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Boeing B-29 Superfortress Strategic Heavy Bomber (1943)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 8/7/2014

The B-29 Superfortress was charged with dropping two atomic bombs on the Empire of Japan.

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B-29 Superfortress status is often associated with the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War 2 ("Bock's Car" and the "Enola Gay"). However, before the B-29 signaled the beginning of the end of the conflict, it served as a nearly untouchable, high-altitude heavy bombing platform with revolutionary technologies incorporated throughout her impressive design. The Boeing B-29 Superfortress only served in the Pacific Theater of War against the Empire of Japan during the war and was never called to Europe as the war against Germany was winding down in May of 1945. However, the bomber series would go one to serve extensively throughout the upcoming Korean War (1950-1953), solidifying her place in military aviation history.

The B-29, like the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress before it, was developed to a US Army Air Corps requirement for a high-level heavy bomber capable of extended operational ranges and increased payloads while operating at speeds nearing 400 miles per hour. The range requirement was of particular note for the vast distances of the Pacific required a long-range thoroughbred. The B-29 program began at a slow pace prior to America's entry into World War 2. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the B-29 program was pushed into full gear. The first of three XB-29 prototypes took to the air in 1942 with government orders already secured for over 1,500 production units.

The B-29 Superfortress was a mid-wing monoplane design centered on a tubular fuselage powered by four large radial piston engines. The pencil-like fuselage was heavily-glazed at the nose and provided the identifiable appearance for the series. Crew accommodations included ten personnel made up of pilots, bombardiers, navigators, specialists and gunners. All weapon systems were held in electrically-powered turret "barbettes" operated by way of integrated periscopes and fitted in dorsal, ventral and tail gun positions. At any rate, this armament arrangement represented a vast departure from any bomber defenses fielded during the war, essentially necessitated by the B-29's high operating altitude (the B-17 still utilized open air machine gun ports, exposing the crew to the bitter cold temperatures of high-level flight). Several modified - or converted - models of the B-29 were used exclusively for crew training, as dedicated Search and Rescue (SAR) systems, dedicated reconnaissance platforms outfitted with camera and weather survey platforms before the end of the aircraft's production run. By the time of the Korean War, daylight bombing runs had become becoming increasingly costly to B-29 crews thanks to the arrival of the Soviet-built, single-seat, jet-powered Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 "Fagot" fighters. As such, night time bombing campaigns grew in number as the B-29 continued serving under the new USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC).

The B-29 fitted a bevy of 12.7mm Browning M2 heavy machine guns. Four were installed in an electrically-operated dorsal turret while a second dorsal turret fitted two more. A pair of 12.7mm machine guns were installed in a chin position with another two-gun system under the rear fuselage. A pair of machine guns was installed in the tail to counter any trailing enemy aircraft attempting to make the interception. Beyond her machine gun armament, the B-29's true value came in her ability to carry up to 20,000lbs of internal ordnance.


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Specifications for the
Boeing B-29 Superfortress
Strategic Heavy Bomber


Focus Model: Boeing B-29A Superfortress
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: The Boeing Company - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1943
Production: 3,970


Crew: 10


Length: 99.02ft (30.18m)
Width: 142.26ft (43.36m)
Height: 29.56ft (9.01m)
Weight (Empty): 71,361lbs (32,369kg)
Weight (MTOW): 141,102lbs (64,003kg)


Powerplant: 4 x Wright R-3350-23 Cyclone Eighteen air-cooled radial piston engines generating 2,200 horsepower each.


Maximum Speed: 358mph (576kmh; 311kts)
Maximum Range: 4,100miles (6,598km)
Service Ceiling: 31,808ft (9,695m; 6.0miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 526 feet per minute (160m/min)


Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
STANDARD:
4 x 12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns in electrically-operated dorsal turret
2 x 12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns in electrically-operated under-nose turret
2 x 12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns electrically-operated dorsal turret at rear fuselage.
2 x 12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns electrically-operated turret under rear fuselage
2 x 12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns in tail turret emplacement.
1 x 20mm M2 cannon in tail turret emplacement.

OPTIONAL:
Up to 20,000lbs of internal ordnance.


Variants:
XB-29 - Prototype


YB-29 - Preproduction model evaluation aircraft

B-29A - Fitted with 4 x Wright R-3350-23 Cyclone Eighteen air-cooled radial piston engines of 2,200 horsepower each.

B-29A-BN - Increased wingspan; four gun upper forward turret.

B-29B - No defensive armament except for single remote controlled tail gun emplacement.

B-29B-BA - Increased bombload; reduced defensive gun armament.

B-29D - Revised engines.

B-29-45-MO

RB-29 - Reconnaissance Model (redesignated from previous RB-29 designation).

SB-29 - Search and Rescue Model

TB-29 - Crew Trainer Model

WB-29 - Weather Reconnaissance Model

KB-29 - Aerial Refueling Tank Model

F-13A - Reconnaissance Model (later redesignated to RB-29).

B-50A - Redesignated from B-29D; revised tail fin and improved engines; 4 Pratt & Whitney R-4360 radial piston engines; reinforced structure; introduced in 1948 with 370 examples produced.

Tu-4 "Bull" - Direct, illegal Soviet copy of captured B-29 systems.

Tu-70 - Soviet designation for Tu-4 dedicated transport variant.


Operators:
Australia; United Kingdom; United States