Ju-87G Stuka

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Overview

The Ju-87G Stuka (a.k.a. "Gustav the tank killer" or "Kanonenvogel") is the German tank-buster aircraft.

History

The Ju 87 Stuka is emblematic of the German blitzkrieg of 1939-1940. The design got its start in 1933, when the nascent Luftwaffe began its interest in dive-bombing (courtesy of the Reich Aviation Ministry's acquisition of American-built Curtiss Hawk dive-bombers). The first prototypes flew in 1935, while the mass-produced Ju 87B began production in 1937. Combat-tested in the Spanish Civil War, over 330 were on hand when the Luftwaffe covered the invasion of Poland in 1939. The precision onslaught of the Stuka's bombing in addition to the characteristic wail produced by the underwing noisemakers (so-called "Jericho Trumpets" fitted for psychological warfare) made it an icon of the early German offensives. However, in the early campaigns the Luftwaffe mainly caught its opponents on the ground; once they encountered active fighter opposition from the British Royal Air Force over southern England the Stuka proved highly vulnerable. Before long the Ju 87s were withdrawn to prepare for the upcoming offensive against Russia. Stukas also saw service over the Mediterranean, posing a serious threat to Allied shipping.

Over the Eastern Front, the Ju 87 initially enjoyed the same favorable skies it had in the early days over Poland and achieved great success, so much so that the new Ju 87D variant began production (the Ju 87C was intended for Germany's never-completed aircraft carrier and only a few were built). However, once the Red Air Force recovered, the Stuka again found itself falling to enemy fighters. That might have been the end of its career if not for an experiment - replacing the aircraft's bombload with two fixed underwing 37mm cannon pods firing armor-piercing ammunition. The resulting Ju 87G first flew into action over Kursk in 1943, and proved to be highly successful against Soviet armor. One Ju 87G "tank ace," Hans-Ulrich Rudel, became the most decorated pilot in the Luftwaffe, claiming over 800 vehicles and 519 tanks. The Ju 87Gs found themselves being used as an aerial "fire brigade," beating off Soviet armored offensives and allowing beleaguered German units to retreat. Nevertheless, the Ju-87 was still vulnerable to fighters, and production was slowed after 1943. Although the aircraft continued in limited production until December 1944, losses and the Luftwaffe's fading regard for the aircraft resulted in the newer Fw 190F and G shouldering much of the Stuka's load.

Combat Performance

The Ju 87G is the only ground attack aircraft to lack rockets; instead it relies on its 37mm cannon to punch through the thinner top and rear armor of tanks. Although it lacks the terminal punch and multi-target versatility of US, British, and Soviet attack aircraft, the Stuka is a much more accurate tank killer and can neatly pick off enemy vehicles without killing your own nearby troops. However, heavily-armored targets such as the IS-2, ISU-152, and Churchill will shrug off anything short of a full concentration of fire. Although tough and equipped with rear machine guns, its slow speed and sluggish maneuverability makes it vulnerable to ground fire and dead meat in the face of enemy fighters.

Detailed Unit Info