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Boeing B-29 Superfortress


Strategic Long-Range, High-Altitude Heavy Bomber Aircraft (1943)


Aviation / Aerospace

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Jump-to: Specifications

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress marked the pinnacle of American bomber design by the end of World War 2 - it proved critical in ending the war with Japan.



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 03/19/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.
The Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" will forever be linked to the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to help end World War 2 ("Bock's Car" and the "Enola Gay" were the selected aircraft). However, before the B-29 signaled the beginning of the end of the conflict, it served as a nearly untouchable, high-altitude, heavy bombing platform with revolutionary technologies incorporated throughout her impressive design. The Boeing B-29 only served in the Pacific Theater against the Empire of Japan during the war and was never called to action over Europe as the war against Germany was winding down by April-May of 1945. However, the bomber series would go one to serve extensively throughout the upcoming Korean War (1950-1953), solidifying its place in American military aviation history.

The B-29, like the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress before it, was developed to a US Army Air Corps (USAAC) requirement for a high-level heavy bomber capable of extended operational ranges and increased payloads while operating at speeds nearing 400 miles per hour. The range requirement was of particular note due to the vast distances encountered in the Pacific. The B-29 program began slowly and appeared prior to America's entry into World War 2. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7th, 1941), the B-29 program was pushed into full gear as the need for modern bombers was apparent. The first of three "XB-29" prototypes took to the air in 1942 with government orders already secured for over 1,500 production-quality units.

The B-29 Superfortress was a mid-wing monoplane design centered around a tubular fuselage powered by four large air-cooled radial piston engines. The pencil-like fuselage was heavily-glazed at the nose and provided the characteristic appearance for the series. Crew accommodations included ten personnel made up of pilots, bombardiers, navigators, specialists and dedicated gunners. All weapon systems were held in electrically-powered turret "barbettes" operated by way of integrated periscopes and fitted in dorsal, ventral and tail gun positions. This armament arrangement represented a vast departure from any bomber defenses fielded during the war, though necessitated by the B-29's high operating altitude (the B-17 still utilized some open-air machine gun ports, exposing the crew to the bitter cold temperatures of high-level flight).

Several modified - or converted - models of the B-29 were used exclusively for crew training, as dedicated Search and Rescue (SAR) systems, dedicated reconnaissance platforms outfitted with camera and weather survey platforms before the end of the aircraft's production run.

By the time of the Korean War, daylight bombing runs had become becoming increasingly costly to B-29 crews due to the arrival of the Soviet-built, single-seat, jet-powered Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 "Fagot" fighters. As such, night time bombing campaigns grew in number as the B-29 continued serving under the new USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC).
The B-29 fitted a bevy of 12.7mm Browning M2 heavy machine guns for self-defense. Four were installed in an electrically-operated dorsal turret while a second dorsal turret fitted two more. A pair of 12.7mm machine guns were installed in a chin position with another two-gun system mounted under the rear fuselage. A pair of machine guns were installed in the tail to counter any incoming interceptors. Beyond these guns, the B-29's true value came in her ability to carry up to 20,000 lb of internally-held ordnance.

American authorities limited the B-29s combat action solely to the Pacific Theater during World War 2. Operational B-29s were being delivered to front lines as early as 1943 (these being largely service evaluation aircraft) and were utilized into 1944 as daylight, high-level bombers. Early sorties originated from bases in British India against Japanese targets in Thailand and, later, against targets on the Japanese mainland. Night time, low-level attacks were next on the B-29's agenda and such sorties against Japanese cities and military production facilities proved utterly lethal - a single fire-bomb attack by 279 Superfortresses killed upwards of 80,000 Japanese.

Production of B-29 Superfortress was split between several factories managed under different contractors to keep up with demand. This would ultimately include Boeing, Bell, and Martin - all being military aircraft powerhouses during this period - and production totaled nearly 4,000 examples before the end of the run. An improved B-29 model appeared in the years following the war and this example was designated the "B-50". Outwardly similar to the original B-29, the B-50 was completed with some 75% of the airframe newly designed, hence her all-new designation. The B-50 was differentiated from her predecessor by a revised vertical tail fin as well as more powerful engines. Additionally, the B-50's structure was further strengthened. This variant appeared in 1948 and was produced in about 370 examples up until 1953.

Beyond the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia both utilized the B-29 Superfortress in their respective air service inventories. The Soviet Union, always willing to gain more ground in the technology field against its American adversaries, reverse-engineered B-29s from three captured examples forced to land in Soviet territory after raids over Japan (among these was the "Ramp Tramp"). On Stalin's orders, the Tupolev concern took up the task and worked out the Boeing product right down to the final rivets - resulting in the Tupolev Tu-4 "Bull" which, itself, spawned the Tupolev Tu-70 dedicated transport platform. By all accounts, the Tu-4 was nothing more than an inferior copy of the excellent American product but nonetheless advanced the Soviet bomber program considerably.

The B-29 proved a critical design achievement for the American military, particularly concerning actions in World War 2 and Korea (1950-1953). It undoubtedly lay the ground work for future projects that would ultimately culminate in the world-renowned Boeing B-52 "Stratofortress" of Vietnam War (1955-1975) fame. The B-52 essentially marked the end of the dedicated Boeing "heavy bomber" era as the mantel was eventually taken over by the sleek swing-wing Rockwell B-1 "Lancer" and the technologically-advanced Northrop B-2 "Spirit" stealth bomber and missile-launching warships and submarines. Despite this, the B-52 continues to fly in a frontline role today.

Specifications



Service Year
1943

Origin
United States national flag graphic
United States

Status
RETIRED
Not in Service.
Crew
10

Production
3,970
UNITS


The Boeing Company - USA
National flag of Australia National flag of the United Kingdom National flag of the United States Australia; United Kingdom (Washington B.Mk I); United States
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
Special-Mission: Search & Rescue (SAR)
Ability to locate and extract personnel from areas of potential harm or peril (i.e. downed airmen in the sea).
Aerial Refueling (Tanker)
Dedicated or converted airframe used to deliver fuel to awaiting allied aircraft.
Transport
General transport functionality to move supplies/cargo or personnel (including wounded and VIP) over range.
Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
Training (General)
Developed ability to be used as a dedicated trainer for student pilots (typically under the supervision of an instructor).


RADAR-CAPABLE
Houses, or can house (through specialized variants), radar equipment for searching, tracking, and engagement of enemy elements.
MULTI-ENGINE
Incorporates two or more engines, enhancing survivability and / or performance.
RUGGED AIRFRAME
Inherent ability of airframe to take considerable damage.
HIGH-ALTITUDE PERFORMANCE
Can reach and operate at higher altitudes than average aircraft of its time.
EXTENDED RANGE PERFORMANCE
Capability to travel considerable distances through onboard fuel stores.
MARITIME OPERATION
Ability to operate over ocean in addition to surviving the special rigors of the maritime environment.
BAILOUT PROCESS
Manual process of allowing its pilot and / or crew to exit in the event of an airborne emergency.
CREWSPACE PRESSURIZATION
Supports pressurization required at higher operating altitudes for crew survival.
GUN POSITIONS
Defensive gun positions for engagement / suppression.
TAIL GUN
Defensive rear-facing gun position to neutralize enemy targets emerging from the rear.


Length
99.0 ft
(30.18 m)
Width/Span
142.3 ft
(43.36 m)
Height
29.6 ft
(9.01 m)
Empty Wgt
71,361 lb
(32,369 kg)
MTOW
141,102 lb
(64,003 kg)
Wgt Diff
+69,741 lb
(+31,634 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Boeing B-29A Superfortress production variant)
Installed: 4 x Wright R-3350-23 Cyclone Eighteen air-cooled radial piston engines developing 2,200 horsepower each driving four-bladed propeller units.
Max Speed
358 mph
(576 kph | 311 kts)
Ceiling
31,808 ft
(9,695 m | 6 mi)
Range
4,100 mi
(6,598 km | 12,219 nm)
Rate-of-Climb
526 ft/min
(160 m/min)


♦ MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030


(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the Boeing B-29A Superfortress production variant. Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database. View aircraft by powerplant type)
STANDARD:
4 x 12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns in electrically-operated dorsal turret.
2 x 12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns in electrically-operated under-nose turret.
2 x 12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns electrically-operated dorsal turret at rear fuselage.
2 x 12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns electrically-operated turret under rear fuselage.
2 x 12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns in tail turret.
1 x 20mm M2 automatic cannon in tail turret.

OPTIONAL:
Up to 20,000lb of internal ordnance.


Supported Types


Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft automatic cannon


(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 0


XB-29 - Prototype
YB-29 - Preproduction model evaluation aircraft
B-29A - Fitted with 4 x Wright R-3350-23 Cyclone Eighteen air-cooled radial piston engines of 2,200 horsepower each.
B-29A-BN - Increased wingspan; four gun upper forward turret.
B-29B - No defensive armament except for single remote controlled tail gun emplacement.
B-29B-BA - Increased bombload; reduced defensive gun armament.
B-29D - Revised engines.
B-29-45-MO
RB-29 - Reconnaissance Model (redesignated from previous RB-29 designation).
SB-29 - Search and Rescue Model
TB-29 - Crew Trainer Model
WB-29 - Weather Reconnaissance Model
KB-29 - Aerial Refueling Tank Model
F-13A - Reconnaissance Model (later redesignated to RB-29).
B-50A - Redesignated from B-29D; revised tail fin and improved engines; 4 Pratt & Whitney R-4360 radial piston engines; reinforced structure; introduced in 1948 with 370 examples produced.
Washington B.Mk I - Royal Air Force designation operated by British (3 x B-29, 80 x B-29A) and Australia (two acquired from Britain for testing).
Tu-4 "Bull" - Direct, illegal Soviet copy of captured B-29 systems.
Tu-70 - Soviet designation for Tu-4 dedicated transport variant.


General Assessment
Firepower  
Performance  
Survivability  
Versatility  
Impact  


Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
Overall Rating
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of a possible 100 points.
100
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (358mph).

Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LDN
LDN
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MSK
MSK
 
  TKY
TKY
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Boeing B-29A Superfortress operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Aviation Era Span
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (3,970)
This entry's total production compared against the most-produced military and civilian aircraft types in history.


-32,213
(vs. Ilyushin Il-2)

-40,030
(vs. Cessna 172)


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