Light bomber

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PZL.23 Karaś, the main Polish light bomber at the beginning of World War II
The A-26 Invader, a light bomber.

A light bomber is a relatively small and fast class of military bomber aircraft which were primarily employed before the 1950s. Such aircraft would typically not carry more than one ton of ordnance. The dedicated light bomber disappeared as fighters were able to carry the same bombloads while also able to carry out other missions.


Light bombers of World War I were single-engine aircraft with a bomb load of about 50–400 kg. One of the most famous was the Airco DH.4 designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. They could often also serve as reconnaissance aircraft (for example the Avro 504).

Light bombers of World War II were single-engine or, less commonly, twin-engine aircraft with a bomb load of about 500-1,000 kg. Designs included the Fairey Battle, Mitsubishi Ki-51 (known to the Allies as "Sonia"), Petlyakov Pe-2, Lockheed Hudson, and Martin Baltimore. They could also be used in the reconnaissance role. A few twin-engine light bomber designs were also successful when converted into heavy fighters or night fighters; examples of these would be the Bristol Blenheim and Douglas A-20 Havoc.

Dive bombers were often light bombers by definition, as these designs typically carried lower warloads of 1 ton or less. Other designs that fall into this class by definition would include ground-attack aircraft like the Breda Ba.65 and Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik. Likewise, torpedo bombers often fell into this class, but unlike dive bombers it was fairly common for these aircraft to be used for level bombing as well; both the Japanese Nakajima B5N and US TBF Avenger saw extensive action in the light bomber role.

The light bomber, as a custom aircraft class, began to fall from use as WWII opened. The growth of engine power from the 1,000 hp to the 2,000 hp area during the war produced single-engine fighters with more power than the light bombers of only a few years earlier. This gave rise to the fighter-bomber design, notably the Fw 190 F and G models, Hawker Typhoon and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

Although the term is no longer widely used, the basic role remains a common one. Modern aircraft carrying out the same mission profiles are generally known as attack aircraft and strike fighters.

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