Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Junkers Ju 87 Stuka


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
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Junkers Ju 52

The performance of the transport crews is beyond praise. Even though they had succeeded in getting their planes with the urgently required load safely into the cauldron, while refuelling, unloading, and reloading, they were exposed to uninterrupted bombing and low-level attacks. If they survived these they had to face the return journey which was no less dangerous than the fly-in. Landing at last in Sicily, they were often raided on their airfields.

– General Adolf Galland, quoted in Eagles over Husky


The Flying Legends Junkers Ju 52 F-AZJU


In the winter of 1942-1943, the Luftwaffe stretched its logistical capabilities to the breaking point. On the Eastern Front, the Russians had surrounded the German 6th Army at Stalingrad while the Anglo-American invasion of North Africa and the retreat of Rommel’s Afrika Korps into Libya and Tunisia also required attention. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring promised Hitler that Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 52 transports — supplemented by bombers — could keep the 6th Army supplied. In reality, the Luftwaffe could only supply a fraction of the 700 daily tons required.

At the same time, Ju 52s were busy building up a large German and Italian army group in Tunisia. Months later, when the Allied navies sealed the Sicilian Strait, these same transport aircraft attempted to maintain an air bridge between Europe and Tunis. They paid a dear price for their efforts. The Allied air forces destroyed 400 Axis transports and 32 fighters at the cost of just 35 Allied fighters.

The German transport fleet played an important role during Operation Husky. They airlanded the 1st Parachute Division in Sicily just in time to thwart General Montgomery’s push to Catania and Messina. The transport crews took another thrashing for their efforts and the Germans withdrew them after losing 10 percent of the force to RAF Spitfires on 25 July 1943. By the end of 1943, the Allies had decimated the German transport force and air mobility ceased to be a meaningful Luftwaffe capability.

Specifications (Junkers Ju 52)

Type: three-seat transport with accommodation for 18 troops, 12 litters, or freight

Powerplant: three 544kW (730hp) BMW 132T-2 nine-cylinder radial engines

Performance: maximum speed 286km/h (178mph); climb to 3,000m (9,845ft) in 17 minutes 30 seconds; service ceiling 5,900m (19,360ft); range 1,305km (811 miles)

Weights: empty 6,500kg (14,328lb); maximum take-off 11,030kg (24,317lb)

Wingspan: 29.20m (95ft 10in)

Length: 18.90m (62ft)

Height: 4.52m (14ft 10in)

Armament: one 13mm (0.51in) or 7.92mm (0.31in) trainable rearward-firing machine-gun in rear dorsal position, provision for one 7.92mm (0.31in) trainable machine gun in forward dorsal position and one 7.92mm (0.31in) trainable lateral-firing machine gun in each of the two beam positions.


The following Luftflotte 2 units flew the Junkers Ju 52 during Operation Husky:

  • Transportgeschwader (TG) 1
    • III/TG 1
  • TG 2
    • III/TG 2
  • TG 3
    • IV/TG 3
  • TG 5
    • I/TG 5
  • II Fliegerkorps Transportstaffel
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Junkers Ju 88

A captured Ju 88 crew noted that their unit had arrived in Italy with 43 crews and was now down to nine. Replacement crews were untrained in nighttime flying and were therefore being returned to Germany.

– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky


The Junkers Ju 88 was probably the most versatile German aircraft of the Second World War. During Operation HUSKY, Luftwaffe units used these aircraft for level and dive bombing. The Ju 88R was a night fighter variant while the Ju 88D and Ju 88H offered the Germans long-range reconnaissance services.

In response to their ejection from the continent of Africa, the Luftwaffe established a new bomber command (Fernkampffuehrer Luftflotte 2) to control all long-range bombers based in Sicily, Italy, and southern France. The bulk of these aircraft were Ju 88s, although Dornier Do 217s and Heinkel He 111s rounded out the order of battle. Allied strikes on airfields in close proximity to the front line meant that these units were largely unable to concentrate for decisive effect during the Battle of Sicily.     

Specifications (Junkers Ju 88A-4)

Type: four-seat high-speed, level and dive-bomber

Powerplant: two 999kW (1340hp) Junkers Jumo 211J-½ 12-cylinder engines

Performance: maximum speed 470km/h (292mph); climb to 5400m (17,715ft) in 23 minutes; service ceiling 26,900ft (8200m); range 2730km (1696 miles)  

Weights: empty 9860kg (21,737lb); maximum takeoff 14,000kg (30,865lb)

Wingspan: 20.00m (65ft 8in)

Length: 14.40m (47ft 3in)

Height: 4.85m (15ft 11in)

Armament: one 7.92mm (0.31in) fixed or trainable forward-firing machine gun in windscreen, one 13mm (0.51in) or two 7.92mm (0.31in) forward-firing machine guns in nose position, two 7.92mm (0.31in) machine guns in rear of cockpit, and one 13mm (0.51in) or two 7.92mm (0.31in) trainable rearward-firing machine guns in rear of undernose gondola, plus a bomb load of 2500kg (5511lb)


The following Luftflotte 2 units flew the Junkers Ju 88 during Operation HUSKY:

Nightfighters (Bf 110 or Ju 88)

  • Nachtjagdgeschwader (NJG) 2
    • II/NJG 2

Bombers (Ju 88, Do 117 & He 111)

  • Part of I/Lehrgeschwader (LG) 1
  • Kampfgeschwader (KG) 1
    • Gruppenstab KG 1
    • I/KG 1
    • II/KG 1
  • KG 6
    • Gruppenstab KG 6
    • I/KG 6
    • III/KG 6
  • KG 26
    • Gruppenstab KG 26
    • I/KG 26
    • III/KG 26
  • KG 30
    • III/KG 30
  • KG 54
    • III/KG 54
  • KG 76
    • Gruppenstab KG 76
    • I/KG 76
    • II/KG 76
  • KG 77
    • II/KG 77
  • KG 100
    • Gruppenstab KG 100
    • II/KG 100
    • III/KG 100