatic cannon in a forward ventral gondola, 2 x 13mm MG131 Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) in rear ventral gondola, and 1 x 20mm MG151/20 automatic cannon at the tail. Theoretically, this left the bomber well-defended against intercepting fighters fielded by the enemy.
In wartime service, the aircraft was pressed into action as soon as it became available - such was the situation for Germany in 1942-1943. The series performed admirably considering the circumstances and its versatility shown through the various roles it was pressed into. In the post-war world, the Ju 290 managed an extended service life though limited by the numbers available. One example, having been interned during the war by Spain, was used by the Spanish Air Force for a time until it could no longer be supported by the service (this occurring around May 1957). Czechoslovakia held a single Ju 290 which was converted to airliner form but not used as such. The Americans evaluated at least three examples after the war while a Ju 290 A-5 variant was captured in Tripoli, Greece by advancing Allied forces, evaluated by the British Royal Air Force (RAF), and ultimately left in Greek possession post-war.
Like other German aircraft, the Ju 290 was briefly considered for a "Zwilling" ("twin") modification which intended to pair two Ju 290 airframes by way of a shared midplane section - producing an extremely-long-range platform for reconnaissance / bombing work complete with eight total engines between them. In addition to this, the Messerschmitt Me 328 was to be carried as a point-defense "parasite" fighter though the ambitious project never materialized beyond the paper stage. The mammoth Ju 390 offshoot was a six-engined heavy bomber form, a direct development of the Ju 290, and intended for Hitler's "Amerika Bomber" program. Two Ju 390s were built but only one flown before the war came to a close.
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Junkers - Nazi Germany Manufacturer(s)
Czechoslovakia (single example, post-war); Greece (single example, post-war); Nazi Germany; Spain (post-war) Operators
Design utilizes a single primary wing mainplane; this represents the most popular modern mainplane arrangement.
Mainplanes are low-mounted along the sides of the fuselage.
The planform involves use of basic, straight mainplane members.
The planform uses straight mainplane members which taper towards the wing tips.
4 x BMW 801G / H 14-cylinder radial piston engines developing 1,700 horsepower each driving three-bladed propeller units. Propulsion
1 x 20mm MG 151/20 cannons in forward dorsal turret.
1 x 20mm MG 151/20 cannons in aft dorsal turret.
1 x 20mm MG 151/20 cannon in tail position.
1 x MG 151/20 cannon OR 1 x 30mm MK 103 automatic cannon in ventral gondola position.
2 x 13mm MG 131 heavy machine guns in ventral gondola position.
Up to 6,600 lb of conventional drop ordnance / drop bombs.
Some airframes used in the delivery of "Fritz X" / Henschel Hs 293 radio-guided, air-launched missiles.
Ju 290 - Base Series Designation.
Ju 290 V1 - Initial prototype of 1942.
Ju 290 A-1 - Production quality forms based in prototype V1; eight examples completed.
Ju 290 A-2 - Maritime reconnaissance variant; increased fuel storage; maritime search radar.
Ju 290 A-3 - Additional navigation equipment; increased defensive gun network (including powered dorsal turrets).
Ju 290 A-4 - Slight change in armament scheme.
Ju 290 A-5 - Definitive production mark; increased armor protection; air-launched radio-controlled missile capability.
Ju 290 A-6 - Passenger transport with seating for fifty.
Ju 290 A-7 - Model of 1944; improved frontal defense; missile capability; thirteen examples completed.
Ju 290 B1 - High-altitude heavy bomber variant.
Ju 290 B2 - Planned bomber variant.
Ju 390 - Six-engined developmental offshoot for the Amerika Bomber project.
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Image from the German Federal Archives.
Developments of similar form and function or related to the Junkers Ju 290...
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