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Bombing as a Technical Problem

For the USAAF's doctrine of daylight precision bombing to succeed, a bombsight had to solve three technical problems. First, a bombardier had to use a complex formula that accounted for true air speed, gravity, air resistance and wind. Since making all these computations in combat would be almost impossible, the AAF needed a bombsight that could automatically perform all these calculations for the bombardier.

Second, from high altitude a bombardier would have trouble seeing a small target, but simply using a telescope with crosshairs as a bombsight would not work because any turbulence would bounce the airplane and throw off the aiming. Therefore, the bombsight needed internal stabilizers to counter the movement of the airplane.

Finally, the bombardier needed a simply method of controlling the airplane to make minor course corrections on the final approach to the target. Even with intercom communications, transmitting minor corrections to the pilot was very difficult during training, and combat amplified the problem.

The technical solution came from integrating the very accurate Norden bombsight with the Sperry C-1 automatic pilot to create a bombsighting system. Once this bombsighting system was incorporated into the flight controls of a bomber, like the B-17, B-24 or B-29, the Army Air Forces had weapons capable of conducting its strategic bombardment campaign.

Click here to return to the Strategic Bombing Overview.


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Related Fact Sheets
Norden M-9 Bombsight
Honeywell C-1 Autopilot
Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress
Consolidated B-24D Liberator
Boeing B-29 Superfortress
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