World War 2 Bombers

The strategic weapons which struck at the enemy's military-industrial heart

Bombers were the ultimate long range heavy weapons of World War 2, a role they still have. They provided the mean to bypass the enemy's army and Navy and natural barriers, and deliver massive firepower directly to its heart, striking its industry, vital resources, key military targets, and population centers, in order to significantly erode its strength in the battlefield and defeat it.

In addition to their main strategic role, World War 2 bombers also provided tactical air support and sometimes even close air support in the battlefield itself. These tactical attack roles were gradually taken by dedicated attack aircraft and by powerful fighter-bombers which evolved during the war and are now the dominant elements of modern air forces.

Bombers also provided a modern mean to utilize a national industrial and technological advantage to balance the enemy's numerical advantage. Far more than tanks and warships, bombers provided the best mean to concentrate great firepower in the hands of a small number of warriors, allowing a nation to rely more on its industry and less on millions of soldiers, and therefore pay the price of war with more money and less blood.

Because of these reasons, Great Britain and the United States produced the most advanced bombers and the largest bomber forces of World War 2. The effectiveness of their bombers was very limited during the first years of the war by conservatism and technological difficulties, and by the fierce opposition of the enemy's air defense, but with gradual technological and tactical improvements, mainly the use of long range fighters escort by day and improved navigation by night, and with increasing numbers and stronger bombers, they eventually became a mighty and unstoppable force which crushed the enemy's war potential and contributed greatly to its defeat.

Here is a list of the main types of land-based World War 2 bombers, with the approximate quantity produced of each type .
Bombers are twin-engined unless otherwise noted.

British bombers

A comparison between the operational order of battle of the British bomber command in July 1941 and at the end of 1943 can show how much it grew in strength and aircraft quality during the war :

In July 1941 Bomber Command had 732 operational bombers. There were 253 Wellington, 40 Halifax, and 24 Stirling bombers, but the other 415 bombers were of types which were phased out by 1943. Of this force, only the Halifax remained in the main force by the end of 1943.

At the end of 1943, Bomber command was a totally different force, much more powerful both in numbers and in the higher quality of its new bombers. It had 1249 operational long range bombers. 1008 were of new types (573 Lancaster, 363 Halifax, 72 Mosquito) and the other 241 were older types (208 Stirling, 33 Wellington) and were used for secondary missions. (source: Royal Air Force)

American bombers

German bombers

Russian bombers

Japanese bombers

Italian bombers

Related essays:
Blitzkrieg
Kamikaze pilots
De Havilland Mosquito
P-51 Mustang
World War 2 RADAR
Stuka dive bomber
De Havilland Mosquito
German Secret Weapons

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