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Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress | |
|USA |
|[pic] |
|The Boeing B-17 \"Flying Fortress\" |


One of the United States\' two standard heavy bombers until the introduction
of the B-29 Superfortress, the B-17 was flown by the United States Army Air
Force throughout the American participation in the Second World War. Wing
to wing with B-24 Liberators, B-17s were used by the US Eighth Air Force
based in the UK, to bombard German targets in Europe during daylight hours
a method which resulted initially in very heavy losses.


The Flying Fortress was designed for a competition, announced in 1934, to
find a modern replacement for the assorted Keystone biplane bombers then in
service. The prototype first flew on July 28,1935, and went on to win the
competition. Boeing then built a few preproduction YlB-17s (later
redesignated B-17As), followed by 39 B-17Bs which entered service in the
late thirties. Money was short, and by the autumn of 1939 only 30 Flying
Fortresses were fully operational. As the US was not then fighting in
Europe it did not seem to matter although, as it became clearer that
involvement was inevitable, orders were increased. Furthermore, a small
number of B-17Cs delivered to the RAF as Fortress Is quickly showed that
defensive armament was inadequate.
|[pic] |
|One of 235 B-17G-45\'s built by Boeing at|
|Seattle. |


In September of 1941, a new Fortress appeared with an extensively modified
empennage. Gone was the pert fin and rudder riding precariously behind the
stabilizer. Instead, a broad yet graceful dorsal fin rose from amidships
and enveloped a deadly stinger of twin .50-cal. machine guns. A remote
controlled belly turret held two more .50s. This was the B-17E, of which
112 were built. Four hundred more followed but with a manned Sperry ball
turret replacing the remote system. The B-17E was lengthened to 73 feet 10
inches to accommodate the new defensive tail position. Top speed was 317
mph, cruising at over 200 mph with 4,000 pounds of bombs.


The Pearl Harbor attack of December 7,1941 finally brought the United
States into the war and production of the B-17 rapidly increased. By July
1942 the US began forming the Eighth Air Force in Britain, equipped with B-
17Es. The \'E\' represented an important improvement over the earlier B-17s,
in that it had a tail turret, so eliminating a previous defensive blind
spot. On August 17,1942 United States B-17s carried out a bombing raid on
the railway yards at Rouen in France. The real offensive, however, started
on January 27,1943, when B-17s of the USAAF made their first attack on
Germany. Initially, casualties were very high...