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    A fighter-bomber would attack from low level, so between 1,000 and 3,000 feet.

    A strategic bomber would attack from 20,000 to 30,000 feet.

    What height would a medium bomber normally attack from?  The first if a tactical strike on forward defences and the latter if against operational targets like supply dumps and communications choke points?  Or something else?   German light AAA would be effective up to 12,000 to 15,000 feet so would they ensure they were above this or would it be necessary to go lower to ensure accuracy?  Anybody know?


    I suppose you’re thinking of WWII. It seems to me that practice varied for different air forces at different times in different theaters.

    In New Guinea in 1943, US A-20s and B-25s raided Japanese airbases at tree-top altitude to avoid flak, coming in so low that they developed a new type of munition, the ‘para-frag bomb’, a fragmentation bomb on a parachute, so that the raider could get clear of the target before the bomb load went off.

    On the other hand, I was just reading Danny Parker To Win The Winter Sky, a detailed account of the tactical airwar in northwest Europe 1944-5, with special focus on the Battle of the Bulge. Without pulling the book to refresh my memory…Parker recounts that one of the senior commanders in US 9th Air Force had the fixed idea that his medium bombers should operate like fighter bombers, coming in low and fast to hit their targets with pinpoint accuracy. A couple of times he sent medium bombardment groups on low-level missions, and they were shot to pieces by German light flak. After that, the mediums bombed from altitudes above the German light flak.

    I don’t know why the low-and-fast tactic worked against the Japanese in New Guinea but failed against the Germans in 1944.

    I expect to get an accurate picture of medium bomber tactics, you’ll need to read up on the particular campaign that interests you.

    You'll shoot your eye out, kid!

    John D Salt

    As zippyfusenet points out, the best altutude to attack at depends on the kind of opposition you are facing. The Japanese had much less effective light flak than the Germans. The US medium-bomber switch from low to high in NWE, and from high to low in SWPA, can be traced through the first few of the following snippets, which I have just collected from a swift flonk around the interwebs:

    https://media.defense.gov/2017/Dec/29/2001861960/-1/-1/0/T_GANN_FIFTH_AIR_FORCE.PDF traces the development of medium bomber tactics on the South-West Pacific Area from ineffectual medium-level boming to devastating low-level skip-bombing and strafing with para-frags. Specific altitudes mentioned include:

    Jul 42 over Gona, B-25s and B-26s at 25,000 feet.
    Sep 42 over Buna, B-26s at 5,000 ft, A-20s at 70 feet.
    Dec 42 report on anti-shipping attack recommends 150 to 300 feet.
    Mar 43 Bismarck Sea against shipping, B-25s at 3,000 to 7,000 feet, and 300 feet and “masthead height”.
    Aug 43 over Dagua, B-25s at 30 to 50 feet, over Boram, 100 feet.

    https://www.airforcemag.com/chronology-1940-1949/ says:

    “May 17, 1943. Eleven crews flying Martin B-26s take off from England for a low level bombing mission in Holland. One turns back because of mechanical difficulty. The remaining 10 aircraft are all shot down. This mission results in a change in tactics, as from that point on, Marauder crews bomb from medium altitudes of 10,000 to 15,000 feet where they will suffer only light losses to anti-aircraft fire.”

    https://legionmagazine.com/en/2013/04/mitchell-men-medium-bombers-at-war-air-force-part-56/ has RCAF Mitchells operating usually at 10,000ft and below, but mentions one that got hit at 15,000ft over Venlo.

    http://ww2today.com/tag/bombers mentions RAF Mosquitoes on the Oslo raid of Dec 1944 travelling to the target at 28,000 feet, descending to 3,000 feet in the target area, and attacking at 1,000 feet.

    “Battle of Britain 1940: The Luftwaffe’s ‘Eagle Attack’”, by Douglas C. Dildy, says that Luftwaffe Do-17s and He-111s operated typically 13,000ft (4000m), from which height, if his accuracy figures are to be believed, they couldn’t hit a cow on the arse with a banjo.

    https://www.raf.mod.uk/what-we-do/centre-for-air-and-space-power-studies/documents1/air-power-review-vol-18-no-2-battle-of-britain-75th-anniversary-special-edition/ includes a copy of Keith Park’s No 11 Group Instructions to Controllers No 10, which says:

    “The Hurricanes, because of their inferior performance, should normally be put in against the enemy bombers, which are rarely above 16,000 feet by day.”

    A D Harvey, “Army Air Force and Navy Air Force: Japanese Aviation and the Opening Phase of the War in the Far East”, War in History
    Vol. 6, No. 2 (April 1999), pp. 174-204 (31 pages) mentions:

    “25 000 feet, the altitude at which Japanese bombers commonly operated”

    The 1948 London Gazette supplement on the loss of Repulse and Prince of Wales reports that Japanese level bombers were “remarkably accurate” bombing from 10,000 feet.

    All the best,



    Yes, WWII; I was too absorbed in the topic to spot that this was a generic section rather than WWII specific.  It does seem that rather than being wedded to one approach, as the others were, they varied their height for an attack according to circumstances and had no specific doctrine.

    Many thanks.


    Well, I think the doctrine, such as it was, seems to have been around sustaining an acceptable casualty rate on missions in order to maintain an operational capability As Phil Sabin points out, WW2 air warfare was essentially attritional in nature at an operational level and a 6% loss rate as opposed to a 4% loss rate made a huge difference.  Actually damaging targets seems to have been an incidental consideration…

    So, if there is lots of AA, fly higher.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    John D Salt

    So, if there is lots of AA, fly higher.


    Other factors that would influence the choice of altitude include the height of cloud on that day; I doubt that many WW2 tactical medium bombers had the ability to bomb through cloud with any accuracy, although of course the Germans had Knickebein and its succesors for attacks on strategic targets, and Oboe Mosquitoes were used by Bomber Command’s pathfinders.

    There’s also the question of how your bomb fuzing works if you are trying to achieve penetration od a target; you may need sufficient altitude for the bombs to have worked up adequate velocity to penetrate.

    Altogether, though, my shallow researches so far have led me to believe that medium altitude (say 10,000 to 15,000 feet) was the usual thing in most theatres for most nationalities, with only the RAF and USAAF and people doing anti-shipping strikes really attempting low-level work with medium bomnbers.

    Corrections and expansions welcome from real airpower enthusiasts (I hesistate to say “airheads”).

    All the best,


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