Do You Know the Effective Combat Radius of This Military Aircraft?
by John Miller

It doesn’t matter whether you call it “combat radius” or “radius of action,” when it comes to military aircraft, these terms simply refer to a vehicle’s ability to complete a mission and then return to base … without refueling. It’s a critical specification that alters warfare in countless ways.

In short – the combat radius of a B-52 Stratofortress is a whole lot different than that of an F-35A Lightning II. Generals, pilots and ground crews must all understand the limitations of each craft’s strike range in order to create a successful battle plan that wins air superiority. Do you get the feeling that combat radius is a critical element for aircraft designers?

Combat radius clearly varies depending on the style of aircraft and its ultimate mission. Long-range bombers obviously need a lot of range (and cargo capacity) to complete their objectives. Short-range ground attack planes, on the other hand, just need to engage a nearby battlefield a few times before returning to base for more munitions.

By now, you probably realize that combat radius is a primary concern during the blueprint phase of aircraft construction. A plane that lacks proper range for its tasks may fail miserably during war … and just as bad, may never even make it into production.

Although you’ll probably never fly a warplane (or design one, either) combat radius shapes the wars we fight. Strap yourself into the cockpit and see if you know the effective attack radius of these famous planes!

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