Ju 88A-1 Specifications

Crew: Pilot and three gunners/navigators/bomb-aimers

Powerplant: Two 1,200 hp Junkers Jumo 211B-1 twelve-cylinder liquid-cooled engines

Span: 59 ft 10¾ in (18.25 m)

Length: 47 ft 1 in (14.35 m)

Max Speed: 286 mph (461 km/h) at 16,000 ft (4,876 m)

Armament: Three 7.9 mm machine guns in front and rear cockpit mountings and ventral gondola

Bomb Load: Normal load of 3,968 lb (1,801 kg) carried on four underwing pylons, plus small internal capacity

Photo Description: Junkers Ju 88A bombers of KG 54 in 1940. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-409-0885-30A / Kahler / CC-BY-SA 3.0.

The Junkers Ju 88 was a German twin-engine, multi-role aircraft that served with the Luftwaffe throughout the Second World War. It was designed by Wilhelm Heinrich Evers, and American engineer Alfred Gassner at the Junkers Flugzeug und Motorenwerke in response to a specification issued by the German Ministry of Aviation (Reichsluftfahrtministerium, or RLM) in 1935 for an unarmed, three-seat Schnellbomber (fast bomber) that could fly at 500 km/h (311 mph) and carry a bomb load of 800 – 1,000 kg (1,760 – 2,200 lb). The Ju 88 was a low-wing cantilever monoplane of all-metal stressed skin construction. It was selected ahead of other designs submitted by rival companies Focke-Wulf, Henschel, and Messerschmitt. The first prototype, the Ju 88V1, made its maiden flight on 21 December 1936, powered by twin Daimler-Benz DB 600A inline engines with annular radiators. On April 10, 1937, the V1 crash-landed and was damaged beyond repair after one of the engines failed. It was quickly followed by the similarly-powered Ju 88V2, which attained a top speed of 465 km/h (289 mph). The V2 had a range of 2,000 km (1,242 miles) and could carry a bomb load of 500 kg (1,102 lbs). The third prototype, the Ju 88V3, appeared in September 1937 and was the first aircraft to be powered by Junkers Jumo 211A engines. It also featured an extensively redesigned cockpit canopy with a raised roof and a small cupola under the nose, intended to house a single 7.92mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine gun. The Ju 88V4 followed in February 1938. This was the first four-seat prototype and the first version to feature the characteristic “beetle’s eye” nose, built up of twenty optically-flat glass panels. Another innovation was the ventral gondola offset to starboard under the forward fuselage, which accommodated a prone gunner manning a rear-firing MG 15 machine gun. The fifth prototype, the Ju 88V5 was a “cleaned up” version specially modified for record-breaking purposes. It was powered by twin Junkers Jumo 211B-1 engines and featured a streamlined unglazed nose. In March 1939, the V5 flew at an average speed of 517 km/h (321 mph) over a 1,000 km (621 miles) closed circuit while carrying a payload of 2,000 kg (4,400 lbs). Four months later, the V5 achieved an average speed of 500 km/h (311 mph) over 2,000 km (1,242 miles) with the same payload. The Ju 88V6 became the production prototype for the A-series and featured a redesigned main landing gear with single hydraulic legs that rotated 90 degrees when retracted into the engine nacelle. It was powered by Jumo 211B-1 engines and had a top speed of 301 mph with a range of 1,522 miles. The Ju 88V7 was the first heavy fighter version and served as the prototype for the C-series. It was armed with two 20 mm MG FF cannons and two 7.92mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns housed in a solid nose. It was also was fitted with cable-cutting equipment as a defense against British barrage balloons, and was successfully tested in this role.

An initial pre-production batch of ten Ju 88A-0 aircraft were delivered for service trials in the spring of 1939, by which time it had been decided to adapt the Ju 88 for dive-bombing. To accommodate this role, slatted dive brakes were fitted under the front spar of each wing, outboard of the engine nacelle and an extra bomb bay was added. The airframe also needed to be strengthened, which caused a considerable increase in weight and reduced the top speed to around 450 km/h (280 mph). Even with all the modifications, strict limitations were initially imposed on high-speed manoeuvres when the dive brakes were extended due to the high stress on the airframe. The Ju 88A-1 entered Luftwaffe service on 1 September 1939 but ongoing developmental problems meant only 60 aircraft were completed by the end of the year. The A-1 had a maximum speed of 450 km/h (280 mph) carrying a normal bomb load of 1,800 kg – 2,500 kg (3,968 lbs – 5,510 lbs), the bulk of which was carried on four external pylons. These were fitted in pairs under each wing between the fuselage and the nacelle. Defensive armament initially comprised three 7.92mm MG 15 machine guns; one in a fixed mounting on the starboard side of the cockpit windscreen, one slightly offset to port in the rear of the cockpit, and one in the ventral gondola. This was later found to be inadequate so an additional MG 15 was added to the rear of the cockpit, and two lateral firing machine guns were installed in the sides of the canopy.

Early teething problems were gradually resolved and a number of sub-variants appeared including the Ju 88A-2 with rocket-assisted take-off gear, the Ju 88A-3 dual-control trainer, and the definitive Ju 88A-4. Designed around the new and more powerful Junkers Jumo 211J engine, the A-4 featured an increased wingspan, a strengthened landing gear, greater armour protection, and a larger bomb load. The A-4 was actually preceded by the interim Ju 88A-5 due to issues with the Jumo 211J engine. The A-5 was similar to the A-1 but included some of the improvements from the A-4 such as the increased wingspan and the larger bomb load. Barrage balloon cable cutters could also be fitted to the wing leading edges.

During the Battle of Britain, the Ju 88 was employed by five Gruppen as well as elements of several other Luftwaffe units that were still converting. As a bomber, the Ju 88 was relatively manoeuvrable and its high diving speed enabled it to evade even the Supermarine Spitfire. It was also able to withstand a considerable amount of combat damage and remain airborne due to its innate sturdiness. However, the Ju 88 still proved highly vulnerable to British fighters and losses continued to mount throughout the Battle. On the afternoon of 27 September 1940, 55 Ju 88s from I. and II./KG 77 took off from Laon-Athies in north-eastern France to attack south London. Twelve of the bombers failed to return including Junkers Ju 88A-1 ‘3Z+EL’ (Wk-Nr 8099), which was attacked by a pair of Spitfires and crash landed in Kent resulting in the Battle of Graveney Marsh, the last action between British and foreign military forces on British mainland soil. Two bombers from LG 1 were also lost on the same day, and a Ju 88 reconnaissance aircraft was brought down over north Devon.