Junkers Ju 88 vol. I

Still, Junkers would not give up. When Milch presented his idea of the Schnellbomber, the Ju 85 and Ju 88 projects underwent revision. Both designs were analyzed in detail from January 15, 1936. Four months later, Junkers chief engineer, Ing. Dipl. Ernst Zindel, decided to shift all developmental efforts onto the more promising Ju 88. Such were the origins of one of the most versatile multi-role aircraft in history, a type that was to give legion service on every front in a multitude of roles.

A Ju 88A-6/U with a FuG 200 radar array. Note the curved lines of the camouflage on the fuselage and engine cowling. [Kagero's Archive]

Since the Ju 88 project had been around for a few months, the building of a prototype began at once. It is of interest to note that work on the Schnellbomber was carried out with the participation of Wilhelm Heinrich Evers, who had previously worked in the US and an American civilian, Alfred Gassner, who did not return to Germany after his holiday leave in 1936. Both men had invaluable experience in the USA working with the latest techniques in modern light metal stressed-skin constructional methods.
The construction of several prototypes was planned fitted with two types of engines. The Daimler Benz DB 600 (1000 hp) was to be mounted on the Ju 88V1 (W. Nr 4941) and V2 (W. Nr 4942), whereas Junkers’ own Jumo 211A (1200 hp) was to be mounted on the V3 (W. Nr 4943), V4 (W. Nr 4944) and V5 (W. Nr 4945). The inline engines were fitted with annular radiators giving them the appearance of radials. They were mounted in the wing leading edge and not below the wings as usual. All prototypes were to feature standard landing gear with a tail wheel. The construction was an all-metal mid-wing monoplane with flush paneling.
Nine months after metal was first cut, in mid-December 1936, the Ju 88V1 (W. Nr 4941, registered with civil codes D-AQEN) was ready for its maiden flight which took place on December 21 from the factory airfield at Dessau with chief Junkers test pilot, Flugkapitän W. Kindermann at the controls. Attaining a top speed of 450 kph, the machine demonstrated very good flying qualities. Unfortunately, one of the engines failed on April 10 1937 and the Ju 88V1 was crash-landed and damaged beyond repair.
The same day saw the first flight of the Ju 88V2 (W. Nr 4942, D-ASAZ). With oil coolers removed from under the engines performance was not noticeably increased. The speed attained was just 465 kph and the required 500 kph still seemed far away. Big hopes were placed in the Jumo 211A and Ju 88V3 (W. Nr 4943, D-AREN), first flown on September 13 and achieved speeds of 520 kph (323 mph). Intent on gaining international prestige, the aircraft was prepared for a record-breaking flight of 2000 km and a load of two tons. The main modification was to streamline it as much as possible, which resulted in slightly different cockpit windows and nose outline. The attempt, undertaken on February 24 1938 proved a failure. The Ju 88V3 crashed near Fürth in the Nürnberg area, killing its crew – pilot Ernst Limburger and mechanic Karl Friedrich Schonnefeld. Nonetheless given the Junkers early impressive results the RLM finally decided to abandon work on the Ju88’s potential competitors and adopt the Junkers type to fulfill the Schnellbomber requirement. Ernst Udet, head of the Reich’s Air Ministry Technical Office responsible for the development of Luftwaffe aircraft, cancelled the Henschel Hs 127 project and Messerschmitt’s Bf 162 (three prototypes). This latter manufacturer was essentially seen as the primary constructor of fighters for the Luftwaffe. In addition the Ju88 was to incorporate the so-called ‘buddy system’ of crew manning enabling crewmembers to be housed together to facilitate cooperation and communication. This had many advantages: switching positions, better cooperation within a crew, or mutual aid in distress or injury.

The pilot’s cockpit in the Ju 88G-1.  [Kagero's Archive]

The process went very smoothly. Enough space was even found for a fourth crewman, as Ernst Udet wanted. The front fuselage was made slightly wider and enclosed with multi-plane glazing. The rear cockpit featured a single MG 15 post to be operated by a gunner. The Ju 88 was also adapted with a dive-bombing capability and therefore equipped with the appropriate flaps and brakes. Thus rebuilt, the Ju 88V4 (W. Nr 4944, D-ASYI) was flown on February 2, 1938. Ten weeks later (April 13), the Ju 88V5 (W. Nr 4945, D-ATYU), identical to the V4 but powered by Jumo 211B engines of 1200 hp, took to the air for the first time. After testing, another record-breaking attempt was made. The aircraft, with a reduced weight, an almost perfectly streamlined nose and tuned-up engines, took off on March 19, 1939, achieving the excellent result of 517.004 kph over 2000 km with a load of 1000 kg, the crew of Kurt Heintz and Ernst Siebert establishing a new world record. Two months later (June 30), another record was set when a circuit of 2000 km was covered at an average speed of 500.786 kph. The experience so far gained was used in designing the Ju 88V6 (W. Nr 4946, D-AQKD). Additionally, a number of Udet’s ideas for a dive-bomber, formulated at the end of 1937, were incorporated. The Ju 88V6 had a longer fuselage, reinforced cockpit, enlarged fin, secondary bomb bay, dive brakes, armament in the rear-facing part of a ventral cupola, multi-plane glazed fuselage nose and a fourth crewmember position. The machine was fitted with Jumo 211B-1 power plants and a wooden four-bladed VDM propeller and was capable of hauling a bomb load of one ton. In addition, the twin-oleo landing gear was replaced with a massive single strut operated hydraulically rather than electrically, hinging rearwards into the wells in the rear part of the engine nacelles. The new prototype was so obviously successful that as early as February 1938 Udet ordered 28 pre-production Ju 88A-0s and fifty production A-1s, which was soon followed by an amended order for 100 more production aircraft. Ernst Udet consistently pushed through his own idea of a Luftwaffe strike force. He totally rejected the long-range bomber concept for strategic bombing of rear enemy positions. He believed that Germany would only wage a war on neighboring countries, which would be quickly defeated by the Schnellbomber. While correct for the first year of the war, this assumption was completely wrong in the case of the vast territory of Russia. It is reasonable to assume that had the Soviet Union been the size of Poland or France, it would have been defeated within weeks. The Soviets shifted their industries across the Urals, where the factories manufactured thousands of tanks and aircraft beyond the range of German bombers.

Junkers Ju 88A-4 (9K+LH) of 1./KG 51, eastern front, Summer of 1942. RLM 70/71/65 camouflage with yellow identification elements. KG 51 emblem under cockpit. [Painted by Maciej Noszczak]


Versions and Derivatives
Mass production of Ju 88s was based on several basic models. Initially it was A-1 and starting from 1941 A-4, which was the basis for the development of construction. More and more modern bombers, torpedo planes, reconnaissance aircraft and fighters were developed using A-4. Before Junkers 88 became most comprehensive aircraft of WWII, it went a long way of evolution.


Read more…


  • Recommended - Aircraft

P-51B/C Mustangs Over The Third Reich
P-51B/C Mustangs Over The Third Reich On 6th March 1944 the day dawned murky and cloudy. It was hardly...
Messerschmitt Bf 109 T the Luftwaffe’s Naval Fighter
Messerschmitt Bf 109 T the Luftwaffe’s Naval Fighter The ‘weather frog’1 had forecast that weather conditions...
P-51D/K Mustangs Over the Third Reich
P-51D/K Mustangs Over the Third Reich On 14th January 1945 the weather over the continent was unusual...
Hispano Aviación HA-1112
Hispano Aviación HA-1112 Dear reader, in this text we will try to remember the fabulous...
Mirage III IAI Nesher/Dagger
Mirage III IAI Nesher/Dagger Israel Aircraft Industries manufactured more than fifty of Mirage...
Gloster Gladiator Mk I and II
Gloster Gladiator Mk I and II Contact! There they were, a curiously lopsided Squadriglia of...
PZL P.24 A-G
PZL P.24 A-G Although built in fewer numbers than the  PZL P.11, the PZL...