Made famous by its part in the Blitzkrieg that led to early German victories in 1939 and 1940, the Junkers Ju 87 was designed as airborne artillery for the army. Even during its early successes in the war, the Stuka was highly vulnerable to enemy fighters. By mid-1943, modern Allied fighters like the Spitfire V, VIII, and IX made the Ju 87’s mission hazardous without air superiority.
Stukas — short for the German translation of dive bomber — adorned with black crosses were a common sight above Malta and in the Western Desert in 1941-1942. The Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force) also flew various models of the Ju 87 during these campaigns. During its defence of Sicily, at least one Italian dive bomber unit flew the aircraft. These obsolete warplanes were part of the Axis force tasked with the impossible mission of stopping the Allied invasion.
Specifications (Junkers Ju 87D-1)
Type: two-seat dive-bomber and close support warplane
Powerplant: one 1044kW (1400hp) Junkers Jumo 211J-1 12-cylinder inverted-Vee engine
Performance: maximum speed 410km/h (255mph); climb to 5000m (16,405ft) in 19 minutes 48 seconds; service ceiling 7300mm (23950ft); range 1535km (954 miles)
Weights: empty 3900kg (8598lb); maximum take-off 6600kg (14,550lb)
Wingspan: 13.8m (45ft 3in)
Length: 11.50m (37ft 9in)
Height: 3.88m (12ft 9in)
Armament: two 7.92mm (0.31in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the leading edges of the wing and one 7.92mm (0.31in) trainable two-barrel rearward-firing machine gun in the rear of the cockpit, plus an external bomb load of 1800kg (3968lb)
The following Regia Aeronautica units flew the Junkers Ju 87 during Operation HUSKY:
- 121 Gruppo Tuffatori
- 237 Squadriglia