WW2 Tank Buster Aircraft

In World War II, the top four tank buster aircraft were the Junkers Ju 87 “Stuka”, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, the North American P-51 Mustang, and the Hawker Tempest. The first one was the only one designed as a ground-attack aircraft to fulfill the role of a dive bomber, which, when armed with 20 or 37mm guns, became the Ju 87G version of the Stuka and a lethal tank buster, destroying thousands of armored vehicles on the Eastern Front. On the other hand, the American and the British ones had originally been designed as fighters and interceptors to be used as bomber escorts due to their longer range. The American fighters turned out to be excellent aircraft in the ground-attack role, for their firepower and bombload capacity. They were also fast aircraft, propelled by powerful engines as they operated without much opposition, for the Allies had already gained air superiority in the skies over Europe by 1944.

The Stuka was in service from the beginning of the war, playing a key role in the Polish and French campaign as it was essential for the Blitzkrieg warfare, with its tank killer variant, the Ju 87G, being equipped with two 37mm BK-37 cannons, which fired armour-piercing tungsten-carbide ammunition. Flown by WWII aces, such as Hans-Ulrich Rudel, the Junkers Ju 87G was by far the most lethal and most effective tank buster aircraft of WWII. Flying this version of German dive bomber, Rudel destroyed 519 tanks, 300 armoured vehicles of all types, 4 armoured trains, and more than 150 howitzers.

Below: the Junkers Ju 87G, armed with two 37mm guns


The P-47 Thunderbolt, which was the heaviest fighter of the war, had a bombload capacity of 2,500 lb (1,134 kg), which included ten 2-inch rockets and was armed with eight .50-caliber Browning machine guns. Powered by a Packard V-1650-7, the P-51 Mustang could carry up to 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs and six 5-inch rockets. The Tempest was an excellent British fighter that was also used as a bomber against enemy armored vehicle formations; as armament, it had four 20mm Mark II, Hispano guns, eight 3-inch rockets and could carry up to 1,000 lb of bombs.

Footage of the best tank buster of WWII: the Junkers Ju 87 of Hans Rudel

Cold War US Bombers

After World War II, the Western Civilization saw the United States ascendancy as a world superpower and, as such, it had the economic and industrial capacity to develop and produce advanced long range bombers, which served as deterrence against the Soviet Block in the Cold War scenario. Under the Tactical Air Command of the US Air Force, they were on full alert twenty-four hours a day for any sign of hostile Soviet encroachment upon the United States’s airspace.

List of US bombers in service during the Cold War

B-29 Superfortress. In service: from 1944 to 1960. Bombload capacity: 20,000 lb (9,000 kg). Range: 3,250 miles (5,230 km). Engines: 4. Manufacturer: Boeing

B-36 Peacemaker. In service: from 1949 to 1959. Bombload capacity: 86,000 lb (39,000 kg). Range: 10,000 miles (16,000 km). Engines: 6. Manufacturer: Convair.

B-45 Tornado. A strategic bomber, which participated in the Korean War. It was powered by 4 jet engines. Bombload capacity: 22,000 lb (10,000 kg). Manufacturer: North American Aviation. Years in service: 1948 – 1959.

B-47 Stratojet. In service: from 1951 to 1969. Bombload capacity: 25,000 lb (11,000 kg). Range: 4,647 miles (7,478 kg). Engines: 6 General Electric turbojets. Manufacturer: Boeing.

B-50 Superfortress. A B-29 update, with longer range and more bombload capacity as it was equipped with more powerful engines.

B-57 Canverra. In service: from 1954 to 1983. Bombload capacity: 7,300 lb (3,300 kg). Range: 2,720 miles (4,380 km). Engines: 2 turbojets. It was an American version of the English Electric Canverra.

B-52 Stratofortress. In service: from 1955 up to the present. Bombload capacity: 70,000 lb (31,500 kg). Range: 10,145 miles (16,232 km). Engines: 8. Manufacturer: Boeing.

B-66 Destroyer. Light tactical bomber introduced in 1956 and retired in 1973. It was a subsonic aircraft, which had swept wings mounted high on the fuselage (shoulder wings) and was powered by two jet engines.

B-58 Hustler. In service: from 1960 to 1970. Bombload: 19,450 lb (8,820 kg). Range: 4,700 miles (7,600 kg). Engine: 4 turbojets. Supersonic speed of Mach 2.0. Manufacturer: Convair.

B-1 Lancer. Introduced in 1974, it is still in service. It has a bombload capacity of 75,000 lb (34,000 kg) in bomb bays + 50,000 lb (23,000 kg) on six external hard points. Range: 7,455 miles (12,000 km). Engines: 4 General Electric turbofans. Manufacturer: Rockwell

Below: the B-52 Superfortress, the iconic bomber of the Cold War period


Convair B-36 Peacemaker

The B-36 Peacemaker was a US Air Force’s long-range bomber used during the Cold War by the US Strategic Air Command. Developed by the firm Convair, it made its first flight as a prototype in August 1946, being introduced in 1949 and phased out in 1959. Despite the Korean War, the Peacemaker never saw combat action; instead it was utilized as a deterrence bomber, for its capacity to deliver nuclear bombs, in the Cold War scenario. Total production was 384 bombers. The Peacemaker was the last piston-engined bomber developed in the 20th century; it would be replaced by the B-47 Stratojet and the B-52 Stratofortress.


The Convair B-36 was powered by six 28-cylinder, Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major radial engines, which generated 3,800 horsepower each (total of 22,800 hp). It had shoulder wing, retractable landing gear, and an all-metal fuselage. It had the longest wingspan and the largest wing area of all the military aircraft ever produced in the United States, allowing this aircraft to fly at cruising altitudes higher than 40,000 ft (12,000 m) and to carry more than 35,000 kg of bombs (75,000 lb).


Type: long-range strategic bomber
Wingspan: 230 ft (70.12 m)
Length: 162 ft 1 in (49.42 m)
Height: 46 ft 9 in (14.25 m)
Wing area: 4,772 square ft (443.5 m2)
Maximum speed: 418 mph (672 km/h)
Range: 10,000 miles (16,000 km)
Weapons: two 20mm automatic guns in tail turret
Bombload: up to 86,000 lb
Crew: 13

B-47 Stratojet

The B-47 Stratojet was a strategic bomber in service with the US Air Force between 1951 and 1969. It was developed and manufactured by Boeing Aircraft Company, performing its first flight as a prototype in 1947. The Stratojet was the first long range, jet-powered bomber used by the United States, constituting the backbone of America’s nuclear deterrence in the Cold War scenario for more than a decade. Despite of being massively produced, with more than 2,000 Stratojets built, it would slowly be replaced by the B-52 Stratofortress.


The B-47 was a shoulder wing aircraft, powered by six General Electric JE-47-GE-25 turbojet engines, which generated 7,200 pound-force each. It had an elevated cockpit, covered by a fighter-style bubble canopy, with the pilot and copilot sitting in tadem, while the navigator compartment was set in the nose of the aircraft. The Stratojet also featured 35º swept wings, which made of it the first US long range bomber in service to have such wings. The B-47E version boasted an AN/APS-64 radar, which had range of 400 km, and four AN/ALT-6B jammers.


Type: subsonic, long range bomber

Wingspan: 116 ft (35.37 m)

Length: 107 ft 1 in (32.65 m)

Height: 28 ft (8.54 m)

Wing area: 1428 ft2 (132.7 m2)

Maximum speed: 607 mph (977 km/h)

Bombload: 25,000 lb (11,000 kg), which included 4 nuclear bombs

Crew: 3



B-1 Lancer

The B-1 Lancer was a long range, strategic bomber which was developed by the American firm Rockwell International for the United States Air Force. Although it did not take part in the 1991 Gulf War, the B-1 was used during Operation Desert Fox (1998), Operation Enduring Freedom (2001), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003). The Lancer first flew as a prototype (B-1A) on December 23, 1974. Having been upgraded, the bomber was finally delivered to the Strategic Air Command in June 1985, entering service as the B-1B on October 1, 1986. The B-1 program was initiated under the Nixon Administration, was postponed by Jimmy Carter, but was completed at the behest of President Ronald Reagan, supervised by Caspar Weinberger.


The Rockwell B-1 Lancer was a supersonic, four-engined, aircraft which was fitted with variable sweep wings, which could sweep from 67.5 degrees to 15 degrees, full forward to full sweep. Forward-swept wing settings were used for takeoff, landings and high-altitude maximum cruise. Aft-swept wing settings were used in high subsonic and supersonic flight. Part of the aircraft structure was made of titanium. The B-1B avionics consisted of an AN/APQ-164 forward-looking offensive passive electronically scanned array radar set with electronic beam steering, synthetic aperture radar, ground moving target indicator (MTI), terrain-following radar modes, Doppler navigation, radar altimeter, and an inertial navigation suite.


Engine: four General Electric F101-GE-102 augmented turbofans
Maximum speed: Mach 1.25 (830 mi/h, or 1,340 km/h)
Range: 7,456 mi (11,998 km)
Service ceiling: 60,000 ft (18,000 m)
Wingspan: extended 137 ft (41.8 m); swept: 79 ft (24.1 m)
Length: 146 ft (44.5 m)
Crew: four (comander, co-pilot, offensive systems officer, and deffensive system officer)

Avionics: one AN/APQ-164 forward-looking offensive passive phased-array radar; one AN/ALQ-161 radar warning and defensive jamming equipment

Weapons: 75,000 lb (34,000 kg) of bombs in three internal bomb bays; 50,000 lb (22,700 kg) of bombs on six external hard points (conventional, cluster or nuclear bombs)