Profile Publications No. 148 The Junkers Ju 88 Night Fighters

Head-on view o f the Ju 8 8R -I: apart from the substitution o f air-cooled BM IV engines for the liquid-cooled Junto 21 J's, this variant was identical to the Ju 8SC-6I). (Photo: Crown copyright) powered the Fw 190A which had a higher priority, and these versions of the Ju 88 did not go into pro­duction. The next model to enter service was the C-2, with a revised armament of one 20 mm. MG FF and three 7-9 mm. guns firing forward, one 7-9 mm. MG 15 firing rearwards and a bomb load of up to 1,100 pounds. The C-2 was first issued to Luftwaffe units in the early summer of 1940. The Ju 88C had been intended for use as along range day fighter. But on 15th May 1940 R.A.F. Bomber Command started attacking industrial targets in Germany by night. At that time the Luft­waffe had no effective night fighter arm target defence was the responsibility of the Flak units. The latter proved unable to carryout this task, and on 20th July Goring ordered General Kammhuber to setup a night lighter division. Kammhuber moved quickly. At the end of July Nac/itjagdgeschwacler /comprised I. N.J.G. 1 —formerly I./Z.G. I—with Bf 110's, II./N.J.G. I with Ju 88C-2’s, and III./N.J.G. 1 —formerly IV./J.G. 2—with Bf 109's. II./N.J.G. I was re-designated I./N.J.G. 2 in September 1940, and the unit's Ju 88's began night intruder operations against Bomber Command bases in Eastern England. Aircraft on the final approach to landing had little reserve speed for manoeuvra­ bility, and were virtually “sitting ducks”—a fact known only too well to the crews. The number of R.A.F. bombers actually shot down by the intruders was small, but the latter's effect was great. Many aircraft were seriously damaged in heavy landings: there was no thought of “going round again” if intruders were about, no matter how bad the approach. 1./N.J.G. 2 maintained almost nightly patrols over British airfields until October 1941. when the unit was moved to the Mediterranean. Hitler speci­fically forbade any diversion of fighters from the defence of Germany to resume the intruder operations over England he insisted that the defences should concentrate their activities over the German home­land, where their successes would be seen by the civilian population. The first heavy fighter version of the Ju 88 to be built as such “from the ground up" was the C-4, which replaced the C-2 on the production lines in 1941. The new variant had anew wing with a span increased from 59 ft. 1 1 65 ft. 101 in., and there was increased armour protection for the crew this type was the first to have no provision for the carriage of bombs internally. During 1941 the German night defensive system began to take shape. The night fighters were directed onto their targets by means of instructions radioed from the ground. Aline of fighter control radar stations, one station every twenty miles, formed a barrier through which the attackers had to pass. The barrier was shaped alike giant sickle: the “handle” ran through Denmark from north to south, and the “blade” curved through Northern Germany, Holland, Belgium and Eastern France to the Swiss frontier. Each control station had an effective range of thirty miles. The new tactics bore the code-name Hinimel- bett (four-poster bed). Under the Himmelbett system the night fighter units’ operational areas were all neatly defined, generally within thirty miles of base. These tactics did not demand great range or endurance from the defending fighters, and the task was well within the capabilities of the relatively cheap and plentiful Bf 110. Ju 88C production therefore continued with a low priority, and during 1941 only 65 were built—and not all of these went to the night fighter force. The Ju 88C-4 l/t\JG 2 used these aircraft for intruder sorties against British airfields in the spring and summer o f 1941. (Photo: H. J. Nowarra) 4
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