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Junkers Ju 87 Stuka

Junkers JU 87 "Stuka"

The Junkers Ju 87, widely known as the "Stuka" from the German word for dive bomber (Sturzkampfflugzeug), was one of the most famous Luftwaffe aircraft of World War II. The Stuka sank more ships than any other aircraft type in the war and was second only to the Soviet IL-2 in tank busting. The Stuka could do the job it was intended for extremely well, provided that it was operating in an environment of air superiority. It gained a legendary reputation from its early successes against Poland, France, and the Low Countries. However, its slow and cumbersome nature made it an easy target for opposing fighters and unacceptable losses during the Battle of Britain forced the Luftwaffe to withdraw the Stuka to less dangerous theatres where it could excel again, such as the Balkans, Crete, and the early stages of the Russian campaign. The Stuka was without a doubt one of the most distinctive looking aircraft of the war with its inverted gull wings and large trouser fairings covering its fixed undercarriage. It's main payload was carried on the underside of the fuselage on a hinged trapeze that allowed the bomb to clear the propeller as the Stuka screamed down on its target in a near vertical dive. The "scream" was provided by a wind driven siren mounted on the undercarriage which activated when the Stuka reached sufficient speed in its attack dive. The Stuka also featured an automatic dive control which automatically pulled the aircraft out of its dive at a height set by the pilot. The Stuka pictured here was one of three that surrendered at Fürth on May 8, 1945. The exhaust flame dampers indicate that by this late stage of the war these Ju 87s were operating at night, the only time they might survive against the ever-present Allied airpower. An Fw 190 that was forced to land at Fürth on that day is visible in the foreground.

Sources: Donald, David, Ed. Warplanes Of The Luftwaffe. Westport CT: AIRtime Publishing, Inc., 1994.
Ivie, Tom. "Roundup In The Sky" Airfoil - A Journal Dedicated To Flight. Volume 1. Number 3 (1985).