Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
Pursuing an operational theory that high flying, heavily armed bombers were the surest means of striking strategic targets in daylight, the US Army Air Corps issued a requirement in 1934 for which the Boeing Model 299 Flying Fortress was designed and first flown on 28 July 1935. Twelve Y1B-17 (later B-17) service test aircraft entered service in 1937 and were followed by small numbers of B-17B and B-17C bombers in 1940-1, and by the B-17D in 1941. The B-17E introduced the enlarged vertical tail surfaces and tail gun position characteristic of all subsequent B-17s, as well as poweroperated twin-gun turrets aft of the cockpit and below the centre fuselage, 512 B-17Es were produced, this version being the first US Army Air Force heavy bomber to see combat in Europe with the 8th Air Force. A total of 3,400 B-17F bombers, with enlarged one-piece nose transparency, was produced during 1942-3, and these were followed by the principal variant, the B-17G, which, in reply to calls for improved nose armament to counter the Luftwaffe's head-on attacks, introduced the two-gun 'chin' turret; production totalled 8,680 B-17G aircraft by Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed-Vega. The Fortress was deployed principally in Europe during the war, with much smaller numbers operating in the Far East.
The type carried out many epic raids, large formations of bombers, each bristling with heavy machineguns and providing mutual protection against enemy fighters, pounding across the daylight skies over Hitler's Reich. In due course heavy losses forced the Americans to introduce escort fighters - the P-38, P-47 and P51. One temporary expedient involved the use of a small number of B-17s modified as YB-40 'escort' aircraft, some aircraft carrying up to 30 machine-guns. Fortresses (B-17Cs, Fs and Gs) served in small numbers with RAF Bomber and Coastal Commands.
Specification Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress
Type: 10-crew daylight medium/heavy bomber
Powerplant: four 895-kW (1,200-hp) Wright Cyclone R-1820-97 radial piston engines
Performance: maximum speed 462 km/h (287 mph) at 7620m (25,000 ft); climb to 6096 m (20,000 ft) in 37 minutes; service ceiling 10850 m (35,600ft); range with 2722-kg (6,000 Ib) bombload 3220 km (2,000 miles)
Weights: empty 16391 kg (36,135 lb); maximum take-off 32660 kg (72,000 lb)
Dimensions: span 31.62 m (103 ft 9 in); length 22.78 m (74 ft 9 in); height 5.82 m (19 ft 1 in); wing area 131,92 m2 (1,420.0 sq ft)
Armament: twin 12.7-mm (0.5-in) gun turrets under nose, aft of cockpit, under centre fuselage and in tail, and single-gun mountings in sides of nose, in radio operator's hatch and in waist (beam) positions, plus a maximum bombload of 7983 kg (17,600 lb)