9 Junkers Ju 88 – 15,183
Although the Junkers 88 first flew in 1936 as a Schnellbomber (fast bomber), it became the Luftwaffe’s go-to airplane for whatever new three-dimensional role needed to be played in Hitler’s evolving drama. The Ju 88 was a bomber and a dive-bomber; it carried torpedoes; did recon work; performed as a heavy fighter (both night and day); and, when coupled with an FW 190 in the Mistal configuration, became a flying bomb. It was the Luftwaffe’s flying Swiss Army knife.
It should be noted that a prototype set a record in 1939, carrying 4,400 pounds of payload around a closed course at 320mph. A B-17 with the same load couldn’t touch that speed, but the Ju 88 couldn’t begin to match the ’Fort’s range and defensive armament.
As designed, the Junkers took full advantage of aluminum monocoque technology, combined with as many advances in aerodynamics as possible, although the nose shape changed considerably when different roles were played. For instance, as a night fighter, the familiar faceted-glass bomber nose was replaced with a solid aluminum one mounting huge antenna arrays and as many machine guns and cannon as they could crowd into the bombardier’s space.
It’s difficult to tell the early airplanes from the late because while both appear to have radial engines, they actually don’t. The airplane was designed around the Jumo 211 liquid-cooled V-12 with the circular radiators mounted around the front of the engine, giving it a radial look. Later versions were often powered by BMW 801 twin-row radials. Today, only two fully intact examples remain.