Tenth Greatest: Fairey Swordfish (04:50)
The Fairey Swordfish bomber was an effective ship killer, reliably and precisely dropping torpedoes. Slow speeds made it an easy target, and its use was discontinued by the end of World War II.
Ninth Greatest: JU 87 Stuka (05:04)
Bent wing Stuka dive bombers were engineered for blitzkriegs, vertically bombing targets before pulling up; pilots often blacked out during the maneuver, necessitating the use of autopilot. It was equipped with a siren to menace victims during the approach.
Eighth Greatest: Caproni C36 (03:40)
This Italian heavy bomber was the first plane used for strategic bombing; during World War I, it carried 1700 pounds of bombs across the Alps to strike Austrian targets. Exposed cockpits and no armor made the craft dangerous and difficult to fly.
Seventh Greatest: Panavia Tornado (05:31)
Britain, Italy, and Germany co-engineered this low level fast attack bomber to also serve as fighter and interceptor. Powerful engines moved 28 tons of plane and cargo; swing wings allowed supersonic speeds.
Sixth Greatest: Avro Vulcan (04:49)
This delta winged bomber was designed by the Royal Air Force to deliver nuclear bombs to Russia and return. It is highly maneuverable, operates at 60,000 feet, and powered by four Olympus jet engines.
Fifth Greatest: Tu 95 Bear (04:05)
Tupolev Design Bureau engineered this nuclear bomber with swept wings and turbo prop engines, achieving near jet speeds while carrying 46,000 pounds of artillery. Contra rotating propellers gave it good fuel efficiency and excellent range, but could be heard from miles away.
Fourth Greatest: B2 Spirit Bomber (05:15)
This technologically advanced stealth bomber can fly anywhere in the world, drop bombs, and quickly return home; it achieves supersonic speeds and can take out 80 targets with guided munitions on one mission. It costs 1,200,000,000 dollars to construct, prohibiting numbers manufactured.
Third Greatest: Avro Lancaster (05:22)
The Avro Lancaster entered combat in 1942, utilizing massive bomb capacity for Dambuster Raids; it was powered by four Rolls Royce Merlin engines, and highly maneuverable. It lacked defensive weaponry and nearly half of the crews it carried died on missions.
Second Greatest: B17 Flying Fortress (05:34)
The Flying Fortress served in every World War II combat zone, daylight bombing German industrial targets. It was reliable, big, heavy, and capable of enduring major damage; nonetheless, many were shot down until paired with long-range escorts excelling at aerial combat.
Greatest Ever: B52 Stratofortress (05:54)
Although designed for a nuclear strike on Russia, the Stratofortress has served since 1952, proving the most versatile of Cold War enforcers and an effective enemy deterrent. Long-range is achieved by filling wings with fuel; components are easy to maintain and can be updated with new technologies.
Credits: Episode IIX: Bombers (00:30)
Credits: Episode IIX: Bombers
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