North American B-25 “Mitchell” Bomber


There is perhaps no aircraft more famous, especially during World War II, than the B-25. Its high-rate of production, versatility, and use by several Allied countries makes it one of the most recognizable aircraft in the world.

The North American B-25 Mitchell, named after Brigadier General William “Billy” Mitchell, was a twin-engine bomber. However, over time it became much more than just a bomber. The B-25 was a high-level and low-level bomber, submarine patrol and photo reconnaissance aircraft, and even a fighter. North American Aviation produced just under 10,000 B-25s in a six-year span from 1939-1945.

B-25 Devil Dog
The B-25 "Devil Dog" lands on a runway next to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base during the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid.
US Air Force, R.J. Oriez

History of the B-25

The first B-25 flew in August of 1940 and the US Army Air Corps accepted its first five planes in February of 1941. From there, it was a race to produce as many as possible. North American Aviation totaled 9,816 B-25s between their two plants in California and Kansas.

The B-25 was originally the NA-40 in the mid-1930s before Wright R-2600 engines were added. The NA-40 was designed and built with France and the UK in mind. These countries had an immediate need for an aircraft with bombing capabilities, seeing as they were well into the war by then. But the European countries decided to purchase the Douglas DB-7 (used as the A-20 by the US) instead.

B-25 in Formation
Three American B-25 "Mitchell" aircraft of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. Photo taken between 1942 and June 1943.
Pennsylvania Air National Guard

Even though the NA-40’s sales looked dead in the water, the US Army Air Corps saw a use for the aircraft just a year later. They saw its capabilities as a medium-range bomber and ordered it into production. Because the war was ramping up exponentially, there was no time for test-runs or experimental designs. Any modifications were done during production, and any later versions were produced on the fly.

The B-25 came to fame during the Tokyo Raid of 1942, led by General Jimmy Doolittle.


Several versions of the B-25 existed, most with a unique weapons system. The G model was the first major change to the B-25. It was equipped with a 75mm cannon and two fixed .50-cal. guns in the nose. The J model was the most produced version of the B-25. It was a level bomber, which was the original design, but it included a transparent nose with one flexible and two fixed .50-cal. guns. In the H variant, forward-firing .50-cal. guns were added in the cheek blisters.

B-25 during Barksdale AFB Airshow
The B-25 "Mitchell" flown during an airshow at the Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.
US Air Force Senior Airman Curt Beach

The flight crew of a B-25 included a pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, radio operator and a gunner. Two 1,700-hp Wright Cyclone supercharged 14-cylinder radial engines gave the B-25 “Mitchell” a range of over 3,000 miles and a top speed just over 300 miles per hour.

The B-25 flew to its retirement in April 1958.

North American Aviation was absorbed by Boeing in 1996.

See B-25 Mitchell Bomber Specifications

Length: 53 feet
Height: 16 feet 9 inches
Wingspan: 67 feet 6 inches
Max Speed: 328 mph
Ceiling: 21,200 feet
Maximum Weight: 29,300 lb
Combat Range: 2,500 mi
Engine:Two Wright R-2600s of 1,700 hp each
Cost: $109,670
Armament:Six .50-cal. machine guns; 3,000 lbs. of bombs