Aircraft of the Luftwaffe
Junkers Ju 88 
Messerschmitt Bf109E       Messerschmitt Bf110
Heinkel He111        Dornier Do17       Junkers Ju87

To look at, the Junkers Ju88 looks clumsy and and all out of proportion. But as it was shown during the period of the Second World War, it was perhaps one of the most versatile aircraft of the period. It was first designed back in 1936 as a "Schnellbomber" a fast daylight bomber and surprisingly had its first flight in that same year and was soon to display its superior performance. With the demise of Professor Junkers, the engineers saw the potential of this fast medium bomber and felt that still improvements could be made that Germany could produce an outstanding aircraft. Knowing the advantages of tactical dive bombing, with the pilot aiming the aircraft at the target, tests were carried out after dive brakes had been fitted. It was to prove that the Ju88 could add another advantage over other bombers that had been produced in Germany at the time.

Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, five variants had been produced but the Ju88 never saw service in any of the early campaigns such as the Spanish Civil War or the invasion of Poland, but tests were still being carried out during this period. By March 1939, a fifth variant managed a speed of 517km per hour (321.2 mph) over a 1.000 kilometre (621 miles) test and with a payload of 2,000 kilograms (4409 pounds), set a record for a bomber of its type. When war did eventually break out in September 1939, the Ju88A-1 was at last to enter service although the first recorded mission was not flown until late in that month.

The introduction of the Ju88 was to boost the strength of Germany's bomber forces which already had He111 and Do17 bombers already in service. The Ju88 was heavier than both the Dornier and the Heinkel, but even with a bombload of two 500 or 250 kilogram bombs under each wing, and twenty eight 50 kilogram bombs stored internally, the two 1,200 hp Jumo 211B engines made it faster than the other two bombers. Although the Ju88 had an extensive array of machine guns for defensive purposes, two in the rear fusalage, one underneath, one in the cockpit and even one that could be operated by the pilot. The main problem was that all forward machine guns had to be operated by the Flight Engineer with the exception of the pilots gun. Impressive enough, it was adequate in operations over northern France, but against the much faster Hurricanes and Spitfires during the Battle of Britain that had been developed to superior standards it was to prove inneffective against the British fighters as casualty lists were later to prove. One of the aircrew of the Ju88 was the Flight Engineer who had the task of operating and firing four machine guns, always having to jump from one gun to another. This was possibly one of the worst faults of the Ju88 which was never improved.

The Ju88 gained success in the raids on radar stations where it proved that its dive bombing capablities were to prove successful. In many massed raids, the attrition rate was not to the proportions of the He111 and Do17, this was possibly due to the fact that when under attack, the Ju88 could break into as dive at considerable speed.
This was proved in a number of mass attacks by Ju88s during the Battle of Britain. One of the most successful of the Luftwaffe raids was and attack on Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight on August 12th 1940. They managed to carry out their attack successfully, then if they were intercepted by Britsh fighters as they were on this occasion, they were able to dive at high speed thus evading contact with the fighters.

The Ju88 remained unchanged during the Battle of Britain. But the following year the Ju88C was introduced and with its three MG machine guns mounted in the modified solid nose, as well as a 20mm Cannon, and two MG15 machine guns able to be fired from the fusalge it made the Ju88 almost a fighter rather than a bomber. Other variants included the Ju88D which was a long range recconnaissence aircraft, the Ju88 G was primarily developed for the night fighter role, and the Ju88H which had a lengthened fusalage and had an increased fuel capacity had to further variants, one as a fighter and the other as a reconnaissence aircraft.

As the war continued, and the British fighters became faster, more manoeverable and better armed, the Luftwaffe suffered badly. But still the Ju88 could claim that its losses were far less than that of the Heinkel and the Dornier. In all, over 15,000 Ju88s were built during the 1939-1945 war, and many historians claim that had more Ju88s been built and used during the Battle of Britain and in the Blitz on London, damage would have been far greater than it was.

Junkers Ju 88 Specifications
Type Medium range bomber
Power Plant Junkers Jumo 211B 1,200hp x 2
Laden weight 27,500 lbs
Max Speed  Approx 286 mph @ 16,000 feet.
Cruising Speed Approx 239 mph
Rate of Climb Not known
Max range 1,553 miles
Service Ceiling 26,500 feet
Bomb Load 5,510 lbs (max)
Armament  6 x 7.9mm machine guns (2 more lateral guns were added later)
Wingspan 59 feet 10¾inch
Length 47 feet 1 inch
Height 15 feet 5 inch
Wing Area 540 square feet

The Battle of Britain - 1940 website © Battle of Britain Historical Society 2007