Such was the importance of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress to the United States Army Air Forces during the latter stages of World War 2 (1939-1945) that the program was given several fail safes to keep it a viable heavy bomber product moving forwards. This led to a YB-29 developmental machine being set aside by the USAAF for alternative powerplant implementation - assuming that the required stock of problematic Wright R-3350 radial engines would not be available for one reason or another. A modification process was undertaken by Fisher Body (General Motors) in 1944 on the YB-29 aircraft and this went on to produce the XB-39 "Spirit of Lincoln" bomber prototype.
Its basic form and function remained faithful to the original Boeing design but the powerplants in play were now focused on 4 x Allison V-3420-17 series liquid-cooled engine (the original B-29 relied on the aforementioned Wright air-cooled units). Fisher was also using these engines in its (ultimately failed) P-75 "Eagle" long-range escort fighter. Delays in the intended turbosuperchargers dogged the XB-39 project so the first-flight on December 9th, 1944 was had without these installed - though the aircraft provided a successful demonstration nonetheless.
Despite the promising nature of the large aircraft, the Wright air-cooled radials, warts and all, remained the primary focus of the B-29 production campaign, leaving the XB-39 without a battlefield role or notable buyer. Additionally, Fisher was pushed to commit more and more of its resources to the XP-75 fighter prototype which held higher priority for the USAAF at this point in the war. Decisions led to the ultimately abandonment of the XB-39 project with the single prototype being completed and flown (if only for a short time).
As built, the XB-39 held 4 x Allison V-3420-11 liquid-cooled engines of 2,100 horsepower each able to propel the aircraft to speeds of 405 miles per hour out to ranges reaching 6,300 miles and a service ceiling of 35,000 feet. Its crew numbered ten and the armament suite was similar to that of the original B-29 (including remote-controlled turrets and tail cannon). 20,000lb of drop stores could be carried internally.
[ 1 Units ] : Boeing Company / Fisher (General Motors)
United States (cancelled)
- Ground Attack
- X-Plane / Developmental
99.02 ft (30.18 m)
141.24 ft (43.05 m)
27.72 ft (8.45 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Boeing XB-39 production model)
74,516 lb (33,800 kg)
133,512 lb (60,560 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Boeing XB-39 production model)
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