A light bomber is a relatively small and fast class of military bomber aircraft which were primarily employed before the 1950s. Such aircraft would typically not carry more than one ton of ordnance. The dedicated light bomber disappeared as fighters were able to carry the same bombloads while also able to carry out other missions.
Light bombers of World War I were single-engine aircraft with a bomb load of about 50–400 kg. One of the most famous was the Airco DH.4 designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. They could often also serve as reconnaissance aircraft (for example the Avro 504).
Prior to World War II, engine power was so meager that there were several types of bombers: light, medium, and heavy, each tuned to a particular performance and mission niche. As fighters grew in size and power to be able to carry the same sorts of loads at even greater speeds, light bombers were replaced around the 1950s and the term fell from general use.
Light bombers of World War II were single-engine or, less commonly, twin-engine aircraft with a bomb load of about 500-1,000 kg. Designs included the Fairey Battle, Mitsubishi Ki-51 (known to the Allies as "Sonia"), Lockheed Hudson, and Martin Baltimore. They could also be used in the reconnaissance role.
Some of them were dive bombers, such as the Vultee A-31 Vengeance and multi-role Petlyakov Pe-2, or ground-attack aircraft like the Breda Ba.65 and Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik. Light bombers, naturally suited for shorter landings, were also frequently designed for aircraft carrier operations. A few twin-engine light bomber designs were also successful when converted into heavy fighters or night fighters; examples of these would be the Bristol Blenheim and Douglas A-20 Havoc.
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