The B-17 Flying Fortress
was the first large, four-engined heavy bomber
and is still one of the most recognized airplanes
ever built. It was most widely used for daylight strategic bombings of German industrial targets during World War II
as part of the US Eighth Air Force.
The prototype of the B-17 first flew on July 28, 1935. Few B-17s were in service when the United States entered World War II on December 7, 1941, but production quickly accelerated. The aircraft served in every WWII combat zone. Production ended in May 1945 after 12,726 aircraft had been built.
Late in WWII, at least 25 B-17s were loaded with 12,000 pounds (5.4 tonnes) of high explosives, fitted with radio controls, dubbed "BQ-7 Aphrodite missiles," and used against U-boat pens and bomb-resistant fortifications. Because few (if any) BQ-7s hit their target, the Aprodite project was scrapped in early 1945.
The Memphis Belle was a B-17.
General Characteristics (B-17G)
- Contractor: Boeing Airplane Company
- Span: 103 ft. 10 in. (about 32 m)
- Length: 74 ft. 4 in. (about 23 m)
- Height: 19 ft. 1 in. (about 6 m)
- Weight: 65,000 lbs. loaded (30 tonnes)
- Armament: Eleven .50-cal. machine guns with normal bomb load of 6,000 lbs. (2.7 tonnes)
- Engines: Four Wright "Cyclone" R-1820s of 1,200 hp. (895 kW) each
- Cost: US$276,000
- Crew: 2 pilots, bombardier, radio-operator, 6 gunners
- Maximum speed: 287 mph (460 km/h) at 25,000 feet (7620 m)
- Cruising speed: 170 mph (272 km/h)
- Range: 2,000 miles (3200 km)
- Service Ceiling: 35,600 feet (10850 m)
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