Junkers JU-88 model. This German two/five-seat bomber, close-support aircraft, night-fighter and reconnaissance aircraft was in service 1939-1945. With the Mosquito the Ju 88 ranks as the most versatile combat machine of all time. It was originally designed by a small group led by two Americans who were experienced in modern all-metal "stressed-skin" construction, and the first prototype flew in December 1936. It gained speed records, but the design had to be greatly altered before the Ju 88A-1 entered service with the Luftwaffe in late 1939.
It was easily the fastest of the three chief types of German tactical bomber ( Heinkel 111, Ju 88 and Dornier Do 17), having a speed close to 480km/h when unloaded. The bomb load was large, 1,800kg being carried in an internal bay and on four inner-wing racks. The engines were two 1,200hp Jumo 211B's, and the crew of three or four sat close together in the efficient forward fuselage with perfect all-round view and usual armament of three hand-aimed machine guns. The 88, called "the Three-Fingered 88" because of its long engine cowlings (which looked like radials because of the circular cooling radiators), was extremely strong and very maneuverable, but in the Battle of Britain it was shot down as easily as the other day bombers. Desparate defensive measures included four separate MG 15 machine guns all aimed by one man.
Large numbers were built of the Ju 88A-4 with longer wings to carry the heavy loads, the bomb load being increased to 2,500 or 3,000kg. Despite this the 88 continued to operate from rough sod airstrips, especially on the Russian front, its big mainwheels riding over the squashy surface and then turning through 90o to lie flat in the rear of the nacelles. Dive brakes under the wings were seldom used, most 88 missions being level bombing at high or very low altitudes. Versions were produced for torpedo dropping, night attack, training and various special duties, while the 88D series were tailored to long-range reconnaissance. The last of the bomber and reconnaissance versions was the slim streamlined Ju 88S, usually with 1,700hp BMW 801G radials, or 1,810hp 801TJ or 1,750hp Jumo 213E. Altogether 10,774 of all these versions were built.