Dive bomber
Overview
 
A dive bomber is a bomber
Bomber
A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

 aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 that dives directly at its targets in order to provide greater accuracy for the bomb
Aerial bomb
An aerial bomb is a type of explosive weapon intended to travel through the air with predictable trajectories, usually designed to be dropped from an aircraft...

 it drops. Diving towards the target reduces the distance the bomb has to fall, which is the primary factor in determining the accuracy of the drop. Additionally, as the bomb's motion is primarily vertical, the complex parabolic trajectory is reduced to one that is much straighter and easy to calculate - even by eye.
Encyclopedia
A dive bomber is a bomber
Bomber
A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

 aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 that dives directly at its targets in order to provide greater accuracy for the bomb
Aerial bomb
An aerial bomb is a type of explosive weapon intended to travel through the air with predictable trajectories, usually designed to be dropped from an aircraft...

 it drops. Diving towards the target reduces the distance the bomb has to fall, which is the primary factor in determining the accuracy of the drop. Additionally, as the bomb's motion is primarily vertical, the complex parabolic trajectory is reduced to one that is much straighter and easy to calculate - even by eye. The rapid vertical motion of the aircraft also aids it in avoiding fire from anti-aircraft artillery, although diving to low altitude offsets this advantage as it brings the aircraft into range of smaller weapons.

A true dive bomber dives at a steep angle, normally between 45 and 90 degrees, and thus requires a very short pull-up after dropping its bombs. This demands an aircraft of extremely strong construction, and generally limited the class to light bomber
Light bomber
A light bomber is a relatively small and fast class of military bomber aircraft which were primarily employed before the 1950s. Such aircraft would typically not carry more than one ton of ordnance....

 designs with ordinance loads in the range of 1,000 lbs. This type of aircraft was most widely used before and during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

; its use fell into decline shortly afterwards. The most famous example is the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka
Junkers Ju 87
The Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka was a two-man German ground-attack aircraft...

 which was widely used during the opening stages of the war; during pullout, the forces were so great that the crew would often suffer G-LOC
G-LOC
G-LOC, pronounced 'GEE-lock', is the abbreviation of G-force induced Loss Of Consciousness, a term generally used in aerospace physiology to describe a loss of consciousness occurring from excessive and sustained g-forces draining blood away from the brain causing cerebral hypoxia...

, and the controls were automated to avoid loss of the aircraft. Another famous design of the war is the Douglas SBD Dauntless, whose actions during the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

 changed the course of the Pacific War in favour of the US over a period of minutes.

It is also possible to bomb from a much shallower dive angle, which is sometimes described as dive bombing, but more generally known as glide bombing. Shallower diving angles reduces the benefits in terms of accuracy, but still serves as an aid in keeping the target visible during the bomb run and helping avoiding anti-aircraft fire. The Junkers Ju 88
Junkers Ju 88
The Junkers Ju 88 was a World War II German Luftwaffe twin-engine, multi-role aircraft. Designed by Hugo Junkers' company through the services of two American aviation engineers in the mid-1930s, it suffered from a number of technical problems during the later stages of its development and early...

 was widely employed in glide bombing and was equipped with special bombsights operated by the pilot for this task. Likewise, the Heinkel He 177
Heinkel He 177
The Heinkel He 177 Greif was the only operational long-range bomber to be operated by the Luftwaffe. Starting its existence as Germany's first purpose-built heavy bomber just before the war, and built in large numbers during World War II, it was also mistakenly tasked, right from its beginnings,...

 is often mentioned as having its development upset by the demand for it to dive bomb, although this too was an example of glide bombing. Contrast glide bombing with the glide bomb
Glide bomb
A glide bomb is an aerial bomb modified with aerodynamic surfaces to modify its flight path from a purely ballistic one to a flatter, gliding, one. This extends the range between the launch aircraft and the target. Glide bombs are often fitted with control systems, allowing the controlling aircraft...

, where the aircraft remains level and the bomb glides towards its target. Attachments for this sort of bombing were fitted to examples of the famous Norden bombsight
Norden bombsight
The Norden bombsight was a tachometric bombsight used by the United States Army Air Forces and the United States Navy during World War II, and the United States Air Force in the Korean and the Vietnam Wars to aid the crew of bomber aircraft in dropping bombs accurately...

, but in practice this concept proved unworkable.

Horizontal bombing

When released from an aircraft, a bomb carries with it the aircraft's velocity. In the case of a bomber flying horizontally, the bomb will initially be travelling forward only. This forward motion is opposed by the drag
Drag
- In science and technology :* Drag , the force which resists motion of an object through a fluid* Drag equation, a mathematical equation used in analyzing the magnitude of drag caused by fluid flow...

 of the air, so the forward motion slows over time. Additionally, gravity provides a constant force on the bomb, accelerating it downward. The combination of these two forces, drag and gravity, results in a pseudo-parabolic trajectory
Trajectory
A trajectory is the path that a moving object follows through space as a function of time. The object might be a projectile or a satellite, for example. It thus includes the meaning of orbit—the path of a planet, an asteroid or a comet as it travels around a central mass...

 of some complexity. For aiming purposes, the key calculation needed from this trajectory is the distance the bomb will travel forward while it falls, a distance known as the "range". The bomber's task is to fly along a line to the target until it reaches this distance from the target, and drop the bombs at that instant.

In the past, aircraft did not have navigation systems that could direct an aircraft towards an arbitrary point in space.There are some instances of this during WWII, see Battle of the Beams
Battle of the beams
The Battle of the Beams was a period early in the Second World War when bombers of the German Air Force used a number of increasingly accurate systems of radio navigation for night bombing. British "scientific intelligence" at the Air Ministry fought back with a variety of increasingly effective...

 and GEE
GEE (navigation)
Gee was the code name given to a radio navigation system used by the Royal Air Force during World War II.Different sources record the name as GEE or Gee. The naming supposedly comes from "Grid", so the lower case form is more correct, and is the form used in Drippy's publications. See Drippy 1946....

, in which case the bomb aiming points were calculated prior to the mission and the bombers were able to fly directly to them.
Instead, navigation was carried out in relation to objects on the ground - whether they be visual indications or radio beacons. For bombing, after calculating the range, and knowing the altitude, simple trigonometry could be used to calculate the angle between the current location of the aircraft and the point on the ground where the bombs would impact if dropped at that instant. By setting the bombsight
Bombsight
A bombsight is a device used by bomber aircraft to accurately drop bombs. In order to do this, the bombsight has to estimate the path the bomb will take after release from the aircraft. The two primary forces during its fall are gravity and air drag, which makes the path of the bomb through the air...

 to that angle, the "range angle", the aircraft simply had to approach the target and drop its bombs when the target appeared lined up with angle set in the sights.

As the trajectory of the bomb is complex, solving the range and range angle calculation is also a complex problem. This is normally accomplished by looking up data measured on a bombing range
Bombing range
A bombing range is an area used for testing explosive ordnance and practicing to accurately direct them to the target. Bombing ranges are used for munitions that either explode or produce too much destruction to use at a shooting range, such as kinetic energy penetrators or very large caliber...

 and reduced into table form. Any changes in speed, direction or altitude required all of this to be looked up again. In order to reduce this workload, mechanical calculator
Mechanical calculator
A mechanical calculator is a device used to perform the basic operations of arithmetic. Mechanical calculators are comparable in size to small desktop computers and have been rendered obsolete by the advent of the electronic calculator....

s were increasingly common during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, including the famous Norden bombsight
Norden bombsight
The Norden bombsight was a tachometric bombsight used by the United States Army Air Forces and the United States Navy during World War II, and the United States Air Force in the Korean and the Vietnam Wars to aid the crew of bomber aircraft in dropping bombs accurately...

 and the less well known British Mark XIV bomb sight
Mark XIV bomb sight
The Mark XIV Computing Bomb Sight is a vector bombsight developed and used by the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command during World War II. The bombsight was also known as the Blackett sight after its primary inventor, P.M.S. Blackett...

 and German Lotfernrohr 7
Lotfernrohr 7
The Carl Zeiss Lotfernrohr 7, or Lotfe 7, was the primary bombsight used in most Luftwaffe level bombers, similar to the United States' Norden bombsight, but much simpler to operate and maintain. Several models were produced and eventually completely replaced the simpler Lotfernrohr 3 and BZG 2...

. Even with these calculators, accuracy was often poor due to inaccuracies in the ballistics of individual bombs, wind measurements, or setup errors. Moreover, the need to fly in a straight line toward the target made it easy for anti-aircraft artillery to aim at the bomber, which demanded that the aircraft fly higher to avoid fire, and thereby magnified any errors in setup. In spite of enormous efforts, accuracies for horizontal bombing throughout the war was generally measured in thousands of yards.

Dive bombing

Consider the same aircraft, now travelling vertically instead of horizontally. In this case there is no horizontal velocity when the bomb is dropped, so the force of gravity simply increases the speed along the existing vertical trajectory. The bomb will travel in a straight line between release and impact, eliminating all of the complex calculation and setup required in the bombsight. Instead, the aircraft can simple point itself directly at the target and release the bombs, the only source of error being the effects of winds after release. For bombs, which are well streamlined and relatively dense, wind has a very small effect, and the bomb is likely to fall within its lethal radius of the target.

Diving perfectly vertically is by no means simple, especially when you consider the forces generated when the aircraft has to return to horizontal flight after the drop. But more generally, as the aircraft tilts further from the horizontal, the horizontal component of its own airspeed is reduced, which reduces the range. At some point, for a given altitude and dive angle, the trajectory so closely matches a straight line that bomb sighting becomes a trivial exercise and a straight line sight is all that is needed. Differences in the path due to the ballistics of different bombs can be accounted for by selecting a standardized bombing altitude and then adjusting the dive angle slightly for these different cases.

In these examples, accuracy of the drop is primarily a function of the accuracy of the pilot or bombardier's ability to accurately sight the target. This is aided by the fact that the aircraft is pointed towards it, making sighting over the nose dramatically easier. In addition, the target continues to approach as the bomber dives, allowing the aim to be progressively adjusted over time. In comparison, if a horizontal bomber notices that it is off the line directly over the target when the range angle is reached, there is nothing they can do - turning to the angle that would correct this would also change the groundspeed of the aircraft (at least in the presence of wind) and thereby change the range as well.

For this reason, dive bombing was the only method of providing the accuracy needed to attack high-value point targets like bridge
Bridge
A bridge is a structure built to span physical obstacles such as a body of water, valley, or road, for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle...

s and ship
Ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

s. They were a common feature of most naval air services, and many land-based air forces as well.

On the negative side, optimizing an aircraft for near-vertical dives came at the expense of performance. In addition, a dive bomber was highly vulnerable to ground fire
Anti-aircraft warfare
NATO defines air defence as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be to protect naval, ground and air forces...

 as it dived towards its target. Dive brake
Dive brake
Dive brakes or dive flaps are deployed to slow down an aircraft when in a dive. They usually consist of a metal flap that is raised against the air flow, thus creating drag and reducing dive speed....

s were employed on many designs. These created drag
Drag (physics)
In fluid dynamics, drag refers to forces which act on a solid object in the direction of the relative fluid flow velocity...

 which slowed the aircraft somewhat in order to increase accuracy and to prevent speeds which could damage the structures of the plane. These were almost exclusive to dive bombers, though the air brakes
Air brake (aircraft)
In aeronautics, air brakes or speedbrakes are a type of flight control surface used on an aircraft to increase drag or increase the angle of approach during landing....

 fitted to modern aircraft are often of a similar design.

World War I and inter-war period

The first recorded use of dive bombing was an ad-hoc solution by British Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 pilots during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. In 1917 and 1918, they practised the technique at the Orford Ness
Orford Ness
Orford Ness is a cuspate foreland shingle spit on the Suffolk coast in Great Britain, linked to the mainland at Aldeburgh and stretching along the coast to Orford and down to North Wier Point, opposite Shingle Street. It is divided from the mainland by the River Alde, and was formed by longshore...

 Bombing Range, but the aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 of the day were generally too frail to be able to withstand the acceleration
G-force
The g-force associated with an object is its acceleration relative to free-fall. This acceleration experienced by an object is due to the vector sum of non-gravitational forces acting on an object free to move. The accelerations that are not produced by gravity are termed proper accelerations, and...

 generated when pulling out of the dive after releasing the bomb load.

The first combat dive bombing attack took place in early 1919 when United States Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 pilot Lt. L. H. Sanderson mounted a carbine barrel in front of the windshield of his Curtiss JN-4
Curtiss JN-4
The Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" was one of a series of "JN" biplanes built by the Curtiss Aeroplane Company of Hammondsport, New York, later the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. Although the Curtiss JN series was originally produced as a training aircraft for the U.S...

 (an unarmed training craft) as an improvised bomb sight that was lined up with the long axis of his plane, loaded a bomb in a canvas bag that was attached to the plane's belly, and launched a single-handed raid in support of a USMC
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 unit that had been trapped by Haitian Cacos rebels. Sanderson's "Jenny" almost disintegrated when he pulled it into a steep climb after releasing his ordnance, but the bomb had hit its target precisely and the raids were repeated. During 1920 Sanderson familiarized aviators of USMC units at the Atlantic coast with the dive bombing technique. Dive bombing was also used during the United States occupation of Nicaragua.

Interwar era

As planes grew in strength and load capability, the technique became more valuable. By the early 1930s, the technique was clearly favoured in tactical doctrine, notably against targets that would otherwise be too small to hit with level bomber
Level bomber
High level bombing is a tactic of dropping bombs while in high altitude. The term is used as a counterpart to both World War II dive bombing and low-level bombing. Before the age of precision guided munitions , it was mostly used for strategic bombing, in other words to damage enemy's economy and...

s. In the 1920s the US Navy ordered the first custom dive bomber aircraft, the Curtiss
Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company
Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company was an American aircraft manufacturer that went public in 1916 with Glenn Hammond Curtiss as president. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the company was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the United States...

 F8C
Curtiss Falcon
The Curtiss Falcon is a family of military biplane aircraft built by the United States aircraft manufacturer Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company during the 1920s. Most saw service as part of the United States Army Air Corps as observation aircraft with the designations O-1 and O-11, or as the...

 Hell-Diver biplane
Biplane
A biplane is a fixed-wing aircraft with two superimposed main wings. The Wright brothers' Wright Flyer used a biplane design, as did most aircraft in the early years of aviation. While a biplane wing structure has a structural advantage, it produces more drag than a similar monoplane wing...

 (not to be confused with the later SB2C Helldiver). The Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

 followed by ordering the Heinkel He 50
Heinkel He 50
|-See also:-Bibliography:* Donald, D., ed. Warplanes of the Luftwaffe: Combat Aircraft of Hitler’s Luftwaffe, 1933–1945. London: Aerospace Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-8805888-10-2....

 in 1931, which they developed into their own Aichi D1A
Aichi D1A
|-See also:-External links:*...

. Numerous examples followed, including the US SBC, Japanese Aichi D3A
Aichi D3A
The , Allied reporting name "Val") was a World War II carrier-borne dive bomber of the Imperial Japanese Navy . It was the primary dive bomber in the Imperial Japanese Navy, and participated in almost all actions, including Pearl Harbor....

 and others. Because navies operated from aircraft carriers or small airfields, they had "smaller numbers of aircraft available for any one attack, and each aircraft was often unable to carry more than a few bombs per plane." They also were frequently required to attack smaller-sized or moving targets, such as ships. The combination of a small bomb load and the need for accuracy made dive bombing techniques a requirement for naval airplanes.

Land-based forces proved generally less interested in the dive bomber role. Accurate bombardment of point targets at long distances did not appear to be a military requirement, and at shorter ranges artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 could already fill any demand. Development concentrated primary on ground attack aircraft
Ground attack aircraft
Ground-attack aircraft are military aircraft with primary role of attacking targets on the ground with greater precision than bombers and prepared to face stronger low-level air defense...

, which were intended to attack primarily with guns and cannon against infantry and light armour. Examples include the Fairey Battle
Fairey Battle
The Fairey Battle was a British single-engine light bomber built by the Fairey Aviation Company in the late 1930s for the Royal Air Force. The Battle was powered by the same Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engine that gave contemporary British fighters high performance; however, the Battle was weighed...

, Henschel Hs 129
Henschel Hs 129
The Henschel Hs 129 was a World War II ground-attack aircraft fielded by the German Luftwaffe. Its nickname, the Panzerknacker , is a deliberate pun—in German, it also means "safe cracker"...

 and Ilyushin Il-2
Ilyushin Il-2
The Ilyushin Il-2 was a ground-attack aircraft in the Second World War, produced by the Soviet Union in very large numbers...

. However, Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 experience in Spain demonstrated the value of the dive bombing technique, repeatedly attacking high value targets and causing damage to the enemy out of proportion to the size of the force. This led to the famed Junkers Ju 87
Junkers Ju 87
The Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka was a two-man German ground-attack aircraft...

, and in turn, to many other air forces starting dive bomber efforts of their own.

One notable holdout was the US Army Air Corps (USAAC). In the 1930s a new generation of bombsights like the Norden were being introduced, which suggested that level bombers could attain accuracies somewhat similar that those of the dive bombers. Although the accuracy would not be as great, an aircraft flying horizontally would not be subject to the great stresses of diving, and could be built to hold a dramatically greater warload. Thus, any loss of accuracy could be made up by carrying more bombs, increasing the chance that one would hit. However, this aircraft would also be able to fly at high altitude throughout the attack, greatly increasing its odds of surviving. This thinking led to a great debate in military aviation circles. The US Navy, developing the Norden, made plans for most of its new aircraft to be able to level bomb. However, they also continued development of dive bombers and torpedo bomber
Torpedo bomber
A torpedo bomber is a bomber aircraft designed primarily to attack ships with aerial torpedoes which could also carry out conventional bombings. Torpedo bombers existed almost exclusively prior to and during World War II when they were an important element in many famous battles, notably the...

s as the best method of attacking ships was not clear at that time. The USAAC confidentially predicted that the Norden would allow it to attack ships with ease, and designed their strategy around long-range bombers like the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress which would be able to counter any seaborne attack at long range. Work on dive bombers and attack aircraft was scaled back dramatically.

World War II

The only major force not to deploy a dedicated dive bomber were the inventors of the tactic, the British. The Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 attempted to introduce their own on several occasions, but were never able to do so due to various reasons, not the least of which was political interference by the RAF. They only produced hybrid aircraft: the Blackburn Skua
Blackburn Skua
The Blackburn B-24 Skua was a carrier-based low-wing, two-seater, single-radial engine aircraft operated by the British Fleet Air Arm which combined the functions of a dive bomber and fighter. It was designed in the mid-1930s, and saw service in the early part of the Second World War...

, a dive bomber/fighter
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

 that was used for a short time and in small numbers, and the Fairey Barracuda
Fairey Barracuda
The Fairey Barracuda was a British carrier-borne torpedo- and dive bomber used during the Second World War, the first of its type used by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm to be fabricated entirely from metal. It was introduced as a replacement for the Fairey Swordfish and Fairey Albacore biplanes...

, a dive bomber/torpedo bomber
Torpedo bomber
A torpedo bomber is a bomber aircraft designed primarily to attack ships with aerial torpedoes which could also carry out conventional bombings. Torpedo bombers existed almost exclusively prior to and during World War II when they were an important element in many famous battles, notably the...

.

European theater

In the early 1930s, Ernst Udet
Ernst Udet
Colonel General Ernst Udet was the second-highest scoring German flying ace of World War I. He was one of the youngest aces and was the highest scoring German ace to survive the war . His 62 victories were second only to Manfred von Richthofen, his commander in the Flying Circus...

 visited the U.S. and was able to purchase four F8Cs
Curtiss Falcon
The Curtiss Falcon is a family of military biplane aircraft built by the United States aircraft manufacturer Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company during the 1920s. Most saw service as part of the United States Army Air Corps as observation aircraft with the designations O-1 and O-11, or as the...

 and ship them to Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, where they caused a minor revolution. The dive bombing technique would allow a much smaller Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 to operate effectively in the tactical role. Soon they had sent out contracts for their own dive bomber designs, resulting in the gull-winged
Gull wing
The gull wing is an aircraft's wing configuration with a prominent bend in the wing somewhere along the span, generally near the wing root. Its name is derived from the seabirds which it resembles. It has been incorporated in aircraft for many reasons....

 Junkers Ju 87
Junkers Ju 87
The Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka was a two-man German ground-attack aircraft...

 Stuka (a contraction of Sturzkampfflugzeug, literally "dive-combat-air-plane").

When it was introduced in 1936, the Stuka was the most advanced dive bomber in the world. Using it as "aerial artillery" solved a major problem in the concept of Blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

—how to attack dug-in defensive positions. Normally this would require slow-moving artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 to be used, making the fast moving armoured forces wait for it to catch up. Close coordination between the ground forces and Stukas could achieve the same ends, on the move.

This was proven to great effect during the invasion of Poland
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

 and the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

. In one particular example, the British Expeditionary Force
British Expeditionary Force (World War II)
The British Expeditionary Force was the British force in Europe from 1939–1940 during the Second World War. Commanded by General Lord Gort, the BEF constituted one-tenth of the defending Allied force....

 set up strong defensive positions on the west bank of the Oise River
Oise River
The River Oise is a right tributary of the River Seine, flowing for 302 km in Belgium and France. Its source is in the Belgian province Hainaut, south of the town Chimay. It crosses the border with France after about 20 km. It flows into the Seine in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, near Paris...

 just in front of the rapidly advancing German armour. Attacks by Stukas quickly broke the defence, and combat engineers
Combat engineering
A combat engineer, also called pioneer or sapper in many armies, is a soldier who performs a variety of construction and demolition tasks under combat conditions...

 were able to force a crossing long before the artillery arrived. Another important example was the massive aerial attacks in 13 May 1940 against strong French defence positions at Sedan in the Battle of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

, which allowed the German forces a fast and (for the Allies) unexpected breakthrough through the French lines, eventually leading to the German advance to the Channel and the cutting off of large parts of the Allied army.

Despite its success in the French campaign, the Stuka soon showed its weaknesses in the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

 where great numbers of Stukas were lost due to its inappropriate use as a tactical bomber. In this case the lack of air superiority meant that the slow-moving aircraft was also at great risk to attack by fighters. This had not been the case in earlier battles, where the Luftwaffe maintained air superiority throughout.

The Stuka was the only widely used dedicated tactical dive bomber to be deployed against both naval and land targets, particularly with regard to the latter in the anti-armor
Anti-tank warfare
Anti-tank warfare was created by the need to seek technology and tactics to destroy tanks and their supporting infantry during the First World War...

 role. Stukas also had 7.92mm
MG 17 machine gun
The MG 17 was a 7.92 mm machine gun produced by Rheinmetall-Borsig for use at fixed mountings in many World War II Luftwaffe aircraft.- History :...

 machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s or 20mm
MG 151 cannon
The MG 151 was a 15 mm autocannon produced by Waffenfabrik Mauser starting in 1940. It was in 1941 developed into the 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon which was widely used on many types of German Luftwaffe fighters, fighter bombers, night fighters, ground attack and even bombers as part of or as...

 cannon
Autocannon
An autocannon or automatic cannon is a rapid-fire projectile weapon firing a shell as opposed to the bullet fired by a machine gun. Autocannons often have a larger caliber than a machine gun . Usually, autocannons are smaller than a field gun or other artillery, and are mechanically loaded for a...

s mounted in the wings, with some modified to have 37mm cannon
BK 37
The Bordkanone BK 3,7 was a 37mm anti-tank/bomber autocannon based on the earlier 37 mm Flak 18 made by Rheinmetall. It was mounted on World War II Luftwaffe aircraft such as the anti-tank or bomber-destroyer versions of the Junkers Ju 87D-3 and G-2, Henschel Hs 129B-2/R3, Messerschmitt Bf...

s mounted below the wings for anti-tank work. With the loss of Luftwaffe air superiority in the east they became vulnerable to the Red Army Air Force fighters, and from 1943 had begun conversion to the more conventional cannon
Autocannon
An autocannon or automatic cannon is a rapid-fire projectile weapon firing a shell as opposed to the bullet fired by a machine gun. Autocannons often have a larger caliber than a machine gun . Usually, autocannons are smaller than a field gun or other artillery, and are mechanically loaded for a...

 attack tactics.

The Royal Navy's Barracuda's made several attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz
German battleship Tirpitz
Tirpitz was the second of two s built for the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. Named after Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the architect of the Imperial Navy, the ship was laid down at the Kriegsmarinewerft in Wilhelmshaven in November 1936 and launched two and a half years later in April...

 in 1944. The first (Operation Tungsten
Operation Tungsten
Operation Tungsten was a British naval operation during World War II. it was one of a number of aerial attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz while she was in Norwegian waters...

) was the most successful and put the ship out of action for 2-3 months.

Pacific theater

Both the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

 (IJN) and the U.S. Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 invested considerable effort on dive bombers. Japan started the war with one of the best designs, the Imperial Navy's carrier-borne Aichi D3A
Aichi D3A
The , Allied reporting name "Val") was a World War II carrier-borne dive bomber of the Imperial Japanese Navy . It was the primary dive bomber in the Imperial Japanese Navy, and participated in almost all actions, including Pearl Harbor....

 (Val). But as the war progressed, the design quickly became outdated, in part due to its fixed main landing gear
Undercarriage
The undercarriage or landing gear in aviation, is the structure that supports an aircraft on the ground and allows it to taxi, takeoff and land...

 (a shortcoming shared by the Stuka). Later, when the IJN was no longer on the offensive, the more advanced Yokosuka D4Y
Yokosuka D4Y
The D4Y Navy Type 2 Carrier Dive bomber was operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Its Allied reporting name was "Judy". The D4Y was one of the fastest dive-bombers of the war, and only the delays in its development hindered its service, while its predecessor, the slower fixed gear Aichi D3A...

 Suisei entered service. By then, Japan's industry was straining under the relentless submarine warfare
Submarine warfare
Naval warfare is divided into three operational areas: surface warfare, air warfare and underwater warfare. The latter may be subdivided into submarine warfare and anti-submarine warfare as well as mine warfare and mine countermeasures...

 campaign being waged by the US Navy, which interdicted the raw materials needed by Japanese factories.

The U.S. fielded the Douglas
Douglas Aircraft Company
The Douglas Aircraft Company was an American aerospace manufacturer, based in Long Beach, California. It was founded in 1921 by Donald Wills Douglas, Sr. and later merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967 to form McDonnell Douglas...

 SBD Dauntless, which was similar to the D3A in performance. The Dauntless was replaced with the faster, but more complex Curtiss
Curtiss-Wright
The Curtiss-Wright Corporation was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the United States at the end of World War II, but has evolved to largely become a component manufacturer, specializing in actuators, aircraft controls, valves, and metalworking....

 SB2C Helldiver. As was usual with US war industry during WWII, both airplanes were built in large numbers.

The IJN's dive bombing moment of success was during their Indian Ocean Raid
Indian Ocean raid
The Indian Ocean raid was a naval sortie by the Fast Carrier Strike Force of the Imperial Japanese Navy from 31 March-10 April 1942 against Allied shipping and bases in the Indian Ocean. It was an early engagement of the Pacific campaign of World War II...

s in April 1942. Japanese carriers launched strikes against the British navy's battle squadrons stationed near Ceylon and India, and Vals succeeded in sinking the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 heavy cruisers HMS Cornwall
HMS Cornwall
Seven ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Cornwall after the Duchy of Cornwall. Cornwall's motto is unus et omnes ....

 and HMS Dorsetshire
HMS Dorsetshire
Three ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Dorsetshire, after the traditional county of Dorsetshire: was an 80-gun third-rate launched in 1694, rebuilt in 1712, and sold in 1749. was a 70-gun third-rate launched in 1757 and broken up in 1775. was a County-class heavy cruiser launched in 1929...

, and the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes
HMS Hermes
Ten ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Hermes, after Hermes, the messenger god of Greek mythology, while another was planned: was a 12-gun brig-sloop, originally the Dutch Mercurius, captured in 1796 by HMS Sylph. She foundered in 1797. was a 22-gun ship purchased in 1798 and sold in 1802....

 along with her escort destroyer HMS Vampire
HMS Vampire
Two ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Vampire:* HMS Vampire, a V class destroyer launched in 1917 and serving with the Royal Navy until 1933, when she was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy., the lead ship of her class of submarines. Served from 1942 until her scrapping in 1950....

.

The most famous example of successful naval dive-bombing attacks took place in the decisive Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

 in June 1942 when American Dauntlesses scored fatal hits on three separate first-line Japanese
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

 aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s within a six minute timespan. Within hours the Imperial Japanese Navy had lost several years worth of combat experienced naval airmen, which until the end of the war in 1945 would never be replaced.

Decline

After the war
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the dive bomber class quickly disappeared. Anti-aircraft warfare
Anti-aircraft warfare
NATO defines air defence as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be to protect naval, ground and air forces...

 had improved as had the speed and effectiveness of fighter aircraft against the vulnerable, slow-flying dive bombers. At the same time the quality of various computing bomb sights allowed for much better accuracy from smaller dive angles, and the sights could be fitted to almost any plane, especially fighter aircraft
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

, much improving the effectiveness of ground-attack aircraft. Although the aircraft could still "dive" on their targets to some degree, they were no longer optimized for steep diving attacks at the expense of other capabilities as the dive bombers of old. As these same aircraft were capable of many other missions as well, they were no longer considered to be dive bombers.

After pioneering efforts in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 by both the Nazi-era Luftwaffe with the Fritz X
Fritz X
Fritz X was the most common name for a German guided anti-ship glide bomb used during World War II. Fritz X was a nickname used both by Allied and Luftwaffe personnel. Alternate names include Ruhrstahl SD 1400 X, Kramer X-1, PC 1400X or FX 1400...

, and the USAAF
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

 with the Azon
Azon
AZON was one of the world's first smart bombs, deployed by the Allies and contemporary with the German Fritz X.Officially designated VB-1 , it was invented by Major Henry J. Rand and Thomas J...

 controlled-trajectory bombs, today's smart bombs
Precision-guided munition
A precision-guided munition is a guided munition intended to precisely hit a specific target, and to minimize damage to things other than the target....

 are used for precision bombing. Bombs can be dropped many miles from the target at high altitudes, placing the aircraft at little risk. The bomb then guides itself onto the target through a number of means, which can include laser designation
Laser guidance
Laser guidance is a technique of guiding a missile or other projectile or vehicle to a target by means of a laser beam. Some laser guided systems utilise beam riding guidance, but most operate more similarly to semi-active radar homing . This technique is sometimes called SALH, for Semi-Active...

, onboard GPS
Global Positioning System
The Global Positioning System is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites...

, radar
Active radar homing
Active radar homing is a missile guidance method in which a guided missile contains a radar transceiver and the electronics necessary for it to find and track its target autonomously...

, infrared
Infrared homing
Infrared homing refers to a passive missile guidance system which uses the emission from a target of electromagnetic radiation in the infrared part of the spectrum to track and follow it. Missiles which use infrared seeking are often referred to as "heat-seekers", since infrared is just below the...

, television guidance, and inertial
Inertial navigation system
An inertial navigation system is a navigation aid that uses a computer, motion sensors and rotation sensors to continuously calculate via dead reckoning the position, orientation, and velocity of a moving object without the need for external references...

 wind-correction. Bomb sights continue to supply several "toss bombing
Toss bombing
Toss bombing is a method of bombing where the attacking aircraft pulls upwards when releasing its bomb load, giving the bomb additional time of flight by starting its ballistic path with an upward vector.The purpose of toss bombing is to compensate for the gravity drop of the...

" modes, a sort of reverse dive bombing where an aircraft releases its bomb while steeply pulling up from low level. Shallow, 45° or less dive bombing attacks are still used to deliver gravity bomb
Gravity bomb
An unguided bomb, also known as a free-fall bomb, gravity bomb, dumb bomb, or iron bomb, is a conventional aircraft-delivered bomb that does not contain a guidance system and hence, simply follows a ballistic trajectory....

s when they are employed.

External links

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