Military Bombers

B1   B2   B-52   B-25   B-29




The B-1 is a long-range strategic bomber with a distinctive streamlined shape. It was originally designed to deliver nuclear weapons to targets in defended Soviet airspace, but can carry a variety of conventional arms as well.

B1-B Lancer


Primary function: Long-range, multi-role, heavy bomber

Builder: Boeing, North America (formerly Rockwell)

Speed: 900+ mph (mach 1.2)

Armament: Short-range attack missiles, bombs and cruise missiles

Crew: Four (aircraft commander, copilot, offensive systems officer and defensive systems officer)

Power plant: Four General Electric F-101-GE-102 turbofan engine with afterburner

Thrust: 30,000-plus pounds with afterburner, per engine

Length: 146 feet (44.5 meters)

Wingspan: 137 feet (41.8 meters) extended forward, 79 feet (24.1 meters) swept aft

Height: 34 feet (10.4 meters)

Weight: Empty, approximately 190,000 pounds (86,183 kilograms)

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 477,000 pounds (216,634 kilograms)

Range: Intercontinental, unrefueled

Ceiling: More than 30,000 feet (9,144 meters)

Date Deployed: June 1985

Unit Cost: $283.1 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)

Inventory: Active force, 51 primary mission aircraft inventory (72 actual), 2 (test); ANG, 18 PMAI (20 actual); Reserve, 0


Photosphoto1 photo2 photo3 photo4


B1-B Video


Armament: Three internal weapons bays can accommodate up to 84 Mk-82 general purpose bombs or Mk-62 naval mines, 30 CBU-87/89 cluster munitions or CBU-97 Sensor Fused Weapons and up to 24 GBU-31 JDAM GPS guided bombs or Mk-84 general purpose bombs (photos) (photos)




The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions anywhere on the globe. Its "stealth" characteristics blend low-observable technologies with high aerodynamic efficiency and large payload, providing greater freedom of action at high altitudes. This increases its unrefueled range to approximately 6,000 nautical miles.

B-2 Spirit


Primary function: Multirole heavy bomber

Speed: High subsonic

Armament: Conventional or nuclear weapons
Crew: Two pilots

Prime Contractor: Northrop Grumman Corp.

Power Plant/Manufacturer: Four General Electric F-118-GE-100 engines

Thrust: 17,300 pounds each engine (7,847 kilograms)

Length: 69 feet (20.9 meters)

Height: 17 feet (5.1 meters)

Wingspan: 172 feet (52.12 meters)

Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,152 meters)

Takeoff Weight (Typical): 336,500 pounds (152,635 kilograms)

Range: Intercontinental, unrefueled

Payload: 40,000 pounds (18,000 kilograms)

Crew: Two pilots

Unit cost: Approximately $2.1 billion [average]

Date Deployed: December 1993

Inventory: Active force: 21 (planned operational aircraft); ANG: 0; Reserve: 0




B2 Video


16 B61
16 B83
16 AGM-129 ACM
16 AGM-131 SRAM 2
80 MK82
16 MK84
34-36 CBU87
34-36 CBU89
34-36 CBU97
8 GBU 27
8 GBU 36
8 GBU 37
8-16 AGM-154 JSOW
8-16 AGM-137 TSSAM (references) (photos)



Air Combat Command's B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. The bomber is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6 meters). It can carry nuclear or precision guided conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.

B-52 Stratofortresses


Primary function: Heavy bomber

Speed: 650 mph

Crew: Five (aircraft commander, pilot, radar navigator, navigator and electronic warfare officer)

Contractor: Boeing Military Airplane Co.

Power plant: Eight Pratt & Whitney engines TF33-P-3/103 turbofan

Thrust: Each engine up to 17,000 pounds

Length: 159 feet, 4 inches (48.5 meters)

Height: 40 feet, 8 inches (12.4 meters)

Wingspan: 185 feet (56.4 meters)

Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,151.5 meters)

Weight: Approximately 185,000 pounds empty (83,250 kilograms)

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 488,000 pounds (219,600 kilograms)

Range: Unrefueled 8,800 miles (7,652 nautical miles)

Armament: Approximately 70,000 pounds (31,500 kilograms) mixed ordnance -- bombs, mines and missiles. (Modified to carry air-launched cruise missiles, Harpoon anti-ship and Have Nap missiles.)
Accommodations: Six ejection seats

Unit Cost: $53.4 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)

Date Deployed: February 1955

Inventory: Active force, 85; ANG, 0; Reserve, 9



The most successful medium bomber of World War II was the twin-engine, twin-tailed B-25 named for America’s best-known pre-war champion of air bombardment, General “Billy” Mitchell.

Perhaps the most famous mission flown by these bombers was the raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942. In this fabled attack, flown only months after the Japanese surprise attack on Perl Harbor, Jimmy Doolittle led a force of 16 B-25s against the Japanese capital. Launched in squall conditions from the cramped deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet, these aircraft showed that no part of Japan would be immune to the destructive power of the aerial forces of the United States.

Armament (all): Two 0.50-inch machine guns in individual blisters on the left and right-hand side of the fuselage with 400 rpg. Two 0.50-inch machine guns in top turret, 400 rpg. Two 0.50-inch machine guns in waist position, 200 rpg. Two 0.50-inch machine guns in tail turret, 600 rpg. Normal bomb load was 3000 pounds, but a maximum bombload of 4000 pounds could be carried on short-range missions. Some had underwing racks for eight 5-inch high velocity aircraft rockets (HVARs).

Armament (medium bomber version): One flexible 0.50-inch machine gun in nose, 300 rounds. One fixed 0.50-inch machine gun in nose, 300 rounds. Beginning with B-25J-20, a second fixed 0.50-inch gun was added in the nose.

Armament (Strafer version): Eight 0.50-inch machine guns in the nose with 400 rpg.

B-25 Mitchell Bomber


Primary function: medium bomber

Speed: 230 mph cruise, 275 max

Crew: 6, pilot, co-pilot, navigator/bombardier/gunner, turret gunner/engineer, radio operator/waist gunner, and tail gunner.

Power plant: Two Wright R-2600-13 Double Cyclone fourteen-cylinder air-cooled radials, rated at 1700 hp each


Length: 52 feet 11 inches

Height: 16 feet 4.2 inches

Wingspan: 67 feet 6.7 inches

Wing area: 610 square feet

Ceiling: 24,000 ft

Weight empty: 21,100 lbs

Weight loaded: 33,000 lbs

Weight Max: 35,000 lbs

Weight Payload: 3000 - 5000 lbs

Maximum Takeoff Weight

Fuel internal: 670 US gallons, external 304

Range: 1275 with 3200 lbs ordinance, 2700 miles empty

Climb Rate: 1110 ft/min


Contractor: North American, 1939

Unit Cost

Date Deployed: 1940

Inventory: 9,889 in 60 months, 700 to Navy and Marines



B-29 Superfortress


Primary function: long-range strategic heavy bomber

Speed: 220 cruising, 365 mph max

Crew: 10, Pilot, Co-Pilot, Engineer, Bombardier, Radioman, 5 Gunners

Power plant: Four R-3350-20/23 Wright Double Cyclone 18 Cylinder engines, 2,200 horsepower 


Length: 99 feet

Height: 27' 9"

Wingspan: 141 feet 3 inches

Wing Area: 1739.00 Sq Ft

Ceiling: 31,850 feet (33,600 ft)

Weight empty: 69,610.0 lbs

Weight Gross: 105,000 pounds (140,000 pounds postwar)

Weight Payload: 20,000 lbs

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 124,000 lbs

Range: 3700 miles

Armament: 12 .50-caliber machine guns (8 forward, 2 tail), 1 20 mm cannon

Contractor: Boeing, 1939

Unit Cost: $639,000

Date Deployed: 9/21/1942

Inventory: Boeing 2,766, Bell Aircraft 668, Glenn Martin 536


Designed in 1940 as replacements for the B-17 and B-24, the B-29s were primarily used in the Pacific theater during World War II. As many as 1,000 Superfortresses at a time bombed Tokyo, destroying large parts of the city. Finally, on Aug. 6, 1945, the B-29 Enola Gay dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later a second B-29, Bockscar, dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Shortly thereafter, Japan surrendered.


The B-29 had many new features, including guns that could be fired by remote control. The crew areas were pressurized and connected by a long tube over the bomb bays. The tail gunner had a separate pressurized area that could only be left during unpressurized flight. The B-29 was also the heaviest production plane because of increases in range, bomb load and defensive requirements.


After the war, B-29s were adapted for several functions, including in-flight refueling, anti-submarine patrol, weather reconnaissance, and rescue duty. The B-29 saw military service again in Korea between 1950 and 1953, battling new adversaries: jet fighters and electronic weapons. The last B-29 in squadron use retired from service in September 1960. (photos)



Fat Man Model 1561. This 10,000 lb. Plutonium-based bomb
became the first standard nuclear weapon in the US arsenal

The 509th Composite Group was created under maximum secrecy with the specific purpose of dropping atomic bombs on Japan. The codename of the atomic bombing project was Silverplate.

Fifteen B-29's were allocated to Col. Paul Tibbet's group, all Martin-Omaha modified bombers with an adapted bomb bay, Curtiss reversible pitch propellers, a British-built release mechanism (the same used to drop the gigantic 12,000 lb. "Tallboy") and no defensive armament except for the tail guns. Only fourteen reached Tinian, the fifteenth was left behind for unknown reasons. The group had its distinctive marking, a black arrow pointing forward enclosed in a circle, but soon in order to confuse enemy spies, spurious markings were painted on 509th CG tails. Col Tibbet's "Enola Gay" was given the encircled "R" of the 6th BG and Maj. Sweeney's "Bocks Car" that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki received false 444th BG markings.

At the end of 1945, 509th CG was transferred to Roswell Army Air Force Field, NM and their atomic bomb-capable B-29's grew to 30 in about a year. In 1948 the Cold War had already started and the Joint Chief of Staff decided that USAF should have at least 250 atomic bombers to achieve a credible nuclear deterrent: 255 B-29's, B-50's and B-36's were modified for the purpose. The program, codenamed Gem, included this four sub-programs:



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