An attack aircraft, strike aircraft, or attack bomber is a tactical military aircraft that has a primary role of carrying out airstrikes with greater precision than bombers, and is prepared to encounter strong low-level air defenses while pressing the attack. This class of aircraft is designed mostly for close air support and naval air-to-surface missions, overlapping the tactical bomber mission. Designs dedicated to non-naval roles are often known as ground-attack aircraft.
Fighter aircraft often carry out the attack role, although they would not be considered attack aircraft per se, although fighter-bomber conversions of those same aircraft would be considered part of the class. Strike fighters, which have effectively replaced the fighter-bomber and light bomber concepts, also differ little from the broad concept of an attack aircraft.
The dedicated attack aircraft as a separate class existed primarily during and after World War II. The precise implementation varied from country to country, and was handled by a wide variety of designs. In the United States and Britain attack aircraft were generally light bombers or medium bombers, sometimes carrying heavier forward-firing weapons like the North American B-25G Mitchell and de Havilland Mosquito Tsetse. In Germany and the USSR, where they were known as Schlachtflugzeug ("battle aircraft") or sturmovik ("storm trooper") respectively, this role was carried out by purpose-designed and heavily armored aircraft such as the Henschel Hs 129 and Ilyushin Il-2. The Germans and Soviets also used light bombers in this role: cannon-armed versions of the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka greatly outnumbered the Hs 129, while the Petlyakov Pe-2 was used for this role in spite of not being specifically designed for it.
In the latter part of World War II the fighter-bomber began to take over many attack roles, a transition that continued in the post-war era. Jet-powered examples were relatively rare but not unknown, such as the Blackburn Buccaneer. The U.S. Navy continued to introduce new aircraft in their A-series, but these were mostly similar to light and medium bombers. The need for a separate attack aircraft category was greatly diminished by the introduction of precision-guided munitions which allowed almost any aircraft to carry out this role while remaining safe at high altitude. Attack helicopters also have overtaken many remaining roles that could only be carried out at lower altitudes.
Since the 1960s, only two dedicated attack aircraft designs have been widely introduced, the American Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II and Soviet/Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot. One anomaly belonging to this class is the American Lockheed AC-130, which features its primary armament of artillery guns adapted for aircraft use, including the 105 mm M102 howitzer.
A variety of light attack aircraft has also been introduced in the post-World War II era, usually based on adapted trainers or other light fixed-wing aircraft. These have been used in counter-insurgency operations.