The 5 Greatest Allied Second World War Bombers


  • Key takeaways from the article:
  • The Avro Lancaster, Vickers Wellington, and de Havilland Mosquito were important and widely produced Allied bombers in WWII.
  • The Avro Lancaster was a game-changing bomber with 7,377 aircraft built, famous for its role in the “Dambusters” mission.
  • The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator were rugged heavy bombers, with over 12,000 and 18,000 aircraft built respectively.

Many different bomber aircraft served with the Allied forces during the Second World War. Some were in place before the war, whilst others were developed quickly during the war years. All of the popular ones saw mass production, with some incredible numbers of both light and heavy bombers manufactured in many locations in just a few years. This list contains five of the most important, and thus most produced, Allied aircraft.

1 The Avro Lancaster – UK

7,377 aircraft built

The Avro Lancaster is well remembered in the UK as a game-changing aircraft. One remains flying with the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flights, and it is a delight to see in flight.

It was developed as a successor to the Avro Manchester and entered service during the war – in 1942. It was powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 engines and with a 102-foot (31-meter) wingspan.

It soon became the most desired bomber by the RAF, flying regular bombing raids over Nazi territory. After an initial order of 1,090 aircraft with Avro, other manufacturers (including Vickers, Armstrong, Short Brothers, and Victory Aircraft in Canada) were brought on board to build as many aircraft as possible. In total, 7,377 Avro Lancaster’s were built in Britain and Canada during wartime.

It was also made famous in one particular “Dambusters” mission, when Lancaster aircraft carried a new, large bomb secretly by British engineer Barnes Wallis. On Sunday, May 16, 1943, 18 Avro Lancaster bombers took off from Scampton Airfield equipped with this bomb. They successfully destroyed two dams along the Ruhr River.

2 Vickers Wellington – UK

11,461 aircraft built

The Wellington may not have the same fame as the Lancaster, but it was the most used bomber in the UK. Design began in the early 1930s, in response to an Air Ministry request for a high-performance twin-engine bomber.

The Wellington was introduced in 1938 and was used extensively during the early years of the war. Heavier bombers, such as the Avro Lancaster and the Handley Page Halifax, arrived later and took over much of the heavy bombing work later in the war. The Wellingtons continued in service for light bombing and in reconnaissance and anti-submarine roles.

Photo:  Royal Air Force | Wikimedia Commons

As with many other aircraft, there was a need for rapid production during the war. Vickers simplified the design somewhat to help achieve this, and aircraft were produced at an incredible rate. There was even a record-setting case where an aircraft was assembled in less than 24 hours. By the end of the war, 11,461 aircraft had been built – more than any other bombed in UK RAF service.

3 The de Havilland Mosquito – UK

7,781 aircraft built

Another of the greatest bombers developed in the UK was the de Havilland Mosquito. Aside from the heavy bombers, the DH.98 Mosquito was undoubtedly one of the most important aircraft of the war.

  • Light, fast bomber.
  • Capable of daytime raids over enemy territory.
  • Heavier and lower bombers largely performed night bombing raids.

Design of this, with de Havilland, began before the war. Based on his experience with the Albatross airliner, Geoffrey de Havilland believed that a bomber made with wood could perform well for the RAF.

Photo:  Fotoafdrukken Koninklijke Luchtmacht | Wikimedia Commons

It first flew in 1940, and performed faster than the Spitfire fighter aircraft. The RAF was not initially convinced – preferring instead heavy bombers with more crew and armaments. Mosquitos were initially used for reconnaissance but soon took on successful bombing missions, able to outmaneuver German fighters. By the end of the war, 7,781 Mosquito aircraft had been manufactured in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

4 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

12731 aircraft built

Moving to bomber aircraft developed in the United States, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was one of the greatest developments. This was a heavy bomber, well regarded for its ruggedness. It could take quite some punishment.

  • Design began in 1934 as a replacement for the Martin B-10.
  • Powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1690 Hornet engines, it offered a payload of 5,000 pounds and had a range of just over 2,000 nautical miles.
  • It first flew in 1935 and beat other manufacturers in testing.

US Air Force further tests and orders soon followed. By the end of the war, almost 13,000 B-17s had been built, seeing use in US Air Force bases all over the world (and by the UK RAF).

Photo: VanderWolf Images | Shutterstock

Boeing followed on from the B-17 Flying Fortress with the B-29 Superfortress. This introduced a pressurized cabin, offering longer and higher altitude bombing raids (not to mention comfort for the crew) and offered higher payload (at least at low altitude).

The Superfortress only entered service towards the end of the war (in May 1944), but saw extensive service afterwards, remaining in use until 1960.

18.188 aircraft built

Staying with bomber aircraft developed in the United States, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator was the other leading World War 2 bomber. This was developed byConsolidated Aircraft, entering service in 1941, and was just as popular as Boeing’s B-17. With extensive production throughout the war, an incredible number of over 18,000 aircraft were built.

Photo: Darren Brode |

It offered a higher payload and longer range than the B-17, but was not as strongly built. Being easier to damage, and also operating at a lower, more exposed altitude gave it the unfortunate nickname during the war of “Flying Coffin.”

Like the B-17, it was used throughout the US Air Force’s bases but saw particular use in Asia. Its longer range made it very effective for Japanese operations.

This has been a quick look at five of the most important Allied World War 2 bombers. There is plenty more to discuss about these aircraft, their design, rapid construction, and bombing roles. Feel free to do so in the comments section below.

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