The B-17 Flying Fortress

The B-17 was deployed mainly against German industrial and military targets to help achieve air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe as a prelude to Operation Overlord. The B-17 also took part to a lesser degree in the Pacific War, conducting raids against imperial Japanese shipping and airfields.

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft developed in the 1930s for the the Army.

The B-17 was deployed mainly against German industrial and military targets to help achieve air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe as a prelude to Operation Overlord. The B-17 also took part to a lesser degree in the Pacific War, conducting raids against imperial Japanese shipping and airfields.

Though early models proved unsuitable for combat use in Europe, changes in Allied tactics and continued refinement resulting in the B-17 eventually being supplied to over 30 overseas combat groups, with inventory spiking in August 1944 at 4,574 aircraft in total. It dropped 580,631 metric tons of bombs on European targets, besting its nearest rival, the B-24 Liberator.

After World War II, the B-17 was phased out quickly by the Army Air Forces. Flight crews flew the bombers back across the Atlantic to the United States, where most of the planes were sold for scrap, though a significant number of planes were repurposed as VIP transports, air-sea rescue and photo-reconnaissance craft. The Strategic Air Command (SAC), created in 1946, used recon B-17s until 1949.

Some B-17s were later used by CIA front companies for agent drop missions over Communist China. Four of them were shot down in these operations.  In 1957, all surviving B-17s were stripped of their weapons and painted black. In mid-September, one Taiwan-based B-17 was flown to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines and assigned for covert missions into Tibet. Two missions into that country are known to have been flown.

Specifications

Role

Heavy Bomber / Strategic Bomber

Manufacturer

Boeing

First flight

July 28, 1935

Propulsion

Four-engine

4 × Wright R-1820-97 “Cyclone” turbosupercharged radial engines, 1,200 hp (895 kW) each

Performance

Max speed

287 m/h

Max cruising speed

182 m/h

Initial rate of climb

900 ft/m

Service ceiling

35,600 ft

Max range (w/6,000 lb. bomb load)

1,738 nm

Weight (empty)

36,135 lbs

Max takeoff

65,500 lbs

Dimensions

Wing span

103′ 9″

Length

74′ 4″

Height

19′ 1″

Wing area

1,420 sq ft

Seating Capacity

10

Armament

Guns

13 × .50 in M2 Browning machine guns in 8 turrets in dorsal, ventral, nose and tail, 2 in waist positions, 2 in “cheek” positions, and 1 in the post-dorsal position

Bombs:

  Short range missions (<400 mi)

8,000 lb

  Long range missions (≈800 mi)

4,500 lb

  Overload

17,600 lb