Heavy bomber
Overview
 
A heavy 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
Fixed-wing aircraft
A fixed-wing aircraft is an aircraft capable of flight using wings that generate lift due to the vehicle's forward airspeed. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct from rotary-wing aircraft in which wings rotate about a fixed mast and ornithopters in which lift is generated by flapping wings.A powered...

 of the largest size and load
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...

 carrying capacity, and usually the longest range
Range (aircraft)
The maximal total range is the distance an aircraft can fly between takeoff and landing, as limited by fuel capacity in powered aircraft, or cross-country speed and environmental conditions in unpowered aircraft....

.

In New START
New START
New START is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation with the formal name of Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms...

, the term "heavy bomber" is used for two types of bombers:
  • one with a range greater than 8,000 kilometers
  • one equipped for long-range nuclear "air-launched
    Air launch
    Air launching is the practice of dropping a parasite aircraft, rocket, or missile from a mothership. The parasite aircraft or missile is usually tucked under the wing of the larger mothership and then "dropped" from underneath the wing while in flight...

     cruise missiles" (ALCMs), defined as an air-to-surface
    Air-to-surface missile
    An air-to-surface missile is a missile designed to be launched from military aircraft and strike ground targets on land, at sea, or both...

     cruise missile
    Cruise missile
    A cruise missile is a guided missile that carries an explosive payload and is propelled, usually by a jet engine, towards a land-based or sea-based target. Cruise missiles are designed to deliver a large warhead over long distances with high accuracy...

     of a type flight-test
    Flight test
    Flight test is a branch of aeronautical engineering that develops and gathers data during flight of an aircraft and then analyzes the data to evaluate the flight characteristics of the aircraft and validate its design, including safety aspects...

    ed from an 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...

     or deployed on 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:...

     after 1986.


The term was most commonly used prior to 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...

, when engine
Reciprocating engine
A reciprocating engine, also often known as a piston engine, is a heat engine that uses one or more reciprocating pistons to convert pressure into a rotating motion. This article describes the common features of all types...

 power was so meager that bomber designs had to be carefully tailored to their missions.
Encyclopedia
A heavy 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
Fixed-wing aircraft
A fixed-wing aircraft is an aircraft capable of flight using wings that generate lift due to the vehicle's forward airspeed. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct from rotary-wing aircraft in which wings rotate about a fixed mast and ornithopters in which lift is generated by flapping wings.A powered...

 of the largest size and load
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...

 carrying capacity, and usually the longest range
Range (aircraft)
The maximal total range is the distance an aircraft can fly between takeoff and landing, as limited by fuel capacity in powered aircraft, or cross-country speed and environmental conditions in unpowered aircraft....

.

In New START
New START
New START is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation with the formal name of Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms...

, the term "heavy bomber" is used for two types of bombers:
  • one with a range greater than 8,000 kilometers
  • one equipped for long-range nuclear "air-launched
    Air launch
    Air launching is the practice of dropping a parasite aircraft, rocket, or missile from a mothership. The parasite aircraft or missile is usually tucked under the wing of the larger mothership and then "dropped" from underneath the wing while in flight...

     cruise missiles" (ALCMs), defined as an air-to-surface
    Air-to-surface missile
    An air-to-surface missile is a missile designed to be launched from military aircraft and strike ground targets on land, at sea, or both...

     cruise missile
    Cruise missile
    A cruise missile is a guided missile that carries an explosive payload and is propelled, usually by a jet engine, towards a land-based or sea-based target. Cruise missiles are designed to deliver a large warhead over long distances with high accuracy...

     of a type flight-test
    Flight test
    Flight test is a branch of aeronautical engineering that develops and gathers data during flight of an aircraft and then analyzes the data to evaluate the flight characteristics of the aircraft and validate its design, including safety aspects...

    ed from an 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...

     or deployed on 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:...

     after 1986.


The term was most commonly used prior to 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...

, when engine
Reciprocating engine
A reciprocating engine, also often known as a piston engine, is a heat engine that uses one or more reciprocating pistons to convert pressure into a rotating motion. This article describes the common features of all types...

 power was so meager that bomber designs had to be carefully tailored to their missions. These sorts of distinctions were disappearing by the middle of the war, by which time the typical 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...

 could carry a 2000 pounds (907.2 kg) load and 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....

s were taking over roles and missions formerly flown by medium bomber
Medium bomber
A medium bomber is a bomber aircraft designed to operate with medium bombloads over medium distances; the name serves to distinguish them from the larger heavy bombers and smaller light bombers...

s.

Heavy bombers of the WWII era also were distinguished by their heavy defensive armament, for protection from smaller and usually much faster 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...

. British designs often had three gun turrets with a total of 8 machine guns. U.S. heavy bomber designs, optimized for formation flying, had upwards of 10 machine guns and/or 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 in both powered turrets and manually-operated flexible mounts to deliver the optimal protective arc
Arc (geometry)
In geometry, an arc is a closed segment of a differentiable curve in the two-dimensional plane; for example, a circular arc is a segment of the circumference of a circle...

s of fire. Positions for these guns included tail
Empennage
The empennage , also known as the tail or tail assembly, of most aircraft gives stability to the aircraft, in a similar way to the feathers on an arrow...

 turrets
Tail gunner
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 on either the top or tail end of the aircraft with a generally...

, side gun ports which could be located either just behind the bombardier's clear nose glazing as "cheek" positions, or midway along the rear fuselage sides as "waist" positions, each with a .50 caliber machine gun), and dorsal (spine/top of aircraft) and ventral (belly/bottom of aircraft) gun positions with powered turrets. All of these machine guns enabled heavy bombers to defend themselves when they were beyond range of their fighter escorts, especially before the early 1944 introduction of the P-51 Mustang
P-51 Mustang
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II, the Korean War and in several other conflicts...

 fighter design, starting with the Big Week
Big Week
Between February 20–25, 1944, as part of the European strategic bombing campaign, the United States Strategic Air Forces launched Operation Argument, a series of missions against the Third Reich that became known as Big Week. The planners intended to lure the Luftwaffe into a decisive battle by...

 bomber offensive. Nazi 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...

, due to the role the Luftwaffe was primarily tasked with in its support of the ground forces of the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

, never had a chance to develop a heavy bomber before the start of the war - their prime proponent of strategic bombing, General Walther Wever
Walther Wever (general)
Walther Wever was a pre-World War II Luftwaffe Commander.-Early life:Walther Wever was born on 11 November 1887 in Wilhelmsort in the county of Bromberg . He was the son of Arnold Wever, the one-time director of a Berlin bank and the grandson of the Prussian Prosecutor-General Dr...

 had lost his life in a 1936 takeoff accident, with only the troubled 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,...

 design existing as a frontline heavy bomber during the war years, used for only minor actions against both the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

.

The American innovation of the manned, ventrally-mounted Sperry
Sperry Corporation
Sperry Corporation was a major American equipment and electronics company whose existence spanned more than seven decades of the twentieth century...

 ball turret
Ball turret
A ball turret was a particular form of spherical-form, altazimuth mount movement manned aircraft gun turret, accommodating the gunner with nearly all the needed equipment for defensive firepower mounted either within or onto the spherical shell of the turret structure, mounted on aircraft during...

 on the B-17 and B-24 bombers was a virtually self-contained defensive weapon system that rotated a full 360 degrees horizontally with a 90-degree elevation, and its pair of M2 Browning machine guns had an effective range of one thousand yards. The B-29 Superfortress, introduced later in the war brought the innovation of four remotely operated twin-gun turrets on its fuselage
Fuselage
The fuselage is an aircraft's main body section that holds crew and passengers or cargo. In single-engine aircraft it will usually contain an engine, although in some amphibious aircraft the single engine is mounted on a pylon attached to the fuselage which in turn is used as a floating hull...

, controlled through an analog computer
Analog computer
An analog computer is a form of computer that uses the continuously-changeable aspects of physical phenomena such as electrical, mechanical, or hydraulic quantities to model the problem being solved...

 sighting system sighted from any of a trio of hemispherical clear-glazed stations, with only the rear tail gunner
Tail gunner
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 on either the top or tail end of the aircraft with a generally...

 position on the plane
Fixed-wing aircraft
A fixed-wing aircraft is an aircraft capable of flight using wings that generate lift due to the vehicle's forward airspeed. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct from rotary-wing aircraft in which wings rotate about a fixed mast and ornithopters in which lift is generated by flapping wings.A powered...

 directly manned by a crewmember.

After World War II the term was used to describe some bombers dedicated to the strategic mission, but soon these were being referred to as strategic bomber
Strategic bomber
A strategic bomber is a heavy bomber aircraft designed to drop large amounts of ordnance onto a distant target for the purposes of debilitating an enemy's capacity to wage war. Unlike tactical bombers, which are used in the battle zone to attack troops and military equipment, strategic bombers are...

s, while smaller bomber designs with less range or load carrying capacity were called tactical bomber
Tactical bomber
A tactical bomber is a bomber aircraft with an intended primary role of tactical bombing—attacking tactical targets, such as enemy's troops and military equipment. This implies that either aircraft's range or ordnance is insufficient to use it effectively as a strategic bomber.All light bombers,...

s. The general utility of a manned heavy bomber has been greatly degraded not only by the advent of intercontinental ballistic missile
Intercontinental ballistic missile
An intercontinental ballistic missile is a ballistic missile with a long range typically designed for nuclear weapons delivery...

s in the strategic role, but also with the introduction of more accurate precision-guided munition
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....

s ("smart bombs") which have greatly increased the efficiency of aerial weapons delivery; yet aircraft such as the B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit continue to fill a role and capability, when required of delivering tens of thousands of pounds of explosives per sortie
Sortie
Sortie is a term for deployment or dispatch of one military unit, be it an aircraft, ship, or troops from a strongpoint. The sortie, whether by one or more aircraft or vessels, usually has a specific mission....

.

Examples

World War One

  • Caproni Ca.4
    Caproni Ca.4
    -Ca.48:-See also:-References:** **-External links: Contemporary technical description of the Ca.41 and Ca.42 with photographs and drawings.- Video :*...

  • Caproni Ca.5
    Caproni Ca.5
    The Caproni Ca.5 was an Italian heavy bomber of the World War I and post-war era. It was the final version of the series of aircraft that began with the Caproni Ca.1 in 1914.-Development:...

     Handley Page Type O
    Handley Page Type O
    The Handley Page Type O was an early biplane bomber used by Britain during the First World War. At the time, it was the largest aircraft that had been built in the UK and one of the largest in the world...

     Handley Page V/1500
    Handley Page V/1500
    -See also:-Bibliography:* Barnes, C. H. Handley Page Aircraft Since 1907. London: Putnam & Company, Ltd., 1987. ISBN 0-85177-803-8.* Bowyer, Chaz. Handley Page Bombers of the First World War. Bourne End, Bucks, UK:Aston Publications, 1992. ISBN 0-946627-68-1.* Clayton, Donald C. Handley Page, an...

     Gotha G.IV
    Gotha G.IV
    |-See also:...

     Gotha G.V Sikorsky Ilya Muromets
    Sikorsky Ilya Muromets
    The Ilya Muromets refers to a class of Russian pre-World War I large four-engine commercial airliners and heavy military bombing aircraft used during World War I by the Russian Empire. The aircraft series was named after Ilya Muromets, a hero from Russian mythology...

     Vickers Vimy
    Vickers Vimy
    The Vickers Vimy was a British heavy bomber aircraft of the First World War and post-First World War era. It achieved success as both a military and civil aircraft, setting several notable records in long-distance flights in the interwar period, the most celebrated of which was the first non-stop...

     Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI

Interwar period

  • Caproni Ca.90
    Caproni Ca.90
    -External links:...

     Farman F.220 Fairey Hendon
    Fairey Hendon
    |-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Crosby, Francis. The World Encyclopedia of Fighters and Bombers. London: Lorenz Books ISBN 0-75481-616-8* Gallop, Alan. Time Flies: Heathrow At 60. Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-7509-3840-4...

     Handley Page Heyford
    Handley Page Heyford
    The Handley Page Heyford was a twin-engine British biplane bomber of the 1930s. Although it had a short service life, it equipped several squadrons of the RAF as one of the most important British bombers of the mid-1930s, and was the last biplane heavy bomber to serve with the RAF.-Design and...

     Handley Page Hinaidi
    Handley Page Hinaidi
    |-See also:-Bibliography:* Barnes, C. H. Handley Page Aircraft Since 1907. London: Putnam & Company, Ltd., 1987. ISBN 0-85177-803-8.* Clayton, Donald C. Handley Page, an Aircraft Album. Shepperton, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan Ltd., 1969. ISBN 0-7110-0094-8....

     B-2 Condor Junkers Ju 89
    Junkers Ju 89
    |-See also:-External links:*...

     Mitsubishi Ki-20
    Mitsubishi Ki-20
    -See also:-References:NotesBibliography...

     Tupolev TB-3
    Tupolev TB-3
    The Tupolev TB-3 was a heavy bomber aircraft which was deployed by the Soviet Air Force in the 1930s and during World War II. It was the world's first cantilever wing four-engine heavy bomber. Despite obsolescence and being officially withdrawn from service in 1939, TB-3 performed bomber and...


World War Two

Avro Lancaster
Avro Lancaster
The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber made initially by Avro for the Royal Air Force . It first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF, and squadrons from other...

 Bloch MB.162
Bloch MB.162
-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Green, William. War Planes of the Second World War: Bombers and Reconnaissance Aircraft, Volume Seven. London: Macdonald, 1967.-External links:**...

 B-17 Flying Fortress B-24 Liberator B-29 Superfortress Handley Page Halifax
Handley Page Halifax
The Handley Page Halifax was one of the British front-line, four-engined heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. A contemporary of the famous Avro Lancaster, the Halifax remained in service until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing...

 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,...

 Nakajima G8N
Nakajima G8N
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Collier, Basil. Japanese Aircraft of World War II. New York: Mayflower Books, 1979. ISBN 0-8317-5137-1....

 Petlyakov Pe-8
Petlyakov Pe-8
The Petlyakov Pe-8 was a Soviet heavy bomber designed before World War II, and the only four-engine bomber the USSR built during the war. Produced in limited numbers, it was used to bomb Berlin in August 1941. It was also used for so-called "morale raids" designed to raise the spirit of the Soviet...

  • Piaggio P.108
    Piaggio P.108
    The Piaggio P.108 Bombardiere was the only Italian four-engine heavy bomber used by the Axis powers during World War II. The prototype first flew in 1939 and it entered service in 1941....

     Short Stirling
    Short Stirling
    The Short Stirling was the first four-engined British heavy bomber of the Second World War. The Stirling was designed and built by Short Brothers to an Air Ministry specification from 1936, and entered service in 1941...


Cold War

Dassault Mirage IV
Dassault Mirage IV
The Dassault Mirage IV was a French jet-propelled supersonic strategic bomber and deep-reconnaissance aircraft. For many years it was a vital part of the nuclear triad of the Force de Frappe, France's nuclear deterrent striking force.-Development:...

 Avro Lincoln
Avro Lincoln
The Avro Type 694, better known as the Avro Lincoln, was a British four-engined heavy bomber, which first flew on 9 June 1944. Developed from the Avro Lancaster, the first Lincoln variants were known initially as the Lancaster IV and V, but were renamed Lincoln I and II...

 Avro Vulcan
Avro Vulcan
The Avro Vulcan, sometimes referred to as the Hawker Siddeley Vulcan, was a jet-powered delta wing strategic bomber, operated by the Royal Air Force from 1956 until 1984. Aircraft manufacturer A V Roe & Co designed the Vulcan in response to Specification B.35/46. Of the three V bombers produced,...

 Handley Page Victor
Handley Page Victor
The Handley Page Victor was a British jet bomber aircraft produced by the Handley Page Aircraft Company during the Cold War. It was the third and final of the V-bombers that provided Britain's nuclear deterrent. The other two V-bombers were the Avro Vulcan and the Vickers Valiant. Some aircraft...

 Vickers Valiant
Vickers Valiant
The Vickers-Armstrongs Valiant was a British four-jet bomber, once part of the Royal Air Force's V bomber nuclear force in the 1950s and 1960s...

 B-1 Lancer B-36 Peacemaker
Convair B-36
The Convair B-36 "Peacemaker" was a strategic bomber built by Convair and operated solely by the United States Air Force from 1949 to 1959. The B-36 was the largest mass-produced piston engine aircraft ever made. It had the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built , although there have...

 B-47 Stratojet B-50 Superfortress
Boeing B-50 Superfortress
The Boeing B-50 Superfortress strategic bomber was a post-World War II revision of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, fitted with more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-4360 radial engines, stronger structure, a taller fin, and other improvements. It was the last piston-engined bomber designed by Boeing for...

 B-52 Stratofortress Myasishchev M-4
Myasishchev M-4
The Myasishchev M-4 Molot , USAF/DoD reporting name "Type 37", NATO reporting name 'Bison'.) is a four-engined strategic bomber designed by Vladimir Myasishchev and manufactured by the Soviet Union in the 1950s to provide a bomber capable of attacking targets in North America...

 Tupolev Tu-4
Tupolev Tu-4
The Tupolev Tu-4 was a piston-engined Soviet strategic bomber that served the Soviet Air Force from the late 1940s to mid 1960s...

 Tupolev Tu-16
Tupolev Tu-16
The Tupolev Tu-16 was a twin-engine jet bomber used by the Soviet Union. It has flown for more than 50 years, and the Chinese license-built Xian H-6 remains in service with the Chinese air force.-Development:...

 Tupolev Tu-95
Tupolev Tu-95
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 former Soviet Union in 1956 and is expected to serve the Russian Air Force until at least 2040...

 Tupolev Tu-160
Tupolev Tu-160
The Tupolev Tu-160 is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing heavy strategic bomber designed by the Tupolev Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. Although several civil and military transport aircraft are larger in overall dimensions, the Tu-160 is currently the world's largest combat aircraft, largest...

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