17 Sep 1935

The Ju 87 Stuka dive bomber design took its maiden flight.

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The Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka (from Sturzkampfflugzeug, “dive bomber“) was a German dive bomber and ground-attack aircraft designed by Hermann Pohlmann and first flew in 1935. The Ju 87 made its combat debut in 1937 with the Luftwaffe‘s Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. It served the Axis forces in World War II.

The aircraft was easily recognisable by its inverted gull wings and fixed spatted undercarriage. Upon the leading edges of its faired main gear legs were mounted the Jericho-Trompete (“Jericho trumpet”) wailing sirens, becoming the propaganda symbol of German air power and the blitzkrieg victories of 1939–1942. The Stuka’s design included several innovative features, including automatic pull-up dive brakes under both wings to ensure that the aircraft recovered from its attack dive even if the pilot blacked out from the high g-forces.

The Ju 87 operated with considerable success in the close air support and anti-shipping at the outbreak of World War II. It spearheaded the air assaults in the Invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the Norwegian Campaign the following year. In May 1940 the Ju 87s were crucial in the rapid conquest of the Netherlands, Belgium and France against all targets. Although sturdy, accurate, and very effective against ground targets, the Ju 87, like many other dive bombers of the war, was vulnerable to modern fighter aircraft. During the Battle of Britain a lack of manoeuvrability, speed and defensive armament meant that the Stuka required a heavy fighter escort to operate effectively.

The Stuka operated with further success after the Battle of Britain, and its potency as a precision ground-attack aircraft became valuable to German forces in the Balkans Campaign, the African and Mediterranean theaters and the early stages of the Eastern Front where it was used for general ground support, but also in the anti-shipping role and as an effective specialised anti-tank aircraft.

Once the Luftwaffe lost air superiority, on all fronts, the Ju 87 again became an easy target for enemy fighter aircraft. Despite these developments, because there was no better replacement, the type continued to be produced until 1944. By the end of the conflict, the Stuka had been largely replaced by ground-attack versions of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, but was still in use until the last days of the war. An estimated 6,500 Ju 87s of all versions were built between 1936 and August 1944.

Some notable airmen flew the Ju 87. Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel was the most successful Stuka ace and the most highly decorated German serviceman of the Second World War. The vast majority of German ground attack aces flew this aircraft at some point in their careers.

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Published in: on September 17, 2016 at 8:23 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Somewhere in my ‘in-tray’ and ‘must do’ file a book on the advanced nature of the Third Reich in science, transport, innovation, art etc.


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