Medium Bombers

Photograph of restored B-25 Mitchell


Medium bombers were aircraft whose role lay somewhere between those of heavy and light bombers. Lacking the range and bomb load for strategic bombing, and too valuable to risk on most ground-support missions, they were typically employed against enemy lines of communication. They were usually twin-engine aircraft with a crew of around 5.

The Japanese Army designated all its bombers as either heavy or light, but most Japanese heavy bombers and a few light bombers could better be described as medium bombers. Nevertheless, we list them under their formal type classification. The Japanese Navy designed G3M "Nell" and G4M "Betty" as long-range naval strike aircraft. These proved unsuccessful in daylight attacks, in part because they lacked the survivability to operate out of range of friendly fighters. However, by 1943, the Japanese had turned to night torpedo attacks by "Bettys" that proved effective at the Battle of Rennell Island. The Allied response was to use radar pickets and low-flying night fighters.

The Americans had better success with daylight attacks, equipping their medium bombers with large numbers of forward-firing machine guns and using them in low-level skip bombing and parafrag attacks.

Fast Bombers. A number of medium bombers were designed as fast bombers, including the A-20 Havoc and the A-26 Invader. The British Mosquito was perhaps the ultimate expression of this design philosophy, though it saw service in the Pacific primarily as a reconnaissance aircraft. These aircraft were thought to be fast enough to evade fighters, but advances in fighter design meant that they could usually be intercepted. The Mosquito was the exception, because its construction gave it a low radar cross-section. Nevertheless, some of the other fast bombers were highly successful as low-level strafers.

Japanese medium bombers

G3M "Nell"

G4M "Betty"

American medium bombers

A-20 Havoc

A-26 Invader

A-28 Hudson

B-10 Martin

B-25 Mitchell

B-26 Marauder


Bergerud (2000)

Friedman (2004)

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