Junkers Ju 188

The Ju 188 was an improved version of the Ju 88, one of the mainstays of the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. Although the aircraft only entered service in 1943, its basic design was based on an alternative cockpit for the Ju 88 that had been part of the original design for that aircraft in 1936. A prototype of this Ju 88B had flow in 1940, but the advantages of the modified cockpit were not enough to make it worth disrupting production of the already important aircraft. Instead Junkers were to concentrate on the Ju 288, part of the 1939 “Bomber B” competition.

Junkers Ju 188 from the left
Junkers Ju 188 from the left

First production Junkers Ju 188E-1
First production Junkers Ju 188E-1

Nose of Junkers Ju 188
Nose of Junkers Ju 188

Work resumed on the Ju 88B under the new designation Ju 188 in October 1942. It was triggered by the failure of the Bomber B project. Work on the Ju 288 was scaled down in favour of the Ju 188, which as a modification of an existing aircraft would take much less time to enter service. It benefited from the years of development that had gone into improving the Ju 88, with the first prototype originally constructed as Ju 88 V44, (the forty-fourth development aircraft).

The RLM specification for the Ju 188 required it to be capable of acting as either a level or dive bomber. It was to carry the same dive-brakes and automatic pull-out gear as the Ju 88A. It was to be capable of being powered by either Jumo 213 (A series) or BMW 801 (E series) engines, built into a “power egg” that would allow either engine to be installed on the production line.

The most obvious change made to the Ju 188 was in the cockpit. The stepped nose of the Ju 88 was replaced by a single canopy that began under the nose then curved up and over the cockpit, ending at the rear dorsal gun position, giving the new aircraft the profile of a tadpole. Changes were also made to the wings, increasing the wingspan by three feet while the tail was also enlarged and the fin made larger. 

The standard bomber version carried four guns, all in the main cockpit. These included a 20mm cannon in the nose, an dorsal turret at the top of the cockpit, with either a 13mm or 20mm gun, a rear firing 13mm gun in the rear dorsal position and a rear firing MG 81Z twin machine gun in the ventral position. The normal bomber variant could carry a 3000kg/ 6614lb bomb load.

Two prototypes were ready by January 1943, when they began flight tests. The new aircraft was generally popular. It outperformed the already excellent Ju 88, and features a more spacious cockpit with improved visibility. Its biggest weakness was the lack of any effective tail guns, which led to a variety of attempts to fit a rear turret.

Junkers Ju 188 from above
Junkers Ju 188 from above

Junkers Ju 188 from the right
Junkers Ju 188 from the right

Junkers Ju 188 on the ground from the left
Junkers Ju 188 on the ground from the left

Junkers Ju 188 on the ground from the front
Junkers Ju 188 on the ground from the front

Plans of the Junkers Ju 188
Plans of the Junkers Ju 188

The Ju 188 entered service in May 1943 with Erprobungskommando 188, a specialled service test unit, and with KG 6. I./KG 6 would be the first unit to go operational, on 20 October 1943, acting as a pathfinder unit. Only two bomber units (KG 2 and KG 6) would convert entirely to the Ju 188, which was also used by some elements of KG 26 and KG 66. Half of the 1,076 aircraft produced were reconnaissance aircraft, and the type was used by ten reconnaissance units.

The Ju 188 appeared too late to make any significant impact on the war. Of the total production, 283 were built in 1943 and 793 in 1944, by which time the German bomber forces were shrinking. From the summer of 1944 they almost completely disappeared in response to the fuel shortage caused by Allied heavy bombing. Allied control of the air meant that the Ju 188 was unable to achieve much as a reconnaissance aircraft either – the Luftwaffe would be essentially blind until the jet powered Arado Ar 234 entered service. In a somewhat unexpected twist, the Ju 188 was used by the French naval air arm (the Aéronavale) in the immediate post war era.


The A-1 was the first of the Junkers Jumo powered variants to reach production. It carried a MG 151/20 cannon in a EDL 151 dorsal turret but was otherwise similar to the to slightly earlier E-1. The A-1 was powered by the 1,776hp Jumo 213 A-1 engine. A level bomber, production began in the summer of 1943.


The A-2 was similar to the A-1 but was given a MW 50 methanol-water injection system, which increased take-off power to 2,241hp.


The A-3 was a torpedo bomber variant. It could carry two torpedoes, one under each wing, and normally carried FuG 200 Hohentwiel anti-shipping radar.


The C-0 was the first of two main attempts to improve the rear firepower of the Ju 188. The C-0 was given a FA15 remotely sighted power controlled tail barbette, armed with a MG 131Z twin 13mm machine gun. The new system was inaccurate, unreliable and heavy and production did not proceed.


The D-1 was a Jumo-powered reconnaissance aircraft. The forward firing cannon was deleted, and the crew reduced to three. The aircraft carried extra fuel and a mix of cameras.


The D-2 was similar to the D-1, but with FuG 200 maritime radar. It was powered by the Jumo 213A-1 engine, capable of providing 1,766hp at take-off and 2,240 with MW-1 injections.


The first Ju 188s to enter service were E-0 pre-production aircraft. They were powered by BMW 801 ML radial engines, and were similar to the A-1 other than the use of an EDL 131 turret with an MG 131 13mm machine gun.


The first BMW powered production aircraft used the 1,700hp BMW 801 D-2 and G-2 engine. Early production aircraft had dive brakes, but they were removed by the end of the production run.


The E-2 was the BMW powered version of the A-3 torpedo bomber and other than the choice of engine was identical.


The F-1 was a BMW engined version of the D-1 reconnaissance aircraft.


Likewise the F-2 was a BMW powered version of the D-2 with FuG 200 radar.


The G-0 saw a second attempt to improve the rear firepower of the Ju 188. This time the FA15 turret was manned. The gunner had to crouch in a tiny cockpit, which also restricted the size of guns that could be carried. The manned turret had a poor arc of fire and was not adopted.


The G-2 was a proposal for a version of the aircraft with a more advanced version of the FA 15 remote controlled turret. It was abandoned in favour of the Ju 388.


The Ju 188H-1 would have been a reconnaissance aircraft with the same remote controlled turrets as the G-2.


The Ju 188J was a pressurised Zerstörer that was eventually developed as the Ju 388J


Likewise the Ju 188K bomber was developed as the Ju 388K


As was the Ju 188J, a reconnaissance aircraft developed as the Ju 388J


The S-1 was a further pressurised development of the Ju 188 design. It was designed as a high-altitude high-speed intruder, carrying a tiny 800kg/ 1763lb bomb load in an internal bomb bay. The aircraft was unarmed, with a crew of three. It was powered by Jumo 213E-1 engines, with GM-1 nitrous oxide power boot and could provide 1,690hp at 31,400ft. With its full bomb load it had a top speed of 426mph at 37,730ft, but all it could ever do was be a nuisance raider.


The T-1 was the final reconnaissance version of the Ju 188. It was similar to the S-1, but without the ability to carry any bombs. Top speed was increased to 435mph at 37,730ft.

E-2 Stats
Engines: BMW 801
Horsepower: 1,700hp
Maximum Speed: 311mph at 19,685ft
Ceiling: 30,512ft
Range: 1,212 miles
Span: 72ft 2in
Length: 48ft 0.5in
Armament: Two 13mm machine guns, one in nose one on dorsal position
Bomb load: 3,000kg/ 6614lb bombs or two 800kg/ 1764lb torpedoes.

Aircraft of the Luftwaffe 1935-1945, Jean-Denis G.G. Lepage. Combines a good background history of the Luftwaffe with a comprehensive examination of its aircraft, from the biplanes of the mid 1930s to the main wartime aircraft and on to the seemingly unending range of experimental designs that wasted so much effort towards the end of the war. A useful general guide that provides an impressively wide range of information on almost every element of the Luftwaffe (Read Full Review)
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 June 2007), Junkers Ju 188, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_ju188.html

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