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 name "StuKa" comes from the longform "Sturzkampfflugzeug" which translates to "Drop-Down-Fight-Airplane".
The Ju 87 grew out of five similar prototypes (V1 through V5) 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 World War 2 had begun in September of 1939, the Stuka was a featured set piece for the German Luftwaffe in its conquest of Poland. The system earned its deadly reputation early on due to its precision strike abilities. Following the collapse of the Polish defenses, and the fall of Norway, the Low Countries and France, the stage was set for the "Battle of Britain" where Ju 87s continued in frontline service.
However it was in this combat exposure that exposed various performance and capability issues with the Ju 87 StuKa line. British fighter aircraft and their better trained and disciplined pilots were capable of attacking dive bombers at will unless the Ju 87 flight was protected by fighter escorts (which was not always the case). Losses were such that Ju 87s were temporarily withdrawn from any aggressive service during the battle. The Battle of Britain ended as a victory for the British people and a black eye for the vaunted Luftwaffe which suffered its first notable defeat in any one campaign.
In an effort to shore up its limitations, the Ju 87D model was revealed and these were posted along the East Front and during the North African Campaign. The Ju 87G model came online as a dedicated "tank buster" armed through twin 37mm cannons. This particular entry provided new life to the series and would later prove to be one of the most successful designs of the war.
The Ju 87 was crewed by two personnel - a pilot and a rear-gunner seated inline under a glazed canopy. The machine gunner managed a twin-7.92mm machine gun arrangement seated atop a trainable mounting used to defend the aircraft's more vulnerable "six" position. Unlike more modern aircraft of the period, the StuKa flew with a fixed undercarriage which created drag but lessened its complexity and repair times. Flaps were used to good effect when entering into a dive bombing attack run or during landing actions.
To put the value of this war machine in perspective, Luftwaffe pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel was credited with sinking three major Allied navy ships - a battleship, a destroyer and a cruiser - on top of destroying 519 armored vehicles (mostly combat tanks). The StuKas effect on the early portion of the war renewed interest on the part of the Allies to design and develop dive bombers of their own resulting in several successful tries at such a weapon (and others providing mixed results).
In all, production of the Ju 87 Stuka series totaled approximately 6,500 aircraft appearing through various makes and models making it one of the most recognizable of all the German aircraft - if not by name then by visual appearance. Service introduction came in 1936 and its usefulness was seen into the final year of the war (1945).
Beyond the Luftwaffe, the Ju 87 was fielded (either during the war or after it) by the nations of Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechoslovakia (post-war captured subjects), Hungary, Italy, Japan, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Spain, the United Kingdom (captured test subjects), the United States (single example) and Yugoslavia (post-war captured subjects).
Bulgaria; Croatia; Czechoslovakia; Nazi Germany; Hungary; Kingdom of Italy; Japan; Romania; Slovak Republic; United Kingdom; United States; Yugoslavia
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
✓Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
37.7 ft (11.50 m)
45.3 ft (13.80 m)
12.8 ft (3.90 m)
8,598 lb (3,900 kg)
14,551 lb (6,600 kg)
+5,952 lb (+2,700 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Junkers Ju 87D-1 (StuKa) production variant)
2 x 7.92mm forward-facing machine guns
2 x 7.92mm machine guns in rear-facing cockpit
Maximum external bombload of up to 3,968 lb including conventional drop bombs under fuselage and wing hardpoints, 2 x 37mm underwing anti-tank cannons and anti-personnel munitions.
(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 2 or 3 (underwing and under-fuselage)
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.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective aerial campaigns / operations / aviation periods.
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