The A-series was the most common version of the Ju 88, accounting for half of the total production, and at least two thirds of bomber production. It entered service in very small numbers in 1939, began to equip significant numbers of units during 1940 and was the most important German bomber at the start of Operation Barbarossa in 1941. After that its story is essentially the same as that of the German bomber force – never available in sufficient numbers and forced to operate against overwhelming Allied fighter defences, the Ju 88’s career as a bomber ended in the second half of 1944.
Ten pre-production A-0s were produced from March 1939. They carried four crew. The pilot and aft-gunner/ radio operation sat back to back on the port side. To the right, and just below the pilot was the bombardier/ forward gunner. Finally, behind him was a folding seat for the engineer/ ventral gunner, whose flight position was in the ventral gondola (known as the “Bodenwanne” or Bottom Tub.
The A-9 carried three 7.92mm MG 15s, one fixed in front of the bombardier, one in the rear dorsal position and one in the rear ventral position. This three gun arrangement would soon prove to be inadequate, and the concentration of the crew in the nose would make it hard to improve.
The A-0 carried two self sealing fuel tanks in each wing, carrying 110 gallons in the inboard tank and 107 in the outboard tank. It had two bomb bays, each of which could also carry an extra fuel tank – 316 gallons in the forward bay or 175 in the rear bay. The wing span was 59ft 10.75in.
The pre-production aircraft were given to Erprobungskommando 88, a special unit formed to evaluate the new aircraft, in August 1939.
At first Ju 88 production was slow. Only 69 A-1s were built during 1939, equipping I./KG 25 from August 1939. That unit then became I./KG 30 in September 1939, in which guise it carried out the first Ju 88 operations against Britain – an attack on shipping on 26 September.
The A-1 was initially very similar to the A-0, although the four bladed propeller used on the A-0 was replaced by a three bladed model.
The aircraft could carry a wide variety of payloads, depending on the required range. For very long range operations both bomb bays and two of the four ETC external bomb racks were used to carry fuel, giving the aircraft a range of 2,285 miles but a bomb load of only 1,102lbs. At the opposite extreme when using only the internal fuel tanks the aircraft could carry 5,291lbs of bombs with a range of only 782 miles.
Combat experience demonstrated that the A-1 was under-armed. Field modifications saw the rear firing dorsal gun replaced by a pair of MG 15s, and a fifth gun added in the lower nose. The A-1 was equipped with dive brakes, but a dive under full power was a risky prospect in this aircraft.
The biggest problem with the Ju 88A-1 was that the airframe was not yet robust enough to allow the aircraft to be flow to its best advantage. There were strict limits the type of high speed manoeuvres that could be carried out, especially if the dive brakes were to be used.
The A-2 was similar to the A-1 but with rocket assisted take off gear, and 1,200hp Jumo 211G-1 engines. This allowed the aircraft to carry a higher bomb load with heavy fuel loads.
The A-3 was a dedicated trainer with twin controls. It was unarmed and carried a crew of three, including the trainee.
The A-4 was the most important version of the Ju 88A. It solved the problems that had limited the performance of the A-1, most especially by increasing the wingspan of the aircraft by nearly six feet to 65ft 7.5in. It used more powerful 1,400hp Jumo 211F or 211J engines, which made up for a general increase in weight. Part of that increase came from an improvement in internal armour, especially around the cockpit. The A-4 now carried five guns – one fixed forward firing in the windscreen and four flexible guns, one in the lower nose, one rear facing in the ventral gondola and two rear facing in the dorsal position. The MG 15 was normally replaced by the belt-fed MG 81, which had a higher rate of fire, or by the twin barrelled MG 81Z or 13mm MG 131s. The A-4 could carry up to 7,936lbs of bombs, with 2,200lb in the internal bomb bays and the rest on the four ETC bomb racks under the wings.
Production of the A-4 was pushed back by delays to the Jumo 211F and K engines, but it had entered service in time to take part in the invasion of Russia in June 1941. The gap was filled by the interim A-5 version. The A-4 was the main service version by early 1942.
The A-5 was a stop-gap version introduced after the A-4 was delayed by engine problems. It used the same extended wings as the A-4, so had some of the improved performance of that model. It entered production in the spring of 1940, and took part in the Battle of Britain. It was a popular upgrade, with better handling characteristics than the A-1, and fewer limits.
The A-5 was powered by 1,200hp Jumo 211 engines, either Bs, G-1s or H-1s. It had an extra ETC 250 bomb rack outboard of the engines, each capable of carry a 550lb bomb. These extra bomb racks were not present on the A-4.
Late production aircraft features a double bulged rear dorsal canopy, which would become standard on later aircraft. This allowed the aircraft to carry two rear dorsal guns, at this stage either MG 15s or MG 81Js. The A-5 also saw a move towards more flexible guns in the ventral position, with some aircraft carrying MG 81Zs or MG 131s.
The wide span A-5 had almost entirely replaced the A-1 by the middle of 1941. Production overlapped with that of the A-4, ending in late 1941.
The A-6 was designed as a barrage balloon cable cutter. It used a similar cable cutting attachment at the He 111, a heavy V-shaped framework positioned in front of the aircraft. This was too heavy, and reduced the speed and performance of the aircraft to dangerous levels. The existing A-6s were then converted to the A-6/U
The Ju 88A-6/U was an anti-shipping bomber created from the failed A-6 cable cutters. The balloon fender and ventral gondolas were both removed. Engines were upgraded to the Jumo 211F or J, and the aircraft was equipped with FuG 200 Hohentwiel maritime search radar. The small number of A-6/Us remained in service throughout the war as maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
The A-7 was a dual control trainer based on the A-5
The A-8 featured the Kuto-Nase leading edge balloon cable cutting equipment. This was much more practical than the massive fenders used on the A-6, and became fairly common equipment on later models of the Ju 88.
The A-9 was a factory built tropical version of the A-1. It featured internal sand filters on the engines, sun shades and carried hunting rifles, desert survival gear and extra water.
The A-10 was the tropical version of the A-5. Field conversions of the A-5 were known as the A-5/Trop.
The A-11 was the tropical version of the A-4.
The A-12 was a dual control trainer based on the A-4, with a wider cockpit. The dive brakes, guns and ventral gondola were all removed.
The Ju 88A-13 was a ground attack version of the aircraft. It could carry droppable bomb pods containing small anti-personnel bomblets (AB Abwirfbehalter 250, 500 or 1000) or Waffenbehalter weapon holders, each capable of carrying up to three 7.9mm MG 81Z twin machine guns. The A-13 could carry four of these pods, allowing it to carry the equivalent of 24 7.9mm machine guns. The type also carried extra armour in the lower cockpit and around the fuel tanks and engine nacelles to protect it from ground attack. A small number of A-13s do appear to have entered service.
A number of Ju 88s had been equipped with forward mounted MG FF 20mm cannon in the starboard side of the nose using modification kits. The A-14 was a factory produced variant that carried the same cannon in the ventral gondola. It was otherwise similar to the A-4.
The A-15 was an A-4 with a bigger internal bomb bay, formed by fitting a wooden bomb bay extension under the fuselage. The under-wing bomb racks and ventral gondola were removed. The A-15 could carry 6,614lbs of bombs inside the new bomb bay. It was hoped that the reduction in drag offered by the new design would improve performance, but when that did not happen the type was abandoned.
The A-16 was a dual control trainer, apparently based on either the A-14 or A-15.
The A-4/ Torp was a torpedo bomber producing in early 1942 by fitting two PVC torpedo racks in place of the ETC under-wing bomb racks. Each PVC rack could carry one 1,686lb LTF5b torpedo.
The A-17 was a production version of the A-4/ Torp. The ventral gondola was deleted but it was otherwise similar to the A-4/ Torp.
Engine: Two x Jumo B
Span: 59ft 10.75in
Length: 47ft 2.66in
Maximum Speed: 280 mph at 18,050 ft
Ceiling: 22,300 feet
Range: 2285 miles
Armament: Three MG 15 machine guns, one in forward windscreen, one in dorsal position, one in rear ventral gondola.
Bomb load: Maximum of 5,291lb with minimum fuel
Engine: Two x Jumo 211J-1 or J-2
Span: 65 ft 7.5in
Length: 47ft 2.66in
Maximum Speed: 295mph
Ceiling: 26,900 feet
Range: 1,552 miles
Armament: A mix of up to five MG 15, MG 81, MG 81Z or MG 131 machine guns in the five positions – cockpit windscreen, forward nose, rear ventral gondola and two rear dorsal positions.
Bomb load: Maximum of 7,936lb with minimum fuel
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