History of the Famous Flying Fortress – B-17 Bomber

  1. B-17
  2. December 18, 2012 11:31 pm

The Famous Flying Fortress

The B-17 flying fortress, by Boeing is a four engine heavy bomber aircraft designed and developed in the 1930’s, by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). The Boeing B-17 flying fortress was used by the American air force to bombard Nazi Germany in Europe. It was introduced by the American air force in the year 1938, and has seen a lot of evolution and design changes.

The B-17 air craft was used primarily in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign of the world war ll, by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). The B-17 also participated in the war in the Pacific, where raids were conducted on Japanese shipping and airfields. The USAAC considered this aircraft as a strategic weapon, it was potent, capable of flying high, was able to fly long range, was able to defend itself and capable of returning back even after extensive war damage. The B-17’s capability of surviving battle damages gave the aircraft an iconic status. The B-17 established itself as an effective weapons system, by dropping more bombs than any of the United States aircraft during the world war ll. Around 640,000 tons of bombs were dropped by the B-17 flying fortress for the USAAF during the World war ll.

In the year 1942, against the Nazi Germany B-17’s flew in an 18 aircraft wedge formation, which gave them massive fire power against their attackers. In the year 1943 the B-17’s attacked a ball bearing factory in Schweinfurt. 211, B-17’s took part in the raid. 60 planes were lost in the raid, which was 30% of the total aircraft. Approximately 1/3rd of the B-17’s did not survive the daylight raids, which led to the end of such raids. Traditionally B-17’s flew in wedges of 18, now they were to fly in the pack of 36 in the year 1944. This gave huge fire power at the front, especially with the new model G. They were provided with more firepower, with machine guns at the front of the plane to fight off the frontal assaults. The models G were equipped with .50 caliber machine guns, giving each plane massive firing capacity with the added danger of potential collisions with other planes.

After the end of world war ll, the B-17 flying fortress was quickly phased out of service, and the Army retired most of its fleet. The flight crews flew them from across the Atlantic to the United States, where they were sold for scrap and melted down. Some aircrafts were used for transporting VIPS, air-sea rescue and photo-reconnaissance. With the disestablishment of the US Army Air Force, and the establishment of the independent US Air Force, most of the B-17 fighters were transferred to the USAF in the year 1947. They used the B-17’s as the air-sea rescue aircraft. In the year 1946, surplus B-17 aircraft were chosen as drone aircraft for atmospheric sampling during the Operation Crossroads. More and more B-17’s were converted to Drones, for use in atomic testing and as targets for testing surface-to- air and air-air-missiles. The last mission flown by the B-17 flying fortress was in the year 1959, August 6.

The most famous B-17 flying fortress the Memphis Belle is currently being restored to its World War ll glory by the National Museum of the United States Air Force at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The B-17 Flying Fortress has become an icon of American Power and a symbol of its Air Force. Nearly, 250,000 Americans have experienced flying them.


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