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