Shuttle bombing

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Shuttle bombing is a tactic where bombers fly from their home base to bomb a first target and continue to a different location where they are refuelled and rearmed. The aircraft may then bomb a second target on the return leg to their home base.[1][2][3] Some examples of operations which have used this tactic are:

  • Operation Bellicose, June 1943: The first shuttle bombing mission of World War II, flown by the Royal Air Force (RAF). On the night of 20/21 June the RAF bombers departed from their bases in the United Kingdom and bombed Friedrichshafen, landing in Algeria, where they refuelled and rearmed. On the return leg they bombed the Italian naval base at La Spezia.[4][5]
  • Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission, 17 August 1943: The 4th Bombardment Wing of the Eighth Air Force using B-17s equipped with "Tokyo (fuel) tanks" for longer range, attacked the Messerschmitt Bf 109 plants in Regensburg and then flew on to bases in Bône, Berteaux and Telergma (French Algeria).[6] Most of the aircraft that had been damaged were stranded due to the poor repair facilities in Algeria and some of them were never returned to service.[7] Eight days later, on 24 August, on the way back to their bases in Great Britain, the surviving B-17s bombed targets in Bordeaux.
  • Operation Frantic, from June to September 1944: This was a series of air raids conducted by United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) bombers based in Britain or the Mediterranean which then landed at bases built by the Americans in Ukraine in the Soviet Union.[8] As a military operation it made possible eighteen strong attacks on important strategic targets in Germany which would otherwise have been immune.[9]
  • The Warsaw Airlift, August to September 1944: During the Warsaw Uprising the Frantic airbases were used for an airdrop to the Poles fighting in the city. On 17 September 1944 70 B-17s and 57 P-51s flew without bombs from Italy and landed safely in the United Kingdom. On 18 September 107 of 110 B-17s dropped 1,248 containers of supplies to Polish forces in Warsaw and flew on to the USSR losing one B-17 with seven more damaged. The next day 100 B-17s and 61 P-51s left the USSR and bombed the marshalling yard at Szolnok in Hungary as they returned to bases in Italy.[10]
  • Operation Paravane, September 1944: A variation on the concept. On 11 September 1944 No. 9 Squadron RAF and No. 617 Squadron RAF flew from their home bases in Scotland to a temporary base at Yagodnik, near Archangel in the Soviet Union. From there, on 15 September, they bombed the German battleship Tirpitz in a Norwegian fjord and continued on back to Scotland.

While shuttle bombing offered several advantages, allowing distant targets to be hit and complicating the Axis defence arrangements, it posed a number of practical difficulties, not least the awkward relations between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. The operations were concluded in September 1944 after a three-month period and not repeated.


  1. ^ Staff. Shuttle bombing Archived 2011-05-18 at the Wayback Machine McGraw-Hill's AccessScience Encyclopedia of Science & Technology Online Archived 2008-05-27 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Edward T. Russell (1999). Leaping the Atlantic Wall: Army Air Forces Campaigns in Western Europe, 1942–1945 Archived 2004-06-27 at the Wayback Machine(PDF), United States Air Force History and Museums Program Archived 2006-10-28 at the Wayback Machine pp. 26,27. (HTML Archived 2008-05-16 at the Wayback Machine copy on the website of
  3. ^ Dear, I. C. B.; Foot, M. R. D., eds. (2005). "Shuttle Bombing". The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 778. ISBN 978-0-19-280670-3.
  4. ^ Christopher Chant (1986). The Encyclopedia of Codenames of World War II, Routledge, ISBN 0-7102-0718-2. p. 15
  5. ^ Jon Lake (2002). Lancaster Squadrons 1942–43, Osprey, ISBN 1-84176-313-6. p. 66
  6. ^ Bombardiers lourds de la dernière guerre: B-17, forteresse volante, Avro Lancaster, B-24 Liberator. Editions Atlas. 1980. ISBN 2731200316.
  7. ^ Miller, Donald (2006). Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys who Fought the Air War against Nazi Germany. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0743235444.
  8. ^ Charles T. O'Reilly (2001). Forgotten Battles: Italy's War of Liberation, 1943–1945 Lexington Books, ISBN 0-7391-0195-1. p. 343
  9. ^ Deane, John R. 1947. The Strange Alliance, The Story of our Efforts at Wartime Co-operation with Russia. The Viking Press.
  10. ^ Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces September 1944: 17,18,19 copied from USAF History Publications Archived 18 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine & wwii combat chronology (pdf) Archived 2008-09-10 at the Wayback Machine