|The Stuka was
the most famous of all planes used by the Germans as a sturzkamfflugzeug (dive bomber).
The Stuka was designed strictly as an army cooperation dive bomber at the
urging of General Ernst Udet. It is instantly recognisable with its
inverted gull-wings, and fixed-undercarriage. The Ju 87 was ugly, sturdy,
accurate, but very vulnerable to enemy fighters.
The Germans learned in the Battle of
Britain that its use demanded air superiority. It was too slow, un-manoeuvrable
and underarmed, but its effectiveness in destroying vehicles,
fortifications or ships, or just scaring people, was undoubted. Its
accuracy was high when in a full dive that was up to 80 degrees. Once the
bomb was released it used an automatic pull-up system to ensure that the
plane pulled out of the dive even if the pilot blacked out from the high G
The Germans fitted the wheel covers with
sirens that were used once the planes went into a dive to shatter the
morale of enemy troops and civilians. They also fitted whistles onto the
fins of the bombs to ensure that the recipients knew just when the bombs
were released and could track them on the way down. This was supposed to
engender fear in the people being bombed. It worked against civilians but
was much less effective against trained troops, particularly battle
hardened ones such as the Australians at Tobruk
Over 5700 Stukas were built.
The Ju 87B-1 flew with a crew of 2, the
pilot and a rear-gunner. The engine was an 880kW Junkers Jumo 211Da that
could pull the aircraft up to 385km/h. It had an operational ceiling of
8000m and a range of only 600km. Its armament was three 7.9mm machine guns
and either one 500kg bomb or four 50kg bombs fitted to racks either under
the fuselage or under the inboard portion of the wings.
From 1942 on the Ju 87G-1 was a
dedicated anti-tank aircraft on the eastern front. It was fitted with a
1400hp Junkers Jumo 211J engine. It had a maximum speed of 314km/h, a
ceiling of 8000m and a very limited range of only 320km. The reduced speed
and range was due to the armour plating installed to protect the pilot and
gunner when flying low-level tank busting missions. It was armed with two
30mm cannons in pods under the wings and a 7.92mm machine gun in the back
for the gunner.