The Junkers Ju 52 was a German tri-engine transport aircraft used during World War II. It first flew in 1930 and was the Axis equivalent of the C-47 Skytrain, serving on all fronts in a variety of roles.
The first Ju 52 production model made for the military was designated the Ju 52/3mge. Conceived as the last in a long line of corrugated metal skinned aircraft, the Ju 52 was a low wing cantilever monoplane, with a fixed undercarriage and tail skid, and powered - in its original form - by a single engine located in the nose. Designed primarily as a transport aircraft, the Ju 52 had a 590 cu ft (16.7 cu m) cargo hold, accessed via a large horizontally divided door, of which the lower section served as a loading platform. a number of smaller doors provided access to the auxiliary compartments aft of the main cabin and below the floor. The type could also be used as a 15-17 passenger airliner.
The total weight of the aircraft was around 5,700 kilograms empty, with a total length of around 18.8 meters. The wingspan meanwhile, was around 29 meters. The Ju 52's power came from three BMW 123A-3 engines that were capable of propelling it at speeds of up to 265 kilometers per hour. The operational range was 1,000 kilometers with a service ceiling of 5,900 meters.
The Ju 52 in service was troublesome, with a limited armament, the Ju 52 was often shot down with very little effort by patrolling allied aircraft. However, compared to almost any other German transport aircraft, the Ju 52 was certainly the most reliable. It was easy to maintain and was not phased by weather conditions often, though some exceptions were made in the Stalingrad campaign, such as being forced to heat the engines with campfires placed under the aircraft.
The first variant of the series was the Ju 52/3mg3e which was re-equipped with three new BMW radial engines, a new radio system, and bomb release. Capable of carrying six 220-lb (100-kg) bombs, the Ju 52/3mg3e was fitted with dorsal and ventral 'dustbin' gun positions, each carrying a single MG 15 machine gun. The Ju 52/3m g4e was equipped with strengthened landing gear, and tailwheel in place of a skid. The Ju 52/3m g5e was similar to g4e, but with de-icing gear and provision for wheeled or float undercarriage. The g6e was equipped with new radio equipment. The g7e was most notably for having an autopilot, wider cargo door and internal modifications. The last variant, the G8e had wheeled undercarriage only. 
First flown - in single engine form - on 13 October 1930, the Ju 52 design was adapted in 1931 to feature three engines as the Ju 52/3m, with the first three engine example making it's initial flight in April 1932. Following construction of a large number for civil use, the first military version, the Ju 52/3mg3e was produced in 1934, in an attempt to develop a bomber quickly and without causing undue interruption to the highly profitable commercial production line. The first examples of the 450 Ju 52s were delivered to the Luftwaffe during 1934-35 were assigned to Kampfgeschwader 152 'Hindenburg'.
The Ju 52 following acceptance into service was then put into production for transport groups across the Luftwaffe. It became the standard transport aircraft during the war and was used in every theater that the Germans had fought in. However, during the conflict, the Ju 52 had suffered crippling losses. They were easy targets for Allied aircraft which, as the war went on became ever more prevalent with the loss of German air superiority.
However, with so many in common use, the Ju 52 was still used throughout the conflict in a variety of roles from light bomber to paradrop airframe. One of the most notably conflicts in which the Ju 52 served was over Crete, dropping off Fallshirmjäger paratroopers in an attempt to secure the island. However, losses were so severe that major paradrop operations with the Fallshirmjäger were suspended from then on. Another conflict was the Battle of Stalingrad in which several were lost to Soviet T-34s attacking Tatsinkaya Airfield. In total, around 4,800 examples were produced during the war.
- Kay, Antony L and J R Smith. German Aircraft of the Second World War. Putnam Aeronautical Books. 2002. ISBN 0 85177 920 4 Pages 180 - 181
- Gunston, Bill (Forward). Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. Tiger Books. 1989. ISBN 1-85501-996-5. (Reprint of Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1945/1946. Bridgeman, Leonard (Editor). 1946). Page 170
- World Aircraft Information Files Aviation Partwork. Midsummer Books Ltd. File 160 Sheet 1 (World Military Aircraft:Junkers Ju 52/3m - 'Tante Ju')