The Junkers Ju 488 was a project by Nazi Germany, to produce an easily manufacturable, long-range strategic bomber. In September of 1943 the RLM contracted Junkers with designing such a bomber. The design-departement of Junkers in Dessau showcased the proposed design of the Ju 488 bomber to the RLM in September of 1943.
The unique aspect of the Ju 488 was that the plane would achieve the requirement of being easily produced, by using already existing parts of the Ju 88, Ju 188, Ju 288 and Ju 388, which were all planes with at least semi set up production-lines that had resources already allocated to them.
The design was approved in early 1944 and to reduce strain on the production-plant in Dessau, the fuselage and wings of the first two prototypes, V1 and V2, also sometimes called V401 and V402, started being built in a factory near Toulouse, in German occupied France, with all other components being made by Junkers in Dessau, which would then send them to Toulouse for completion of the prototypes. Both V1 and V2 were, according to all sources I could find, identical in construction and purpose.
The Ju 488 V1 and V2 were almost completely made of metal, only the ventral protrusion, which contained the bomb-bay, was made of wood. The planes were built with a total of five fuel-tanks in the fuselage, above and behind the bomb-bay, with eight additional tanks in the wings, four in each. Despite the presence of a bomb-bay, the first two prototypes did not see provisions for defensive armaments. The four later prototypes (V3 to V6), which could almost be seen as pre-series aircraft, since the RLM ordered only prototypes and serial aircraft, were to be armed with two remotely controlled defensive turrets. One of these turrets was to be mounted on top of the fuselage and contain twin 13mm MG131 machineguns, while the second turret was to be located in the tail of the plane, with twin 20mm MG151/20 cannons. Both turrets would have been remotely operated by gunners in the cockpit, in fact, for being a strategic bomber, the Ju 488 only was planned with three crew-members, all located in the large glazed nose which was taken from the Ju 388.
The two prototypes were partially completed by 1944, when French resistance members destroyed the airframe of V1 on the 16th July 1944.
As a result of this set-back, the four planned prototypes of the actual production-model, with larger fuselages, V3 to V6 (also known as V403 to V406), were to be built in Germany, with the unfinished V2 also being planned to be shipped to Germany for completion. The fuselage of V2 was supposedly found by allies on a train-cart.
According to a few secondary sources, these to be armed prototypes with larger, modified fuselages did start being produced in late 1944 or early 1945, but if this is actually true is inconlusive, since neither pictures, nor known documentation of the V3 to V6 actually exist, or at least it does not seem like any documentation has survived the war.
Because of all these uncertainties, I will mainly suggest the Ju 488 in form of the V1 and V2 prototypes, with bombs, and no defensive armament, though how, or even if the Ju 488 could or would be implemented, is of course in the hands of the developers.
Ultimately, the Ju 488 was cancelled in early 1945, even though the initial plan was to adopt and operate this type by the middle of 1945.
Pictures of the prototype V1 (unknown if V2 was photographed, but it’s the same plane, save for it’s designation):
How the Ju 488 V1 could look ingame (if no defensive armament is added by the devs, it would lack the periscopes which are present on the shown first three models):
Potentially partially constructed V3 to V6 prototypes / pre-series (also known as V403 to V406) with larger, modified fuselage and defensive weapons:
V1 compared to V3:
Specifications (V1 / V2):
Crew: 3 (Pilot, Bombardier, Navigator)
Wing Span: 30,84m
Wing Area: 87m²
Takeoff Weight: 26.600kg
Bomb Load: 2000kg
Wing Loading: 305,75 kg/m²
Max Speed: 690 kmh
Climb Rate: 551m/min
Service Ceiling: 11.350m
Max Range: 3142km
Engines: 4x BMW 801TJ (1800HP each)
Armament: Up to 2000kg of bombs (no defensive armament)
Specifications (V3 to V6):
Crew: 3 (Pilot, Bombardier, Gunner)
Wing Span: 31,29m
Wing Area: 88m²
Takeoff Weight: 36.000kg
Bomb Load: 5000kg
Wing Loading: 409,1 kg/m²
Max Speed: 690 kmh
Climb Rate: 551m/min
Service Ceiling: 11.350m
Max Range: 4500km
Engines: 2x Jumo 222 A-3, 2x Jumo 222 B-3 (2500HP each) (unknown which Jumo 222 would be spinning right, and which would be spinning left)
Armament: 2x 13mm MG131, 2x 20mm MG151/20 & up to 5000kg of bombs
I have differing opinions on the V1 and V3, depending on which variant we would / could see ingame, so I will write a conclusion for each:
This variant would be the more “historically accurate” version of the plane, given that we have more information and documentation about it and solid proof of it’s construction exists.
In terms of performance, it would be a very high altitude long-range bomber with no defensive armament and up to 2000kg of bombs (probably combinations of SC1000’s, SC500’s and SC250’s). The plane would be a good intermediate bomber between the Me 264 and He 177, at around 5.3 to 5.7, it could even be a good premium or event vehicle, because of it’s experimental and unconventional nature. The Ju 488 V1 would certainly be a niche bomber, when compared to other, more conventional strategic bombers, because of its distinct lack of defensive weaponry, comparably small bomb-load but very high service-ceiling and exceptional speed (almost 700 kmh).
This would be the ultimate German propeller bomber, it would have exceptional speed and be able to reach high altitudes quickly, while having a great bomb-load of 5000kg, though the defensive armament would be somewhat lacking, especially the absence of a dedicated lower fuselage turret would make it vulnerable to belly attacks. Still, given the other upsides, the V3, technically the “pre-series” variant, would probably have to go to 6.0 or 6.3, which is why I would personally put it after the He 177 as the “top-tier” prop-driven bomber for Germany.
Thanks for reading! If you spot a mistake, or want to add something, please feel free to write a comment below!
Luftwaffe Secret Projects, Strategic Bombers 1935-1945, by Dieter Herwig and Heinz Rode