There is a great difference between strategic and tactical weapons and systems. In simple terms, we could say that tactical systems win the battles, while strategic weapons aim to win the whole war. That’s why these weapons have devastating effects and are even capable of destroying the entire earth.
Strategic bombers are some of the most important military weapons of this class, as they are the main platform that carries and launches a variety of fearsome bombs and missiles. The strategic bombers of the superpowers can carry nuclear weapons – an element that makes them extra dangerous. These planes have enormous range and payload capabilities that help them hit the enemy at their most critical points. United States, Russia, and China operate some of the most lethal bombers that exist. Let’s have a look at the seven most capable strategic bombers on the planet and the three most weak planes of this type.
10/10 Best: Xian H-6K
The H-6K is the latest version of the H-6 medium-range bombers of the Chinese Air Force. It can fly with a maximum payload of 20,000 tons, including a wide range of options like air-to-ship missiles and bombs.
China actually developed the new version to attack US carrier battle groups. The new airplane feature improved engines for better range.
9/10 Best: Tupolev Tu-22M
The Russian bomber can fly with weapons up to 53,000 lbs. Some sources state that over 570 units were built for the Russian Federation. The Tupolev product has a maximum speed of 1,250 mph and a range of 2,300 miles.
The latest version is the Tu-22M3, which is among the most capable weapons of the Air Force of Moscow. That aircraft features significant improvements over the basic Tu-22 and is years ahead the original Tu-22 airplane.
8/10 Best: Tupolev Tu-95
The Russian bomber was built by Tupolev company between 1952 and 1993. The very promising plane made its first flight in 1952. A very interesting fact is that, based on the Russian plan, Moscow wants to operate these bombers until 2040. That actually means that the Tu-95 will retire with more than 90 years of active service, although its career may last even longer than that.
The aircraft, which is one of the loudest airplanes in history, can fly with more than 15 tons of payload. It can cover a maximum distance of 7,800 miles before the need for refueling.
7/10 Best: Boeing B-52H Stratofortress
The long-range strategic bomber called B-21 is the aircraft with the biggest service period in the Air Force of the United States. The subsonic airplane made its first flight almost 70 years ago but serves the USAF with great success today.
More than 744 units have been made by Boeing, while all of them have been used either by USAF or by NASA. The bomber is capable of transporting 32 tons of weapons while featuring a maximum range of almost 8,700 miles.
6/10 Best: Rockwell B-1B Lancer
This specific US aircraft was introduced back in 1986. The Lancer was actually designed as the replacement for the legendary B-52. It was developed to withstand enemy air defense systems and electronic warfare attacks.
The huge B-1 has a capacity for a payload of up to 34 tons, a number that outweighs the maximum payload of every other US strategic bomber. If everything goes as planned, the B-1B Lancer will be deployed by USAF until 2030. Then, the airplane will be replaced by the next generation of US bombers.
5/10 Best: Tupolev Tu-160
NATO countries call the Russian Tupolev Tu-160 “Blackjack.” These aircraft, which were produced during the Cold War, were designed to strike the most important sights of the United States. The Tu-160 is actually the biggest and heaviest military airplane that has been built in history.
The Russian bombers can carry up to 40 tons of weapons at a maximum distance of 9,000 miles. They may have less range in comparison with other entries in the list, but that’s very logical if you take into mind the enormous dimensions and weight of Tupolev’s product. Some sources state that only 39 units were produced, a small number that indicates their crazy price and maintenance costs.
4/10 Best: Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
The B-2 Spirit has stood with pride at the top of the bomber hierarchy for a long time. The legendary aircraft is one of the most important weapons of the US Air Force. It was developed and built during the Cold War and as a result, it was a serious threat to the Soviet Union. Due to its high cost, the USAF operates only 20 of them. The development of the airplane was very confidential and the United States decided not to export their super-weapon not even to allies.
The B-2 Spirit proved to be the most expensive airplane in history. It features a capacity of up to 18 tons, 7,500 miles of range, and offers incredible stealth features. Although it comes with a bunch of different useful and crucial systems and sensors, the stealth profile is for sure its more appealing characteristic. Its successor, the stealth strategic bomber B-21 Raider, will start to serve the USAF during the next 10 years.
3/10 Worst: Sukhoi Su-34
Although many believe that the Su-34 is a strategic bomber, it’s not. The Russian aircraft, which started serving in 2014, is in reality a long-range interdictor with strike capabilities. The Su-34 normally carries 8,800 lbs of weapons, a number that indicates it can be used effectively only as a tactical bomber. Although, if it’s required the Sukhoi can take off with a maximum payload of 17,600 lbs.
2/10 Worst: Sukhoi Su-24M
The Su-24M is an improved version of the Russian Su-24 interdiction and attack aircraft. NATO calls the Sukhoi product “Fencer.” The “M” variant was a generally superior airplane, with more modern systems and sensors. For extra range, the newer attack aircraft can carry extra gas on a special storage unit.
It shares the same payload of 17,600 lbs and the same range of 1,700 miles as the original Su-24.
1/10 Worst: Avro Vulcan
The British Avro Vulcan was once among the most capable strategic bombers of its time. Its production started in 1956 and was finished in 1965. Its final retirement from the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom was in March 1984.
The typical weaponry of the Vulcan included nuclear weapons – a feature that added the role of nuclear deterrence to the aircraft. Of course, it was also able to perform successful missions with ordinary and conventional types of weapons.