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United States' Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress


  • Boeing XB-17 Model 299 Prototype
  • Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Boeing B-17C Flying Fortress


The B-17 was developed to meet a USAAC requirement for a bomber to replace the Martin B-10. It was named Project 299 by Boeing and began on August 16, 1934. The specifications that they had to meet was to be able to carry 2,000 lbs of bombs 2,000 miles at speeds of 200 to 250 mph.

Had one of the first all metal monoplane heavy bomber to enter service.

The B-17E introduced a larger vertical tail surface. The Boeing B-17E added a gun turret on top of the fuselage behind the cockpit and on the bottom of the fuselage behind the wings.

The Boeing B-17F had a larger one piece nose installed.

Range and Bomb Load Comparison

Bomber Range and Bomb Load Comparison


The Boeing Model 299 prototype flew on July 28, 1935. This prototype crashed three weeks later before the evaluation was completed. The USAAC had initially disqualified the Boeing Model 299, as there were no others to evaluate, but there was enough interest that 13 more were ordered to be evaluated and these were to become the Y1B-17.

The Y1B-17 first flew in December 1936 / December 2, 1936. The rest of them were completed by August 5, 1937 and were sent to the 2nd Bombardment Group for evaluation.

The Y1B-17A had superchargers installed and this became standard after the excellent performance was evaluated.


  • Boeing Model 299: 1
  • Boeing Y1B-17: 12, 13
  • Boeing Y1B-17A: 1 Delivered in April 1938.
  • Boeing YB-17: Twelve were produced and entered service in 1937.
  • Boeing XB-38: 1
  • Boeing XC-108: 1 converted
  • Boeing XC-108A: 1
  • Boeing B-17B: 39
    • Order placed: 1938
    • Production: 1940 - 1941
  • Boeing B-17C: 38
    • Order placed: 1939
    • Production: 1940 - 1941
  • Boeing B-17D: 42
    • Order placed: 1940
    • Production: 1941
  • Boeing B-17E: 512
    • Order placed: 1941
    • Manufacturer: Boeing Aircraft Company
    • Production: ? - May 1942
  • Boeing B-17F: 3,400, 3,405
    • Manufacturer: Boeing, Lockheed, Douglas, Vega
      • Boeing: 2,300
      • Douglas: 600, 605
      • Lockheed, Vega: 500
    • Production: 1942 - 1943
  • Boeing B-17G: 8,680, 8,685 Produced at a rate of 330 per month between 1943 and 1945. In early 1945 the peak production was 560 per month.
    • Manufacturer: Boeing, Douglas, Lockheed, Lockheed-Vega, Vega
      • Boeing: 4,035
      • Douglas (Longbeach): 2,395, 2,400
      • Lockheed (Burbank), Vega: 2,250
    • Production: ? - July 1945
  • Total: 12,731

Bomber Production Comparison


  • Boeing Model 299: Had Pratt & Whitney Hornet engines.
  • Boeing Y1B-17: Had Wright Cyclone engines. Entered service in 1937.
  • Boeing Y1B-17A: Had turbo charged Wright engines.
  • Boeing B-17B: First flew in June 1939.
  • Boeing B-17C / Fortress I: First flew in July 1940. Had more self defense guns, self sealing fuel tanks, and additional armor for the crew members.
  • Boeing B-17D: First flew in February 1941.
  • Boeing B-17E / Fortress IIA: Added tail gunner position. Added top and bottom turrets to the fuselage. First flew in September 1941.
  • Boeing B-17F / Fortress II: One piece nose. First flew in May 1942. Propellers were slightly larger. Engine cowling was reshaped. Oil tanks were self sealing. Wings and undercarriage strengthened to allow for larger bomb loads. Link between Norden bombsight and autopilot installed. "Tokyo tank" were installed in outer wings to allow for an additional 1,000 mile / 1,610 km range. Could carry 1,000 lb / 454 kg of bombs under wings. Late in production Bendix chin turret added.
  • Boeing B-17G / Fortress III: Chin turret. First flown in May 1943. Had electrically operated turbocharger controls installed. Ball turret was replaced by Bendix turret. New tail turret ("Cheyenne"). Some models had radar.
  • Boeing BQ-7: Radio controlled plane that was flown to near the target by the crew, who then bailed out. The plane was then remotely flown into the target.
  • Boeing F-9: Photo reconnaissance.
  • Boeing F-9A: Photo reconnaissance.
  • Boeing F-9B: Photo reconnaissance.
  • Boeing PB-1: US Navy version of B-17G. 45 were transfered.
  • Boeing SB-17: Search and rescue.
  • Boeing TB-40: Trainer.
  • Boeing YB-40: Had up to 30 (16) machine guns. Was to be used as an escort.
  • Boeing XB-38: Had Allison V-1710 liquid cooled engines. Only 1 prototype.
  • Boeing XC-108: Personal transport for General Douglas MacArthur.
  • Boeing XC-108A: Frieghter.


The Flying Fortress was used in large formations that mutually supported each other against enemy fighters.

The B-17 could carry 8 tons, but seldom carried more than 1/4 of that.

In the 8th Air Force there were over 47,000 casualties in raids over Europe.

United Kingdom

The Royal Air Force (RAF) received 20 B-17Cs in 1941. Were initially used in daylight raids but with heavy losses they were moved to anti shipping and anti submarine duties.

The United Kingdom received:

  • B-17C: 20
  • B-17E: 45
  • B-17F: 17
  • B-17G: 85
  • Total: ~200

Pearl Harbor

The first American casualties of World War II was a B-17, on the way to Pearl Harbor, shot down by Japanese Zeros.

Flying Fortress' First Attack

On December 9, 1941 / December 10, 1941, B-17s attacked a Japanese convoy off of Luzon to become the first bombs dropped by an American manned aircraft in World War II.

First Use In Europe

On August 17, 1942, the first mission was conducted with B-17s.

Target, Germany

B-17s were first used over Germany On January 27, 1943.

German Use

Germany assigned captured B-17s to Kampfgeschwader 200 for study and use in secret missions.


A SB-17 search and rescue conducted the first American sortie in Korean War.

The first mission in Korea was done by a RB-17G reconnaissance plane in June 1950.


  Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
Type Medium / heavy bomber
Crew 9


  1. Aircraft of WWII, General Editor: Jim Winchester, 2004
  2. Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Editor: Karen Leverington, 1995
  3. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  4. World War II Airplanes Volume 2, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  5. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site