Watch a fascinating and informative documentary that profiles one of America's greatest military aircraft: the B-2 stealth bomber. In this segment you'll learn about stealth bombers.
Read the full transcript »

Male Speaker: Early World War I bombers were neither purpose built nor particularly sophisticated. Aviation was in -- and bombs were often carried a loft in the pilot's lap to be tossed by hand at targets on the ground. Technology had advanced by the time World War II began. Faster bombers carried heavier weapons over targets protected by early warning radar, anti-aircraft guns and high-speed interceptor aircraft. By 1994, two distinct schools of tactical bombing had emerged from the war above Europe. After suffering staggering losses during daylight bombing raids, the British conducted their bombing at night. Small bombers called mosquitoes would be launched in the general direction of a target spitting fire from their engines, the mosquitoes would proceed without radio contact or information towards the vicinity of the target. Flying high and in the dark these small bombers were very hard to detect. Far ahead of the main bomber force where bombers designated as pathfinders these planes were flown by the best navigators in the Royal Air Force. Their mission was to drop incendiary drops on the target producing bright flames and creating an easily spotted target for the main bomber force. Bombers would then have toured the fires, dropped their bombs and individually make their escape. This decentralized approach with British bombers coming from all directors to bomb one target was difficult to defend against. By contrast the United States relied on daylight bombing raids consisting of hundreds of bombers in tight formation. The B-17 was an enormous plane with a crew of ten and defended by 13 fifty caliber machine guns. In fact the B-17 carried so much weight in machine guns -- defensive gunners that is bomb load was the same as that of the two man mosquito. Escort planes didn't have the range of bombers which meant the big planes were usually over targets with little protection. Although gun throttles protruded from every side of the B-17, the slow tightly packed fleets of bombers proved easy targets for the fast heavily armed german interceptors. Because they drop their bombs as one, the bombers flew in complicated formations designed so that they didn't drop bombs on each other. Advancements in fighter technology as well as enormous industrial output with the two factors that allowed the US to turn the tide of the bombing campaign. Under the cover of new escort fighters the Eighth air force began launching bomber machines in excess of 1,000 bombers with 600 escort fighters. British mosquito bombers suffered a fraction of the losses -- by the B-17s. While the British approach demonstrated how effective bombing could be when utilizing bomber that were difficult to detect. The US would continue to use large bombers in high altitude formations until the 1960s. Capt. Ryan Huckabay: It would take whole fleets of aircraft to fly over a single factory or single bridge dropping tons and tons of bombs with objective of destroying that one bridge or destroying that one factory. Male Speaker: Following World War II, vast sums of money were spent on bigger faster bombers with larger payloads. The United States had powerful new weapons and then equally powerful new enemy the Soviet Union. In the event of an all out war the US needed a new bomber that could carry the enormous atom bombs deep into the heart of the USSR. Two radically different designs emerged to answer this call. Built as a flying wing the YB 49 could carry the same bomb load as a larger bomber using less power and thus less fuel built by visionary aircraft designer Jack Northrop. The all-wing design reduced drag almost completely. Although initial tests were favorable it was too far ahead of its time. The trim efficiency of the YB 49 lost out to the brute force of the enormous conveyor B-36 powered by six massive pusher propellors and four jet engines. The B-36 was one of the only aircraft of its day capable of breaching the Soviet Union. Defended by 16, 20 millimeter can

Browse Most Popular Videos

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement