HOME
        TheInfoList






An attack aircraft, strike aircraft, or attack bomber, is a tactical military aircraft that has a primary role of carrying out airstrikes with greater precision than bombers, and is prepared to encounter strong low-level air defenses while pressing the attack.[1] This class of aircraft is designed mostly for close air support and naval air-to-surface missions, overlapping the tactical bomber mission. Designs dedicated to non-naval roles are often known as ground-attack aircraft.[2]

Fighter aircraft often carry out the attack role, although they would not be considered attack aircraft per se, although fighter-bomber conversions of those same aircraft would be considered part of the class. Strike fighters, which have effectively replaced the fighter-bomber and light bomber concepts, also differ little from the broad concept of an attack aircraft.

The dedicated attack aircraft as a separate class existed primarily during and after World War II. The precise implementation varied from country to country, and was handled by a wide variety of designs. In the United States and Britain attack aircraft were generally light bombers or medium bombers, sometimes carrying heavier forward-firing weapons like the North American B-25G Mitchell and de Havilland Mosquito Tsetse. In Germany and the USSR, where they were known as Schlachtflugzeug ("battle aircraft") or sturmovik ("storm trooper") respectively, this role was carried out by purpose-designed and heavily armored aircraft such as the Henschel Hs 129 and Ilyushin Il-2. The Germans and Soviets also used light bombers in this role: cannon-armed versions of the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka greatly outnumbered the Hs 129, while the Petlyakov Pe-2 was used for this role in spite of not being specifically designed for it.

In the latter part of World War II the fighter-bomber began to take over many attack roles, a transition that continued in the post-war era. Jet-powered examples were relatively rare but not unknown, such as the Blackburn Buccaneer. The U.S. Navy continued to introduce new aircraft in their A-series, but these were mostly similar to light and medium bombers. The need for a separate attack aircraft category was greatly diminished by the introduction of precision-guided munitions which allowed almost any aircraft to carry out this role while remaining safe at high altitude. Attack helicopters also have overtaken many remaining roles that could only be carried out at lower altitudes.

Since the 1960s, only two dedicated attack aircraft designs have been widely introduced, the American Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II and Soviet/Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot. One anomaly belonging to this class is the Lockheed AC-130, which features as its primary armament high-caliber artillery guns adapted for aircraft use including the 105 mm M102 howitzer.

A variety of light attack aircraft has also been introduced in the post-World War II era, usually based on adapted trainers or other light fixed-wing aircraft. These have been used in counter-insurgency operations.

Fighter aircraft often carry out the attack role, although they would not be considered attack aircraft per se, although fighter-bomber conversions of those same aircraft would be considered part of the class. Strike fighters, which have effectively replaced the fighter-bomber and light bomber concepts, also differ little from the broad concept of an attack aircraft.

The dedicated attack aircraft as a separate class existed primarily during and after World War II. The precise implementation varied from country to country, and was handled by a wide variety of designs. In the United States and Britain attack aircraft were generally light bombers or medium bombers, sometimes carrying heavier forward-firing weapons like the North American B-25G Mitchell and de Havilland Mosquito Tsetse. In Germany and the USSR, where they were known as Schlachtflugzeug ("battle aircraft") or sturmovik ("storm trooper") respectively, this role was carried out by purpose-designed and heavily armored aircraft such as the Henschel Hs 129 and Ilyushin Il-2. The Germans and Soviets also used light bombers in this role: cannon-armed versions of the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka greatly outnumbered the Hs 129, while the Petlyakov Pe-2 was used for this role in spite of not being specifically designed for it.

In the latter part of World War II the fighter-bomber began to take over many attack roles, a transition that continued in the post-war era. Jet-powered examples were relatively rare but not unknown, such as the Blackburn Buccaneer. The U.S. Navy continued to introduce new aircraft in their A-series, but these were mostly similar to light and medium bombers. The need for a separate attack aircraft category was greatly diminished by the introduction of precision-guided munitions which allowed almost any aircraft to carry out this role while remaining safe at high altitude. Attack helicopters also have overtaken many remaining roles that could only be carried out at lower altitudes.

Since the 1960s, only two dedicated attack aircraft designs have been widely introduced, the American Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II and Soviet/Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot. One anomaly belonging to this class is the Lockheed AC-130, which features as its primary armament high-caliber artillery guns adapted for aircraft use including the 105 mm M102 howitzer.

A variety of light attack aircraft has also been introduced in the post-World War II era, usually based on adapted trainers or other light fixed-wing aircraft. These have been used in counter-insurgency operations.

Presently, U.S. attack aircraft are identified by the prefix A-, as in "A-6 Intruder" and "A-10 Thunderbolt II". However, until the end of World War II the A- designation was shared between attack planes and light bombers[3][4] for USAAF aircraft (as opposed to B- prefix for medium or heavy bombers). The US Navy used a separate designation system and at the time preferred to call similar aircraft scout bombers (SB) or torpedo bombers (TB or BT). For example, Douglas SBD Dauntless scout bomber was designated A-24 when used by the USAAF. It was not until 1946, when the US Navy and US Marine Corps started using the "attack" (A) designation, when it renamed BT2D Skyraider and BTM Mauler to, respectively, AD Skyraider and AM Mauler.[5]

As with many aircraft classifications, the definition of attack aircraft is somewhat vague and has tended to change over time. Current U.S. military doctrine defines it as an aircraft which most likely performs an attack mission, more than any other kind of mission. Attack mission means, in turn, specifically tactical air-to-ground action—in other words, neither air-to-air action nor strategic bombing is considered an attack mission.[6] In United States Navy vocabulary, the alternative designation for the same activity is a strike mission.[6] Attack missions are principally divided into two categories: air interdiction and close air support.[6]In the last several decades, the rise of the ubiquitous multi-role fighter has created some confusion about the difference between attack and fighter aircraft. According to the current U.S. designation system, an attack aircraft (A) is designed primarily for air-to-surface (Attack: Aircraft designed to find, attack, and destroy land or sea targets)[7] missions (also known as "attack missions"),

while a fighter category F incorporates not only aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat, but additionally multipurpose aircraft designed also for ground-attack missions.

RAF Harrier GR9 in flight, 2008

"F - Fighter Aircraft were designed to intercept and destroy other aircraft or missiles. This includes multipurpose aircraft also designed for ground support missions such as interdiction and close air support.[8] Just to mention one example amongst many, the F-111 "Aardvark" was designated F despite having only minimal air-to-air capabilities. Only a single aircraft in the USAF's current inventory bears a simple, unmixed "A" designation: the A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Other designations

British designations have included FB for fighter-bomber and more recently "G" for "Ground-attack" as in Harrier GR1 (meaning "Ground-attack/Reconnaissance, Mark

As with many aircraft classifications, the definition of attack aircraft is somewhat vague and has tended to change over time. Current U.S. military doctrine defines it as an aircraft which most likely performs an attack mission, more than any other kind of mission. Attack mission means, in turn, specifically tactical air-to-ground action—in other words, neither air-to-air action nor strategic bombing is considered an attack mission.[6] In United States Navy vocabulary, the alternative designation for the same activity is a strike mission.[6] Attack missions are principally divided into two categories: air interdiction and close air support.[6]In the last several decades, the rise of the ubiquitous multi-role fighter has created some confusion about the difference between attack and fighter aircraft. According to the current U.S. designation system, an attack aircraft (A) is designed primarily for air-to-surface (Attack: Aircraft designed to find, attack, and destroy land or sea targets)[7] missions (also known as "attack missions"),

while a fighter category F incorporates not only aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat, but additionally multipurpose aircraft designed also for ground-attack missions.

"F - Fighter Aircraft were designed to intercept and destroy other aircraft or missiles. This includes multipurpose aircraft also designed for ground support missions such as interdiction and close air support.[8] Just to mention one example amongst many, the F-111 "Aardvark" was designated F despite having only minimal air-to-air capabilities. Only a single aircraft in the USAF's current inventory bears a simple, unmixed "A" designation: the A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Other designations

British designations have included FB for fighter-bomber and more recently "G" for "Ground-attack" as in Harrier GR1 (meaning "Ground-attack/Reconnaissance, Mark 1").

The NATO reporting names for Soviet/Ru

British designations have included FB for fighter-bomber and more recently "G" for "Ground-attack" as in Harrier GR1 (meaning "Ground-attack/Reconnaissance, Mark 1").

The NATO reporting names for Soviet/Russian ground-attack aircraft at first started with "B" categorizing them as bombers, as in case of Il-10 'Beast'. But later they were usually classified as fighters ("F

The NATO reporting names for Soviet/Russian ground-attack aircraft at first started with "B" categorizing them as bombers, as in case of Il-10 'Beast'. But later they were usually classified as fighters ("F")—possibly because (since Sukhoi Su-7) they were similar in size and visual appearance to Soviet fighters, or were simply derivatives of such.

World War I<

The attack aircraft as a role was defined by its use during World War I, in support of ground forces on battlefields. Battlefield support is generally divided into close air support and battlefield air interdiction, the first requiring strict and the latter only general cooperation with friendly surface forces.[9] though such aircraft also attacked targets in rear areas. Such missions required flying where light anti-aircraft fire was expected and operating at low altitudes to precisely identify targets. Other roles, including those of light bombers, medium bombers, dive bombers, reconnaissance, fighters, fighter-bombers, could and did perform air strikes on battlefields.[10] All these types could significantly damage ground targets from a low level flight, either by bombing, machine guns, or both.

Attack aircraft came to diverge from bombers and fighters. While bombers could be used on a battlefield, their slower speeds made them extremely vulnerable to ground fire, as did the lighter construction of fighters. The survivability of attack aircraft was guaranteed by their speed/power, protection (i.e. armo

Attack aircraft came to diverge from bombers and fighters. While bombers could be used on a battlefield, their slower speeds made them extremely vulnerable to ground fire, as did the lighter construction of fighters. The survivability of attack aircraft was guaranteed by their speed/power, protection (i.e. armour panels) and strength of construction;[10]

Germany was the first country to produce dedicated ground-attack aircraft (designated CL-class and J-class). They were put into use in autumn 1917,[11] during World War I. Most notable was the Junkers J.I, which pioneered the idea of an armoured "bathtub", that was both fuselage structure and protection for engine and crew. The British experimented with the Sopwith TF series (termed "trench fighters"), although these did not see combat.

The last battles of 1918 on the Western Front demonstrated that ground-attacking aircraft were a valuable component of all-arms tactics. Close support ground strafing (machine-gunning) and tactical bombing of infantry (especially when moving between trenches and along roads), machine gun posts, artillery, and supply formations was a part of the Allied armies' strength in holding German attacks and supporting Allied counter-attacks and offensives. Admittedly, the cost to the Allies was high, with the Royal Flying Corps sustaining a loss rate approaching 30% among ground-attack aircraft.

After World War I, it was widely believed that using aircraft against tactical targets was of little use other than in harassing and undermining enemy morale; attacking combatants was generally much more dangerous to aircrews than their targets, a problem that was continually becoming more acute with the ongoing refinement of anti-aircraft weapons. Within the range of types serving attack roles, dive bombers were increasingly being seen[citation needed] as more effective than aircraft designed for strafing with machine guns or cannons.

Nevertheless, during the 1920s, the US military, in particular, procured specialized "Attack" aircraft and formed dedicated units, that were trained primarily for that role. The US Army Engineering Division became involved in designing ground attack aircraft. The 1920 Boeing GA-1 was an armoured twin-engine triplane for ground strafing with eight machine guns and about a ton of armour plate, and the 1922 Aeromarine PG-1 was a combined pursuit (fighter) and ground attack design with a 37mm gun. The United States Marine Corps Aviation applied close air support tactics in the Banana Wars. While they did not pioneer dive bombing tactics, Marine aviators were the first to include it in their doctrine during the Engineering Division became involved in designing ground attack aircraft. The 1920 Boeing GA-1 was an armoured twin-engine triplane for ground strafing with eight machine guns and about a ton of armour plate, and the 1922 Aeromarine PG-1 was a combined pursuit (fighter) and ground attack design with a 37mm gun. The United States Marine Corps Aviation applied close air support tactics in the Banana Wars. While they did not pioneer dive bombing tactics, Marine aviators were the first to include it in their doctrine during the United States occupation of Haiti and Nicaragua.[12] The United States Army Air Corps was notable for its creation of a separate "A-" designation for attack types, distinct from and alongside "B-" for bomber types and "P-" for pursuit (later replaced by "F-" for fighter) aircraft. The first designated attack type to be operational with the USAAC was the Curtiss A-2 Falcon. Nevertheless, such aircraft, including the A-2's replacement, the Curtiss A-12 Shrike, were unarmored and highly vulnerable to AA fire.

The British Royal Air Force focused primarily on strategic bombing, rather than ground attack. However, like most air arms of the period it did operate attack aircraft, named Army Cooperation in RAF parlance, which included the Hawker Hector, Westland Lysander and others.

During the 1930s, Nazi Germany had begun to field a class of Schlacht ("battle") aircraft, such as the Henschel Hs 123. Moreover, the experiences of German Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War, against an enemy with few fighter aircraft, changed ideas about ground attack. Though equipped with generally unsuitable designs such as the Henschel Hs 123 and cannon-armed versions of the Heinkel He 112, their armament and pilots proved that aircraft were a very effective weapon, even without bombs. This led to some support within the Luftwaffe for the creation of an aircraft dedicated to this role, resulting in tenders for a new "attack aircraft". This led to the introduction (in 1942) of a unique single-seat, twin-engine attack aircraft, the slow-moving but heavily armored and formidably armed Henschel Hs 129 Panzerknacker ("Safecracker" /"Tank Cracker").

In Japan, the Imperial Japanese Navy had developed the Aichi D3A dive bomber (based on the Heinkel He 70) and the Mitsubishi B5M light attack bomber. Both, like their US counterparts, were lightly armored types, and were critically reliant on surprise attacks and the absence of significant fighter or AA opposition.

During the Winter War, the Soviet Air Forces used the Polikapov R-5SSS, and Polikarpov R-ZSh, as attack aircraft.

Perhaps the most notable attack type to emerge during the late 1930s was the Soviet Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik, which became the most-produced military aircraft type in history.

As World War II approached, the concept of an attack aircraft was not well defined, and various air services used many different names for widely differing types, all performing similar roles (sometimes in tandem with non-attack roles of bombers, fighters, reconnaissance and other roles.

Army co-operation

The British concept of a light aircraft mixing all the roles that required extensive communication with land forces: reconnaissance, liaison, artillery spotting, aerial supply, and, last but not least, occasio

As World War II approached, the concept of an attack aircraft was not well defined, and various air services used many different names for widely differing types, all performing similar roles (sometimes in tandem with non-attack roles of bombers, fighters, reconnaissance and other roles.

The British concept of a light aircraft mixing all the roles that required extensive communication with land forces: reconnaissance, liaison, artillery spotting, aerial supply, and, last but not least, occasional strikes on the battlefield.[13][14][15] The concept was similar to front-line aircraft used in the World War I, which was called the CL class in the German Empire.[16] Eventually the RAF's experience showed types such as Westland Lysander to be unacceptably vulnerable and it was replaced by faster fighter types for photoreconnaissance, and light aircraft for artillery spotting.

Light bomber

During the inter-war period, the Brit

During the inter-war period, the British considered that in a future war it would be France that would be the enemy. For the light day bomber they had the Fairey Battle which originated in a 1932 specification. Designs in 1938 for a replacement were adapted as a target tug. The last British specification issued for a light bomber was B.20/40 described as a "Close Army Support Bomber" capable of dive bombing and photoreconnaissance. However, the specification was dropped before an aircraft went into production.[17]

Dive bomber

I

In some air services, dive bombers did not equip ground-attack units, but were treated as a separate class. In Nazi Germany, the Luftwaffe distinguished between the Stuka (Sturzkampf-, "dive bombing") units, equipped with Junkers Ju 87 from Schlacht ("battle") units, using strafing/low-level bombing types such as the Henschel Hs 123).

Fighter-bomber