Bombing run on a bridge, best way?

With new technology and smart bombs I would think my question is pretty well redundant, but I am curious.

What was the best approach to bombing a long thin target like a bridge? If you make the bomb run along the length of the bridge you will have more time on target but the target is very narrow so the bombs will probably fall one side or the other.

If the bomb run is across the width of the bridge you have less time on target but more left and right leeway but this could mean the bridge is missed by the spacing bomb drops.

Was there any official recommendations for bridge bombing or was it up to the individual crew? And is there any information as to which approach was considered the most effective?

Just curious

I would think that a bombing run would be made along the length.

Of course, back in WW2, when they did Strategic bombing, while they were aiming for a specific target, they usually accomplished that by pretty much dropping lots of bombs on that neighborhood. They usually hit the target…and everything around it.

I would agree that that with regular bombing a factory or something like that there was a fair amount of target area and any bombs that missed the target would hit something anyway.

But if you had a bridge way out in the country any bombs that missed would be totally wasted so you would really want to make sure you had the best chance to actually hit the bridge.

The accuracy of our most precise bombs make the survival of the platform so much more important, that the rest is not a factor. You fly away from anti-aircraft threats, as high as you need to to avoid detection before you drop, and let the guidance system hit the bridge. You have a back up flying right behind you, in case you miss.

Or, you get a terrain following cruise missile to follow the map to the best spot, and fly right on in.

Or, you have a guy sitting in a trailer in Nebraska fly up really slowly in a UAV and fire off a Hellfire or two.


Oops! Think I should have made it clear I’m referring to WWII time period, before the age of smart bombs.

Bridges were the main reason for the smart bomb’s raison d’etre. During the Viet Nam war, two bridges stuck out for their tenaciousness with WW2 style bombing. The Than Ho and Paul Demurs bridge absorbed thousands of tons of high explosives from all angles of attack and some very interesting ways, like the pancake bomb.

The introduction of the laser guided bomb dropped both bridges with very few strikes. At a cost of only a couple of hundred thousand dollars, compared to the trillions spent the old fashioned way, and the amount of crew lost in the process.


The best way to hit a bridge in ww2 was through dive bombing. Either in a dedicated dive bomber or a fighter bomber. The problem was that important bridges would be well protected with flak and a dive bomber is horribly vulnerable after it pulls out because its speed is very low.

For medium and heavy bombers the best technique was a shallow dive at low level aiming to drop the bombs along the length of the bridge, attempts to level bomb from higher altitudes were less succesful.

During the Battle of France the RAF sent a squadron of Battle light bombers to destroy a key bridge to slow down the German advance. Most of the bombers were shot down by flak and one surviving crew was even berated by the germans who captured them for making such a suicidal attack.

I’m not positive on this, but I think you’d want to hit it lengthwise. It’s easier to control for angle more than range. You know very clearly which direction your aircraft is pointing, and hence which way the bombs will go - the wind is a random factor. But it’s trickier to calculate your current airspeed and altitude to translate into an exact hitpoint in the other dimension, and you still have the wind to calculate for there too.

It’s not an exact comparison, but naval strategies dictate that you try to hit a ship lengthwise when you can, because it’s much easier to control for bearing accuracy than ranging accuracy.

Actually, the bombing accuracy rate during WWII was abysmally low.

i used to drop bombs for USAF. as noted above, for gravity unpowered unguided stupid bombs the answer is attack lenghtwise. your dispersion along the line of flight is greatwr than the transverse dispersoiomn.

also as noted above, prior to the advent of smarter bombs (LGB inViet Nam) or smarter jets with computing bombsights (A-7, F-16 & all subsequent), taking down a well defended bridge took a lot ofsortie & tinnage with heavy losses.

nowadays itt is’t quite one plane + one round = one dead bridge, but it’s getting close

eta. sorry for crap typing. i’m using a stylus on a pda. a can’ see where i’m typing.

Chickenwrangler–just what are you training those chickens of yours to do? :eek:

I wish I knew what this video was called. A couple years ago I watched a special on PBS where they followed everything that was involved with bombing a dam in Germany. At least one of the original crew was in this show and it went over how they handled sighting for the run and other concerns. They made a special low tech sight for the bomb runs. This would be a very informative video to watch if anybody knows what it was called.

I did find the show. They were using a bouncing bomb which was a new design to have it skip on the water and take out the dam. It wasn’t the exact bomb asked about, but this is still a very excellent show on the topic.

Secrets of the Dead

Right. It is something of a scandal how its effectiveness was badly inflated, and the money and men that were expended in a surprisingly wasteful way. One quote I recall is that “Two percent of bombs hit within 2 miles of the target.” (This may be a bit harsh.)

I know a guy (now well into his 80s) that was a bomber pilot in WW2. He described how his squadron was assigned the task of taking out a significant bridge. They did, at shocking cost: about 20 aircraft and many men. The essential problem was the the enemy knew pretty much exactly where you had to be to release a bomb that would fall near the bridge, so they has impressive numbers of AA guns aimed at that spot. You could in theory fly high enough to make the AA guns ineffective - but then the chance of hitting the bridge was nil.

This thread really makes me miss David Simmons.

What Xema and others note is exactly what fueled the premise behind 1954’s The Bridges at Toko-Ri. That film (and the novel) was based on actual bombing runs against bridges at Majon-ni and Changnim-Ni during the Korean conflict. In it the difficulty of having your enemy know exactly what run geometry benefits you most is made abundantly clear.

Can’t believe I’m the first to say:

Nuke it from orbit - it’s the only way to be sure.

There’s a relatively famous movie about this called “The Dam Busters”

The best way in WWII was with Lancasters and Grand Slam bombs. These would penetrate the earth by the supports and then detonate. The shock wave would weaken the supports and the bridge would collapse.

“Glip” bombing.