JU-87 Stuka


JU-87 G-1 Stuka

Technical Specification

Two-seat anti-tank aircraft

One Junkers Jumo 211J-1 in-line 12 cylinder liquid-cooled engine rated at 1059 kW (1,420 hp) at 2,600 rpm (take-off / emergency) and 887 kW (1,190 hp) at 2,400 rpm (max. continuous).

Maximum speed 410 km/h (255 mph) at 3840 m (12,600 ft) : maximum cruising speed with bombload or gun pods 310 km/h (193 mph) at 4000 m (13,124 ft) : normal cruising speed 190 km/h (118 mph).

Service ceiling 7,290 m (23,915 ft) : ceiling with max load 4,730 m (15,520 ft) : maximum range 1,535 km (954 miles) : normal radius of action 448 km (280 miles).

Empty equipped 3900 kg (8,598 lb) : max take-off 6600 kg (14,551 lb).

Span 15 m (49 ft 2.5 in) : length 11.5 m (37 ft 9 in) : height 3.88 m (12 ft 9 in) : wing area 33.69 m2 (343.47 sq ft)

Two BK 37 37-mm cannon in underwing pods : one 7.92 mm MG 81 machine gun flexibly mounted in the rear cockpit : up to 1,800 kg (3,968 lb) of bombs or gun pods for up to 6 machine guns when the BK 37's were not being carried.


Above : Nine Stuka Gruppen (wings) comprising some 336 aircraft were deployed against Poland.Thirty-one aircraft were lost in the campaign reflecting the lack of effective fighter opposition.Stukas normally flew in Kette , the three-aircraft formation seen here.

Junkers JU-87 Stuka entered the world's vocabulary in May 1940.The mere appearance of its angular silhouette in the summer sky triggering 'Stuka fright' among the columns of soldiers and refugees fleeing across France.Ordered to attack road junctions , and especially bridges to hinder the movement of Allied ground forces , the Stuka often found their targets packed with escaping civilians.With sirens ('Jericho Trumpets') fitted to terrorize their victims , the bombers attacked with surgical precision-and then returned to strafe the survivors with their machine guns.

Under the terms of the Versailles Treaty Germany was not allowed to have an air force , but within months of coming to power Hitler announced he would no longer be bound by this restriction.The Stuka was designed by Hans Pohlmann the following year and the first prototype , ironically powered by an imported Rolls Royce Kestrel engine , flew in 1935.Junkers had manufactured all-metal monoplane ground attack aircraft towards the end of World War I.(In March 1918 the future commander of the Luftflotte 6 , Robort Ritter von Greim carried out the first aerial anti-tank sortie over the Somme).The Ju 87 built on that experience , but Pohlmann added a new feature : the Stuka would be built to dive vertically on to it's target.This offered far greater accuracy then was possible with level bombing.Japan the USA ana Britain ordered dive bombers for their naval air arms , because level attacks were not accurate enough to hit a moving warship.The Luftwaffe,s first dive bomber unit was created in 1937 and a handful of Ju 87A-1s were sent to Spain where Germany was providing military aid to the Nationalist forces.Many senior Luftwaffe officers were unimpressed with the Stuka , criticizing it for being too slow , too cumbersome and an easy target for enemy fighters.However its performance in Spain was considered excellent.

Dive Bombers
It gained the whole-hearted approval of Ernst Udet the World War I fighter ace and aerobatic pilot now drinking his way to oblivion while in charge of the Luftwaffe's technical branch.(He was so impressed he insisted on all future bombers having dive bombing capability a decision that killed off some promising designs and imposed serious delays on the Heinkel He 177 heavy bomber programme).There were over 300 Stukas in service by the invasion of Poland and the performed well enough.But it was over France and the Low Countries in 1940 that they stunned the world.The British , French , Belgian and Dutch armies had more men and tanks then the Germans , but the Luftwaffe achieved air superiority.As the panzer divisions debouched from the Ardennes forest , their way was barred by the French 9th Army.It was a weak formation but held the line of the Meuse , heavy guns ranged in on likely crossing points.French artillery positions bombed to oblivion , and the German ground troops forced their way across.
The Stukas were like flying artillery , but with far greater range and flexibility.They struck at Allied divisions behind the front catching French heavy tanks still on their railway cars.In World War I it had proved impossible to break through the Western Front until 1918 , largely because the defenders could always bring up reinforcements to seal a gap faster then the batteries could advance over the shell-torn ground.The Stuka reversed the process : now the German army could on the move but the Allies could never react fast enough , their divisions slowed to a crawl by repeated air attacks behind the lines.However the Ju 87 did rely on German air superiority.Even over France , there were a number of disasters.One staffel (flight) was wiped out by five French fighters on 12 May.With a 100 mph speed advantage and armed with 20-mm cannon , the French fighters made short work of the lumbering and unmanoeuvrable Stukas.The Ju 87's defensive armament consisted of two fixed forward-firing 7.9-mm machine guns and one or two more operated by the observer on a flexible mounting in the cockpit rear.It was not enough to beat off a determined fighter pilot.

Service in the East
Limited numbers of Stukas served in North Africa and the Italian campaign , but it was in Russia that the Ju 87 had its greatest impact.In 1941 the Soviet air force was effectively wiped out by the Luftwaffe and the 290 Stukas sent to the Eastern Front could attack without fear of interception.Hans-Ulrich Rudel , Hitlers favourite pilot and Germany's most highly-decorated flier , crippled the battleship Marat in an attack on Kronstadt.It was he who later pioneered the 'tank busting' Ju 87G with its 37mm guns and claimed 519 tank 'kills' by the end of the war.Shot down 30 times , he truly bore a charmed life.It was not until mid-1943 that German bombers were seriously menaced by Soviet fighters.Stukas continued to operate in large numbers-over 500 of them attacked the Soviet bridgehead near Novorossiysk in April 1943.Ju 87s were supplied to allied air forces of Romania , Italy , Hungary and Bulgaria.Stuka production peaked that year at 1,814 units.Some 5,700 were completed before production ceased in 1944.

stuka 87D variant

Above : Although the battles of 1940 showed that Stukas were vulnerable to modern fighters they were still effective in other theatres.JU 87B-2s like these wrought havoc on British ships in the Mediterranean in 1941.

click here for info on Stuka variants

Dangerous Skies By then the Soviets had radar coverage of the battlefront and thousands of modern fighters with which to intercept the dwindling numbers of German bombers.Even those twin-engined stalwarts , the Heinkel He 111 and Junkers Ju 88 found it dangerous to operate in daylight.Stukas were relegated to night harassment missions , their airbrakes removed and 20 mm cannon fitted for strafing attacks.Most Luftwaffe Stuka squadrons were converted to Focke Wulf FW 190 fighter-bombers during 1944-45 , but Rudel stayed with his trusted Ju 87G.He was shot down by Soviet flak in February 1945 , had his right foot amputated but was back in action with his die-hard Stukas until the last day of the war in Europe.

Stuka in Operation
Most dive bombers give their pilots the sensation of diving vertically but the Stuka did genuinely plummet earthwards at a true 90 degrees angle.Indicator marks on the starboard side of the cockpit side screen ran from 30 to 90 degrees to enable the pilot to judge the angle correctly.From its level flight speed of 255 mph (410 km/h) the Stuka accelerated to 335 mph (540 km/h) as it dived some 4,500 ft (1,370 m).Its maximum permitted speed was 373 mph (600 km/h).The Stuka's acceleration was progressive its fixed undercarriage provided by the dive brakes.Less awkward dive bombers such as the Douglas Dauntless accelerated like a rocket when they dived with a full bombload.It was this ability to make such a controlled vertical dive the enabled the Stuka to deliver heavy bombs with greater precision then any other aircraft of the war.As he dived the pilot kept an eye on the contact altimeter.It had an indicator which lit up when it was time to initiate the automatic pull-out.This brought the Stuka back to level flight at 6g (six times the force of gravity) descending another 1,475 ft (450 m) in the process.The control column had a safety device limiting it to 5 degrees of movement from neutral , stopping the pilot from pulling too much g during a pull-out.This could be overridden in an emergency-a hard tug on the control column brought the Stuka out of its dive.The minimum authorized altitude for starting a dive bombing attack was 800 m (2,624 ft) : a lower cloud base restricted the Ju 87 to level attacks.

If a target was close enough the Stuka could deliver a formidable bombload.The Ju 87 could carry a 1,800 kg (3,968 lb) bomb for a short range mission : the sort of bombload carried by twin-engined aircraft through World War II and not far off that carried by American four-engine bombers during the strategic bombing of Germany.Combat experience in Russia demonstrated that hitting a tank with a heavy bomb was next to impossible even for a Stuka.On the Russian front the standard anti-tank weapon was the SD-4-H1 a 4 kg hollow-charge bomblet.Seventy eight were carried inside a 500 kg bomb case.The bomblets could penetrate the thin top armour of any Allied tank-even the massive JS-2s used by the Red Army's in 1945.More spectacular but fraught with danger for the aircrew was one of the final Stuka models : the Ju 87G-1. Introduced in 1943 , this carried a pair of 37-mm cannon which could also penetrate the top armour of a tank but the weight and drag further reduced the Stuka's already marginal performance.