Until the introduction of the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka most dive bombers had been modifications of existing designs, almost a "jack of all trades", this was not true of the Ju 87 Stuka. The Ju 87 Stuka design lacked speed, manoeuvrability and effective defensive armament, it was totally dependent on the Luftwaffe's fighters ability to gain and maintain air superiority, once this was achieved it was a truly devastating weapon.
The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka carried a new psychological weapon, this was the "Jericho-Trompete", or Jericho Trumpet. When the Ju 87 Stuka entered it's almost vertical attack dive from 15,000 feet (4,600 m) a slipstream operated siren would begin to sound, to those unfortunate people on the ground below it was heard as a horrible and demoralising wailing sound that increased in frequency and volume until the Stuka reached it's terminal attack speed of 350 to 370 mph, it would then maintain a steady frequency but increase in volume and end with an inevitable explosion (even if the aircraft of pilot was hit by ground fire the bomb would still explode on impact even if the plane and pilot was still attached to the bomb, and at about the same location). To those on the ground defending against attacking aircraft the wailing sound said don't stand and fight the inevitable, dive into any cover you can find! This was a positive result from the Stuka pilot's perspective as it decreased the amount of incoming ground fire and hence their chances of survival.
The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka was with fitted the most advanced dive bombing auto-pilot in the world at the outbreak of WW2. A Stuka pilot would attack from an altitude of 15,000 feet (4,600 m), when correctly positioned he would press a red button on the steering column, this started a series of events designed to ensure a successful attack, the steering column would no go further forward allowing the Stuka pilot to rapidly enter the 60 to 90° attack dive, automatic dive brakes were deployed to maintain a constant speed of 350 to 370 mph, the engine was throttled back and automatic doors closed to reduce the airflow to the radiator preventing the engine overcooling, the propeller pitch was set to course, the bomb was lowered on a metal frame so it would clear the propeller when released in the near vertical dive and the "Jericho-Trompete" siren would begin to wail. When the Stuka reached an altitude of 1,500 ft (450 m) a red light would illuminate, the pilot would check he was on target and then press the bomb release button, this released the bomb and initiated an automatic pull-out mechanism. Automatic under wing hydraulic pull-up dive brakes were deployed and the Stuka would enter a 6 g pullout, when the dive bomber was out of the dive the pilot could possibly be unconscious or temporarily blinded by the G-force of the pull out, the dive brakes were automatically retracted, the propeller pitch set to fine and the throttle returned to maximum position ready for the pilot to resume normal control of the aircraft.
The Battle of Britain started of well for the German Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, a successful morning convoy attack in the English Channel on the 4th of July 1940 resulted in four freighters being sunk an six others damaged, in the afternoon 33 Stukas dive bombed and sunk HMS Foylebank, a 5,500 ton anti-aircraft ship, in Portland Harbour. On the 13th of August 1940 86 Junkers Ju 87 Stukas attacked RAF Detling whilst the RAF fighters were lured away by Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, 20 RAF aircraft were destroyed on the ground and the airfield severely damaged. Beginning on the 12th of August 1940 British Chain Home radar stations were attacked but with little effect, station downtime normally limited to only a few hours. By the 18th of August the RAF had evolved the correct strategy to deal with the Luftwaffe raids, the Spitfires would engage the German fighters and the Hurricanes would target the German Luftwaffe bombers, the resulting losses on both sides were unprecedented but were clearly in the RAF's favour, the 18th of August became known generally as the "hardest day" by those fighting the Battle of Britain, 16 Stukas were lost and more seriously damaged. The Stuka losses on the 18th of August combined with those since the start of the Battle of Britain, just six weeks earlier, totalled 56, this represented more than one fifth of the Luftwaffe's total Stuka inventory and this figure did not include damaged aircraft and injured aircrew, the Stuka was virtually removed from operations over Britain and it's coastal waters, and was re-deployed to the less demanding East, where the Luftwaffe rather than the RAF had air superiority. The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka's lack of manoeuvrability, speed and ability to defend it's self required that it was always protected from enemy fighter intervention and this would never be realised again over Great Britain..
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The German Luftwaffe "Battle of Britain" Heinkel He 111 bomber history
When the Heinkel He 111 was introduced into Luftwaffe service in 1935 it was relatively state of the art and almost as fast as a fighter, operations with the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War proved it was sufficiently fast to be almost impossible to intercept. Following the Spanish Civil War design changes were made to improve the aircraft, the most obvious change was a new distinctive glass "greenhouse" nose for better visibility.
The Luftwaffe operated the Heinkel He 111 with considerable success in the early part on WW2, but once the battle of Britain started it became clear that it had become outdated. Without continuous Luftwaffe fighter cover the Heinkel He 111 was easy prey for the RAF Hawker Hurricanes, the German Luftwaffe fighters did not have enough fuel to stay with the Heinkel He 111's long, even when they did they were often to busy fighting the RAF's Supermarine Spitfires to protect the Luftwaffe bombers. Losses of the Heinkel He 111's and their Luftwaffe flight crew became worse during the Daylight Blitz raids, the time they lacked fighter cover increased as their targets became further inland, bombing had to be switched to night time in an attempt to reduce the unacceptable losses. After the Blitz Heinkel He 111 bombers were gradually withdrawn from the Britain's skies and used in less demanding theatres of operation.
By the time production of the Heinkel He 111 ceased in 1944 a total of 6,508 He 111 bombers had been produced, those still in operational use were mainly used as military transports. The most produced variant of this famous German Luftwaffe bomber was the Heinkel He 111 H, this was also the variant that faced the RAF in The Battle of Britain.
It is of note that after WW2 CASA built a licensed version of the Heinkel He 111 for the Spanish Air Force, the CASA 2.111. The Spanish Air Force's CASA 2.111 had improved defensive armament and was powered by British Rolls Royce Merlin engines, it remained in operational service until 1073. The Spanish Air Force's CASA 2.111 bombers have a particularly strong link with the Battle of Britain as they were used to portray German Luftwaffe Heinkel He 111 H bombers in the 1969 movie "Battle of Britain"...
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The German Luftwaffe "Battle of Britain" Dornier Do 17 bomber history
The Dornier Do 17 was designed by Claude Dornier for the German Luftwaffe in the early 1930's, it was intended to be a light bomber which could outrun enemy fighters (like the British Mosquito developed by the British later in WW2) but was described as a "freight aircraft with special equipment" to hide it's true purpose. The Dornier Do 17 first flew in 1935 and entered Luftwaffe service in 1937. Like the other German fighters and bombers used in the WW2 Battle of Britain the Dornier Do 17 was operated by the German Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War, it proved an effective bomber and was able to evade opposing fighters utilising it's high speed.
A total of 2139 Dornier Do 17 bombers had been built when production ended during the Battle of Britain, the aircraft already built served until the end of WW2 but during the Battle of Britain the design began to show it's age, it's range was too limited and the 236 mph top speed meant it could not hope to escape the British RAF Spitfire or Hurricane fighters, exact losses in the Battle of Britain are unknown but 141 aircraft would be a reasonable figure. Following the cancellation of Dornier Do 17 production, manufacturing resources were focused on to the more modern and capable Junkers Ju 88.
Although the Dornier Do 17 proved ineffective in the Battle of Britain it was not withdrawn from service as it was still effective where the Luftwaffe had air superiority and the target was not to far away. Some Dornier Do 17 were utilised as a night fighter where it performance was of a hindrance.
It is noteworthy that the Dornier Do 17 bomber remained in operation with the Finnish Air Force until the summer of 1952.
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The German Luftwaffe "Battle of Britain" Junkers 88 fighter bomber history
The Junkers Ju 88 was a successful twin engined multi-role aircraft designed by a team led by Ernst Zindel, the design utilised an all metal stressed skin construction, as Junkers had no experience in stressed skin construction they employed American engineers W. H. Evers and Alfred Gassner. The Junkers Ju 88 was introduced into Luftwaffe service in 1939. The Junkers Ju 88 one of the most versatile and effective German aircraft of WW2, it served as a bomber, dive bomber, torpedo bomber, heavy fighter and night fighter (with or without radar).
During the Battle of Britain the Junkers Ju 88 was primarily used as a bomber and heavy fighter. It was twenty Junkers Ju 88 bombers that successfully bombed the Chain Home radar station, RAF Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight on the 12th of August 1940 with the loss of only two aircraft.
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