Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

The Boeing B-17 was designed in response to any Army requirement for a long range heavy bomber to replace the existing B-10 and B-12. Due to a crash involving the first prototype the Boeing design was eliminated from the competition, which was won by the Douglas B-18, but the basic superiority of the B-17 was obvious and a legal loophole was used to allow a small number to be procured. Further developments during the early war years led to increasingly capable aircraft.

Unlike most heavy bombers of the age the B-17 had four engines rather than two. This allowed it to carry a much heavier load of fuel and bombs, giving it great range and destructive power. Defensive firepower was limited in the early models, but later versions featured up to 13 .50cl machine guns. Some aircraft carried H2X radar sets that theoretically allowed accurate bombing through overcast conditions.

At the start of the Pacific War the largest contingent of B-17s was the Far East Air Force (FEAF), based in the Philippines, with 35 Flying Fortresses – mainly B-17C and –D models. 12 more aircraft en-route to join the FEAF but were caught up in the attack on Pearl Harbor, and were destined never to make it to the Philippines. Instead, they were diverted to India.

The FEAF was largely destroyed on the ground during the initial attack on Clark Field, losing half its B-17s. The remainder were soon withdrawn to Australia, from where they attempted to launch bombing raids on advancing Japanese naval forces that were usually unsuccessful. During the New Guinea campaign, B-17s flew against the Rabaul complex and other strategic targets. They were also used as long range reconnaissance aircraft.

As the Consolidated B-24 had better endurance than the B-17 and could carry a larger bomb load, it began to replace the B-17 in service with the 5th Air Force in New Guinea. The Flying Fortress was largely withdrawn from bomb groups operating in the Pacific by mid-1943, but it continued to lead the line in the European Theatre until the end of the war.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Specifications

Boeing B-17B Flying Fortress
RoleHeavy bomber
Crew
Powerplant4x Wright R-1820-51 (1,200hp)
Speed292mph (max)
Ceiling24,620ft
Range3,101 miles (internal)
Armament5x Browning AN-M2 .30cal Machine Gun
Ordnance4,800lb bombs
Dimensions67ft 10in (length)
103ft 9in (wingspan)
15ft 5in (height)
Wing Area1420 sq.ft.
Weight27,652lb (empty)
37,997lb (gross)
46,178lb (max)
RadarSCR-521 (Surface search)
Number produced39
Boeing B-17C Flying Fortress
RoleHeavy Bomber
Crew9
Powerplant4x Wright R-1820-65 (1,200hp)
Speed250mph (cruise)
323mph (max)
Ceiling37,000ft
Range3,400 miles (internal)
Armament4x Browning M2 .50cal Machine Gun
1x Browning AN-M2 .30cal Machine Gun
Ordnance4,800lb bombs
Dimensions67ft 11in (length)
103ft 9in (wingspan)
15ft 5in (height)
Wing Area1420 sq.ft.
Weight29,021lb (empty)
39,320lb (gross)
49,650lb (max)
Number produced38
Boeing B-17D Flying Fortress
RoleHeavy Bomber
Crew10
Powerplant4x Wright R-1820-65 (1,200hp)
Speed318mph (max)
Ceiling37,000ft
Range3,300 miles (internal)
Armament6x Browning M2 .50cal Machine Gun
1x Browning AN-M2 .30cal Machine Gun
Ordnance4,800lb bombs
Dimensions67ft 11in (length)
103ft 9in (wingspan)
15ft 5in (height)
Wing Area1420 sq.ft.
Weight30,963lb (empty)
39,319lb (gross)
49,650lb (max)
Number produced42
Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress
RoleHeavy Bomber
Crew10
Powerplant4x Wright R-1820-65 (1,200hp)
Speed195mph (cruise)
318mph (max)
Ceiling36,600ft
Range3,300 miles (internal)
Armament8x Browning M2 .50cal Machine Gun
1x Browning AN-M2 .30cal Machine Gun
Ordnance8,000lb bombs
Dimensions73ft 10in (length)
103ft 9in (wingspan)
19ft 2in (height)
Wing Area1420 sq.ft.
Weight32,350lb (empty)
40,260lb (gross)
53,000lb (max)
Number produced512
Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress
RoleHeavy Bomber
Crew10
Powerplant4x Wright R-1820-97 (1,200hp)
Speed200mph (cruise)
325mph (max)
Ceiling37,500ft
Range2,880 miles (internal)
Armament9x Browning M2 .50cal Machine Gun
1x Browning AN-M2 .30cal Machine Gun
Ordnance9,600lb bombs
Dimensions74ft 9in (length)
103ft 9in (wingspan)
19ft 1in (height)
Wing Area1420 sq.ft.
Weight34,000lb (empty)
40,437lb (gross)
56,500lb (max)
Number produced3,405
Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress
RoleHeavy Bomber
Crew10
Powerplant4x Wright R-1820-97 (1,200hp)
Speed150mph (cruise)
300mph (max)
Ceiling35,000ft
Range1,850 miles (internal)
Armament13x Browning M2 .50cal Machine Gun
Ordnance9,600lb bombs
Dimensions74ft 9in (length)
103ft 9in (wingspan)
19ft 1in (height)
Wing Area1420 sq.ft.
Weight32,720lb (empty)
55,000lb (gross)
72,000lb (max)
Number produced8,680
Boeing YB-40 Flying Fortress
RoleGunship
Crew10
Powerplant4x Wright R-1820-65 (1,200hp)
Speed196mph (cruise)
292mph (max)
Ceiling29,200ft
Range2,260 miles (internal)
Armament18x Browning M2 .50cal Machine Gun
Ordnance
Dimensions74ft 9in (length)
103ft 9in (wingspan)
19ft 1in (height)
Wing Area1527 sq.ft.
Weight54,900lb (empty)
63,500lb (gross)
74,000lb (max)

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