Junkers Ju 88

Specification (A-4)

Type: four-seat bomber / dive bomber; Powerplant: 2 x 1,350hp Junkers Jumo 211J-1 12-cylinder, inverted-V piston engines; Performance: 292mph / 470kph at 17,390ft / 5300m (maximum speed), 248mph / 400kph at 16,405ft / 5000m (maximum cruising speed), 26,900 ft / 8200m (maximum ceiling), 1,696 miles / 2730km (maximum range); Weight: 21,737lbs / 9860kg (empty equipped), 30,865lbs / 14,000kg (maximum take-off); Dimensions: 65ft 7.5in / 20m (wing span), 47ft 2.75in / 14.4m (length), 15ft 11in / 4.85m (height), 586.6sq.ft / 54.5m.sq (wing area); Armament: 1 x 7.92mm MG81 machinegun and either 1 x 13mm MG131 machinegun or 2 x 7.92mm MG81 machineguns firing forward, two similar guns in the cockpit firing aft and another two below the fuselage firing aft as well, up to 4,409lbs / 2000kg of bombs held either internally or externally; Used By: Germany, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy & Romania.


Considered by many to be the most versatile German aircraft in World War II, the Ju88 grew out of a requirement in 1935 for a three-seat high-speed bomber to be capable of more than 298mph / 480kph and remained in production until the end of the war. Both Henschel and Messerschmitt initially tendered to the same specification but later withdrew. The prototype bomber flew on 21 December 1936 with 2 x 1,000hp Daimler-Benz DB600Ae inline engines with annular radiators, giving them the appearance of radials - the use of these were to continue throughout its development. The third prototype had 1,000hp Junkers Jumo engines which enabled it to reach 323mph / 520kph during tests. This high performance enable the Ju88 to attempt record-breaking flights and in March 1939 the fifth prototype set a 621-mile (1,000km) closed-circuit record of 321.25 mph (517kph) carrying a 4,409lbs (2,000kg) payload. A total of ten prototypes were completed and the first pre-production planes (Ju88A-0) flew in early 1939, while the first production aircraft (Ju88A-1) rolled off the lines in September 1939. Teething problems were gradually ironed out and additional variants gradually began to appear, like the Ju88A-2 which featured rocket packs to assist with overload conditions that could be jettisoned, Ju88A-3 which was a dual-control trainer and the Ju88A-4, the first highly modified development. This variant was designed around the new and more powerful Jumo 211J engine and featured a greater wing span and strengthened airframe to take larger loads.

Because of problems with the new engines, the Ju88A-5 overtook the A-4 for a time and featured the greater wingspan but the previous engines. Many of these aircraft had balloon-cable fenders and cutters fitted so that they could deal with barrage balloons during the Battle of Britain and became the Ju88A-6 while some were converted to dual-control trainers and designated the Ju88A-7. By the time the Ju88A-4 had started to enter service in significant numbers, lessons from the Battle of Britain indicated the need for heavier armament and greater crew protection. Several different armament layouts were used but a typical one would be a single 7.92mm (0.31in) MG81 machinegun on the right side of the nose (operated by the pilot), two MG81 or a single 13mm (0.51in) machine gun firing forward through the transparent nose panels (operated by the bombardier). The same option was available in the ventral gondola beneath the nose firing aft, while two MG81s were at the rear of the cockpit canopy. The aircraft could carry 4,409lbs (2,000kg) of bombs beneath the wings and another 1,102lbs (500kg) of bombs in the bomb bay. Sub-variants of the Ju88 extended up to the Ju88A-17 and included the Ju88A-12 and Ju88A-16 which were trainers, the Ju88A-8 and Ju88A-14 which had cable cutters, the Ju88A-11 which was a tropical variant, the Ju88A-17 which could carry two 1,686lbs torpedoes and the Ju88A-15 which had an enlarged bomb bay and could carry 6,614lbs (3,000kg) of bombs.

By the end of 1942, the Luftwaffe had taken delivery of 8,000 Ju88 aircraft. While the A series was in full production, Junkers was developing the B series, the prototype for which flew in 1940 with two 1,600hp BMW 801MA radial engines. The main difference visually, was the extensive glazing of the front nose while it had a slight performance increase over the A series, although not enough to warrant changing the production lines and so only ten prototypes were built. Previous to this, the Luftwaffe had been experimenting with the idea of a fighter version of the Ju88 but the priority had been to produce bombers and so it wasn't until mid-1939 that the second preproduction Ju88A was modified by fitting a solid nose armed with three 7.92mm (0.31in) MG17 machineguns and one 20mm FF/M cannon, all firing forwards, while single 7.92mm (0.31in) machineguns were installed in the dorsal and ventral positions firing aft. This version would have become the Ju88C-1, equipped with 1,600hp BMW 801 engines but these engines were needed for Focke-Wulf Fw190 production and so around 130 Ju88A-1 aircraft were converted on the production line and became the Ju88C-2 night fighter, carrying out intruder patrols over British bomber bases. The first fighter to be built from scratch, was the Ju88C-4 which had the wider wing span of the Ju88A-4 and 1,340hp Jumo 211J engines. Attempts to provide extra power by converting the plane to take the 1,700hp BMW 801D radial engines gave rise to the Ju88C-3 and C-5 variants of which one and ten were built respectively but the plan was cut short by the shortage of BMW engines. Even as the last of the C-4s were coming off the line, the Ju88C-6 followed which was basically an up-armoured day fighter and a sub-variant (C-6b) became the first radar-equipped night fighter with Lichtenstein radar in the nose. It was to prove a considerable success as between the 31 January and 30 March 1944 some 342 bombers were shot down out of 3,759 despatched.

Next, out of sequence alphabetically, came the Ju88R-1 and R-2 variants. The R-1 had same airframe and armament as the C-6b but used the BMW 801MA radial engines while the R-2 used the BMW 801D engines. The D series were developed as long-range reconnaissance aircraft and based on the Ju88A-4. Almost 1,500 were built between 1941 and 1944 and served on all fronts during the war. These covered the variants from Ju88D-1 to D-5 and differed in terms of engines and internal layout. In an effort to improve stability, a new, taller, square-cut tail plane and rudder were fitted to a Ju88R-2, becoming the Ju88G-1. The armament was reduced by the removal of the twin nose cannon but the aircraft retained the Lichtenstein radar and Flensburg aerials in the nose so it could home in on RAF bombers. The aircraft had the BMW 801D engines and gradually developed into a number of sub-variants. The Ju88G-4 used the Me110s schräge Musik installation of two MG151 cannon firing forwards and upwards. The main differences between the sub-variants were in the types of radar and armament fitted, although the later variants (G-6c onwards) reverted to Jumo engines – the last variant produced was the Ju88G-7c. Development of the basic Ju88D reconnaissance series resulted in the Ju88H series, the prototype for which combined the wings and BMW engines of a Ju88G-1 with the fuselage and tail from a Ju88D-1, although this fuselage was in fact stretched by 10ft 8in (3.25m) to 57ft 10.75in (17.65m) and the extra fuel that could be carried meant the aircraft had a range of 3,200 miles (5,150km).

Ten Ju88H-1 reconnaissance aircraft and two Ju88H-2 long-range fighters were built, the latter having six forward firing 20mm MG151 cannon instead of the Ju88H-1s cameras and radar. Despite being built in relatively small numbers, these types saw action over the Atlantic. Just as Ju87s were converted to tank-busters, so a number of Ju88s were to, to form the Ju88P series. In 1942, a Ju88A-4 airframe formed the basis of a prototype and was tested with a 75mm (2.95in) KwK39 cannon mounted in a larger underbelly fairing. A small number were ordered as the Ju88P-1, armed with a 75mm (2.95in) Pak40 cannon and a 7.92mm (0.31in) MG81 forward-firing machinegun for the pilot to aim the cannon. The usual ventral and dorsal machineguns were carried as well. Other sub-variants with alternative armament were built, including the Ju88P-2 and P-3 (two 37mm BK cannon) and the Ju88P-4 (one 50mm BK5 cannon), with some thirty-two of this final variant being built. By 1942, the Ju88 was finding it increasingly difficult to escape from enemy fighters, and so the Ju88S series was developed, the prototype having two BMW 801D 1,700hp radial engines married to a Ju88A-4 airframe which gave a speed of 332 mph (535 kph). A pre-production batch was ordered, followed in 1943 by production of the Ju88S-1 with BMW 801G engines, boosted to 1,730hp at 5,005ft (1,525m). In order to save weight however, armament was reduced to a single rear-firing 13mm (0.51in) MG131 machinegun, giving a maximum speed (with nitrous oxide injection) of 379 mph (610 kph) at 26,245ft (8,000m). Two addition sub-variants were built in 1944 - the Ju88S-2 and S-3, the latter having Jumo 213A engines which boosted produced 2,125hp and a speed of 382 mph (615 kph) at 27,885ft (8500m). Only a few production aircraft were built however and a high-speed photo reconnaissance version, the Ju88T was also built in small numbers. Total Ju88 production totalled almost 15,000 between 1936 and 1945.

Ju88 Variants



Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II, Bounty Books, London, 2006.
Gunston, Bill. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Combat Aircraft of World War II, Salamander, London, 1978.
Wikipedia. Junkers Ju 88 Webpage, active as of 30 June 2007 and currently located at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junkers_Ju_88.
Junkers Ju 88 Webpage at http://www.geocities.com/hjunkers/ju_ju88_a1.htm (as of 29 June 2007).

Pictures courtesy of:
World War II Color Pictures (http://www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/justin/1087/WWII/)
Uboat.net (http://uboat.net)
The Classic Airplane Museum (http://www.ne.jp/asahi/airplane/museum/index-E.html)
Junkers Ju88 Webpage (http://www.geocities.com/hjunkers/ju_ju88_a1.htm)

Luftwaffe Mistel Composite Bomber Units, Robert Forsyth . Starts with a brief look at the pre-war origins of the idea of guiding one aircraft from another one mounted above it, before moving on to the German development of this into a potentially potent weapon, and finishing with a detailed account of the very limited impact the Mistel weapons actually had in combat (so typical of German wartime weapons programmes). [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Antill, P. (30 July 2007), Junkers Ju 88 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_ju88_peter.html

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