The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka

Germany
Germany

side view front view under view

At the outbreak of the war the Stuka was one of the most feared weapons by the Allied armies. It was heavily used as a ground-attack and close support aircraft, and the well trained crews knew how to hit their target. Actually, the name 'Stuka' in an abbreviation of 'Sturzkampfflugzeug' which means 'dive bomber', but it was so good at it that the name was automatically associated with the Junkers Ju 87
The Stuka goes back to 1933, when the Nazi party gained power in Germany. One of the first things to do was starting a major program of military expansion and re-equipment. Even in the 1920's Germany had evaluated the results of World War I, and had gained insights why they lost the war. The resulting tactical doctrine was the 'Blitzkrieg' (see comments below). The key to success was movement, and a spearhead provided by tanks. In order to keep up with the fast moving tanks, the artillery had to be fast too, and a logical solution to flexibility and speed was the use of tactical air power. The main weapon would be a dive-bomber, which was able to deliver it's warload at the exact place where it was needed. As such, immediate effort was undertaken to devise dive-bombers, resulting in the Heinkel He 50 (for the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force), later in the Henschel He 123 and Fieseler Fi 98, and ultimately in the Junkers Ju 87.
After the war had started it became clear that the Stuka was obsolescent, but failure to recognise this fact before meant that there was no replacement available when the Stuka proved too vulnerable to more advanced fighters.

Versions:

Further pictures:

Junkers Ju 87 Stuka in full flight
Junkers Ju 87 Stuka in full flight

Junkers Ju 87 Stuka on an airfield
Junkers Ju 87 Stuka on an airfield

A couple of Junkers Ju 87 Stuka's in formation
A couple of Junkers Ju 87 Stuka's in formation

 

Technical data on the Junkers Ju 87B-2 Stuka
Powerplant 1 × Junkers Jumo 211 Da inverted Vee, rated at 1200 hp (894.59 kW) Role during war
  • (Ground) Attack Fighter
  • Close Support Attack Fighter
  • Dive Bomber
Length 36 ft 5 inch Height 13 ft 1.8 inch
Empty weight 7026 lb Operational weight 9594 lb typical,
10697 lb max
Wing Span 45 ft 3.33 inch Wing Aspect ratio 5.95
Wing Area 344.46 sq ft Service ceiling 26245 ft
Maximum speed 238 mph at 13450 ft Cruising speed 196 mph at 9845 ft
Initial climb rate Climb to 13,125 ft in 12 min 0 sec Range 370 miles typical,
491 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 110 Imp gal (132 US gal) Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 0.312 inch MG 17 fixed forward-firing in the leading edges of the wings, 500 rounds each
  • 1 × 0.312 inch MG 15 trainable rearward-firing in the rear cockpit, 900 rounds
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 1,543 lb carried on five hardpoints, 1 under the fuselage rated at 1,102 lb, and 4 underwing rated at 110 lb each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 1 × 1,102 lb SC/PC-500 or 551 lb SC-250 bomb under the fuselage
  • 4 × 110 lb SC-50 bombs under the wings
Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 2: pilot, radio operator/gunner Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) April 1935 Operational Service 1937 - 1945
Manufacturer Junkers Flugzeug- und Motorenwerke A.G. Number produced 5.709 total, unknown number this version.
Metric system
Length 11.1 m Height 4.01 m
Empty weight 3187 kg Operational weight 4352 kg typical,
4852 kg max
Wing Span 13.8 m Wing Aspect ratio 5.95
Wing Area 32 m² Service ceiling 7999 m
Maximum speed 383 km/h at 4100 m Cruising speed 315 km/h at 3001 m
Initial climb rate Climb to 4.000 m in 12 min 0 sec Range 595 km typical,
790 km max
Fuel capacity internal 550 liters Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 7,62 mm MG 17 fixed forward-firing in the leading edges of the wings, 500 rounds each
  • 1 × 7,62 mm MG 15 trainable rearward-firing in the rear cockpit, 900 rounds
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 700 kg carried on five hardpoints, 1 under the fuselage rated at 500 kg, and 4 underwing rated at 50 kg each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 1 × 500 kg SC/PC-500 or 250 kg SC-250 bomb under the fuselage
  • 4 × 50 kg SC-50 bombs under the wings
Torpedoes/rockets -

Technical data on the Junkers Ju 87D-1 Stuka
Powerplant 1 × Junkers Jumo 211J-1 inverted Vee, rated at 1410 hp (1051.14 kW) Role during war
  • (Ground) Attack Fighter
  • Close Support Attack Fighter
  • Dive Bomber
Length 37 ft 8.75 inch Height 12 ft 9.25 inch
Empty weight 8598 lb Operational weight 12880 lb typical,
14550 lb max
Wing Span 45 ft 3.33 inch Wing Aspect ratio 5.97
Wing Area 343.37 sq ft Service ceiling 23905 ft
Maximum speed 255 mph at 12600 ft Cruising speed 199 mph at 16700 ft
Initial climb rate Climb to 16,405 ft in 19 min 45 sec Range 510 miles typical,
954 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 171 Imp gal (206 US gal) Fuel capacity external Up to 132 Imp gal (158 US gal) in two underwing drop tanks
Machine guns
  • 2 × 0.312 inch MG 17 fixed forward-firing in the leading edges of the wings, 500 rounds each
  • 1 × 0.312 inch MG 81z two-barrel trainable rearward-firing in the rear cockpit, 900 rounds
  • In stead of underwing bombs 2 × Waffenbehälter (weapon container) pods each carrying 3 × 0.312 inch fixed forward-firing MG 81z two-barrel guns
Cannons In stead of underwing bombs 2 × Waffenbehälter (weapon container) pods each carrying 1 × 20 mm MG FF fixed forward-firing cannons
Bomb load Up to 3,968 lb on three hardpoints, 1 under the fuselage rated at 3,968 lb, and two underwing hardpoints rated at 1,102 lb each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 1 × 3,968 lb SC-1800 bomb, or
  • 1 × 3,086 lb SC-1400 bomb, or
  • 1 × 2,205 lb SC-1000 bomb, or
  • 1 × 1,102 lb SC-500 bomb, or
  • 1 × 551 lb SC-250 bomb (all under the central crutch), and
  • 4 × 110 lb SC-50 bombs, or
  • 2 × 1,102 lb SC-500 bombs, or
  • 4 × 551 lb SC-250 bombs, or
  • 2 containers of 92 × 4.4 lb SD-2 fragmentation bombs (all underwing)
Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 2: pilot, radio operator/gunner Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) April 1935 Operational Service 1937 - 1945
Manufacturer Junkers Flugzeug- und Motorenwerke A.G. Number produced 5.709 total, unknown number this version.
Metric system
Length 11.5 m Height 3.89 m
Empty weight 3900 kg Operational weight 5842 kg typical,
6600 kg max
Wing Span 13.8 m Wing Aspect ratio 5.97
Wing Area 31.9 m² Service ceiling 7286 m
Maximum speed 410 km/h at 3840 m Cruising speed 320 km/h at 5090 m
Initial climb rate Climb to 5.000 m in 19 min 45 sec Range 821 km typical,
1535 km max
Fuel capacity internal 780 liters Fuel capacity external Up to 600 liters in two underwing drop tanks
Machine guns
  • 2 × 7,62 mm MG 17 fixed forward-firing in the leading edges of the wings, 500 rounds each
  • 1 × 7,62 mm MG 81z two-barrel trainable rearward-firing in the rear cockpit, 900 rounds
  • In stead of underwing bombs 2 × Waffenbehälter (weapon container) pods each carrying 3 × 7,62 mm fixed forward-firing MG 81z two-barrel guns
Cannons In stead of underwing bombs 2 × Waffenbehälter (weapon container) pods each carrying 1 × 20 mm MG FF fixed forward-firing cannons
Bomb load Up to 1.800 kg on three hardpoints, 1 under the fuselage rated at 1.800 kg, and two underwing hardpoints rated at 500 kg each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 1 × 1.800 kg SC-1800 bomb, or
  • 1 × 1.400 kg SC-1400 bomb, or
  • 1 × 1.000 kg SC-1000 bomb, or
  • 1 × 500 kg SC-500 bomb, or
  • 1 × 250 kg SC-250 bomb (all under the central crutch), and
  • 4 × 50 kg SC-50 bombs, or
  • 2 × 500 kg SC-500 bombs, or
  • 4 × 250 kg SC-250 bombs, or
  • 2 containers of 92 × 2 kg SD-2 fragmentation bombs (all underwing)
Torpedoes/rockets -

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Junkers Ju 87  Stuka
Junkers Ju 87A-0 Pre-production version of the Stuka. The preceding prototypes all helped in developing the issues that made the Stuka:
  • The Ju 87 V1 first flew in April 1935, and had a tail with two vertical endplates. It was powered by a Rolls Royce Kestrel V Vee, rated at 640 hp (477 kW). The propeller was a 2-blade wooden example with fixed-pitch. This engine overheated in it's first flight, and the radiator was moved to the chin position and enlarged. In it's firt dive the tail with two vertical units started to oscillate, and one endplate broke away resulting in a crash
  • The Ju 87 V2 was already nearing completion at the time of the crash of the V1, but was halted to resolve the cause of the crash. As a result the V2 had a single vertical tail plane, situated on the centerline. It was powered by a Junkers Jumo 210Aa inverted Vee, rated at 610 hp (485 kW), driving a 3-blade metal propeller of the variable-pitch type. It first flew during the fall of 1935. It was first fitted with dive brakes in the first part of 1936, and subsequently delivered for official trials in March 1936.
  • The Ju 87 V3 joined the V2 at the end of 1935. The engine of the V3 was mounted in such way that the forward and downward view of he pilot were improved, and the vertical tailplane was enlarged and revised.
  • The Ju 87 V4 was the prototype for production. It was the first prototype to carry armament and bomb-release gear. Armament consisted of 1 × 0.312 inch (7,62 mm) MG 17 fixed forward-firing in the leading edge of the starboard wing, outboard of the landing gear. The bomb-release crutch could carry 1 × 1,102 lb (500 kg) or 551 lb (250 kg) bomb right behind the radiator, and could swing the bomb clear of the propeller disc. The V4 had a still lower thrust line of the engine, an even bigger vertical tail surface, a longer wheel base, better shock absorbers for the landing gear and a modified rear section of the glasshouse-like cockpit canopy.
For test trials 10 pre-production aircraft were ordered, to compete with the Heinkel He 118. The trials showed that the Ju 87 was superior. However, Oberst Wolfram von Richthofen, the Luftwaffe's premier tactical air power commander opposed the idea of the dive-bomber, and asked for the cancelation of the Ju 87. One day later he was replaced as head of the technical section of the Luftwaffe by Ernst Udet. Udet, who was Germany's second highest scoring ace during Wolrd War I, was a strong proponent of the dive-bomber concept, and the Stuka was saved.
The final Pre-production model differed from the V4 in only 4 ways: it was powered by 1 × Junkers Jumo 210Ca inverted Vee, rated at 640 hp (447 kW), a slightly modified wing for easier production, an gun for the rear-seater namely 1 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG 15 trainable rearward-firing for defense, and an Askania autopilot. The autopilot was deemed necessary in case the pilot would loose consciousness because of the high-g pull-out after the bomb release. It was designed to complete the pull-out, and start a climb
Number built: 10
Junkers Ju 87A-1 First real production version of the Stuka. It differed form the Ju 87A-0 in a small number of ways: length was 35 ft 5.25 inch (10,80 m), height of 12 ft 9.5 inch (3,90 m), empty weight of 5,104 lb (2.315 kg), max take-off weight of 7,495 lb (3.400 kg), max level speed of 199 Mph (320 km/h) at 12,140 ft (3.400 m), max cruising speed of 171 mph (275 km/h) at optimum altitude, max range of 621 miles (1.000 km), and a service ceiling of 22,965 ft (7.000 m)
Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87A-2 In the last part of 1937 the Ju 87A-2 replaced the Ju 87A-1. There were only two differences with the Ju 87A-1: it waspowered by 1 × Junkers Jumo 210Da with a two-stage supercharger, rated at 680 hp (507 kW), and it had a 3-blade metal propeller with wider-chord blades.
In total some 200 Ju 87A models had been delivered by the summer of 1938, and the Ju 87B models started to be produced. When the War started, all Ju 87A models were withdrwan from first-line service, and used a s advanced trainers.
Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87B-0 Development on the engine of the Ju 87A series had progressed, resulting in the Junkers Jumo 211 which was an enlarged and more powerfull version of the afore mentioned type. It was first tested in the Ju 87 V6 prototype, and then in the Ju 87 V7 prototype. The V7 stood model for the Ju 87B (Ju 87B-0 pre-production) series, which was initially powered by 1 × Junkers Jumo 211A, rated at 1,000 hp (746 kW). Although not very clear, the Ju 87B series was almost completely redesigned. Only the wings and horizontal tail were retained, the rest of the airframe was completely redesigned. This gave the aircraft better aerodynamical figures, and a greater structural strength. Also the cockpit canopy was redesigned, resulting in a rearward sliding canopy, as opposed to a hinged one of the Ju 87A-series. The vertical tail unit was enlarged once more, and the landing gear was braced, not strutted. Last but not least: the amrmament was doubled to 2 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG 17 guns in the leading edges of the wings, one on each side.
Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87B-1 Identical to the Ju 87B-0, but fitted with yet another improved powerplant: 1 × Junkers Jumo 211Da with fuel injection, rated at 1,200 hp (895 kW). This enabled the Stuka to carry a 1,102 lb (500 kg) bomb in addition to the second crew member, something that wasn't possible in the earlier versions. Alternatively to the single large bomb also 1 × 551 lb (250 kg) bomb under the fuselage crutch and 4 × 110 lb (50 kg) bombs under the wings could be carried. 5 of these were sent to Spain for operational trials, and revealed improved performance and capabilities than the three preceding ones, also called the 'Jolanthe Kette'.
production was increased once more, and the 'Weser' Flugzeugbau from Junkers were able to deliver 60 aircraft each month. By the end of 1939 some 557 Ju 87B-1's had been delivered. One subvariant existed.

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Ju 87B-1/U2 Equiped (retrofitted actually) with improved radio equipment.


Number built: about 557 out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87B-2 This version that reached production stage at the end of 1939 was much like the Ju 87B-1. It differed in having individual ejector exhaust stubs for a little extra thrust, hydraulically operated radiator cooling gills, and the Junkers VS-5 propeller with broader-chord blades. When flown as a single seater it could carry up to 2,205 lb (1.000 kg) of bombs. A number of subvariants were produced:

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Ju 87B-2/U2 Equiped with improved radio equipment.
Ju 87B-2/U3 Additional armor protection for close-support purposes
Ju 87B-2/U4 Fitted with Ski's rather than wheels
Ju 87B-2/Trop Intended for use in the North African Theatre of Operations, and fitted with a sand/dust filter, and a pack of desert survival equipment.


Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87C-0 During 1938 Germany decided that a 'staffel' of Stuka's should be included in the air group of the Graf Zeppelin, Germany's first aircraft carrier. Junkers was asked to develop a carrierborne version for the Stuka. The result that was based on the Ju 87B, the Ju 87C, had manually folded outer wings, catapult attachments, an arrestor hook, flotation equipment, and a jettisonable landing gear in case the aircraft had to ditch into the sea.
When the first batch had been delivered Junkers started working on the Ju 87C-1, with ellectrically folding wings, increased fuel tank capacity, and provisions to carry a torpedo, but since the Graf Zeppelin was never finished the Ju 87C-1 was never produced.
The Ju 87C-0 was identical to the Ju 87B2, except for: empty weight of 8,058 lb (3.655 kg), normal take-off weight of 8,818 lb (4.000 kg), max take-off weight of (11,772 lb (5.340 kg), max level speed of 214 mph (345 km/h) at 16,405 ft (5.000 m), declining to 183 mph (295 km/h) at sea level.
Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87D-1 Junkers had developed a new version of it's Jumo engine, and planned on using it on the Stuka. The Ju 87D-1 was powered by 1 × Junkers Jumo 211J-1 inverted-Vee, rated at 1,410 hp (1.051 kW). The new engine enabled an aerodynamical cleaner installation, and the big chin of the Ju 87B series for the water cooling radiator was relocated to the under surfaces of the inner wings. In it's place a small oil cooler was fitted in a much smaller chin. Other changes were a redesigned cockpit canopy to reduce drag, improved main landing gear fairings, internal outer-wing fuel tanks like those of the Ju 87R versions, more and thicker armor for the crew, the replacement of the defensive 1 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG 17 gun to a 1 × 0.312 inch (7,92 mm) MG 81z two-barrel gun, and a strengthened lower fuselageand crutch to enable a maximum bombload of 3,968 lb (1.800 kg).
The Ju 87D entered production in 1942, but only in modest numbers. This was due to the fact that the Ju 87D was only considered as an interim aircraft. However, the replacement close-support aircraft would take too much time to become operational, and production was once again increased. One subvariant existed.

Umrüst-Bausätze (factory conversion sets):

Ju 87D-1/Trop Intended for use in the North African Theatre of Operations, and fitted with a sand/dust filter, and a desert survival kit.


Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87D-2 This version was identical to the Ju 87D-1, except for the strengthened rear fuselage and tailwheel unit that later incorporated a tow hook for cargo gliders. Together with the Ju 87D-1 this aircraft entered service during the spring of 1942 was already been phased out of production when losses were rising increasingly higher.
Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87D-3 The Ju 87D-3 was the first version that was fully optimised for the close-support role. It retained it's dive-brakes, however.
Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87D-4 The Ju 87D-4 designation was used for a number of Ju 87D-1 and Ju 87D-3 aircraft that were converted for use as a torpedo bomber. However, they were never used operationally, and were later converted back to the Ju 87D-3 standard.
Number converted: unknown
Junkers Ju 87D-5 The lack of a replacement, and the increasing high loss ratio spurred the Germans to look for a solution. It's speed was hopeless, compared to that of the enemy fighters, so a the solution must lie within the maneuverability. To make the Ju 87D more maneuverable, it's wingloading had to be reduced. You can (roughly) either decrease the weight of the aircraft, or increase the area of the wings. The latter was chosen, and the resulting Ju 87D-5 had extended outer wings, resulting in a wing span of 49 ft 2.5 inch (15,00 m) with an aspect ratio of 6,67 and an area of 362.76 sq ft (33,70 m²). Also, the main landing gear was jettisonable like that of the Ju 87C-0 version, and later aircraft had the dive brakes no more.
All thses changes were mostly for naught, however, for the Soviet airforce now ruled the skies over the Eastern Front. The Stuka's were to be operated during the night only, unless the Luftwaffe was able to obtain a temporary and local air superiority.
Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87D-7 The Ju 87D-5 was not well suited for night operations, this was solved in the Ju 87D-7. It had night-flying instrumentation, flame damper tubes, and as a bonus it was powered by 1 × Junkers Jumo 211P inverted-Vee, rated at 1,500 hp (1.118 kW). Fixed forward armament was increased to 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons.
In other ways it was identical to the Ju 87D-5 with the larger wing and jettisonable main landing ger, but differed in details such as: empty weight of 8,686 lb (3.940 kg), max take-off weight of 14,561 lb (6.605 kg), max level speed of 249 mph (400 km/h) at 12,795 ft (5.800 m) Normal cruising speed was 186 mph (300 km/h) at 16,700 ft (5.090 m).
Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87D-8 This version was built in parallel to the Ju 87D-7, but as a daylight version. It lacked the night-time instruments, and the flame damper tubes. The Ju 87D-7 and Ju 87D-8 were the last versions to be produced.
Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87G-1 The Ju 87D was the main anti-tank weapon of the Germans, however the standard bombs were becoming ineffective against the Soviet armoured vehicles because their armor was increasing. The need for a more capable anti-tank version was there, and in 1942 the order was given to prepare such a version.
the Ju 87G had a converted high-velocity 37 mm Flak 18 anti-aircraft cannon, that could be installed in underwing pods. The revised cannon was known as the BK 3,7, that could be fitted just outside the main landing gear under the wings.
The new version had considerable more success against the Soviet tanks, and were used to equip Panzerjägerstaffel (tank hunter/destroyer squadron), specifically created for this means. Since the performance of the Stuke was now by far obsolete, these aircraft were replaced by a specialised version of the Focke-Wulff Fw 190 as soon a spossible.
Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87H-1 A number of Ju 87D's were converted a dual-control trainers for use in the conversion of fighter and bomber pilots to the close support and anti-tank roles. All armament was stripped, and the rear canopy received a couple of blisters so the rear-seated instructor could have a better forward view. This version was converted from the Ju 87D-1.
Number converted: unknown
Junkers Ju 87H-3 A number of Ju 87D's were converted a dual-control trainers for use in the conversion of fighter and bomber pilots to the close support and anti-tank roles. All armament was stripped, and the rear canopy received a couple of blisters so the rear-seated instructor could have a better forward view. This version was converted from the Ju 87D-3.
Number converted: unknown
Junkers Ju 87H-5 A number of Ju 87D's were converted a dual-control trainers for use in the conversion of fighter and bomber pilots to the close support and anti-tank roles. All armament was stripped, and the rear canopy received a couple of blisters so the rear-seated instructor could have a better forward view. This version was converted from the Ju 87D-5.
Number converted: unknown
Junkers Ju 87H-7 A number of Ju 87D's were converted a dual-control trainers for use in the conversion of fighter and bomber pilots to the close support and anti-tank roles. All armament was stripped, and the rear canopy received a couple of blisters so the rear-seated instructor could have a better forward view. This version was converted from the Ju 87D-7.
Number converted: unknown
Junkers Ju 87H-8 A number of Ju 87D's were converted a dual-control trainers for use in the conversion of fighter and bomber pilots to the close support and anti-tank roles. All armament was stripped, and the rear canopy received a couple of blisters so the rear-seated instructor could have a better forward view. This version was converted from the Ju 87D-8.
Number converted: unknown
Junkers Ju 87R-1 This version was developed parallel to the Ju 87B series. The 'R' stands for 'Reichweite', or range. It was essentially a Ju 87B with an extended range for anti-shipping duties. To get more fuel tank capacity the outer wings were restructured to accomodate 2 × 33 Imp gal (40 US gal, 15 liters) additional tanks to supplement the standard set of tanks in the inner wings of 53 Imp gal (63 US gal, 240 liters) each. Also the outer wings had 2 hardpoints to carry a droptank each of 66 Imp gal (79 US gal, 300 liters). It could not carry the four 110 lb (50 kg) bombs anymore, and the bomb under the fuselage was restricted to 551 lb (250 kg).
The Ju 87R saw first action in the April 1940 in the Norwegian campaign.
Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87R-2 Identical to the Ju 87R-1, except some other (unspecified) equipment
Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87R-3 Identical to the Ju 87R-1, except some other (unspecified) equipment
Number built: unknown out of 5.709
Junkers Ju 87R-4 Identical to the Ju 87R-1, except some other (unspecified) equipment
Number built: unknown out of 5.709

Remarks:

The Stuka was an excellent weapon of War when it was used as a close support or ground-attack aircraft. It was the flying artillery of the German army, rather then an excellent plane. Also, the Germans used psychological effects to strike fear in the hearts of their enemies. One of those things were the small propellers fitted to the legs of the main landing gear of the Stuka, that would produce a loud, screaming wail when the plane made speed in a dive. Being hit by a bomb is one thing, being warned about it before and unable to do anything about it is an entirely different matter. Even the sound of the wail (of an unarmed Stuka) was enough to make most opponents scramble for cover, enabling the German ground forces to use the moment of panic and confusion in the enemy lines. These sirens were also called 'Jericho Trompeten' or 'Trumpets of Jericho'
The Stuka was first used operationally during the Spanish Civil War, when 4 Stuka's were flown by the Condor Legion. This small group was know as the 'Jolanthe- Kette' named after a popular comics of a pig in Berlin. The Second World War is in fact opened by the Stuka, a very dubious honour. At 04:34 hours local time three Stuka's bombed the approaches to the two Dirschau bridges over the river Vistula in Poland on 1 September 1939.
There is no other warplane in history that sank so many ships as the Stuka. Probably it also destroyed more tanks than any other aircraft, save for the Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik
A small explanation about the tactics of Germany is in place here, to be able to explain the reason why a dated design was able to have such gigantic successes during the first years of the War, and later suffer so dire losses. The Germans had been preparing the war for a long time. Their tactics were tried in Spain, in the Candor Legion. They thought that a close cooperation between air and ground forces would be most succesfull, and they finetuned their ideas. The German upper command wanted to have a dive bomber, to be able to attack pockets of resistance or strategical important targets by air in stead of over land. Most other countries were still locked in the tactical ideas of World War I, in which the front was a very static line, and the ground forces operated mostly independant from the Air forces. Thus, with help of fast moving Panzer colonnes and acurate dive bombers, the Germans kept the Allied forces out of balance, and on the defensive. Fighting defensively, you never can win, only hold out (maybe) very long. By using their Panzers and ground-attack tactics, the Germans were able to overrun airfields that were thought to be safe, reducing the effectiveness of the Allied air forces drastically. A good example of this is the campaign in the Low countries (the Netherlands and Belgium) and France in May 1940. By forcing the Allied forces to withdraw constantly the supplies ended up on the wrong side of the front, loosing men and equipment not in battle but because they were cut off from their supporting armies and thus forced to surrender. This tactic is what is called the 'Blitzkrieg' or 'Lightning War'. Because the threat of the air forces was reduced so much, the Stuka could do it's job mostly unhindered, increasing the problems of the Allied forces. This ultimately caused a total collapse of the communications and morale of the Allied armies, and created a debacle like Dunkirk.
Later, when placed against a determined and warned opponent, which had interpreted the signs of Nazi Germany before the War well, the Stuka showed it's weaknesses. Unsupported by ground forces that could overrun the airfields of the opponent, the Luftwaffe had to do battle against an equally sized force. It was at a disadvantage because any aircrew shot down over enemy territory was lost because there was no way back except over water. This was the case during the Battle of Britain, the worlds first air-only battle.
During this vbattle the Stuka was quickly withdrawn from front-line service. After 6 days of fighting already 41 aircraft had been lost. After the withdrawal the Stuka tried two more attacks on British targets, but on both occasions there were heavy losses: 9 and 16 aircraft.
This would seem to be the end of the Stuka, but it was not to be. In 1941 it was used extensively in the North African and Mediterranean Theatres. In North Africa the type (mostly Ju 87B- series) was used to support the Afrika Korps, and in the Mediterranean it proved very successful when used against British shipping convoys. Also in 1941 a force of more than 540 aircraft was assembled to be used in combat for the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece, in May 1941 it was used during the airborne invasion of Crete, and in June 1941 the surviving aircraft were used for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the U.S.S.R.
Even thought the Stuka was obsolescent at the beginning of the War, and terribly obsolete at the end, it left an incredible reputation behind. The sound of the wailing sirens must have spelled DOOM for the enemy, and even today this sound is widely used in airial movies in which aircraft plunge from the skies to their death and destruction. Just listen to the high wail, that is often similar to the sirens of the Stuka…

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

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© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 12/11/00