Junkers Ju 87 D/G vol. 2

After the leave Rudel reports to the Rechlin flight testing center, where the trials of a new Ju 87 model are underway. The Ju 87 G-1 is equipped with a pair of BK 3.7 cannon mounted in streamlined, underwing pods. The self-contained pods housed the chamber, damping mechanism, the electro-pneumatic loading system and the electrically activated trigger mechanism. The guns were fed from box magazines holding two six-round clips. Each gun, complete with ammunition and the Lafette 36 mount, weighed in at over 400 kg, which significantly affected the aircraft’s maneuverability and decreased its top speed to 270 km/h.

General view into navigator’s cockpit from right side. Navigator’s seat was very simple and probably not very comfortable. [Visualisation 3d Marek Ryś]

The new model was to be used on the Eastern Front in the tank-busting role. To test the new system Rudel and a select group of pilots from Erprobungskommando zur Panzerbekämpfung (experimental anti-tank warfare unit) were sent to the Sea of Azov area. Once there, however, their main adversaries were not the Soviet tanks at all: “A fresh Soviet assault offers us the opportunity to initiate this important new departure. N.E. of Temjruk the Soviets are endeavoring to turn the Kuban front. They begin to ferry parts of two divisions across the lagoons in the hope of bringing about by this maneuver the collapse of the Kuban front. We have only isolated strongpoints with a very thin support line holding the marshland and the lagoons N.E. of Temjruk. Naturally their striking power is limited, and in no way a match for this new Soviet operation. Our reconnaissance confirms the presence of a strong assembly of boats in the harbour of Jeisk and near Achtary. These are attacked by our Stukas. The targets are so small and the boats so numerous that these attacks alone cannot deflect the Russians from their plan. Now at all hours of the day and night they swarm across the lagoons. The total distance they have to travel is something like thirty miles. The lakes are connected by little canals, and so the Russians edge nearer and nearer to Temjruk, behind the Kuban front and far in our rear. They pause at intervals to rest under cover of the tall reeds. When they keep themselves hidden in this way they are hard to locate and recognize. Yet if they wish to resume their advance they have again to travel across open water. We are in the air every day from dawn till dusk, racing above the water and the reeds in search of boats. Ivan comes on in the most primitive craft; one rarely sees a motor boat. Besides rifles he carries with him hand grenades and machine guns. He glides across in the little boats with a load of five to seven men; as many as twenty men are packed on board the larger craft. In dealing with them we do not use our special anti-tank ammunition, for a high potency is not required here. On the other hand one must have a useful explosive effect on hitting the wood, in this way the boats are most quickly smashed. Normal flak ammunition with a suitable fuse proves the most practical. Anything trying to slip across the water is as good as lost. Ivan’s losses in boats must be serious for him. I alone with my aircraft destroy seventy of these vessels in the course of a few days.”
On April 1 Rudel is promoted to the rank of Huptmann and on April 14, 1943 he becomes the 229th member of the German armed forces to be awarded the Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross. Rudel and twelve others receive their decorations from Hitler himself during a ceremony at the Reich’s Chancellery in Berlin. Within the next few days Rudel heads back to the Eastern Front and rejoins his old unit, 1./St.G 2 “Immelmann”.
As the Germans launch operation “Zitadelle” in the early days of July 1943, the fields around Kursk are witness to a massive clash of German and Soviet armor. “The sight of these masses of tanks reminds me of my cannon-carrying aircraft of the experimental unit, which I have brought with me from the Crimea. With this enormous target of enemy tanks it should be possible to try it out. It is true the flak defenses covering the Soviet tank units are very heavy, but I say to myself that both groups are facing each other at a distance of 1,200 to 1,800 yards, and unless I am brought down like a stone by a direct hit by flak it must always be possible to crash-land the damaged aircraft in our own tank lines. The first flight therefore flies with bombs behind me in the only cannon-carrying aeroplane. So the attempt is made. In the first attack four tanks explode under the hammer blows of my cannons; by the evening the total rises to twelve.”
On July 24, 1943 Rudel flies his 1,200th combat sortie. Just two weeks later, on August 12, he reaches the 1,300 mark. During one of the raids a 500 kg bomb dropped by Rudel scores a direct hit against a bridge at Kromy (40 km south-east of Orel) destroying it completely. The same bomb kills a Soviet tank that just happened to be crossing the bridge at that time. Several days later Rudel’s aircraft is hit by AA fire. Wounded in the face by shrapnel, Rudel manages to nurse the crippled machine back to the friendly lines, where he lands safely.
On September 18, 1943 Rudel is appointed the CO of III./St.G 2 “Immelmann”. On October 9, 1943 he launches for his 1,500th combat mission with 60 Soviet tanks to his credit. On October 18, 1943 the Stukageschwader 2 “Immelmann” is renamed to Schlachtgeschwader 2 “Immelmann” and on October 30, 1943 Rudel destroys another Soviet tank – his 100th kill. In recognition of his outstanding combat record he becomes the 42nd German serviceman to receive the Swords to his Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves. […]

Coming soon!

Mo55 Ju87 cz2 ang

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