The Junkers Ju 290 was a large German, four-engine long-range transport, maritime patrol aircraft and heavy bomber used by the Luftwaffe late in World War II that had been developed from an earlier airliner.
The Junkers 290 was developed directly from the Ju 90 airliner, versions of which had been evaluated for military purposes, and was intended to replace the relatively slow Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor which by 1942 was proving increasingly vulnerable when confronted by Royal Air Force aircraft; the Fw 200’s airframe lacked sufficient strength for the role in any case.
The Ju 290 was also intended to meet the need for large transport aircraft.
A bomber version, the A-8, was planned, but never built.
Design was headed by Konrad Eicholtz.
The development programme resulted in the Ju 290 V1 prototype BD+TX, which first flew on 16 July 1942.
It featured a lengthened fuselage, more powerful engines, and a Trapoklappe hydraulic rear loading ramp.
Both the V1 and the first eight A-1 production aircraft were unarmed transports.
The need for heavy transports saw the A-1s pressed into service as soon as they were completed.
Several were lost in early 1943, including one taking part in the Stalingrad Airlift, and two flying supplies to German forces in Tunisia, and arming them became a priority.
The urgent need for Ju 290s in the long-range maritime reconnaissance role was now also high priority and resulted in the Ju 290A-2.
Three A-1 aircraft were converted to A-2 specification on the assembly line.
Production was slow due to the modifications necessary and the installation of strong defensive armament.
The A-2 was fitted with FuG 200 Hohentwiel low-UHF band search radar and a dorsal turret fitted with a 20 mm MG 151 cannon.
The Hohentwiel radar was successfully used to locate Allied convoys at ranges of up to 80 km (50 mi) from an altitude of 500 m (1,600 ft) or 100 km (62 mi) from an altitude of 1,000 m (3,300 ft).
It allowed the Ju 290 to track convoys while remaining out of range of anti-aircraft fire.
The A-3 version followed shortly after with additional navigational equipment and a heavier defensive armament.
It was fitted with two hydraulically powered HDL 151 dorsal turrets armed with 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons, with a further 20 mm MG 151/20 and a 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine gun fitted in a typically German Bola gondola (a fitment for almost all German WW II bomber aircraft) directly underneath the forward dorsal gun turret, and a 20 mm MG 151/20 fitted in the tail operated by a gunner in a prone position.
Two 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131s were also fitted in waist positions (Fensterlafetten).
The A-3, along with the A-2, also featured large fuselage auxiliary fuel tanks.
Both retained the rear loading ramp so that they could be used as transports if required.
The A-5 variant was fitted with increased armour protection, dual 13mm MG 131 in a rear-facing position in the gondola and had two dorsal turrets, operating either a 20mm MG 151/20 or a MG 151/15.
The last A-5, W. Nr. 0180, carried two 20mm MG 151 cannon in lieu of the smaller MG 131.
The A-5 had the capability of launching Fritz X and other guided munitions.
The improved A-7 version appeared in spring 1944; 13 were completed, and 10 served with the long-range reconnaissance group, Fernaufklärungsgruppe (FAGr) 5.
Some A-7s and some A-4s were fitted with a detachable nose turret armed with a 20 mm MG 151/20 for added defense against frontal attack.
No bombs were carried, as it was intended that the A-5 and A-7 would be fitted with the FuG 203 Kehl radio guidance system to launch MCLOS-guided Fritz X and Hs 293 anti-ship missiles.
Production lines were set up at the Letov aircraft factory in Prague for combat versions of the aircraft, commencing with the Ju 290 A-2, which carried the aforementioned Hohentwiel maritime search radar for its patrol role.
Minor changes in armament distinguished the A-3 and A-4, leading to the definitive A-5 variant.
The A-6 was a 50-passenger transport aircraft.
The B-1 was a high-altitude heavy bomber that was the last variant to be built; a B-2 version was also under development.
Hitler’s personal transport
On 26 November 1943, Ju 290 A-5, no. 0170, along with many other new aircraft and prototypes, was shown to Adolf Hitler at Insterburg, East Prussia.
Hitler was impressed by its potential and told Göring that he wanted a Ju 290 for his personal use.
A Ju 290 was not however assigned to the Fliegerstaffel des Fuehrers (FdF) until late 1944, when an A-7 was supplied, works number 0192, which had formerly been assigned to FAGr 5.
Modifications were completed by February 1945 at the FdF’s base at Pocking, Bavaria, a Stammkennzeichen alphabetic designation code of KR+LW being applied.
Hitler’s pilot, Hans Baur, tested the aircraft, but Hitler never flew in it.
Ju 290Z Zwilling
Junkers project documents from 1942 to 1944 indicate that a Zwilling variant was proposed.
It was to be composed of two Ju 290 fuselages and powered by eight BMW 9-801 engines, two mounted on each outboard wing and four on the inboard wing.
It was to carry a single Messerschmitt Me 328 parasite fighter on top of the right fuselage.
The Ju 290Z was cancelled in favour of the Ju 390.
28.64 m (94 ft 0 in)
42 m (137 ft 10 in)
6.83 m (22 ft 5 in)
205.3 m2 (2,210 sq ft)
24,000 kg (52,911 lb)
40,970 kg (90,323 lb)
Max take-off weight
44,969 kg (99,140 lb)
4 × BMW 801D 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines,
1,300 kW (1,700 hp) each for take-off
1,080 kW (1,450 hp) at 2,000 m (6,560 ft)
980 kW (1,310 hp) at 5,800 m (19,030 ft)
3-bladed constant-speed propellers
439 km/h (273 mph, 237 kn) at 5,800 m (19,030 ft)
360.5 km/h (224.0 mph, 194.7 kn) at 5,800 m (19,030 ft)
6,148 km (3,820 mi, 3,320 nmi) with 21,003 l (5,548 US gal; 4,620 imp gal)
6,000 m (19,685 ft)
Time to altitude
1,860 m (6,090 ft) in 9 minutes 48 seconds at 90,323 lb (40,970 kg)
2 × 20 mm (0.787 in) MG 151/20 cannons in dorsal turrets
1 × 20 mm (0.787 in) MG 151/20 in tail
2 × 20 mm (0.787 in) MG 151/20s at waist
1 × 20 mm (0.787 in) MG 151/20 in gondola
2 × 13 mm (0.512 in) MG 131 machine guns in gondola
Bomber versions could carry up to 3,000 kg (6,600 lb) of disposable stores or up to three Fritz X or Henschel Hs 293 radio-guided munitions, though these were not widely used