The War in the Air - Bombers: Introduction

Handley-Page bomber aircraft Fighter aircraft are the most aggressive aircraft in war, but their role is essentially defensive: to protect ones own airspace, or to protect ones own aircraft when they enter enemy airspace.  The aircraft that carry out the offensive policies of a nation are the bombers.

Strategic bombing is aimed at reducing an enemy's capacity to make war - targets typically include factories, power stations and dockyards.  The Italians and British, and to a lesser extent the French, carried out such bombing campaigns.  The Germans attempted to destroy the British capacity to make war by sowing panic and dissent among the civilian population.  Strategic bombing calls for long range aircraft, as often the target is well behind enemy lines.

The goal of tactical bombing is to aid ground forces.  Transportation and supply facilities in the area of battle are bombed, as are fortresses and gun-emplacements.  All the combatants carried out such raids.

Fighter aircraft in the First World War were small and relatively simple to build, and as outlined earlier underwent rapid development during the war.  Fighters typically become obsolete within a year or so.  With fighter pitted against fighter, aircraft design was greatly influenced - and at times inspired - by developments on the opposite side of the front line.

This was not the case for bombers.  A technological advantage held by the enemy did not demand an immediate response on one's own side.  Larger and more complex than fighters, it was often sufficient to progressively developed and improve the bomber, rather than to design an entirely new aircraft.  Some bomber designs remained in use during the entire war.

The following pages within this section discuss the use and development of bombers on a country by country basis.

Article contributed by Ari Unikoski

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War in the Air

Bomber Aircraft