The Ju 87 Stuka played a vital role with the Luftwaffe during the early years of the Second World War, becoming synonymous with the German Blitzkrieg tactics. Mounting losses during the Battle of
Britain saw the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka removed from the battle in mid August 1940 by the Luftwaffe. It would be used again during Operation Barbarossa and the Battle of Crete, remaining in
service until 1945.
The designing of the Ju 87 started in 1933 by a team led by Hermann Pohlmann with the following year seeing the production of three prototypes begin. The first prototype, designated Ju 87 V1,
flew from Dessau, Germany on the 17th September 1935 with Wilhelm Neuenhofen at the controls with a 640-hp Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine fitted and featured square twin fins and rudder. Wilhelm
Neuenhofen would be killed along with his engineer Heinrich Kreft when the Ju 87 prototype crashed during testing on the 24th January 1936 due to a tailplane failure.
The Ju 87 V2, which first flew on the 25th February 1936, now powered by the 610-hp Junkers Jumo 210A engine featured a single fin and rudder as part of a redesign. This was followed by the
third Ju 87 prototype, the V3, which made its maiden flight on the 27th March 1936. A further two prototypes followed in 1936, the Ju 87 V4 and Ju 87 V5.
1936 saw Junkers aircraft compete against three others. The Arado Ar 81, Hamburger Flugzeugbau Ha 137 and the Heinkel He 118. It would be Heinkel's and Junker's aircraft who would proceed
further with ten orders for each aircraft.
The first production version to enter service was the Junkers Ju 87A-1. Powered by the Junkers Jumo 210Da it had a top speed of 198 mph, range of 620 miles and a service ceiling of 22,965 ft
with armament of two MG 17 machine-guns firing forward and one MG 15 machine-gun firing backwards. Bomb load was 550lb. The Luftwaffe began to receive deliveries of their new dive bomber during the
spring of 1937, replacing the Henschel Hs 123 biplanes currently in service. The Luftwaffe's Condor Legion, which was involved in the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) on the side of the Nationalists,
would use three examples.
Powered by a 680-hp Jumo 210Da featuring a supercharger the Ju 87A-2 followed, but six months after production started it stopped. This was in favour of the Ju 87B-1 fitted with a new more powerful
1,200-hp Jumo 211Da engine. The top speed of the aircraft was 240 mph, range 497 miles with a service ceiling of 26,250 ft. Armament consisted of a pair of forward firing 7.92mm MG 17 machine-guns
and a rearward facing 7.92 mm MG 15 machine-gun, bomb load was 1,210lb. The major changes to the Ju 87B-1 over its predecessors was a new fuselage and landing gear design. Like the Ju 87A-1 it
would be sent to Spain for testing.
One of the Stuka's design features was automatic pull-up dive brakes, this meant that if the pilot blacked out during a dive bombing attack the aircraft wouldn't crash and would pull up from the
dive itself. Another feature on the Ju 87 had a psychological effect on the people who came under attack from the type, this was the Jericho trumpet. These were fitted to the leading edge of the wing
and produced a siren type noise when the Ju 87 went into a dive.
The Ju 87B also provided the basis for the Ju 87R and Ju 87C. The Ju 87R was used in the anti-shipping role and thanks to increased fuel capacity had a longer range. Bomb load was one 550lb bomb.
The Ju 87C was a navalised Stuka that was intended to serve aboard the German aircraft carrier the Graf Zeppelin. At the outbreak of the Second World War (1939 – 1945) the Graf Zeppelin was still
not ready and its completion was not considered a priority and as a result was never finished. So the small number of Ju 87Cs were returned to their Ju 87B specification.
Powered by the 1,410-hp Junkers Jumo 211J-1 engine the Ju 87D was the next variant to go into production, starting in 1941. Top speed was 255 mph, range 620 miles and a service ceiling of 24,000 ft.
Armament consisted of two forward firing 20mm MG 151/20 cannons and a rearward firing 7.92mm MG 51 twin barrel machine-gun, bomb load was 3,968lb. A number of Ju 87D-2 glider tugs were also produced.
Perhaps one of the most unusual Stuka concepts was the one based on the Ju 87D-3. This saw a two person pod on top of both wings. The idea was for the aircraft to enter a shallow dive, the pods
would then be released and parachute to the ground. A number of Ju 87Ds would be modified into trainers and these were designated Ju 87H.
The tank-busting Ju 87G-1 would be the last Stuka to enter operational service. This was a Ju 87D-5 converted for the role. With a top speed of 250 mph, range of 620 miles and a service ceiling of
24,000 ft. The armament for the Ju 87G-1 meant that no bombs could be carried due to the fitting of two forward firing 37 BK cannons, whilst the rearward facing machine-gun was the twin-barrelled
7.92mm MG 81.
When Germany invaded Poland on the 1st September 1939 starting the Second World War they had just under 400 Junkers Ju 87A and Bs in service. That same day saw the aircraft score the
first aerial victory of the war when a PZL P.11c Fighter of the Polish Air Force was shot down by a Ju 87 of I./StG 2. The aircraft would take part in many operations during the 35 day campaign
before the Polish surrender on the 6th October 1939, the Soviet Union had also invaded Poland on the 17th September 1939. These included the bombing of Wielun, Poland on the 1st September 1939, the Siege of
Warsaw (8th September 1939 - 28th September 1939) and the Battle of Modlin (13th September 1939 - 29th September 1939).
There then followed what was known as the 'Phoney War', this period ended on the 9th April 1940 when the Germans launched Operation Weserubung, the invasion of Denmark and Norway. During this
period the Stuka would sink a number of Allied ships including the French Guepard-class destroyer Bison and HMS Afridi (F07) on the 3rd May 1940 whilst also damaging other vessels.
The Ju 87 would be integral to the German Blitzkrieg tactics which would again be used during the invasion of France, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg, known as Fall Gelb, which began on the 10th
May 1940. Two days later the 12th May showed that without escort or air superiority the aircraft was very vulnerable against more modern fighters. This saw twelve Ju 87s intercepted by six Groupe de
Chasse I/5, Armee de l'Air Curtiss Hawk 75s who shot down eleven for no loss. They would also play a role in the
German breakthrough at Sedan during the Battle of France (10th May 1940 - 25th June 1940).
The Battle of Britain (10th July 1940 - 31st October 1940) was the next major campaign for the Stuka and during July and August 1940 it would undertake a number of operations including attacking Allied convoys in the English Channel and
Royal Air Force airfields in the south of England. It was during this period that the Ju 87s vulnerability against modern fighters was fully exposed. Thirteen were lost in July, with ten aircrew killed and with losses
increasing during August, before, on the 18th August sixteen were lost in one day. This meant a total of fifty seven were lost during this eighteen day period in August, with thirty five aircrew killed.
As a result Ju 87 operations were scaled back by the Luftwaffe.
The following year saw the Ju 87 take part in Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union which took place on the 22nd June 1941. The aircraft would also take part in the Battle
of Stalingrad during 1942 and 1943. The Stuka also served in North Africa and the Mediterranean and took part in the Battle of Crete (20th May 1941 - 1st June 1941).
As well as the Luftwaffe the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka also served with a number of air force including the Spanish Air Force and the Regia Aeronautica Italiana. In total over 5,700 examples were produced
and it remained in service with the Luftwaffe until the end of the Second World War.