- The German Army  1657-1945

Junkers Ju 88 - 188 - 288- 388 - 488

The Junkers Ju 88 was one of the most versatile and effective combat aircraft of World War II. Its closest counterparts on the Allied side were the Mosquito and Beaufighter. The German aircraft was larger and slower, but nevertheless very effective. 14,676 were built, including a staggering 104 prototypes for its 60 different versions.
Like the Mosquito, the Ju 88 originated as a fast bomber. In 1935 the Luftwaffe had a requirement for a so-called Schnellbomber, which should have a speed of 500km/h with 800kg of bombs. This was much faster than the biplane fighters that then equipped the German fighter units; it was even faster than the first models of the Bf 109 monoplane fighter. For this ambitious goal Henschel proposed the Hs 127, Messerschmitt the Bf 162, and Junkers submitted the designs Ju 85 and Ju 88. Later the Bf 162 achieved some fame when it appeared on German propaganda postcards, but this was disinformation, and the real winner was the Ju 88.
Chief designer was Ernst Zindel. The first prototype (Ju 88V1) made its first flight on 21 December 1936. The Ju 88V1 had an all-metal, stressed skin construction; Junkers hired two American engineers to acquire knowledge about the latest structural developments. The Ju 88V1 had a compact, well-streamlined cockpit roof and a pointed nose. It was powered by Daimler-Benz DB 600 engines, installed in cowlings with circular radiators. The inverted V-12 engines were installed in front of the wing leading edge, not under the wing. Because of the long cowlings the Ju 88 earned the nickname Dreifinger, three fingers. The Ju 88V1 was lost before performance tests could begin, but the type had already shown great promise.
From the third prototype onwards the engines were changed to Junkers Jumo 211, because the scarce Daimler-Benz engines were reserved for fighters. The fourth prototype, the Ju 88V4, featured the "beetle eye" cockpit of the production aircraft, a four-seat cockpit covered with a large number of small, flat transparencies. It also had the ventral gondola under the nose, from which a gunner could fire rearwards. In contrast, the Ju 88V5 was completed with a maximum of streamlining, and on 9 March 1939 it set a closed-circuit record by flying 1000km with 2000kg of load at an average speed of 517km/h. It was a sensational public debut.
Meanwhile, the general staff of the Luftwaffe made some fateful decisions. On the one hand the Ju 88 was given the highest possible priority, with increasing concern expressed as the war came nearer and production still remained behind schedule. On 15 October 1939 Dr. Heinrich Koppenberg was put in charge of it, and given the authority to requisition any production facilities he needed; but the results were still disappointing. On the other hand the Luftwaffe had requested that the Ju 88 would be converted into a dive bomber. This inevitably slowed down the development and reduced flight performance. Installing dive brakes under the wing was the smallest problem: The need to reinforce the structure for dive bombing attacks caused a considerable increase in weight. Larger internal bomb bays and external bomb racks for four 500kg bombs increased the problems, and when the first production aircraft came off the line in August 1939, a number of restrictions had to be imposed. Even after all necessary modifications had been carried out, pilots did not usually achieve dives steeper than 60 degrees, although the excellent flying characteristics and automatic dive bombing equipment of the Ju 88 did not make such attacks particularly difficult. But there was little operational need for dive-bombing, except for anti-shipping missions.
The Ju 88 was certainly an excellent aircraft. It was easy to fly, gentle, responsive, and manoeuverable, without vices. These were the characteristics which also made it an excellent nightfighter. A point of criticism for allied test pilots was the cockpit. The extensive framing of the many panels resulted in a fairly restricted view. In the bomber versions it was also rather cramped and inefficient, although the close grouping of the crew made communication easier.

The War breaks out ...
When the war broke out the Ju 88 was an excellent bomber, but only a handful were available and production was not more than one per week. Just one Gruppe was equipped with Ju 88s. In the third week of the war four Ju 88A-1s attacked British warships at Scapa Flow, but they caused no damage. A Ju 88 had the dubious honour to be the first German victim of RAF fighters, on 9 October 1939, but nevertheless the RAF recognised it as the most formidable bomber of the time. The most important bomber version was the Ju 88A-4, with longer span wings, a stronger airframe, and Jumo 211J engines. It appeared in the summer of 1940. The strong points of the Ju 88 were speed and a significant bomb load. Its weak points were its short range (this was often extended by carrying additional fuel tanks in the bomb bays), a cramped and inefficient cockpit, and poor defensive armament. During the Battle of Britain the Ju 88 proved that it was the best German bomber, but operations from bases in Norway, without fighter escort, still resulted in heavy losses. And as the fight progressed, a shortage of trained bomber crews became apparent.
The more streamlined Ju 88B series did not enter production, but was developed into the Ju 188, the successor of the Ju 88. But in 1942 a new attempt was made to increase the speed of the Ju 88. The resulting Ju 88S had a well-streamlined glass nose, and BMW 801 radial engines or Julmo 213 in-line engines with more power the Jumo 211. On most aircraft no external bomb racks were fitted, the ventral gondola was often removed, and armour was reduced. This increased speed to 612km/h, much faster than most other bombers of the war.
Meanwhile, a very different line of development had begun. The Reichsluftfahrtsministerium (RLM) had granted Junkers permission to pursue, at low priority, the development of a heavy fighter-bomber version. This became the Ju 88C. The transparent bomber nose was replaced by a metal nose cap, containing at first three 7.92mm machineguns and one 20mm cannon -- a relatively modest armament, but many models could carry two more 20mm cannon in the gondola under the nose. There also were a lot of variations in defensive armament. The Jumo 211 engines were retained, because the Ju 88C had too low a priority to get the desired BMW 801 radials. The first production model, Ju 88C-2, retained bomb bays, and it operated as a long-range coastal patrol aircraft, initially flying anti-shipping strikes from bases in Norway. Soon the Ju 88C-4 appeared and its roles were extended to include night attacks on British airfields, ground attack missions, flying escort for transport aircraft, and providing air cover for convoys.

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