Profile Publications No. 148 The Junkers Ju 88 Night Fighters

Close-up view o f ilic Matratzen aerial array o f the FuG 202 Lichtenstein BC radar in the nose o f a J ii 8KH-I the individual aerial elements were 30 cm. long. The emblem o f the Luftwaffe night fighter force, the Englandblitz, maybe seen below the cockpit. (Photo: Crown copyright) The Junkers Ju 88 Night Fighters by Alfred Price It is a paradox, but nonetheless true, that not one of the four really great night fighting aircraft of the Second World War—the Beaufighter and the Mos­quito, the Messerschmitt Bf 110 and the Junkers Ju 88—was designed for that role. Indeed, the two which bore the brunt of their respective nation’s night fighting efforts during the final year of the conflict, the Mosquito and the Junkers Ju 88, did not even start life as fighters. Both were conceived as high speed bombers. During and after the war a few R.A.F. pilots were fortunate enough to log flying time on each of the four “greats”. These men all recall the Ju 88 with affection a “nice stable machine, a gentleman’s aircraft”. That the Ju 88 was noted as the most ladylike of the great night fighters is hardly sur­prising, for she was easily the biggest. The aircraft was more than two tons heavier than her nearest rival—the Beaufighter—and had a wingspan longer by seven feet. For a fighter the Ju 88 was a big plane. NIGHT FIGHTER DEVELOPMENT Following the successful early flight trials of the prototype Ju 88 high speed bomber (see Profile No. 29), the Junkers Flugzeugwerke investigated the possi­bility of adapting the design to the heavy fighter role. I n September 1938, nearly two years after the flight of the first Ju 88, the Ju 88V-7 took the air also known as the Ju 88Z (Zerstorer), it was to bethe forerunner of nearly four thousand heavy fighters. Its main differ­ence from the Ju 88V-6—the production prototype of the Ju 88A bomber—was the metal fairing in place of the glazed bomb aimer’s nose and the removal of the blister under the starboard side of the cockpit. The forward-firing armament comprised two 20 mm. MG FF cannon and two 7-9 mm. machine guns. Instead of the bomber’s four crew,man the fighter carried only three—pilot, engineer and radio operator the engineer sat next to the pilot, his main task being that of reloading the drum-fed MG FF cannon. TheJu 88V-7 had a maximum speed of 312 m.p.h. at 13,000 feet, or roughly the same as that of the fastest versions of the Messerschmitt Bf 110 then on the point of entering service. However the range of the Ju 88 heavy fighter— 1,800 miles—was roughly three times that of its smaller counterpart. The modified bomber was ordered into production as the Ju 88C. During July and August 1939 a few early produc­tion Ju 88A-1 bombers were modified into heavy fighters, under the designation Ju 88C-0. These had the solid nose of the V-7, but retained the blister under the starboard side of the nose the latter was a feature which was to remain with the Ju 88C throughout its life. Some Ju 88C-0’s saw action during the Polish campaign, where they served in the long-range ground attack role. The Ju 88C-I, C-3 and C-5 were all to have been fitted with the 1,600 h.p. BMW 801 powerplant, in place of the 1,100 h.p. Junto 211 which was standard on the bomber versions but the BMW units also 3
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