Top Ten (10) Military Bombers Of All Time

In modern air forces, the distinction between bombers, fighter-bombers, and attack aircraft has become blurred. Many attack aircraft, even ones that look like fighters, are optimized to drop bombs, with very little ability to engage in aerial combat. Following are the top ten military bombers of all time.
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In modern air forces, the distinction between bombers, fighter-bombers, and attack aircraft has become blurred. Many attack aircraft, even ones that look like fighters, are optimized to drop bombs, with very little ability to engage in aerial combat. Following are the top ten military bombers of all time.

10. Handley Page 0/100

Aircraft technology was only 10 years old at the start of World War I, but within a few years it had developed at an extraordinary pace. Great Britain's first heavy bomber, the Handley Page 0/100, entered service in 1916 as a means of attacking the German Zeppelin bases that were causing huge damage to London. Powered by two Rolls Royce engines with a speed of 79 mph, these 100-foot wingspan aircraft were able to deliver their 2,000 pounds of bombs with remarkable accuracy. After the war, the Handley was converted and formed the staple flying machine for the first civilian airlines in Europe.

9. Tupelov Tu-95

This huge Soviet long-range bomber, nicknamed the Bear, was designed to carry up to four nuclear bombs to the U.S. mainland from bases in Russia. Launched at the Moscow air show in 1955, its existence led American planners to believe there was a bomber gap between the Soviet Union and the U.S. In reality, the Bear stretched Soviet technology to the limit, but it could still pack a big punch and for three decades was a major threat to Western forces.

8. Avro Lancaster

The Lancaster was Britain's most famous heavy bomber of World War II. Capable of carrying a bomb load of up to 22,000 pounds, Lancasters, which flew at night, pounded German cities and factories. As Bomber Command's favorite aircraft, the Lancaster was used on many specialized operations, such as the 1943 dam-busting strike and battleship Tirpitz sinking raids. But the success of the Lancaster came at a high price, with over 55,000 crewmen lost in the course of the war.

7. Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

In 1937 the Boeing Aircraft Company built America's first all-metal, four-engine heavy bomber, the legendary B-17 Flying Fortress. Bristling with 13 0.5 machine guns, and with an average bomb load of 6,000 pounds, the "Forts" took on the worst the Luftwaffe had to offer. Flying in formations of up to 1,000 bomber daylight raids, the B-17s attacked some of the most heavily defended targets in occupied Europe. Suffering unprecedented losses, the young American airmen in their B-17s helped turn the tide of the war in Europe by destroying the Nazi war machine.

6. De Havilland Mosquito

Nicknamed the "Wooden Wonder," the Mosquito was perhaps the most versatile aircraft to see action during World War II. As a bomber, it was also the fastest. Constructed of wood, the plane was almost undetectable to radar. In addition, because of its speed, it carried no defensive armament as it could outrun any enemy fighter. With a payload of 2,000 pounds (later upgraded to 4,000 pounds) and the ability to fly from 10 feet to 31,000 feet, it could take the fight right to the enemy's door. By the end of World War II, more than 40 variants of this remarkable aircraft had been in action.

5. Junkers Ju-88

Believed by many to be the most important German bomber of World War II, the Ju-88 was in front-line service throughout the 1939-45 conflict. Its versatile design enabled it to be used as a bomber, dive bomber, torpedo bomber, heavy fighter and night fighter. Although heavier than the Heinkel 111 and the Dornier 17, it was the fastest of the Nazi bomber fleet. Armed with seven .303 machine guns and a payload of nearly 8,000 pounds, this aircraft was a formidable opponent during its service life.

4. Boeing B-47 Stratojet

When the B-47 Stratojet first took to the skies in 1947, few people in the Air Force, or even Boeing, were enthusiastic about the design. The B-47 used swept-wing technology captured from Nazi Germany and an unusual tricycle undercarriage, which led many to think it would serve as no more than a research plane. But by mid-1948 it became clear to the Air Force and Boeing executives that the airplane far surpassed all of its contemporaries with straight wings. Test pilot Chuck Yeager was sent to follow a B-47 in a jet fighter to check its speed. He radioed to the B-47's civilian pilot, "I can't keep up." The next day, the B-47 set a new cross-country speed record at an average of 609.8 mph. Within only a few years, the plane became the primary bomber for the Strategic Air Command and eventually more than 2,000 B-47s were built. Though without the range and payload of its successor, the B-52, the B-47 "held the line" as a nuclear deterrent bomber in the early years of the Cold War.

3.. Boeing B-29 Super Fortress

The B-29 had a range of over 3,500 miles, an operational ceiling of 31,850 feet and a top speed of 358 mph. It could carry a huge payload of 20,000 pounds of bombs and was armed with 12 .50-calibre machine guns and a 20-mm cannon. The aircraft's design was very advanced. It featured aerodynamic fuselage, and the crew compartment was pressurized and fitted with bullet-proof glass. Used extensively in conventional bombing missions against the Japanese, the B-29 is best remembered for dropping atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and thus ending World War II.

2. Northrop Grumman B-2 Stealth Bomber

The flying-wing concept was brought into the world of advanced stealth technology by Northrop with the B-2 bomber. Coated with special composite laminate and secret paint, the B-2 is almost invisible to radar and more B-2s have been identified as UFOs than any other aircraft. Based in the U.S., B-2s on refuelling missions can hit any part of the world. At $2.2 billion per aircraft, the cost is awesome, but so is this aircraft.

1. Boeing B-52 Stratofortress

With a maximum speed of 650 mph, a range of over 8,000 miles and the capability to drop 70,000 pounds of bombs, the B-52 is the most lethal bomber in the world. It can also deliver nuclear weapons, cruise missiles and precision bombs. In addition to its deterrent role during the Cold War, it was also used to bomb North Vietnam. In both Afghanistan and Iraq it hit enemy targets with a heavy punch. Despite being built with 1950s technology, the B-52 is likely to remain in active service until 2045.

32 Comments

7 years 19 weeks ago, 11:51 AM

Anonymous

Bone Drivers?

Doesn't the B-1 deserve to be mentioned here?

7 years 19 weeks ago, 1:03 PM

Anonymous

Nope, the B-1 isn't a very good bomber. It can't carry nearly as much as a B-52, isn't much faster, isn't stealth, and is hard to maintain. The Air Force is slowly retiring the B-1. Between the B-52 and B-2, there isn't much need for it.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 5:13 PM

Anonymous

The B-1 carries more, just not the variety the B-52G/H does. Do your research.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 11:19 PM

Anonymous

Its also 50% faster.

B-1 is also a Super Sonic aircraft. Top speed is 50% faster than B-52.

7 years 12 weeks ago, 2:42 PM

Anonymous

Your an idiot the B-1 holds a hell more bomer and fly faster that any other heavy US bomber. Plus it was the first steathly heavy bomber, useing the technology of the day to reduse it radar image to the size of a small aircaft. The B-1 holds all the world records for speed, payload and distance in it's size class.

Why don't you review the facts before you throw out you ignorant opinion!

6 years 36 weeks ago, 8:52 AM

Anonymous

maybe it isn't a very good bomber, but its very beautiful, but i guess we are talking about planes here, not women, so... honorable mention though, 1 once saw a B-1 at the Chicago air and water show, and at the same time it was flying 2 other air shows, I believe one of the other places was NY.(not sure)

7 years 19 weeks ago, 11:52 AM

Anonymous

What about Stuka?
It made more impact (both in terms of war and culture) than most of the aircraft posted above?

7 years 19 weeks ago, 12:07 PM

Anonymous

The B-1 was a flop, it was too expensive and was built so Reagan could look tough. The Stuka was slow, had poor manoeuverability, and had little defence (thin armour).

7 years 19 weeks ago, 12:20 PM

Anonymous

Reagan didn't need to "look tough"...he was.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 12:29 PM

Anonymous

Sure - he was as tough as any cheerleader/actor/evangelest with Alzheimer's could be.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 1:04 PM

Anonymous

So was your mom

So was your mom

7 years 19 weeks ago, 12:25 PM

Anonymous

How about

The backfire? From back in my war sim days, my NATO forces always were more scared of the backfire than the lumbering bears.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 12:38 PM

Anonymous

A-6 Intruder

The A-6 Intruder was an attack aircraft that carried the heaviest payload of any US service, short of the B-52. Additionally, it was truly all-weather with a variety of guidance and delivery systems from the internal Inertial Navigation System (INS) to internal ground-mapping radars to ground beacon controllers to laser guided munitions.

Definitely under appreciated.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 12:48 PM

Anonymous

What is this list about, historical and military impact? If so, how could the Stuka not be here? Or the B-17 not be higher? I could see the B-52 being a top 3 but number 1?

7 years 19 weeks ago, 1:47 PM

Anonymous

I'd say it's number 1. It has proven itself extremely versatile by being adapted through any number of changing missions (nuclear / non-nuclear / carpet bomber / pin-point bomber [via cruise-missile lift] / SAC 24-hour cold-war patrol / test-bed heavy lifter for X-planes, etc.) as well as having extreme longevity. As mentioned, it has huge lift capacity and global range. There are some that say it's big and ugly, but for anyone who sees it in action, particularly on the receiving end, it is nothing short of awesome. The B-52 is king, get used to it.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 12:52 PM

Anonymous

It can surely stake a claim to a top spot based on historical significance but the B52 is hardly the most lethal bomber in the world. The B1B can carry greater payload, fly faster, more stealthy, etc. it's easily the superior platform today.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 7:00 PM

Anonymous

B-52 lethality

The B-1 cost too much to build. It costs to much to maintain, and is not as reliable. The B-52 is more efficient. This same anomaly is visible with the SR-71 and the U-2. Though the SR-71 uses more technology, it also costs more to keep operatonal. The U-2 still gets results, for a better price. They are in service, though older, the SR-71 is retired.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 1:07 PM

Anonymous

Vulcan and Canberra

Two more you missed out. The Vulcan with its epic raid on the Falklands and one of the few bombers actually feared by the USSR. And the Canberra, one the few non-american aircraft so good the US Air Force bought it, one of the RAF earliest jet bombers - the photo-recon version was in still in service in 2006, 57 years after it first flew.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 2:00 PM

Anonymous

I'll second that. I saw the Vulcans fly in the early '80s at any number of airshows and it was a fantastically graceful airplane. I would love to see it fly again:

http://www.tvoc.co.uk/default.asp

I lived not too far away from an RAF base of Canberras when I was a kid and they were boring to me at the time but when I began to read about what they could do I paid more attention and became much more impressed.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 1:14 PM

Anonymous

Bears were the Soviet's first strategic bomber, but it was quickly converted to ASW/long range recon as the Jet Age progressed. As a previous poster noted, the main Soviet scares were Backfires, Badgers, and Blackjacks.

These days, you set up Plastic Bugs (F18 Hornets) and Strike Eagles with AWAC support, it'll be nothing but a turkey shoot.
Pity the Tomcats were retired, they were built to splat bombers and missiles.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 1:19 PM

Anonymous

Hvy stakes

The britsh tornado currently carries ten tons of laser guided bombs, has a tf radar allowing it to hard ride at 50 feet and is the fastest attack aircraft at low level in the world.
Even the Yanks can`t take it and in wargames it has a bad habit of popping up and toasting F15`s with a few well placed sidewinders, before getting back to it`s job.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 1:27 PM

Anonymous

pretty arbitrary list

this list is silly. first off, what is the metric? how are you rating these aircraft? For example, the B-17 created the new class of strategic high altitude bomber. Produced in huge numbers, it was instrumental in turning the tide in the ETO. In many ways, all strategic bomber follow in it's prop wash. Sure, the '29 added modern things like pressurized cabins and such. As such, the '17 probably should be number 1. The '47 deserves mention because it sucked jp4 so fast that it forced the creation of in-flight refueling.

I think the class of close air support is given short shrift here. Certainly, the Stuka, A-6, A-10 all moved the state of the art forward.

Finally, the omission of carrier base airpower is rather glaring. The war in the Pacific was won because American torpedo and dive bombers sunk the majority of the Japanese carrier fleet in a small number of battles. They just aren't as sexy as the '17s, '29s and so on.

I suspect the choice of these 10 was more influenced by looks than by effectiveness or impact on the development of aircraft technologies. The mosquito, as pretty as it looks, wasn't that important. Sure it was cheap to build but didn't play a pivotal role in turning the tide of war.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 1:50 PM

Anonymous

"this list is silly."

Are you new to the internet? Of course it's silly. Any list that can't be quantified is of course going to have subjectivity riddled throughout it. It's fun and interesting nonetheless.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 2:56 PM

Anonymous

twit - not every list is arbitrary or subjective. And even the subjective ones from real experts are worthwhile. The author of this one is clearly not an expert nor even a student of air power.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 4:16 PM

Anonymous

Idiot. Of course "not every list is arbitrary or subjective." I state that explicitly.

If it's so painful to read such a list from so obviously a non-expert, in your experienced and superior eyes, then piss off and quit wasting your time here.

Retard.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 1:47 PM

Anonymous

B1

The problem with the B1 is that the original specs were lowered and the B1-B Lancer is what we have now, not the original B1-A. Basically Carter killed the B1-A before it was fully developed / tested, and the restart of the program used the toned-down B1-B model.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 2:57 PM

Anonymous

You missed a few ...

Wait. The B25 Mitchell and the B24 Liberator don't get any love? How about the Douglas Hell Diver? Or the Convair B36? I don't think there was day during the entire decade of the 50s that a B36 wasn't on alert in the skies with nukes on board.

I hate lists.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 8:39 PM

Anonymous

The Mosquito couldn't

The Mosquito couldn't "outrun any enemy fighter". It topped out in the 400-410mph range. The Focke Wolf 190 could do 428, and the Me262 could achieve 540. The Mosquito could radio for help and get it pretty damn fast though. The Stuka was a POS totally outclassed in the Battle of Britain. To such an extent that it was never used on the Western front again. Looked cool though.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 6:48 AM

Anonymous

Strange what a complete nonsense people repeat about the Stuka over and over...

The Stuka had during the BoB in average less losses than the German level bombers. It was never withdrawn from the Bob but prevented any coastal sea transport till 1941, longer than the large level bomber raids lasted. The Stuka groups only stopped doing that, when they were put to rest for preparation for the attack on Russia.

The Stuka was "so badly armored" that the British Royal Air Ministry advised in spring 1941 its pilots to attack a Stuka not from directly behind, because the MG's could not to do anything against the armor with this attack approach. Deflection shooting should be used to hit the crew from the sides, where the cockpit glass was not armored.

During the war in Russia Stuka groups gave each other "fighter cover" when no fighter units were available. They held their own against Russian fighters in the beginning and suffered far more losses by ground fire.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 10:26 AM

Anonymous

None above the USA

Well yeah, truly Yankee Propaganda here.

Lets see...
B-47 - what does it make special? just the speed? well not quite an achievement for a bomber.

B-29 - the most noticable achievement of this bomber is to have dropped ALL nuclear attacks ever conducted in world history. Thus killing more children within 10 seconds of history then all german death camps of the same era combined in a month. Congratulations USA.

B-2 - Super Secret "Stealth" Bomber, not even the first of its kind (F-117 is a bit older, SR-71 the first to deploy the first steps of stealth technology). Noticable its partaking in the First Gulf War in '91, delivering "Precision" weapons that caused a lot of collateral damage. Technogoly sold for $2.5 million couple of years ago by a traitor, can't remember to which country (China, Korea, something asian). Technology was obsolete in the early 90s (might have been even earlier), can easily be spotted on radar by laying a "blanket" over a certain area and searching for the echo-hole.

B-52 - The greatest achievement of this plane is most likely its landing gear, a marvel of engineering that allows for quite impressive crosswind landings. You actually have to see it, it is really a great great sight. Take a camera with you! On the other hand, most famous for bombing Vietnam with Napalm and Agent Orange and god-knows-what. So it was used to wage a chemcial war that cost thousands of innocent peoples lives. Gratulations on that.

Oh and by the way, the Avro Lancaster is the more capable bomber. Its engineered in a quite modern way, incooperating interchangebility of parts that most modern air forces trying to achieve (i.E. the JSF programm). It exposed lesser crew to the dangers of war, therefor reducing the needs for training new crews (because lesser men were whoot down). Oh and it was quite accurate in hitting its targets. And it could cary more bombs, therefor more efficient in flattening huge parts of Nazi Germany (and causing quite some collateral damage). The B-17 was as accurate as the Lancaster, which is quite a let down for the machine, taking into account that the B-17 raids were flown during the day time, while the Lancaster carried out its raids in the dark of night over a pitch black enemy territory.
Oh and the Lancaster pulled of the Dambuster raids, basically the first low-altitude surgical airstrike in aviation history.
Where is the Vicktor, the backbone of the RAF nuclear strike forces and later successful part of many UK military campaigns (like the Falklands campaign).

Oh and why the TU-95 that far down the road? That bomber made the NATO shit it pants for decades, because its the bomber capable of carrying the Tsar Bomba, the russian version of doomsday device. You know, that bomb that had to be limited to only 50 Megatons so they were even able to test it.
And where is the Tu-160 "Blackjack", the counterpart of the B-1 Lancer. The B-1 might not deserve to be on the list, but the Tu-160 is the corrected design (probably not as computerized i have to admit) of the B-1 with a true combat value.

I absolutely think this is made up by a US-fanboi.

What a waste.

7 years 19 weeks ago, 8:05 AM

Anonymous

You must not understand that the very nature of a bomber is to kill and destroy the enemy - be it soldiers, civilians, factories, homes, etc. get in the real world partner.

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