Greatest Bomber of All Time

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by zoomar, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. zoomar

    zoomar Member

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    I'm interested in people's ideas about the greatest bomber of all time. I suspect many people would automatically go for a WW2 thoroughbred like the B-17, B-29, Mossie, or Lancaster, but I don't want to limit the discussion just to WW2 aircraft. That's because I live near a major US airbase and just saw the Greatest Bomber of All Time fly over my house on a touch and go circut, eight engines roaring away leaving a dirty smoke trail in the sky. Can anyone deny the B-52 its crown?
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    B-52 heavy bomber and Skyraider dive bomber were in service at the same time. You cannot compare aircraft designed for completely different combat roles.
     
  3. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Skyraider wasn't a dive bomber....
     
  4. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The Skyraider had dive brakes. And I saw it demonstrated as such at the Hawthorne 1992 airshow.
     
  5. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    I'll go out on a limb and say the B-52 is the greastest bomber to actually see extensive service as a bomber. For purely the best, I like the B-1, though it has not had to do a lot of real bombing. It has great low-level penetration capability with terrain following as well as high altitude capability, and a good deal of stealth that is barely recognized by the beneral public. It has the radar cross section of a large bird.

    Still, if the crucible of combat is the deciding factor, B-52 it is, with a nod to the Avro Vulcan (I'm a big Vulcan fan!), the Skyraider, the A-6 Intruder, the Lancaster, the B-29, the Tu-160, and the Ju-88 in no particular order. I like the B-70, but they only made 2, si it really doesn't count, does it? The F-14 Bombcat should get a nod. Great payload, range, speed, and the ability to fight its way home when the load is delivered. By comparison, the F/A-18 hauls only half the load, half as far, at 2/3 the speed of the F-14D. The Mirage IV is formidable and the Tu-16 was and is ubiquitous, LONG lived and pretty decent at its job.
     
  6. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    #6 CobberKane, Jan 23, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
    I'm not game to pick the champ, but how did you manage to propose so many contenders without mentioning the Lancaster?

    Whoops - you did.

    A question re the B-52 - did it ever operate in a situation of enemy air superiority? if not, has it done all that,s needed to claim the title?
     
  7. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    By mentioning the Lancaster instead! Three after "I'm a big Vulcan fan", Cobber.

    Hmmmm. This could get complicated...
     
  8. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Too broad a question IMO.

    How can you compare a WW.I bomber with a WW.II or modern bomber? Just no contest in capabilities. (Not to mention the differences between a medium bomber, dive bomber, heavy bomber, and torpedo bomber as previously mentioned)

    My 'favourite' bomber of all time is the Lancaster, one of the best heavy bombers of it's era, and my favourite fighter/bomber of all time the A-4 Skyhawk.
     
  9. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #9 GregP, Jan 23, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
    I Love the Lanc! Not the prettiest, but one of the pluckiest. Good load hauling ability, decent range, and average armament. The Lancaster epitomises the British resolve in a GOOD way. Actually, for an American, I am a great fan of almost all British aircraft because they are usually beautiful or wierd, and are different from ours, and are rare for me to see in person. That makes for a certain fascination with the exotic. I like British engines, too ... at least the good ones ... we have a Howard DGA with an Alvis Leonides at Chino and it is beautiful and runs great. A real calssic. Joe Yancey seems to be the only guy in the world who can bore round cylinder liners for the Bristol Centaurus, so there IS a connection there and some business ongoing.

    The B-52 bombed in skies with the heaviest aerial defenses the world ever saw until Iraq in North Vietnam. WWII never had SAMs or anything close to the AA over Hanoi. Generations apart.

    For me, B-52, in spades, for a plane that flew in the face of seemingly overwhelming defenses with regard to when it was designed, MUCH worse than in WWII.

    Flew in the face of enemy air superiority? No. Ground defense superiority? Maybe.

    These days, I'd rather attack a city than a Naval group!
     
  10. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    #10 FLYBOYJ, Jan 23, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
    It did of soughts - during operation Linebacker II, it did have to fly into a barrage of MiGs and SAMs but this was done out of political stupidity where routes into and departing target areas were the same. I do know of at least one NVAF MiG-21 driver claiming a B-52, but it seems that most B-52s shot down during this period were done so with SAMs

    From Wiki;

    During Operation Linebacker II, there were 15 B-52s shot down, five B-52s were heavily damaged (1 crashed in Laos), and five B-52s suffered medium damage. A total of 25 crewmen were killed in these losses. Vietnam claimed 34 B-52s were shot down.

    On the other end (from Wiki)...

    Air-to-air victoriesDuring the Vietnam War, B-52D tail gunners were credited with shooting down two MiG-21 "Fishbeds". On 18 December 1972, tail gunner SSgt Samuel O. Turner's B-52 had just completed a bomb run for Operation Linebacker II and was turning away when a North Vietnamese Air Force MiG-21 approached. The MiG and the B-52 locked onto one another. When the fighter drew within range, Turner fired his quad (four guns on one mounting) .50 caliber machine guns. The MiG exploded aft of the bomber,[147] a victory confirmed by MSG Lewis E. Le Blance, the tail gunner in a nearby Stratofortress. Turner received a Silver Star for his actions. His B-52, tail number 55-0676, is preserved on display with air-to-air kill markings at Fairchild AFB in Spokane, Washington.

    On 24 December 1972, during the same bombing campaign, the B-52 Diamond Lil was headed to bomb the Thái Nguyên railroad yards when tail gunner A1C Albert E. Moore spotted a fast-approaching MiG-21. Moore opened fire with his quad fifties at 4,000 yards (3,700 m), and kept shooting until the fighter disappeared from his scope. TSG Clarence W. Chute, a tail gunner aboard another Stratofortress, watched the MiG catch fire and fall away. The Diamond Lil is preserved on display at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. Moore was the last recorded bomber gunner to shoot down an enemy aircraft with machine guns in aerial combat.

    Vietnamese sources have attributed a third air-to-air victory to a B-52, a MiG-21 shot down on 16 April 1972. These victories make the B-52 the largest aircraft to be credited with air-to-air kills. The last Arc Light mission without fighter escort took place on 15 August 1973, as U.S. military action in Vietnam was wound down.

    [​IMG]

    I get to see Diamond Lil on occasion when I enter or leave work from the north gate. I have to agree with greg on this one - as far as a heavy bomber, the B-52 has to be the all-time greatest, almost 60 years in service and still counting.
     
  11. tengu1979

    tengu1979 Member

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    As much as I love II WW aircraft especially B-17 when it comes to bombers I really have to say that b-52 is the all time greatest. this "old - lady" can still take one of the most deadliest loads and deliver it with great accuracy. And modernised versions are still in use. I know the b-2 can be a pinnacle of bomber evolution but the sheer cost of it and secrecy makes it not so good operationally.

    Sorry if i missspelled anything, English is not my first language
     
  12. yulzari

    yulzari Active Member

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    Victor+Prototype+WB771+2.jpg
    For me it has to be the Handley Page Victor. Mach 1 in a shallow dive (in level flight if the engines had been uprated) and more bombs and a greater range than a Vulcan and so much more elegant than a B52.
     
  13. riacrato

    riacrato Member

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    Can't argue against the B-52. Except for maybe with the Bear.
     
  14. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    The 52 was/is an amazing aircraft, for sure, but I'd still suggest that unlike the B17 or Lanc it never had to prove itself in the face of strong enemy fighter opposition (I'm open to correction on this). That said, it really is one of those aircraft that just keeps on giving, isn't it? What other front line aircraft have passed the half century of service mark? Only the P-3 Orion springs to mind for me.
    Has anyone nominated the Canberra, a bomber supposedly inspired by the example of the Mosquito? Not many foreign aircraft impress the US so much they buy it...
     
  15. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    In the combat scenerio, the B-52 would never had faced strong enemy opposition in terms of what was seen during WW2. In reality the SAM threat was far more dangerous.
     
  16. ShVAK

    ShVAK Member

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    #16 ShVAK, Jan 23, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
    Too hard to settle on just one. It really depends on the era and role.

    Post-WWII strategic bomber? My FAVORITE is the Tu-95, while I will freely acknowledge that the B.U.F.F. is a more capable aircraft that deserves its place in history the Bear with its monstrous contra-rotating NK-12 turboprops, still ample capabilities and Cold War mystique all conspire to make it my fave. Not to mention it's about the least stealthy airplane ever designed--so loud our freaking submarines could hear it coming. Ivan waving his middle finger at NATO.

    The Tu-160 is also pretty impressive. A Russian B-1A on roids. Not to mention one of the stateliest bombers built.

    B-1B gets a nod for its capabilities (too bad about its spotty record early on), along with the Avro Vulcan for sheer charisma.

    WWII strategic/heavy bomber? Probably the Lanc for its huge bomb bay and so-ugly-it-circles-around-to-attractive (and formidable) appearance, though one can't dismiss the B-17's toughness or the B-29's technological leap forward.

    Medium bombers? Hard to choose between A/B-26, Mosquito, SM.79 Sparviero, B-25. I would also nominate the English Electric Canberra for the post-war category.

    Dive bombers? Ju 87, SBD in a tie, and A/D-1 postwar (though it was rarely used as a dedicated dive bomber).
     
  17. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #17 nuuumannn, Jan 23, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
    This thread is turning into a "what's your favourite bomber", rather than "what is the Greatest Bomber of all time" and, of course, the question is how do you quantify such a question - what qualifications does said bomber require before it can be considered?

    Here's a shot:

    1) Combat history; pretty obvious, really. Tonnage of bombs dropped, also encompasses war fought, numbers engaged in combat etc.

    2) Psychological profile - which has its own sub heading of "The Wow Factor" - this is the type's public perception, some bombers are remembered for different campaigns and their psychological impact in the public eye, quite seperate from our (enthusiasts and knowledgeable persons) point of view. The "Wow factor is as much about visual impact as psychological; i.e. does it look like a Mean Muther?

    3) Longevity - obvious.

    4) Capability; war loard, range, survivability etc.

    5) Overall numbers built - again, obvious.

    The criteria offers stiff competion, but in the end, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress probably takes the biscuit. Its record in combat is pretty hard to top; it's believed that during the campaign in Laos alone, B-52s dropped a greater tonnage of bombs on that country's forests than were dropped during the entire Second World War. As for its "wow factor" everyone knows what a B-52 is - it's also a cocktail and the name of a naff pop-rock band and even then the big bomber inspired these things to be named the way they were. It's in the public concience as a potent symbol of the United States' military might during the Cold War and since. As for longevity, the B-52B entered service in 1955 and the B-52H is still going strong, with years to come. Warload, well, the "Cadillac" can carry just about anything these days. Nuclear free fall weapons, cruise missiles - both conventional and nuclear armed, anti-ship missiles; the 'H model in service was designed to carry the (albeit cancelled) Skybolt air launched ballistic missile (which the British were hedging their bets on and even modified their Vulcans to carry the same until it was canned).

    So, take a bow, Big Fella.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  18. Jack_Hill

    Jack_Hill Member

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    #18 Jack_Hill, Jan 24, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2013
    Rationaly speaking, B-52 (and aestheticaly too, indeed)
    From the WOW point of view and performances at their times, B-58 and Mirage IV.
    And Mirage IV again for longevity (that cannot beat B-52's of course)
     
  19. Ascent

    Ascent Member

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    As soon as I saw this subject the first thing that came to mind was the B-52.

    I would though like to introduce another suggestion, the Buccaneer. Able to fly from the UK to Gibralter and back without refuelling and in my opinion unmatched at low level. Due to ground effect a Bucaneer pilot could be sitting at zero feet, push his stick forward and not hit the ground. Given the scenario of a NATO/WARPAC engagement low level was what was needed to survive.
     
  20. yulzari

    yulzari Active Member

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    Ooh yes.Buccaneer. Quite right.
     
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