It wasn’t much after the Wright Brother’s invention of the airplane that aerial bombing materialized. The first recorded ‘bombing’, from airplanes was during the Italo-Turkish War, where the Italian Army Air Corps bombed a Turkish camp. Men would actually pick up the bomb and drop it at the desired target once the airplane reached its designation.
But it was not until World War I were aircraft was used extensively for bombing raids. Initially, the ‘flying machines’ were used for reconnaissance and proved worthy by successfully discovering enemy positions and providing better logistics for ground attacks. Each side considered these flying observational aircraft to be nothing more than just an annoyance, but after they realized that there was a strategic (and costly) advantage to this approach, they began to send their airplanes after them. Antiquated compared to today’s standards, the pilots would through bricks and sometimes hand grenades at the reconnaissance aircraft. In addition, small guns and pistols were used to shoot at the reconnaissance airplanes.
Air to air fighting, otherwise known as dog fights had begun.
The first official dog fight occurred occurred near the Cer Mountain in Serbia during World War I in 1914. A Serbian pilot was running a reconnaissance mission and encountered an Austro-Hungarian plane. The two began shooting at each other. This led to all Serbian and Austro-Hungarian planes being fitted with machine-guns.
World War I saw a significant increase of aerial warfare. Biplanes (planes with wings on the top and bottom) were the standard flying aircraft in late 1917 onward until the 1930s and dog fighting was commonplace. Biplanes were built with wooden frame construction, canvas skins and contained air-cooled engines.
The Banana Wars, (a reference to the wars by United States in Central America); such as the Spanish American War saw much aerial combat. Mostly by the Marines who used air to ground tactics to support the American troops on the ground.
Between this time period, biplanes gave way to monoplanes (single winged aircraft), which were all metal skin aircraft with enclosed cockpits and carried increased weaponry over their predecessor biplanes.
It wasn’t until World War II where the most popular dog fights came about. The Battle of Britain involved the British Royal Air Force against the German Luftwaffe fighter planes in the summer and fall of 1940.
Aerial fighting with monoplanes were also common between the US Navy and Japanese and US Air Force against Germany. Of course, the most notable and tragic attacks on the US Navy during World War II was the use of the Japanese Kamikaze Zeros who flew directly into Navy warships.
The Cold War led to more accelerated advancements in the aircraft industry.
Enter the jet. Faster, stronger and could carry more armaments than any of the former airplanes.
It was also during this time that there began a significant distinction between fighter jets and jets designed for one thing – bombing.
Some of the earlier fighters were the US F-102 Delta Dart, F-106, F-86 Sabre and the Phantom fighters, which saw much combat in the Vietnam War. Also, dog fights between the Arab MIG-21s and the Israeli Mirage IIICJ fighters were closely watched by military agencies across the world during the 1967 Arab Israeli War to see which one of the fighter jets were superior. It was determined that the Mirage fighters were clearly more successful than their Arab counterparts.
As the R&R technology of fighter jets continued, new formidable bombing aircraft technology was also emerging. The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress was the pride of the Air Force and was used extensively by the now defunct Strategic Air Command (SAC). These planes were capable of carrying up to 70,000 pounds of bombs, including nuclear weapons. They would fly 24 hours a day around the world, making them very hard to track and take down. Refueling was done by the KC-135 Stratotankers.
B-52s are still in existence and operable today. They were used during the post 9/11 Afghan War and were able to completely wipe out Taliban positions in one sweep.
The successor to the B-52 is the stealth B-2 bomber, which is currently being used in Iraq to fight off ISIS terrorists.
Fighter aircraft also have advanced significantly, with the production of the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 lightning stealth fighters, the United States remains the technological military superpower of the world.
New, even more formidable stealth aircraft are in research and we look forward to see what the next generation of fighters and bombers will be.