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Boeing B-50 Superfortress

Heavy Bomber / Long-Range Reconnaissance Platform

The Boeing B-50 series was a direct development of the B-29 Superfortress of World War 2 fame - though seventy-five percent a new aircraft.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 10/23/2017
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Year: 1948
Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Manufacturer(s): Boeing Company - USA
Production: 370
Capabilities: Ground Attack; Aerial Refueling; Reconnaissance (RECCE);
Crew: 10
Length: 100.00 ft (30.48 m)
Width: 141.40 ft (43.1 m)
Height: 34.58 ft (10.54 m)
Weight (Empty): 80,601 lb (36,560 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 173,001 lb (78,472 kg)
Power: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-4360-35 Wasp Major 28-cylinder radial engines developing 3,500 horsepower each.
Speed: 380 mph (611 kph; 330 kts)
Ceiling: 36,713 feet (11,190 m; 6.95 miles)
Range: 4,896 miles (7,880 km; 4,255 nm)
Operators: United States
Though looking every bit the direct copy of the World War 2-era Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" heavy bomber, the Boeing B-50 incorporated enough new elements to deem it an all-new aircraft - retaining just 25 percent of the original's base design. Changes that distinguished the B-50 from its predecessor included an all-new, more efficient and resilient wing and fold-down vertical tail surfaces for housing in existing USAF hangars. The B-50 was a further development of the B-29 with a more evolved over-battlefield role and was taken into service by the United State Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC) as a high-altitude, long-range nuclear-capable bomber.

With its B-29 pedigree, the B-50 largely retained the same overall form - this included use of a four engine arrangement. These were made up of Pratt & Whitney R-4360-35 "Wasp Major" 28-cylinder radials outputting at 3,500 horsepower each. Internally, the aircraft housed ten crewmen and was locally-defense by 12 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns fitted to remotely-controlled turret barbettes. There was also a sole 20mm cannon for heavy-caliber firepower. The B-50's internally bombload capability reached 20,000 pounds of conventional drop ordnance.

With far greater warloads and operational range, the B-50 bomber provided the SAC with a proven, highly-capable bomber that could double as a nuclear deterrent in the face of the expanding Cold War. B-50's would eventually be replaced by jet-powered Boeing B-47 "Stratojets" by 1954 and many B-50s would go on to be modified as TB-50H crew and pilot trainers. Others became KB-50 aerial refueling tanker aircraft and RB-50 photographic reconnaissance platforms.

All B-50's would be retired from American service by 1965.


1 x 20mm cannon
12 x 12.7mm machine guns

Up to 20,000 lb of internally-held ordnance made up of conventional drop bombs.

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition

Variants / Models

• 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.
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