B-17 Flying Fortress

TypeHeavy bomber
Strategic bomber
Country of originUnited States
ManufacturerBoeing
First flight28 July 1935
IntroducedApril 1938
Produced1936–1945
Numbers built12,731
Unit costsUS$238,329
Max speedMaximum speed: 287 mph (249 kn, 462 km/h)
Cruise speed: 182 mph (158 kn, 293 km/h)
Max rangeRange: 2,000 mi (1,738 nmi, 3,219 km) with 2,700 kg (6,000 lb) bombload
Service ceiling: 35,600 ft (10,850 m)
DimensionsLength: 74 ft 4 in (22.66 m)
Wingspan: 103 ft 9 in (31.62 m)
Height: 19 ft 1 in (5.82 m)
Wing area: 1,420 sq ft (131.92 m2)
WeightEmpty weight: 36,135 lb (16,391 kg)
Loaded weight: 54,000 lb (24,500 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 65,500 lb (29,700 kg)
Powerplant4 x Wright R-1820-97 "Cyclone" turbosupercharged radial engines, 1,200 hp (895 kW) each
ArmamentGuns:
13 x .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns in 8 turrets in dorsal, ventral, nose and tail, 2 in waist positions, 2 beside cockpit and 1 in the lower dorsal position

Bombs:
Short range missions (<400 mi): 8,000 lb (3,600 kg)
Long range missions (approx. 800 mi): 4,500 lb (2,000 kg)
Overload: 17,600 lb (7,800 kg)
OperatorsFormer Operators:

Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Nicaragua, Portugal, Soviet Union, Republic of China (Taiwan), United Kingdom, United States

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a legendary bomber of World War II which operated by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC – later it became United States Army Air Force/USAAF). The four-engine heavy and strategic bomber was developed in the 1930s. There were 12,731 B-17 Flying Fortress have been built both for military purpose and civilian transport.

During the World War II, the B-17 had successfully performing bombing run on German industrial and military complex. Around 640,000 tons of bombs had been dropped from the bomb bay of B-17. In Pacific theater, the B-17 was also operated to drop a lot of bombs on Japanese shipping and airfield, however, the use of B-17 during the War in the Pacific is not as many as in the European theater.

The B-17 Flying Fortress is a well-known flying threat to its enemy and it was able to defend itself despite many of the B-17s had been shot down but the fact that the bomber could survive during battles and returned home while suffering some damages made the aircraft as an icon of World War II.

Some of B-17 remain airworthy and are used as flying display and they perform great demonstration as of today.

The Development of B-17 Flying Fortress

The USAAC needed a new bomber to replace its Martin B-10. The USAAC then on 8 August 1934 released a requirement for multi-engine bomber to be positioned in Alaska, Hawaii, and Panama. The new intended bomber should be able to fly at 10,000 feet (3km) with top speed of minimum 200 mph (320 km/h) and fly at that altitude for around 10 hours.

Boeing was the winner of the contract which their entry outperforming other competitors and the design exceeded the expectation of the Air Corps.

Boeing presented the prototype of B-17, designated Model 299. The prototype was a combination of the experimental Boeing XB-15 bomber with the Boeing 247 transport airplane. The B-17 could carry up to 4,800 pounds (2,200 kg) of bombs on two racks in the bomb bay at the rear of the cockpit, and five 0.30 inches (7.62 mm) machine guns. The B-17 was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1690 “Hornet” radial engines each generating 750 horsepower (600 kW) at 7,000 feet (2,100 m).

The Model 299 took its maiden flight in July 1935. On 30 October 1935, an evaluation flight by Army Air Corps was a failure, causing the pilot from Army Air Corps and a Boeing employee dead. Still, the Air Corps was enthusiastic about the bomber model’s potential and keep ordering the production model. There were 13 airplanes ordered at first time, designated YB-17. Since then, the B-17 Flying Fortress had been entering service and saw combat zones during the World War II until the production stopped in May 1945.

The Design of B-17 Flying Fortress

The deadly ‘four-engine fighter’, as the Japanese dubbed the B-17, is a large, multi-engine and low-wing monoplane. This bomber was armed with nine 0.30-caliber machine guns and load of bombs (4,000 pound).  Some variants even were armed with 11 to 13 0.50-caliber M2 Browning machine guns and 9,600 pound/4,500 kg of bombs.

The aircraft was designed to execute strategic bombing. The B-17 was manned with 10 crews: pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier/nose gunner, top turret gunner, radio operator, waist gunner, ball turret gunner and tail gunner.

The B-17 could reach a maximum speed of 287 mph (462 km/h) and its cruise speed is 182 mph (293 km/h). With 2,700 kg of bombs in its belly, the B-17 could have flight range up to 2,000 miles (3,219 km/h). The bomber had its service ceiling up to 35,600 ft or 10,850 m.

There were some variants of B-17 including B-17A, B-17B (the first production of B-17), B-17 C (powered by more powerful R-1820-65 engines), B-17D (similar to B-17C as there were only minor changes), B-17E (improved version of B-17D with redesigned vertical stabilizer), B-17F (an upgrade version of B-17E with increased bomb capacity and extended range and combat radius), B-17G (improved B-17F and known as the definitive B-17 design), CB-17G (troop transport version),VB-17G (VIP transport version), C-108 Flying Fortress (VIP transport and cargo carrier), and F-9 Flying Fortress (reconnaissance aircraft).

B-17 Flying Fortress videos

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Start Up

B-17 during air combat in WW2

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