The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka was a dive bomber that was used by Germany and some of its allies during World War II.
The first production model of the Stuka was the Junkers Ju 87A-1. It had a Junkers Jumo 210C Engine and its top speed was around 410.3 km/h. It had a crew of two and an armament of two machine guns in the wings and one in the gunner position. The Ju-87A-1 could also carry up to 500 kg of bombs.
The Stuka had a fixed landing gear with front wheel covers, which allowed the Stuka squadrons to land and take off from unprepared front line "airfields". This meant that Stukas could make more sorties in a day because they were closer to the front than other bombers. Many examples of the Stuka also had a siren that was meant to strike fear and intimidation into enemy forces and civilians. However, by the Battle of Britain, most units had removed the sirens from their aircraft.
|“||They were slow enough without the extra drag. Major Helmut Bode of Dive Bomber Geschwader 77, revealing why most Ju-87s had the sirens removed.||”|
The Stuka also had a special autopilot system that automatically brought it to a dive when the pilot extracted the dive brakes, prevented damaging pilot stirring during the dive while not limiting the pilot's ability to aim, and then automatically pulled the aircraft out of the dive and back to level flight when the bomb was dropped. Since the G-suit was not yet invented then, pilots could temporarily lose consciousness because of the high G force during the pull out of the fast near-vertical dive, and crash to the ground, but the autopilot prevented that from happening.
The first variant of the A-1 was the A-2 and the main difference between the two is that the A-2 new Junkers Jumo 210E Engine. The A series of Stukas was produced in limited numbers. Next came the B series starting with the B-1. The B series was produced on a much larger scale and it had an even newer Junkers Jumo 211D Engine. This model was the first to incorporate the siren. There were two main developments of the Ju-87B. One was the Ju-87R long range aircraft, which carried extra fuel tanks under the wings instead of bombs. The other was the Ju-87C carrier version, intended for the planned Graf Zeppelin class aircraft carriers. This version had folding wings and a jettisionable undercarriage. In 1943 Erich Gimpel, an intelligence officer with the SS, acquired a pair of Ju-87Cs, together with crews and mechanics, for use in Operation Pelican, an ambitious plan designed to prevent Allied use of the Panama Canal.
A major redesign carried out in the spring of 1940, to allow the Ju-87 to make use of the 1,400 hp Jumo 211J engine, resulted in the introduction of the next main variant, the Ju-87D. Moving the oil cooler to the underside of the nose, and placing the oil coolant radiator below the wings, gave the aircraft more refined nose contours. The redesigned cockpit canopy tapered towards the rear, and the defensive and offensive armament was increased.
Some early D versions were converted in Ju-87G anti tank aircraft with a pair of 37mm Flak 18 cannon under the wings, which underwent service trials in the Crimea in May 1943. 
Other examples of the D were converted into Ju-87H dual control training aircraft. The dive breaks were removed, and transparent blisters were installed on the rear section of the cockpit canopy to provide an improved view for the instructor.  The official variants under the D series of Stuka were the D-3, D-5, D-7, and D-8. In order of changes, the D-3 featured improved armor, the D-5 had its dive brakes removed, the D-7 was given 20mm autocannons for ground attack duties and the D-8 had no night operations equipment.
The initial contract for a dive bomber for the Luftwaffe was issued on 27 September 1933, mainly due to the efforts of Ernst Udet, who had witnessed a demonstration by Curtiss Helldivers of the United States Army during a visit to Cleveland, Ohio. The Junkers company responded with the Ju-87V1 c/n 4921. As designed by Hans Pohlmann, the Ju-87 was a two-seat all metal monoplane with fixed landing gear, inverted gull wing and twin fins and rudders.
Powered by an imported Rolls Royce Kestrel V providing 640 hp, the Ju-87V1 first flew from Dessau on 17 September 1935. The aircraft was later fitted with a new larger radiator to of engine overheating, but was destroyed on 24 January 1936, after entering an inverted spin during diving trials, which prompted the quick redesign of the tail assembly, with the twin fin unit being replaced by a large single angular fin and rudder. This was completed in time for the Jumo powered second prototype, Ju 87V2, to start trials by March 1936. This aircraft was joined by the third (Ju 87V3/D-UKYQ) in June 1936, and the forth (Ju 87V4/D-UBIP) in late autumn, the last of these leading to the ten Ju 87A-0 pre-production aircraft.
Dive bombing remained the precision bombing method of choice much later after World War II until it was gradually replaced by using guided bombs and missiles for precision air attacks. These abilities were exactly what the German military needed for the airborne element of their new and revolutionary Blitzkrieg (lightning war) tactic, when they developed it before World War II.
The Stuka was used from the very first day of the war until the end on all fronts by Germany. It was a reliable platform that struck fear into the hearts of many an enemy at first but as the war progressed, it gradually became less effective. As such, stop-gap variants were created to fill in the missing roles but the Stuka platform just could not serve the Luftwaffe at maximum efficiency working in this way. In total, around 5,700 aircraft were produced during the war.
- ↑ http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=97
- ↑ Price, Alfred. The Hardest Day - The Battle of Britain 18th August 1840. Arrow Books Limited (1990)
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Kay, Anthony and J R Smith. German Aircraft of the Second World War. Putnam. 2002. Pages 189-196
- ↑ Treadwell, Terry C. Strike From Beneath the Sea - A History of Aircraft -carrying Submarines. Tempus Publishing Ltd. 1999. ISBN 0 7524 1704 5. Pages 107 & 108
- ↑ Kay, Anthony and J R Smith. 2002. Page 189
- ↑ Green, William. Famous Bombers of the Second World War. Purnell Book Services. 1975. Page 127