Here's What You Need To Remember: The Stuka was terrifying - if you were on the ground underneath it. However, the planes were not adept at air-to-air combat, as their losses during the Battle of Britain proved.
In 1931, Ernst Udet, the second-highest scoring German fighter ace of the First World War and future Luftwaffe architect, was in the United States to take part in a stunt flying display. During his trip, the 36-year-old fighter pilot witnessed a Curtiss F8C Helldiver make a simulated dive bombing attack at an air show. The spectacle made an impression on the visiting flier. After the Nazis rose to power, Udet became a champion of to concept of using dive bombing to support ground forces. Udet even brought two U.S. dive bombers back to Germany (the Curtiss Hawk version of the Helldiver). The demonstrators played a key role in making dive bombing central to Luftwaffe doctrine. This in turn would help inform the development of the Stuka.
“The Soviets, knowing out intention to take Stalingrad, had put up a barrier on the West bank of the Don, in front of this town. This barrier consisted of 200 to 300 tanks, and it was the first time we came in contact with such a mass of tanks. The Soviet resistance had clearly stiffened here. […] We detailed one staffel after another. They approached single tanks in Ketten and from the side, from south to north or vice versa. Each plane looked for its target, flying parallel to its neighbor, at approach angles of 30 to 40 degrees, aiming with the whole aircraft through the reflex sight, at the center of the tank, then dropping 500-kg bombs with tank busting head into the tank’s side while making an extremely low pass above the ground.”
Hans-Ulrich Rudel was the most successful Ju 87 pilot of the war and was the lone recipient of Germany’s Knight’s Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. Ironically, the decorated ace was considered a lacklustre pilot earlier in his career. Yet Rudel claimed 519 tank “kills” while flying Ju 87s. He also destroyed 150 artillery pieces, 70 landing craft, nine aircraft, four armoured trains, several bridges, a destroyer, two cruisers, and even the Soviet battleship Marat. In all, Rudel flew 2,530 sorties on the Eastern Front, and survived the loss of a leg (amputated below the knee) when he was shot down in February of 1945. He died in 1982 at 66.
Early prototypes of the Stuka featured stabilizing double-fin tail-plane configurations yet weren’t fitted with dive brakes. In January 1936, one of Junkers’ most experienced test pilots was killed when his starboard tail-fin broke away. The pilot was unable to pull out of a dive and crashed. After this, Stukas were fitted with single tail fins and brakes.
The dive bomber was a solution to a timeless challenge in military aviation: how to ensure weapons dropped by fast-moving aircraft land anywhere near a point target like a warship, artillery battery or fortification. Precision was an especially big problem in an era where tactical aircraft could carry only light, unguided bombs.
Durante os primeiros meses da guerra, a Luftwaffe dominava os céus da Europa ocidental e o Stuka mostrou-se extremamente eficaz. No entanto, durante a Batalha da Inglaterra, pela primeira vez a Luftwaffe encontrara urn adversário a sua altura, a RAF, e as baixas dos Stukas foram tantas que Goering decidiu por retira-los do fronte.
By 1945, the Luftwaffe had only 100 operational Stukas out of around 6,000 built. These continued to harry Russian armies entering Germany, scoring occasional successes due lapses in Soviet air superiority. Only three intact Ju 87s survive today.
Has anyone got a photograph of the electrically driven Killfit Robot (24mm x 24mm images) camera, which were fitted in the tail of some JU 87 aircraft, to assess bombing damage. The JU 87 planes sometimes also carried a Leica 250 GG Reporter camera in the centre bottom surface of the fuselage but angled forwards, fitted with MOOEV 24V electric motor drives. These were activated automatically when the dive brakes were deployed. This was to asses bombing accuracy and target content.
The Stuka played an important role in the Wehrmacht’s early campaigns, knocking out obstacles to the relentless advance of German Panzer divisions with precision strikes. But white-knuckle dive-bombing tactics proved a dead end when facing significant aerial opposition. Though the Stuka led a respectable second career as a cannon-armed tank buster, the infamous warplane was doomed to be replaced by more versatile and survivable fighter-bombers.
IT WOULD BE difficult to come up with a more potent symbol of the German Blitzkrieg of World War Two than the Ju 87 Sturzkampfflugzeug or “Stuka”.
The single-engine all-metal monoplane had a two-person crew, and was specifically designed as a dive-bomber. Dive tactics involved the aircraft diving on a target at a steep angle, often reaching 90-degrees, and jettisoning the bomb load at a low altitude, ensuring maximum accuracy. The Stuka spearheaded the Blitzkrieg of 1939-1941, having a pivotal role in the invasion of France and Germany’s air-ground offensive. The war waged on the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet was fronted by Stukas, with the blitz on the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious off Malta announcing the arrival of the Luftwaffe in the Mediterranean and the beginning of the Siege of Malta.
Engineer Hermann Pohlmann of the Junkers company devised a two-seat monoplane with fixed landing gear covered by spiffy ‘spats’ and distinctive inverted gull-wings that helped lift the fuselage high enough off the ground to accommodate its large propeller. In addition to two rifle-caliber machineguns in the wings, the radio operator had a rearward-facing gun to protect against enemy fighters.
As the Stuka became increasingly vulnerable to Allied fighters in daylight operations, the Luftwaffe created special Nachtschlachtgruppen (NSGr) or “Night Attack Groups”. After the Normandy landings, three NSGr operated in Western Europe. The aircraft, designated D-7 and D-8, were outfitted with eliminators to mask their exhausts, ultraviolet lighting behind the instrument panel and special night reflector sights or nachtrevi. The planes’ nocturnal tactics involved a lead plane dropping flares to illuminate a target while other Stukas swooped in for the attack.
Growing Allied air superiority made Stuka operations more and more perilous. Even American fighter pilots seeing their first action shot down dozens of Stukas over North Africa and Italy.
The Luftwaffe fielded 336 Stukas at the onset of World War II and lost only 31 in the Polish campaign. They launched the first strikes of World War II and claimed the first air-to-air kill when a Stuka pounced on a Polish P.11 fighter taking off. When Polish forces counterattacked at the River Bzura with some success, Stukas and Panzers reacted swiftly to crush the threat.
The Stuka’s precision made it a deadly anti-ship weapon. Stukas sank most of the Polish Navy, crippled two cruisers and destroyed several Allied destroyers and sloops and during the invasion of Norway, and harried vessels evacuating Allied troops at Dunkirk.
The swan song of the Stuka came in July 1943 at the titanic tank battle at Kursk. Stuka Geschwaders 1, 2 and 3—half equipped with cannons—launched massive airstrikes on Soviet tank units alongside Fw-190 fighter bombers and Hs-129 anti-tank aircraft.
However, dive bombers are extremely slow and vulnerable when pulling out of a dive. Stuka losses were initially tolerable because German fighters had achieved air superiority over their foes. Even then, roughly 120 Stukas were lost over France and the Low Countries.
One of only two remaining complete Stukas in existence, a Ju-87B-2 which was captured in North Africa in 1943. Today, the aircraft is on display in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois. Photo source: Wikipedia.
But the Stuka was more than just a terror weapon – its ability to deliver bombs where needed with then unheard of precision made it a potent war machine that crippled the defenders of both Poland and France. In fact, the Ju 87 was a critical contributor to Axis victory in a number of campaigns in the war’s opening years. In fact, it would soldier on in various roles long after the tide had turned against the Nazis. Here are 11 remarkable facts about this famous warplane.