Since the Second World War, strategic bomber aircraft strike terror and among civilian populations because of their destructive power.
Bomber Aircraft are warplanes designed to drop conventional or nuclear bombs on military and civilian targets. These warplanes can attack enemy targets from low, medium, or high altitudes and from short, medium, or long distances. These warplanes can execute strike operations deep within the enemy’s territory.
Bomber aircraft have been used in almost every major conflict since the First World War. The first bomber aircraft could drop only a few bombs on the enemy’s targets, which was usually over battlefields. By the Second World War, large bomber aircraft with greater weapons holding capacity and longer range were employed to destroy both military and civilian targets worldwide.
Since the 1950s, jet powered bomber aircraft were developed to destroy tactical targets quickly and with precision guide munitions, reducing the need to use ground troops for these combat operations. Larger heavy bomber warplanes with great strategic-range became deterrents against enemy attacks.
Bomber Aircraft History
Similar to many other warplanes, the first bomber aircraft were developed in the early 1900s, during the First World War. During that time, planes began to carry ammunition to drop on enemy troops as they flew over them. When warplanes became bigger and stronger, so did the number of bombs they were able to carry. During the Second World War, all the major powers used huge bomber fleets to destroy their enemy’s military and civilian targets.
Germany flattened London in 1940 and 1941, during the early part of the war. By 1943, American and British bombers were retaliating in large, round-the-clock raids against German cities and military targets. In the Pacific, Japanese bombers attacked cities all over Asia, particularly in China. American bombers destroyed large areas of all major Japanese cities, including two atomic bomb attacks in August 1945.
Since the Second World War, large strategic bombers have stood alert as an important deterrent to nuclear war. They have also been used for conventional attacks in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War. However, the majority of bombers in use today are dual-purpose fighter-bombers. Advances in the development of weapons development have made bombing safer for the attacking pilots because many weapons, such as cruise missiles, are launched some distance away from the target.
Bomber Aircraft Crew Size
Bomber aircraft crew size differs depending on the type and mission of the bomber aircraft. A large heavy bomber aircraft usually necessitates either a four or five person crew. The personnel onboard usually include one pilot, one copilot, one radar officer, one flight engineer, and one gunner or weapons operator.
Bomber aircraft are equipped with electronic warfare technology, such as radar jammers, to aid them in attacking heavily defended enemy targets. Since bomber aircraft are vulnerable targets for fast-moving enemy fighter aircraft and advanced missile systems, these warplanes are usually protected by other fighter aircraft that serve as bomber aircraft escorts. The Tuskegee airmen were some of the best bomber escort fighter pilots during the Second World War.
Bomber Aircraft Types
Bomber aircraft can range in size from large strategic bombers to smaller tactical fighter-bombers. Strategic bombers are equipped to carry numerous heavy bombs or missiles over a great distance. The US designed B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber can carry as much as 27,200 kilograms of conventional explosive munitions to attack targets more than 6400 kilometers away.
Modern bombers can carry conventional bombs, nuclear bombs, and long-range cruise missiles. Weapons are either carried in bomb holding areas referred to as the bomb bay or attached to the aircraft wings. Air-to-ground cruise missiles (AGM) or air-to-air cruise missiles (AAM) can be fired at targets over 2400 kilometers away and can be armed with either nuclear or conventional warheads. Conventional or nuclear bombs are dropped from extremely high altitudes over civilian or military targets.
US B-52 Bomber Aircraft
Since the 1950s, only the United States and Russia operate strategic bomber aircraft. US strategic bombers include the B-52 Stratofortress, the B-1 Lancer, and the B-2 Spirit. The B-52, which first flew in 1953, is one of the oldest operating bomber warplanes.
The B-52 has seen service during the Vietnam War, during the1991 Persian Gulf War, and during the 2003 Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The B-52 Stratofortress is largest bomber aircraft in the USAF and it remains the oldest bomber warplane still in operational service. B-52s were originally designed to carry nuclear weapons, but have been modified to carry conventional bombs as well.
B-1 and B-2 Stealth Bomber Aircraft
The US designed B-1 Lancer warplane has movable swing-wings that facilitate its flying capability either low to the ground at slow speeds or at high altitudes and supersonic speeds. It was originally designed for low altitude penetration missions against ICBMs or standoff Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) attacks.
About 100 of these advanced bomber warplanes were built in the 1980s to increase the US strategic bomber aircraft capability. The US designed B-2 Stealth warplane is an advanced technology strategic bomber aircraft. It appears like a flying wing and is equipped with specialized features that make it nearly invisible to radar detection.
Russian Strategic Bomber Aircraft
Russian strategic bombers include the Tu-22/26 BACKFIREand the Tu-160 BLACKJACK Both of these warplanes have movable wings and are capable of supersonic speeds. The BACKFIRE, developed in the 1970s, is flown mainly by the Russian Navy to attack enemy ships.
The BLACKJACK, developed in the 1980s, resembles the US B-1 Lancer bomber because the BLACKJACK is a Soviet copy of US bomber technology. The BLACKJACK can attack at low or high altitudes, and can carry a variety of missiles and bombs.
Fighter-bombers, also known as strike fighters, are much smaller then strategic bombers. They are dual-purpose aircraft that can drop bombs and also fight enemy planes. Fighter-bombers carry a much smaller number of bombs over a shorter distance to attack enemy targets. They are able to protect themselves against attack and do not require other aircraft as escorts. Fighter-bombers in use today include the American F/A-18 Hornet, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and the Russian Su-27 Flanker.