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


By: John Miller

5 Min Quiz

Image: youtube

About This Quiz

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!

A-10 Thunderbolt II

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, or "Warthog," is a heavily-armed warplane meant to blast enemy armored vehicles. When it is really loaded down with munitions, its combat range is less than 300 miles.


McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle

Designed in the late '60s, the F-15 is one of America's most famous fighter planes. When it is scrambled to intercept another plane, it has a combat radius of about 1,200 miles.


Eurofighter Typhoon

Since 2001, the Eurofighter Typhoon has provided defense for European militaries. It can carry its guns, bombs and missiles in an attack radius of around 860 miles.


P-3 Orion

Since the '60s, the P-3 Orion has been a stalwart surveillance and anti-sub plane. With its four-engine turboprop configuration, it has a solid range of about 1,500 miles.


F-35 Lightning II

At hundreds of billions of dollars, the F-35 is one of the costliest weapons projects in the history of the world. It's a stealth fighter that's meant to address a wide range of targets, and its combat range is about 770 miles.


Dassault Rafale multi-role fighter

The French are depending on the Dassault Rafale to be the backbone of its air force for many years. Active since 2001, this multi-role fighter has a range of about 650 miles.


Lockheed AC-130

The Lockheed AC-130 is an incredibly powerful ground attack aircraft that looks something like a futuristic WWII-era bomber. These huge planes can carry tons of weapons, which limits their combat radius to about 560 miles.


Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

The F-22 was an expensive project -- it cost tens of billions of dollars to design. But this stealth fighter is an incredible weapon with a range of more than 500 miles.


Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor

Russia uses many of the Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound for its air force. It has advanced radar capabilities for tracking multiple targets, and its range is roughly 450 miles during combat.


Rockwell B-1B Lancer strategic bomber

The Rockwell B-1B Lancer is a long-range strategic bomber that entered service in the mid-'80s. It has a range of more than 7,500 miles, all the better to deploy huge bombs nearly anywhere on Earth.


AH-64 Apache helicopter

This being an armored attack helicopter, you probably guessed that its range isn't in the same category as say, a fighter. When it's loaded, the Apache has an attack range of about 300 miles.


Boeing B-52H Stratofortress

The B-52H is a variant of the legendary B-52 family, a long-range strategic bomber born out of Cold War necessities. It can carry an entire arsenal onboard, with a combat radius of approximately 4,500 miles.


Bell AH-1Z Viper

The Marines love the Bell AH-1Z Viper, a twin-engine attack helicopter that's part of the famous Huey family of helicopters. It's a beast of a vehicle and meant for only short missions -- it has a range of about 140 miles.


Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack bomber

Russia's Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack is a long-range strategic bomber with a range of more than 7,000 miles, ensuring that no place on the planet is truly safe from destruction.


F-16 Fighting Falcon

The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a supersonic fighter that's often called the "Viper." Produced since the late '70s, it can blast to more than 1,300 mph and has a range of roughly 350 miles.


Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire medium-range bomber

The Russian Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire has a combat radius of just over 1,100 miles, making it an effective medium-range bomber. It's an older model that entered service in 1978.


F/A-18 Hornet

With its top speed of Mach 1.8 and a range of approximately 460 miles, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a jet that's carrier-capable and meant to work as both a ground attack vehicle and fighter.


Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit bomber

This "batwing" bomber is one of the world's most easily identifiable planes. It's meant to fly for more than a day, if necessary, and it can cover around 6,900 miles.


UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter

With its roughly 370-mile combat range, the famous Black Hawk helicopter can ferry both men and weapons into battle. It's been in action since 1979.


Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

For more than half a century, the KC-135 Stratotanker has been a critical refueling plane. It's a big plane with a 130-foot wingspan, and its range is about 1,500 miles.


H-6K long-range strategic bombers

China's warplanes, like the H-6K, are quickly catching up to U.S. capabilities. This long-range bomber has an attack radius of nearly 2,200 miles.


F-15E Strike Eagle

The F-15E Strike Eagle is a multirole version of the F-15. When weighted down with munitions, it has a combat range of just under 800 miles.


Dassault Mirage 2000D/N ground attack aircraft

In 1993, France first deployed its Dassault Mirage 2000D/N, which is meant to deliver a tactical nuclear strike. With its range of roughly 575 miles, though, this aircraft isn't intended to travel long ranges.


Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot

The ground attack plane Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot isn't designed for long trips. It's meant to blow up ground forces within its 250-mile attack radius.


C-130 Hercules transport aircraft

The C-130 is the best-known military transport aircraft, an enormous plane meant to ferry other craft (or men) into battle. Fully loaded, it has a range of about 2,360 miles.


XAC JH-7 interceptor

China's XAC JH-7 is both an interceptor and a naval attack aircraft. It's a '90s-era plane with a combat range of around 1,000 miles.



Introduced by Britain and France in the late '60s, the SEPECAT Jaguar worked as a nuclear strike and close air support craft. Now outdated for Western purposes, it has a range of around 530 miles


F-117 Nighthawk

The distinctive F-117 Nighthawk is a stealth warplane with a combat radius of about 530 miles. It saw its first extensive action during the Gulf War.


C-17 Globemaster III heavy transport

Since 1993, the C-17 Globemaster III has ferried countless tons of gear and troops to war and training areas. As the name implies, it has a long range, of around 2,700 miles.


Douglas A-4 Skyhawk

Since the 1950s, the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk has been one of the world's most recognizable carrier-capable attack planes. America no longer uses the A-4, which has a combat radius of about 970 miles.


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