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United States' Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Photos

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

Design

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.

B-17E

Belly and top turrets were added. Positions in the side also had machine guns installed. The B-17E introduced a larger vertical tail surface.

Tail

The tail of the B-17E was made larger to provide better stability. This also allowed for a rear machine gun to be installed for defense.

B-17F

The B-17F had a single piece nose installed.

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.

B-17G

The Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress had better defensive armament. Had electrically operated turbocharger controls installed. Some models had radar.

Defenses

Below the navigator was a forward turret that was remote controlled. New chin turret installed. Ball turret was replaced by Bendix turret. New tail turret ("Cheyenne").

Range and Bomb Load Comparison

  • Range and Bomb Load Comparison

Prototype

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.

B-17F

First flew in May 1942.

B-17G

First flown in May 1943.

Production

  • 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

  • Bomber Production Comparison

Variants

  • 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 transferred.
  • 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: Freighter.

Usage

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) No 206 and No 220 Squadrons of Coastal Command received twenty 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
    • Squadrons: No 206, No 220
  • B-17E: 45, 150
    • Squadrons: No 59, No 86, No 206, No 220
  • 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 used them in secret missions.

Korea

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.

B-17E

Pacific Use

In early 1942 the B-17E was sent to units in the Pacific.

European Use

In July 1942 the B-17E was delivered to units in Europe. On August 17, 1942, they conducted their first raid against Rouen.

Specifications

  Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
Type Medium / heavy bomber
Crew 9
  Boeing B-17C Flying Fortress, Fortress Mk I
Engine (Type) 4: Wright R-1820-65 Cyclone
Cylinders Radial 9
HP 1,200 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 103' 9"
31.62 m
Length 67' 11"
20.7 m
Height 15' 4"
4.67 m
Weight  
Empty 30,600 lb
13,880 kg
Loaded 46,650 lb
21,160 kg
Maximum load 49,650 lb
22,521 kg
Performance  
Speed at 25,000' / 7,620 m 323 mph
520 kph
Cruising speed 286 mph
460 kph
Service ceiling 37,000'
11,277 m
Range 2,400 miles
3,862 kg
Maximum range 3,400 miles
5,470 kg
Armament 5 or 6: 0.5" MG
1: 0.3" MG
Bombs 4,000 lb
1,814 kg
  Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress, Fortress Mk IIA
Type Bomber, Medium / heavy bomber
Crew 9, 10
Pilots (2), navigator, bombardier / nose gunner, ventral gunner, tail gunner, flight engineer / dorsal turret gunner, radio operator, and waist gunners (2)
Engine (Type) 4: Wright R-1820-65 Cyclone
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
HP 1,200 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 103' 9"
31.62 m
Length 73' 10"
22.5 m
Height 19' 2"
5.84 m
Weight  
Empty 33,280 lb
15,096 kg
Loaded 53,000 lb
24,040 kg
Performance  
Speed at 25,000' / 7,620 m 317 mph
510 kph
Cruising speed 210 mph
338 kph
Climb to 10,000' / 3,048 m 7.1 minutes
Service ceiling 36,600'
11,155 m
Range with 4,000 lb / 1,815 kg bomb load 2,000 miles
3,218 km
Maximum range 2,000 miles, 3,200 miles
5,150 km
Armament 10 - 13: MG
8: 0.5" MG
1: 0.3" MG
Nose 1: 0.3" MG
Rear cockpit turret 2: 0.5" MG in a Sperry turret
Ventral turret 2: 0.5" MG in Bendix turret
Tail 2: 0.5" MG
Waist positions 2: 0.5" MG
Bombs 4,000 lb, 17,600 lb
1,815 kg
  Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, Fortress Mk II
Type Medium / Heavy Bomber
Mk II: Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft
Crew 10
Mk II: 8
Engine (Type) 4: Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone, Wright Cyclone, Wright Cyclone GR-1820-65
Cylinders Radial, Radial 9
HP 1,200, 1,200 each takeoff
1,380 each war emergency
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 103', 103' 9"
31.62 m
Length 73', 73' 10", 74' 9"
22.5 m, 22.78 m
Height 15' 6", 19' 2"
5.84 m
Wing Area 1,420 sq ft
131.92 sq m
Weight  
Empty 27,650 lb, 34,000 lb
12,542 kg, 15,422 kg
Maximum load 53,000 lb, 65,500 lb
24,041 kg, 29,711 kg
Performance  
Speed >300 mph
Speed at 20,000' / 6,096 m 298 mph
480 kph
Speed at 25,000' / 7,620 m War emergency: 314 mph
505 kph
Normal: 300 mph
482 kph
Climb to 5,000' / 1,524 m 7 minutes 30 seconds
Cruising speed 200 mph
322 kph
Service ceiling 34,000', 37,500'
10,363 m, 11,430 m
Range - Normal 1,140 miles
1,835 km
Range with 4,000 lb / 1,815 kg bomb load 2,200 miles
3,540 km
Range with 6,000 lb / 2,722 kg bomb load 1,300 miles
2,092 km
Range - Maximum 2,680 miles
4,313 km
Armament 10 - 12: 0.5" MG
Turret - Nose 2: 12.7 mm / 0.5" MG
Turret - Dorsal 2: 12.7 mm / 0.5" MG
Turret - Ventral 2: 12.7 mm / 0.5" MG
Turret - Tail 2: 12.7 mm / 0.5" MG
Beam 2: 12.7 mm / 0.5" MG
Bombs 4,000 lb
1,815 kg
Bombs - maximum 8,000 lb
3,629 kg
Bombs or Depth Charges - Mk II 6,000 lb
2,722 kg
  Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress
Type Bomber, Heavy bomber, Medium / heavy bomber
Crew 9, 9 - 10, 10
Engine (Type) 4: Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone turbo charged piston
4: Wright R-1820-97
Cylinders Radial, Radial 9
Cooling Air
HP 1,200 each
1,200 each takeoff
1,380 each war emergency
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 103' 9"
31.62 m
Length 74' 4", 74' 9"
22.66 m, 22.78 m
Height 19' 1"
5.82 m
Wing area 1,420 ft2
131.92 m2
Weight  
Empty 36,135 lb, 36,136 lb, 38,000 lb
16,391 kg, 17,237 kg
Loaded 65,499 lb, 65,500 lb, 72,000 lb
29,710 kg, 29,711 kg, 32,660 kg
Maximum load 72,000 lb
32,659 kg, 32,660 kg
Performance  
Speed at 25,000' / 7,620 m Normal: 286 mph 287 mph
462 kph
War emergency: 302 mph
486 kph
Speed at 25,230' / 7,690 m 287 mph
462 kph
Cruising speed 160 - 182 mph
257 - 293 kph
Climb to 20,000 ' / 6,095 m 37 minutes
Service ceiling 35,600'
10,850 m
Range with 4,000 lb / 1,815 kg bomb load 1,800 miles
2,900 km
Range with 6,000 lb / 2,722 kg bomb load 2,000 miles
3,219 km, 3,220 km
Range with 6,007 lb / 2,725 kg bomb load 2,000 miles
3,220 km
Maximum range 2,000 miles, 3,400 miles
5,471 km
Armament 13: MG
13: 12.7 mm MG
10 - 13: 0.5" MG
Chin turret 2: 12.7 mm MG
Rear cockpit turret 2: 12.7 mm MG
Ventral turret 2: 12.7 mm MG
Tail 2: 12.7 mm MG
Nose sides 2: 12.7 mm MG
Radio operator hatch 1: 12.7 mm MG
Waist positions 2: 12.7 mm MG
Bombs 4,000 lb, 17,600 lb, 17,640 lb
1,815 kg, 7,983 kg, 8000 kg
Bombs - maximum 9,600 lb, 17,600 lb
4,354 kg, 7,983 kg

Sources:

  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