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Boeing RB-29 / F-13 (Superfortress)

Long-Range Reconnaissance Aircraft

United States | 1944

"The Boeing B-29 Superfortress served as the basis for the late-World War 2 F-13 long-range reconnaissance conversion model."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 06/27/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
As American involvement in World War 2 (1939-1945) grew, so too did its need for long-range reconnaissance. This need was only partly solved by conversion of existing Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" and Consolidated B-24 "Liberator" four-engined heavy bombers but these designs still had their inherent range limitations. With the introduction of the Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" strategic bomber in 1943, all that changed for now the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) now had, in its stable, a versatile performer capable of reaching the ranges expected of it - particularly across the vast expanse of the Pacific Theater.

This initiative led to the service using 100 of the early-form B-29 and B-29A production models for the conversion process which essentially involved removal of bomb-carrying facilities though retaining the remote-controlled machine gun-armed defensive armament. Since the reconnaissance-minded Superfortress would be flying at high altitudes, this was negligible. Between Air Technical Service Command and the Fairchild Photographic Company, a viable camera-laden equipment package was developed for the reworked bomber, giving rise to the "F-13" variant. Original B-29 models were designated simply as F-13 while B-29A production forms modified to the reconnaissance standard became F-13A - the "F" was used to indicate the platform's intended "photographic" role. Conversion work was handled at the Continental Air Lines Denver Modification Center.

The photo-reconnaissance equipment consisted of three K-17B, one K-18, and two K-22 camera systems installed in at the rear crew compartment along with a B-3 "Driftmeter" sighting device. The rear fuselage was slightly modified to accommodate the units and cutouts had to be made along the ventral and side faces of the airframe in this section. The cameras were operated by a dedicated crewman - the Photo-Navigator - whose position remained at the nose of the aircraft. The Photo-Navigator and the Cameraman were additions to the standard B-29 operating crew of eleven. Additional camera equipment could be installed in the forward bomb bay if the mission necessitated it. In lieu of this, photo "flash bombs" could also be hauled.

To cover the long-range requirements of the sortie, the bomber was given additional internal fuel stores for a greater operational reach. These were installed in the rear bomb bay.

Overall, the basic form-and-function of the bomber remained including its four-engine arrangement spread out over the wide-spanning wing mainplanes. The definitive Boeing large-area, rounded tail fin was also retained as was the heavily-glazed nose section of the aircraft. A tricycle undercarriage provided the needed support during ground-running. Power stemmed from 4 x Wright "Duplex Cyclone" air-cooled radial piston engines providing 2,200 horsepower each and driving four-bladed propeller units. Up to 12 x 0.50 caliber Browning air-cooled Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) could be used to defend the aircraft from all angles, most fitted to powered, remotely-controlled turrets along the fuselage's dorsal and ventral lines.

The initial F-13A operational model was delivered to Saipan in mid-October 1944 and immediately went to work against the heart of the Japanese Empire providing critical photo-graphic evidence on enemy strength and positions - namely in and around the Japanese capital of Tokyo. From there, the F-13/F-13A fleet was used extensively from land bases in China and the Pacific until the end of the war.

After the war ended in 1945, the series was redesignated as "FB-29"/"FB-29J" until 1948 when they were redesignated, yet again, to become the "RB-29"/"RB-29A" to serve under the newly-minded United States Air Force (USAF). By this time, the defensive machine gun arrangement (save for the rear-facing tail emplacement) of the aircraft were deleted to save on weight and proved little use at high operating altitudes - often times out of reach of Japanese interceptors.

At least six of the F-13A lot were reworked with Wright R-3350-CA-2 fuel-injected engines under the developmental designation of "YB-29J" before becoming certified under the "RB-29J" mark. For December 1950, the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing relocated its RB-29s to Yokota Air Base in Japan to support United Nations actions in the Korean War (1950-1953) where RB-29s and RB-50s (the latter based in the modified B-29 Superfortress bomber, the "B-50") continued to provide the needed long-range photo-reconnaissance role in wartime. When their slower speed proved a liability, the jet-powered RB-45C ("Tornado") bomber conversion was used instead.

Quite notable is the last sortie of the war was completed by an RB-29A.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Boeing RB-29 / F-13 Long-Range Reconnaissance Aircraft.
4 x Wright R-3350-23 Duplex Cyclone 18-cylinder, turbo-supercharged, air-cooled radial piston engines developing 2,200 horsepower each and driving four-bladed propeller units.
224 mph
360 kph | 194 kts
Max Speed
31,857 ft
9,710 m | 6 miles
Service Ceiling
3,418 miles
5,500 km | 2,970 nm
Operational Range
900 ft/min
274 m/min
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Boeing RB-29 / F-13 Long-Range Reconnaissance Aircraft.
99.0 ft
30.18 m
O/A Length
141.2 ft
(43.05 m)
O/A Width
27.7 ft
(8.45 m)
O/A Height
66,139 lb
(30,000 kg)
Empty Weight
132,277 lb
(60,000 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Boeing RB-29 / F-13 (Superfortress) Long-Range Reconnaissance Aircraft .
8 to 12 x 0.50 caliber Browning air-cooled Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) in remote-controlled dorsal and ventral turrets as well as rear-facing tail turret emplacement.

Mission equipment included 3 x K-17B, 1 x K-18, and 2 x K-22 camera systems with optional camera/film/photo "flash bomb" load in forward bomb bay. Rear bomb bay reserved for extra fuel stores.
Notable series variants as part of the Boeing RB-29 / F-13 (Superfortress) family line.
F-13 - Original base series designation converted from B-29 production stock.
F-13A - Original base series designation converted from B-29A production stock.
FB-29 - Redesignation of 1945-1948 of F-13 models.
FB-29J - Redesignation of 1945-1948 of F-13A models.
RB-29 - Redesignation of 1948 of RB-29 models for USAF service.
RB-29A - Redesignation of 1948 of RB-29A models for USAF service.
YB-29J - Developmental B-29A/F-13A models with Wright R-3350-CA-2 fuel-injected engines (becoming RB-29J).
RB-29J - Redesignation of YB-29J models.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Boeing RB-29 / F-13 (Superfortress). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 100 Units

Contractor(s): Boeing Company - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (224mph).

Graph Average of 225 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
1 / 1
Image of the Boeing RB-29 / F-13 (Superfortress)
Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Boeing RB-29 / F-13 (Superfortress) Long-Range Reconnaissance Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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