A bomber is a combat aircraft designed to attack ground and naval targets by dropping air-to-ground weaponry (such as bombs), launching torpedoes, or deploying air-launched cruise missiles. The first use of bombs dropped from an aircraft occurred in the Italo-Turkish War, with the first major deployments coming in the First World War and Second World War by all major airforces causing devastating damage to cities, towns, and rural areas. The first purpose built bombers were the Italian Caproni Ca 30 and British Bristol T.B.8, both of 1913. Some bombers were decorated with Nose art or Victory markings.
There are two major classifications of bomber: strategic and tactical. Strategic bombing is done by heavy bombers primarily designed for long-range bombing missions against strategic targets to diminish the enemy's ability to wage war by limiting access to resources through crippling infrastructure or reducing industrial output. Tactical bombing is aimed at countering enemy military activity and in supporting offensive operations, and is typically assigned to smaller aircraft operating at shorter ranges, typically near the troops on the ground or against enemy shipping.
During WWII with engine power as a major limitation, combined with the desire for accuracy and other operational factors, bomber designs tended to be tailored to specific roles. However, in during the Cold War bombers were the only means of carrying nuclear weapons to enemy targets, and held the role of deterrence. With the advent of guided air-to-air missiles, bombers needed to avoid interception. High-speed and high-altitude flying became a means of evading detection and attack. With the advent of ICBM's the role of the bomber was brought to a more tactical focus in close air support roles, and a focus on stealth technology for strategic bombers.
Strategic bombing is done by heavy bombers primarily designed for long-range bombing missions against strategic targets such as supply bases, bridges, factories, shipyards, and cities themselves, to diminish the enemy's ability to wage war by limiting access to resources through crippling infrastructure or reducing industrial output. Current examples include the strategic nuclear-armed bombers: B-2 Spirit, B-52 Stratofortress, Tupolev Tu-95 'Bear', Tupolev Tu-22M 'Backfire' and Tupolev Tu-160 "Blackjack"; historically notable examples are the: Gotha G.IV, Avro Lancaster, Heinkel He 111, Junkers Ju 88, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Consolidated B-24 Liberator, Boeing B-29 Superfortress, and Tupolev Tu-16 'Badger'.
Tactical bombing, aimed at countering enemy military activity and in supporting offensive operations, is typically assigned to smaller aircraft operating at shorter ranges, typically near the troops on the ground or against enemy shipping. This role is filled by tactical bomber class, which crosses and blurs with various other aircraft categories: light bombers, medium bombers, dive bombers, interdictors, fighter-bombers, attack aircraft, multirole combat aircraft, and others.
The first use of an air-dropped bomb (actually four hand grenades specially manufactured by the Italian naval arsenal) was carried out by Italian Second Lieutenant Giulio Gavottion 1 November 1911 during the Italo-Turkish war in Libya. although his plane was not designed for the task of bombing, and his improvised attack on Ottoman positions at Ainzzarra had little impact. These picric acid-filled steel spheres were nicknamed "ballerinas" from the fluttering fabric ribbons attached.
On 16 October 1912, observer Prodan Tarakchiev dropped two of those bombs on the Turkish railway station of Karağaç (near the besieged Edirne) from an Albatros F.2 aircraft piloted by Radul Milkov, for the first time in this campaign.This is deemed to be the first use of an aircraft as a bomber.
The first heavier-than-air aircraft purposely designed for bombing were the Italian Caproni Ca 30 and British Bristol T.B.8, both of 1913. lb (4.5 kg) bombs, which could be dropped singly or as a salvo as required.The Bristol T.B.8 was an early British single engined biplane built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company. They were fitted with a prismatic Bombsight in the front cockpit and a cylindrical bomb carrier in the lower forward fuselage capable of carrying twelve 10
The aircraft was purchased for use both by the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), and three T.B.8s, that were being displayed in Paris during December 1913 fitted with bombing equipment, were sent to France following the outbreak of war. Under the command of Charles Rumney Samson, a bombing attack on German gun batteries at Middelkerke, Belgium was executed on 25 November 1914.
The dirigible, or airship, was developed in the early 20th century. Early airships were prone to disaster, but slowly the airship became more dependable, with a more rigid structure and stronger skin. Prior to the outbreak of war, Zeppelins, a larger and more streamlined form of airship designed by German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, were outfitted to carry bombs to attack targets at long range. These were the first long range, strategic bombers. Although the German air arm was strong, with a total of 123 airships by the end of the war, they were vulnerable to attack and engine failure, as well as navigational issues. German airships inflicted little damage on all 51 raids, with 557 Britons killed and 1,358 injured. The German Navy lost 53 of its 73 airships, and the German Army lost 26 of its 50 ships.
The Caproni Ca 30 was built by Gianni Caproni in Italy. It was a twin-boom biplane with three 67 kW (80 hp) Gnome rotary engines and first flew in October 1914. Test flights revealed power to be insufficient and the engine layout unworkable, and Caproni soon adopted a more conventional approach installing three 81 kW (110 hp) Fiat A.10s. The improved design was bought by the Italian Army and it was delivered in quantity from August 1915.
While mainly used as a trainer, Avro 504s were also briefly used as bombers at the start of the First World War by the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) when they were used for raids on the German airship sheds.
Bombing raids and interdiction operations were mainly carried out by French and British forces during the War as the German air arm was forced to concentrate its resources on a defensive strategy. Notably, bombing campaigns formed a part of the British offensive at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in 1915, with Royal Flying Corps squadrons attacking German railway stations in an attempt to hinder the logistical supply of the German army. The early, improvised attempts at bombing that characterized the early part of the war slowly gave way to a more organized and systematic approach to strategic and tactical bombing, pioneered by various air power strategists of the Entente, especially Major Hugh Trenchard; he was the first to advocate that there should be "... sustained [strategic bombing] attacks with a view to interrupting the enemy's railway communications ... in conjunction with the main operations of the Allied Armies."
When the war started, bombing was very crude (hand-held bombs were thrown over the side) yet by the end of the war long-range bombers equipped with complex mechanical bombing computers were being built, designed to carry large loads to destroy enemy industrial targets. The most important bombers used in World War I were the French Breguet 14, British de Havilland DH-4, German Albatros C.III and Russian Sikorsky Ilya Muromets. The Russian Sikorsky Ilya Muromets, was the first four-engine bomber to equip a dedicated strategic bombing unit during World War I. This heavy bomber was unrivaled in the early stages of the war, as the Central Powers had no comparable aircraft until much later.
Long range bombing raids were carried out at night by multi-engine biplanes such as the Gotha G.IV (whose name was synonymous with all multi-engine German bombers) and later the Handley Page Type O; the majority of bombing was done by single-engined biplanes with one or two crew members flying short distances to attack enemy lines and immediate hinterland. As the effectiveness of a bomber was dependent on the weight and accuracy of its bomb load, ever larger bombers were developed starting in World War I, while considerable money was spent developing suitable bombsights.
With engine power as a major limitation, combined with the desire for accuracy and other operational factors, bomber designs tended to be tailored to specific roles. By the start of the war this included:
Bombers are not intended to attack other aircraft although most were fitted with defensive weapons. World War II saw the beginning of the widespread use of high speed bombers which dispensed with defensive weapons to be able to attain higher speed, such as with the de Havilland Mosquito, a philosophy that continued with many Cold War bombers.
Some smaller designs have been used as the basis for night fighters, and a number of fighters, such as the Hawker Hurricane were used as ground attack aircraft, replacing earlier conventional light bombers that proved unable to defend themselves while carrying a useful bomb load.
At the start of the Cold War, bombers were the only means of carrying nuclear weapons to enemy targets, and had the role of deterrence. With the advent of guided air-to-air missiles, bombers needed to avoid interception. High-speed and high-altitude flying became a means of evading detection and attack. Designs such as the English Electric Canberra could fly faster or higher than contemporary fighters. When surface-to-air missiles became capable of hitting high-flying bombers, bombers were flown at low altitudes to evade radar detection and interception.
Once "stand off" nuclear weapon designs were developed, bombers did not need to pass over the target to make an attack; they could fire and turn away to escape the blast. Nuclear strike aircraft were generally finished in bare metal or anti-flash white to minimize absorption of thermal radiation from the flash of a nuclear explosion. The need to drop conventional bombs remained in conflicts with non-nuclear powers, such as the Vietnam War or Malayan Emergency.
The development of large strategic bombers stagnated in the later part of the Cold War because of spiraling costs and the development of the Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) – which was felt to have similar deterrent value while being impossible to intercept. Because of this, the United States Air Force XB-70 Valkyrie program was cancelled in the early 1960s; the later B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit aircraft entered service only after protracted political and development problems. Their high cost meant that few were built and the 1950s-designed B-52s are projected to remain in use until the 2040s. Similarly, the Soviet Union used the intermediate-range Tu-22M 'Backfire' in the 1970s, but their Mach 3 bomber project stalled. The Mach 2 Tu-160 'Blackjack' was built only in tiny numbers, leaving the 1950s Tupolev Tu-16 and Tu-95 'Bear' heavy bombers to continue being used into the 21st century.
The British strategic bombing force largely came to an end when the V bomber force was phased out; the last of which left service in 1983. The French Mirage IV bomber version was retired in 1996, although the Mirage 2000N and the Rafale have taken on this role. The only other nation that fields strategic bombing forces is China, which has a number of Xian H-6s.
At present, the U.S. and Russia are involved in developing replacements for their legacy bomber fleets, the USAF with the Northrop Grumman B-21 and the Russian Air Force with the PAK DA. A 1999 USAF report calls for the US bomber fleet to remain in service until the late 2030s-early 2040s, and the B-21 is scheduled to reach deployment in the 2020s.The U.S. is also considering another bomber in 2037. The B-21, however, required to provide an answer to the fifth generation defense systems (such as SA-21 Growlers, bistatic radar and active electronically scanned array radar). Also, it has been chosen to be able to stand against rising superpowers and other countries with semi-advanced military capability. Finally, a third reason is the role of long-term air support for areas with a low threat level (Iraq, Afghanistan), the latter referred to as close air support for the global war on terror (CAS for GWOT). The B-21 would thus be able to stay for extended periods on a same location (called persistence).
Occasionally, military aircraft have been used to bomb ice jams with limited success as part of an effort to clear them.
A cruise missile is a guided missile used against terrestrial targets, that remains in the atmosphere and flies the major portion of its flight path at approximately constant speed. Cruise missiles are designed to deliver a large warhead over long distances with high precision. Modern cruise missiles are capable of travelling at supersonic or high subsonic speeds, are self-navigating, and are able to fly on a non-ballistic, extremely low-altitude trajectory.
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in total war with the goal of defeating the enemy by destroying its morale, its economic ability to produce and transport materiel to the theatres of military operations, or both. It is a systematically organized and executed attack from the air which can utilize strategic bombers, long- or medium-range missiles, or nuclear-armed fighter-bomber aircraft to attack targets deemed vital to the enemy's war-making capability.
A military aircraft is any fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft that is operated by a legal or insurrectionary armed service of any type. Military aircraft can be either combat or non-combat:
An interceptor aircraft, or simply interceptor, is a type of fighter aircraft designed specifically for the defensive interception role against an attacking enemy aircraft, particularly bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. There are two general classes of interceptor: relatively lightweight aircraft built for high performance over short range, and heavier aircraft designed to fly at night or in adverse weather and operate over longer ranges.
A light bomber is a relatively small and fast type of military bomber aircraft that was primarily employed before the 1950s. Such aircraft would typically not carry more than one ton of ordnance.
A strategic bomber is a medium- to long-range penetration bomber aircraft designed to drop large amounts of air-to-ground weaponry onto a distant target for the purposes of debilitating the enemy's capacity to wage war. Unlike tactical bombers, penetrators, fighter-bombers, and attack aircraft, which are used in air interdiction operations to attack enemy combatants and military equipment, strategic bombers are designed to fly into enemy territory to destroy strategic targets. In addition to strategic bombing, strategic bombers can be used for tactical missions. There are currently only three countries that operate strategic bombers: the United States, Russia and China.
Heavy bombers are bomber aircraft capable of delivering the largest payload of air-to-ground weaponry and longest range of their era. Archetypal heavy bombers have therefore usually been among the largest and most powerful military aircraft at any point in time. In the second half of the 20th century, heavy bombers were largely superseded by strategic bombers, which were often smaller in size, but had much longer ranges and were capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Stealth aircraft are designed to avoid detection using a variety of technologies that reduce reflection/emission of radar, infrared, visible light, radio frequency (RF) spectrum, and audio, collectively known as stealth technology. F-117 Nighthawk is the first operational aircraft specifically designed around stealth technology. Other examples of stealth aircraft include the B-2 Spirit, the F-22 Raptor, the F-35 Lightning II, the Chengdu J-20, and the Sukhoi Su-57.
Aerial warfare is the battlespace use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare. Aerial warfare includes bombers attacking enemy installations or a concentration of enemy troops or strategic targets; fighter aircraft battling for control of airspace; attack aircraft engaging in close air support against ground targets; naval aviation flying against sea and nearby land targets; gliders, helicopters and other aircraft to carry airborne forces such as paratroopers; aerial refueling tankers to extend operation time or range; and military transport aircraft to move cargo and personnel. Historically, military aircraft have included lighter-than-air balloons carrying artillery observers; lighter-than-air airships for bombing cities; various sorts of reconnaissance, surveillance and early warning aircraft carrying observers, cameras and radar equipment; torpedo bombers to attack enemy shipping; and military air-sea rescue aircraft for saving downed airmen. Modern aerial warfare includes missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. Surface forces are likely to respond to enemy air activity with anti-aircraft warfare.
The Tupolev Tu-4 is a piston-engined Soviet strategic bomber that served the Soviet Air Force from the late 1940s to mid-1960s. It was reverse-engineered from the American Boeing B-29 Superfortress.
World War I was the first major conflict involving the large-scale use of aircraft. Tethered observation balloons had already been employed in several wars, and would be used extensively for artillery spotting. Germany employed Zeppelins for reconnaissance over the North Sea and Baltic and also for strategic bombing raids over Britain and the Eastern Front
A parasite aircraft is a component of a composite aircraft which is carried aloft and air launched by a larger carrier aircraft or mother ship to support the primary mission of the carrier. The carrier craft may or may not be able to later recover the parasite during flight.
The Tupolev Tu-95 is a large, four-engine turboprop-powered strategic bomber and missile platform. First flown in 1952, the Tu-95 entered service with the Soviet Union in 1956 and is expected to serve the Russian Aerospace Forces until at least 2040. A development of the bomber for maritime patrol is designated Tu-142, while a passenger airliner derivative was called Tu-114.
Tactical bombing is aerial bombing aimed at targets of immediate military value, such as combatants, military installations, or military equipment. This is in contrast to strategic bombing, or attacking enemy cities and factories to cripple future military production and enemy civilians' will to support the war effort, to debilitate the enemy's long-term capacity to wage war. A tactical bomber is a bomber aircraft with an intended primary role of tactical bombing, even though strategic bombers have been used in tactical bombing operations.
A tail gunner or rear gunner is a crewman on a military aircraft who functions as a gunner defending against enemy fighter attacks from the rear, or "tail", of the plane. The tail gunner operates a flexible machine gun emplacement in the tail end of the aircraft with an unobstructed view toward the rear of the aircraft. While the term tail gunner is usually associated with a crewman inside a gun turret, the first tail guns were operated from open apertures within the aircraft's fuselage, like in the Scarff ring mechanism used in the British Handley Page V/1500, and also, in the most evolved variants of this type of air-to-air anti-aircraft defense, they may also be operated by remote control from another part of the aircraft, like in the American B-52 bombers.
The escort fighter was a World War II concept for a fighter aircraft designed to escort bombers to and from their targets. An escort fighter needed range long enough to reach the target, loiter over it for the duration of the raid to defend the bombers, and return.
Industrial warfare is a period in the history of warfare ranging roughly from the early 19th century and the start of the Industrial Revolution to the beginning of the Atomic Age, which saw the rise of nation-states, capable of creating and equipping large armies, navies, and air forces, through the process of industrialisation.
The Italian Corpo Aeronautico Militare was formed as part of the part of the Regio Esercito on 7 January 1915, incorporating the Aviators Flights Battalion (airplanes), the Specialists Battalion (airships) and the Ballonists Battalion. Prior to World War I, Italy had pioneered military aviation in the Italo-Turkish War during 1911–1912. Its army also contained one of the world's foremost theorists about the future of military aviation, Giulio Douhet; Douhet also had a practical side, as he was largely responsible for the development of Italy's Caproni bombers starting in 1913. Italy also had the advantage of a delayed entry into World War I, not starting the fight until 24 May 1915, but took no advantage of it so far as aviation was concerned.
Strategic bombing during World War I was principally carried out by the United Kingdom and France for the Entente Powers and Germany for the Central Powers. All the belligerents of World War I eventually engaged in strategic bombing, and, with the exception only of Rome and Lisbon, the capital cities of all the major European belligerents were targeted. A multi-national air force to strike at Germany was planned but never materialized. The aerial bombing of cities, intended to destroy the enemy's morale, was introduced by the Germans in the opening days of the war.
The Raduga KS-1 Komet, also referred to as AS-1 and KS-1 was a short range air-to-surface missile developed by the Soviet Union. It was carried on only two aircraft: the Tupolev Tu-4 and the Tupolev Tu-16.
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