The National Air & Space Museum's Ju 388
The National Air & Space Museum has a Ju 388L-1 (work number 560049) in deep storage at the Paul E. Garber Facility in Silver Hill, Maryland. It is the sole surviving Ju 388. The Germans completed this Ju 388 in early 1945. In March 1945 U.S. forces captured this aircraft at Merseburg. This was one of the aircraft transported to the U.S. on the HMS Reaper. The USAAF gave it the tail number FE-4010 and later changed the number to T2-4010. The USAAF added 10 flight hours to this aircraft at Wright Field, Ohio.[i] This aircraft was a display at the Dayton, Ohio in 1946. In October 1946 this was one of about 25 aircraft put on display at the Douglas Aircraft Plant in Orchard Place Airport, Park Ridge, Illinois. It was part of the National Aeronautical Collection. In September 1947 the National Aeronautical Collection was transferred to the Smithsonian.[ii] The Smithsonian moved the aircraft to the Paul E. Garber Facility in 1954. It was initially kept outside but was eventually moved indoors.
[i] Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (http://airandspace.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?object=nasm_A19600325000)
[ii] Luftwaffe over Ohio!, by Paul Straney, Air Classics in Volume 27, Number 7 (July 1991).
The Junkers Ju 388 Störtebeker[i] was a revised version of the Ju 88. The Ju 388 had a pressurized cabin and the Ju 388L’s engines had methanol-water injection. The Germans produced 103 Ju 388s[ii]. Only 23 reached Luftwaffe units. Ju 388s did fly some reconnaissance missions. The Germans did have plans to use Ju 388s as bomber-destroyers, night-fighters, and bombers. Ju 388s tested the Ruhrstahl X-4 and Henschel Hs-298 radio-controlled air-air missiles.[iii] On May 25, 1944 the General-Luftzeugmeister-Amt (Department of the Chief of Aircraft Procurement and Supply) called for the termination of the He 219 night-fighter program in favor of the Ju 388J and Ta 154 programs. Minister of Armaments Albert Speer soon overruled that order. The He 219 was already in production and flying combat missions. The Ju 388 V3, which was a bomber prototype, could carry a maximum bomb load of 6,610 lbs. Its normal bomb load would have been 4,400 lbs. Its defensive armament consisted of 2 un-aimed rear firing machine guns. The Germans believed its primary defense was its speed. The Germans had a similar belief about the Ju 88. It was believed the Ju 88s could outrun enemy fighters[iv], but at the advent of World War II modern fighters were much faster.
[i] Störtebeker, is a reference to the 14th century privateer Klaus Störtebeker.
[ii] The Luftwaffe War Diaries, by Cajus Bekker © 1964 by Macdonald & Company, Ltd.
[iii] Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (http://airandspace.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?object=nasm_A19600325000)
[iv] The Luftwaffe War Diaries, by Cajus Bekker © 1964 by Macdonald & Company, Ltd.
How Would it Stack Up?
Ju 388s did fly reconnaissance missions and the Ju 388L-1 had a service ceiling of 44,100 feet. The altitude capability and its maximum range of over 1,800 miles would seem to make it a capable aircraft in this role. As a night-fighter the Ju 388J-1 had speed similar to the Ju 88 night-fighters. A version with a superior engine may have given it a good advantage over the Ju 88s. The plans were to have DB603F engines, with a maximum take-off power of 2,400hp, available after the spring of 1945. While it may have been able to serve in the bombing role it wouldn’t have been available in numbers to make it much more than a nuisance bomber.
Against the B-29 Threat
335mph @ 26,300'
365mph @ 25,000'
2x30mm & 4x20mm cannons
1x20mm cannon 12x.50 cal machine guns
Ju 388 Night-Fighter Comparison
|Ju 88G-7b||Ju 388J-1||He 219A-7|
402mph @ 29,800'
362mph @ 40,400
416mph @ 22,965'
6x20mm & 2x13mm(rear firing)
2x30mm & 4x20mm
4x30mm & 4x20mm
Robert Sacchi (author) on May 26, 2016:
Unfortunately it is in storage now. The National Air & Space Museum is so backlogged in their restoration, and they are going to do some renovation to the DC museum, it will take decades before many of these aircraft will get restored.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 26, 2016:
Amazing to have the only surviving plane of that type on display.
Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on April 15, 2015:
It was amazing how much technology advanced in the five years of ww2. There were quite a few things that were being tested during the early part of the war that were already obsolete before the reached units in the field.
Robert Sacchi (author) on April 15, 2015:
Thank you for reading and the input. It seemed the Mosquito held the advantage over the Ju 388. Except possibly for long range reconnaissance the Ju 388 was obsolete before it was deployed. I didn't stack it up against the jets because the difference in performance would be too great.
Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on April 14, 2015:
Interesting read. The allies did have one plane that could climb higher than the JU88 and that was the De Havilland Mosquito that had an operational ceiling around 47,000 feet and believe it or not was primarily made from balsa wood!
Maybe with the JU 388 the Germans would have had one that could deal with the 'Mossie'
Enjoyed the hub