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Boeing B-50 Superfortress - United States, 1948

Detailing the development and operational history of the Boeing B-50 Superfortress Heavy Bomber / Long-Range Reconnaissance Platform.

 Entry last updated on 10/23/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content Β©

  Boeing B-50 Superfortress  
Picture of Boeing B-50 Superfortress
Picture of Boeing B-50 Superfortress Picture of Boeing B-50 SuperfortressPicture of Boeing B-50 SuperfortressPicture of Boeing B-50 Superfortress

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.

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.

Boeing B-50D Superfortress Specifications

Service Year: 1948
Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Type: Heavy Bomber / Long-Range Reconnaissance Platform
National Origin: United States
Manufacturer(s): Boeing Company - USA
Total Production: 370

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 10
Overall Length: 100.00 feet (30.48 meters)
Overall Width: 141.40 feet (43.10 meters)
Overall Height: 34.58 feet (10.54 meters)

Weight (Empty): 80,601 lb (36,560 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 173,001 lb (78,472 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-4360-35 Wasp Major 28-cylinder radial engines developing 3,500 horsepower each.

Maximum Speed: 330 knots (380 mph; 611 kph)
Maximum Range: 4,255 nautical miles (4,896 miles; 7,880 km)
Service Ceiling: 36,713 feet (11,190 meters; 6.95 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload

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.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

United States

Model 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.

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