B-17 Flying Fortress

The B-17 was a four engine heavy bomber designed by Boeing who won the Army Air Corps contract over Douglas and Martin. Heavy bombers are designated as those that carry the heaviest loads of armaments and deliver them to enemy targets abroad with the maximum amount of air-to-ground explosives.

B-17 Flying Fortress
Boeing B-17E. (U.S. Air Force photo) Public Domain, Creative Commons

Initially developed in the 1930s, The B-17 is known for its heavy nighttime bombing of German industrial complexes during World War II. Besides bombs, the plane carried .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns for defense.

Although attacking German industries was their direct mission, the overall strategic plan was in preparation for the Normandy invasion in 1944.  In addition, the aircraft frequently complimented the British Air Force in German bombing raids throughout the war. One of the most daring and successful set of bombing raids was against the German oil fields. In one incursion alone, over 27,000 tons of explosives were dropped on these oil fields, knocking out a large percentage of the German army’s fuel reserves; thereby, leaving the German war machinery virtually grounded. This was also part of the strategic planning for the D-Day invasion. But these raids were not without heavy losses for the allies. Over 900 B-17s and over 10,000 American airmen were lost during these runs over Germany’s oil fields.

In the big picture however, the B-17 leads all other bombers in dropping the most amount of bombs to this day.

The aircraft became notable as an icon for famous warplanes, being able to succeed in its mission by putting up a formidable defense and returning to base even after sustaining heavy damage.

During these year and due to its success, there were a variety of these planes built. Specifically, over 11 variants of this plane were constructed.

B-17G Variant
B-17G Variant. Public Domain, Creative Commons

The specifications for the B-17 are as follows:

·         Crew: 10: Pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier/nose gunner, flight engineer/top
turret gunner, radio operator, 2 waist gunners, ball turret gunner, tail gunner
·         Length: 74 ft 4 in
·         Wingspan: 103 ft 9 in
·         Height: 19 ft 1 in
·         Wing area: 1,420 sq
·         Weight: 36,135

This formidable aircraft’s role during World War II
is depicted well in this video.

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