Tactical bombing is the aerial bombing aimed at targets of immediate military value, such as combatants, military installations, or equipment. This is in contrast to strategic bombing, attacking enemy cities and factories to debilitate the enemy's capacity to wage war, the enemy's future military production, as well as the enemy's civilians' will to support the war effort. A tactical bomber is a bomber aircraft with an intended primary role of tactical bombing.
Tactical bombing is basically employed for two assignments: aircraft providing close air support attack targets in proximity to friendly ground forces, acting in direct support of the ground operations (as a "flying artillery"). Air interdiction attacks, by contrast, attack tactical targets that are not in contact with friendly units.
Historically, the tactical bombing was the first type of bombing mission. It began in World War I when pilots dropped small bombs over the side of their open cockpits onto enemy troops below. One of the first examples of this was at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in 1915 when the Royal Flying Corps dropped bombs on German rail communications. By World War II, a number of specialized aircraft were developed to fulfill the role, including various fighter-bombers. For instance, in the Korean War, tactical bombing missions were sometimes carried out by earlier-era fighters, such as the F4U Corsair. In Vietnam War, missions were often directed by forward air controllers (FACs) flying small propeller planes. The FAC would mark targets with smoke, often in coordination with infantry on the ground. The bombers orbiting overhead would then roll in to hit the target.
In the modern era, precision-guided munitions or "smart bombs" can be directed with extreme accuracy.
- Strategic bombing
- Tactical Air Command (USA)
- Carpet bombing
- Close air support
- Forward air control
- Ground-attack aircraft
- Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses
- Air interdiction
- Tank plinking
- "Foreign Affairs - The New American Way of War - Max Boot". www.foreignaffairs.org. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
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