B-17 Flying Fortress

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The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft developed for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). Competing against Douglas and Martin for a contract to build 200 bombers, the Boeing entry outperformed both the other competitors and more than met the Air Corps' expectations.
Although Boeing lost the contract due to the prototype's crash, the Air Corps was so impressed with Boeing's design that they ordered 13 B-17s.
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B17 Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress


B-17
 
B17
 
B-17 Bomber

The B17 Flying Fortress is one of the most famous airplanes ever built. The B17 prototype first flew July 28, 1935. Few B-17s were in service on Dec. 7, 1941, but production quickly accelerated.

The aircraft served in every World War II combat zone, but is best known for daylight strategic bombing of German industrial targets. Production ended in May 1945, and totaled 12,726.

B17 Specifications

B17 Span: 103 feet, 10 inches
B17 Length: 74 feet, 4 inches
B17 Height: 19 feet, 1 inches
B17 Weight: 55,000 pounds loaded
B17 Armament: Thirteen .50-caliber machine guns with normal bomb load of 6,000 pounds
B17 Engines: Four Wright "Cyclone" R-1820s of 1,200 horsepower each
B17 Cost: $276,000

B-17 Performance

Maximum speed: 300 mph.
Cruising speed: 170 mph.
Range: 1,850 miles
Service Ceiling: 35,000 feet

B-17 Variants
The B-17 went through several alterations in each of its design stages and variants. Of the 13 YB-17s ordered for service testing, 12 were used by the 2nd Bomb Group of Langley Field, Virginia to develop heavy bombing techniques, and the 13th was used for flight testing at the Material Division at Wright Field, Ohio.[24] Experiments on this plane led to the use of a turbo-supercharger, which would become standard on the B-17 line. A 14th plane, the Y1 B-17 A, originally destined for ground testing only, was upgraded with the turbocharger. When this aircraft had finished testing, it was re-designated the B-17 A, and in April 1938 was the first plane to enter service under the B-17 designation.[24][26]

As the production line developed, Boeing engineers continued to improve upon the basic design. To enhance performance at slower speeds, the B-17B was altered to include larger rudder and flaps.[41] The B-17C changed from gun blisters to flush, oval-shaped windows.[64] Most significantly, with the B-17E version, the fuselage was extended by 10 feet, a much larger vertical fin and rudder were incorporated into the original design, a gunner's position in the tail and an improved nose were added. The engines were upgraded to more powerful versions several times, and similarly, the gun stations were altered on numerous occasions to enhance their effectiveness.[66]

By the time the definitive B-17 G appeared, the number of guns had been increased from seven to 13, the designs of the gun stations were finalized, and other adjustments were complete. The B-17 G was the final version of the B-17, incorporating all changes made to its predecessor, the B-17 F, and in total 8,680 were built, the last one on 9 April 1945.[68] Many B-17 Gs were converted for other missions such as cargo hauling, engine testing and reconnaissance.[69] Initially designated SB-17G, a number of B-17Gs were also converted for search-and-rescue duties, later to be redesignated B-17H.[70]

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Two versions of the B-17 were flown under different designations. These were the XB-38 and the YB-40. The XB-38 was an engine test-bed for Allison V-1710 liquid-cooled engines, should the Wright engines normally used on the B-17 become unavailable. The YB-40 was a heavily armed modification of the standard B-17 used before the P-51 Mustang, an effective long-range fighter, became available to act as escort. Additional armament included a power turret in the radio-room, a chin turret (which went on to become standard with the B-17G ) and twin .50 caliber (12.7 mm) guns in the waist positions. The ammunition load was over 11,000 rounds, making the YB-40 well over 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) heavier than a fully loaded B-17F. Unfortunately, the YB-40s with their numerous heavy modifications had trouble keeping up with empty bombers, and so, together with the advent of the P-51 Mustang, the project was abandoned and finally phased out in July 1943.

Late in World War II, at least 25 B-17s were fitted with radio controls, loaded with 20,000 pounds (9,000 kg) of high-explosives, dubbed "BQ-7 Aphrodite missiles", and used against U-boat pens and bomb-resistant fortifications. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., future US president John F. Kennedy's eldest brother, was killed in the development effort. Because few (if any) BQ-7s hit their target, the Aphrodite project was scrapped in early 1945. During and after World War II, a number of weapons were tested and used operationally on B-17s. Some of these weapons included "razons" (radio-guided) glide bombs, and Ford-Republic JB-2 Loons, also nicknamed Thunderbugs— American reverse-engineered models of the German V-1 Buzz Bomb. A much-used travelling airborne shot of a V-1/JB-2 launch in World War II documentaries was filmed from a USAF A-26 of the Air Proving Grounds, Eglin Air Force Base, launched from Santa Rosa Island, Florida. In the late 1950s, the last B-17s in United States Air Force service were QB-17 drones and DB-17P drone controllers, plus a few polished VB-17 squadron "hacks". The last operational mission flown by a USAF Fortress was conducted on 6 August 1959, when DB-17P 44-83684 directed QB-17G 44-83717 out of Holloman Air Force Base as a target for a Falcon air-to-air missile fired from an F-101 Voodoo fighter. A retirement ceremony was held several days later at Holloman, after which 44-83684 was retired to MASDC at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

B17 Variant B-17 Produced B17 First flight
Model 299 1 28 July 1935
YB-17 13 2 December 1936
YB-17A 1 29 April 1938.
B17 B 39 27 June 1939
B-17 C 38 21 July 1940
B-17 D 42 3 February 1941
B-17 E 512 5 September 1941
B17 F 3,405 30 May 1942
B-17 F-BO 2,300  
B-17 F-DL 605  
B-17 F-VE 500  
B17 G 8,680  
B-17 G-BO 4,035  
B-17 G-DL 2,395  
B-17 G-VE 2,250  
B17 Grand total 12,731  

Following the end of World War II, the B-17 was quickly phased out of use as a bomber and the Army Air Forces retired most of its fleet. Flight crews ferried the bombers back across the Atlantic to the United States where the majority were sold for scrap and melted down, although significant numbers remained in use in second-line roles such as VIP transports, air-sea rescue and photo-reconnaissance. Strategic Air Command (SAC), established in 1946, used reconnaissance B-17s (at first called F-9, later RB-17) until 1949. With the disestablishment of the U.S. Army Air Forces and the establishment of an independent U.S. Air Force in 1947, most extant B-17s were transferred to USAF.

The USAF Air Rescue Service of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) operated B-17s as so-called "Dumbo" air-sea rescue aircraft. Work on using B-17s to carry airborne lifeboats had begun in 1943, but they entered service in the European theater only in February 1945, also being used to provide search and rescue support for B-29 raids against Japan. About 130 B-17s were converted to the air-sea rescue role, at first designated B-17H and later SB-17G. Some SB-17s had their defensive guns removed, while others retained their guns to allow use close to combat areas. The SB-17 served through the Korean War, remaining in service with USAF until the mid-1950s.


In 1946, surplus B-17s were chosen as drone aircraft for atmospheric sampling during the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests, being able to fly close to or even through the mushroom clouds without endangering a crew. This led to more widespread conversion of B-17s as drones and drone control aircraft, both for further use in atomic testing and as targets for testing surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles. One hundred and seven B-17s were converted to drones. The last operational mission flown by a USAF Fortress was conducted on 6 August 1959, when a DB-17P, serial 44-83684 directed a QB-17G, out of Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, as a target for an AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missile fired from an McDonnell F-101 Voodoo. A retirement ceremony was held several days later at Holloman AFB, after which 44-83684 was retired.[citation needed] It was subsequently used in movies. Perhaps the most famous B-17, the Memphis Belle, is currently being fastidiously restored — simultaneously with the B-17D The Swoose — to its World War II wartime appearance by the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard
Under project Cadillac II, an AN/APS-20 radar was fitted onto the B-17G, making the PB-1W the first AWACS.
The U.S. Coast Guard PB-1G carried a droppable lifeboat.

During the last year of World War II and shortly thereafter, the United States Navy acquired 48 ex-USAAF B-17s for patrol and air-sea rescue work. The first two ex-USAAF B-17s, a B-17F (later modified to B-17G standard) and a B-17G were obtained by the Navy for various development programs. At first, these aircraft operated under their original USAAF designations but on 31 July 1945, they were assigned the naval aircraft designation PB-1, a designation which had originally been used in 1925 for the Boeing Model 50 experimental flying boat.

Thirty-two B-17Gs were used by the Navy under the designation PB-1W, the suffix -W airborne early warning. A large radome for an S-band AN/APS-20 search radar was fitted underneath the fuselage and additional internal fuel tanks were added for longer range, with the provision for additional underwing fuel tanks. Originally, the B-17 was also chosen because of its heavy defensive armament, but this was later deleted. These aircraft were painted dark blue, a standard Navy paint scheme which had been adopted in late 1944.[138][146] The PB-1W eventually evolved into an early warning aircraft by virtue of its APS-20 search radar.[147] PB-1Ws continued in USN service until 1955, gradually being phased out in favor of the Lockheed WV-2 (known in the USAF as the EC-121, a designation adopted by USN in 1962), a military version of the Lockheed 1049 Constellation commercial airliner.

In July 1945, 16 B-17s were transferred to the Coast Guard via the Navy; these aircraft were initially assigned U.S. Navy Bureau Numbers (BuNo), but were delivered to the Coast Guard designated as PB-1Gs beginning in July 1946. Coast Guard PB-1Gs were stationed at a number of bases in the U.S. and Newfoundland, with five at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, two at CGAS San Francisco, two at NAS Argentia, Newfoundland, one at CGAS Kodiak, Alaska, and one in Washington state. They were used primarily for air-sea rescue, but were also used for iceberg patrol duties and for photo mapping. Air-sea rescue PB-1Gs usually carried a droppable lifeboat underneath the fuselage and the chin turret was often replaced by a radome.[141][148] The Coast Guard PB-1Gs served throughout the 1950s, the last example not being withdrawn from service until 14 October 1959.

Special operations

A number of B-17s were used by the CIA front companies Civil Air Transport, Air America and Intermountain Aviation for special missions. These included B-17G 44-85531, registered as N809Z. These aircraft were primarily used for agent drop missions over the People's Republic of China, flying from Taiwan, with Taiwanese crews. Four B-17s were shot down in these operations.

In 1957 the surviving B-17s had been stripped of all weapons and painted black. One of these Taiwan-based B-17s was flown to Clark Air Base in the Philippines in mid-September, assigned for covert missions into Tibet.

On 28 May 1962, N809Z, piloted by Connie Seigrist and Douglas Price, flew Major James Smith, USAF and Lieutenant Leonard A. LeSchack, USNR to the abandoned Soviet arctic ice station NP 8, as Operation Coldfeet. Smith and LeSchack parachuted from the B-17 and searched the station for several days. On 1 June, Seigrist and Price returned and picked up Smith and LeSchack using a Fulton Skyhook system installed on the B-17.[150] N809Z was used to perform a Skyhook pick up in the James Bond movie Thunderball in 1965. This aircraft, now restored to its original B-17G configuration, is on display in the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.

 

 

(credits: US Air Force History Support Office)

The B-17 Flying Fortress went on to enter full-scale production and was considered the first truly mass-produced large aircraft, eventually evolving through numerous design advancements.

The B-17 was primarily employed by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial, civilian, and military targets. The United States Eighth Air Force based in England and the Fifteenth Air Force based in Italy complemented the RAF Bomber Command's nighttime area bombing in Operation Pointblank, to help secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for Operation Overlord.[4] The B17 also participated, to a lesser extent, in the War in the Pacific, where it conducted raids against Japanese shipping and airfields..
 
     
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World War 1; World War 2 Operations, Weapons Data; Modern Weapons Data; Modern Wars; Combat Organizations
LIST OF PLANES US AIR FORCE WW2 USN WW2 Torpedo Bomber - Douglas TBD-1 Devastator USN WW2 Fighters: Brewster F2A Buffalo, Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk Grumman F3F, Grumman F4F Wildcat, General Motors FM-2 Wildcat LOCKHEED P-38 LIGHTNING F-82 TWIN MUSTANG REPUBLIC P-47 THUNDERBOLT NORTH AMERICAN P-51 MUSTANG Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Boeing B-29 Superfortress Consolidated B-24 D Liberator North American B-25 Mitchell, Martin B-26 Marauder
RAF List of aircraft Avro Lancaster De Havilland Mosquito, Vickers Wellington Fairey Swordfish Hawker Tempest Hawker Hurricane Supermarine Spitfire Gloster Meteor LIST OF RAF PLANES WW2 Pre/Post WW2 RAAF Australia Planes - List of Aircraft Pre/Post WW2 SWEDEN Planes - List of Aircraft Tornado F3 AV-8 Harrier Panavia Tornado
Pre/Post WW2 USSR Russia Planes - List of Aircraft Ilyushin_IL2 IL-4_Ilyushin Operation Stalingrad , Operation Barbarossa Zhukov (Zukov) MIG19_Farmer SU35_Sukhoi SU27_Flanker SU24_Fencer MIG21 MIG23_Flogger MIG25_Foxbat MIG29_Fulcrum MIG31_Foxhound Mi24_Hind_Gunship Ka50_Hokum_helicopter KA25_Kamov_Naval_Helicopter Kirov_Battlecruiser Kuznetsov_Russian_Aircraft_Carrier Soviet_Aircraft_Carrier_Varyag

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B-17 Flying Fortress