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Ju 388
Role Heavy Fighter, Bomber, Reconnaissance
Manufacturer Junkers
First flight 22 December 1943
Introduced Late 1944
Retired 1945
Primary user Luftwaffe
Number built 69
Developed from Junkers Ju 188

The Junkers Ju 388 Störtebeker was a World War II German Luftwaffe multi-role aircraft based on the Ju 88 airframe by way of the Ju 188. It was introduced very late in the war, and production problems and the general war conditions meant few were delivered.

Contents

Background

The Reich Air Ministry (RLM) first learned of the American B-29 Superfortress in late 1942, possibly from the sighting of a YB-29 Superfortress at RAF Bovingdon nicknamed the "Hobo Queen" that made a headline photo appearance in a news article in the Völkischer Beobachter newspaper. The performance estimates of this aircraft were cause for great concern in the Luftwaffe. The B-29 had a maximum speed around 560 km/h (348 mph), and would attack in a cruise at about 360 km/h (224 mph) at 8,000-10,000 m (26,247-32,810 ft), an altitude where no current Luftwaffe aircraft was effective.

To counter the B-29, the Luftwaffe would need new day fighters and bomber destroyers. The fighter chosen was the Focke-Wulf Ta 152H. This was based on the Fw 190D with longer wings and the new high-altitude "E" model of the Junkers Jumo 213 engine. An alternative was the Messerschmitt Me 155B, a long-winged development of the Bf 109 that had already undergone numerous developments, which would ultimately be built in prototype form by Blohm & Voss.

For the bomber destroyer and night fighter needs, the Ta 154 and Heinkel He 219 had the performance needed to catch the bomber, but both designs only gained that performance by mounting short wings that were inadequate for flight at high-altitude. The Junkers Ju 88 had already been modified for high-altitude use as the S and T models, but these did not have the performance needed. Similar high-altitude modifications to the Ju 188 were being looked at as the projected Ju 188J, K and L models, which included a pressurized cockpit and wing and elevator deicing equipment for extended flights at very high altitude. These were selected for the role, and re-named Ju 388.

Development

In order to improve performance, the Ju 388 was stripped of almost all defensive armament. Whereas the Ju 88 included a number of hand-swung guns in ports all over the cockpit area, on the Ju 388 they were replaced by a single remote-control turret in the tail containing two 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns, aimed via a periscope in the cockpit. The turret had an excellent field of fire and could shoot directly to the rear, so the gunner's bola streamlined casement-style ventral defensive armament emplacement under the nose was removed, improving the streamlining.

The aircraft was to be delivered using the same naming as the three original Ju 188 experimental versions: the J, K, and L. The J model was a fighter with two 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 103 cannons and two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons in a solid nose for use as a daytime bomber destroyer. For use as a night fighter, the MK 103s were replaced by the smaller and lighter 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108s, while a second pair of MK 108s were added in a Schräge Musik installation behind the cockpit. The K model was a pure bomber, with a pannier under the plane increasing the size of the bomb bay. The L photo-reconnaissance model put the cameras in the pannier along with additional fuel tanks for long-range missions.

Three sub-models of each version were planned, different only in the engine installation. The -1 would mount the BMW 801J, a turbocharged version of the basic BMW 801. The -2 would use the 1,864 kW (2,500 hp) Jumo 222A/B (the B engine model rotated in the opposite direction of the A model, but was otherwise identical), or the 222E/F versions with an improved two-speed supercharger. The -3 would mount the Junkers Jumo 213E, which included a supercharger similar to the 222E/F.

With the BMW 801J or Jumo 213E, the fighter versions flew at 616 km/h (383 mph) when equipped as a destroyer, losing about 25 km/h (16 mph) to radar and Schräge Musik when equipped as night fighters. This was similar in speed to existing Luftwaffe night fighters, but the Ju 388 maintained this speed at much higher altitudes. With the Jumo 222 engine, the aircraft was estimated to be capable of reaching around 700 km/h (435 mph), again losing about 25 km/h (16 mph) in night fighter versions. The bomber versions flew at roughly the same speeds depending on bombload, while the reconnaissance versions would have been about 25 km/h (16 mph) faster.

The first prototype, Ju 388 L-0/V7, mainly built from Ju 188 series production components, made its first flight on December 22, 1943. It demonstrated much better handling at altitudes than the Ju 88S due to an increase in tail surface area. This was followed by six new prototypes. It was some time before deliveries of the production models started due to engine delivery delays. By the time the engines were widely available it was clear the B-29 bombers were being sent to the Pacific and would not be operating over Germany any time soon. German photo-reconnaissance efforts had practically disappeared due to the increased performance of the Allied defenses, so production mostly concentrated on the L model.

Deliveries started in August 1944 but very few Ju 388s were delivered. About 47 L models seem to have been built, the majority as -1s with the BMW 801J engine, and only three -3s with the Jumo 213E. Fifteen K-1s were built, and only three J-1 models were produced.

Production

The exact number of Ju 388 built is very hard to determine, if not impossible. One of the reasons is that various pre-series aircraft were used as prototypes, and some were damaged or destroyed by Allied bombs before completion. Furthermore, several official records terminate before the end of production or contradict each other.

However, the following can be assumed as proven (see literature):

  • 6 Ju 388 prototypes, 2 each for J-1, K-1 and L-1
  • 20 Ju 388 L-0, including prototypes V7, V8, V30 - V34
  • 10 Ju 388 K-0, first batch, including Ju 488 V401/V402 (never flown)
  • 1 Ju 388 K-1 manufactured by ATG for static tests in July 1944
  • 46 Ju 388 L-1 manufactured by ATG in 1944
  • 8+ Ju 388 L-1 manufactured by ATG in 1945
  • 10 Ju 388 L-1 (max.) manufactured by Weserflug (WFG), initially planned as K-1

More aircraft and prototypes were planned and partially completed:

  • 10 Ju 388 K-0, second batch, some prototypes, partially completed
  • 30 Ju 388 K-0, third batch, planned, only few units completed

Furthermore, an unknown number of Ju 388 L-1 and Ju 388 J was in advanced stages of production by the end of the war.

Operational history

Several reconnaissance missions were flown by operational Ju 388s, generally believed to be "L" models, in the final days of the war in Europe. Most were flights over England, and were similar to the reconnaissance missions being flown by the jet powered Arado Ar 234 at the same time period.

In early 1945, a Ju 388 was intercepted while flying at approximately 13,500 m (44,291 ft) over the English Channel by a Supermarine Spitfire. The Spitfire, operating above its service ceiling, was not able to reach the altitude of the Ju 388 but was able to fire upon it from below and bring it down. It is believed that this was the highest altitude shoot-down of World War II.

Four Ju 388 night fighters were employed for evaluation in NJG 2 in 1945. It is not known if they gained any victories.

Variants

Ju 388J
Heavy fighter/Night fighter.
Ju 388K
High-altitude bomber.
Ju 388K-0
Ten pre-production aircraft.
Ju 388K-1
Five production aircraft.
Ju 388L
Photo-reconnaissance aircraft.
Ju 388M
Proposed torpedo bomber based on the Ju 388K.
'145'
A single Ju388L extensively modified with irreversible elctromechanical powered flying controls to support the '150' in the USSR.

Operators

 Germany
  • Luftwaffe
    • Erprobungsstelle Rechlin
    • Erprobungsstelle Werneuchen
    • Erprobungskommando Ju 388
    • 3./Versuchsverband O.K.L. operated Ju 388 V32, W.Nr 300 295, T9+DL.
    • Nachtjagdgeschwader 2
 Japan

In August 1944, a Japanese delegation led by military attaché Brigadier General Otani expressed interest in a license production of the Ju 388. Complete drawing sets for the Ju 388 was handed over to the Japanese as well as the rights for a license production. Most likely, the planned delivery of all these documents to Japan via submarine failed.[1]

Others however claim there is evidence for the transfer of Ju-388 and Ju 390 manufacturing blueprints reaching Japan and the following is their case:

ULTRA decrypts of signals to and from the Japanese embassy in Berlin in August 1944 reveal that Otani, named Kotani in the signals was seeking return passage by U-boat in August 1944, but was told others had greater priority for places on U-boats. After 23 August 1944 and the departure of U-219, no other U-boat successfully departed for Japan. U-871 and U-864 were sunk outbound. U-234 sailed with a 240 ton cargo. Due to a collision with another U-boat in the Ketgatt, she put in to Norway for repair.

Later when U-234 was unloaded by the US Navy at Portsmouth, NH, her manifest detailed only 170 tons of cargo. Radio operator Wolfgang Hirschfeld wrote a book Atlantik Farewell: Das Letzte U-boot in which he said the highest priority cargo needed to be unloaded and flown to Japan. He said that there was a proposal to use a Fw 200 Condor, but this aircraft was abandoned. Albert Speer then comments in his memoirs, "Inside the Third Reich" that a Ju-390 made a flight to Tokyo via the "Polar Route" piloted by civil test pilots. Russian historian Sergey Platov claims Otani was on a Ju 390 flight to Japan which occurred 28 March 1945. Other historians also assert that Otani was not found in Europe at the end of the war.

Survivors

This is the captured plane, Werksnummer 560049, USAAF name T2-4010, currently awaiting restoration at the Smithsonian Institution, Suitland, Maryland, USA.

One Ju 388 survives today. The Ju 388L-1 with construction number (Werksnummer) 560049 was the eighth of the series manufactured at Weser Flugzeugbau's Nordenham plant. Parts of the airframe were also built at ATG in Altenburg and at Niedersächsische Metallwerke Brinckmann & Mergell in Hamburg-Harburg. The aircraft was completed early in 1945. It was captured by U.S. troops in May 1945 at the Junkers plant in Merseburg, then flown to Kassel/Waldau.

The aircraft was examined and test flown by "Watson's Whizzers", led by United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Colonel Harold E. Watson, as part of Operation Lusty and it is believed that Watson himself flew in the aircraft in preparation for flying it directly back to the U.S. Instead, on 17 June 1945 the aircraft was flown to Cherbourg, France where it was shipped to the United States aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Reaper together with other captured German aircraft for detailed evaluation in the U.S.

The aircraft was flown to Freeman Field in Indiana for evaluation, and in September 1945 made a flight demonstration for the press. The Ju 388 was flown for 10 hours of flight tests at Wright Field near Dayton, Ohio with the "foreign evaluation" registration FE-4010 (later changed to T2-4010). Following these tests the aircraft was displayed at the Dayton Air Show in 1946 along with other captured German aircraft.

On 26 September 1946, Ju 388 Werks-Nr. 560049 was transferred to Orchard Place Airport in Park Ridge, Illinois, near the present O'Hare International Airport. This temporary storage facility was a vacant U.S. Government-owned factory previously used by the Chrysler Corporation to build the Douglas C-54. Ju 388 Werks-Nr. 560049 was donated to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air Museum on 3 January 1949. The aircraft arrived at Silver Hill, Maryland for storage in November 1954.

Today the aircraft is disassembled and remains in generally good condition, having never been stored outside. The cockpit area is in particularly good condition and complete with all instruments. Ju 388L-1 Werks-Nr. 560049 is just one of several unique German aircraft still awaiting restoration at the National Air and Space Museum's Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility in Suitland, Maryland.

Specifications (Ju 388J)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3
  • Length: 16.29 m (53 ft 5 in)
  • Wingspan: 22.00 m (72 ft 2 in)
  • Height: 4.35 m (14 ft 3 in)
  • Wing area: 56.00 m² (602.77 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 10,400 kg (22,928 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 14,675 kg (32,352 lb)
  • Powerplant:BMW 801J 14-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, 1,350 kW (1,810 hp) each

Performance

Armament

  • Ju 388J: 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons and 2 × 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 103 or MK 108 forward-firing cannons in underfuselage pod and 2 × 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns in remote-control tail barbette
  • Ju 388K: 3,000 kg (6,612 lb) of bombs internally and 2 × 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns in remote control tail barbette
  • Ju 388L: 2 × 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns in remote control tail barbette

References

  • Green, William. Warplanes of the Third Reich. London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., 1970. ISBN 0-356-02382-6.
  • Smith, J.R. and Kay, Anthony. German Aircraft of the Second World War. London: Putnam and Company, Ltd., 1972. ISBN 0-370-00024-2.
  • Vernaleken, Christoph and Handig, Martin. Junkers Ju 388: Development, Testing And Production of the Last Junkers High-altitude Aircraft. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2006. ISBN 0-7643-2429-2.

External links

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