Entered Service: 1956
Role: Strategic Bomber/ Maritime Strike/ Reconnaissance Platform
Service Ceiling: 50,000 feet
Range: 8,000 km
Max Speed: 700 MPH
During the Second World War, the Luftwaffe lacked a heavy bomber force that nearly proved to be a fatal flaw. The lack of a heavy bomber helped England survive the Battle of Britain. It’s suspected by some alternate historians that had Germany not defeated the Soviet Union in early 1942, the lack of long range bombers would have prevented the Luftwaffe from striking at Soviet war industries which at the time of the Soviet/German peace moving east.
Victory further delayed development of long range bombers. As it became clear that Germany and the United States found themselves in a ‘Cold War’ the Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht looked for ways to ensure that the Americans and their A-Bombs could not be used without impunity against the Reich. The solution was originally found in the first ICBMs developed by Wernher von Braun. However the deployment of super-sonic bombers from the American Strategic Air Command to England and Turkey, led senior German officials to worry that a sudden powerful strike by U.S. bombers could destroy their ICBM force (deployed in central Germany and southern Poland) before they could launch.
This combined with a study by the Luftwaffe confirmed that for a true nuclear deterrent to be maintained by the Reich it needed long range bombers. Junkers had made several designs for longer ranged bombers. One of these designs would become the Ju-132. Powered by six jet engines the bomber was subsonic but could travel to the United States and deliver nuclear ordnance. As the Cold War progressed newer bomber designs were produced and the role of the Ju-132 in nuclear attack planning decreased.
The Junkers platform however was reliable and versatile. Upgrades in the late 1960s led to the removal of the six original engines with four more powerful ones. The Kriegsmarine’s Marinefliegergeschwader arm which came into the development following the death of Herman Goring needed a strike platform to use against British and American ships. The Ju-132s were fitted with surface search radars and stand off missiles. By the late sixties it was not uncommon for American and British surface and carrier forces to be shadowed by Junkers bombers.
Other conventional bomber versions were sold to Italy and Iraq. Junkers 132s in Iraqi service saw combat during the Saudi-Iraq War. The bombers proved vulnerable to Saudi fighters in missions flown without heavy fighter support. While German versions had better ECM systems, the war showed the flaws of the Ju-132. Despite its weaknesses the Junkers continues to see service with the Luftwaffe in recon and specialized intelligence roles, and as a strike bomber with the Kriegsmarine.
Another aircraft from a world where Germany wins World War II and is locked in a Cold War with the United States and its Allies well into the 1980s.