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Aircraft used by Kampfgeschwader 55


Junkers Ju88

During the latter half of the war, KG55 were tasked with carrying out low strike missions  in the face of Allied air superiority. The specialist train busting unit 14(Eis)./KG55 had its Heinkels fitted with an electric altimeter that enabled them to fly at tree top level over the railway tracks, but the unit also began used Ju88C-6 aircraft in this role.

The Junkers Ju88 was a twin engined medium bomber, also used as a dive bomber in a similar fashion to the famous Stuka, although it was faster than the Stuka - managing to reach speeds of 300mph.  In addition, its quick acceleration in a dive saved many pilots. Losses were far less than the Stuka, the Dornier, or the Heinkel.

Like the Heinkel HE111, the Junkers Ju88 had been developed before the war started - by two American engineers, W.H. Evers and Alfred Grossner, who Junkers had recruited for their expertise in modern aircraft structural design. 

The first prototype flew in December 1936 and was so successful that, after numerous modifications over the next few years, the Luftwaffe placed an order for models to test from early 1939 onwards.  The new fighter offered a maximum speed similar to that of the much smaller Messerschmitt Bf 110, but with three times the range, and was subsequently ordered into limited production.  A small batch of early production Ju88A-1 bombers were converted into Ju 88C-0s during July and August 1939, and used operationally during the invasion of Poland for long-range ground-attack.

By May 1940, when the RAF had started to attack Germany at night, it became clear that anti-aircraft guns alone were not an effective means of defence.  The Ju88, however, proved itself in attacking RAF bombers and other targets such as radar installations - a role which the Luftwaffe gladly gave it.  Unfortunately, so few of the Junkers aircraft had been ordered that it quickly became clear this role would be very limited indeed against the ever-growing might of Bomber Command.  Even though the Ju88 could go into a rapid dive to outrun the RAF's Hurricanes and Spitfires which defended Britain's skies, Hitler eventually ordered the Gruppe operating them, I/NJG 2 (originally designated KG30), to switch operations to Sicily where they could be more effective whilst attacking Allied aircraft over Malta and the Mediterranean. 

The Ju88 remained unchanged during the Battle of Britain. But the following year the Ju88C was introduced to help improve its capabilities.  With 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 fuselage, the Ju88 became a fighter rather than a bomber.  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.  However, the airframe and undercarriage were improved, and the aircraft's armour was stengthened.  From 1942, radar equipment was introduced to the Ju88 night and day fighters, requiring the addition of a radar operator to the crew.  

It was the Ju88C-6 version that was used by KG55 for train-busting operations on the Russian Front in 1943.

As the aircraft developed further, yet more armaments were added, more armour -- and the cumulative effect of this was to over-burden the 88C series with more weight that seriously affected its speed and performance.  Other variants developed in subsequent years included the Ju88D which was a long range reconnaissance aircraft, the Ju88 G which was primarily developed for the night fighter role, and the Ju88H which had a lengthened fuselage and increased fuel capacity.

As the war continued, and the British fighters became faster, more manoeuvrable 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.

More detailed information about Junkers Ju88 on other websites:

Heinkel He111



Messerschmitt Bf-109