graduate

Bombers


Photograph of restored B-17 Flying Fortress 

National Museum of the USAF

Bombers were aircraft designed to drop bombs and other explosive ordinance on enemy surface targets. They generally also carried defensive machine gun or cannon armament. Most were optimized for a particular kind of bombing mission, which led to a bewildering variety of designs.

Heavy bombers were optimized for range and bomb load. Most were also fairly  heavily armed and protected with armor plate for survivability in enemy airspace. They were most suitable for strategic bombing of fixed locations such as arms factories or other economic infrastructure.

Medium bombers sacrificed some range and bomb load for speed and ease of manufacture. They were suitable for use against enemy lines of communication, but usually lacked the range and survivability for strategic bombing deep in enemy territory.

Light bombers carried a relatively light bomb load but were suitable for tactical missions requiring rapid response and flexibility. Most were single engine aircraft with a crew of two or three. Dive bombers specialized in accurate attacks with bombs against high-valued land or naval targets. Torpedo bombers, as the name implies, were naval aircraft specializing in delivering torpedoes against shipping, but they could also be employed as horizontal bombers against ground targets. A few light bombers, particularly in Japanese service, were capable neither of carrying torpedoes nor of maintaining the steep dives characteristic of dive bombers.

Heavy and medium bombers typically attacked using horizontal bombing methods that were notoriously inaccurate. During a 1938 exercise, Army bombers achieved a hit rate against target ship Utah of 11.9% from 8000' to 18,000' (2400m to 5500m) altitude, which was far better than ever achieved in actual combat.  From 7 December 1941 through the battle of Midway, Army bombers scored only a single hit on an enemy warship, which was at anchor at the time. A horizontal bombing attack also required that the bomber flight straight and level during the final bombing run, leaving it vulnerable to fighters or antiaircraft fire. The length of the run depended in part on the quality of the bomb sight being used, but the U.S. Navy estimated that the Norden bombsight required about a 45 second bombing run.

References

Bergerud (2000)

Friedman (2013)

Zimm (2011)



Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional