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cargo systems

Bomber and transport

In the early days of the Great War, the bomber was a relatively new concept

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. Like all Great War era aircraft, it had many problems, the majority of them crippling. As Canadian ace Billy Bishop once stated: "They gave us these bombs, and told us to drop them on someone". Early bombing was a very archaic practice. Rickety biplanes were not strong enough to hold bombs underwing until later on in time. Sometimes, the sheer weight of the bombs prevented the planes from even getting off the ground, and in order to accommodate the bombs, instruments, or even the invaluable machine guns, might be removed. The pilot would have to load his bombs, fly to his target, and throw them out of the plane, guiding them to their target with equal measures luck and prayer. As one could expect, this form of bombing never made a significant dent in the war machines of the Allies or the Entente. It did provide pilots, however, with valuable lessons on the art of bombing.

B2 diagram

B2 index

B2 diagram

Advantages of bombingEdit

  • Deadly psychological warfare. Infrequent raids frightened civilians, as they had no idea when the bombers were coming, the damage they would inflict, and who would be killed.
  • Allowed for targets out of the reach of artillery or ground forces to be strafed or destroyed.
  • Huge amounts of damage could be inflicted upon targets.
  • Bombers could be modified to assume a wide variety of roles.

Disadvantages of bombingEdit

  • Frequent bombing sometimes ceased to have a terrifying psychological effect on the victims. In the battle of Britain, London bombings became as normal as the weather, and in certain cases, civilians even went about their daily routine during raids. In plainer speech, bombing victims sometimes gained morale as opposed to losing it.
  • Civilian casualties are impossible to avoid.
  • Bombers are vulnerable to attack, and the rise of the interceptor in the 1960's proved that one does not need to see his enemy to engage it.
  • Bombers are extremely expensive to build, expensive to maintain, and very vulnerable to interceptors and



Bombing in the Second World WarEdit

The golden age of bombing occurred, without a doubt, during the Second World War. Bombers were produced in enormous numbers were constantly being upgraded and researched. Medium and heavy bombers were mostly used against stationary targets. Light/Dive bombers were mostly used to strafe installations or ground forces. Italy's most utilized bomber was the S.M. 79 Sparveiro which carried a medium bombload of 1250 kilograms. It was most successful in its torpedo bomber variant, and served until Italy's departure from the Second World War in the early 1940s. Italy's early-war ally, Germany, used their Heinkel He-111s with great success against industrial targets and as a vital component of the Blitzkrieg. Germany rarely built heavy bombers, preferring to send wave after wave of fast medium bombers at their targets. This strategy proved invaluable against Poland, decimating its cities in a matter of hours, as Wehrmacht infantry and Panzers flooded in. The same went for Hitler's terror bombing of Rotterdam, an infamous incident where Goering's Luttwaffe destroyed the major city of Rotterdam from the air despite promising to spare it if the Dutch surrendered. This incident became one of many quoted by anti-bombing advocates which rose up by the thousands after the war reached its climax, and horrific footage of bombed cities was released. Germany's Heinkel, Junkers, and Dornier produced most of Germany's bombers. The Arado company, despite having more experience with maritime aircraft, produced the Ar-234, the worlds first jet-powered bomber. However, the most famous German bomber of the Second World War was the Junkers Ju-87 Stuka. Armed with defensive and offensive machine guns, and bombs, it inflicted brutal casualties upon the allies. The Ju-87 Stuka (Shortened from SturzKampFleugZeug) had bent wings, allowing it to enter a steep dive and pull out of it. By diving, it could deliver its bombs with terrifying accuracy. However, its potency waned as the war went on and the Luttewaffe realized that dive-bombers were only effective as long as their deployers had control of the skies.

The Russians were hard-pressed to build bombers for their counter-attack against Germany. The Petlyakov Pe-2 was a medium bomber with a decent range that gave Russia its much-needed ground attack power. The Soviet Ilyushin company produced the Il-2 Stormolvik design, which many people agree was the best attack aircraft/light bomber in World War Two. It had a wing design comparable to that of the Ju-87 and was thus a supreme performer at low altitudes. This being said, it wasn't until the post-WW2 years that Russia built up its now legendary force of bombers.

Britain and the United States produced the greatest bombers (performance-wise) that would see service fighting for the Allies in the Second World War. When the United States entered the war, they had to build their bomber-force from the ground up. A good majority of their bombers, such as the B-18 Bolos, were obsolete. A stroke of luck for the United States was that two very potent bombers of the B-24 Liberator and B-17 Flying Fortress, were ready for the start of the war. The medium B-24 was developed early in the war but could carry a 3,992 Kg bombload a distance of 3,379 Km, and soon became America's most numerous bomber. The B-17's advantages, on the other hand, were a massive bombload, heavy armour, and a multitude of guns. The most famous American bombing raid of the early war years was undertaken by Doolittle's Tokyo Raiders, when several B-25 Mitchells bombed Tokyo, Japan itself shortly after the Pearl Harbour attack. Although very minimal physical damage was inflicted, the morale of the American people was lifted and Japan's citizens became quite nervous. At sea, Vought AU-1 Corsairs, Douglass Dauntlesses, and Curtiss SB2C Helldivers destroyed hordes of Japanese ships with bombs and torpedoes, while P-47s, A-26s, and A-20s became the ultimate American attack bombers on land.

British Halifaxes, Wellingtons, and Blenheims were used to bomb German forces and cities, although unlike certain heavily-armoured American bombers, they usually flew at night as a rule. The jack-of-all-trades Mosquito was used as a fast medium visual-attack bomber, usually against entrenched German positions or supply convoys. Hawker Typhoons, which proved a failure in the interceptor role, soon became invaluable as rocket-carrying attack aircraft. Their speed and machine-gun/cannon armament also allowed them to defend themselves from marauding fighters without having to abort the mission. The ultimate British bomber, and arguably the best night-bomber of the war, was the Avro Lancaster. A revised design of the unsuccessful Manchester bomber, the Lancaster came equipped with radar, radio, and a decent bombload. At sea, Britains Short Sunderland was their premier torpedo bomber of the war, and a great obstacle to the German U-boat fleet. The Sunderland could use its torpedoes and cannons to destroy a submarine in less than a minute, and it could stay in the air for long periods of time, allowing it to lie in wait for a U-Boat captain to surface his vessel.

Japan's bomber force was, by all respects, effective only if it could bring its strengths into play. Japanese bombers and bombing strategies were drastically different from those of other countries of the war. While most bombers were heavily armed, carried massive loads, and employed thick armour plating, Japan used multitudes fast, light bombers with moderate loads instead, depending on maneuverability to ensure maximum effectiveness. Mitsubishi's A6M Zero fighters were used in the attack role to deliver bombs and torpedoes with frightening accuracy towards ships. Zeroes, along with Japan's best dive-bomber, the Aichi D3A "Val", were used in the infamous Pearl Harbour attack with amazing results. In fact, so many Japanese aircraft attacked Hawaii that Americans initially waved to them, assuming they must be their own, since no one could have predicted the sheer magnitude of the raid. However, Zeroes and Vals bombed ships, destroyed aircraft on the ground, and caused havoc to the American forces. Later on in the war, Japan turned to Kamikaze aircraft. The pilots would treat their aircraft as bombs, and fly them into their targets. Japan even developed specialized suicide bomber aircraft, such as the rocket powered Ohka, which caused havoc with American supply convoys. Ultimately, over 50% of Kamikaze aircraft were shot down before they hit their target. Japan employed several heavy-medium bombers, such as Ki-67 Peggys and Ki-109s, but they suffered from poor bombloads and miniscule defences, even though they were quite fast.

Post World War II, bomber designations and types slowly changed to what they are today. During the war, there were three main types of bombers, light, medium, and heavy. Although attack aircraft also existed, they were still recognized as belonging to either the light or medium bomber categories.

Second World War typesEdit


Avro Lancaster Cutaway


Lancaster Bomber schematics

Light Bombers
Also known as Dive Bombers, these bombers were often single-engined, had little or no defensive guns, and were used for accurate attacks against ground units or small stationary targets. They also did not carry very large loads. The Ju-87 Stuka, Vought F4U/AU-1 Corsair, and Ilyushin IL-2 fall into this category.
Medium Bombers
Medium bombers had multiple engines, good range, a moderate bombload, and moderate accuracy. These bombers were used mainly against stationary targets such as cities or shipyards in large numbers. The B-26 Marauder, Junkers Ju-88, and Vickers Wellington fall into this category.
Heavy Bombers
Heavy Bombers carried large loads, heavy defences, heavy armour, and depended on their bombs large blast radius to strike the target. These bombers attacked from greater heights than medium or light bombers, and used against cities or hard targets such as factories or military installations. The Boeing B-29/50 Superfortress, Tupolev Tu-4 Bull, Avro Lancaster, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, and Handley-Page Halifax fall into this category.

Cold War/Modern typesEdit

The "light bomber" category vanished after the Second World War and was replaced with the similar but more specialized attack category. Light bombers were no longer considered "bombers" because they did not have large blast radiuses with all their weapons, were able to engage other aircraft in combat, and utilized rockets and cannons just as much as bombs. In fact, the only commonality light bombers had with medium or heavy bombers was the ability to drop bombs, and the designation was too vague and therefore dropped. Attack aircraft could have one or more engines, but were distinguished by specializing in the ground attack role, mainly destroying tanks and infantry. Examples of attack aircraft include the A-37 Dragonfly, A-10 Thunderbolt II, Blackburn Buccaneer, Sukhoi Su-25/Su-39 Frogfoot, Soko J-22 Orao, Mirage V, and the MiG-27 Flogger-D.
NOTE: Attack aircraft are no longer classified as bombers. The term bomber now refers to heavy or medium types which are completely designed around the purpose of delivering bombs.
Medium Bombers
Medium bombers, like light bombers, saw changes in their role during the cold war years. During WWII, medium bombers flew long range missions in large numbers to compensate for moderate defences and bomb loads. Modern (Post-1950s) medium bombers, however, received jet propulsion. They now flew solo or in small groups, with little or no defensive armament, and would carry out the deep penetration role just as often as the bombing role. Although medium bombers still dropped intermediate-sized loads of conventional bombs, they were also tasked with delivering tactical weapons into enemy territory. Medium bombers came in all sizes, from Dassaults relatively tiny Mirage IV, to Tupolev's larger Tu-22M Backfire. Ultimately, almost every medium bomber had a variant specifically tasked with delivering a WMD (Usually a nuclear bomb), to act as either a deterrent or a delivery platform in times of crisis. Examples of (modern) medium bombers are the Tu-16 Badger, Mirage IV, B-58 Hustler, B-66 Destroyer, Il-28 Beagle, English Electric Canberra and the TSR-2.
Heavy Bombers
Heavy bombers have, in concept, largely remained the same since the Second World War. They are all large, able to deliver a heavy payload of bombs, and can be equipped with strategic weapons such as nuclear munitions and cruise missiles. Heavy bombers are the most vulnerable of all bomber types, generally lacking the speed of medium bombers, and resort to more unconventional measures for self-defence. For example, the B-2 bomber uses stealth to be able to attack enemy bases unseen, while the Tu-160 Blackjack and B-1B Lancer resort to a combination of long-range engagement (Using cruise or nuclear missiles), speed, and even some stealth features to carry out low and high level penetration missions. Examples of heavy bombers include the Tu-95/141 Bear, B-52 Stratofortress, B-1 Lancer, Tu-160 Blackjack, Valiant, Vulcan, and the Victor bombers.

The Future of the BomberEdit

Despite the mere handful of heavy bomber types in service today, the bomber will still prove a valuable weapon in modern and future warfare. In between wars, however, bombers are often a huge burden on the air forces fielding them. Britain used to be one of the only three countries that still built bombers, but due to budget constraints, they retired their force of "V-Bombers" (Vulcan, Victor, and Valiant). Even today, Russian Tupolevs and certain Sukhoi types as well as American Boeings are draining resources at an astronomical rate. For heavy bombers, one needs to construct and regularly maintain massive airstrips. Also, since bombers are often kept in service for decades, their airframes deteriorate and maintenance costs skyrocket.

However, during a war, a bomber can prove to be a valuable tool. RAF Vulcans were used against Argentinean bases in the Falklands war, and in one incident a Vulcan completely decimated an Argentinean airfield using conventional bombs. Despite these advantages, though, bombing is in no way a safe practice. On the ground, flak guns and SAM positions prevent bombers from flying low, and since the introduction of jet aircraft, most bomber no longer have any defensive turrets as they have a hard time hitting targets with such a high velocity. The main danger to bombers is by far the interceptor fighter. Interceptors use their incredible speed, flight-range, and weapons range to engage bombers with such rapidity and from such far distances that they have little time to respond. For example, the American F-14 Tomcat could use its AIM-54 Phoenix missiles to destroy six Tu-141 Bears at once, from 150 miles away. And the Russian Mig-25 with its top speed of approximately 3000 KmH and its high service ceiling will catch any bomber in a matter of seconds. Worse, still, is that interceptors always operate close to forward air bases, and can get airborne, unleash a full load of weapons, land, re-arm, and then re-engage in less than an hour in certain situations.

To defend against these threats, modern bombers use stealth, speed, and most importantly, escort fighters, to protect themselves on their way to a target. The one fact that must be taken into consideration is that, no matter how difficult it is to safely escort a bomber to its target, once the bomber arrives, its target will be decimated. In conclusion, since the only time a bombers strengths (Massive destructive capabilities) can be brought into play are during war, the bomber will not disappear over the next century, just go into hibernation until the next major armed conflict appears.                                                            Airlift operates across the range of military operations performing six broad tasks: deployment, employment, redeployment, sustainment, aeromedical evacuation (AE), and military operations other than war, such as foreign humanitarian assistance and noncombatant evacuation operations. Airlift is a cornerstone of global force projection. It provides the means to rapidly deploy and redeploy forces, on short notice, to any location worldwide. Airlift�s characteristics � speed, flexibility, range, and responsiveness � complement other US mobility assets. The United States operates three distinct airlift forces; intertheater or strategic, theater or intratheater, and organic airlift forces. Airlift delivery is accomplished by two basic modes, airland or aerial delivery. Airland is the most frequently used delivery method and encompasses all situations where personnel and cargo are onloaded and off-loaded while the aircraft is on the ground. Aerial delivery includes all methods of delivering personnel, equipment, and supplies from an airborne aircraft.

The Army has the largest requirement for common-user airlift. In particular, Army light infantry, airborne, and air assault forces rely heavily on airlift for deployment, sustainment, employment, and redeployment.�The Navy depends on common-user airlift to sustain forward deployed operations with personnel, materiel, and mail from the continental United States (CONUS) to overseas bases and forward logistic sites. Marine forces require common-user airlift for deployment into a theater as part of a maritime prepositioning force as an air contingency force or as a Marine expeditionary force afloat and/or ashore. Sustained Marine air-ground task force operations require strategic and intratheater common-user airlift support. Depending on the operation, the Air Force tends to be the second largest customer of common-user airlift. For deployment, Air Force unit aircraft self-deploy; however, unit support personnel and equipment require airlift to the destination with, or before, the deploying unit aircraft. Special operations forces (SOF) have specially configured aircraft dedicated to special operations. SOF are augmented by common-user airlift support. As a branch of the Armed Forces and a non-DOD agency, the Coast Guard�s organic airlift is normally sufficient to satisfy its airlift requirements. Other non-DOD agencies use DOD airlift for activities such as noncombatant evacuation operations, counterdrug operations, foreign humanitarian assistance, and domestic support operations. Non-DOD agencies may use common-user airlift providing the DOD mission is not impaired.

Airlift and air refueling forces provide speed and flexibility in deploying, employing, and sustaining America�s military forces. Air mobility forces operate as part of a larger joint warfighting team, working with air, land, and naval forces to meet operational requirements for the unified commanders. Air mobility missions include the airlift and/or airdrop of troops, passengers, supplies, and equipment to locations around the globe, as well as air refueling for Air Force, other services, and allied aircraft. Air mobility forces also provide worldwide aeromedical evacuation of patients, participate in special operations, and support other national security requirements.


FY 1994

FY 1996

FY 1999



























a PMAI = Primary mission aircraft inventory for active and reserve components. The numbers shown reflect only combat support and industrial funded PMAI aircraft and not development/test or training aircraft.

b Includes 37 KC�10s allocated to an airlift code.

Land-based aircraft with a primary mission of moving small numbers of passengers passengers and small quantities of time-critical cargo are classified by the Department of Defense as Operational Support Airlift (OSA) aircraft. Most OSA aircraft are derivatives if commercial executive transports or the types of aircraft flown by commuter (or "feeder") airlines, although a few are as large as full-sized airliners. This is not a particularly sharp definition, however. For example, Navy Reserve C-9B aircraft (similar to the civilian DC-9 airliner) are classified as OSA, while Air National Guard T-43 arcfraft (similar to the civilian 737 airliner) are apparently not.

Two DOD-wide initiatives were recently completed to reorganize OSA operations. In an effort to minimize cross-service duplication, all CONUS OSA scheduling were consolidated under the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott AFB in the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center (JOSAC). And to align the force structure with the force size, a 30% reduction of OSA aircraft, mostly allocated evenly across the services, was directed. The Army retired all of it's U-21's, and the Air Force transfered the nearly all of its C-12's and C-26's to the Army. At the same time there have been a number of service-specific initiatives. Changes in Army OSA have been the most dramatic, with procurement of about 50 new C-23B and UC-35A aircraft and transfer of most Army OSA functions to the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve.

Small Scale Contingency airlift requirements might include [for 2-3 months] a total of 79 aircraft. Some 43 C-17s would be used [15 SOLL II, 12 Direct Delivery, 16 Intra-theater], while 40 C-130s would include 8 Theater Assigned and 8 Theater Deployable aircraft. Additionally, 18 Group B KC-135s and additional Special Operations aircraft would be involved.

The Mobility Requirements Study Bottom-Up Review Update and analysis of preposition cargo set the airlift requirement for a two major regional contingencies (MRC) scenario at 49.7 million ton miles per day (MTM/D). Fully mobilized, the Air Reserve Component and active duty contributes approximately 61 percent, while the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) provides 39 percent. Air Mobility Command�s force structure is not only based on the requirements for a two-MRC scenario, but also on unique military requirements such as strategic brigade airdrop, lesser regional contingencies, and peace keeping/peace enforcement.

AIRLIFT AIRCRAFT COMPARISON C-5 C-17 C-130H C-141B KC-135R* KC-10 747-200F
MAX TAKEOFF GROSS WEIGHT (LBS.) 2.5 g 769,000 523,000 155,700 323,000 322,500 593,000 836,000
OPR WT EMPTY (LBS.) 374,000 236,600 80,000 149,000 135,000 244,500 344,300
MAX ACL (LBS.) 2.5G 216,000 140,800 43,000 69,725 60,000 169,500 243,000
MAX PALLET LOAD 36 18 5.5 13 6 27 50
WARTIME PALOAD DELIVERED 2,900 NM (LBS.) 188,000 172,000 22,000 72,000 60,000 169,000 243,000
RANGE (NM)WITH MAX ACL 2.5G 2,250 2,840 1,000 2,160 5,000 3,100 3,600
FERRY RANGE (NM) 6,200 5,290 4,200 4,600 9,700** 9,800 7,300
AVG CRUISE SPEED/MACH 450/.77 450/.77 280/.46 425/.74 450/.77 481/.82 490/.84
TO GND RUN (FT) 7,800 7,600 4,700 5,900 6,000 9,300 8,800
LND ROLL (FT): MAX ACL & 500 NMS (SL/STD Day) 2,750 1,880 2,400 2,180 3,000 2,800 5,900
AMC MIN WARTIME RUNWAY LXW (FT) 5000x90 3000x90 3000x90 5000x90 7000x147 6000x90 7400x90
MIN 180 DEGREE TURN FT 143 90 47 137 130 142 142
AIRCRAFT LENGTH (FT) 248 175 133 168 136 182 232
Aircraft Wing Span (FT) 223 171 100 160 131 165 196
Aircraft Height (Ft) 65 55 39 40 38 58 63
Cargo Compartment Width 19 18 10 10 13 18 19
Height 14 12 9 9 7 8 10
Length 145 88 52 104 65 125 185
THRUST (LBS.) /Eng 41,000 40,700 4,300hp 21,000 22,200 52,500 52,500
AIRCRAFT NUMBERS 104 24 442 161 472 54 N/A
  • Since the majority of KC-135s are dedicated to wartime air refueling, their impact to wartime airlift is limited.
    • Range with 120,000 pounds (54,000 kilograms) for fuel transfer

The current fleet of Material Handling Equipment (MHE) is short in numbers, lacks high-reach capability, is beyond its service life, and is expensive to maintain. MHE represents the weakest link in the air mobility process. Both the 40K loader and 25K loader cannot reach the cargo loading height of commercial wide-body aircraft. The aging fleet of 25K loaders, the backbone of the theater and smaller port capability, is becoming increasingly unreliable--it too requires replacement. The average age of the 40K loader is 23 years, using original registration numbers, while their life expectancy, when purchased, was 8 years. Sixty-nine percent of the 25K loader fleet is comprised of old, deteriorating Emerson and Con Diesel loaders that are reaching the end of their service life extension.

The cargo handling shortfall will be solved with the procurement of new MHE. An acquisition strategy started in the mid-80s for a new super loader (Tunner, 60K), one that could replace the 40K, yet reach wide-body aircraft. The Tunner (60K) loader and next generation small loader acquisitions provide the capability to support all commercial and military cargo aircraft. The modernization of the MHE fleet is AMC's second highest equipment priority after the acquisition of the C-17. With continued funding, the full buy of 318 Tunner loaders possesses the capability to solve the large cargo handler shortfall. Delivery of the Next Generation Small Loader (NGSL) must begin in FY00.

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ED2 Cutway

ED2 Cutway




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CAMPS diagram electronics miitary plane




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miiltary aircraft systems

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bombay bomber


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bomb storage bomber

Lancaster bomb bay Jan 1944 IWM CH 18554

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Force Five bombers

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Airbus systems


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