By the end of the line, Germany’s infamous “Stuka” was no longer a dive bomber.
Let’s take a look at close support, 1944.
From the start of the War against Russia it was obvious to the Luftwaffe that they needed more serious tank stopping power. The Soviet T-34 was more modern, and better protected than other tanks the Germans had faced, plus the Soviets had actual heavy tanks of the KV series. 20 mm cannon weren’t up to the job, and most Luftwaffe close support aircraft didn’t carry anything that heavy anyway.
A real leap forward was needed. Work was started on getting a 37 mm anti-tank gun into the sky. With a tungsten cored armor piercing round, and the natural aircraft advantage of being able to attack from the weaker sides or rear this gun could make a big difference.
In December 1942 a Ju 87D converted to carry two such guns first flew.
Stuka production was always a complicated mash of types and sub-types, so no surprise the new Ju 87G came in two varieties too. To get planes built and into service fast, the Ju 87G-1 was converted from a Ju 87D-3; while the Ju 87G-2 was rebuilt from a Ju 87D-5. Both sub-types involved removing dive flaps, all bomb racks and apparatus, and wing mounted armament.
In German vernacular, the Ju 87G-1 was specified as a “conversion”, which meant it was a less involved product. The mounting stubs of the dive flaps remained and the wing armament was just removed and capped over.
But the Ju 87G-2 was considered a “rebuild” which was a more involved process and was to be the main service type. As a starting point, the Ju 87D-5 had an extra 4 feet of wingspan to improve lift and load. On the G-2 all associated mounting hardware and fairings for the dive flaps and wing guns was removed.
The new gun pods were completely interchangeable from side to side. The stubs on the body of the pod are not winglets, those are just squared ammunition trays. Each gun can be quickly loaded with two clips of six rounds. 24 rounds of ammunition was the total mission load. These could be armor piercing, high explosive or tracer/incendiary.
The Ju 87G entered service in 1943. The Battle of Kursk that summer, is considered the largest tank battle in history and was the combat debut of the Ju 87G. This new, specialized Stuka was even more vulnerable which further increased the need for fighters, so increasing numbers of Fw 190s were added to their units. A small number of highly proficient pilots caused serious carnage with this type, but the availability of pilots proved to be a greater limiting factor than production.
This particular plane was among those flown by perhaps the most successful combat pilot of all time. Hans-Ulrich Rudel was an air reconnaissance pilot who made the transition to Stuka pilot in 1941. A quick run-down of his accomplishments (per Wikipedia) is exhausting by itself! He flew 2530 ground attack missions; most in a Stuka, 430 in a Fw 190F (the close support version of Focke-Wulf’s fighter). He is credited with destroying 519 tanks, the battleship Marat (with a single hit from a 2200 lb bomb), the cruiser Petropavlosk, the destroyer Minsk, 70 landing craft, 800 other vehicles, over 150 large guns, 4 armored trains, and 51 aerial kills.
Rudel was shot down 30 times (always by ground fire, never in aerial combat), was wounded 5 times and rescued six aircrew who were downed behind enemy lines. In December 1944 he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. If that sounds made up its because the highest form of the Knight’s Cross was indeed made up just for him. It was awarded to him personally by Hitler and he was the only recipient.
His worst injury was his last, in February 1945 he lost his right leg below the knee. Six weeks later he returned to flying and destroyed 26 more tanks. He flew all his combat against the Russians, and when the War ended he led the survivors of his unit west, to surrender to the Americans.
He lived until 1982 and was an unrepentant Nazi to the end. He dabbled in neo-Nazi politics, moved to South America to advise fascist regimes in Argentina and Paraguay, and formed his own charity… to aid Nazi War Criminals. Rudel also consulted with several aviation firms post-War and provided input on the A-10 Thunderbolt/Warthog. An accomplished, and not very nice man.
This is the Hasegawa kit. It was a bit of a disappointment. A lot of the fit was vague, and the various tweaks that let the same basic tooling be used for the whole range of Ju 87D and
Ju 87G seemed more clumsy than I expect from this brand. I’m mostly satisfied with its final look, but I would rate this as the weakest kit of theirs I’ve ever built.