The Junkers Ju87 Stuka dive bomber was the German Army's flying artillery. It was used in co-operation with the Panzers on the ground to attack enemy strong points and centres of communication.
Junkers Jumo 211 A-1 12 cylinder inverted V 900hp liquid cooled engine
13.8m (45 ft 3 1/4 in)
11.2m (36ft 1 in)
4.2m (13ft 10 1/2 in)
Empty - 2,745kg (6,051 lb) Loaded - 4,235kg (9,336 lb)
350kph at 5,000m (217 mph at 16405 ft)
300kph (186 mph) at sea level
8,000m (26,248 ft)
550km at 5,500m (342 miles at 18,045 ft)
2 x 7.9mm MG17 machine guns in wings firing forward
1 x 7.9mm MG15 rear firing mounted in the cockpit
1 x 500 kg (1,100 lb) + 4 x 50kg (110 lb)
During the late 20's and early 30's it was recognised that the anti-aircraft artillery was particularly effective against low level bombers. This forced the bombers to fly at higher altitudes thus reducing the accuracy at which they could deliver their bombs. One of the concepts devised to overcome this was the principle of dive bombing. Small aircraft could attack a target with a single bomb with precision by diving from a high altitude directly onto the target and releasing the bomb at low level.
In Germany Ernst Udet championed the idea, not just because he thought it was more accurate, but also because he recognised that the small aircraft would be within the limited budget of the new Luftwaffe. It wasn't until 1936, when he was made Chief of the Air Ministry Technical Office that he was able to fulfil his plans for a dive bombing section of the Luftwaffe.
During the same year Junkers produced its prototype for the Ju-87. The Junkers Ju-87A went into production in 1937 and saw service with the Condor Legion during the Spanish civil war. Only a few of the A series were produced and in late 1938 the Ju-87B went into production incorporating everything that had been leant from experience in Spain. The landing gear was more streamlined, the cockpit canopy was re-designed and the Junkers Jumo 210C engine was replaced with a Jumo 211, which produced 1210hp, increasing the maximum speed from 320kph to 387kph and extending the operational ceiling from 7000m to 8000m. The Ju-87B was armed with a single 7.92mm MG15 mounted in the rear cockpit and two 7.92mm MG17 machine guns in the wings. The bomb load could be a 700kg bomb or a single 250kg bomb slung under the fuselage and 4 25kg bombs under the wings.
The Ju-87C was designed for service aboard the German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin and was mechanically 'beefed up', had an arrester hook fitted and the outer wings could fold up. When the carrier programme was cancelled these C type were converted back to type B's.
There were around 360 Ju-87's (A's and B's) available for the Polish campaign on September 1st 1939. The Stuka's tough, simple build and ease of maintenance made the aircraft ideal for front line service supporting the ground troops. Without any fighter opposition the Stuka exceeded expectations.
On April 9th 1940 Germany invaded Denmark and Norway. Only one Stuka Gruppee, consisting of nine aircraft, participated in the operation making attacks on Norwegian strong points.
Nine Stuka Gruppenn were involved in the May offensive against France deploying just over 300 aircraft. Once again the Stuka found itself virtually unopposed and achieved success beyond expectations. It wasn't until the Luftwaffe tried to eliminate the BEF at Dunkirk that the Stuka found itself up against an effective opponent and suffered severe casualties to RAF fighters.
The Battle of Britain began during July 1940. The Stuka squadrons were employed against shipping in the English Channel and coastal installations. Against the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the RAF Fighter Command the Stuka's suffered very heavy losses, so much so that they were eventually withdrawn from the battle.
Lessons had been learnt from the engagements over England, which culminated in a new type at the end of 1940, the Ju-87D. The design was streamlined by re-defining the canopy and reducing the size of the air intake under the nose. A more powerful engine, the Jumo 211 J, rated at 1300hp was fitted increasing the maximum speed to just over 400 kph. The single MG15 in the rear cockpit was replaced by a twin-barrelled MG81. The bomb load was increased to a maximum of 1,800kg. Additional armour plate was fitted to give the crew extra protection. The D type was produced in the highest numbers of any Stuka version and saw service mainly on the Eastern front.
During 1942 it was decided to cut the production of the dive bombing Stuka. This was due to a higher volume of more accurate anti-aircraft artillery sited around targets inflicting high casualties on the attacking Stuka's. However, there was a new role for the Ju-87. A new version, the Ju-87G, had the dive brakes removed and was fitted with two 3.7cm anti-tank cannons in gondolas under the wings. The version proved to be a great success when attacking Soviet tank columns from behind where their weak armour and slotted engine cowls made them an easier target.
To extend their short range some B series Stuka's were fitted with additional fuel tanks mounted under the wings. These aircraft were re-designated Ju-87R and served mainly in the Mediterranean.
A Stuka Geschwader was split into three Gruppen, each split into four, each split into four staffeln of 3 flights, each flight having three aircraft. A Geschwader was assigned to a Fliegerkorps as required.