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Boeing B-50 Superfortress Heavy Bomber (1948)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 2/7/2013

The Boeing B-50 series was a direct development of the B-29 Superfortress, though 75 percent a new aircraft.

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Though looking every bit the identical twin of the World War Two-era B-29 Superfortress (also produced by Boeing), the B-50 incorporated enough new elements to deem it an all new aircraft - retaining just 25 percent of the B-29's original components. Changes distinguishing the B-50 from its predecessor included an all new aluminum wing design that made the aircraft more resilient and efficient. Vertical tail surfaces were now designed to fold down, allowing the massive bomber the capability to be housed in air force hangars. Essentially, the B-50 was a further development of the B-29 that debuted towards the latter part of the war, though it became an aircraft worthy of the US Air Force's Strategic Air Command position as a bomber with true nuclear capabilities and reach.

The B-50 was a four engine heavy bomber powered by the Pratt & Whitney 3,500 horsepower R-4360-35 Wasp Major radial engine. Accommodations for crewmen included a total of ten personnel with access to 12 x .50 caliber machine guns in remotely-controlled barbettes throughout the aircraft design. Additionally, a 20mm cannon was part of the arsenal, as was up to 20,000lbs of internal ordnance in the form of drop bombs.

In the end, with far greater payload and range, the B-50 bomber provided the USAF Strategic Air Command with a powerful conventional bomber that could double as a nuclear deterrent in the face of the expanding Cold War. B-50's would eventually be replaced by the jet-powered B-47 Stratojet by 1954, to which many would go on to be modified as TB-50H crew and pilot trainers, the KB-50 aerial refueling aircraft and the RB-50 photographic reconnaissance platform. All B-50's would be retired from service by 1965.

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Specifications for the
Boeing B-50 Superfortress
Heavy Bomber


Focus Model: Boeing B-50D Superfortress
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Boeing Company - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1948
Production: 370


Crew: 10


Length: 100.00ft (30.48m)
Width: 141.40ft (43.10m)
Height: 34.58ft (10.54m)
Weight (Empty): 80,601lbs (36,560kg)
Weight (MTOW): 173,001lbs (78,472kg)


Powerplant: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-4360-35 Wasp Major 28-cylinder radial engines generating 3,500hp each.


Maximum Speed: 380mph (611kmh; 330kts)
Maximum Range: 4,896miles (7,880km)
Service Ceiling: 36,713ft (11,190m; 7.0miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet per minute (0m/min)


Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
STANDARD: 12 x 12.7mm machine guns
1 x 20mm cannon

OPTIONAL:
Up to 20,000lbs of internal ordnance


Variants:
XB-44 – B-29A Model Series fitted with Wasp Major 28-cylinder engines; prototype model for B-50A; initially designated as the B-29D model.


B-50A – Initial Production Model Designation; redesigned tail and strengthened wings over B-29 models.

B-50B – Increased Operating Weight

B-50D – Redesigned Nose Section; refueling boom; 222 examples produced.

DB-50D – Drone Controller

EB-50B – Single Conversion Example of B-50D model; redesigned undercarriage.

KB-50 – Inflight Refueling Tanker Conversion Model; 134 examples.

KB-50J – “Improved” KB-50 Tanker Series; fitted with 2 x General Electric GE J47 series turbojets underwing.

KB-50K – Inflight Refueling Tanker Conversion Model; based on the TB-50H trainer; 24 examples.

RB-50B – Photographic Reconnaissance Platform Conversion Models from B-50B series.

RB-50E – Specialized Photo-Reconnaissance Conversion Model from B-50B series; 14 examples.

RB-50F – Specialized Photo-Reconnaissance Conversion Model from RB-50B series; 14 examples; SHORAN equipped.

RB-50G – Photographic Reconnaissance Platform Conversion Models from RB-50B series; SHORAN equipped; ECM equipped; 15 examples.

TB-50A – Trainer Conversion Model of B-50A series; 11 examples.

TB-50D – Trainer Conversion Model of B-50D series; 11 examples.

WB-50 – Meteorological Research Platform Conversion of B-50 model series.

WB-50D – Meteorological Research Platform Conversion based on B-50D series; 36 examples.

YB-50C – Proposed variant featuring VDT (Variable Discharge Turbine) R-4360 series engines; never produced.

B-54A – Proposed variant of the YB-50C model; never produced.

RB-54A – Proposed variant of the YB-50C model; never produced.


Operators:
the United States of America