Ju 87 file photo

Ju 87 Stuka

CountryGermany
ManufacturerJunkers
Primary RoleDive Bomber
Maiden Flight17 September 1935

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

The all-metal Ju 87 Stuka aircraft were the German Luftwaffe's primary dive bombers. At first glance, they were crude-looking, but this feature reflected the principle behind the Ju 87 design, which stressed the ease of production and the ruggedness of the aircraft over other items on the wish list. Two unique characteristics made these aircraft stand out: first, the dive brakes, automatic pull-up systems, and the strengthened airframes ensured that the bomber maintained control during dives; then, the wind-powered sirens terrorized the enemy psychologically. "The Stuka was more than a bomber", said William Manchester, "it was also an instrument of fear." The enemy soldiers who stood opposite these bombers, morale melting away by the noise of the sirens, ran in fear as they believed the bombs were coming straight for them.

A typical Stuka attack began at the altitude of 13,000 feet, diving down at the target at the speed of about 300 miles per hour. About four seconds before the ideal altitude for releasing the bomb, a horn in the cockpit sounds off; when the horn stopped, the pilot released the bomb, and the automatic pull-up system would kick in to help the aircraft zoom-climb. As the target area was now behind the aircraft, the rear gunner sprayed the area with machine gun fire, keeping the defenders' heads down to help ensure the success of the next Stuka dive bomber in line.

The Ju 87 Stuka aircraft's fixed undercarriages provided sturdy platforms for takeoffs and landings on improvised airfields in the field.

"One major disadvantage of the [Stuka] dive-bomber was that it could employ its steep diving mode of attack only if the cloud base was above 2,600 feet", recalled General Paul Deichmann in a report for the Western Allies after the war.

While they were among the key components of the successful Blitzkrieg campaign on continental Europe early in the war, they were not so effective during the Battle of Britain. They were excellent weapons against shipping in the English Channel and ground targets in Britain, but the lack of air superiority meant that their extremely slow speed made them easy targets for British fighters. The original variant of the design, A-1, had a top speed of under 200 miles per hour; nevertheless, the slow speed was not considered an issue as they were dive bombers and not fighters. This design philosophy was also a reason why the original variant did not employ forward-firing armament, though this was changed in later variants. This weakness also hurt other aircraft in the German Luftwaffe arsenal, as escorting Bf 109 and Bf 110 fighters had to fly in zig-zag in order to maintain formation with Ju 87 Stuka aircraft, which led to a higher fuel consumption rate and making the fighters more vulnerable to being bounced by British fighters.

After the Battle of Britain, most of these dive bombers were relocated to the Eastern Front and the Mediterranean. Between 1936 and Aug 1944, more than 6,000 Stuka bombers were built.

Because Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers performed so well as tactical bombers, this success became a curse as well. Ernst Udet, in charge of the technical department of the Luftwaffe, was so convinced in the capability of dive bombers that he requested all German bombers to be designed with dive bombing capability; this effectively removed any chance German had to develop an effective long-range bomber even if such an item made its way on the wish list of the Luftwaffe.

Sources:
Paul Deichmann, Spearhead for Blitzkrieg
Stephen Bungay, The Most Dangerous Enemy
William Manchester, The Last Lion
Wikipedia

Ju 87 Stuka Timeline

17 Sep 1935 The Ju 87 Stuka dive bomber design took its maiden flight.
20 Aug 1940 Luftwaffe leadership ordered that no more Ju 87 Stuka aircraft were to be sent into action over Britain, after suffering unsustainable loss rates; almost 60 were shot down in the past 11 days.
16 Mar 1943 Operational trials of the 37-mm Flak gun-armed German Ju-87G anti-tank aircraft began on the Eastern Front.

SPECIFICATIONS

Ju 87A
MachineryJunkers Jumo 210D rated at 720hp
Armament2x7.92mm machine guns (one forward, one rear), 1x250 kg bomb
Span13.80 m
Length11.00 m
Height3.90 m
Wing Area31.90 m
Weight, Empty2,273 kg
Weight, Maximum3,324 kg
Speed, Maximum310 km/h
Range, Normal800 km

Ju 87B
MachineryJunkers Jumo 211Da rated at 1,200hp
Armament3x7.92mm machine guns (two forward, one rear), 1x250kg bomb, 4x50kg bombs
Span13.80 m
Length11.00 m
Height3.90 m
Wing Area31.90 m
Weight, Empty2,760 kg
Weight, Maximum4,400 kg
Speed, Maximum340 km/h
Range, Normal600 km

Ju 87D
MachineryJunkers Jumo 211J rated at 1,410hp
Armament3x7.92mm machine guns (two forward, one rear), 1x500 or 1,000kg bomb, 4x50kg bombs
Span13.80 m
Length11.00 m
Height3.90 m
Wing Area31.90 m
Weight, Empty2,810 kg
Weight, Maximum5,720 kg
Speed, Maximum354 km/h
Range, Normal1,165 km

Ju 87G
MachineryJunkers Jumo 211J rated at 1,410hp
Armament3x7.92mm machine guns (two forward, one rear), 2x37mm BK 37
Span13.80 m
Length11.00 m
Height3.90 m
Wing Area31.90 m
Weight, Empty3,600 kg
Weight, Maximum5,100 kg
Speed, Maximum344 km/h
Range, Normal1,000 km

Photographs

Third prototype of Ju 87, date unknownJu 87 resting at an airfield, date unknownThree German Ju 87A dive bombers in flight, circa 1938A flight of three German Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers taking off, Poland, Sep 1939
See all 72 photographs of Ju 87 Stuka Dive Bomber



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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Alan Chanter says:
    20 Nov 2007 11:51:42 AM

    On the first of September 1939 Ju87B-1s carried out the first combat mission of the Second World War. Just eleven minutes after the declaration of war between Germany and Poland, three Ju87B-1s took off to attack the Dirschau Bridge.

    For the campaign in Poland the Luftwaffe employed all nine of its Ju87 Gruppen-A total of 319 dive bombers.
  2. Alan Chanter says:
    20 Nov 2007 11:56:49 AM

    The Ju87A (See specifications above) had been withdrawn from front-line service by September 1939. Those still on the Luftwaffes inventory being passed to Stuka Training units.
  3. Alan Chanter says:
    26 Nov 2007 02:37:13 PM

    This, the first bombing raid of the war, was conducted by 3/St. G.1 (St.G is an abbreviation of Stukageschwader Gruppe, or Dive-Bomber Group) and led by Captain Bruno Dilley. Their target was Polish defence positions near the Dirschau Bridge which was positioned on the major artery through the Danzig corridor.
  4. matjan says:
    15 Nov 2008 10:51:26 AM

    As with most warplanes in Europe the range was deplorably short, especially compared with similar Japanese planes
  5. wayne7150 says:
    29 Jun 2009 08:07:10 AM

    In his book "Stuka Pilot" Hans Ulrich Rudel states that there were no sirens on the Stuka. The noise was made by the diving brakes. He claims that the "sirens on the Stuka" were a myth and a misconception. As a a very decorated Luftwaffe flyer with lots of time spent in Stukas, he should know. Bye the way, has anyone ever seen a photograph of the supposed sirens on the Stuka?
  6. Bill says:
    2 Jan 2010 07:11:38 PM

    Photograph of Regia Aeronautica Ju-87's in
    formation.

    Could be from one or two units
    The first:
    208 Squdriglia, 97 Gurppo Autonomo
    Bombardamento a Tuffo, Gars-el Arid, Libya
    September 1941.

    The Second:
    209 Squdriglia, 101 Gruppo Autonomo
    Bombardamento a Tuffo, Sicily 1941.

    This is the information I could get,from the
    photograph. If anyone has more info, post it
    on ww2db.
  7. Anonymous says:
    22 Feb 2010 08:49:23 PM

    I really like the Ju87-G2's design, but it coud have used: 1.machine guns for more self protecion(front fusalage), 2.better engines, 3.better boost systems(NO2), & 3.retactable landing gear. This applies to most Ju87's anyway.
  8. Bill says:
    22 Aug 2010 12:39:21 PM

    Later models such as the Junkers Ju 87G
    carried two flak 18 37mm cannons under the
    wings.
    One of the most famous Stuka pilots of the
    war, was Geschwader-Kommodore of Stab/SG 2
    Oberstleutnant Hans Ulrich Rudel he was 28
    years old and a Colonel.
  9. Guillaume says:
    16 Mar 2011 04:32:34 PM

    @wayne7150 : You're right, I've red his book. According to some sources, the typical sound of the Stuka was actually an audio guide/warning for the pilot and gave him an indication of his speed while focused on his target. This feature was withdrawn quite early (maybe that's why Rudel says it didn't exist) because it also warned targets on the ground :-)
  10. Someone says:
    3 Jul 2012 08:40:01 AM

    @wayne7150: the siren was positioned below the cockpit
  11. Phil says:
    29 Aug 2012 06:16:30 AM

    It would take over an hour for a fully loaded Stuka B to reach 13,000 feet. Those guys were really patient. Range is longer than I thought.
  12. Inty says:
    1 Jul 2014 10:14:21 PM

    Hi Wayne7150, the Stuka's Dive Siren's are mounted on the outer casing of the landing legs for each wheel. They are clearly visible, they look like a little propeller. There is a switch to the left of the pilots seat to activate the Siren.

    To my understanding they were only on the earlier B1 models Battle of Britain and Battle of Stalingrad had them equipped but not the Tropical B2, D1 - D3 had 37mm Cannons mounted on the landing legs where the Jericho trumpet used to be.

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Third prototype of Ju 87, date unknown
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