US Bombers and Attack Aircraft

June 2023
Timeline overview of post-war US Bombers and attack aircraft.

Throughout the tumultuous years of World War II and beyond, the United States has been at the forefront of aviation technology, continually developing and deploying advanced bomber and attack aircraft. These warplanes played a crucial role in shaping the outcome of conflicts and establishing American air superiority. Let's embark on a journey through time, exploring the key aircraft that have defined the US bomber and attack aviation lineage.

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After WW2, focus was on the bombers, with the development of the huge B-36, B-47 and B-52. During the 50 and 60s new attack aircraft were developed like the iconic A-4 and A-7, primarily used by the Navy. During the 80s other iconic aircraft took to the sky for the first time, like the B-1, F-117 and B-2. Latest addition to this list is the B-21 which is currently in development.

Rollout first B-21
Northrop Grumman
B-21 Raider
In development, First flight 10 November 2023.

Long-range, stealth intercontinental strategic bomber, able to deliver conventional and thermonuclear weapons.

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B-2A,  82-1068 / WM
Northrop Grumman
B-2 Spirit
Active, 21 build. Will be replaced by the B-21.

Also known as the "Stealth Bomber". Heavy strategic bomber featuring stealth technology to penetrate dense anti-aircraft defences.

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F-15E,  96-0201 / LN
McDonnell Douglas
F-15E Strike Eagle
Active, 237 build (E model).

All-weather multirole strike fighter derived from the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. Designed for long-range, high-speed interdiction without relying on escort or electronic-warfare aircraft. The E model always has a 2 crew, tandem-cockpit.

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AV-8B+, 164567 / CG-07
McDonnell Douglas
AV-8B Harrier II
US Carrier capablecarrierMarinesnavyVSTOLswap-vert
Active, 337 Build

Single-engine ground-attack aircraft, capable of vertical or short takeoff and landing (V/STOL). Primary mission: light attack or multi-role missions, ranging from close air support of ground troops to armed reconnaissance.

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F-117A, 84-0825 / HO
F-117 Nighthawk
Officially retired, although some are still active. 64 build (incl 5 YF-117As)

Single seat stealth attack aircraft. Although it was commonly referred to as the "Stealth Fighter", it was strictly an attack aircraft.

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F-4G, 69-0284 / WW
McDonnell Douglas
F-4G Phantom II
Retired 1996

A dedicated Wild Weasel SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defences) variant

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B-1B, 85-0096 / EL
B-1 Lancer
Active, 104 build.

Supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber. The program (B-1A) was cancelled and restarted in 1981 (B-1B). First introduced in service in 1986.

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A-10A, 81-0988 / SP
Fairchild Republic
A-10 Thunderbolt II
Active, 716 build.

Single-seat, twin-turbofan, straight-wing, subsonic attack aircraft. Build around the high power 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon.

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AV-8C, 158977 / WH
Hawker Siddeley
AV-8A/C Harrier
UKUS Carrier capablecarrierMarinesnavyVSTOLswap-vert
Retired, 102 A types build, 110 C types.

A ground attack and reconnaissance aircraft with vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) capabilities

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F-111E, 68-0033 / UH
General Dynamics
F-111 Aardvark
Retired in 1996, 639 build.

Twin engine, supersonic, medium-range, multirole combat aircraft with a swept wing design.

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F-105G, 62-4427 / WW
F-105G Thunderchief
Retired, 1984.

Wild Weasel / Defence suppression version of the F-105 fighter.

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OV-10D, 155499 / ER-11
North American Rockwell
OV-10 Bronco
US MarinesnavyPropeller drivenpropeller
Retired 1995, 360 build.

A twin-turboprop light attack and observation aircraft. It's primary missions was forward air control (FAC), but capable to carry 1450kg (3,200 lb) of external ammunition.

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A-7E, 160713 / AC-307
A-7 Corsair II
US Carrier capablecarrier
Retired 1991-1993, 1545 build

Carrier-capable subsonic light attack aircraft. Designed as a replacement for the A-4 Skyhawk. It was still actively used during the Gulf War.

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OA-37B, 73-1066 / IL
(O)A-37 Dragonfly
Retired early 90s, 577 build.

Light attack aircraft developed from the T-37 basic trainer. Heavily used in the Vietnam War. Also used as Forward Air Control (FAC) OA-37

A-6E, 164382 / AJ-500
A-6 intruder
US Carrier capablecarrierMarinesnavy
Retired 1997, 693 build.

Carrier capable twinjet all-weather attack aircraft. Replaced the A-1 Skyraider.

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OV-1C,  61-02724 / 32
OV-1 Mohawk
US Propeller drivenpropeller
Retired 1996, 380 build.

Twin turbo-prop observation and attack aircraft that was designed for battlefield surveillance and light strike capabilities. The Mohawk was intended to operate from short, unimproved runways in support of United States Army.

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RA-5C, 149289 / GJ-315
North American
A-5 Vigilante
US Carrier capablecarrier
Retired 1979, 167 build.

Carrier-based supersonic bomber. The majority were converted to a reconnaissance configuration, designated RA-5C.

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B-58A, 61-2080
B-58 Hustler
Retired 1970, 116 build.

First supersonic strategic bomber capable of Mach 2 flight. 4 J79 powered engine pods, no bomb bay. It could carry a single nuclear weapon plus fuel in a combination bomb/fuel pod underneath the fuselage.

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WB-66D,  55-0395 / JN
B-66 Destroyer
Retired 1975, 294 build.

Light bomber based on the Navy A-3 design. A reconnaissance model (RB-66) and electronic reconnaissance version (EB-66) were also build.

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A-4B, 142833 / AK-512
A-4 Skyhawk
US Carrier capablecarrierMarinesnavy
Retired 2003 (USN), 2960 build.

Single-seat subsonic carrier-capable light attack aircraft developed for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. The aircraft's five hardpoints support a variety of missiles, bombs, and other munitions, including nuclear.

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EB-57E,  55-4253
B-57 Canberra
Retired 1983, 403 build. 3 still in use by NASA

Twin-engined tactical bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. The B-57 is a license-built version of the British English Electric Canberra. The Canberra was used extensively during the Vietnam War in a bombing capacity. Dedicated versions were build as high-altitude aerial reconnaissance platforms.

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RA-3B, 144843 / SS-913
A-3 Skywarrior
US Carrier capablecarrier
Retired 1991, 282 build.

A carrier-capable jet powered strategic bomber. Models also used for reconnaissance (RA-3), tanker (KA-3) and ECM (EA-3), with the EA-3 being the most used version, used in the Vietnam war and even the Gulf War.

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B-52H, 60-0048 / LA
B-52 Stratofortress
Active, 744 build.

Long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber. The bomber can carry up to 70,000 pounds (32,000 kg) of weapons, with a 8,800 miles (14,200 km) range. The new J model will get new Rolls-Royce F-130 engines and will be in service till at least 2050!

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B-47E, 52-0166
B-47 Stratojet
Retired 1996 (1977 EB-47), 2042 build.

Long-range, six turbojet-powered strategic bomber designed to fly at high subsonic speed and at high altitude. The primary mission of the B-47 was as a nuclear bomber capable of striking targets within the Soviet Union. There was also a ECM version (EB-47) and reconnaissance model (RB-47).

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KB-50J,  49-0372
B-50 Superfortress
US Propeller drivenpropeller
Retired 1965, 370 build.

A post–World War II strategic bomber, revision of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, it was fitted with more powerful engines, stronger structure and other modifications. Later modified into tankers (KB-50) and weather reconnaissance aircraft (WB-50).

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B-45A, 47-0008 / BE-008
North American
B-45 Tornado
Retired 1959, 143 build.

The first operational jet bomber to enter service. Pre-design work started already in 1944. The USAF found the plane to be useful during the Korean War performing both conventional bombing and aerial reconnaissance missions.

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B-36J, 52-2827
B-36 Peacemaker
US Propeller drivenpropeller
Retired 1959, 384 build.

Largest mass-produced piston-engined strategic bomber ever built. The B-36 was the first bomber capable of delivering any of the nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal from an internal bomb bay. Range of 10,000 mi (16,000 km) and a maximum payload of 87,200 lb (39,600 kg).

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A-1 Skyraider
US Carrier capablecarrierPropeller drivenpropellerMarinesnavy
Retired 1973, 3180 build

Propellor driven medium attack aircraft. Heavily used during the Vietnam War.

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