Profile Publications No. 148 The Junkers Ju 88 Night Fighters

The cockpit o f the Ju S8R -I: R.A.F. pilots who flew this aircraft were impressed by the quality o f the gyro compass and artificial horizon, but complained about the cramped layout and poor visibility. Note the cannon breech in the cockpit floor to the righto f the rudder pedals. (Photo: J. L.E. Maskall) R.A .F. ASSESS MEN TOn 9th May 1943 the R.A.F. received a most welcome gift: that evening a crew from N.J.G. 3 defected to Britain, bring­ing with them a Ju 88R-1 complete with Lichtenstein BC *They landed at Aberdeen/Dyce. Within days the aircraft was undergoing trials at Farn borough, flown by Squadron Leader Hartley and with Wing Commander Jackson operating the radar. The German fighter was pitted against a Halifax of the Bomber Development Unit, while the latter tried out each of the evasive manoeuvres in the Bomber Command repertoire. For realism the trials were flown at night, and the mock dogfights were fought with such enthusiasm that on one occasion the Ju 88 very nearly collided with the Halifax !Though none of the Halifax’s manoeuvres actually shook off the Ju 88, the trials did prove that the cork­screw, correctly executed, made accurate shooting very difficult indeed. In July 1943 the Ju 88—an old machine which R.A.F. technicians had managed to keep airworthy only with the greatest difficulty— blew the cylinder head on one of its engines the trials ceased abruptly. However the two R.A.F. officers had been able to form an impression of the Ju 88’s worth as a night fighter. Hartley noted: “At the heights tested (between 11,000 and 14,000 feet) this aircraft is less efficient as a night fighter than the Beaufighter VI with Mk. IV A.I. (radar), although it is more pleasant to handle and may prove to be faster. The majority of its defects, i.e. cramped layout, lack of abroad windscreen and poor visibility, are traceable to its dive bomber origin. “The absence of a large fiat windscreen makes itself felt when flying at night. The pilot always has the impression of peering out between prison bars, and his vision through anyone panel is limited. The excellent handling qualities of this aircraft are to a considerable extent offset in night combat by the poor visibility from the pilot’s seat. Provided the target can be viewed through either the left or right front panel, it is easily seen, but it is very much harder to see through the curved panels below these. When following a violently manoeuvring bomber the pilot is forced to place *There is some evidence to suggest that this aircraft is the one preserved at Biggin Hill. Major Prince Heinrich zu Sayn Wittgenstein, holder o f the Ritterkreuz with Swords and Oak Leaves, who was killed inaction on 21st January 1944 while flying a Ju 88 night fighter (coded R 4 +XM)as Geschvvader Kommodore o f A'JG 2. The Prince died the top-scoring Luftwaffe night fighter ace, with 83 confirmed kills to his credit. (Photo: Studiengruppe Luftwafle) 6
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