Stuka Ju87
Home Up Maleme 20 May 21 - 25th May Stuka Ju87 Tom Atherton

 

The Ju87B "Stuka" dive-bomber

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Stuka dive profile

The "Stuka", or Ju87B, was a much feared weapon in the German armoury against Crete and the Allied Naval forces.  The variant used against Crete was the Ju87B of which pre-production examples flew in late 1938, but it was in volume production by 1941.  With its thick "gull wing" and screaming near vertical dive it did indeed strike some terror into those soldiers being bombed in the olive groves around Maleme, Rethymnon and Iraklion.

It was no less feared by the Navy who saw how effective these aircraft could be against large naval vessels, when free of any defending air force fighter patrols.

 

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Admiral Cunningham gave a description of a Stuka attack on the carrier Illustrious;

"We opened up with every AA gun we had as one by on the Stukas peeled off into their dives, concentrating the whole venom of their attack upon the Illustrious.  At times she became almost completely hidden in a forest of great bomb splashes.  One was too interested in this new form of dive-bombing attack really to be frightened, and there was no doubt we were watching complete experts.  Formed roughly in a large circle over the fleet they peeled off one by one when reaching the attacking position.  We could not but admire the skill and precision of it all.  The attacks were pressed home to point-blank range, and as they pulled out of their dives some of them were seen to fly along the flight-deck of the Illustrious below the level of her funnel."

 

The Ju87B was a two man aircraft, one pilot and one rear facing gunner.  It was a deceptively large aircraft, and while slow in the cruise, max speed was only 240 m.p.h. it was fast in the dive, reaching up to 400 m.p.h.  In the dive large dive brakes would extend below the wings, outboard of the undercarriage (you can just see them in the bottom photo), the characteristic scream came from sirens attached to the undercarriage struts as well as whistles that were fixed to the bombs.  The Germans recognized the "terror" effect of the screaming dive.

A description of a Stuka attack was given by Theodore Stephanides, a doctor with the Royal Army Medical Corps  
"...as each plane arrived nearly overhead it flipped over on its side and then on its nose and seemed to fall vertically down on us.  They made a most terrific screaming sound as they dived and, .....When each plane had swooped down to about one thousand feet, one saw a black speck detach itself from the undercarriage and plummet towards us with a fiendish whistling."
Or another description

"We began to dread the Stukas.  At the slightest movement , the ugly, bent-winged Junkers circled the spot with their oil stained bodies turned towards us.  One by one, in leisurely fashion, they peeled off, screaming down in a vertical dive, airbrakes extended, sirens wailing, to release their bombs with deadly accuracy.  Within minutes the chosen area would be plastered with high-explosives."

Profile of a Stuka dive.

A. Ju87 enters dive, here at 15,000 feet.

B. Ju87 reaches the maxium dive speed of 350 mph at a dive angle of 80%.

C. About 30 seconds after start of the dive, the Ju87 reaches the pull-out altitude, which was previously decided if the attack was planned. The pilot presses a button initiating the automatic pull-out system.

D. A few seconds after pull out is initiated, the bomb automatically releases from the plane.

E. After the pull-out, the pilot attempts to regain control of the plane, retracts the dive brakes, opens the throttle, trims for level flight and tries to get away as quick as possible to avoid being hit by the explosion and debris of the bomb!



The diagram above was taken from Rob Brown's 112 Squadron site.

The main bomb was carried slung under the body of the plane, behind the engine radiator cowling (see photo below).  Because the normal bomb delivery was from a steep dive, this bomb position obviously presented some problems.  If the bomb were released then its flight path would be through the propeller arc.  Not good!  To avoid this the bomb was slung from a hinged cradle.  This can just be seen in the both photos below as a white bar, hinged just behind the radiator, and traveling about half way along the bomb.  On release in the dive the cradle would hinge out and down, effectively extending the release point away from the aircraft body sufficiently  so that the flight of the bomb would now be outside the arc of the propeller.  

Both photos taken by myself in the RAF Museum, Hendon.

The armament of the Ju87B was the main 550 lb. bomb as well as two 110 lb bombs under each wing.  While the air gunner had a rear facing MG15 7.92 mm gun, there were also two forward facing MG17 guns, one in each wing, useful for strafing runs against ground troops and ships.

The Germans believed that the effect of the bombs used against the troops in Greece had been reduced because the bombs had penetrated the ground before exploding.  If the bombs could be made to explode a little above the hard stony ground on Crete, then the effect against ground troops would be more dramatic.  The solution was to weld 60cm metal rods to the front of the bombs, with an 8cm metal disc on the end of the rod.  This contraption became known as "Dinortstabe", (Dinort's rods after the originator of the idea, Oskar Dinort) and would cause the bombs to detonate some 30cm above the ground.

The aircraft had an automatic diving pull-out device in case the pilot should black-out under the G-stress of recovery.  The automatic device was initiated at the top of the dive when the dive brakes were extended, and activated by the bomb release.

Against the defences of Crete the Ju87B was a formidable weapon.

 
The Stuka, or Ju87B.  These 2 photos were taken in the RAF Museum, Hendon.
The photo shows a Ju87D model, although those used against Crete were the Ju87B variant.  The Gull wing can be clearly seen.  The main external difference between the D and the B variants were the smoother nose cowling on the D, and the flatter radiator cowl under the engine.  The B model was more of a curved affair, viewed from the front.

Photo J Dillon

In this view the fairly massive fixed under-carriage fairing can be seen.  Also, behind the bottom prop blade you can see the flatter bottom to the engine radiator cowl.  On the underside of the in-board wing section the openings for the oil coolers can be seen.  The steep slow dive of the Stuka was aided by the dive brakes that are located on the rear of the wing, outboard of the undercarriage.  The role of the Stuka was that of dive-bomber, and the single bomb can be seen under the fuselage.

When you are close up to the aircraft you appreciate what a big aircraft it is, and how sturdily it is built.

Photo J Dillon