The Junkers Ju-52, nicknamed “Tante Ju” or “Auntie Ju” and “Iron Annie” was the most famous German transport plane of the World war two.
In 1930, Ernst Zindel and his team designed the Ju-52 at the Junkers works at Dessau. The aircraft’s unusual corrugated duralumin metal skin, pioneered by Junkers during World War I, strengthened the whole structure.
The initial Ju-52 was powered by either a single BMW or Junkers liquid-cooled engine . Since it lacked performance, in 1931. on 7th produced aircraft, two additional engines were added. First three engine prototype was powered by 3 Pratt & Whitney Hornet radials, delivering 550 hp (410 kW) each.
First production models of JU-52/3m mainly had 770 hp (574 kW) BMW 132 engines, a licence-built refinement of the Pratt & Whitney design. Export models were built with 600 hp (447 kW) Pratt & Whitney Wasp R-1340 and 775 hp (578 kW) Bristol Pegasus VI engines. Exported civil models, also had Wasp and Hornet engines, and a small number in Germany had Jumo diesels.
Production Ju-52/3m aircraft flown by Lufthansa before World War II, as well as Luftwaffe Ju-52s flown during the war, usually used an air start system to turn over their trio of radial engines, using a common compressed air supply that also operated the main wheels brakes.
Before World war 2, the Junkers Ju-52 served as an airliner in many countries. It was used for passenger transport and as mail carrier. The Ju 52/3m was the leading European civil airliner of the 1930s, seating 15 to 17 passengers. Some of the Ju-52/3m were luxurious equipped with typewriters and oxygen masks. The oxygen supply system was monitored by the radio operator and could be switched on at passengers request.
The fixed landing gear was almost unbreakable and some versions had spats. Also float-seaplane and ski versions were not uncommon. Foe example Ju-52 fitted with floats hauled lumber in remote places in Canada.
Fully loaded Junkers Ju-52/33 had a cruising speed of 132 mph (212 km/h). With landing speed of 59 mph (95 km/h), thanks to large fixed flaps running the whole length of the wing trailing edge, the Ju-52/3m was ideal for airlines landing on small airfields.
The military potentials of the Junkers Ju-52 was examined by the Luftwaffe. They placed orders in 1934. for bomber version of Ju-52/3m as a stop-gap until new , purpose designed, Dornier Do-11 were delivered. As a bomber, Ju-52 had two bomb bays capable of carrying p to 1.500 kg (3.300 pounds) of bombs. For protection from fighters, defensive armament consisted of two 7.92 mm MG 15 machine guns. One gun was mounted in a opet dorsal cockpit and one in retractable ventral “dustbin”. Retractable “dustbin” was manually winched down from the fuselage to protect airplane from attacks from below.
Bombers were fitted with three BMW 132A-1 (license built Pratt & Whitney Hornets) radial engines rated at 660 hp (492 kW), that later were replaced with BMW 132A-3 725 hp (541 kW) engines.
Since the Dornier Do-11 was a failure, Ju-52/3m was equipped in larger numbers than it was expected. It served as Luftwaffe’s main bomber until modern aircraft such as Dornier Do-17 and Henkel He-111 entered into service.
The first military service Junkers Ju-52 saw in the Spanish civil war. 20 Luftwaffe aircraft were flown to Seville in 1936 to support the Nationalist forces. In Condor legion, formed at the end of the year, Ju-52 were used in both roles as bombers and as transport aircraft. A year later Ju-52 was replaced with modern Do-17 and He-111. Last bomber mission for Ju-52 in Spanish civil war was flown in March 1939. Serving as a bomber Ju-52 flew 13.000 hours and dropped more than 6.000 tons of bombs. Five airplanes were shot down and three are destroyed on the ground.
At the begining of World War II in 1939. Ju-52 was extensively used in airborne assault operations and supply missions. Junkers Ju-52 served in every theater in which Germany participated. It dropped paratroopers in the Netherlands, Crete and later the Ardennes.It carried supplies to beleaguered troops in North Africa, Stalingrad and the Baltic states. The Ju-52 was slow and very lightly armed against fighters. As a result, it suffered horrible losses in almost all actions, especially over Crete, the Mediterranean and Stalingrad.
During the war few mine sweeping, groups with specially adapted Ju-52/3m(MS) were formed. In this version Ju-52 had large dural ring braced beneath the fuselage and the wing. This hoop was energised by a electric generator in the fuselage. The magnetic field generated in that way was used to detonate magnetically fused mines. Ju-52 was very effective in this role, but it was extremely hazardous to both plane and crew.
Post war service
After the World war two Junkers Ju-52 continued its carier in both military and civil transportation. In many post-war airlines Ju-52 was the main workhorse. Thanks to their reliability Ju-52 could be seen in air forces worldwide, seving as cargo and paratroop transporter. In more than few of them Ju-52 remained in service until the end of 1970s. Longest service Tante Ju had in Swiss Air Force where it remained until 1980s.
In post war years Junkers Ju-52/3m was produced under licence in France and Spain. French version was named Toucan (A.A.C. 1 Toucan), Spanish was CASA 352 and 352L for civil version and T2B designation was used by Spanish Air Force.
From 1931. until 1952. 4.845 Junkers Ju-52 was made in all versions, 575 of which were completed before 1940. German plants then made a further 2,659, the rest comprising output by Amiot for the Luftwaffe. In France was made 400 Toucan’s and further 170 were built in Spain.
Some Ju-52s are still flying today. In Germany and Switzerland tourist can enjoy flight tours in this amazing aircraft.