Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress | |
|The Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” |
One of the United States’ two standard heavy bombers until the introduction
of the B-29 Superfortress, the B-17 was flown by the United States Army Air
Force throughout the American participation in the Second World War. Wing
to wing with B-24 Liberators, B-17s were used by the US Eighth Air Force
based in the UK, to bombard German targets in Europe during daylight hours
a method which resulted initially in very heavy losses.
The Flying Fo
ortress was designed for a competition, announced in 1934, to
find a modern replacement for the assorted Keystone biplane bombers then in
service. The prototype first flew on July 28,1935, and went on to win the
competition. Boeing then built a few preproduction YlB-17s (later
redesignated B-17As), followed by 39 B-17Bs which entered service in the
late thirties. Money was short, and by the autumn of 1939 only 30 Flying
Fortresses were fully operational. As the US was not then fighting in
Europe it did not seem to matter although, as it be ecame clearer that
involvement was inevitable, orders were increased. Furthermore, a small
number of B-17Cs delivered to the RAF as Fortress Is quickly showed that
defensive armament was inadequate.
|One of 235 B-17G-45’s built by Boeing at|
In September of 1941, a new Fortress appeared wi
empennage. Gone was the pert fin and rudder riding precariously behind the
stabilizer. Instead, a broad yet graceful dorsal fin rose from amidships
and enveloped a deadly stinger of twin .50-cal. machine guns. A remote
controlled belly turret held two more .50s. This was the B-17E, of which
112 were built. Four hundred more followed but with a manned Sperry ball
turret replacing the remote system. The B-17E was lengthened to 73 feet 10
inches to accommodate the new defensive tail position. Top speed was 317
mph, cruising at over 200 mph with 4,000 pounds of bombs.
The Pearl Harbor attack of December 7,1941 finally brought the United
States into the war and production of the B-17 rapidly increased. By July
1942 the US began forming the Eighth Air Force in Britain, equipped wi ith B-
17Es. The ‘E’ represented an important improvement over the earlier B-17s,
in that it had a tail turret, so eliminating a previous defensive blind
spot. On August 17,1942 United States B-17s carried out a bombing raid on
the railway yards at Rouen in France. The real offensive, however, started
on January 27,1943, when B-17s of the USAAF made their first attack on
Germany. Initially, casualties were very high because they attacked during
daylight hours to achieve greater accuracy and because proper formation
flying (to enable a group of ai
had not yet been formulated. Delivery of the B-17G (the major production
version) helped. The ‘G’ was the first variant to have a gun turret under
the nose, so increasing the armament to 13 guns.
Production of the similar B-17F was undertaken by Douglas and Vega, a
subsidiary of the Lockheed Aircraft Corp., was taking its toll in speed.
The B-17F, though now armed with eleven .50-cal. guns, could only reach 299
mph, but landing speed was up to 90 mph! Service ceiling was 37,500 feet
and range 2,880 miles. It took twenty-five and a half minutes to climb to
20,000 feet. Three thousand, four hundred B-17Fs were produced by the three
By September 1943, the Flying Fortress showed its final shape. During
firepower tests on the XB-40, a modified B-17F, the advantage of a chin
turret was clearly proven and a new series, labeled B-17G, sported this
nasal appendage. The Bendix turret held two .50-cal. guns and this model
had a total of twelve of these weapons with 6,380 rounds of ammunition. In
all, there were 8,680 B-17Gs built by Boeing, Vega, and Douglas to make
this the largest production variation. Following the first Model 299, the
Air Corps purchased 12,725 B-17 type aircraft.
|A Douglas built B-17G-30, from Long |
|Beach California. Lockheed also |
|manufactured Flying Fortresses for the |
|Air Corps. |
On 19 July 1943 US B-17s and B-24 Liberators carried out the first bombing
raid on Rome; and US bombing in Europe reached its high point in February
1945 with a 1,000-bomber raid on Berlin, escorted by 400 fighters, and the
Dresden raid (alongside the Royal Air Force) which caused a massive fire
storm to sweep the city.
Meanwhile, B-17s were also helping to win the war against Japan, although
by mid-1943 the larger B-29 had begun to take over the major strategic
bombing missions. By the end of production, more than 12,700 B-17s had been
built, of which a few served with Royal Air Force Coastal Command and the
United States Navy for patrol, air-sea rescue, antisubmarine and other
B-17G specifications included a span of 103 feet 9 inches, length of 74
feet 4 inches, and a height of 19 feet 1 inch. The four supercharged Wright
R-1820-97 Cyclones delivered 1,200 hp and gave a top speed of 287 mph,
cruising at 182 mph. Service ceiling was 35,600 feet, with a range of 3,400
miles. Empty and gross weights were 36,135 pounds and 55,000 pounds.
Maximum fuel load was 3,630 gallons.
Cargo conversions of the B-17 were known as C-108 .
|The B-17G introduced new fire power in the form of the |
|Bendix chin turret and a new tail stinger. |
The First American Missions From England
American air power made its Eu
June 12, Colonel Harry Halverson led thirteen B-24 Liberators on a first
daring, long-distance raid against the oil refineries at Ploesti, Rumania.
Taking off from Egypt, 1,000 miles from the target, the bombers surprised
the enemy. All the planes got safely away, though one B-24 crash landed
The first American mission from England took place, appropriately, on the
Fourth of July. Six air crews, flying A-20 Boston bombers borrowed from the
RAF, joined six British crews on a low-level raid against air bases in
Holland. The Germans were warned by radio from a picket ship off the Dutch
coast, and two of the bombers flown by Americans were shot down. The
bombardiers of two of the other planes were so confused by the camouflaged
targets that they failed to drop their bombs at all.
More auspicious was a raid on August 17, against the railroad yards at
Rouen. A dozen B-17 Flying Fortresses loaded with three hundred-pound
bombs, completed their mission without losses. In the fall, the North
African invasion diverted planes and men and temporarily stalled the
buildup of US air strength in England. But as the Eighth continued to stab
at the enemy, American crews matched the courage and ability of veterans.
On one occasion, for instance, nine B-17s, turning back from a canceled
mission against Rotterdam, were jumped by more than twenty German fighters.
The Americans fought their way back to England, but in one bomber the pilot
was injured and the copilot killed. The bombardier, who had been washed out
of flying school, took over the controls and flew the plane back home on
|[pic] |[pic] |
|A B-17 being loaded at an English base|In June 1944, the Americans |
|with three-hundred pound bombs. |dropped 120,000 tons of bombs |
| |on Germany. |
|Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress |
|Wing span: |103 ft. 9 in (31.6 m) |
|Length: |74 ft. 9 in (22.8 m) |
|Height: |19 ft. 1 in (5.8 m) |
|Wing Area: |1,420 sq ft (132 sq m) |
|Empty: |32,720 lb (14,855 kg) |
|Normal Loaded: |49,500 lb (22,475 kg) |
|Maximum Overloaded: |60,000 lb (27,240 kg) |
|Maximum Speed: |295 m.p.h. (472 km/h) at 25,000 ft |
| |(7,625 m) |
|Service Ceiling: |35,000 ft (10,670 m) |
|Normal Range: |(normal fuel & max bombs), 1,100 miles |
| |(1,760 km) |
| |@ 220 mph (352 km/h) @ 25,000 ft (7,625|
| |m) |
|Four 1,200 hp Wright R-1820-97 nine cylinder air-cooled single |
|row radial engines. General Electric Type B-22 exhaust driven |
|installed under engine nacelles. |
|Thirteen 50-cal. machine-guns. Normal bomb load 6,000 lbs |
|(2,724 kg). |
|Largest bomb type carried is 2,000 lb (908 kg). |
In 1937 the Air Ministry published specifications calling for an
interceptor fighter. The Hawker Aircraft Company responded by producing the
Typhoon Mk. IB. Powered by a Napier Sabre 24-cylinder, liquid-cooled
engine, it had a maximum speed of 412 mph (663 km) and had a range of 980
miles (1,570 km). Armed with four 20 mm cannons it could carry 2,000 lb
(907 kg) of bombs. It was 31 ft 11 in (9.73 m) long with a wingspan of 41ft
7 in (12.68 m).
he project to build a jet fighter began in August 1940. Designed by George
Carter at the Gloster Aircraft Company, eight prototypes of the Gloster
Meteor Mk. I were produced over the next four years. Eventually it was
decided to use the turbojet designed by Frank Whittle.
The Gloster Meteor Mk. I had a maximum speed of 415 mph (667 km) and had a
range of 1,340 miles (2,156 km). It was 41 ft 3 in (12.58 m) long with a
wingspan of 43 ft (13.11 m) and armed with four 20 mm cannons.
The first 20 aircraft were delivered to the Royal Air Force in June 1944.
The Gloster Meteor Mk. I saw action for the first time on 27th July, 1944
against the V1 Flying Bomb.
The Gloster Meteor Mk. I first appeared in January 1945 and took part in
missions over Nazi Germany. However, by this time the Luftwaffe had been
virtually destroyed and it never met the leading German fighters in combat.
Arado Ar 234B-2
Throughout the Second World War both the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe
attempted to produce an effective jet aeroplane. The fighter Messerschmitt
Me 262 made its first test flight on 25th March, 1942. The following year,
the jet bomber, the Arado Ar 234B appeared and made its first flight on
15th June, 1943.
The world’s first jet bomber had a maximum speed of 461 mph (742 km) and
had a range of 1,103 miles (1,775 km). It was 41 ft 5 in (12.63 m) long
with a wingspan of 46 ft 3 in (14.10 m). The aircraft was armed with two 20
mm cannons and could carry 3,300 lb (1,500 kg) of bombs.
The Arado AR 234B arrived too late to make an impact on the course of the
war. Around two hundred were built and only 38 of them saw action before
the end of the Second World War.
Arado Ar 234B-2
Wellington Mk. I
The Wellington Mk I bomber was produced by Vickers-Armstrong in 1937.
Powered by two Bristol Pegasus engines, it had a maximum speed of 235 mph
(378 km) and had a range of 2,200 miles (3,540 km). Armed with six machine-
guns it could carry 4,500 lb (2,000 kg) of bombs. It was 64 ft 7 in (19.68
m) long with a wingspan of 86 ft 2 in (26.26 m) and carried a crew of six.
Over the next eight years a total of 11,461 Wellingtons were built. If
carried out the first Royal Air Force bombing mission of the Second World
War on 4th September, 1939. It was eventually replaced as a front-line
bomber by Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster and then served as a
transport and reconnaissance aeroplane.
Wellington Mk. I
The Soviet State Industries began producing the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3 for
the Red Army Air Force in 1941. Designed by Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail
Gurevich it had a maximum speed of 407 mph (655 km) and had a range of 510
miles (820 km). It was 26 ft 9 in (8.15 m) long with a wingspan of 33 ft 9
in (8.15 m). The aircraft was armed with three machine-guns and carried 440
lb (200 kg) of bombs. Along with the Lavochkin LaGG-3 it helped the Soviet
Union gain air supremacy on the Eastern Front during the Second World War.
The Soviet State Industries began producing the Yakovelev Yak-1 for the Red
Army Air Force in 1941. Designed by Aleksandr Yakovlev it had a maximum
speed of 360 mph (580 km) and had a range of 528 miles (850 km). It was 27
ft 9 in (8.48 m) long with a wingspan of 32 ft 10 in (10 m). The aircraft
was armed with one 20 mm cannon and two machine-guns.
Yakovlev’s Yak-9 first went into service in 1942. Tt had a maximum speed of
374 mph (600 km) and had a range of 808 miles (1,300 km). It was 28 ft 1 in
(8.55 m) long with a wingspan of 32 ft 11 in (10.03 m). The aircraft was
armed with one 20 mm cannon and one machine-gun.
Along with the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3 and the Lavochkin LaGG-3 the
Yakovelev Yak-9 helped the Soviet Union gain air supremacy on the Eastern
Front. The Soviet State Industries produced 30,000 Yakovelev fighters
during the Second World War.
The Soviet State Industries began producing the Tupolev Tu-2 for the Red
Army Air Force in 1942. This medium bomber had a maximum speed of 342 mph
(550 km) and had a range of 1,243 miles (2,000 km). It was 45 ft 3 in
(13.80 m) long with a wingspan of 61 ft 10 in (18.85 m). The aircraft was
armed with two 20 mm cannon, three machine-guns and carried 6,614 lb (3,000
kg) of bombs. Along with the Petlyakov Pe-2 the Tupolev Tu-2 was used in
large quantities during the Second World War.
The Kawasaki Kokuki Kogyo began producing the Kawasaki Ki-32 bomber for the
Japanese Air Force in 1936. The aircraft had a maximum speed of 263 mph
(423 km) and had a range of 1,218 miles (1,965 km). It was 38 ft 2 in
(11.64 m) long with a wingspan of 49 ft 2 in (15 m). The aircraft was armed
with 2 machine-guns and could carry 992 lb (450 kg) of bombs.
The Kawasaki Kokuki Kogyo took part in the early stages of the Second World
War but was removed from front-line service in 1942.
The Mitsubishi Jukogyo company began producing the Mitsubishi A5M4 fighter
for the Japanese Air Force in 1934. Three years later the designer, Jiro
Horikoshi, started work on an improved version, the Mitsubishi A6M2. The
aircraft made its maiden flight on 1st April, 1939.
The Mitsubishi A6M2, nicknamed the Zero, had a maximum speed of 332 mph
(534 km) and had a range of 1,930 miles (3,105 km). It was 29 ft 9 in (9.15
m) long with a wingspan of 39 ft 4 in (12.10 m). The aircraft was armed
with 2 machine-guns and could carry 264 lb (120 kg) of bombs.
The Zero was the main strike aircraft used at Pearl Harbour and in the
early stages of the Pacific War dominated the skies. A large number were
shot down during the Battle of Midway and it gradually became outperformed
by the latest allied aircraft. During the Second World War Mitsubishi A6M2
produced 11,283 of these aircraft.
Dornier Do 17
The Dornier Do 17 was produced by the Dornier-Werke company. As a result of
the restrictions placed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty it was
originally produced as a commercial passenger plane. However, later it was
transformed into a bomber aircraft.
The Dornier Do 17 had a maximum speed of 255 mph (410 km) and had a range
of 721 miles (1,160 km). It was 51 ft 10 in (15.79 m) long with a wingspan
of 59 ft 1 in (18.00 m). The aircraft was armed with 6 machine-guns and
could carry 2,200 lb (1,000 kg) of bombs.
At the beginning of the Second World War the Dornier Do 17, along with the
Heinkel He111 and Junkers Ju 88A, were the main bombers used by the
Luftwaffe. However, the Dornier was slower than the Junkers and could carry
fewer bombs than the Heinkel and was withdrawn from service in 1942.
Dornier Do 17