JU-87 Stuka

JU-87 Stuka Build
A build inspired by Battle of Britain

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At a Glance



Wingspan: 30 inches

Power: 18- to 24-gram outrunner motor

ESC: 12 to 15 amps

Propeller: 8 × 4.5 three-blade

Servos: Four 3.7 to 5.5 grams

Battery: 2S 450 to 500 mAh LiPo

Airframe weight: 8.5 ounces (242 grams)

Wing loading with battery: 8.7 ounces per sq. ft.

However, because the existing Stuka was a D series, and the models were built to match this example, there was a slight bending of historical accuracy because only the B series was available in 1940.

Some of the models used were designed by Dave Platt, including the Stuka. Dave has long been a significant contributor to the expansion and support of model building—whether it be Free Flight, Control Line, or RC. Known as "Mr. Scale," his models have impeccable detail and convincingly represent their full-scale subjects. When the opportunity arose to design a model of an aircraft featured during the Battle of Britain, and knowing that Dave had designed and built one himself, I knew I wanted to build the Stuka!

The Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber is one of the most recognizable aircraft from the Second World War. Known for its "precision" bombing and sirens mounted to its wheel pants, the Stuka’s presence was most publicized during the early years of the war. From 1939 to mid-1941, the B series saw action in nearly all of the campaigns that the Luftwaffe was engaged in, with its Jericho trumpet sirens screaming as the aircraft was in its 70° dive.

The psychological impact to those on the ground was terrifying; however, it also literally sounded the alarm that Stukas were in the area and provided antiaircraft gunners warning that an attack was imminent. These sirens also could not be stopped in level flight, so they could be heard by the pilots when cruising at higher speeds, much to their discomfort. While initially successful, if they were not accompanied by Me 109 or Me 110 escorts, they were often easy prey for Allied fighters.

Their shortcomings became glaring during the Battle of Britain, sustaining a 20% loss rate during one week of combat. After mostly pulling them from the battle, they soldiered on with the newer D series, seeing significant action over Russia. This updated version moved the radiators to under the wing (similar to an Me 109), streamlined the canopy, and had the sirens removed. Even with the multiple improvements, the top airspeed only increased roughly 15 mph, amounting to a top speed of 255 mph.

The G was the last major series of the Stuka, focused as an anti-tank ground-attack variant. Although considered outdated early in the war, the Stuka continued to see service until the conclusion in 1945. While slow and often an easy target, it could still be an effective weapon. Hans-Ulrich Rudel was the "ace" among Stuka pilots, claiming more than 500 tanks, a destroyer, a battleship, and several air-to-air victories flying Ju-87s on the Eastern Front.

The Stuka is the sixth model in the park flyer series. It has a wingspan of 30 inches and is the D version to match those of the movie. Construction is mostly 3/32-inch balsa and 1/8-inch light plywood, with some 1/16- and 1/4-inch balsa used. The plans, parts, construction notes, cockpit, and tissue templates (four livery options) can be downloaded from www.ModelAviation.com; however, if you’re not wanting to hand-cut parts, you can get a short kit from Manzano Laser Works.

Power comes from a 24-gram motor spinning an 8 × 4.5 three-blade propeller. Rabid Models offers both a 3D-printed spinner and wheels designed specifically for the model. The company also offers a power package that includes the motor, spinner, propeller, and some accessories. Both Manzano and Rabid are listed in "Sources." As with the other models in this series, the canopy is made from flat, clear sheet and is folded to shape. After you have your short kit or your parts cut, it’s time to "flood the cowling" and get on with the build.

Start construction with the tail surfaces. The vertical rudder and horizontal elevators are made from 3/32-inch sheet balsa. There are several cutouts for 3/32-inch square stringers to run across the grain, which help prevent warping. Just be sure to keep the bottom cutout on the vertical open, because it is where the horizontal is located.

Moving on to the fuselage, pin all of the keel parts over the plans along with V1 and V2. The upper keel parts are connected to the lower keel with 3/32-inch square stringers at the former locations. This provides a better surface for the former halves to adhere to and eliminates the need to notch each former for "half" of the keel. When you’re satisfied, glue the keels, stringers, and V parts.

With a sanding block, lightly sand the top of the keel assembly to level out any differences in balsa thickness. Glue the sub-formers to F4 and F7. Starting with F10, add the left former halves to the keel and vertical stringers. Use the center stringer on the plans for alignment (#5, per the plans details).

Keep moving forward with the formers. Note that while at an angle, F4 is still 90° to the board. Add the center stringer from F2 all the way to butt against the stringer on K4. The stringers near the nose are best added with the "piggy-back" method. This is done by adding a scrap stringer that is notched into F2 and butts against F3 right under the notch. The main stringer is then glued on top of the scrap piggy-backing it.

After it has dried, the lamination is planed down and sanded to match the correct curve to be flush with F2 (there is also a detail on the plans to show this process). This reduces the stress on the airframe and does not impact the strength of the model. The bottom hatch rail is added, along with the chin stringers. The V3 and V4 parts are added and shaped. The remaining stringers are added, except for the top two forward F4s—these will be added later when building the hatch. Sand the fuselage half to knock off any glue or high spots before removing it from the board.

02. Stringers forward of F3 have a piggyback shape.

03. This shows the mounted hinge. Take note of the scrap material on top of the hinge.

04. When gluing the wing panels, the center panel is on the dihedral jig and the outer panel is elevated 1.5 inches at W12.

Before adding the right half of the fuselage, the builder will need to determine how many F3As are needed. Using the motor with the mount attached, check the distance from where F1 will be and where the face of F3 will be (having the spinner at this time is helpful). The prototype needed three F3As in addition to part FW to have the best fit. Once determined, glue the F3As to the right side of F3 using the marks on the part before gluing FW in place.

Use the marking on FW (and the F3 detail on the plans) to mount your motor offset for the right thrust. The motor mount is shimmed 1/32 of an inch to achieve 1.5° to 2° of right thrust. Remove the motor but keep the mount in place. Remove the precut section of F3 before gluing the formers and adding the stringers to the right side. Use K1 and K8 as a guide when shaping the piggy-back stringers.

Place clear tape on the top of the lower hatch rail, the rear face of F4, and the forward face of F7 in the hatch area to help keep the glue off of the lower rail and parts. Add the upper hatch rail, F4A, F5A, and F7A. Glue these parts together—take care to be like Simon by not "sticking like glue" to the rest of the fuselage! Add the two remaining top stringers before sanding the hatch area, blending the rails to match the fuselage sides.

Before cutting the hatch free, add two hard balsa or basswood stringers on the inside edge of the upper hatch rail from F5A to F7A. With the hatch removed, add the thin sheet metal to the rear of F7A and the 1/8 × 3/32-inch round magnet into the top of F7. A wooden dowl holds the front of the hatch in place—this is mounted in F5A and F4A, to the side of K1, and passes into the top of F4. Add the 1/16-inch crossgrained decking on top of the center stringer between F4 and F7, mounting the rudder and elevator servos in front of F7.

One of the many unique features of the Stuka is its wing—and all of the oddities about it! To start, the wing is an inverted gull shape, similar to a Corsair. Secondly, it has wheel pants, and just outside of those are the dive brakes. Finally, all of the control surfaces are mounted and hinged below and behind the wing’s trailing edge (TE). These features are not difficult to replicate. Take some time to study the plans before starting construction.

Make the leading edge (LE) blanks from medium balsa using the templates on the plans. Make up the spar assemblies and TEs. Starting with the center panel first, pin the LEs and TEs in place, along with one W1. Slide spars 1 and 2 in place—note the extra notch behind them in the ribs (stringers from the inner panel will slide into them later). Add stringers 1 and 4.

The inner panel is built the same, pinning the LEs and TEs in place. Slide spars 3 and 4 into W2 and W3, using the spar sides to set the rib angles. Note the extra notch in front of spars 3 and 4—stringers from the outer panel will slide into them later. Add stringers 1 and 4.

In preparation to build the outer panel, glue the two washout jig (WOJ) parts together and pin them in place. Add clear tape over the section that will be under W13. Add the LE blank and the TE, noting the pin location outside of W11 and the outer tip resting on top of the WOJ. Place stringer 1, spar 5/stringer 2, and stringer 3 on the plans with their tips also on the WOJ. Slide W13 in place on top of the stringers and WOJ. Stringer 4 butts against W13 and can be set in place—use W8 to help with the stringer placement.

05. The model is framed before covering.

06. The printed tissue panel sheets are 8.5 × 14 inches.

07. Some sections of the tissue panels have notes. In this example, it needs to be cut along the line.

08. The wheel pant is covered. The axle is made from 1/32-diameter wire bent with a mounting flange.

Once satisfied, glue the parts together, making sure that the ribs are 90° to the board. Add W9 through W12 and the servo plate in place, and then glue. Slide spar 6, using it along with spar 5, to set the angle of W7. Add the top stringers, noting that 4 ends at W12.

The gear-mount section is made up of three ribs—W4, W5, and W6. Glue these together and sand them smooth. There are templates on the plans to help shape the wing’s LEs. Place masking tape over the ribs behind the LE (top and bottom) and use a block plane to rough-shape it. Finish it with a sanding block.

Mounting the ailerons is next—Du-Bro small nylon pinned hinges are used for this. Mark their location using the plans. Shave/sand this area of the TE down by roughly 1/32 of an inch (the thickness of the hinge). Add a scrap to box-in the slot and blend the scrap to the ribs. Mark a line 3/32 of an inch back from the LE on the aileron, and then mark the hinge slot location.

Cut the slot though the top of the aileron clear to the bottom and test-mount it to the wing. The hinge will be at a 90° angle from the TE to the aileron. Once covered, additional support for the hinges will be added to the aileron (see plans details). Build the other wing half the same way.

Make the center section dihedral jig from scrap balsa or cardboard and place it flat on the table with the center panel on top of it. Using the plans as a guide, slide the inner panel against the center panel—the bottom of W3 will be flush against the board and the side of W2 will be flat against the side of W1. The bottom 2 and 3 stringers will slide in the notches behind the center panel’s spars 1 and 2.

Adjust the notches as needed before gluing. The inner panel’s 2 and 3 stringers will be glued against the backside of spars 1 and 2. Slide the gear mount section in place against W7 before sliding this assembly into place against the inner panel. Elevate the tip of the outer panel by 1.5 inches at W12. The top 2 and 3 stringers of the outer panel will slide into the notches in front of spars 3 and 4.

Adjust the notches as needed before gluing the inner panel, gear mount, and outer panel together. The outer panel’s 2 and 3 stringers will be glued against the frontside of spars 3 and 4.

The wheel pants are made up of laminations of 3/32-inch balsa and 1/8-inch light plywood. WP6A is made of balsa and is on the outside, while WP6 is made from plywood and is on the inside edge of WP4. Glue the laminations together according to the plans and sand to a teardrop shape. The wheels are 1.75 × 3/8 inches—the 3D-printed ones really dress up the model. The axle is from 1/32-inch wire cut to shape. After the model is covered, the plywood section of WP1 slides into the slot in W5.

Build and finish the detail parts—the radiators, exhaust stacks, and dive brakes. Glue the C parts to the hatch, trimming the cross stringer as needed. Mount the servos in the wing halves, testing before gluing them to the servo plates. Mount the elevator and rudder servos. The tail surfaces were hinged with CA hinge material.

Test-fit the tail and run the control rods of 1/32-inch wire. Box in the wire against the stringers with scrap to keep them from flexing. On the prototype, the ESC and receiver were mounted in the fuselage between the wing and the bottom of the 1/16-inch decking. Trim the stringers on the left side for the tail wheel assembly—block in and blend as needed.

The prototype was covered in printed tissue. The tissue used was crepe or "exam table paper." This is similar to standard modeling tissue, but it is slightly thicker and allows for denser colors when printing. The model can be covered with lightweight film, but the detail available with the tissue really helps the model shine. The tissue templates can be downloaded with the plans. If going with the printed tissue, follow the steps in the construction and covering instructions. There are also links in "Sources" that go into great detail about how to print and apply the tissue.

The canopy is made from flat sheet, and there is a clear glass and a faux glass (light blue) version. These can be printed on standard paper and cut to shape. The clear plastic sheet for the "glass" is 3 mil or roughly .003-inches thick—a report protector with a clear cover can be used. Follow the instructions and use canopy glue to attach it to the hatch. There is also a profile pilot and cockpit that can be printed, and these look nice when paired with the glass canopy.

Balance the model according to the plans. The prototype balanced on the 2 stringer with the 2S 450 mAh battery mounted in the front cockpit area. However, for the first flights, you might want to move it to the 20% range (noted on the wing plans). Test the controls and set the throws as noted on the plans. These will allow for basic maneuvers, but more deflection might be needed for rolls.

Weighing 8.5 ounces without the battery pack, the model takes off quickly and climbs out well, with the three-blade propeller providing plenty of power. Loops, Lazy 8s, and wingovers are a breeze when you remember "not to fly straight-and-level for more than 30 seconds in a combat area." The stall is gentle with the nose dropping and the wing is level.

For landings, gently pull the power back throughout the final approach, letting it settle in for a smooth touchdown—that way, you won’t hear "booms-a-daisy … it’s enough to make you weep," from the peanut gallery.

I hope you give the Stuka a try because it is a fun build and a nice-flying model. If you do not recall all of the Battle of Britain references in the article, it’s time to watch this great movie again!

09. The main sections of the model have been covered.

10. The aileron is mounted and the flap mounts are glued with canopy glue.

11. The dive brake and radiator are mounted. Note the slot for the wheel pant.

12. The radio installation area is covered by the belly pan.


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