Aircraft stories

Find out how American airpower has played a key part in conflict throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

B-29 Superfortress of the 9th Bomb Group, 20th Air Force in flight. ©IWM (FRE 11984)

B-29 Superfortress: The aircraft that bombed Hiroshima

The B-29 Superfortress is arguably the most important and controversial aircraft in human history. With the dubious honour of being history’s deadliest bomber and the only aircraft to drop a nuclear weapon in combat, its story is one of ground-breaking innovation, unimaginable destruction and decisions that would dictate the course of the 20th century.
McDonnel Douglas Phantom FGR.2, XV499, of No. 41 Squadron based at Coningsby, in flight and displaying a weapons load of cluster bombs, Sparrow and Sidewinder AAMs. © IWM (CT 75)

The F-4 Phantom II: America's most prolific jet fighter

In 1958, McDonald Aircraft Corporation delivered a prototype, twin-engine, supersonic, all-weather, long-range fighter -  a design the US Navy could not ignore: the F-4 Phantom II. It would go on to become the most-produced American jet fighter in history and an icon of the Cold War. 
Ground personnel clears an F-111 for take-off on 14th April 1986 US National Archives

Operation El Dorado Canyon: Raid on Libya

In retaliation for the deadly bombing of a West Berlin nightclub in April 1986, US President Ronald Reagan ordered an attack at the heart of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Ten days later, F-111s took off from RAF Lakenheath for what would become the longest combat fighter mission in history.
B-24 Liberators, including (serial number 41-24226 ) nicknamed "Joisey Bounce" of the 93rd Bomb Group fly in formation during a mission. ©IWM (FRE 11426)

The B-24 Liberator: A symbol of US industrial might

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was vital to the US's strategic bombing campaign during the Second World War. During the conflict, B-24s served with every branch of the American armed forces and in every theatre of the war. Built in larger numbers than any other US aircraft, the B-24 would become a symbol of the industrial might of the American war machine.
P-47 Thunderbolt in flight © US Official Photograph (K4249)

Why did American pilots love the P-47 Thunderbolt?

The P-47 Thunderbolt is one of the most recognisable American fighter planes from the Second World War. . In this video, our expert Graham Rodgers walks us through the history and technical aspects of this iconic aircraft.
P-47 Thunderbolt suspended in the American Air Museum ©IWM

The P-47 Thunderbolt, durable and deadly

The P-47 Thunderbolt was one of the leading American fighter aircraft of the Second World War. It saw widespread use in the European Theatre as an escort and ground attack aircraft.   

B-25 Mitchell in American Air Museum ©IWM

Joseph Heller, Catch-22 and the Second World War

Published in 1961 by American author Joseph Heller, Catch-22 is a satirical novel. Although Heller claimed it was a work of fiction, many of the characters and events in the book are parallel’s to Heller’s experience of the Second World War.
A B-17 Flying Fortress bombs an German aircraft factory in 1943.  The USAAF hoped daylight precision bombing would prove a winning strategy during World War II which would justify the independence of US Air power if it succeeded. US official photo

The Allied strategic bombing campaign

Over the course of the Second World War, the strategic bombing campaign developed from a limited force into a weapon of immense destructive power, with hundreds of cities subjected to air attack alongside military targets.
A B-17 Flying Fortress of the 490th Bomb Group taxies along the runway at Eye. ©IWM (FRE 6835)

Flying the B-17 Flying Fortress

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress dropped more bombs than any other US aircraft in the Second World War. A lot of these aircraft flew out of bases in England, but what was it like to fly?