Fire in the Sky: The 5 Greatest Air Battles in Military History

Air battles have become a necessity for modern warfare. Here are some of the most historic and memorable battles that have taken place in the air.

Britain vs Germany -Battle of Britain:


this is probably the air battle with the most at stake for any country in history. It was the German Luftwaffe’s attempt to pave the way for Hitler’s planned invasion across the Channel into Britain. The Germans targeted RAF airfields in order to destroy the British air fleet, but it was the RAF’s Spitfires and Hurricanes that together outwitted the Luftwaffe’s bombers. In the first three months of the Blitz around 2000 German aircraft and their crews had been destroyed.

Allies vs Germany – Big Week:

Boeing B-17F

Between 22nd and 26th February 1944 a huge bombing effort took place across Germany by the US Air Force and RAF. The US lost around 250 bombers and 30 fighter planes, while the Germans lost around 350 fighter planes. The Germans were able to replace their lost aircraft, but it was the trained pilots they could not replace.

US vs North Korea – MiG/Sabre:


As the Cold War took hold the 1950s saw the first battle of fighter jets during the Korean War. To being the US and UN utilised its World War Two aircraft fleet to fight the air battle over Korea. But when the Communists began fighting back with the Soviet MiG-15 jet fighter the US had to use something with similar power and launched its F-86 Sabre.

US vs North Vietnam – Operation Linebacker II:


The US used its B-52 bombers to bombard North Vietnam during the Vietnam War with the hope of bombing the Communists into submission.It was the first large-scale jet-powered bombing campaign. However the Vietnamese Communist fighters were armed with Soviet air defense systems using anti-aircraft missiles, guns and interceptors.

US bombers were being shot down and US crews were even considering mutiny rather than take part in the raids. Local Army commanders changed their strategy and begun to change flight routes and timings in order to confuse the enemy, The National Interest reports.

Britain vs Argentina – Falkland Islands:

Argentina’s air force did not manage to effectively fight of the British Royal Navy fleet in the area in the early 1980s. The aging British fleet included two aircraft carriers and around 20 Harrier jump jets. Meanwhile the Argentinians were armed with around 600 aircraft and managed to sink HMS Sheffield.

The Argentinians made the mistake of using bombs that did not work with the low-level bombing they were undertaking. It is thought that the intimidation and confidence of the British Royal Navy, with its long history of battle success, won the day over the Argentinians who have little military experience outside of civil war inside its own borders.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE