Aviation Archive Issue 25 - 2016 UK

(Jacob Rumans) #1



ne of the first true multi-role aircraft,
the Junkers Ju 88 was arguably the
Luftwaffe’s most important, and
versatile, combat aircraft. Although not a
dogfighter, it could perform just about any
other mission, including bomber, escort
fighter, night fighter, tank buster, torpedo
bomber and even, during the closing stages
of the conflict in Europe, flying bomb.
The Ju 88 was the brainchild of W. H. Evers
and American designer Al Gassner, who
worked in Europe in 1935-36. They had
created the aeroplane in response to a 1935
Reichsluftfahrtministerium requirement for
an unarmed three-seat high-speed bomber
with a payload of up to 1,000kg. The first of
five prototypes made its maiden flight on
21 December 1936, powered by Daimler-Benz
DB 600 inline engines, though Junkers Jumo
211 Vee 12 engines, subsequently became the
powerplants of choice for production examples.
In parallel with the Ju 88A bomber series,
Junkers pursued the development of the basic

Junkers Ju 88

airframe as a ‘heavy’ fighter, for which its speed
and sturdy construction rendered it particularly
suitable. The Ju 88C was intended as a fighter-
bomber and heavy fighter by adding a ‘solid’
nose that mounted three MG 17 machine guns
and a 20mm cannon. A single aft-firing MG 
was also fitted. It retained the A-series style
vertical tail, as well as the ventral Bola gondola
under the crew compartment, although this
was sometimes removed to reduce weight and
drag and thus enhance aircraft performance.
It entered entered service with Zerstörerstaffel
of KG 30, the unit being renamed II./NJG 1
(Nachtjagdgeschwader) in July 1940.
In the summer of 1942 the war on the Russian
Front had highlighted a need for dedicated
ground-attack/tank-buster aircraft. Among the
possible solutions was a Ju 88C-4 fitted with
a Nebelwerfer recoilless rocket launcher, but
this was soon abandoned in favour of the Ju
88P series – essentially a modified Ju 88A-4,
with a large belly fairing housing a 75mm
Kw K39 cannon firing forward and two MG 81Z

machine guns at the rear. The type proved very
unwieldy and vulnerable to enemy fighters
with its effectiveness reduced by the gun’s slow
rate of fire. The final tank-buster variant was the
Ju 88P-4 with a single 50mm Bk5 cannon in a
much smaller belly fairing.
The Ju 88 came into its own as a night fighter
during 1943 when the C-6b version became
available, equipped with FuG 202 Lichtenstein
BC low-UHF band airborne intercept radar,
using the complex 32-dipole Matratze
antennas. The German night fighter defences
were based around a series of ground control
stations that guided the night fighter units
onto their targets (this system was known
as the Kammhuber line in Britain, after the
commander of the system, or the Himmelbett
system in Germany). In October 1943, many
C-6bs were upgraded with new radar systems
as the UHF Lichtenstein radars had been
compromised to the Allies in the late spring of
1943, the next development being the VHF-
band FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN-2, discarding
Free download pdf