There were three main German bombers in use during the Battle of Britain: the Dornier Do 17, the Heinkel He 111, Ju 87 Stuka and the Junkers Ju 88. The Dornier 17 was an old bomber, no longer in production, Heinkel 111 was a slow (although heavily armoured) machine while the Junkers 88 was a new, fast plane:

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Of the four types of bomber used by the Luftwaffe the Ju 88 (the original Schnellbomber) was considered to be the most difficult to shoot down. As a bomber it was relatively manoeuvrable and, especially at low altitudes with no bomb load, it was fast enough to ensure that a Spitfire engaged in a tail-chase would be hard pressed to catch up. source

Yet it was also the plane that suffered the heaviest (after Stuka - which was completely unsuited for the bomber role in the BoB) losses:

In reality, the Ju 88, although operating in smaller numbers than the Do 17 and He 111, suffered the highest losses of the three German bomber types. Losses of Do 17 and He 111s amounted to 132 and 252 machines destroyed respectively, while 313 Ju 88s were lost. ibid

Further search in wiki informs us that

Of all the losses suffered by the Ju 88 at that time, however, a number were due to the tricky behavior of the plane, especially when compared to the proven He 111, and to the crews' lack of experience on the type – many having converted to the Ju 88 only shortly before. Of the 39 losses recorded for July 1940, for example, only 20 were due to enemy action. The others being written off in training accidents, crashes, or malfunctions over mainland Europe source

That gives almost 50% loss due to accidents, which would make Ju88 probably one of the most unsafe combat planes from WW II. Was this trend continued during the rest of the war? If not, what changes have been made to improve crew safety? How is it in comparison to other new planes from the same time period?

I know that Ju88 was very versatile and dangerous to the enemy, but did it continue to be unsafe for the crew?

  • 1
    Comparatively high losses due to training accidents, crashes, or malfunctions were fairly common to all types of aircraft during their first months of operation, especially during wartime when type conversion training would be minimal. Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 21:13
  • Actually, Ju-88 was probably most versatile plane in LW inventory, serving from beginning to the end of war in various roles from fighter to bomber. It was less sturdy and somewhat lightly armed compared to He-111, so flying in fixed bombing formation was more dangerous despite speed advantage. But sheer number of planes produced (more then any other German bomber) tell the story.
    – rs.29
    Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 22:28
  • 1
    Please don't discuss in comments
    – MCW
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 0:26
  • There's an assumption here that the Ju 88 non-enemy-action losses were high compared to other contemporary German aircraft. We'd need to see the loss data for other aircraft in the same period to compare.
    – Schwern
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 21:54

1 Answer 1


From what I've found, the Ju 88 was updated during the Battle of Britain:

A series of field modifications were made to make the Ju 88 less vulnerable, including the replacement of the single MG 15 rear machine gun by a twin-barreled MG 81Z machine gun and the fitting of additional cockpit armour.

Other than field modification, a newer version (A-4) was produced:

The flagship Ju 88 A-4 went into service during the closing days of the Battle of Britain. Although slower than the A-1, it solved nearly all of the troubles of the A-1. The A-4 actually saw additional improvements including more powerful engines but, unlike other aircraft in the Luftwaffe, did not see a model code change. The Ju 88 C-series also benefited from the A-4 changes.

Here the full characteristic of the A-4 variant:

Improved variant. Longer wingspan, due to redesigned wingtips. Stronger defensive armament. Power provided by Jumo 211 J-1 or J-2 engines producing 1,050 kW (1,410 hp), driving wooden bladed propellers. Reinforced undercarriage. Provision for four external bomb racks.

Here a detailed view of the changes of the A-4 version:

The A-4 was the most important version of the Ju 88A. It solved the problems that had limited the performance of the A-1, most especially by increasing the wingspan of the aircraft by nearly six feet to 65ft 7.5in. It used more powerful 1,400hp Jumo 211F or 211J engines, which made up for a general increase in weight. Part of that increase came from an improvement in internal armour, especially around the cockpit. The A-4 now carried five guns – one fixed forward firing in the windscreen and four flexible guns, one in the lower nose, one rear facing in the ventral gondola and two rear facing in the dorsal position. The MG 15 was normally replaced by the belt-fed MG 81, which had a higher rate of fire, or by the twin barrelled MG 81Z or 13mm MG 131s. The A-4 could carry up to 7,936lbs of bombs, with 2,200lb in the internal bomb bays and the rest on the four ETC bomb racks under the wings. Production of the A-4 was pushed back by delays to the Jumo 211F and K engines, but it had entered service in time to take part in the invasion of Russia in June 1941. The gap was filled by the interim A-5 version. The A-4 was the main service version by early 1942.

Note: the wikipedia page report sizing and armaments referred to the A-4 version.

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