Type: two-seat dive bomber/assault aircraft; Powerplant: 1 x 1,400hp Junkers Jumo 211J-1 12-cylinder inverted-vee piston engine; Performance: 255mph / 410kph at 12,600ft / 3,840m (maximum speed), 199mph / 320kph at 16,700ft / 5,090m (maximum cruising speed), 23,915 ft / 7,290m (maximum ceiling), 954 miles / 1,535km (maximum range); Weight: 8,598lbs / 3,900kg (empty equipped), 14,550lbs / 6,600kg (maximum take-off); Dimensions: 45ft 3.5in / 13.8m (wing span), 37ft 8.75in / 11.5m (length), 11ft 9.5in / 3.9m (height), 343.38sq.ft / 31.9m.sq (wing area); Armament: 2 x 7.92mm (0.31in) MG17 machineguns in the wings and twin 7.92mm (0.31in) machineguns in the rear cockpit and up to 3,968lbs / 1,800kg of bombs; Used: Germany, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania & Italy.
The reputation of the Junkers Ju87 as a weapon of war was made during the early years of the Second World War when it was used to great effect during the Polish campaign and then the campaign in the Low Countries and France. The Luftwaffe considered the Stuka (from the word Sturzkampfflugzeug meaning dive-bomber) to be invincible and while it was very difficult to shoot it down using antiaircraft fire, it was highly susceptible to interception by enemy fighters unless air superiority had been established. This was shown during the Battle of Britain when the RAF severely mauled the Stuka squadrons, so much so that they were withdrawn from service over Western Europe. Junkers began construction of three prototypes in 1934 and a specification was issued around it but ironically, the first prototype was built with a 640hp Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine. Square twin fins and rudders proved too weak and during dive testing they collapsed and the aircraft crashed. The second prototype had a redesigned single fin and rudder with a 610hp Jumo 210A engine. The third prototype had additional modifications and official evaluation took place in 1936 against three competitive aircraft, the Heinkel He118, Arado Ar81 & Hamburger Ha 137. As a result, orders were placed for ten Junkers and ten Heinkel aircraft, the other two failing to make the cut. The pre-production batch of Ju87A-0 aircraft came with 640hp Jumo 210Ca engines with changes to facilitate mass production meant that these were followed by Ju87A-1 aircraft, three of which were tested by the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War.
The next production model was the Ju87A-2, equipped with a 680hp Jumo 210Da supercharged engine. This only remained in production for six months after which a major redesign occurred with the seventh prototype and the Ju87B-0 pre-production series. The result was the Ju87B-1 with far more power (1,200hp) coming from its Jumo 211D engine and having a completely redesigned fuselage and landing gear. Large streamline spats replaced the the earlier trousered main landing gear, while the fin and rudder were enlarged. The new model was again tested in Spain and after proving its ability, series production was ramped up in mid-1939 to sixty per month resulting in the Luftwaffe having a strength of 336 at the start of the Second World War. This was the version that fought in the Battle of Britain. The Ju87B-2 had a number of detailed improvements and was built in several variants including a ski-equipped version and a tropical operation kit for the Ju87B-2/Trop. Italy received a number of Ju87B-2 aircraft which it named the Picchiatello, while others went to Bulgaria, Hungary and Rumania. A long-range anti-shipping version of the Ju87B series appeared as the Ju87R series, with variants from R-1 to R-4 all having certain differences but having a common armament of one 551lbs (250kg) bomb and the provision of under-wing drop tanks. A navalised prototype (C-0) was developed for the planned aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin, along with a pre-production batch of aircraft (Ju87C-1) but the ship was never completed and the aircraft were converted back to the Ju87B standard. The Stukas had suffered at the hands of the RAF during the Battle of Britain but as they was no immediate replacement, the Luftwaffe continued development with the next variant being the Ju87D-1, having the 1,410hp Jumo 211J-1 engine, changes to the aircraft's appearance and extra armour. The aircraft came into service in 1941 with 476 being delivered that year and 917 being delivered in 1942. It was used extensively in the Middle East and on the Eastern Front, even undertaking some glider tug duties (Ju87D-2). The Ju87D-3 had additional armour protection for the ground attack role, while the D-4 was a torpedo-bomber and the D-5 had an extended wing span to cope with heavier loads. None of these had dive brakes as they were intended solely for ground attack purposes.
On the Eastern Front, by 1943 the Ju87s were being mauled by the growing power of the Red Air Force during daylight operations. A night assault version, again without dive brakes, was developed and designated the Ju87D-7 with flame-damped exhausts, two wing-mounted 20mm MG151/20 cannons and night-flying equipment. The Ju87D-8 final production variant was similar but simplified. There was a final operational version, the Ju87G-1, which was a conversion of the Ju87D-5 into a tank buster, with a 37mm cannon under each wing. for a while, this version enjoyed considerable success on the Eastern Front but eventually, when Soviet fighters could be spared to intercept, this type proved very vulnerable with the heavy cannon inhibiting its speed and manoeuvrability. Finally, the Ju87H were training aircraft. The final production figure for all versions of the Ju87 was in excess of 5,700 and most were built after 1940 when the RAF had already shown that this type of aircraft could be very vulnerable without adequate fighter cover so it must be assumed that production continued to the lack of a suitable replacement.
Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II, Bounty Books, London, 2006.
Gunston, Bill. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Combat Aircraft of World War II, Salamander, London, 1978.
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