The Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka (from Sturz kampfflugzeug, "dive bomber") was a two-man (pilot and rear gunner) German dive bomber and ground-attack aircraft. Designed by Hermann Pohlmann, the Stuka first flew in 1935 and made its combat debut in 1936 as part of the Luftwaffe's Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War.
The aircraft was easily recognisable by its inverted and fixed spatted undercarriage, upon the leading edges of its faired maingear legs were mounted the Jericho-Trompete ("Jericho Trumpet") wailing siren, becoming the propaganda symbol of German air power and the blitzkrieg victories of 1939–1942. The Stuka's design included several innovative features, including automatic pull-up under both wings to ensure that the aircraft recovered from its attack dive even if the pilot blacked out from the high acceleration.
Although sturdy, accurate, and very effective against ground targets, the Ju 87, like many other dive bombers of the war, was vulnerable to modern fighter aircraft. Its flaws became apparent during the Battle of Britain; poor manoeuvrability and a lack of both speed and defensive armament meant that the Stuka required heavy fighter escort to operate effectively.
The Stuka operated with further success after the Battle of Britain, and its potency as a precision ground-attack aircraft became valuable to German forces in the Balkans Campaign, the African and Mediterranean theaters and the early stages of the Eastern Front campaigns where Soviet fighter resistance was disorganised and in short supply.
Once the Luftwaffe had lost air superiority on all fronts, the Ju 87 once again became an easy target for enemy fighter aircraft. In spite of this, because there was no better replacement, the type continued to be produced until 1944. By the end of the conflict, the Stuka had been largely replaced by ground-attack versions of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, but was still in use until the last days of the war. An estimated 6,500 Ju 87s of all versions were built between 1936 and August 1944.
Some notable airmen flew the Ju 87. Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel was the most successful Stuka ace and the most highly decorated German serviceman of the Second World War. The vast majority of German ground attack aces flew this aircraft at some point in their careers.
After the Nazis came to power, the design was given priority. Despite initial competition from the Henschel Hs 123, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) - German for the "Aviation Ministry" - turned to the designs of Herman Pohlmann of Junkers and co-designer of the K 47, Karl Plauth. During the trials with the K 47 in 1932, the double vertical stabilisers were introduced to give the rear gunner a better field of fire. The main, and what was to be the most distinctive, feature of the Ju 87 was its double-spar inverted .Griehl 2001, pp. 38–39. After Plauth's death, Pohlmann continued the development of the Junkers dive bomber. The Ju A 48 registration D-ITOR, was originally fitted with a BMW 132 engine, producing some 450 kW (600 hp). The machine was also fitted with for dive testing. The aircraft was given a good evaluation and "exhibited very good flying characteristics".
Ernst Udet took an immediate liking to the concept of dive-bombing after flying the Curtiss Hawk II. When he invited Walther Wever and Robert Ritter von Greim to watch Udet perform a trial flight in May 1934 at the Jüterbog artillery range, it raised doubts about the capability of the dive bomber. Udet began his dive at 1,000 m (3,280 ft) and released his 1 kg (2 lb) bombs at 100 m (330 ft), barely recovering and pulling out of the dive.Griehl 2001, p. 38. The Chief of the Luftwaffe Command Office, Walther Wever, and the Secretary of State for Aviation, Erhard Milch, feared that such high-level nerves and skill could not be expected of "average pilots" in the Luftwaffe. Nevertheless, development continued at Junkers. Udet's "growing love affair" with the dive bomber pushed it to the forefront of German aviation development.Murray 1983, p. 13. Udet went so far as to advocate that all have dive-bombing capabilities.Murray 1983, p. 16.
The Ju 87 V1, powered by a Rolls-Royce Kestrel V12 cylinder liquid-cooled engine, and with a twin-tail, crashed on 24 January 1936 at Kleutsch near Dresden, killing Junkers' chief test pilot, Willy Neuenhofen, and his engineer, Heinrich Kreft.Ward 2004, p. 28. The square twin fins and rudders proved too weak; they collapsed and the aircraft crashed after it entered an inverted spin during the testing of the terminal dynamic pressure in a dive.Mondey 1996, pp. 111–118. The crash prompted a change to a single vertical stabiliser tail design. To withstand strong forces during a dive, heavy plating was fitted, along with brackets riveted to the frame and longeron, to the fuselage. Other early additions included the installation of hydraulic dive brakes that were fitted under the leading edge and could rotate 90°.Ward 2004, p. 27.
The RLM was still not interested in the Ju 87 and was not impressed that it relied on a British engine. In late 1935, Junkers suggested fitting a DB 600 in-line engine, with the final variant to be equipped with the Jumo 210. This was accepted by the RLM as an interim solution. The reworking of the design began on 1 January 1936. The test flight could not be carried out for over two months due to a lack of adequate aircraft. The 24 January crash had already destroyed one machine.
The second prototype was also beset by design problems. It had its twin stabilizers removed and a single tail fin installed due to fears over stability. Due to a shortage of power plants, instead of a DB 600, a BMW "Hornet" engine was fitted. All these delays set back testing until 25 February 1936.Ward 2004, p. 41. By March 1936, the second prototype, the V2, was finally fitted with the Jumo 210Aa power plant, which a year later was replaced by a Jumo 210 G (W.Nr. 19310). Although the testing went well, and the pilot, Flight Captain Hesselbach, praised its performance, Wolfram von Richthofen told the Junkers representative and Construction Office chief engineer Ernst Zindel that the Ju 87 stood little chance of becoming the Luftwaffe's main dive bomber, as it was underpowered in his opinion. On 9 June 1936, the RLM ordered cessation of development in favour of the Heinkel He 118, a rival design. Udet cancelled the order the next day, and development continued.Griehl 2001, pp. 42–44.
On 27 July 1936, Udet crashed the He 118 prototype, He 118 V1 D-UKYM.Ward 2004, p. 31. That same day, Charles Lindbergh was visiting Ernst Heinkel, so Heinkel could only communicate with Udet by telephone. According to this version of the story, Heinkel warned Udet about the propeller's fragility. Udet failed to consider this, so in a dive, the engine oversped and the propeller broke away.Griehl 2001, p. 44. Immediately after this incident, Udet announced the Stuka the winner of the development contest.
These problems were to be resolved by installing the Daimler-Benz DB 600 engine, but delays in development forced the installation of the Jumo 210 Da in-line engine. Flight testing began on 14 August 1936. Subsequent testing and progress fell short of Richthofen's hopes, although the machine's speed was increased to 280 km/h (173 mph) at ground level and 290 km/h (179 mph) at 1,250 m (4,100 ft), while maintaining its good handling ability.Griehl 2001, pp. 52–53.
The Ju 87 was fitted with detachable hatches and removable coverings to aid and ease maintenance and overhaul. The designers avoided welding parts wherever possible, preferring moulded and cast parts instead. Large airframe segments were interchangeable as a complete unit, which increased speed of repair.
The airframe was also subdivided into sections to allow transport by road or rail. The wings were of standard Junkers double-wing construction. This gave the Ju 87 considerable advantage on take-off; even at a shallow angle, large lift forces were created through the aerofoil, reducing take-off and landing runs.
In accordance with the Aircraft Certification Center for "Stress Group 5", the Ju 87 had reached the acceptable structural strength requirements for a dive bomber. It was able to withstand diving speeds of 600 km/h (373 mph) and a maximum level speed of 340 km/h (211 mph) near ground level, and a flying weight of 4,300 kg (9,480 lb). Performance in the diving attack was enhanced by the introduction of dive brakes under each wing, which allowed the Ju 87 to maintain a constant speed and allow the pilot to steady his aim. It also prevented the crew from suffering extreme g forces and high acceleration during "pull-out" from the dive.
The fuselage had an oval cross-section and housed a water-cooled inverted-V V-12 engine. The cockpit was protected from the engine by a firewall ahead of the wing center section where the fuel tanks were located. At the rear of the cockpit, the bulkhead was covered by a canvas cover which could be breached by the crew in an emergency, enabling them to escape into the main fuselage. The canopy was split into two sections and joined by a strong welded steel frame. The canopy itself was made of Plexiglas and each compartment had its own "sliding hood" for the two crew members.
The engine was mounted on two main support frames that were supported by two tubular . The frame structure was triangulated and emanated from the fuselage. The main frames were bolted onto the power plant in its top quarter. In turn, the frames were attached to the firewall by . The firewall itself was constructed from asbestos mesh with dural sheets on both sides. All conduits passing through had to be arranged so that no harmful gases could penetrate the cockpit.Erfurth 2004, p. 50.
The fuel system comprised two fuel tanks between the main (forward) and rear spars of the (inner) anhedral wing section of the port and starboard wings, each with 240 L (52.8 Imp/63.4 US gal) capacity.Green 1979, pp. 438–439. The tanks also had a predetermined limit which, if passed, would warn the pilot via a red warning light in the cockpit. The fuel was injected via a pump from the tanks to the power plant. Should this shut down, it could be pumped manually using a hand-pump on the fuel cock armature.
The powerplant was cooled by a 10 L (3 US gal) ring-shaped aluminium water container situated between the propeller and engine. A further container of 20 L (5 US gal) was positioned under the engine. The control surfaces operated in much the same way as other aircraft, with the exception of the innovative automatic pull-out system. Releasing the bomb initiated the pull-out, or automatic recovery and climb, upon the deflection of the dive brakes. The pilot could override the system by exerting significant force on the control column and taking manual control.Erfurth 2004, p. 49.
The wing was the most unusual feature. It consisted of a single center section and two outer sections installed using four universal joints. The center section had a large negative dihedral (anhedral) and the outer surfaces a positive dihedral. This created the inverted gull, or "cranked", wing pattern along the Ju 87's leading edge. The shape of the wing improved the pilot's ground visibility and also allowed a shorter undercarriage height. The center section protruded by only 3 m (9 ft 10⅛ in) on either side.
The offensive armament was two 7.92 mm (.312 in) fitted one in each wing outboard of undercarriage, operated by a mechanical pneumatics system from the pilot's control column. The rear gunner/radio operator operated one 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine gun for defensive purposes.
The engine and propeller had automatic controls, and an auto-trimmer made the aircraft tail-heavy as the pilot rolled over into his dive, lining up red lines at 60°, 75° or 80° on the cockpit side window with the horizon and aiming at the target with the sight of the fixed gun. The heavy bomb was swung down clear of the propeller on crutches prior to release.Gunston 1980, p. 122.
When the aircraft was reasonably close to the target, a light on the contact altimeter came on to indicate the bomb-release point, usually at a minimum height of 450 m (1,500 ft). The pilot released the bomb and initiated the automatic pull-out mechanism by depressing a knob on the control column. An elongated U-shaped crutch located under the fuselage swung the bomb out of the way of the propeller, and the aircraft automatically began a 6 g pullout. Once the nose was above the horizon, dive brakes were retracted, the throttle was opened, and the propeller was set to climb. The pilot regained control and resumed normal flight. The coolant flaps had to be reopened quickly to prevent overheating. The automatic pull-out was not liked by all pilots. Helmut Mahlke later said that he and his unit disconnected the system because it allowed the enemy to predict the Ju 87s recovery pattern and height, making it easier for ground defences to hit an aircraft.Mahlke 2013, p. 132.
Physical stress on the crew was severe. Human beings subjected to more than 5 g forces in a seated position will suffer vision impairment in the form of a grey veil known to Stuka pilots as "seeing stars". They lose vision while remaining conscious; after five seconds, they black out. The Ju 87 pilots experienced the visual impairments most during "pull-up" from a dive.Just 1986, p. 54.
Eric "Winkle" Brown RN, a British test pilot and Commanding Officer of Captured Enemy Aircraft Flight section, tested the Ju 87 at RAE Farnborough. He said of the Stuka, "I had flown a lot of and it’s the only one that you can dive truly vertically. Sometimes with the dive-bombers...maximum dive is usually in the order of 60 degrees.. When flying the Stuka, because it’s all automatic, you are really flying vertically... The Stuka was in a class of its own."Thompson and Smith 2008, pp. 235–236.
Once the Stuka became too vulnerable to fighter opposition on all fronts, work was done to develop a replacement. None of the dedicated close-support designs on the drawing board progressed far due to the impact of the war and technological difficulties. So the Luftwaffe settled on the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter aircraft, with the Fw 190F becoming the ground-attack version. The Fw 190F started to replace the Ju 87 for day missions in 1943, but the Ju 87 continued to be used as a night nuisance-raider until the end of the war.Griehl 2001, p. 179.
The RLM ordered seven A-0s initially, but then increased the order to 11. Early in 1937, the A-0 was tested with varied bomb loads. The underpowered Jumo 210A, as pointed out by von Richthofen, was insufficient, and was quickly replaced with the Jumo 210D power plant.
The A-1 differed from the A-0 only slightly.Griehl 2001, p. 52. As well as the installation of the Jumo 210D, the A-1 had two 220 L (60 US gal) fuel tanks built into the inner wing, but it was not armoured or protected. The A-1 was also intended to be fitted with two 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns in each wing, but this was dropped due to excessive weight. The two that remained were fed a total of 500 rounds of ammunition, stored in the undercarriage "spats". The pilot relied on the Revi C 21C gun sight for the two MG 17s. The gunner had only a single 7.92 mm (.312 ) MG 15, with 14 drums of ammunition, each containing 75 rounds. This represented a 150-round increase in this area over the Ju 87 A-0. The A-1 was also fitted with a larger 3.3 m (10.8 ft) propeller.
The Ju 87 was capable of carrying a 500 kg (1,100 lb) bomb, but only if not carrying the rear gunner/radio operator as, even with the Jumo 210D power plant, the Ju 87 was still underpowered for operations with more than a 250 kg (550 lb) bomb load. All Ju 87 As were restricted to 250 kg (550 lb) weapons (although during the Spanish Civil War missions were conducted without the gunner).Griehl 2001, p. 53.
The Ju 87 A-2 was retrofitted with the Jumo 210Da fitted with a two-stage supercharger. The only further significant difference between the A-1 and A-2 was the H-PA-III controllable-pitch propeller.Griehl 2001, p. 54. By mid-1938, 262 Ju 87 As had been produced, 192 from the Junkers factory in Dessau, and a further 70 from Weser Flugzeugbau ("Weserflug" - WFG) in Lemwerder near Bremen. The new, more powerful, Ju 87B model started to replace the Ju 87A at this time.Griehl 2001, p. 57.
PrototypesErfurth 2004, p. 40.
The first production version was the Ju 87 B-1, with a considerably larger engine, its generating 1,200 PS (883 kW, 1,184 hp), and completely redesigned fuselage and landing gear. This new design was again tested in Spain, and after proving its abilities there, production was ramped up to 60 per month. As a result, by the outbreak of World War II, the Luftwaffe had 336 Ju 87 B-1s on hand. The B-1 was also fitted with "Jericho trumpets", essentially propeller-driven siren with a diameter of 0.7 m (2.3 ft)Griehl 2001, p. 64. mounted on the wing's leading edge directly forward of the landing gear, or on the front edge of the fixed main gear fairing. This was used to weaken enemy morale and enhance the intimidation of dive-bombing. After the enemy became used to it, however, they were withdrawn. The devices caused a loss of some 20–25 km/h (10-20 mph) through drag. Instead, some bombs were fitted with whistles on the fin to produce the noise after release.Griehl 2001, pp. 64–65.
The trumpets were a suggestion from Generaloberst Ernst Udet (but some authors say the idea originated from Adolf Hitler).Boyne 1994, p. 30. The Ju 87 B-2s that followed had some improvements and were built in a number of variants that included ski-equipped versions (the B-1 also had this modificationGriehl 2001, p. 65.), and at the other end, with a tropical operation kit called the Ju 87 B-2 trop. Italy's Regia Aeronautica received a number of the B-2s and named them the "Picchiatello", while others went to the other members of the Axis, including Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. The B-2 also had an oil hydraulic system for closing the cowling flaps. This continued in all the later designs.Griehl 2001, p. 66.
The tropicalised versions were initially named the Ju 87 B-2/U1. This was eventually designated the Ju 87 B-2 trop, equipped with tropical emergency equipment and sand filters for the powerplant.
Production of the Ju 87 B started in 1937. 89 B-1s were to be built at Junkers' factory in Dessau and another 40 at the Weserflug plant in Lemwerder by July 1937. Production would be carried out by the Weserflug company after April 1938, but Junkers continued producing Ju 87 up until March 1940. Total production amounted to 697 B-1s (311 by Junkers, 386 by Weserflug) and 225 B-2s (56 by Junkers, 169 by Weserflug). The last Ju 87B rolled off the production lines in October 1940.Military archive Freiburg, Flugzeugbauprogramme with deliveries up to 30 November 1944
The Ju 87 R-1 had a B-1 airframe with the exception of a modification in the fuselage which enabled an additional oil tank. This was installed to feed the engine due to the increase in range after the addition of the extra fuel tanks.Griehl 2001, p. 79.
The Ju 87 R-2 had the same airframe as the B-2, and strengthened to ensure it could withstand dives of 600 km/h (370 mph). The Jumo 211D in-line engine was installed, replacing the R-1s Jumo 211A. Due to an increase in overall weight by some 700 kg (1,540 lb), the Ju 87 R-2 was 30 km/h (20 mph) slower than the Ju 87 B-1 and had a lower service ceiling. The Ju 87 R-2 had an increased range advantage of 360 km (220 mi).Griehl 2001, p. 68. The R-3 and R-4 were the last R variants developed. Only a few were built. The R-3 was an experimental tug for gliders and had an expanded radio system so the crew could communicate with the glider crew by way of the tow rope. The R-4 differed from the R-2 in the Jumo 211J powerplant.Griehl 2001, pp. 80–81.
Total production amounted to 972 Ju 87R (105 R-1, 472 R-2, 144 R-4), all built by Weserflug. The last Ju 87R rolled off the production lines in October 1941. Known prototypesGriehl 2001, p. 49.
Among the "special" equipment of the Ju 87 C was a two-seat rubber dinghy with signal ammunition and emergency ammunition. A quick fuel dump mechanism and two inflatable 750 L (200 US gal) bags in each wing and a further two 500 L (130 US gal) bags in the fuselage enabled the Ju 87 C to remain afloat for up to three days in calm seas. On 6 October 1939, with the war already underway, 120 of the planned Ju 87 Tr(C)s on order at that point were cancelled. Despite the cancellation, the tests continued using catapults. The Ju 87 C had a takeoff weight of 5,300 kg (11,700 lb) and a speed of 133 km/h (82 mph) on departure. The Ju 87 could be launched with a SC 500 kg (1,100 lb) bomb and four SC 50 kg (110 lb) bombs under the fuselage. The C-1 was to have two MG 17s mounted in the wing with a MG 15 operated by the rear gunner. On 18 May 1940, production of the C-1 was switched to the R-1.Griehl 2001, p. 243.
The internal fuel capacity of the Ju 87D was raised to 800 L (of which 780 L were usable) by adding additional wing tanks while retaining the option to carry two 300 L drop tanks.Ju 87 D-1 load plan, Ju 87 D-5 load plan Tests at Rechlin revealed it made possible a flight duration of 2 hours and 15 minutes. With an extra two 300 L (80 US gal) fuel tanks, it could achieve four hours flight time.
The D-2 was a variant used as a glider tug by converting older D-series airframes. It was intended as the tropical version of the D-1 and had heavier armour to protect the crew from ground fire. The armour reduced its performance and caused the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe to "place no particular value on the production of the D-2". The D-3 was an improved D-1 with more armour for its ground-attack role. A number of Ju 87 D-3s were designated D-3N or D-3 trop and fitted with night or tropical equipment. The D-4 designation applied to a prototype torpedo-bomber version, which could carry a 750–905 kg (1,650-2,000 lb) aerial torpedo on a PVC 1006 B rack. The D-4 was to be converted from D-3 airframes and operated from the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin.Griehl 2001, p. 97. Other modifications included a flame eliminator and, unlike earlier D variants, two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon, while the radio operator/rear gunner's ammunition supply was increased by 1,000 to 2,000 rounds.Griehl 2001, p. 98.
The Ju 87 D-5 was based on the D-3 design and was unique in the Ju 87 series as it had wings 0.6 metres (1 foot) longer than previous variants. The two 7.92 mm MG 17 wing guns were exchanged for more powerful 20 mm MG 151/20s to better suit the aircraft's ground-attack role. The window in the floor of the cockpit was reinforced and four, rather than the previous three, aileron hinges were installed. Higher diving speeds were obtained of 650 km/h (408 mph) up to 2,000 m (6,560 ft). The range was recorded as 715 km (443 mi) at ground level and 835 km (517 mi) at 5,000 m (16,400 ft).
The D-6, according to "Operating instructions, works document 2097", was built in limited numbers to train pilots on "rationalised versions". However, due to shortages in raw materials, it did not go into mass production. The D-7 was another ground attack aircraft based on D-1 airframes upgraded to D-5 standard (armour, wing cannons, extended wing panels), while the D-8 was similar to the D-7 but based on D-3 airframes.Griehl 2001, pp. 101–102. The D-7 and D-8 were both were fitted with flame dampers, and could conduct night operations.
Production of the D-1 variant started in 1941 with 495 ordered. These aircraft were delivered between May 1941 and March 1942. The RLM wanted 832 machines produced from February 1941. The Weserflug company was tasked with their production. From June to September 1941, 40 Ju 87 Ds were expected to be built, increasing to 90 thereafter.Griehl 2001, p. 102. Various production problems were encountered. Just one of the planned 48 was produced in July. Of the 25 the RLM hoped for in August 1941, none were delivered. Only in September 1941 did the first two of the planned 102 Ju 87s roll off the production lines.Griehl 2001, p. 103. The shortfalls continued to the end of 1941. During this time, the WFG plant in Lemwerder moved production to Berlin. Over 165 Ju 87s had not been delivered and production was only 23 Ju 87 Ds per month out of the 40 expected. By the spring of 1942 to the end of production in 1944, 3,300 Ju 87s, mostly D-1s, D-2s and D-5s had been manufactured.
The Ju 87 E and F proposals were never built, and Junkers went straight onto the next variant. Another variant derived from the Ju 87D airframe, the Ju 87H saw service as a dual-control trainer.
In January 1943, a variety of Ju 87 Ds became "test beds" for the Ju 87 G variants. At the start of 1943, the Luftwaffe test centre at Tarnewitz tested this combination from a static position. Oberst G. Wolfgang Vorwald noted the experiments were not successful, and suggested the cannon be installed on the Messerschmitt Me 410.Griehl 2001, p. 284. However, testing continued, and on 31 January 1943, Ju 87 D-1 W.Nr 2552 was tested by Hauptmann Hans-Karl Stepp near the Briansk training area. Stepp noted the increase in drag, which reduced the aircraft's speed to 259 km/h (162 mph). Stepp also noted that the aircraft was also less agile than the existing D variants. D-1 and D-3 variants operated in combat with the 37 mm (1.46 in) BK 37 cannon in 1943.
Hans-Ulrich Rudel, a Stuka ace, had suggested using two 37 mm (1.46 in) Flak 18 guns, each one in a self-contained under-wing gun pod, as the Bordkanone BK 3,7, after achieving success against Soviet tanks with the 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon. These gun pods were fitted to a Ju 87 D-1, W.Nr 2552 as "Gustav the tank killer". The first flight of the machine took place on 31 January 1943, piloted by Hauptmann Hans-Karl Stepp. The continuing problems with about two dozens of the Ju 88P-1, and slow development of the Hs 129 B-3, each of them equipped with a large Bordkanone BK 7,5 cm (2.95 in) cannon in a conformal gun pod beneath the fuselage, meant the Ju 87G was put into production. In April 1943, the first production Ju 87 G-1s were delivered to front line units. The two 37 mm (1.46 in) cannons were mounted in under-wing gun pods, each loaded with a six-round magazine of armour-piercing tungsten carbide ammunition. With these weapons, the Kanonenvogel ("cannon-bird"), as it was nicknamed, proved spectacularly successful in the hands of Stuka aces such as Rudel. The G-1 was converted from older D-series airframes, retaining the smaller wing, but without the dive brakes. The G-2 was similar to the G-1 except for use of the extended wing of the D-5. 208 G-2s were built and at least a further 22 more were converted from D-3 airframes. "Luftwaffe aircraft production March 1944." luftwaffe.no. Retrieved: 12 November 2010.
Only a handful of production Gs were committed in the Battle of Kursk. On the opening day of the offensive, Hans-Ulrich Rudel flew the only "official" Ju 87 G, although a significant number of Ju 87D variants were fitted with the 37 mm (1.46 in) cannon, and operated as unofficial Ju 87 Gs before the battle. In June 1943, the RLM ordered 20 Ju 87Gs as production variants.Griehl 2001, p. 286. The G-1 later influenced the design of the A-10 Thunderbolt II, with Hans Rudel's book, Stuka Pilot being required reading for all members of the A-X project.Coram 2004, p. 235.
Pilots were also asked to complete the new "Blind Flying Certificate 3", which was especially introduced for this new type of operation. Pilots were trained at night, over unfamiliar terrain, and forced to rely on their instruments for direction. The Ju 87's standard Revi C12D gunsight was replaced with the new Nachtrevi ("Nightrevi") C12N. On some Ju 87s, the Revi 16D was exchanged for the Nachtrevi 16D. To help the pilot see his instrument panel, a violet light was installed.Griehl 2001, p. 210. On 15 November 1942, the Auxiliary Staffel were created. By mid-1943, Luftflotte 1 was given four Staffeln while Luftflotte 4 and Luftwaffe Kommando Ost (Luftwaffe Command East) were given six and two respectively. In the first half of 1943, 12 Nachtschlachtgruppen had been formed, flying a multitude of different types of aircraft, including the Ju 87, which proved itself ideally suited to the low-level slow flying needed.Giehl 2001, pp. 210–212.
The range of the B-2 was not sufficient, and it was dropped in favour of the Ju 87 R long-range versions in the second half of 1940. The 105 R-1s were converted to R-2 status and a further 616 production R-2s were ordered. In May 1941, the development of the D-1 was planned. It was ordered into production by March 1942. However, the expansion of the Junkers Ju 88 production lines to compensate for the withdrawal of Dornier Do 17 production meant this did not take place. The Weserflug plant in Lemwerder experienced production shortfalls. This prompted Erhard Milch to visit and threaten the company into meeting the RLM's Ju 87 D-1 requirements on 23 February 1942.Griehl 2001, pp. 116–117. To meet these demands, 700 skilled workers were needed. Skilled workers had been called up for military service in the Wehrmacht. Junkers were able to supply 300 German workers to the Weserflug factory, and as an interim solution, Soviet prisoners of war and Soviet civilians deported to Germany. Working around the clock, the shortfall was made good. WFG received an official commendation. By May 1942, demand increased further. Chief of Procurement General Walter Herthel found that each unit needed 100 Ju 87s as standard strength and an average of 20 per month to cover attrition. Not until June–December 1942 did production capacity increase, and 80 Ju 87s were produced per month.
By 17 August 1942, production had climbed rapidly after Blohm & Voss BV 138 production was scaled down and licence work had shut down at WFG. Production now reached some 150 Ju 87 D airframes per month, but spare parts were failing to reach the same production levels. Undercarriage parts were particularly in short supply. Milch ordered production to 350 Ju 87s per month in September 1942. This was not achievable due to the insufficient production capacity in the Reich.
The RLM considered setting up production facilities in Slovakia. But this would delay production until the buildings and factories could be furnished with the machine tools. These tools were also in short supply, and the RLM hoped to purchase them from Switzerland and Italy. The Slovaks could provide 3,500–4,000 workers, but no technical personnel.Griehl 2001, p. 118. The move would only produce another 25 machines per month at a time when demand was increasing. In October, production plans were dealt another blow when one of WFGs plants burned down, leaving a chronic shortage of tailwheels and undercarriage parts. Junkers director and member of the Luftwaffe industry council Carl Frytag reported that by January 1943 only 120 Ju 87s could be produced at Bremen and 230 at Berlin-Tempelhof.
On 28 July 1943, strike and bomber production was to be scaled down, and fighter and bomber destroyer production given priority. On 3 August 1943, Milch contradicted this and declared that this increase in fighter production would not affect production of the Ju 87, Ju 188, Ju 288 and Ju 290. This was an important consideration as the life expectancy of a Ju 87 had been reduced (since 1941) from 9.5 months to 5.5 months to just 100 operational flying hours.Griehl 2001, p. 120. On 26 October, General der Schlachtflieger Ernst Kupfer reported the Ju 87 could no longer survive in operations and that the Focke-Wulf Fw 190F should take its place. Milch finally agreed and ordered the minimal continuance of Ju 87 D-3 and D-5 production for a smooth transition period. In May 1944, production wound down. 78 Ju 87s were built in May and 69 rebuilt from damaged machines. In the next six months, 438 Ju 87 Ds and Gs were added to the Ju 87 force as new or repaired aircraft. It is unknown whether any Ju 87s were built from parts unofficially after December 1944 and the end of production.
Overall, some 550 Ju 87 As and B2s were completed at the Junkers factory in Dessau. Production of the Ju 87 R and D variants were transferred to the Weserflug company, which was to produce 5,930 of the 6,500 Ju 87s produced in total.Griehl 2001, pp. 120–121. During the course of the war, little damage was done to the WFG plant at Lemwerder. Attacks throughout 1940-45 caused little lasting damage and succeeded only in damaging some Ju 87 airframes, in "contrast" to the Focke-Wulf plant in Bremen.Griehl 2001, pp. 131–133. At Berlin-Tempelhof, little delay and damage was caused to Ju 87 production, despite the heavy bombings and large-scale destruction inflicted on other targets. The WFG again went unscathed. The Junkers factory at Dessau was heavily attacked, but not until Ju 87 production had ceased. The Ju 87 repair facility at the Wels aircraft works was destroyed on 30 May 1944, and the site abandoned Ju 87 links.Griehl 2001, p. 134.
In January 1938, three Ju 87 As arrived. Several problems became evident - the spatted undercarriage sank into muddy airfield surfaces, and the spats were temporarily removed. In addition, the maximum 500 kg (1,100 lb) bomb load could only be carried if the gunner vacated his seat, therefore the bomb load was restricted to 250 kg (550 lb). These aircraft supported the Nationalist forces and carried out anti-shipping missions until they returned to Germany in October 1938.
The A-1s were replaced by five Ju 87 B-1s. With the war coming to an end, they found little to do and were used to support attacking Republican positions. As with the Ju 87 A-0, the B-1s were returned discreetly to the Reich.Weal 1997, pp. 15–16.
The experience of the Spanish Civil War proved invaluable - air and ground crews perfected their skills, and equipment was evaluated under combat conditions. Although no Ju 87s had been lost in Spain, however, the Ju 87 had not been tested against numerous and well-coordinated fighter opposition, and this lesson was to be learned later at great cost to the Stuka crews.Weal 1997, p. 17.
A Ju 87 achieved the first air victory during World War II on the morning of 1 September 1939, when Rottenführer Leutnant Frank Neubert of I./StG 2 "Immelmann" shot down a Polish fighter while it was taking off from Balice airfield; its pilot, Captain Mieczysław Medwecki, was killed.Weal 1997, p. 22. The Luftwaffe had a few anti-shipping naval units such as 4.(St)/TrGr 186. This unit performed effectively, sinking the 1540-ton destroyer ORP Wicher and minelayer ORP Gryf of the Polish Navy (both moored in a harbour).
On one occasion, six Polish divisions trapped by encircling German forces were forced to surrender after a relentless four-day bombardment by StG 51, 76 and 77. Employed in this assault were 50 kg (110 lb) fragmentation bombs, which caused appalling casualties to the Polish ground troops. Demoralised, the Poles surrendered. The Stukas also participated in the Battle of Bzura which resulted in the breaking of Polish resistance. The Sturzkampfgeschwader alone dropped 388 tonnes (428 tons) of bombs during this battle.Hooton 2007, p. 91.
Once again, enemy air opposition was light; the Stukawaffe ( Stuka force) lost just 31 aircraft during the campaign.Weal 1997, p. 34.
The campaign was not the classic Blitzkrieg of fast-moving armoured divisions supported by air-power as the mountainous terrain ruled out close Panzer/ Stuka cooperation. Instead, the Germans relied on Fallschirmjäger (paratroops), airborne troops transported by and specialised ski troops. The strategic nature of the operation made the Stuka essential. The Ju 87s were given the role of ground attack and anti-shipping missions. The Stuka proved to be the most effective weapon in the Luftwaffe's armoury carrying out the latter task.
On 9 April, the first Stukas took off at 10:59 from occupied airfields to destroy Oscarsborg Fortress, after the loss of the German cruiser Blücher, which disrupted the amphibious landings in Oslo through Oslofjord. The 22 Ju 87s had helped suppress the Norwegian defenders during the ensuing Battle of Drøbak Sound, but the defenders did not surrender until after Oslo had been captured. As a result, the German naval operation failed.Weal 1997, pp. 34–35. StG 1 caught the 735 ton Norwegian destroyer Æger off Stavanger and hit her in the engine room. Æger was run aground and scuttled.Weal 1997, p. 35. The Stukageschwader were now equipped with the new Ju 87 R, which differed from the Ju 87 B by having increased internal fuel capacity and two 300l underwing drop tanks for more range.
The Stukas, however, had numerous successes against Allied naval vessels. was sunk on 30 April.Weal 1997, p. 37. The French large destroyer Bison was sunk along with by Sturzkampfgeschwader 1 on 3 May 1940 during the evacuation from Namsos. Bisons forward magazine was hit, killing 108 of the crew. Afridi, which attempted to rescue Bisons survivors, was sunk with the loss of 63 sailors.
The Sturzkampfgeschwader were also instrumental in achieving the breakthrough at the Battle of Sedan. The Stukawaffe flew 300 sorties against French positions, with StG 77 alone flying 201 individual missions.Weal 1997, p. 46. When resistance was organised, the Ju 87s were vulnerable. For example, on 12 May, near Sedan, six French from Groupe de Chasse I/5 attacked a formation of Ju 87s, shooting down 11 out of 12 unescorted Ju 87s without loss.Ward 2004, pp. 73–74.Boyne 1994, p. 78.
The Luftwaffe benefited from excellent ground-to-air communications throughout the campaign. Radio equipped forward liaison officers could call upon the Stukas and direct them to attack enemy positions along the axis of advance. In some cases the Stukas responded in 10–20 minutes. Oberstleutnant Hans Seidemann (Richthofen's Chief of Staff) said that "never again was such a smoothly functioning system for discussing and planning joint operations achieved".Hooton 2007, p. 67.
During the Battle of Dunkirk, many Allied ships were lost to Ju 87 attacks. The French destroyer Adroit was sunk on 21 May 1940, followed by the paddle steamer Crested Eagle on 28 May. The British destroyer was sunk on 29 May and several other vessels damaged by Stuka attack. By 29 May, the Allies had lost 31 vessels sunk and 11 damaged.Weal 1997, pp. 52–53. In total, 89 merchantmen (of 126,518 grt) were lost, and the Royal Navy lost 29 of its 40 destroyers used in the battle (8 sunk, 23 damaged and out of service).Hooton 2007, p. 74. Allied air power was ineffective and disorganised, and as a result, Stuka losses were mainly due to ground fire. Some 120 machines, one-third of the Stuka force, were destroyed or damaged by all causes..Weal 1997, p. 55.
During August, the Ju 87s also had some success. On 13 August the opening of the main German attacks on airfields took place; it was known to the Luftwaffe as Adlertag (Eagle Day). of Jagdgeschwader 26 were sent out in advance of the main strike and successfully drew off RAF fighters, allowing 86 Ju 87s of StG 1 to attack RAF Detling unhindered. The attack killed the station commander, destroyed 20 RAF aircraft on the ground and a great many of the airfield's many buildings. However, Detling was not an RAF Fighter Command station.Ward 2004, p. 105.
The Battle of Britain proved for the first time that the Junkers Ju 87 was vulnerable in hostile skies against well-organised and determined fighter opposition. The Ju 87, like other dive bombers, was slow and possessed inadequate defences. Furthermore, it could not be effectively protected by fighters because of its low speed, and the very low altitudes at which it ended its dive bomb attacks. The Stuka depended on air superiority, the very thing being contested over Britain. It was withdrawn from attacks on Britain in August after prohibitive losses, leaving the Luftwaffe without precision ground-attack aircraft.Bungay 2000, pp. 251–257.
Steady losses had occurred throughout their participation in the battle. On 18 August, known as the Hardest Day because both sides suffered heavy losses, the Stuka was withdrawn after 16 were destroyed and many others damaged.Weal 1997, p. 83. According to the Generalquartiermeister der Luftwaffe, 59 Stukas had been destroyed and 33 damaged to varying degrees in six weeks of operations. Over 20% of the total Stuka strength had been lost between 8 and 18 August;Ward 2004, pp. 108–109. and the myth of the Stuka shattered.Weal 1997, p. 66. The Ju 87s did succeed in sinking six warships, 14 merchant ships, badly damaging seven airfields and three radar stations, and destroying 49 British aircraft, mainly on the ground.Smith 2007, p. 51.
On 19 August, the units of VIII. Fliegerkorps moved up from their bases around Cherbourg-Octeville and concentrated in the Pas de Calais under Luftflotte 2, closer to the area of the proposed invasion of Britain. On 13 September, the Luftwaffe targeted airfields again, with a small number of Ju 87s crossing the coast at Selsey and heading for Tangmere.Wood and Dempster 2003, p. 228. After a lull, anti-shipping operations attacks were resumed by some Ju 87 units from 1 November 1940, as part of the new winter tactic of enforcing a blockade. Over the next 10 days, seven merchant ships were sunk or damaged, mainly in the Thames Estuary, for the loss of four Ju 87s. On 14 November 19 Stukas from III./St.G 1 with escort drawn from JG 26 and JG 51 went out against another convoy; as no targets were found over the estuary, the Stukas proceeded to attack Dover, their alternate target.
Bad weather resulted in a decline of anti-shipping operations, and before long the Ju 87 Gruppen began re-deploying to Poland, as part of the concealed build-up for Operation Barbarossa. By spring 1941, only St.G 1 with 30 Ju 87s remained facing the United Kingdom. Operations on a small scale continued throughout the winter months into March. Targets included ships at sea, the Thames estuary, the Chatham naval dockyard and Dover and night-bomber sorties made over the Channel. These attacks were resumed the following winter.Ward 2004, p. 109.
The first task of the Korps was to attack British shipping passing between Sicily and Africa. The Ju 87s first made their presence felt by subjecting the British aircraft carrier to heavy attack. The crews were confident that they could sink it as the flight deck had an area of about 6,500 square metres.Weal 1998, p. 7. On 10 January 1941, the Stuka crews were told that four direct hits with 500 kg (1,100 lb) bombs would be enough to sink the carrier. The Ju 87s delivered six and three damaging near-misses but the ship's engines were untouched and she made for the besieged harbour of Malta.Weal 1998, p. 9.
The Italian Regia Aeronautica was equipped for a while with the Stukas.Gunston 1984, p. 137. In 1939, the Italian government asked the RLM to supply 100 Ju 87s. Italian pilots were sent to Graz in Austria to be trained for dive-bombing aircraft. In the spring of 1940, between 72 to 108 Ju 87 B-1s, some of them ex-Luftwaffe aircraft, were delivered to 96° Gruppo Bombardamento a Tuffo. The Italian Stuka, renamed Picchiatello, was in turn assigned to Gruppi 97°, 101° and 102°. The Picchiatelli were used against Malta, Allied convoys in Mediterranean and in North Africa (where they took part in conquering Tobruk). They were used by the Regia Aeronautica up to 1942. Some of the Picchiatelli saw action in the opening phase of the Italian invasion of Greece in October 1940. Their numbers were low and ineffective. The Italian forces were quickly pushed back. By early 1941, the Greeks had pushed into Italian occupied Albania. Once again, Hitler decided to send military aid to his ally.Weal 1998, p. 23.
In March, the pro-German Yugoslav government was toppled. A furious Hitler ordered the attack to be expanded to include Yugoslavia. Operation Marita commenced on 7 April. The Luftwaffe committed StG 1, 2 and 77 to the campaign.Ward 2004, p. 120. The Stuka once again spearheaded the air assault, with a front line strength of 300 machines, against minimal Yugoslav resistance in the air, allowing the Stukas to develop a fearsome reputation in this region. Operating unmolested, they took a heavy toll of ground forces, suffering only light losses to ground fire. The effectiveness of the dive bombers helped bring about Yugoslav capitulation in just ten days. The Stukas also took a peripheral part in Operation Punishment - Hitler's retribution bombing of Belgrade. The dive bombers were to attack airfields and anti-aircraft gun positions whilst the level bombers struck civilian targets. Belgrade was badly damaged, with 2,271 people reported killed and 12,000 injured.Ciglic and Savic 2007, p. 59.
In Greece, despite British aid, little air opposition was encountered. As the Allies withdrew and resistance collapsed, the Allies began evacuating to Crete. The Stukas inflicted severe damage on Allied shipping. On 22 April, the 1,389 ton destroyers Psara and Ydra were sunk. In the next two days, the Greek naval base at Piraeus lost 23 vessels to Stuka attack.Weal 1998, p. 32.
During the Battle of Crete, the Ju 87s also played a significant role. On 21–22 May 1941, the Germans attempted to send in reinforcements to Crete by sea but lost 10 vessels to "Force D" under the command of Rear-Admiral Glennie. The force, consisting of the cruisers , and , forced the remaining German ships to retreat. The Stukas were called upon to deal with the British naval threat.Ward 2004, p. 121. On 21 May, the destroyer was sunk and the next day the battleship was damaged and the cruiser was sunk, with the loss of 45 officers and 648 ratings. The Ju 87s also crippled the cruiser that morning, (she was later finished off by Bf 109 fighter bombers) while sinking the destroyer with one hit.Weal 1998, p. 38. As the Battle of Crete drew to a close, the Allies began yet another withdrawal. On 23 May, the Royal Navy lost the destroyers and , followed by on 26 May; Orion and Dido were also severely damaged.Weal 1998, pp. 38–39. Orion had been evacuating 1,100 soldiers to North Africa; 260 of them were killed and another 280 wounded.Ward 2004, p. 123.
The Sturzkampfgeschwader supported Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel's Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK) in its two year campaign in North Africa; its other main task was attacking Allied shipping.Weal pp. 45-51. In 1941, Ju 87 operations in North Africa were dominated by the Siege of Tobruk, which lasted for over seven months.Weal 1998, p. 44. It served during the Battle of Gazala and the First Battle of El Alamein, as well as the decisive Second Battle of El Alamein, which drove Rommel back to Tunisia. As the tide turned and Allied air power grew in the autumn of 1942, the Ju 87 became very vulnerable and losses were heavy. The entry of the Americans into North Africa during Operation Torch made the situation far worse; the Stuka was obsolete in what was now a fighter-bomber's war. The Bf 109 and Fw 190 could at least fight enemy fighters on equal terms after dropping their ordnance but the Stuka could not. The Junkers's vulnerability was demonstrated on 11 November 1942, when 15 Ju 87 Ds were shot down by United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in minutes.Weal 1998, p. 65.
By 1943, the Allies enjoyed air supremacy in North Africa. The Ju 87s ventured out in Rotte strength only, often jettisoning their bombs at the first sight of enemy aircraft.Weal 1998, p. 67. Adding to this trouble, the German fighters had only enough fuel to cover the Ju 87s on take off, their most vulnerable point. After that, the Stukas were on their own.Weal 1998, p. 68.
The dive bombers continued operations in southern Europe; after the Italian surrender in September 1943, the Ju 87 participated in the last campaign-sized victory over the Western Allies, the Dodecanese Campaign. The Greek Dodecanese Islands had been occupied by the British; the Luftwaffe committed 75 Stukas of StG 3 based in Megara (I./StG 3) and Argos (II.StG 3; from 17 October on Rhodos), to recover the islands. With the RAF bases some away, the Ju 87 helped the German landing forces rapidly conquer the islands.Weal 1998, pp. 82–83.
The first Stuka loss on the Soviet-German front occurred early at 03:40–03:47 in the morning of the 22 June. While being escorted by from JG 51 to attack Brest Fortress, Oberleutnant Karl Führing of StG 77 was shot down by an I-153.Bergström 2007 ( Barbarossa title), p. 18. The Sturzkampfgeschwader suffered only two losses on the opening day of Barbarossa. As a result of the Luftwaffe's attention, the Soviet Air Force in the western Soviet Union was nearly destroyed. The official report claimed 1,489 Soviet aircraft destroyed. Göring ordered this checked. After picking their way through the wreckage across the front, Luftwaffe officers found that the tally exceeded 2,000.Bergström 2007 ( Barbarossa title), p. 20. In the next two days, the Soviets reported the loss of another 1,922 aircraft.Bergström 2007 ( Barbarossa title), p. 23. Soviet aerial resistance continued but ceased to be effective and the Luftwaffe maintained air superiority until the end of the year.
The Ju 87 took a huge toll on Soviet ground forces, helping to break up counterattacks of Soviet armour, eliminating strongpoints and disrupting the enemy supply lines. A demonstration of the Stukas effectiveness occurred on 5 July, when StG 77 knocked out 18 trains and 500 vehicles.Bergström 2007 ( Barbarossa title), p. 89. As the 1st and 2nd Panzer Groups forced bridgeheads across the Dnieper river and closed in on Kiev, the Ju 87s again rendered invaluable support. On 13 September, Stukas from StG 1 destroyed the rail network in the vicinity as well as inflicting heavy casualties on escaping Red Army columns, for the loss of just one Ju 87.Bergström 2007 ( Barbarossa title), p. 69. On 23 September, Hans-Ulrich Rudel (who was to become the most decorated serviceman in the Wehrmacht) of StG 2, sank the Soviet battleship Marat, during an air attack on Kronstadt harbor near Leningrad, with a hit to the bow with a single 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) bomb.Just 1986, p. 19.
Also during this action, Leutnant Egbert Jaeckel sank the destroyer Minsk, while the destroyer Steregushchiy and submarine M-74 were also sunk. The Stukas also crippled the battleship Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya and the destroyers Silnyy and Grozyashchiy in exchange for two Ju 87s shot down.Bergström 2007 ( Barbarossa title), p. 85.
Elsewhere on the Eastern front, the Junkers assisted Army Group Centre in its drive toward Moscow. From 13–22 December, 420 vehicles and 23 tanks were destroyed by StG 77, greatly improving the morale of the German infantry, who were by now on the defensive.Bergström 2007 ( Barbarossa title), pp. 112–113. StG 77 finished the campaign as the most effective Sturzkampfgeschwader. It had destroyed 2,401 vehicles, 234 tanks, 92 artillery batteries and 21 trains for the loss of 25 Ju 87s to hostile action.Bergström 2007 ( Barbarossa title), p. 115.
At the end of Barbarossa, StG 1 had lost 60 Stukas in aerial combat and one on the ground. StG 2 lost 39 Ju 87s in the air and two on the ground, StG 77 lost 29 of their dive-bombers in the air and three on the ground (25 to enemy action). IV.(St)/LG1, operating from Norway, lost 24 Ju 87s, all in aerial combat.Bergström 2007 ( Barbarossa title), p. 119.
During the Battle of Sevastopol, the Stukas repeatedly bombed the trapped Soviet forces. Some Ju 87 pilots flew up to 300 sorties against the Soviet defenders. Luftflotte 4's StG 77 flew 7,708 combat sorties dropping 3,537 tonnes of bombs on the city. Their efforts help secure the capitulation of Soviet forces on 4 July.Bergström 2007 ( Stalingrad title), p. 46.
For the German summer offensive, Fall Blau, the Luftwaffe had concentrated 1,800 aircraft into Luftflotte 4 making it the largest and most powerful air command in the world.Bergström 2007 ( Stalingrad title), p. 122. The Stukawaffe strength stood at 151.Bergström 2007 ( Stalingrad title), p. 49. During the Battle of Stalingrad, Stukas flew thousands of sorties against Soviet positions in the city. StG 1, 2 and 77 flew 320 sorties on 14 October 1942. As the German Sixth Army pushed the Soviets into a 1,000 metre enclave on the west bank of the Volga River, 1,208 Stuka sorties were flown against this small strip of land. The intense air attack, though causing horrific losses on Soviet units, failed to destroy them.Bergström 2007 ( Stalingrad title), p. 84. The Luftwaffe's Sturzkampfgeschwader made a maximum effort during this phase of the war. They flew an average of 500 sorties per day and caused heavy losses among Soviet forces, losing an average of only one Stuka per day.Hayward 2001, p. 211.
The Battle of Stalingrad marked the high point in the fortunes of the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka. As the strength of the Soviet Air Forces grew, they gradually wrested control of the skies from the Luftwaffe. From this point onward, Stuka losses increased.
Losses were considerable, however. Fliegerkorps VIII lost eight Ju 87s on 8 July, six on 9 July, six on 10 July and another eight on 11 July. The Stuka arm also lost eight of their Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross holders. StG 77 lost 24 Ju 87s in the period 5–31 July (StG had lost 23 in July–December 1942), while StG 2 lost another 30 aircraft in the same period. In September 1943, three of the Stuka units were re-equipped with the and G (ground attack versions) and began to be renamed as Schlachtgeschwader (attack wings).Bergström 2007, p. 118. ( Kursk title) In the face of overwhelming air opposition, the dive-bomber required heavy protection from German fighters to counter Soviet fighters. Some units like SG 2 Immelmann continued to operate with great success throughout 1943-45, operating the Ju 87 G variants equipped with 37 mm cannons, which became tank killers, although in increasingly small numbers.Griehl 2001, p. 279.
In the wake of the defeat at Kursk, Ju 87s played a vital defensive role on the southern wing of the Eastern Front. To combat the Luftwaffe, the Soviets could deploy some 3,000 fighter aircraft. As a result, the Stukas suffered heavily. SG 77 lost 30 Ju 87s in August 1943 as did SG 2 Immelmann, which also reported the loss of 30 aircraft in combat operations.Bergström 2008, pp. 25–26. Despite these losses, Ju 87s helped the XXIX Army Corps break out of an encirclement near the Sea of Azov.Bergström 2008, p. 27. The Battle of Kiev also included substantial use of the Ju 87 units, although again, unsuccessful in stemming the advances. Stuka units were with the loss of air superiority, becoming vulnerable on the ground as well. Some Stuka aces were lost this way.Bergström 2008, p. 30. In the aftermath of Kursk, Stuka strength fell to 184 aircraft in total. This was well below 50 percent of the required strength.Weal 2008, p. 74. On 18 October 1943, StG 1, 2, 3, 5 and 77 were renamed Schlachtgeschwader (abbreviated as "SG") wings, reflecting their ground-attack role, as these combat wings were now also using ground-attack aircraft, such as the Fw 190F-series aircraft. The Luftwaffe's dive-bomber units had ceased to exist.Weal 2008, p. 77.
By 31 January 1945, only 104 Ju 87s remained operational with their units. The other mixed Schlacht units contained a further 70 Ju 87s and Fw 190s between them. Chronic fuel shortages kept the Stukas grounded and sorties decreased until the end of the war in May 1945.Bergström 2008, p. 131.
Other aircraft survive as wreckage, recovered from crash sites.