The Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka (from Sturzkampfflugzeug, "dive bomber") was a two-seat (pilot and rear gunner) German ground-attack aircraft of World War II. Designed by Hermann Pohlmann, the Stuka first flew in 1935 and made its combat début in 1936 as part of the Luftwaffe's Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War.
The aircraft was easily recognizable by its inverted gull wings, fixed spatted undercarriage and its infamous Jericho-Trompete ("Jericho Trumpet") wailing siren, becoming the propaganda symbol of German air power and the Blitzkrieg victories of 1939-1942. The Stuka's design included several innovative features, including automatic pull-up dive brakes under both wings to ensure that the plane recovered from its attack dive even if the pilot blacked out from the high acceleration. Although sturdy, accurate, and very effective, the Ju 87 was vulnerable to modern fighter aircraft, like many other dive-bombers of the war. Its poor manoeuvrability, speed and defensive armament caused the Stuka to require heavy protection from German fighters. The Ju 87's flaws became apparent as early as the Battle of Britain, when it was withdrawn from service after unacceptable and unsustainable losses.
The Stuka operated with further success after the Battle of Britain, and its potency as a precision ground attack aircraft became valuable to the German war effort in the Balkans Campaign, the African and Mediterranean Theatres and the early stages of the Eastern Front campaigns where Allied fighter resistance was disorganised and in short supply. However, once the Luftwaffe had lost Air superiority on all fronts the Ju 87 once again became easy targets for enemy fighter aircraft. In spite of this, and lacking a successor, the type continued to be produced until 1944. By the end of the conflict the Stuka was largely replaced by ground attack versions of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, but some units, like Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 "Immelmann" operated the Ju 87 to the last day of the war. 5,752 Ju 87 of all versions were built between 1936 and August 1944.
In the early 1920s the Dessau-based Junkers Flugzeugwerke AG had concentrated upon military rather than civil aircraft, although these machines as yet had "uncranked" wings and twin tail-fin units. Because of the Versaille Treaty of 1919, which stated that Germany was not permitted to produce warplanes, the Ju K 48 was assembled and rebuilt to K 47 outside Germany by Junkers-owned subsidiaries, such as AB Flygindustri in Malmo, Sweden.
After the Nazis came to power the design was given priority. Despite initial competition from the Henschel Hs 123 the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM; "Aviation Ministry"), turned to the designs of Herman Pohlmann of Junkers and co-designer of the K 47, Kark Plauth.
During the trials with the K 47 in 1932, the double vertical stabilizers were introduced to give the rear gunner a better field of fire. The main, and what was to be the most iconic feature of the Ju 87, was its double-spar gull wings.
After Plauth's death, Pohlmann continued the development of the Junkers dive-bomber. The Ju A 48 registration D-ITOR, was originally fitted with a BMW Hornet engine, producing some . The machine was also fitted with dive brakes for dive testing. The aircraft was given a good evaluation and "exhibited very good flying characteristics".
Other early additions included the installation of hydraulic dive brakes that were fitted under the leading edge, that could rotate 90 degrees. The RLM was still not interested in the Ju 87, and was not impressed that it relied on a British Rolls-Royce powerplant. In late 1935, Junkers suggested fitting a DB 600 in-line engine, while the final variant would be equipped with the Jumo 210. This was accepted by the RLM as an interim solution. The reworking of the design began on 1 January 1936. The test flight could not be carried for over two months for a lack of adequate aircraft. The crash of the 24 January at Kleutsch near Dresden had already destroyed one machine and killed Junkers' chief test pilot, Willi Neuenhofen and his engineer Heinrich Kreft. The second prototype was also beset by problems in the design. It had its twin stabilisers removed and a single tail fin installed due to fears over stability. Due to shortages of powerplants, instead of a DB 600, a BMW "Hornet" engine was fitted. All these delays set back the testing until 25 February 1936. By March 1936 the second prototype, the V2, was finally fitted with the Jumo 210Aa powerplant, which a year later was changed in favour of a Jumo 210 G (WrkNr. 19310). Although the testing went well, and the pilot, a Flight Captain Hesselbach, praised its performance, Wolfram von Richthofen told the Junkers representative and Construction Office chief engineer Ernst Zindel that the Ju 87 stood little chance of becoming the Luftwaffe's main dive-bomber aircraft, as it was underpowered, in his opinion. On 9 June 1936, the RLM ordered the cessation of development, in favour of the Heinkel He 118, a rival design. Apparently the next day Ernst Udet cancelled the order, and development continued. On 27 July 1936 Udet crashed the He 118 prototype, He 118 V1 D-UKYM. On the very day that Udet crashed the He 118, Charles Lindbergh had been visiting Ernst Heinkel, and as a result Heinkel could only communicate with Udet by telephone. According to this version of the story, Heinkel warned Udet about the propeller's fragility. Udet failed to consider this, so when in a dive the engine oversped and the propeller broke away. Immediately after this incident, Udet announced the Stuka as the winner of the development contest.
The RLM ordered seven A-0s initially, but then increased the order to 11. During early 1937 the A-0 was tested with varied bomb loads. The underpowered Jumo 210 A, as correctly pointed out by von Richthofen, was insufficient, and was quickly replaced with the Jumo 210 D powerplant.
The A-1s differed form the A-0s only slightly. As well as the installation of the Jumo 210 D, the A-1 HAD two 220 litre fuel tanks built into the inner wing, but it was not armoured or protected. The A-1 was also intended to be fitted with two MG 17 machine guns in each wing, but this was dropped due to excessive weight. The two that remained would be fed a total of 500 rounds of ammunition, that was stored in the undercarriage "spats". The pilot would rely on the Revi C 21C gunsight for the two MG 17s. The gunner had only a single MG 15, with 14 drums of ammunition, each containing 75 rounds. This represented a 150 round increase in this position from the Ju 87 A-0. The A-1 was also fitted with a larger 3.3 metre propeller. The Ju 87 was capable of carrying a 500 kg bomb if the aircraft was not carrying the rear gunner/radio operator. This was due to the fact, that even with the Jumo 210 D powerplant, the Ju 87 was still underpowered for operations with more than a 250 kg bombload. All Ju 87As were restricted to 250 kg weapons (although during the Spanish Civil War missions were conducted without the guner). The Ju 87A-2 was retrofitted with the Jumo 210Da fitted with a two-stage supercharger. The only further significant difference between the A-1 and A-1 was the H-PA-III propeller Controllable pitch propeller. By the summer of 1938 262 Ju 87As had been produced, 192 from the Junkers factory at Dessau, and a further 70 from Bremen. The new more powerful Ju 87B model started to replace the Ju 87A at this time.
The Ju 87B series was to be the first mass produced variant. The first variant, the Ju 87 B-0, was produced in small numbers. A total of six Ju 87B-0s were produced, built from Ju 87 A airframes. Test flights began from the summer of 1937. A small number, at least three, served as conversion Cs or Es for potential naval variants. Most of the prototypes were conversions from the Ju 87 A-1. The next major variant was the Ju 87 B-1 with a considerably larger engine, its Junkers Jumo 211D generating 1,200 PS (1,184 hp, 883 kW), and the fuselage and landing gear were completely redesigned. This new design was again tested in Spain, and after proving its abilities there, production was ramped up to 60 per month. As a result, by the outbreak of World War II the Luftwaffe had 336 Ju 87 B-1s on hand. The Ju 87 B-2s that followed had some improvements and were built in a number of variants that included ski-equipped versions, and at the other end, with a tropical operation kit called the Ju 87 B-2 trop. Italy's Regia Aeronautica received a number of the B-2s and named them the Picchiatello, while others went to the other members of the Axis, including Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.
A long range version of the Ju 87B was also built, known as the Ju 87R. They were primarily intended for anti-shipping missions. Internal fuel capacity was increased by adding some inner-wing tanks and by using two 300-liter under-wing drop tanks. Bomb carrying ability was reduced to a single 250 kg bomb if the aircraft was fully loaded with fuel. The naval variant of the Ju 87B was known as the Ju 87C, and these were built to operate from the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin. In any case the carrier was never completed, and all of these were converted back to the Ju 87B standard.
The tropicalised versions were initially named the Ju 87 B-2/U1. This was eventually designated the Ju 87 B-2 trop, equipped with tropical emergency equipment and sand filters for the powerplant.
Despite having its vulnerability to enemy fighters exposed during the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe had no choice but to continue the Stuka's development as there was no replacement aircraft in sight. The result was the D-series. The Ju 87 D-series received better streamlined oil and water coolers, and an aerodynamically refined cockpit with better visibility and space. In addition, armor protection was increased and a new dual-barrel 7.92 mm MG 81Z machine gun with an extremely high rate of fire was installed in the rear defensive position. The engine power was increased again, the Jumo 211 J-1 now delivering 1,420 PS (1,401 hp, 1,044 kW).
Production of the D-1 variant started in 1941 with 476 deliveries, rising to 917 D-1 and D-3 in 1942. The D-series saw extensive use in the Eastern Front and the Middle East. Bomb carrying ability was massively increased from 500 kg in the B-version to 1,800 kg in the D-version (max load for short ranges, overload condition), a typical bomb load ranged from 500 to 1,200 kg.
The D-2 was a variant used as a glider tug by converting older D-series airframes. The D-3 was an improved D-1 with more armor for its ground-attack role. The D-4 designation applied to a prototype torpedo-bomber version. The Ju 87 D-5 was another ground-attack variant that appeared in mid 1943; it had the outer wing panels extended, the dive brakes were removed, and the wing-mounted 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns were replaced by 20 mm MG 151 cannons.
The D-6, according to "Operating instructions, works document 2097", a limited number were built, to train pilots on "rationalised versions". However due to shortages in raw materials it did not go into mass production. The D-7 was another ground attack aircraft based on D-1 airframes upgraded to D-5 standard (armor, wing cannons, extended wing panels), while the D-8 was similar to the D-7 but based on D-3 airframes. It's a common myth that the D-7 and D-8 were specifically designed and built for night fighting as they were solely based on converted airframes and used for multiple mission types. However, both were fitted with flame dampers, and could have conducted night operations.
The Ju 87E and F proposals were never built, and Junkers went straight onto the next variant. Another variant derived from the Ju 87D airframe was called the Ju 87H, and saw service as a dual-control trainer.
In January 1943 a variety of Ju 87 Ds became a "test bed" for the Ju 87 G variants. At the start of 1943 the Luftwaffe test centre at Tarnewitz tested this combination from a static position. Oberst G. Wolfgang Vorwald noted the experiments were not successful, and suggested the cannon be installed on the Me 410. However, testing continued, and on 31 January 1943 Ju 87 D-1 Wrk Nr 2552 was tested by a Hauptmann Hans-Karl Stepp near the Briansk training area. Stepp noted the increase in drag, and reduction in speed was considerable, and reduced the aircrafts speed to 162 mph. Stepp also noted that the performance in agility was also less agile than the existing D variants. D-1 and D-3 variants operated in combat with the BK 37mm cannon in 1943.
The change in German military fortunes after 1943 and the appearance of huge numbers of well armoured Soviet tanks caused Junkers to adapt the existing design to combat this new threat. The Hs 129 B had proved a potent ground attack weapon, but its large fuel tanks made it vulnerable to enemy fire, prompting the RLM to say "that in the shortest possible time a replacement of the Hs 129 type must take place". With Soviet tanks the priority targets, the development of a further variant as a successor to the Ju 87 D began in November 1942. On 3 November Erhard Milch raised the question of replacing the Ju 87, or redesigning it altogether. It was decided to keep the design as it was, but the powerplant would be upgraded to a Jumo 211J, and two 30mm weapons added. The variant would also be designed to enable it to carry a 1,000kg free-fall (bomb) load. Furthermore the armoured protection of the Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik was copied, to protect the crew from ground fire now that the Ju 87 would be asked to conduct low level attacks.
With the G variant the aging airframe of the Ju 87 found new life as an anti-tank aircraft. This was the final operational version of the Stuka and was deployed on the Eastern Front starting in the early months of 1943, carrying out its first combat sortie on 18 March 1943. The Ju 87G was armed with two 37 mm cannons mounted in under-wing gondolas, each loaded with a 6-round magazine of armour piercing tungsten ammunition. With these weapons the Kanonenvogel ("cannon-bird"), as it was nicknamed, proved spectacularly successful at the hands of the Luftwaffe ace Hans-Ulrich Rudel. The G-1 was converted from older D-series airframes retaining the smaller wing but without the dive brakes. The G-2 was similar to the G-1 except using the extended wing of the D-5 with 208 G-2 new built and at least 22 more converted from D-3 airframes . During the Battle of Kursk only a handful of production Gs were committed, although a significant number of Ju 87 D variants were installed with the 37mm cannon, and operated as unofficial Ju 87 Gs during the battle. The exact number of cannon equipped Ju 87s that operated at Kursk is unknown.
While still slow, its stable attitude, large wings and low stall speed were valuable in the acquisition of slow moving targets, such as assault boats and ground vehicles. The G-1 even influenced the design of the A-10 Thunderbolt II, with Hans Rudel's book, Stuka Pilot, being required reading for all members of the A-X project.
When the aircraft was reasonably close to the target, a light on the contact altimeter came on to indicate the bomb-release point, usually at a minimum height of 450 m (1,500 ft). The pilot released the bomb by depressing a knob on the control column to release weapons and to initiate the automatic pull-out mechanism. An elongated U-shaped crutch located under the fuselage would swing the bomb out of the way of the propeller, and the aircraft would automatically begin a 6 g pullout.
Once the nose was above the horizon, dive brakes were retracted, the throttle was opened, and the propeller was set to climb. The pilot regained control and resumed normal flight. The coolant flaps had to be reopened quickly.
In his book Wings of the Luftwaffe, Royal Navy test pilot Eric "Winkle" Brown reported that a captured Ju 87 D-3 he test-flew after the war felt "absolutely right" diving at a 90° straight down angle, and stated that he had no doubt of the Stuka's ability in its assigned role.
|A||192||70||262||July 1937 – September 1938|
|B-1||311||386||697||September 1938 – May 1940|
|B-2||56||169||225||February 1940 – October 1940|
|R-1||105||105||January 1940 – May 1940|
|R-2||616||616||June 1940 – July 1941|
|R-4||few||May 1941 – October 1941|
|D-1||592||592||August 1941 – July 1942|
|D-3||1,559||1,559||May 1942 – November 1943|
|D-5||1,488||1,488||May 1943 – September 1944|
|G-2||208||208||December 1943 – July 1944|
Among the many German aircraft designs that participated in the Spanish Civil War, a single Ju 87 A-0 (the V4 prototype) was allocated serial number 29-1 and was assigned to the VJ/88, the experimental Staffel of the Legion's fighter wing. The aircraft was secretly loaded onto the Spanish ship Usaramo and departed Hamburg harbor on the night of 1 August 1936, arriving in Cadiz five days later.
The only known information pertaining to its combat career in Spain is that it was piloted by Unteroffizier Herman Beuer, and took part in the Nationalist offensive against Bilbao in 1937. Presumably the aircraft was then secretly returned to Germany.
In January 1938 three Ju 87 A-s arrived. Several problems became evident - the spatted undercarriage sank into muddy airfield surfaces, and the spats were temporarily removed. In addition, the maximum 500 kg (1100 lb) bomb load could only be carried if the gunner vacated his seat, and the bomb load was therefore restricted to 250 kg (550 lb). These aircraft supported the Nationalist forces and carried out anti-shipping missions until they returned to Germany in October 1938.
The A-1s were replaced by five Ju 87 B-1s. With the war coming to an end they found little to do and were used to support Heinkel He 111s attacking Republican positions. As the Ju 87 A-0 had been, the B-1s were returned discreetly to the Reich.
The experience of the Spanish Civil War had been invaluable - air and ground crews perfected their skills, and equipment was evaluated under combat conditions. Although no Ju 87s had been lost in Spain, however, the Ju 87 had not been tested against numerous and well-coordinated fighter opposition, and this lesson was to be learned later at great cost to the Stuka crews.
On 1 September 1939 the Wehrmacht invaded Poland triggering World War Two. Generalquartiermeister der Luftwaffe records indicate a total force of 366 Ju 87 A and Bs were available for operations on the 31 August 1939. At exactly 0426 hours a Kette of Ju 87s of 3./StG 1 led by Staffelkapitän Oberleutnant Bruno Dilly carried out the first bombing attack of the war. The aim was to destroy the Polish demolition charges wired to the bridges over the Vistula River. However, the mission failed and the Poles destroyed the bridge before the Germans could reach it.
A Ju 87 achieved the first air victory during World War II on 1 September 1939, when Rotte Leutnant Frank Neubert of I./StG 2 "Immelmann" shot down a Polish PZL P.11c fighter piloted by Captain Mieczysław Medwecki, who was killed in the engagement.
On one occasion six Polish divisions trapped by enscircling German forces were forced to surrender after a relentless four-day bombardment by StG 51, 76 and 77. Employed in this assault were the 50-kg fragmentation bombs which caused appalling casualties to the Polish ground troops. Demoralized, the Poles surrendered. The Stukas also participated in the Battle of Bzura which resulted in the breaking of Polish resistance. The Sturzkampfgeschwader alone dropped 388 tonnes of bombs during this battle.
Once again, enemy air opposition was light, the Stukawaffe (Stuka force) losing just 31 aircraft during the campaign.
The campaign was not the classic Blitzkrieg of fast moving armoured divisions supported by air-power as the mountainous terrain ruled out close Panzer/Stuka cooperation. Instead the Germans relied on Fallschirmjäger (paratroops), airborne troops transported by Junkers Ju 52s and specialised ski troops. The strategic nature of the operation made the Stuka essential. The Ju 87s were given the role of ground attack and anti-shipping missions. The Stuka was to prove the most effective weapon in the Luftwaffe's armoury carrying out the latter.
On 9 April StG 1 caught and hit the 600-ton Norwegian torpedo boat Aeger in the engine room. The Aeger was run aground and scuttled. The Stukageschwader were now equipped with the new Ju 87R, which differed from the Ju 87B by having increased internal fuel capacity and two 300l underwing drop tanks for more range.
The first Stukas took off at 10.59 hours from occupied airfields to destroy Oscarsborg Fortress, after the loss of the heavy cruiser Blücher which caused disruption of the amphibious landings in Oslo through Oslofjord.
The Stukas however had numerous successes against Allied Naval vessels. HMS Bittern was sunk on 30 April. The French super-destroyer Bison was sunk along with HMS Afridi by Sturzkampfgeschwader 1 on 3 May 1940.
The Stukawaffe had learned some lessons from the Polish and Norwegian campaigns. The failures of Poland and the Stukas of I.StG 1 to silence the Oscarborg fort ensured even more attention was paid to pin-point bombing during the Phoney War period. This was to pay off in the Western campaign.
When Fall Gelb began on 10 May 1940 the Stuka helped swiftly neutralise the fortress of Eben Emael. The HQ of the Commander responsible for ordering the destruction of the bridges along the Albert Canal was stationed in the village of Lanaeken (14 km to the north). However the Stuka demonstrated its accuracy when the small building was destroyed after receiving four direct hits. As a result only one of the three bridges was destroyed allowing the German Army to rapidly advance.
The Sturzkampfgeschwader were also instrumental in achieving the breakthrough at Sedan. The Stukawaffe flew 300 sorties against French positions, with StG 77 alone flying 201 individual missions.
The Luftwaffe also benefited from excellent ground-to-air communications throughout the campaign. Radio equipped forward liaison officers could call upon the Stukas and direct them to attack enemy positions along the axis of advance. In some cases the Stukas responded to requests in 10-20 minutes. Oberstleutnant Hans Seidemann (Richthofen's Chief of Staff) said that "never again was such a smoothly functioning system for discussing and planning joint operations achieved.
During the Battle of Dunkirk 89 merchantmen (of 126,518 grt) were lost, and the Royal Navy lost 29 of its 40 destroyers (6 sunk, 23 damaged and out of service), mostly at the hands of the Ju 87s. Enemy air power was ineffective and disorganised, and as a result the Stuka losses were mainly due to ground fire. Some 120 machines, one-third of the Stuka force, were destroyed or damaged to all causes.
During August, the Ju 87s also had some success. On 13 August Bf 109s of JG 26 were sent out in advance of the main strike and successfully drew off RAF fighters, allowing 86 Ju 87s of StG 1 to attack RAF Detling unhindered. The attack killed the station commander, destroyed 20 RAF aircraft on the ground and a great many of the airfields many buildings. However Detling was not an RAF Fighter Command station. The Battle of Britain proved for the first time that the Junkers Ju 87 was vulnerable in hostile skies against well organised and determined fighter opposition. The Ju 87 was slow and possessed inadequate defences. Furthermore, it could not be effectively protected by fighters, because of its low speed and the very low altitudes at which it ended its dive bomb attacks. The Stuka depended on air superiority, the very thing being contested over Britain. It was withdrawn from attacks on Britain in August after prohibitive losses, leaving the Luftwaffe without precision ground-attack aircraft.
Steady losses had occurred throughout their participation in the battle. On 18 August, a day known as the 'hardest day' as both sides suffered heavy losses, the Stuka was withdrawn after 16 were destroyed and many others damaged. According to the Generalquartiermeister der Luftwaffe 59 Stukas were destroyed and 33 damaged, to varying degrees, in six weeks of operations. Over 20 percent of the total Stuka strength had been lost between 8 August and 18 August. The myth of the Stuka was shattered.
The Ju 87 did reappear over Britain later in the year, and flew small scale missions against British shipping off the United Kingdom's south coast.
In response to the Italian defeats in Greece and North Africa the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht ordered the deployment of some German forces to these theatres. Amongst the Luftwaffe contingent deployed was the Geschwaderstab StG 3 which touched down in Sicily in December 1940. In the next few days two Gruppen—some 80 Stukas—were deployed under X. Fliegerkorps''. The first task of the Korps was to attack British shipping passing between Sicily and Africa. The Ju 87s first made their presence by subjecting the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious to heavy attack. The crews were confident that they could sink it as the flight deck had an area of about 7,000 square metres.
On 10 January 1941 the Stuka crews were told that four direct hits with 500 kg bombs would be enough to sink the carrier. The Ju 87s delivered six and three damaging near-misses, but the ship's engines remained untouched and she made for the besieged harbour of Malta.
Many ex-Luftwaffe Ju 87s were handed over to their Italian ally, the Regia Aeronautica and re-named the Picchiatello. Some of the Picchiatelli saw action in the opening phase of the Italian invasion of Greece in October 1940. The number was ineffective and the Italian forces were quickly pushed back. By early 1941 the Greeks had pushed into Italian occupied Albania. Once again Hitler decided to send military aid to his allies.
In March the pro-German Yugoslav government was toppled. A furious Hitler ordered the attack to be expanded to include Yugoslavia. Operation Marita commenced on 7 April. The Luftwaffe committed StG 1, 2 and 77 to the campaign. The Stuka once again spearheaded the air assault with a front line strength of 300 machines, against minimal Yugoslav resistance in the air, giving the Stukas a fearsome reputation in this region. Operating unmolested they took a heavy toll of ground forces, suffering only light losses to ground fire. The effectiveness of the dive-bombers helped bring about Yugoslav capitulation in just ten days.
The Stukas also took a peripheral part in Operation Punishment - Hitler's retribution bombing of Belgrade. The dive-bombers were to attack airfields and known anti-aircraft gun positions whilst the level bombers struck civilian targets. Belgrade was badly damaged, and 15,000 people were reported killed or injured.
In Greece, despite British aid, little air opposition was encountered. As the Allies withdrew and resistance collapsed, the Allies began evacuating to Crete. The Stukas proved effective in inflicting severe damage on Allied shipping. On 22 April the 1,389 ton destroyers Psara and Ydra were sunk. In the next two days the Greek Naval base at Piraeus lost 23 vessels to Stuka attack.
During the Battle of Crete the Ju 87s also played a significant role. On 21/22 May 1942, the Germans attempted to send in reinforcements to Crete by sea, but lost 10 vessels to "Force D" under the command of Rear-Admiral Glennie. The force consisting of HMS Dido, HMS Orion and HMS Ajax forced the remaining German ships to retreat. The Stukas were called upon to deal with the British Naval threat. On 21 May HMS Juno was sunk, and the next day battleship HMS Warspite was damaged and the cruiser HMS Gloucester was sunk with the loss of 45 officers and 648 ratings. The Ju 87s also crippled HMS Fiji that morning, (she was later finished off by Bf 109 fighter bombers) whilst destroying HMS Greyhound with a single hit. As the Battle of Crete drew to a close the Allies began yet another withdrawal. On 23 May the Royal Navy also lost HMS Kashmir, HMS Kelly sunk followed by HMS Hereward on the 26 May. HMS Orion and HMS Dido were also severely damaged. HMS Orion had been evacuating 1,100 soldiers to North Africa and lost 260 of them killed and another 280 wounded during the attacks.
The Sturzkampfgeschwader faithfully supported Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel's Deutsches Afrikakorps in its two year campaign in North Africa, helping it achieve considerable success. However as the tide turned and Allied air power grew in the autumn of 1942, the Ju 87 became very vulnerable, and losses were heavy. The entry of the Americans into North Africa during Operation Torch made the situation far worse: the Stuka was obsolete in what was now a fighter-bomber's war. The Bf 109 and Fw 190 could at least fight on equal terms after dropping their ordnance , but the Stuka could not. The Junkers' vulnerability was demonstrated on 11 November 1942 when 15 Ju 87Ds were all shot down by USAF P-40Fs in minutes.
By 1943, the Allies enjoyed total air superiority in North Africa. The Ju 87s ventured out in Rotte strength only, often jettisoning their bombs at the first sight of enemy aircraft and making "a run for home".
The dive-bombers continued to support operations in Southern Europe; after the Italian surrender in September 1943 the Ju 87 helped Germany achieve the last campaign-sized victory over the Western Allies. The Greek Dodecanese Islands had been occupied by the British; the Luftwaffe reacted by committing 75 Stukas (of StG 3 with bases in Megara and Rhodos) to recover the Islands. With the RAF bases some 500 km away the Ju 87 helped the German landing forces to achieve a rapid conquest of the Islands..
After the Battle of Leros the I. Gruppe of StG 3 was transferred to the Eastern Front (Dorpat). The remaining Stuka units continued to operate during the Italian campaign, but mainly at night to avoid Allied fighters.
On 22 June 1941 the Wehrmacht commenced Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Luftwaffe order of battle of 22 June 1941 contained four different Sturzkampfgeschwader. Fliegerkorps VIII under the command of General der Flieger Wolfram von Richthofen was equipped with units Stab, II., and III./StG 1. Also included were Stab, I., II., and III. of Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 Immelmann. Attached to Fliegerkorps II, under the Command of General der Flieger Bruno Loerzer, were Stab, I., II., and III. of StG 77. Luftflotte 5, under the command of Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen Stumpff, operating from Norway's Arctic Circle, were alloted IV. Gruppe (St)/LG 1.
The first Stuka loss on the Soviet-German front occurred early at 03.40-03.47 in the morning of the 22 June. While being escorted by Bf 109s from JG 51 to attack a fortress at Brest, Oberleutnant Karl Führing of StG 77 was shot down by a I-153. The Sturzkampfgeschwader had suffered only two losses on the opening day of Barbarossa. As a result of the Luftwaffe's attention, the Soviet Air Force in the Western Soviet Union was nearly destroyed. The official report claimed 1,489 Soviet aircraft destroyed. Göring ordered this checked. After picking their way through the wreckages across the front, Luftwaffe officers found that the tally exceeded 2,000. In the following two days the Soviets reported the loss of another 1,922 aircraft. Soviet aerial resistance, whilst it continued, ceased to be effective, and the Luftwaffe maintained air superiority until the end of the year.
The Ju 87 took a huge toll on Soviet ground forces, helping to break up counter-attacks of Soviet armour, eliminating strong points, and disrupting the enemy supply lines. An example of the Stuka's effectiveness occurred on 5 July when StG 77 knocked out 18 trains and 500 vehicles. As Panzergruppe 1 and 2 forged bridgeheads across the Dnieper river and closed in on Kiev the Ju 87s again rendered invaluable support. On 13 September Stukas from StG 1 destroyed all the rail networks in the vicinity as well as inflicting heavy casualties on escaping Red Army columns, for the loss of a single Ju 87. Days later, on 23 September, Hans-Ulrich Rudel (who to become the most decorated serviceman in the Wehrmacht) of StG 2, sank the Soviet battleship Marat, during an air attack on Kronstadt harbor in the Leningrad area, with a hit to the bow with a 1,000 kg bomb. Also during this action Leutnant Egbert Jaekel sank the destroyer Minsk, while the destroyer Steregushchiy and submarine M-74 were also sunk. The Stukas also crippled the battleship Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya and the destroyers Silnyy and Grozyashchiy in exchange for two Ju 87s shot down.
Elsewhere on the Eastern front the Junkers assisted Army Group Centre in its drive toward Moscow. From 13-22 December 420 vehicles and 23 tanks were destroyed by StG 77, greatly improving the morale of the German infantry, who were by now on the defensive. StG 77 finished the campaign as the most effective Sturzkampfgeschwader. It had destroyed 2,401 vehicles, 234 tanks, 92 artillery batteries and 21 trains for the loss of 25 Ju 87s to hostile action.
At the end of Barbarossa, StG 1 had lost 60 Stukas in aerial combat and one on the ground. StG 2 lost 39 Ju 87s in the air and two on the ground, StG 77 lost 29 of their dive-bombers in the air and three on the ground (25 to enemy action). IV.(St)/LG1 operating from Norway lost 24 Ju 87s, all in aerial combat.
In early 1942 the Ju 87s were to give the Germany Army (Heer) yet more valuable support. On 29 December 1941 the Soviet 44th Army landed on the Kerch Peninsula. The Luftwaffe was only able to dispatch meager reinforcements of four Kampfgruppen (note: not Kampfgeschwader) and two Sturzkampfgruppen, belonging to StG 77. With air-superiority the Ju 87s operated with impunity. In the first ten days half the landing force was destroyed, while sea supply lines were cut off by the Stukas inflicting heavy losses on Soviet shipping. The Ju 87s effectiveness against Soviet armour was not yet potent. Later versions of the T-34 tank could withstand Stuka attack, in general, unless a direct hit was scored, but the Soviet 44th Army had only obsolescent types with thin armour which were nearly all destroyed.
During the Battle of Sevastopol the Stukas mercilessly bombed the trapped Soviet forces. Some Ju 87 pilots flew up to 300 sorties against the Soviet defenders. Luftflotte 4's StG 77 flew 7,708 combat sorties dropping 3,537 tonnes of bombs on the city. Their efforts help secure the capitulation of Soviet forces on 4 July.
For the German summer offensive, Fall Blau, the Luftwaffe had concentrated 1,800 aircraft into Luftflotte 4 making it the largest and most powerful single air-command in the world. The Stukawaffe strength stood at 151.
During the Battle of Stalingrad Stukas flew thousands of sorties against Soviet positions in the city. StG 1, 2 and 77 flew 320 individual sorties on 14 October 1942. As the German Sixth Army pushed the Soviets into a 1,000 yard enclave on the West bank of the Volga river, 1,208 Stuka sorties were flown against this small strip of land. However the intense air attack, though causing horrific losses on Soviet units, failed to destroy them. The Luftwaffe's Sturzkampfgeschwader made maximum effort during this phase of the war. They flew an average of 500 sorties per day and caused heavy losses among Soviet forces, losing an average of only one Stuka per day.
The Battle of Stalingrad marked the high point in the fortunes of the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka. As the strength of the Soviet Air Forces grew, they gradually wrestled control of the skies from the Luftwaffe. From this point onward the vulnerability of the Stuka to fighter attack caused losses to increase.
The Stuka was also heavily involved in Operation Citadel, the Battle of Kursk. The Luftwaffe committed I, II, III./St.G 1 and III./StG 3 under the command of Luftflotte 6. I., II, III. of StGs 2 and 3 were committed under the command of Hans Seidemanns Fliegerkorps VIII. Hauptmann Rudel's cannon-equipped Ju 87 Gs had a devastating effect on Soviet armour at Orel and Belgorod. The Ju 87s participated in a huge aerial counter-offensive lasting from 16 July - 31 July against a Soviet offensive at Khotynets and saved two German armies from encirclement, reducing the attacking Soviet 11th Guard Army to just 33 tanks by 20 July. The Soviet offensive had been completely halted from the air. However losses were considerable. Fliegerkorps VIII lost eight Ju 87s on 8 July, six on 9 July, six on 10 July and another eight on 11 July. The Stuka arm also lost eight of their Knight's Cross holders. StG 77 lost 24 Ju 87s in the period 5-31 July (StG had lost 23 in July-December 1942) while StG 2 lost another 30 machines in the same period. In September 1943 three of the Stuka units were re-equipped with the Fw 190 Schlachtgeschwader. In the face of overwhelming air opposition the dive-bomber needed heavy protection from German fighters. Some units like StG 2 Immelmann continued to operate with great success throughout 1943-45 operating the Ju 87 G variants equipped with 37 mm cannons, which became effective tank-killers, although in increasingly small numbers.
In the wake of the defeat at Kursk, the Ju 87s played a vital "fire-fighting role" on the southern wing of the eastern front. To combat the Luftwaffe the Soviets could deploy three air armies, the 2nd Air Army, 5th Air Army and 16th Air Army with some 3,000 fighter aircraft, as a result the Stukas suffered heavily. StG 77 lost 30 Ju 87s in August 1943 as did StG 2 Immelmann, who also reported the loss of 30 machines in combat. Despite these losses the Ju 87s helped the 29. Armeekorps break out of an encirclement near the Sea of Azov. The Battle of Kiev also included substantial effort by Ju 87 units. Although again, unsuccessful. The Stuka units were now, with the loss of air superiority, coming vulnerable on the ground as well. On 17 November 1943 the Luftwaffe lost two Stuka aces on the ground, when Hans Krumminga and Wilfried Herling were killed, while taking off from Bolshaya Kostromka airfield, by 15 IAP Yak 1s led by Kpt Leontiy. By early 1944 the number of Ju 87 units and operational aircraft entered into terminal decline. Toward the end of the war the Ju 87 was replaced by ground-attack versions of the Fw 190, as the Stuka was no longer capable of operating under the conditions of Allied air superiority. Gefechtsverband Kuhlmey, a mixed aircraft unit, which included large numbers of Stuka dive bombers, was rushed to the Finnish front in the summer of 1944, and was instrumental in halting the Soviet fourth strategic offensive.
Once the Stuka became too vulnerable to growing fighter opposition on all fronts, work was done to develop a replacement. None of the dedicated close-support designs on the drawing board progressed far due to the war situation and technological difficulties, and the Luftwaffe decided to settle on the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter aircraft, with the Fw 190F becoming the dedicated ground-attack version. The Fw 190F started to replace the Ju 87 as close-support aircraft for day missions in 1943, but the Ju 87 continued to be used as a night-nuisance raider until the end of the war.
Two intact Ju 87s survived and a few more wrecks are on display today.
|Ju 87B||Ju 87D||Ju 87G-1|
|Production||1938-1941||1941-1944||refitted Ju 87D|
|Role||ground attack||ground attack||anti-tank|
|Length||11.1 m||11.1 m||11.1 m|
|Wingspan||13.8 m||13.8 m||13.8 m|
|Height||3.9 m||3.9 m||3.9 m|
|Wing area||31.90 m²||31.90 m²||31.90 m²|
|Empty weight||2,760 kg||2,810 kg||3,600 kg|
|Maximum weight||4,400 kg||5,720 kg||5,100 kg|
|Engine||Junkers Jumo 211Da||Junkers Jumo 211J||Junkers Jumo 211J|
|Maximum Power||1200 PS||1420 PS||1420 PS|
|Maximum Power||883 kW||1044 kW||1044 kW|
|Maximum speed||383 km/h||408 km/h||375 km/h|
|Dive speed||600 km/h||600 km/h|
|Range with bombs||600 km||1165 km||1000 km|
|Ceiling||8100 m||9000 m||7500 m|
|Climb rate||3,000 m in 8.8 min||3,000 m in 14 min||3,000 m in 13.6 min|
|Forward guns||2×7.92 mm MG 17||2×7.92 mm MG 17||2×7.92 mm MG 17|
2×37 mm BK 37
(6 rounds per gun)
|Rear guns||1×7.92 mm MG 15||1×7.92 mm MG 81Z|
(twin MG 81)
|1×7.92 mm MG 81Z|
(twin MG 81)
|Maximum bombloads||500 kg (nominal);|
1000 kg (overload - without the gunner)
|1000 kg (nominal);|
1800 kg (overload - without the gunner)
|Typical bombload||1×250/500 kg + 4×50 kg||1×500 kg + 4×50 kg |
or 1×1000 kg