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Research Report


Jerry Hendrix
James Price
Copyright Date: Jun. 1, 2017
Pages: 72

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-2)
  2. (pp. 3-3)
  3. (pp. 4-5)
  4. (pp. 6-14)

    In the beginning, the challenge of flight was simply getting into the air and then landing safely again. The Wright brothers’ 1903 achievement at Kitty Hawk was not just the first manned flight, but also doing it repeatedly, and living. In the years that followed, early aircraft, often no more than wooden frames with canvas-covered wings and far-from-reliable engines, claimed more than their fair share of early flyers, such as Army Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, who crashed along with Orville Wright (who lived) during a demonstration flight at Fort Myer in September 1908. After initial issues with safety and reliability were...

  5. (pp. 15-37)

    The advancements in aircraft design during the late 1920s and 1930s progressed in parallel with innovation in the corresponding theory for how to employ bombers. The U.S. Army Air Corps opened a school, Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS), in 1920, originally designed to train air-power leaders in the use of aircraft based on WWI experience. But with the evolution of “bomber theory” toward offensive operations, the school increasingly focused on developing an air doctrine for future wars. As the doctrine began to gain traction, the school’s cadre even had a say in setting the aircraft specifications for future acquisitions.40 By...

  6. (pp. 38-49)

    The B-52 represented the culmination of an evolutionary line of heavy-bomber development stretching back to the Handley Page 0/100 aircraft first flown during World War I. The Stratofortress was a big-winged, multiengine aircraft capable of carrying a large load of bombs very long distances. It was the last bomber to be produced in large numbers. The reasons for this are explored as we examine certain divergences from the evolutionary path, offshoots that took new approaches to aircraft design or that pressed the limits in design, on speed, or on altitude in an effort to gain an advantage with regard to...

  7. (pp. 50-57)

    On February 26, 2016, then-Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James revealed the first rendering of the B-21, the future of America’s heavy-bomber force.161 Later that year one of this report’s authors had the honor of being present as she announced that the B-21 would be named Raider, harking back to a great moment in Air Force history when then-Lieutenant Colonel (later Lieutenant General) James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle led 16 B-25 medium bombers, Doolittle’s Raiders, off the deck of the Navy’s USS Hornet on a daring raid against mainland Japan.162 The heavily laden B-25s clawed into the sky from the rocking...

  8. (pp. 58-61)

    Why does the U.S. military have bombers and what do they offer? Through the history of military aviation bombers have provided range, payloads, and lethality unequaled by other aircraft and very few weapons systems. This analysis began with the dawn of combat aviation in WWI. In the beginning, airplanes dropped small bomb loads as a lone aircraft or in small groups. Very little was done in formation until later in the war, when the formation size began to grow in an effort to provide both mass and protection. Initial ranges of the aircraft did not allow them to reach strategic...

  9. (pp. 62-63)
  10. (pp. 64-70)
  11. (pp. 71-72)