MANUFACTURER(S): Boeing Company - USA
OPERATORS: United States (cancelled)
LENGTH: 111.55 feet (34 meters)
WIDTH: 160.76 feet (49 meters)
HEIGHT: 32.64 feet (9.95 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 168,654 pounds (76,500 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 229,997 pounds (104,325 kilograms)
ENGINE: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-4360-51 radial piston engines (w/ variable discharge turbines) developing 4,500 horsepower each.
SPEED (MAX): 432 miles-per-hour (695 kilometers-per-hour; 375 knots)
RANGE: 9,010 miles (14,500 kilometers; 7,829 nautical miles)
CEILING: 40,026 feet (12,200 meters; 7.58 miles)
Detailing the development and operational history of the Boeing B-54 (Ultrafortress) Four-Engine, High-Altitude, Long-Range Heavy Bomber Proposal.
Entry last updated on 5/26/2017.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Outstanding issues inherent in the original Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" strategic bomber design of World War 2 (1939-1945) prompted work on a more refined form and this became the "B-50" offering of 1948. Three-hundred seventy examples of the type were built and these saw service into 1965. Similar in form and function to the B-29 before it, the B-50 was essentially an all-new aircraft as it was given more powerful radial piston engines, a reinforced airframe, larger tail fin, and a slew of other benefits.
Even with these changes in place, there still remained carry-over issues with production B-50A bombers that pushed through an even more improved form - the YB-50C. A single B-50A production model was set aside and modified by way of new R-4369 "Variable Discharge Turbine" (VDT) radial piston engines, a 20-foot-longer wingspan, and a 10-foot-longer fuselage. Because of the increased overall dimensions of the aircraft, further reinforcement of the airframe was required and the added span to the wings also forced outrigger landing gear legs to be installed to support the weight of the wings while ground-running. The aircraft promised better operational ranges while operating at a higher altitude and carrying a larger war load.
The YB-50C project soon took on a development road all its own - apart from that of the B-50 series - that it was seen fit to redesignate the new aircraft as the "B-54". A mockup was completed during 1948 for review.
Despite the progress on the program, it coon became clear that jet-powered bomber forms would become the future of the USAF strategic bombing needs leaving the B-54 without a role to fill. This led to the termination of the B-54 program during1949 and no flyable examples were completed (constructed had begun on a prototype).
The USAF originally intended a first-order of 21 bomber forms in the "B-54A" guise and a further 52 would follow as the "RB-54A" - these outfitted with special reconnaissance equipment instead of a bomb-carrying capability.
As finalized, the B-54 design was to feature crew spaces for ten operators. Dimensions included a length of 34 meters, a wingspan of 49 meters, and a height of 10 meters. Gross weight was 104,326 kilograms. The engines of choice became 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-4360-51 series radial piston engines of 4,500 horsepower each. Estimated performance specs included a maximum speed of 430 miles per hour, a cruise speed of 305 miles per hour, a range out to 9,000 miles, and a service ceiling of 40,000 feet.
In terms of armament, there would have been 14 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns fitted to several remote-controlled turrets about the aircraft for local defense against interceptors. The conventional bomb load was rated at 36,000lb.
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Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
This entry's maximum listed speed (432mph).
Graph average of 375 miles-per-hour.
Graph showcases the Boeing B-54 (Ultrafortress)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units