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Junkers Ju 290
Role Maritime patrol, Heavy bomber, Transport aircraft
Manufacturer Junkers
First flight 16 July 1942 (Ju 290 V1)
Introduced August 1942
Status retired
Primary users Luftwaffe
Spain (Post war)
Produced 1942-1946

The Junkers Ju 290 was a long-range transport, maritime patrol aircraft and heavy bomber used by the Luftwaffe late in World War II.

Contents

Design and development

The Junkers 290 was developed directly from the Ju 90 airliner, versions of which had been evaluated for military purposes, and was intended to replace the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor which by 1942 was proving increasingly slow and vulnerable when confronted by RAF aircraft over the "narrow seas" around Europe. It was also intended to meet the need for large transport aircraft. A bomber version, the A-8, was planned, but never built.[1]

The development programme resulted in the Ju 290V1 prototype (works no. 290000001), with Stammkennzeichen of BD+TX), which first flew on 16 July 1942. It featured a lengthened fuselage, more powerful engines, and a Trapoklappe hydraulic rear loading ramp. Both the V1 and the first eight A-1 production aircraft were unarmed transports. The need for heavy transports saw the A-1s pressed into service as soon as they were completed.

Several were lost in early 1943, including one taking part in the Stalingrad Airlift, and two flying supplies to German forces in Tunisia, and arming them became a priority.

The urgent need for Ju 290s in the long-range maritime reconnaissance role was now also high priority, and resulted in the Ju 290A-2. Three A-1 aircraft were converted to A-2 specification on the assembly line. Production was slow due to the modifications necessary and the installation of strong defensive armament. The A-2 was fitted with FuG 200 Hohentwiel low-UHF band search radar and a dorsal turret fitted with a 20 mm MG 151 cannon. The Hohentwiel radar was successfully used to locate Allied convoys at ranges of up to 80 km (50 mi) from an altitude of 499 m (1,640 ft) or 100 km (62 mi) from an altitude of 999 m (3,280 ft). It allowed convoys to be tracked while remaining well out of range of any anti-aircraft fire.

The A-3 version followed shortly after with added navigational equipment and probably the heaviest defensive armament of any World War II aircraft; it was fitted with two hydraulically-powered HDL 151 dorsal turrets armed with 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons, with a further 20 mm MG 151/20 and a 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine gun fitted in a gondola beneath the nose, and a 20 mm MG 151/20 fitted in the tail operated by a gunner in a prone position. Two 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131s were also fitted in waist positions (Fensterlafetten). The A-3, along with the A-2, also featured large auxiliary fuel tanks in the fuselage. Both types retained the rear loading ramp so that they could be used as transports if need be.

The improved A-7 version appeared in spring 1944; 13 were completed, and 10 served with FAGr 5. Some A-7s and some A-4s were fitted with a detachable nose turret armed with a 20 mm MG 151/20 for added defense against frontal attack. No bombs were carried, as it was intended that the A-5 and A-7 would be used to launch anti-ship missiles.

Production lines were set up at the Letov aircraft factory in Prague for combat versions of the aircraft, commencing with the Ju 290 A-2, which carried a search radar for its patrol role. Minor changes in armament distinguished the A-3 and A-4, leading to the definitive A-5 variant. The A-6 was a 50-passenger transport aircraft.

Operational history

A Junkers Ju 290 in U.S. markings after the war
Junkers Ju 290
Rear view with extended Trapoklappe ramp

A special long-range reconnaissance group, FAGr 5 (Fernaufklärungsgruppe 5), had been formed on 1 July 1943 and during the late summer of 1943 three of the new Ju 290 A-2s were delivered to its 1 Staffel, which became operational at Mont-de-Marsan near Bordeaux on 15 October of that year. They flew their first operational missions in November 1943, shadowing Allied convoys in cooperation with U-boats, and often remaining airborne for up to 18 hours.

Five Ju 290 A-3 aircraft with more powerful BMW 801D engines followed, as did five Ju 290 A-4 aircraft with improved dorsal turrets mounting 20 mm MG 151/20s. The Ju 290s were well suited to their patrol role and began replacing the Fw 200 Condors. An A-4, Works no. 0165, was experimentally equipped with attachments for FX 1400, Henschel Hs 293, and Hs 294 missiles, and fitted with FuG 203e radar; it was surrendered to the US after the war and flown across the Atlantic to the USA.[1]

In November 1943, a second Staffel was activated and, with a range of over 6,100 km (3,790 mi) the Ju 290s ranged far out over the Atlantic, relaying sightings of Allied convoys to U-boats. 11 Ju 290 A-5s with increased armour protection, 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons in place of the earlier waist-mounted machine guns, and self-sealing fuel tanks were delivered to FAGr 5 early in 1944, as were around 12 of the Ju 290 A-7 version; the A-7 could carry three Hs 293 glide bombs or Fritz X anti-ship missiles and featured a redesigned nose section which combined a 20 mm cannon installation with the FuG 200 radar aerial array.

Towards the end of 1943, Admiral Dönitz demanded that the entire output of Ju 290s be made available for U-boat warfare. However, a mere 20 machines were assigned for this purpose. Even though both Hitler and Dönitz demanded an increase, the Luftwaffe General Staff declared it was unable to assign anymore for naval reconnaissance purposes. The General Staff argued that there could be no increase in output so long as the Luftwaffe was not conceded "precedence in overall armaments".

In the spring of 1944, after Albert Speer had taken over the direction of air armaments, the Luftwaffe High Command baldly announced that it production of the Ju 290 was to be suspended despite it being urgently needed for maritime reconnaissance; suspending production meant that resources could instead be diverted to building fighter aircraft. At that point in time, Speer's position was weak and Hermann Göring was trying to find allies to help him strip Speer of his power, and the Luftwaffe was not prepared to offer the Navy more than "goodwill".[2]

As the Battle of the Atlantic swung irrevocably in favour of the Allies with the loss by the Germans of French bases in August 1944, maritime reconnaissance unit FAGr 5 was withdrawn eastwards and the remaining Ju 290s were reassigned to transport duties, including service with KG 200, where they were used to drop agents behind enemy lines and other special missions.[3]

Ju 290 A-5, works number 0178, D-AITR, Bayern of Lufthansa flew to Barcelona on April 5 1945, piloted by Lufthansa Flugkapitaen Sluzalek. The aircraft suffered damage to its landing gear on landing and was repaired with parts brought from Germany by a Lufthansa Fw 200. It remained in Spain because the Spanish Government ordered that regular Lufthansa flights on route K22 be terminated from 21 April and was turned over to the Spanish authorities.[4]

Flights to Japan

Following the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, plans were made to connect Germany and Japan by air using Luftwaffe aircraft modified for very long range flights. Commercial flights to the Far East by Lufthansa were no longer possible, and it had become too dangerous for ships or U-boats to make the trip by sea. Field Marshal Erhard Milch authorized a study in to the feasibility of such direct flights. Various routes were considered, including departing from German-occupied Russia and Bulgaria. Nautsi, near Lake Inari in the north of Finland, was finally selected as the optimum starting point for a great circle route along the Arctic Ocean then across eastern Siberia, to refuel in Manchuria before completing the flight to Japan.

In 1943, the Ju 290 was selected for the flights and tests began in February 1944 of a Ju 290 A-5 (works number 0170, KR+LA) loaded with 41 tonnes (45 tons) of fuel and cargo. Three Ju 290 A-9s (works numbers 0182, 0183 and 0185) were modified for long-range work at the Junkers factory in March 1943. The plan was eventually put on indefinite hold after the Japanese failed to agree on a course, as they did not want to provoke the Soviet Union by an overflight of any part of their Siberian territory, and the three aircraft were eventually transferred to KG 200. 0182 was lost in action in Russia, 0183 was wrecked at Travemünde, and 0185 was found to be unrepairable following a mission in Russia, all during 1944.[5 ]

The Japan flights were revived again in December 1944, mainly to transport Luftwaffe General Ulrich Kessler to Japan as a replacement for the German air attaché in Tokyo. Ju 290 A-3, no. 0163, was flown to Travemunde for the necessary modifications, but the work was delayed and it was decided to send Kessler aboard the submarine U-234 instead. The aircraft was destroyed on May 3 1945 as British troops arrived.[5 ]

Variants

Hitler's personal transport

On 26 November 1943, Ju 290 A-5, no. 0170, along with many other new aircraft and prototypes, was shown to Adolf Hitler at Insterburg, East Prussia. Hitler was impressed by its potential and told Goering that he wanted a Ju 290 for his personal use.[6] A Ju 290 was not however assigned to the Fliegerstaffel des Fuehrers (FdF) until late 1944, when an A-7, works number 0192, was supplied, which had formerly assigned to the maritime reconnaissance unit FAGr 5 (Fernaufklarungsgruppe 5). Modifications were completed by February 1945 at the FdF's base at Pocking, Bavaria, a designation of KR+LW being applied. Hitler's pilot, Hans Baur, tested the aircraft, but Hitler never flew in it.[7]

The aircraft was fitted with a special passenger compartment in the front of the aircraft for Hitler, which was protected by 12 mm (.5 in) armour plate and 50 mm (2 in) bulletproof glass. A special escape hatch was fitted in the floor and a parachute was built into Hitler's seat; in an emergency it was intended that he would put on the parachute, pull a lever to open the hatch, and roll out through the opening. This arrangement was tested using life-size mannequins.

Hans Baur flew the aircraft to Munich-Riem airport on 24 March 1945, landing just as an air-raid alert was sounded. Parking the plane in a hangar, he went to his home. Upon returning to the airport, he discovered that both the hangar and the plane had been destroyed by US bombers.[8]

Amerika Bomber

The long range of the Ju 290 made it a good candidate for the Amerika Bomber project, and prototypes of an even longer-range version were ordered as the Ju 390. As Germany lost access to the ocean, their role soon evaporated, and by October 1944, all production was stopped.

Postwar

A number of Ju 290s survived the war, the Allies evaluating at least three examples.

  • Ju 290 A-4 no. 0165, which had been equipped with attachments for FX 1400, Hs 293, and Hs 294 missiles, and fitted with FuG 203e radar, was surrendered to the US. Renamed Alles Kaputt, and numbered FE 3400, it was flown to the US by Colonel Harold E. Watson from Orly, Paris to Wright Field on 28 July 1945, via the Azores. The captured aircraft, with its Nazi insignia repainted, was a frequent performer at air shows at Freeman Field and Wright Field. When the aircraft was scrapped at Wright Field in 1946, a plastic explosive device of German manufacture was discovered in the wing near to a fuel tank.[9]
  • An A-5 (Wk. no. 0178), Bayern of Lufthansa, which had been interned at Barcelona, was acquired by the Spanish and was eventually used by the Spanish Air Force from 29 April 1950 to 27 July 1956 as a government transport of personnel for the Superior School of Flight in Salamanca. It was scrapped due to a lack of spare parts in May 1957 following an accident.[4]
  • A final Ju 290 was built by the Letov Kbely aircraft company in Czechoslovakia in 1946, using parts intended for the Ju 290 B-1 high-altitude prototype. It was completed as a transport with capacity for either 40 or 48 passengers (sources vary), and designated Letov L-290 "Orel" (Eagle). It was offered as an airliner but was not adopted because it lacked the appropriate internal equipment, and the BMW engines were not available in sufficient numbers.[10]

Operators

 Czechoslovakia
 Nazi Germany
Spain Spanish State

Specifications (Ju 290 A-5)

Data from

General characteristics

  • Crew: 9
  • Length: 93 ft 11 in (28.64 m)
  • Wingspan: 137 ft 9 in (42.00 m)
  • Height: 22 ft 5 in (6.83 m)
  • Wing area: 2,191 ft² (203 m²)
  • Empty weight: 72,611 lb (33,005 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 99,141 lb (44,970 kg)
  • Powerplant:BMW 801G/H 14-cylinder radial engines, 1,700 hp (1,268 kW) each

Performance

Armament

Bomber versions could carry up to 3,000 kg (6,600 lb) of disposable stores or up to 3 Fritz X or Henschel Hs 293 radio-guided munitions, though these were not widely used

Avionics
FuG 200 Hohentwiel radar

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b Sweeting, p. 123
  2. ^ Deist, Wilhelm; Maier, Schreiber, et al.. Germany and the second World War. Oxford University Press. pp. 657. ISBN 0198208731.  
  3. ^ Sweeting, p. 124
  4. ^ a b Sweeting, p. 116
  5. ^ a b Sweeting and Boyne, p. 125
  6. ^ Sweeting, p. 87
  7. ^ Sweeting and Boyne, p. 85
  8. ^ Sweeting and Boyne, p. 87
  9. ^ Samuel, Wolfgang W.E. (2004). American Raiders: The Race to Capture the Luftwaffe's Secrets. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 317–322. ISBN 1578066492.  
  10. ^ Kay, Antony L.; Paul Couper (2004). Junkers Aircraft And Engines, 1913-1945. Putnam Aeronautical Books. pp. 202. ISBN 0851779859.  

Bibliography

  • Kössler, Karl (1993). Die großen Dessauer: Junkers Ju 89, Ju 90, Ju 290, Ju 390 – Die Geschichte einer Flugzeugfamilie. Berlin: Aviatic-Verlag. ISBN 3925505253.  
  • Green, William. Warplanes of the Third Reich. London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., 1970. ISBN 0-356-02382-6.
  • Hitchcock, Thomas H. Junkers 290 (Monogram Close-Up 3). Boylston, MA: Monogram Aviation Publications, 1975. ISBN 0-914144-03-0.
  • Nowarra, Heinz J. Junkers Ju 290, Ju 390 etc.. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 1997. ISBN 0-7643-0297-3.
  • Smith, J.Richard. and Kay, Anthony. German Aircraft of the Second World War. London: Putnam and Company, Ltd., 1972. ISBN 0-370-00024-2.
  • Thurner, P.St. John and Nowarra, Heinz J. Junkers, an Aircraft Album. New York: ARCO Publishing Company, Inc., 1971. ISBN 0-668-02506-9.
  • Sweeting, C.G.; Walter J. Boyne (2001). Hitler's Squadron: The Fuehrer's Personal Aircraft and Transport Unit, 1933-45. Brassey's. ISBN 1574884697.  
  • Sweeting, C.G. (2001). Hitler's personal pilot: the life and times of Hans Baur. Brassey's. ISBN 1574884026.  

External links








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