This latest Classic Luftwaffe book title is part one of a new 'landmark' study - in the words of the publisher- of the Junkers Ju 88 family and is exceptionally well done. It is a densely-packed 328-page volume covering the " Development, Production and Technical history " of this long-serving Luftwaffe multi-role aircraft and is compiled by US technical author, engineer and pilot William Medcalf. The book is printed on excellent coated and glossy paper throughout allowing the copious amount of illustrations their due. The layout of some Classic books has come in for some criticism in the past, but not here ; it is excellently readable without any excess areas of blank space.The text is well supported by several hundred rare photographs, manufacturer's handbook data and technical illustrations, scale line drawings and colour artwork courtesy of the excellent Simon Schatz and the incomparable Janusz Swaitlon. Medcalf describes the development and gestation of the Ju 88 with emphasis on flight testing and series construction and compares its performance with contemporary aircraft from abroad. The Ju 88 was probably the finest bomber to serve in the Luftwaffe bomber force, but its design, construction and speed meant that it was adaptable as a night-fighter, heavy fighter, torpedo-bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. This high-performance aircraft entered service in limited numbers during the campaign over Poland in 1939, but subsequently flew on every battle front on which the Luftwaffe operated throughout World War 2, from the early Blitzkrieg campaigns of 1939/40 through to the Mediterranean and the vast Russian theatre. It was known widely as a feared night fighter, " representing the pinnacle of German aeronautical design technology" according to author Medcalf who has researched the type over a forty-year period. As an engineer and 'classified' technical author Medcalf gives us a rather different perspective on the Ju 88 family compared to English-language works published hitherto - the section, for example, that examines the wing-skin "wrinkling" phenomenon observed on the Finnish Ju 88 fleet, or the comparison between tail fin profiles (Vergleichsmessungen zwischen Leitweik E und A4) is typical of the more "engineering-oriented" approach apparent in this volume devoted to the 'technical' history of the type - even so an 'gearhead' acquaintance of mine did have some issues with the text and was especially critical of the inadequate nature of the discussion on the engines. It is mentioned that crews preferred Jumo engined variants over BMW engines due to latter's reliability issues, but this is not analyzed in detail. It is not even mentioned that the Jumo 211J was produced in two slightly different Baureihen (Construction series). It is mentioned that the Jumo 213 was a development of the Jumo 211 with many "innovative features", yet no information on these features is forthcoming. In this respect Christoph Vernaleken's Junkers Ju 388 book published by Schiffer is much superior.
The Ju 88 served in numbers with the air forces of Finland, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Spain and France and its appeal as a combat aircraft, especially to modellers, is perhaps in large part due to its widely dispersed service. Its variants are thus also covered in depth here - a perhaps surprisingly large portion of the work is devoted to the entire 188/288/388 family. The wide array of armament and equipment with which the Ju 88 was fitted is also covered in depth - the Ju 88 A mounting RZ 65 rocket launchers suspended from the ETC racks was new to me. Modellers are well catered for with plenty of detail pics and illustrations along with Simon and Janusz's brilliant profile artwork covering a variety of markings and camouflage schemes - personal favourite here is probably the full-page artwork of the Ju 188 V3 WNr 10008 "ST+GL" that served as GfM Milch's personal transport as painted by Janusz Swaitlon.
The last chapter "Flying and Fighting the Ju 88, Ju 188 and Ju 388 " (Chapter 14 pages 279-307) serves as a prequel for the forthcoming volume II entitled " At war -Day and Night ", a work that looks just as exciting by the way. I am also pleased to report ( as a German-speaking enthusiast with a penchant for pilot accounts ) that my very modest contribution to Vol I appears on pages 304/305 with more to come in Vol II.
I should just mention the reason for the deduction of one star. The author poses the question in his introduction " Can a non-German write a good book about a Luftwaffe aircraft ? " and while providing plenty of convincing evidence that they can, he has come in for hefty criticism from a certain German readership (including Luftwaffe author Peter Achs) for a number of errors both of fact and more particularly in the transliteration of German expressions in the text. Of course if you had co-authored the superlative Fw 191 B-bomber programme book from Stedinger (as Achs has), one of the best German aircraft type histories ever compiled, and were also preparing your own history on the Ju 88 (as Achs is) then you might feel entitled to express similar sentiments. Aside from a relatively small selection of mistakes that frankly could have eluded anyone , most of this 'criticism' of Medcalf's work focuses on a number of German language typos. There are about 15-20 of them over the course of a densely-printed 328-page A-4 work. Achs takes great pleasure in showing us all how a small typo completely alters the meaning in German; if you know German you'll see this on page 19 for example ;"Reisenflugzeug" in stead of "Riesenflugzeug". These sorts of typos are unfortunate admittedly, but of relatively little consequence for the English-language readership for which this book was intended and of course most Germans make these sorts of mistakes too. Personally I don't think an aeronautical engineer who has spent the best part of a life-time researching a foreign aircraft type warrants the level of criticism he has received from some quarters merely because he can't write German like a native and if you have any interest in the Ju 88, do yourself a great favour and buy this book!