Selected Bombers of World War II

WWII planes dropping bombs over a city.
American Air Force Bombers on Holiday Mission. Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

World War II was the first major war to feature widespread bombing. While some nations--such as the United States and Great Britain--built long-range, four-engine aircrafts, others chose to focus on smaller, medium bombers. Here is an overview of some the bombers used during the conflict.

01
of 12

Heinkel He 111

Heinkel He 111 planes in formation.
Formation of Heinkel He 111s. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-408-0847-10 / Martin / CC-BY-SA

Developed in the 1930s, the He 111 was one of the principle medium bombers employed by the Luftwaffe during the war. The He 111 was used extensively during the Battle of Britain (1940).

  • Nation: Germany
  • Type: Medium Bomber
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1939-1945
  • Range: 1,750 miles
  • Airspeed: 250 mph
  • Crew: 5
  • Payload: 4,400 pounds
  • Powerplant: 2× Jumo 211F-1 liquid-cooled inverted V-12, 1,300 hp each
02
of 12

Tupolev Tu-2

Restored Tupolev Tu-2
Restored Tupolev Tu-2 on display at airshow. Alan Wilson/Flickr/https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajw1970/9735935419/in/photolist-WAHR37-W53zW7-fQkadF-ppEpGf-qjnFp5-qmtwda-hSH35q-ezyH5P-fQkdpv-hSHnpX-HySWGK-hSuLpR-hStUTZ-hSH1KU

One of the Soviet Union's most important twin-engine bombers, the Tu-2 was designed at a sharaga (scientific prison) by Andrei Tupolev.

  • Nation: Soviet Union
  • Type: Light/Medium Bomber
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1941-1945
  • Range: 1,260 miles
  • Airspeed: 325 mph
  • Crew: 4
  • Payload: 3,312 pounds (internal), 5,004 pounds (external)
  • Powerplant: 2× Shvetsov ASh-82 radial engines, 1,850 horsepower each
03
of 12

Vickers Wellington

Heavily used by the RAF's Bomber Command in the first two years of the war, the Wellington was replaced in many theaters by larger, four-engined bombers such as the Avro Lancaster.

  • Nation: Great Britain
  • Type: Heavy Bomber
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1939-1945
  • Range: 2,200 miles
  • Airspeed: 235 mph
  • Crew: 6
  • Payload: 4,500 pounds
  • Powerplant: 2× Bristol Pegasus Mk I radial engine, 1,050 hp each
04
of 12

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

B-17 plane in flight
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Elsa Blaine/Flickr/https://www.flickr.com/photos/elsablaine/14358502548/in/photostream/

One of the backbones of the American strategic bombing campaign in Europe, the B-17 became a symbol of US airpower. B-17s served in all theaters of the war and were renowned for their ruggedness and crew survivability.

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Heavy Bomber
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1941-1945
  • Range: 2,000 miles
  • Airspeed: 287 mph
  • Crew: 10
  • Payload: 17,600 pounds (maximum), 4,500-8,000 pounds (typical)
  • Powerplant: 4× Wright R-1820-97 "Cyclone" turbosupercharged radial engines, 1,200 hp each
05
of 12

de Havilland Mosquito

Restored Mosquito plane in flight
de Havilland Mosquito. Flickr Vision / Getty Images

Built largely of plywood, the Mosquito was one of the most versatile aircraft of World War II. During its career, it was modified for use as a bomber, night fighter, reconnaissance plane, and fighter-bomber.

  • Nation: Great Britain
  • Type: Light Bomber
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1941-1945
  • Range: 1,500 miles
  • Airspeed: 415 mph
  • Crew: 2
  • Payload: 4,000 pounds
  • Powerplant: 2× Rolls-Royce Merlin 76/77 (left/right) liquid-cooled V12 engine, 1,710 hp each
06
of 12

Mitsubishi Ki-21 "Sally"

The Ki-21 "Sally" was the most common bomber used by the Japanese Army during the war and saw service in the Pacific and over China.

  • Nation: Japan
  • Type: Medium Bomber
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1939-1945
  • Range: 1,680 miles
  • Airspeed: 235 mph
  • Crew: 5-7
  • Payload: 2,200 pounds
  • Powerplant: 2x Mitsubishi Army type 100 Ha-101 of 1.500 hp​
07
of 12

Consolidated B-24 Liberator

b-24 Liberator in flight
Consolidated B-24 Liberator. Photograph Courtesy of the US Air Force

Like the B-17, the B-24 formed the core of the American strategic bombing campaign in Europe. With over 18,000 produced during the war, the Liberator was modified and used by US Navy for maritime patrols. Due to its abundance, it was also deployed by other Allied powers.

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Heavy Bomber
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1941-1945
  • Range: 2,100 miles
  • Airspeed: 290 mph
  • Crew: 7-10
  • Payload: 2,700 to 8,000 pounds depending on target's range
  • Powerplant: 4× Pratt & Whitney R-1830 turbosupercharged radial engines, 1,200 hp each
08
of 12

Avro Lancaster

Restored Avro Lancaster plane in flight
Restored Avro Lancaster Heavy Bomber. Stuart Gray / Getty Images

The RAF's principle strategic bomber after 1942, the Lancaster was known for its unusually large bomb bay (33 feet long). Lancasters are best remembered for their attacks on the Ruhr Valley dams, the battleship Tirpitz, and the firebombing of German cities.

  • Nation: Great Britain
  • Type: Heavy Bomber
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1942-1945
  • Range: 2,700 miles
  • Airspeed: 280 mph
  • Crew: 7
  • Payload: 14,000-22,000 pounds
  • Powerplant: 4× Rolls-Royce Merlin XX V12 engines, 1,280 hp each
09
of 12

Petlyakov Pe-2

Restored Petlyakov Pe-2 on display at airshow.
Restored Petlyakov Pe-2. Alan Wilson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Designed by Victor Petlyakov during his incarceration at a sharaga, the Pe-2 developed a reputation as an accurate bomber that was capable of escaping German fighters. The Pe-2 played a key role in providing tactical bombing and ground support to the Red Army.

  • Nation: Soviet Union
  • Type: Light/Medium Bomber
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1941-1945
  • Range: 721 miles
  • Airspeed: 360 mph
  • Crew: 3
  • Payload: 3,520 pounds
  • Powerplant: 2× Klimov M-105PF liquid-cooled V-12, 1,210 hp each
10
of 12

Mitsubishi G4M "Betty"

Mitsubishi G4M
Mitsubishi G4M captured on the ground. By U.S. Navy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most common bombers flown by the Japanese, the G4M was used in both strategic bombing and anti-shipping roles. Due to its poorly protected fuel tanks, the G4M was mockingly referred to as the "Flying Zippo" and "One-Shot Lighter" by Allied fighter pilots.

  • Nation: Japan
  • Type: Medium Bomber
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1941-1945
  • Range: 2,935 miles
  • Airspeed: 270 mph
  • Crew: 7
  • Payload: 1,765 pounds of bombs or torpedoes
  • Powerplant: 2× Mitsubishi Kasei 25 radial engines, 1,850 hp each
11
of 12

Junkers Ju 88

Junkers JU-88 plane in flight
German Junkers JU-88. Apic/RETIRED / Getty Images

The Junkers Ju 88 largely replaced the Dornier Do 17, and played a large role in the Battle of Britain. A versatile aircraft, it was also modified for service as a fighter-bomber, night fighter, and dive bomber.

  • Nation: Germany
  • Type: Medium Bomber
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1939-1945
  • Range: 1,310 miles
  • Airspeed: 317 mph
  • Crew: 4
  • Payload: 5,511 pounds
  • Powerplant: 2× Junkers Jumo 211A liquid-cooled inverted V-12, 1,200 hp each
12
of 12

Boeing B-29 Superfortress

WWII Boeing B29 plane in flight.
Restored WWII Boeing B29 Superfortress flying over Sarasota Florida. csfotoimages / Getty Images

The last long-range, heavy bomber developed by the United States during the war, the B-29 served exclusively in the fight against Japan, flying from bases in China and the Pacific. On August 6, 1945, the B-29 Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A second was dropped from the B-29 Bockscar on Nagasaki three days later.

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Heavy Bomber
  • Wartime Service Dates: 1944-1945
  • Range: 3,250 miles
  • Airspeed: 357 mph
  • Crew: 11
  • Payload: 20,000 pounds
  • Powerplant: 4× Wright R-3350-23 turbosupercharged radial engines, 2,200 hp each
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Hickman, Kennedy. "Selected Bombers of World War II." ThoughtCo, Mar. 29, 2018, thoughtco.com/selected-bombers-of-world-war-ii-4063155. Hickman, Kennedy. (2018, March 29). Selected Bombers of World War II. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/selected-bombers-of-world-war-ii-4063155 Hickman, Kennedy. "Selected Bombers of World War II." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/selected-bombers-of-world-war-ii-4063155 (accessed April 25, 2018).