Ju87 infl color 550

Ju 87D in flight[1]

The Junkers Ju-87 'Stuka'[N 1] was the main dive bomber used by the Axis forces during World War 2.


Birth of Junkers Ju 87Edit

In Germany the development of dive bombers was set up in October 1933, as part of the secret rearmament programme. (Which in its origins dated back to 1921, long before Hitler came to power.) The first dive bombing unit was equipped with the Heinkel He 50, a sturdy biplane that had originated from a Japanese requirement for such an aircraft. Later the Henschel Hs 123, also a biplane, replaced the He 50. The Hs 123 was, like many early aircraft of the Luftwaffe, seen as an interim type, but it would actually give excellent service during most of World War II.

In 1934 the Luftwaffe tested a modified Junkers K 47, an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with twin tail fins. The K 47 was originally designed as a two-seat fighter, and the diving tests were purely experimental. There was also an exchange of ideas with the Swedish airforce, which was also interested in dive bombing - and would, after the end of W.W.II, produce one of the most advanced dive bombers ever flown, the Saab 18. Then in 1936 the Luftwaffe selected a new dive bomber to replace the Hs 123. The contenders were the Arado Ar 81, the Blohm & Voss Ha 137, the Heinkel He 118 and the Junkers Ju 87.

Development and the War TheatreEdit

The reputation of the Junkers Ju 87 as a weapon of war was made in the early days of World War II, when this dive-bomber was used in the Polish campaign, following up its success there with operations across Europe. The Stuka, as it became known universally (from Sturzkampfflugzeug, or dive-bomber), was considered by the Luftwaffe to he virtually invincible, but this was true only after air superiority had been gained. During the Battle of Britain in 1940 the RAF rapidly disproved the myth and the Stukas were so severely mauled by Hurricanes and Spitfires, that they were eventually withdrawn from operations over Western Europe. Junkers began construction of three prototypes of the Ju 87 in 1934 and a specification was issued around it. Ironically, in view of later events, a 640 hp (477 kW) Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine powered the first aircraft. Square twin fins and rudders proved too weak and during dive testing in 1935 they collapsed and the aircraft crashed.

The second prototype had a redesigned single fin and rudder and a 610 hp (455 kW) Junkers Jumo 210A engine. It was soon joined by a third prototype with further modifications, and official evaluation took place in 1936 against three competitive aircraft, the Arado Ar 81, Hamburger Ha 137 and Heinkel He 118. Orders were placed with Junkers and Heinkel for 10 aircraft each, the other two types being eliminated. The pre-production batch of Ju 87A-0 aircraft had 640 hp (477 kW) Jumo 210Ca engines and changes to facilitate production, these being followed by Ju 87A-1 initial production aircraft which began to replace Hs 123 biplanes in the spring of 1937, and three aircraft were tested under operational conditions by the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. The Ju 87A-2 was the next production model, with a 680 hp (507 kW) Jumo 210Da engine with supercharger, but this remained in production and service for only about six months before a major redesign was undertaken with the seventh prototype and Ju 87B-0 pre-production series. The new model was the Ju 87B-1 with considerably more power, its Jumo 211Da giving 1,200 hp (895 kW), while the fuselage and landing gear were completely redesigned. Large, streamlined spats replaced the earlier model's trousered main landing gear units and the fin and rudder were enlarged. Again tested in Spain, the new variant proved its abilities, and the production rate was stepped up by in mid-1939 to 60 per month and as a result, on the outbreak of World War 11 the Luftwaffe had 336 Ju 87B-ls on strength.

The Ju 87B-2 which followed had a number of detailed improvements and was built in several variants including ski-equipped versions and, at the other extreme, with tropical operation kit as the Ju 87B- 2/Trop. Italy received a number of Ju 87B-2s and named the type Picchliatello, while others went to Axis countries, including Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. A long-range anti-shipping version of the Ju 87B series appeared as the Ju 87R type, variants from Ju 87R-1 to Ju 87RA all having detail differences but a common main armament of one 551 lbs (250 kg) bomb with Dienartstab attachment and provision for underwing drop tanks. A pre-production batch (Ju 87C-0) of a navalised version, the Ju 87C-1, was built for operation from the aircraft-carrier Graf Zeppelin, but the ship was not completed and the aircraft were converted back to Ju 87B standard.

Although the Stukas had suffered severe losses at the hands of the RAF, the Luftwaffe had no immediate replacement available and development continued, the next production model being the Ju 87D-1 with the new 1,410 hp (1051 kW) Jumo 211J-1 engine. Considerable changes were made in the aircraft's appearance and armor was increased, probably the most popular improvement. Production of this version began in 1941 and deliveries during that year totaled 476, with 917 in 1942. The type was deployed extensively in the Middle East and on the Eastern Front, and in the former area was even used as a glider tug under the designation Ju 87D-2. The Ju 87D-3 had extra armor protection for the ground-attack role, and an odd experimental version of the Ju 87D-3 had a pod above each wing, both capable of carrying two persons and intended to be used to drop agents behind enemy lines. The pods were designed to be released in a shallow dive and to descend by parachute, but the point of this is obscure and it is not known if flight trials and release ever took place. The designation Ju 87D-4 applied to a torpedo-bomber version. The Ju 87D-5 had the outer wing panels extended to give a span of 49 ft 2 1/2 in (15.00 m), the increase being necessary to cope with the heavier loads that were being carried. Dive brakes were omitted as the variant was intended only for ground-attack.

The Ju 87s in use on the Eastern Front were, by 1943, being severely mauled by the Red Air Force during daytime operations. A night assault version, also without dive brakes, was developed as the Ju 87D-7 with flame-damped exhausts two wing-mounted 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon and night-flying equipment. The Ju 87D-8 final production version was a similar but simplified aircraft. A final operational version should he mentioned, the Ju 87G-1, which was a conversion of the Ju 87D-5 for tank-busting operations with a 37 mm cannon beneath each wing. For a while this version enjoyed considerable success on the Eastern Front, but when Soviet fighters could be spared for deployment against the type its low speed and poor maneuverability with the heavy cannon made it extremely vulnerable. The Ju 87H series were trainers, produced by conversion of Ju 87D airframes.

The final production figure for all models of the Ju 87 was in excess of 5,700, with most of these being built after 1940, when the RAF had already shown the type to be very vulnerable without adequate fighter cover. It can only be assumed that the type continued in production for so long because no suitable replacement was forthcoming. The shortcomings of the Ju-87 led to Junkers developing an improved version, known as the Ju 187.


Ju 87 Stukas took part in the Polish campaign, the attacks on the Low Countries and the Battle of France. The Stukas then faced the fighters of the RAF in the Battle of Britain, and suffered accordingly. Another successful campaign in Greece and the Balka"s followed, before the Stukegeschwader turned their attentions to the Eastern Front, where they fought until late 1943, when the units were redesignated as Schlachtgeschwader, most later transitioning to the more potent Fw 190. The Ju 87G-1 s served only with III/SG 2 and with 10.(Pz)/SG 1, 10.(Pz)/SG 2, 10.(Pz)/SG 3, and 10 (Pz)/SG 77. Luftwaffe tactical aircraft carried four-digit/letter codes on the rear fuselage. The first pair denoted the major unit (Geschwader or Gruppe), the third identified the individual aircraft and was presented in differing colours depending on whether the unit was the staff flight, first, second or third Staffel of each group, and the fourth identified the Staffel itself.


Junkers Ju 87 Stuka Variant History taken from aer.ita

  • Ju 87A (A-1/A-2) - The production Ju 87A featured the revised tail with a single fin, but the heavy `trousers' on the fixed undercarriage of the prototype were retained, making it easy to distinguish this version from later models of the Ju 87. The radiator intake was (relatively) small and rectangular, and is another easy recognition feature. If that is not enough, the cockpit of the A-model featured two small angled out antenna masts, that were later replaced by a single, vertical one. The canopy had hinged panels instead of the sliding sections featured by later models. The Ju 87A-0 pre-production model entered service in the spring of 1937. The engine was the Jumo 210, which was to be retained in different versions by the production A-series. The 640 hp (477 kW) Jumo 210Ca for the Ju 87A-1, and the 680 hp (507 kW) supercharged Jumo 210Da for the Ju 87A-2 with an improved VDM propeller. Production of the A-series ended after 262 aircraft, at the end of 1938.

    The Junkers Ju 87A had two fixed, forward-firing MG 17 guns, installed in the wing outboard of the undercarriage attachment points. There was a flexible MG 15 in the rear cockpit. The Ju 87A could carry a 551 lbs (250 kg) bomb, or a 1,102 lbs (500 kg) bomb if the rear gunner was left home. The bomb was carried on a swing-down rack, a tubular structure of which the front end was attached under the engine. On release, the bomb was swung forward and downward, so that it was free of the propeller disc. (The swinging bomb crutch seems to have been an American invention. The USN considered it important enough that they refused, in 1939, to allow export of such bomb racks to France. There were also two small racks for SC-50 110 lbs (50 kg) bombs under each outboard wing panel. The equipped four Gruppen, of which StG 163 sent three aircraft to Spain during the civil war and they did see action.
  • Ju 87B (B-1/B-2) An important development was that of the automatic bombing or dive control system of the Ju 87B. This consisted of an Askania autopilot, which was used together with a Revi gunsight. The bomb release gear, elevator controls, and dive brakes were linked to this system. Before attacking the pilot would set the bomb release height and go thru a checklist of about 10 items. The deployment of the dive brakes automatically set up the dive adjusting the elevator trim tab, and putting the aircraft into a dive. The use of the elevator was forbidden (except in case of emergency) so the pilot used ailerons only when setting up the attack angle via red degree lines painted at various angles on the canopy. When the bomb release height was reached and the bombs were dropped and a light came on the contact altimeter. All the pilot had to do was push a button on the control column and the autopilot adjusted the elevator trim tab again, so that the aircraft became tail heavy and pulled itself out of the dive. The pilot thus needed not to be concerned too much with the pull-out. This was just as well, because the pull-out put an acceleration of 6g on aircraft and pilot. Under such conditions one could not expect the pilot to perform complicated control sequences. Normal procedures called for a bomb release at an altitude of about 2,953 ft (900 m), which brought the Stuka down to about 1,312 ft (400 m) before it started to regain altitude.

    The Ju 87B was to be the standard model during the early years of World War II. It was powered by the much more powerful Jumo 211A engine. This engine had fuel injection, an important feature for an aircraft which had to be subjected to heavy G-forces and acrobatic manoeuvres making it immune to icing and engine cut-outs. A new engine cowling was designed, with a new air intake on top of the cowling, and a deep half-circular radiator under it. The radiator was larger for the B-2 model than for the B-1, because the B-2 had an even more powerful engine, and it can only be described as a deliberate insult to the aerodynamicists. The Ju 87B-1 was powered by 1,200 hp (895 kW) supercharged Jumo 211Da engine with a SC 500 1,102 lbs (500 kg) bombload. The Ju 87B-2 was an improved version with a 2,205 lbs (1000 kg) bombload. Some Ju 87B-2s flew as single seaters allowing the use of a single 2,205 lbs (1000 kg) centerline bomb.

    The trousered undercarriage of the A-model was replaced by a 'spatted' one, with closer-fitting leg covers and better streamlined wheel spats. The change was more than cosmetic, for the undercarriage was also redesigned and considerably strengthened. The mainwheels were also moved slighlty backwards. If the Ju 87 had to operate from poor airfields, such as found at the Eastern front, the spats were often removed because they tended to get clogged with mud. It was not even uncommon for Ju 87s to have their undercarriage ripped off when operating from such airfields. Speed in a dive built up to about 342 mph (550 km/h) and it became common practice to fit sirens, called 'Trumpets of Jericho' on the undercarriage legs in a special fitting to enhance the effect on morale of the Ju 87's attacks. This was driven by a small propeller on the left undercarriage leg. When the siren was not installed the mount was faired over, leaving a protrusion on the undercarriage. The sirens were mostly discarded during the Battle of Britain, because they reduced the performance of the already slow and vulnerable Ju 87. The greenhouse canopy of the Ju 87B was also different of that of the Ju 87A, with sliding sections for the pilot and the gunner, which replaced the earlier hinged entry panels. The twin radio masts of the JU 87A were replaced by a single, tall, vertical mast. Italy used several examples of this aircraft under the name "Picchiatello" which led to the mistaken belief that it was made in Italy as the Breda 201. Three Ju 87B-1s made the first combat mission of World War II when they took of from Elbing at 4:26 am on 1 September 1939 and devastated the approaches to the Dirschau bridger over the Vistula at 4:34 am, some 11 minutes before Germany declared war on Poland. Subsequently, the Ju 87B-1 played a tremendous part in the Polish Campaign, destroying all but two of the Polish Navy surface warships, heavily bombing Polish troops (on many occasions within 330 ft/100 m of advancing German forces. On one ghastly occasion Ju 87B-1s virtually wiped out a Polish Infantry Division at the Piotrkow railway station.
  • Ju 87C (C-1) The Ju 87C-1 was a shipboard development of the Ju 87B, intended for use on Germany's (although never completed) aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin. The carrier was launched at the end of 1938, but work was halted in 1940. It was resumed in 1942 but abandoned again the next year. The Graf Zeppelin was intended to carry 40 aircraft, of which 28 were planned to be Ju 87Cs. The wings of the Ju 87C had a smaller span and folded outboard of the undercarriage attachment points. The folding was similar to that used by the Grumman F4F Wildcat: the wings folded backwards with the leading edges turning down, so that they could be stored flat against the sides of the fuselage. The Ju 87C of course also had attachment points for catapult launch and a tailhook for arrested landings. The landing gear was made jettisonnable for a ditching, and flotation bags were fitted. The Ju 87C also had the capability to carry underwing fuel tanks, extending its range from 497 miles (800 km) to 994 miles (1600 km). This was to be retained for another (land-based) production model, the Ju 87R. Because the Graf Zeppelin was never completed, the Ju 87C only operated from land bases.
  • Ju 87R (R-1/R-2) The Ju 87R was a long-range version of the Ju 87B, with design features of the Ju 87C. The out-of-sequence R-designation stood for `Reichweite', or range. They were intended for anti-ship attacks, and proved very effective during the fights in Scandinavia. An additional fuel transfer system was fitted, new fuel tanks installed in the wing, and the outer wing attachment points were modified so that 300 litre fuel tanks could be carried instead of bombs. A single centerline 551 lbs (250 kg) bomb was the normal ordnance. The R-1 and R-2 were equivalent to the B-1 and B-2, but the R-1 had a longer range, because the B-2 model was heavier than the B-1. One Ju 87R aircraft was tested carrying a large container hung on the main bomb crutch, intending to carry spare parts and other cargo.
  • Ju 87D (D-1/D-2/D-3/D-4/D-5/D-7/D-8) The Ju 87D had a completely redesigned engine installation. The engine was still a derivative of the Jumo 211, but the more powerful 1,410 hp (1051 kW) 211J-1 or 1,500 hp (1119 kW) Jumo 211P model was used depending on the version. The main coolant radiator was removed from under the engine cowling, and two radiators were installed under the wing centre section instead. A shallow oil cooler was retained under the engine cowling. A new constant speed Junkers VS-11 propeller with paddle blades was used. Increased armour protection for the crew was also introduced. There were also other aerodynamic refinements. The greenhouse canopy now tapered aft, instead of having a nearly constant cross-section as had that of the B-model. The aft gunners exchanged the single 75 round drum-fed MG 15 machine-gun for twin belt-fed MG 81 machine-guns.

    The bomb release gear was better faired in, and the maximal bomb load was increased to 3,969 lbs (1800 kg). This could include a single PC 1400 3,086 lbs (1400 kg) armour-piercing bomb on the centreline rack. The landing gear was again strengthened, but nevertheless the Ju 87D retained a reputation for landing gear collapses on rough runways. The wheel covers were again changed, and the fitting for sirens were eliminated, but after 1942 the spats and wheel fairings were increasingly discarded. The Ju 87D-2 was basically a D-1 but strengthened to equip a glider tow hook.

    The Ju 87D-3 introduced even more additional armour for the crew and vital parts of the aircraft reflecting the Ju 87s increasing use as a Schlachtflugzeug (close-support aircraft). From the D-4 model onwards the 7.92 mm window guns were replaced by the 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon. The Ju 87D-4 was a torpedo-bomber version capable of carrying a single torpedo with only a few example built. The Ju 87D-5 model had a longer wing span, with pointed wing tip extensions for use as a dedicated close-support version with jettisonable landing gear and no dive brakes. An interesting development was the Ju 87D-7, a night ground-attack model converted from Ju 87D-3s and Ju 87D-5s with a 1,500 hp (1119 kW) Jumo 211P engine with exhaust pipes extending back across the wing. The Ju 87D-8 was a day version of Ju 87D-7 without night-flying equipment and flame-dampers. The wing mounted machine-guns replaced by 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon and dive brakes were omitted. The Ju 87D-8 was the last aircraft type in production when in September 1944, all aircraft production other than fighters, was terminated.
  • Ju 87E Like the Ju 87C had been the navalised derivative of the Ju 87B, the Ju 87E was the navalised version of the Ju 87D. But it was never built.
  • Ju 87F A projected version with extensively revised airframe, an increased span wing and a more powerful engine; the considerable changes eventually brought redesignation as Ju 187, but this remained a project only.
  • Ju 87G (G-1/G-2) The Ju 87G was the final version of the Stuka. It abandoned the dive attack in favour of an armament of two 37mm Rheinmetall-Borsig BK 3,7 (Flak 18 or Flak 36) anti-tank cannon weighing over 800 lbs (363 kg). These weapons fired special armour-piercing ammunition, with tungsten cores, at a muzzle velocity of 2,790 ft (850 m) per second. They were installed in gun pods fitted outboard of the landing gear legs. The ammunition was in six-round clips. The first operational trials were made in March 1943. The normal 7.92 mm or 20 mm wing guns were deleted. Dive bombing was not possible with the additional weight of the guns, so the dive brakes were also deleted. The Ju 87G could still drop bombs, but not in a dive.

    Initially, the Ju 87G was seen as quite dangerous to its crews. The additional weight and drag of the wing guns adversely affected performance and handling, and low-level attacks in the face of the Russian AAA and fighters seemed suicidal. But true as that was, it remained that the Ju 87G was extremely effective. The 37 mm gun was in 1943 considered obsolete as an anti-tank gun on the ground, but from the air it was still effective, because the Ju 87G could attack tanks from the rear or from above, were their armour was much thinner. Not that the Germans refrained from trying out bigger cannon on anti-tank aircraft, but the Ju 87 could not possibly carry these, and larger aircraft such as the Ju 88 were not agile enough to operate successfully against tanks. There were two versions, the G-1 and the G-2, with short and long wing spans, respectively with the G-2 based on the long-wing D-5 model. Production of the Ju 87 was halted definitively in October 1944. The greatest exponent of the Ju 87G-1 was Hans-Ulrich Rudel who was personally credited with the destruction of 519 Russian armoured vehicles. He flew 2,530 combat missions and continued to lead Stuka formations in daylight long after the other Stukagruppen had replaced their vulnerable aircraft with the Focke-Wulf Fw 190.
  • Ju 87H (H-1, H-3, H-5, H-7 and H-8) The Ju 87H models were disarmed versions of the equivalent D-models, equipped with dual controls, for use as trainers. The rear cockpit design was again modified, with bulging windows to give the instructor a reasonable view forward.
  • Ju 87K (K-1/K-2/K-4) The Ju 87K designation was used for export models. The K-1 was equivalent to the A-1 and intended for export to Japan. The K-2 and K-4, equivalent to the B-1 and A-1, were exported to Hungary.

Other UsersEdit

As well as the Luftwaffe, a number of other air forces also received examples of the Ju 87.[2]

  • Bulgaria:
  • Croatia:
  • Hungary:
  • Italy: 200 Ju 87Bs were passed to the Regia Aeronautica, after Italy entered the war in June 1940.[N 2]
  • Japan: Received a number of A and B models for evaluation.
  • Romania:
  • Slovakia:

Preserved examplesEdit

  • A Ju-87G-2, Werk Nr 494083, is currently displayed in the Battle of Britain Hall at the RAF Museum in London.[5]


  • Origin: Junkers Flugzeug uhd Motorenwerke AG; also built by Weser Flugzeugbau and components from SNCASO, France.
  • Type: Two-seat dive bomber and ground attack.
  • Engine: (Ju 87B-1) one l,100hp Junkers Jumo 211Da 12-cylinder inverted-vee liquid-cooled; (Ju 87D-1, D-5) l,300hp Jumo 21lJ.
  • Dimensions: Span (Ju 87B-1, D-1) 45ft 3 1/2 in (13.8m); (D-5) 50ft O 1/2 in (15.25m); length 36ft 5in (11-lm); height 12ft 9in (3-9m).
  • Weights: Empty (B-1, D-1) about 6,080lb (2750kg); loaded (B-1) 9,371 lb (425Okg); (D-1) 12,600lb (5720kg); (D-5) 14,500lb (6585kg).
  • Performance: Maximum speed (B-1) 242mph (390km/h); (D-1) 255mph (408km/h); (D-5) 25Omph (402km/h); service ceiling (B-1) 26,250 ft (8000m); (D-1, D-5) 24,000ft (7320m); range with maximum bomb load (B71) 373 miles (600km); (D-1, D-5) 620 miles (1000km).
  • Armament: (Ju 87B-1) two 7'92mm Rheinmetall MG 17 machine guns in wings, One 7-92mm MG 15 manually aimed in rear cockpit, one 1.102lb (500kg) bomb on centreline and four 110lb (5Okg) on wing racks; (D-1, D-5) two MG 17 in wings, twin 7-92mm MG 81 machine guns manually aimed in rear cockpit, one bomb of 3.968|b (1800kg) on centreline; (D-7) two 20mm MG 151/20 cannon in wings; (Ju 87G-1) two 37mm BK (Flak 18, or Flak 36) cannon in underwing pods; (D-4) two underwing WB81 weapon containers each housing six MG 81 guns.
  • History: First flight (Ju 87V1) late 1935; (pie-production Ju 87A-0) November 1936; (Ju 87B-1) August 1938; (Ju 87D-1) 1940; termination of production 1944.[6]


  1. Short for Sturzkaampflugzeug (dive bomber)
  2. The Allies believed that the type was being built in Italy as the 'Breda 201.' [3] This designation was actually used for an original design[4]


  1. WW2 Planes
  2. Gunston, Bill. Illustrated Directory of Fighting Aircraft of World War II. Salamander Books. 1988. ISBN 0 86101 390 5 Page 210
  3. Gunston, Bill. Page 212
  4. Italian Aircraft of WW2
  5. Captured Wings
  6. Gunston, Bill. Pages 208 and 210

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