Although obsolescent even before World War II began, the Ju-87 Stuka terrorized ground troops and found a late-war niche as a tank-buster.
By Stephan Wilkinson @ Historynet.com
Never has a warplane so obsolete, vulnerable and technologically basic wrought so much damage to its enemies as did the Junkers Ju-87 Stuka. Even as Germany invaded Poland and triggered World War II, its Ministry of Aviation (ministerium, or RLM) was hard at work on a replace- Reichsluftfahrtment for its dive bomber, and the early Ju-87B was intended to be the last model made. No surprise, since typically an air force begins development of the next-generation aircraft the instant the current machine goes into service. But hard as they tried, the Germans never came up with a Stuka successor, so the angular, archaic “little bomber,” as the Luftwaffe called it, was the airplane that on September 1, 1939, dropped the first bombs of the war, and on May 4, 1945, flew the final Luftwaffe ground-assault mission. The very last propaganda film made by the Luftwaffe showed Stukas attacking Soviet tanks on the outskirts of Berlin, smoke streaming from their big antitank cannons. That’s 5½ years of nonstop combat by an airplane adjudged by some to be too primitive, too slow and too vulnerable before the war even began.