Making its operational debut in 1937 with the Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War and easily recognised by its inverted gull wings and fixed spatted undercarriage, the Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka (Sturzkampfflugzeug, “Dive bomber”) became Germany’s primary dive bomber and ground-attack aircraft for most of the war.
Operating with considerable success in close air support and anti-shipping at the outbreak of World War II and spearheading the air assaults in the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the Ju87 was also crucial to the rapid conquest of Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and France in 1940.
Although the Ju 87 was robust, accurate and extremely effective against ground attack targets, it was vulnerable to contemporary fighter aircraft, like many other dive bombers of the war. As a result, during the Battle of Britain its lack of manoeuvrability, speed and defensive armament meant that it required a heavy fighter escort to keep the RAF's deadly Hurricanes and Spitfires away.
After the Battle of Britain the Stuka operated with further success in the Balkans Campaign, the African and Mediterranean theatres and the early stages of the Eastern Front where it was used as an effective, specialised anti-tank aircraft when fitted with a single or twin Bordkanone 3.7cm heavy-calibre auto cannon.
Designed primarily as a Soviet tank buster and attached under the wings or fuselage of the Ju 87 on self-contained gun pods, the Bordkanone fired armour piercing composite rigid (APCR, Tungsten-cored) ammunition or high-explosive shells at over 160 rounds per minute.
The Ju 87 was also used in anti-shipping role but when faced with much faster and manoeuvrable Allied fighters, it was simply overwhelmed.
Even with its vulnerabilities, the design of the Ju 87 was well planned, designed, being purpose-built for its anticipated role as a ground attack aircraft operating from remote and degraded airfields.
Firstly, its airframe was subdivided into sections to allow transport by road or rail. The ‘gull’ wings were of standard Junkers double-wing construction.
This gave the Ju 87 considerable advantage on take-off; even at a shallow angle where significant lift forces created through the large aerofoil greatly reduced take-off and landings distances.
The aircraft was also fitted with detachable hatches and removable coverings to aid and ease maintenance and overhaul. The designers avoided welding parts wherever possible, preferring moulded and cast parts instead. Large airframe segments were interchangeable as a complete unit, which increased speed of repair.
To survive the Ju87s considerable dive stresses, the aircraft’s water-cooled, inverted V-12 engine was mounted on two, heavy and over-engineered main frames which led back into the fuselage framing, forming part of the aircraft's forward shell.
To protect the crew, a solid asbestos mesh firewall sandwiched between heavy sheets of dural aluminium separated the engine from the cockpit, ahead of the wing centre section where the fuel tanks were located.
Behind the pilot’s cockpit the bulkhead was covered by a canvas cover which could be breached by the crew in an emergency, enabling them to escape into the main fuselage. The canopy was also split into two sections and joined by a strong welded steel frame.
The canopy itself was made of Plexiglas and each compartment had its own “sliding hood” for the two crew members with solid, reinforced canopy hatch release handles located on the canopy’s port sides.
The engineers at Junkers also built in a number of other innovative features including:
Once the nose was above the horizon, dive brakes were retracted, the throttle was opened, and the propeller was set to climb. The pilot regained control and resumed normal flight. The coolant flaps had to be reopened quickly to prevent overheating. The automatic pull-out was not liked by all pilots. Helmut Mahlke later said that he and his unit disconnected the system because it allowed the enemy to predict the Ju 87's recovery pattern and height, making it easier for ground defences to hit an aircraft.
The aircraft’s offensive armament was two 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns fitted one in each wing outboard of undercarriage, operated by a mechanical pneumatics system from the pilot's control column. The rear gunner/radio operator operated one 7.92 mm MG 15 machine gun for defensive purposes.
Flying at 4,600 m (15,100 ft), once the pilot had located his target through a bombsight window in the cockpit floor, he moved the dive lever to the rear, limiting the “throw” of the control column.
With dive brakes were activated automatically, the pilot then set the trim tabs, reduced his throttle and closed the coolant flaps, rolling the aircraft 180°, automatically nosing the aircraft into a dive.
Red tabs protruded from the upper surfaces of the wings as a visual indicator to the pilot that, in case of a g-induced black-out, the automatic dive recovery system would be activated. The Stuka then dived at a 60-90° angle, holding a constant speed of 500–600 km/h (due to dive-brake deployment, which increased the accuracy of the Ju 87’s aim.
When the aircraft was reasonably close to the target, a light on the contact altimeter came on to indicate the bomb-release point, usually at a minimum height of 450 m. The pilot released the bomb and initiated the automatic pull-out mechanism by depressing a knob on the control column.
Whilst the Focke Wulf FW190 began replacing the Ju 87 on daylight missions from 1943, by the end of the war some 6,500 Ju 87s of all versions were built with the Ju 97 continuing to be used as a night nuisance-raider until the close of hostilities.
All JU87 Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
Return to VINTAGE ORIGINAL AIRCRAFT INSTRUMENTS