The North American B-25 Mitchell was an American twin-engined medium bomber manufactured by North American Aviation. It was used by many Allied air forces, in every theater of World War II, as well as many other air forces after the war ended, and saw service across four decades.
The B-25 was named in honor of General Billy Mitchell, a pioneer of U.S. military aviation. The B-25 is the only American military aircraft named after a specific person. By the end of its production, nearly 10,000 B-25s in numerous models had been built. These included a few limited variations, such as the US Navy's and US Marine Corps' PBJ-1 patrol bomber and the Army Air Forces' F-10 photo reconnaissance aircraft.
Many B-25's were heavily modified in the field, especially in the Southwest Pacific theater where they replaced their bombing roles with that of close air support. Many of these field modifications were reported back to North American Aviation and the Generals back in the U.S., and were incorporated as official variants. Among variations to armament added in the field were 8 .50-caliber machine guns in the nose, 1 .50-caliber machine gun in each wing, 4 .50-caliber machine guns in blisterpacks on the side, 2 .50-caliber machine guns in the dorsal turret, and a .75-caliber cannon, among other additions.
The first version of the B-25 delivered. No prototypes were ordered. The first nine aircraft were built with constant dihedral angle. Due to low stability, the wing was redesigned so that the dihedral was eliminated on the outboard section. (Number made: 24.)
Version of the B-25 modified to make it combat ready; additions included self-sealing fuel tanks, crew armor, and an improved tail gunner station. No changes were made in the armament. Re-designated obsolete (RB-25A designation) in 1942. (Number made: 40.)
Rear turret deleted; manned dorsal and remotely-operated ventral turrets added, each with a pair of .50-caliber machine guns. The ventral turret was retractable, but the increased drag still reduced the cruise speed by 30 mph (48 km/h). 23 were delivered to the RAF as the Mitchell Mk I. The Doolittle Raiders flew B-25Bs on their famous mission. (Number made: 120.)
Improved version of the B-25B: powerplants upgraded from Wright R-2600-9 radials to R-2600-13s; de-icing and anti-icing equipment added; the navigator received a sighting blister; nose armament was increased to two .50-caliber machine guns, one fixed and one flexible. The B-25C model was the first mass-produced B-25 version; it was also used in the United Kingdom (432 supplied as the Mitchell II), in Canada, the China, the Netherlands, and the Soviet Union. First mass-produced B-25 model. (Number made: 1,625.)
Identical to the B-25C, the only difference was that the B-25D was made in Kansas City, Kansas, whereas the B-25C was made in Inglewood, California. First flew on January 3 1942. (Number made: 2,290.). The Royal Air Force also received 113 B.25Ds known as the Mitchell II.
Single B-25C modified to test de-icing and anti-icing equipment that circulated exhaust from the engines in chambers in the leading and trailing edges and empennage. The aircraft was tested for almost two years, beginning in 1942; while the system proved extremely effective, no production models were built that used it prior to the end of World War II. Many prop aircraft today use the XB-25E system. (Number made: 1, converted.)
Modified B-25C that tested the use of insulated electrical de-icing coils mounted inside the wing and empennage leading edges as a de-icing system. The hot air de-icing system tested on the XB-25E was more practical. (Number made: 1, converted.)
Modified B-25C in which the transparent nose was replaced by a solid one carrying two fixed .50-caliber machine guns and a 2.95-inch (75 mm) M4 cannon, then the largest weapon ever carried on an American bomber. (Number made: 1, converted.)
To satisfy the dire need for ground-attack and strafing aircraft, the B-25G was made following the success of the prototype XB-25G. The production model featured increased armor and a greater fuel supply than the XB-25G. One B-25G was passed to the British, who gave it the name Mitchell II that had been used for the B-25C. (Number made: 420.)
An improved version of the B-25G. It featured two additional fixed .50-caliber machine guns in the nose and four in fuselage-mounted pods; the heavy M4 cannon was replaced by a lighter 2.95-inch (75 mm) T13E1. (Number made: 1,000; number left flying in the world: 1.)
The last production model of the B-25, often called a cross between the B-25C and the B-25H. It had a transparent nose, but many of the delivered aircraft were modified to have a solid nose. Most of its 14–18 machine guns were forward-facing for strafing missions. 296 were delivered to the Royal Air Force as the Mitchell III. (Number made: 4,318.)
Utility transport version.
A number of B-25s were converted for use as staff and VIP transports. Henry H. Arnold and Dwight D. Eisenhower both used converted B-25Js as their personal transports.
In the Southwest Pacific theater there weren't the heavy industrial sectors that were seen in cities, but the Mitchell was very accurate a low level bombings. The bombers flew very low though and the blast from the bombs often damaged the aircraft. To counter this, two new bombing techniques were used. Parafrag (parachute-retarded fragmentation bombs) missions used parachutes to slow the decent of the bombs allowing time for the bomber to escape the blast. They also used skip-bombing missions where the bombs would actually bounce and detonate on the second impact, again so the bomber could escape the blast.
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